Picks of the week 0 - Seinfeld's writing process, The Founder Mindset

October 21, 2022

Pick #1: Jerry Seinfeld Interview

How does Jerry write?


He's working on material every day. Having a routine is important. Set a time and place and remove all distractions.

It sucks sometimes, he does it anyway

Jerry shares that he learned early on that even though he was drawn to writing, that the process can suck sometimes. He correlates success to accepting this and pushing through it.

High correlation between pushing through the suck and success

Works material through phases

He's got a bunch of material on legal pads covering his desk that he works through the phases:

  1. Free play creative phase
  2. Polish/construction phase. Moves words around, gets timing down. Work the material until he's excited to say it.
  3. Takes it to the stage. He sees this as a science experiement. The audience dumps a bunch of data on you - "this sucks" or "this is great".
  4. Use the audience's feedback to make it better

New ideas are generated throughout the process and are put in the "work funnel"

It can be frustrating, but he's so used to it he doesn't notice anymore. Something to aspire to.

What is Pain?

Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void at great speed

I love this quote. When you stub your toe, that is a strong signal to try not to do that in the future. Knowledge rushing to fill a void!

I want to remember this - when I try something hard and fail or feel pain along the way - cherish the knowledge that is rushing in to fill a void.

How does it apply to software?

In the first part of my career I was obsessed with learning how to build webapps. I would stay up until 4 a.m. multiple nights per week working on side projects (4 a.m. was the latest I could stay up and still get enough sleep to go to work the next day).

A lot of the time spent building was frustrating. Trying to learn how to build stuff - debugging, tinkering, reading docs. But there was something that kept me going - I couldn't not write software.

The success I've enjoyed is in large part thanks to the years spent grinding. Future success depends on the current grind.

Pick #2: The Founder Mindset You Need (Garry Tan)

Most people are short term optimists and long term pessimists. Great founders found out how to do the opposite.

Short term optimism = not dealing with reality. It lulls you into avoiding the harsh truth that's right in front of you. Avoiding reality results in failure.

Long term pessimism = not dreaming big enough.

Flip it

Short term pessimism allows you to be honest about what's not working. What is trying to kill my business?

The biggest danger is lying to yourself. Second is lying to your inner circle. You've got to be real with the yourself and the inner circle if you want to address the problems you are facing.

You've got to have the discipline to fix what isn't working and keep your business going.

Long term optimism. Startups are usually a 10 year overnight success. Whatever you are working on needs to resonate deeply enough with you to be able to work on it for a decade.

Stockdale paradox

James Stockdale was a prisoner of war for seven and a half years. All of his optimistic comrades died. "We'll make it out by Christmas", then Christmas would come and go. They died of a broken heart.

The paradox is this:

You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Bonus Picks

Engineering Incentives... and Misincentives

Interesting discussion on incentives and unintended consequences. Relevant in light of the recent discussion around how Google's incentives cause new products to spring up then shut down a few years later. HN Thread

Movies App

Spiritual successor to TodoMVC, HNPWA, and a sibling to Realworld app. Uses TMDB (The movie database) as an API. Announcement here.

Somewhat related - this elm-based hacker news client is very slick.

The http crash course nobody asked for

I haven't read this one yet (it's long). But probably will this weekend. Amos puts out very insightful and interesting content.

What Man Understands That He Is Dying Daily?

This is an article that I periodically re-read and popped up in my Twitter feed this week. The most striking part is that I'm in this position - where I've got a photo of my Dad and I when I was a kid - and am now older than he was in the photo. Worth a read.

Made it this far? Have a go at the game of snake