Trust your impulses, they have served you well. Remember, though, how many times they told you to shut-up, and the successes that have come from that. You are young, close your mouth. Pent up that energy and that passion and pour it all into a single indulgence of the tongue. The payoff will come from a combination of scarcity and selectiveness. Do not allow momentum to induce overextension.
I wanted to write a little bit more on my last entry, especially after some of the comments people left. One of the them reminded me of something I’d wrote to myself a few months ago, as I was just getting back into reading.
I learned that lesson in High School Cross Country and thought it was ridiculous. But as I’ve grown to see it as one of the greatest fungible truths I’ve ever known. When you practice restraint where it is easy to lose it and dedication where it is difficult to maintain it it, you gain instant advantage, both temporally and transcendentally. Of course, common sense seems to imply other wise–which is fine if you’re looking for common results.
I constantly struggled with the impulse for self-destruction. It is all too easy to get caught in the moment, to sprint down the hill, but that’s not an efficient, scalable strategy. It cannot be sustained, it’s not a life foundation. In a precarious or rare situation like the one I am in at Rudius–these dangers are real and tangible.
So when I find success or innovate or breakthrough, I struggle with how to distribute credit. It doesn’t matter if I was behind it, I feel more comfortable attributing credit to the writers I read, my mentors, my friends, or my girlfriend. On the shoulders of giants… I under to never understand people who thanked others when they clearly did all the work themselves. But now I see it’s an attempt to stay grounded–in a sense to maintain the mindset that generate the first success.
The last thing I ever want to be accused of is acting my age–it means I’ve sprinted where I should have pulled back. For this I am reluctant to declare much with certainty, regardless of how monumental a step may have been. In other words, by turning inwards and focusing, you capture and store the kinetic energy–literally turning it into potential for the future.
Like Robert says, I think you become how you see yourself. And you literally are how your enemies or clients see you. You tell yourself you’re strong, act strong and they see you as strong. They based their actions on that perception. Perceptions are just as important as reality. The key is to get inside their OODA Loop–assuming they’d ignore me as a timid teenager–>making myself appear an equal or even a superior–>driving them towards a course of action beneficial to myself and Rudius.
Again, this is a risky strategy in that I’m reaching into Pandora’s box to grab my social mask. But when pursued with congruous moderation and restraint, I neutralize the tantalizing danger of delusion. And honestly, there really isn’t much pretending going on. Rather I am compensating for various social tendencies to discount the young. In making this a conscious strategy it becomes an asset, not a source of folly.
I am awful at meeting new people. I withdraw inwardly, grow nervous and bite my tongue. Don’t get me wrong, the strategy serves me well at times. It’s an effective means of preventing youthful stupidity from shutting doors. But as I am quickly learning, that’s not going to cut it anymore.
At SXSW this weekend, I had to network for really the first serious time in my life. The first day was a wash, I walked up to people and lost my nerve. The nerdy creator of Techmeme–Gabe Riveria, a kid barely older than me who, honestly, I would have made fun of if I’d ever met at school–talked down to me like I was a child. I’m sure a few others put my card straight in the trash. But as the week progress, I began to hit my stride.
At a party outside the event, I was talking comfortably for the first time with someone, because they weren’t important to me. I ranted about Twitter–otherwise know as the cloud of dust preceding the horsemen of the internet apocalypse–when someone eavesdropping weighed in and disagreed.
Guy: “You just don’t understand the benefits of Twitter, it’s going to be huge.”
Me: “Are you from San Francisco?”
Me: “Do you play Second Life?”
Me: “Then what the hell do you know? This is the problem with the tech community, they’re so insular, they don’t understand what normal people enjoy doing or how they live their lives. You are just wrong, my friend.”
From there, I had framed the terms of our relationship. I was the outsider who had perspective, and he was the slightly ignorant nerd. And accordingly, he had to impress me or I’d move on to someone who I respected. Indeed, he ended up being an important guy–and potentially a valuable Rudius contact–one who was trying to prove himself to me, instead of the other way around. Up to that point, in every single interaction I’d had there, I had been in his position, the timid little teenager bothering the somebodies.
I found my greatest success when I told myself that I could offer them as much as they, I. Even if it isn’t necessarily true, that perspective puts the two groups on equal footing. Even with Tucker, my initial pitch didn’t beg for a handout. My credentials and my ideas were stated boldly and up front. But my desire to learn was equally illustrated. That’s what so few of you understand–he didn’t take me on as a fucking charity case, but as an understudy who made his potential as clear as his work ethic.
These are notes I wrote to myself during the conference:
You cannot come to them as a 19 year begging a question. Demand a king’s ransom and you’ll be treated like a king. You need to be approachable–deserving of being approached, near them–as opposed to doing the approaching yourself. Don’t be timid, don’t grovel. You need firmness, confidence, assuredness.
You cannot, however, succumb to brashness. I may be 19 years old, but I am NOT 19. Self-control is key, do not–for a single second–believe your own charade. You fake it, until you make it. Acting important as you muster forces to become important. Think of Fastow’s banking strategy–shifting from account to account, emphasizing strength and covering up weakness. His fatal flaw was that he saw this as a sustainable practice, ethically and economically. No bullshit; this is only to compensate for the stacked deck.
I know nothing. Or at least a fraction of what I can potentially know. Do NOT allow this to go to my head. Remember to treat the uphill as declines and the downhill as inclines. Restraint, discipline, always. Rational conscious thought. They’ve served me well thus far, do not abandon them at the first tiny taste of success. If you do that here, it was all a farce, you really do become a novelty. That’s not to say it was a waste of course; all things become learning experiences. But do not spoil your early adopter’s advantage.
I think the key point is that no one pays notice to timid, especially the young and timid. Nor does anyone respect the bombastic, especially young ones. Like Aristotle‘s spectrum dictates, excellence lies in the middle–in this case with confident coolness.
So as I’ve learned at SXSW, always appeal to a person’s desire to pursue. Make yourself the steal, even as you reach for their wallet. Project success and the prophecy will fulfill itself. Manifest your intended result in your current attitude and you paint an alluring portrait. Clearly this is a rather fungible idea that can be applies to all sorts of interaction. At the same time, never lose sight of “formlessness” and the fact that the strategy is DIRECTLY rooted in moderation.