Friday, August 17, 2007

8 ways I've used Jonathan's Law of Defaults

I owe much of my success in life to something I call my Law of Defaults. It's really more a guideline than a law, and I haven't decided exactly how to state it yet, but here's the rough idea:

"When you're not sure what to do, default to doing what someone older than you would probably wish they had done."

Here are some examples:

  1. Started my 401(k) when I was 19.
    Yes, I have 10 year's of retirement savings before my 30th birthday. It was nerdy when I started it and it's nerdy now, but I projected forward 50 years and tried to guess which statement would more likely be running through my head: "I wish I had saved more money" or "I wish I had spent all my money when I earned it." Since that 7% of my salary wasn't going to make a big difference in my day to day life I defaulted to saving.

    I read somewhere that the single largest reason people don't save money is that they fail to set up the mechanics. They have the money, intention, knowledge, and ability to save, but they don't spend the 20 minutes to set up the automatic deduction.

  2. Bought the maximum of every stock option or employee stock purchase program I could.
    This is another financial one that has treated me well. I always default to buying the maximum allowed. This one is a little funny because I also sell all the stock options the minute they vest -- I think my future-self would be pissed about having gained money then lost it by holding an individual stock for too long.

  3. Stayed at Yahoo when I could have gone to Google.
    I have to include one sad story to show that The Law doesn't always work out: when I had the option to switch from Yahoo to Google I stayed with my Default, Yahoo, because they seemed about equal and I thought it better to continue on one track rather than switching for no good reason. That decision probably cost me a million dollars, but what are you gonna do? Gotta have a system.

  4. Worked all summer even though i didn't feel like it.
    A few months ago I didn't know what I wanted to do next and didn't really feel like doing anything (I think they call that "depression") so I defaulted to working. Now I'm still not sure exactly what to do next, but I'm not depressed, I met some cool people and did some decent projects, and I still have money in my bank account.

  5. Didn't drink or do drugs as a teenager.
    It's true, I didn't drink until my 21st birthday. I wasn't specifically against it, but I figured that future me would probably prefer less brain destruction and stupid behavior rather than more. I sometimes feel like I missed out on a part of my youth, but I have plenty of time to drink and act stupid as an adult, which is probably more fun any

  6. Didn't do anything that would look bad in a political campaign attack ad.I used to aim for President, hence the no drugs, but now I just aim for mayor of San Francisco, which is much more forgiving. Still, there is no video of me naked, no shady financial dealings, not secret support for terrorist organizations. Because you never know when you're going to want to run for mayor, and why ruin your chances when all other things are equal?

    (Luckily we now have Arnold and GWB to lower the bar for political office, so I'm free to do nearly anything.)

  7. Assumed all of my emails would be released publicly.
    I know that data lives forever, and that nothing is secure, so I always default to writing email as if everyone I discuss is CC'd. It encourages politeness as well as assuring that no mean/rude/libelous emails surface and hurt me in the future. Don't get me wrong, I'll talk some serious shit in person, just not via email. I'm sure if future me had some relationship ruined or business deal go bad because an old electronic communication surfaced I'd be pissed at past me, so why risk it.

  8. Took risks.
    One might read my Law of Defaults and think that it would make me a boring, overly cautious person. But I think the main thing future me will want is a history full of risk and adventure. I took some smart risks, like dropping out of college and quitting a well paid job to start a company with no business plan. There are more risks that I could tell you about, but writing it here would give too much fodder to my political opponents. You'll have to ask me in person. :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

8 ways I'm super excited about the internet

A few people I respect pointed out some problems with my previous post. I stand by everything I said, but I will now offer a point-by-point rebuttal describing exactly why I was wrong.

  1. The parties are more fun than ever.
    Laughing Squid held a big party at my sister's store last week, and since my friends were throwing it and my sister's name was on the building I guess I was a sort of half-mini-semi-host myself. Towards the end of the night Batgirl was doing her jump-through-a-hoop trick in the crowded interior of the store when the staff announced that it was time to go home. I volunteered to be the asshole who kicked out the leftover VC's, a-list bloggers and fancy new york reporters. I kicked them out with gusto not because I don't like these people but because I was so happy that I had nothing to prove to them, that I wasn't going to line up and try to impress them. I was at a party with my friends having a good time, and a few people were trying to impress me. Realizing my role at the party makes the party much more fun.

  2. I don't have to do much selling.
    I also recently realized that now is my time to relax and profit from all the sales I did over the past 10 years. I spent a lot of time talking about work and proving that I was worthy, and now I get to talk about whatever I feel like.

  3. I don't have to listen to people who bore me.
    Since I have nothing to prove I'm allowed to simply stop listening to things that I don't care about. This doesn't mean I'm going to be rude about it, but I might just try to change the topic in a subtle way. So if you're starting the third paragraph of the recited pitch for your new social network and I say "do you have any pets?" please take the hint and talk about your pets, which I promise to be interested in unless it's a cat.
    (Note: I'll wait for Thor to rebut my point that "the success of a product has so little to do with the quality of the idea, team, strategies, etc that it isn't worth talking about.")

  4. I am overflowing with hope.
    I believe so strongly in the power of technology to improve the world that it makes me sad to see people with such small ideas. You have to believe a few things for a startup to really be worth it:
    a. Though I may not be smarter, faster, or better than anyone else I have an idea that I believe in so strongly that nobody will keep me from doing it. And if it fails this time I'll do it over and over again until it works.
    b. If I make piles of money along the way it will simply remove the obstacles that a lack of money causes for a person like me. I'll be able to have bigger ideas, cause bigger change, and attempt things on a scale I never thought possible. I'll fail better than anyone has ever failed before!
    c. I will sacrifice the profits at every step if it doesn't support my larger goal, and I'll be the boss so nobody will be able to make me compromise my ethics.

  5. I want to be rich, rich, rich!
    If money is power, and assholes like money, then all the power will be in the hands of the assholes. I think that I can be enough of a non-asshole to spend a good percentage of my money on things that are good for the world. I also want to commute in a helicopter. Cuz, you know, who doesn't?

  6. The best software is about communication, and communication is the best thing we have.

  7. It doesn't matter that I'm not very nerdy.
    The users' experience of technology is reaching the point where you don't have to care about technology to use it and benefit from it. The iPod is a great example of this: much of its early success was caused not by the design buy by the small, cheap hard drives that hardware companies had been working on for decades. But Apple still gets the credit for putting on the polish, and lucky for me I'm a polisher.

  8. We've only just begun.
    The web is still just barely a teenager, and the innovation will continue to accelerate exponentially. When I got my first computer I stayed up all night playing with the flying toaster screensaver, which is the rough equivalent of what we did for the first decade of the web. Webvan and were the Alpha, Web2.0 is the beta, and I should at least stick around long enough to launch the Version 1.