Like so much of Paul Graham’s writing, his new piece seems shallow and unsupported on first reading. But there’s a great model of the world in it, and rare suitably-hedged advice. You don’t need to believe that any of YCombinator’s reflected glories are actually glorious to take something from it.

I recently ran a couple of related sessions for my students. (It takes an hour to run the following exercises – but if you’re honest with yourself that’s less than it’d take you to read the original.)

  • How many areas have you seriously tried working in?
  • What haven’t you tried but want to? 1
  • What are you a natural at?
  • What are you excessively curious about?
  • What have you mastered? What are the gaps at the frontier of that?
  • What would you do in a basic-income world?
  • If you took a break from “serious” work to work on something interesting, what would you do?
  • What intersections of things have you mastered? 3 Anything specific and boring?
  • What is the hardest you have ever worked without an external deadline?
  • How many independent projects have you done? (No teacher, no boss, no company, no manager)
  • What open questions are you holding in your head right now? Have you actually tried to answer them? 2
  • What is the most delighted you have been while working?
  • Who are you trying to impress? Is that who you should?
  • Cultivating luck: how many microfounders and micromuses are you accruing every day?
  1. If nothing pulls you, just keep sampling, go for max diversity and value of information.
  2. Resolve cycle: try to answer one in 5 mins, right now
  3. (e.g. Computer graphics, e.g. Bioinformatics, e.g. history of mathematics, e.g. )


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