A Few Things I Learned in 2014

Note: This is a cross-post from my Medium blog, originally published in January 2015. I included it here on my website to kick off the new blog.

I’d originally intended to share this list of bullet points with a friend. Some are general, some are personal. A few are quite revealing, but I believe that personal faults and foibles are rendered less significant if they’re openly shared.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, right?

I’m sharing this list mostly because I think some of the things I learned are potentially valuable and applicable to other people* (See note at end of post.)

Here are a few things I learned in 2014:

  • Some people have a tendency to be trusting and generous to a fault, and that they let other people take advantage of that because they weren’t sufficiently self-confident to stand up for what was best for them.
  • Corollary: Some people (including me) have a hard time saying no to things.
  • People (especially in startup culture) tend to overestimate/overvalue people with well-developed hard skills, whereas it’s the people with well-developed soft skills (communication, intuition, aligning ideals with action, etc) that are often more effective and productive. (And it’s those with both hard and soft skills that rule the world.) [Edit: this is to say that, all things being equal, a brilliant designer with limited communication skills will not fare as well as a merely good designer with good communication skills.]
  • Although some people are fairly smart they can also be intellectually insecure. This compels them to keep learning about new and emerging fields and developing hard skills, but this drive to keep learning sometimes hinders their ability to seize opportunities as they’re presented. (I’ve dealt with this too.)
  • Finding partners that mesh well with you, personally and culturally, is more important than finding the most talented person to build something with you.
  • The emails I write are often too long.
  • Unsexy but easily-executable projects with a high likelihood of success are often a better time investment than ambitious, difficult ones with a greater risk of failure.
  • It really is all about people. This is a really tired cliche, especially in entrepreneurship circles, but it’s true. Ideas are cheap. Money can come from (almost) anywhere. Execution reigns supreme, and the only thing that can execute is a good group of people.
  • Despite a lot of irksome elements in contemporary startup culture, it does you no favors to shun it thinking you’re better off on your own. (This hasn’t been a real problem with me, but I’ve observed it in others.) That being said, it’s okay to laugh about it sometimes with people who also think it’s kind of ridiculous.
  • Friends = Family.
  • Volunteering for political campaigns is fun and educational. You learn a lot about your country by knocking on its doors.
  • Connecting and helping people make deals is incredibly fun and is probably what I’d like to spend my life doing.
  • ^That^ and writing. I used to write so much for public consumption, back in my college days. I don’t know why I stopped publishing stuff… because I really liked it. I’d developed a (very) small cult following that liked what I wrote, and to be honest I really miss having that community of readers. I’m making it a point to write and publish a lot more in 2015.
  • It’s easier to change a system from within it.

So, that’s about it. I hope you found parts of this post valuable. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If not, but you scrolled down to the bottom to see the little note at the end, I hope that doesn’t leave you dissapointed either.

Happy New Years! May your 2015 be better than your 2014.


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