Paul Graham recently wrote an autobiographical essay of what he’s worked on since middle school. He’s a hacker (developer), writer, painter, and founder. He designed his life to be rich both financially and professionally. He was never afraid to pivot or stop something if he found himself uninterested or tired.
And he did it by following his interests despite what it looked like to others.
When you find yourself drawn to some kind of work despite its current lack of prestige, it’s a sign both that there’s something real to be discovered there, and that you have the right kind of motives.
It’s funny to hear this from someone who founded one of the most important start up incubators, YCombinator. They were at the start of some of the most prestigious startups like Airbnb, Dropbox, Strip, and Coinbase.
But Paul himself works on very obscure things.
Still life has always been the least prestigious form of painting. Viaweb and Y Combinator both seemed lame when we started them. I still get the glassy eye from strangers when they ask what I’m writing, and I explain that it’s an essay I’m going to publish on my web site. Even Lisp, though prestigious intellectually in something like the way Latin is, also seems about as hip.
I feel as though I am being drawn to those things that are not hip. The things I want to talk and write about, and how I want to go about talking and writing about them won’t give me that satisfying upward growth curve.
And yet, I’m inspired by Paul’s tenacity and self belief. Rather than thinking he’s doing it wrong, and needing validation he just kept on going.