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#277 Paul Graham's Essays Part 3
November 17th, 2022 | E277

What I learned from reading Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas From The Computer Age by Paul Graham 


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[4:00] How To Make Wealth by Paul Graham 

[4:01] Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without having money. If you had a magic machine that could on command make you a car or cook you dinner or do your laundry, or do anything else you wanted, you wouldn't need money. Whereas if you were in the middle of Antarctica, where there is nothing to buy, it wouldn't matter how much money you had.

[6:00] All a company is is a group of people working together to do something people want.

[7:00] It turns out, though, that there are economies of scale in how much of your life you devote to your work. In the right kind of business, someone who really devoted himself to work could generate ten or even a hundred times as much wealth as an average employee.

[8:00] And the people you work with had better be good, because it's their work that yours is going to be averaged with.

[9:00] In the Company of Giants: Candid Conversations With the Visionaries of the Digital World by Rama Dev Jager and Rafael Ortiz.  (Founders #208)

[10:00] A very able person who does care about money will ordinarily do better to go off and work with a small group of peers.

[10:00] Paul Graham’s Essays (Founders #275)

[11:00] What is technology? It's technique. It's the way we all do things.

[12:00] Sam Walton got rich not by being a retailer, but by designing a new kind of store.

[12:00] Sam Walton epiosdes

#150 Sam Walton: The Inside Story of America's Richest Man by Vance H. Trimble.

#234 Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton.

[13:00] Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.

[14:00] So few businesses really pay attention to making customers happy.

[15:00] What people will give you money for depends on them, not you.

[16:00] Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

[20:00] The other way makers learn is from examples. For a painter, a museum is a reference library of techniques. For hundreds of years it has been part of the traditional education of painters to copy the works of the great masters, because copying forces you to look closely at the way a painting is made.

[21:00] Relentelssness wins. A great product has to be better than it has to be.

[21:00] Relentlessness Wins: Many painters might have thought, this is just something to put in the background to frame her head. No one will look that closely at it.

Not Leonardo. How hard he worked on part of a painting didn't depend at all on how closely he expected anyone to look at it. He was like Michael Jordan. Relentless.

Relentlessness wins because, in the aggregate, unseen details become visible.

[22:00] All those unseen details combine to produce something that's just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune.

[24:00] The right way to collaborate, I think, is to divide projects into sharply defined modules, each with a definite owner, and with interfaces between them that are as carefully designed and, if possible, as articulated as programming languages.

[25:00] It turns out that looking at things from other people's point of view is practically the secret of success.

[25:00] You only get one life. You might as well spend it working on something great.

[26:00] The Other Road Ahead by Paul Graham 

[26:00] Subscribe to listen to Founders Daily (my new daily podcast)

[29:00] Use your product yourself all the time.

[29:00] Mind The Gap by Paul Graham

[29:00] When people care enough about something to do it well, those who do it best tend to be far better than everyone else. There's a huge gap between Leonardo da Vinci and second-rate contemporaries.

[32:00] Technology will certainly increase the gap between the productive and the unproductive.

[33:00] So we should expect to see ever-increasing variation in individual productivity as time goes on.

[34:00] Paul Graham’s answer to how big of a difference can a single developer or a small team make?

The answer is increasingly much. Increasingly much.

Achrimedes said if he had a lever long enough he could move the world.

Well nowawadys from your bedroom —thanks to all the infrastucture that exists — a combination of open source and services like AWS — the lever is enourmoulsy long.

You could be sitting in your bedroom programming … a single person … and if you make something that people like and is novel it can really have a huge effect.

That is very exiciting. You guys may take this for granted but anybody who is as old as me realizes how that was not the case 20 years ago.

It will be interesting to see how far it goes because it is certainly not over yet.

(How far can it go?)

Always further than people expect.

[37:00] Beating The Averages by Paul Graham 

[37:00] Paul Graham on Econtalk: I found that the interesting parts of programming you can’t make scientific. [Startups are the same.] What makes a programmer good at programming is more like what makes a painter good at painting. It is something a little less organized. It is taste. A sense of design. A certain knack.

[40:00] In business, there is nothing more valuable than a technical advantage your competitors don't understand.

[40:00] A startup should give its competitors as little information as possible.

[41:00] Taste For Makers by Paul Graham

[42:00] Whatever job people do, they naturally want to do better.

[43:00] It's surprising how much different fields' ideas of beauty have in common. The same principles of good design crop up again and again.

[44:00] If something is ugly, it can't be the best solution.

[46:00] In most fields the appearance of ease seems to come with practice. Perhaps what practice does is train your unconscious mind to handle tasks that used to require conscious thought.

[48:00] "It is my opinion," Ferrari once wrote, "that there are innate gifts that are a peculiarity of certain regions and that, transferred into industry, these propensities may at times acquire an exceptional importance... In Modena, where I was born and set up my own works, there is a species of psychosis for racing cars." — Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A.J. Baime. (Founders #97)

[50:00] The recipe for great work is: very exacting taste, plus the ability to gratify it.

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