Avoiding the Mentality of Hiring “Rock Stars”

There’s this sub-culture in startup-land where everything revolves around hiring and retaining “rock star” engineers. And I think it’s mortifying. Not the idea itself, but the implications.

I have heard it over and over from people I respect. But there’s a subtle insinuation that the blame of poor execution rests on whether or not somebody is a “rock star.”

Let’s flip the focus around: what is the difference between a good and bad manager? It’s simple:

  1. Good managers make everybody better. Bad managers don’t help anybody, but hopefully don’t make anybody perform worse.
  2. Blaming somebody for not being a “rock star” is an easy way to shift the blame from yourself.
  3. If managing “rock stars” and firing “non-rock stars” is what management boiled down to, managers wouldn’t be needed.

Hiring a Kobe Bryant for your basketball team is a good idea. But it’s preposterous to blame a losing record on the lack of a 5-man Kobe team.

History is full of leaders pulling off great feats with an unknown team of rookies. Be that leader. Elevate the team. The role of a manager is to help people produce their best work — “rock stars” or not. And, if anything, great leaders forge the rock stars everybody ends up talking about.

Failure Paralysis – The Thing that Holds You Back

We all have this friend: he talks about all the things he will do soon. He’s going to ask out that cute girl. He’s going to start hitting the gym. He’s going to ask for that big raise. He’s going to be more social. Yet, he never does.

Your friend is a victim of Failure Paralysis.

It’s clear that inaction guarantees a lack of success. No success can be achieved by doing nothing. You can’t even win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. This applies to anything: becoming president, getting a girlfriend, losing weight, seeing a movie, etc. The first step, is to start moving toward the goal.

This is the struggle every entrepreneur eventually has to overcome.

A lot of people talk about the uncertainty around taking that first step. The reality is that as soon as you take that first step, you’ll be hit with 100 new issues you never imagined. You can read all day about poker theory, but it pales in comparison to real playing experience. And yet, so many people get stuck in the theory-crafting stage of an idea. Move past this step.

To succeed, you must do. And not doing assures failure.

What are the odds that the idea in your head will become a million dollar company? Well, if you do nothing, the odds are 0%. If you start now, maybe you increase your odds to 0.1% – a literal infinity-percent better odds. The problem is that some people don’t want 0.1%. They want 99%. Thus, they wait while they do stuff to try to increase their odds. But isn’t actually doing it going to increase your odds too? When does the waiting stop and the doing start? Well, for most people: never.

Everybody has excuses to do something later. But only a few don’t let those excuses stop them. Kevin Rose famously destroyed his relationship to fund Digg. Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard for Facebook. HARVARD! Actually, so did Bill Gates for Microsoft. Michael Arrington, a now-famous tech journalist, abandoned a career as a lawyer to join the startup world. Even Jack Dorsey bailed (I use this term in jest) on Twitter to go do Square.

Did these guys fear failure? I’m sure. You can’t gamble your future and not be. But that didn’t matter — they ignored all the “sound” advice from their friends and family. I won’t get into each case, but history shows us that if each had waited an extra year or two to make the jump “safer,” they may have missed the boat entirely.

Later is the same as never. Now is the only acceptable time.

Your friends might buy your excuses, but as an Internet-Stranger, I’m going to say the truth: your excuses don’t matter. Results do.

  • Too tired after work? Suck it up or change your sleeping habits.
  • Credit card debt holding you back? Pay it off and quit going out.
  • Not enough time? Manage your time better and quit reading Reddit.
  • Can’t code? It’s OK to suck at it. Learn.

So, take a deep breath, and do something. Anything. Don’t fear failure. Fear not-succeeding.

On RSS Feeds and Working 24 Hours Straight

I know many of you have noticed that my feed burner counts go up and down a lot. On Friday it was at 227, 186 on Saturday, 198 on Sunday, and 247.

Feed Burner can’t know for sure how many people are subscribed because people turn off their computers or don’t visit their homepages that have my RSS feed. The point is, they can only count the people that are pulling down my RSS feed to their computer. As you might expect, weekends are low points since the most computer usage happens at work.

So my RSS feeds regularly dip on the weekends. On that note, I have gained something between 2 and 15 new readers this week! Hurray! :)

Expect another update later today. Normally I collect articles throughout the day and then I post my entry before I go to bed. But tonight I got back from work at 2:00AM after working for a day straight, so that wasn’t my first priority getting home. 😉

Although posting this update was…

How I Choose What I Write About

Today’s real update will have to come in the afternoon seeing as I’m exhausted right now. :) There was once a time when working 16 hour days didn’t phase me. It sucks to get old! Well, and it’s 3am.

Since I’m nearly brain-dead now, I thought I’d keep this one simple and give you guys a little bit of insight on how I pick what I write about each day:

  1. If I encounter a really hard programming problem at work, I will blog about the solution. These posts drive my search traffic.
  2. Programming posts don’t count toward my goal of one post each weekday. Weekends posts are a bonus to my readers. When I do a programming post, I couple it with a second post. Only when you are really unlucky (or lucky, depending on who you are) will that second post also be a programming post.
  3. I often skip coverage of major developments that have no real insight to add. For example, I recently skipped coverage of Dvorak’s anti-iPhone post (he’s dumb, and everybody knows it), YouTube’s new live chat feature (cool, but important), and developments in the RIAA lawsuits (they’re losing). My logic is that I only have about one hour a day (tops) to commit to a post so I might as well pick a good topic.
  4. My favorite companies to write about are: Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo. These companies have their hands in many industries, and it is interesting to see how they juggle their competing internal interests. Better yet, it is fascinating how they bring them together.
  5. I try to put double thought into one post a week. Last week was my YouTube post. This week was my stats post (or maybe my Yahoo or Google Checkout post). My goal is to write something good enough that I will gain one new regular reader a week. :)
  6. If I see news about e-paper, I will very likely post about it. As I’ve said before, I believe this technology will become as pervasive as the LCDs in the next decade. If there’s any technology outside of the web that I am a fan of, it is e-paper.

So if you have a topic you’d like me to cover more often, feel free to ask. Today, either later in the afternoon or evening, I will be writing about Sony’s further idiocy and how to submit better articles to sites like Digg. Yes, I’ve noticed some of you are submitting my work. I appreciate it, but it could be done better. :)

The Down Side of Getting on Digg and Having Tons of Readers

Ever since I got Dugg and what not, I have had a ton more readers. I’ve gotten about 1,000 visitors a day now, many of which subscribed (hurray!). But my new boo-hoo “I’m not a princess” moment came when I looked at my logs for the month:

a mountain in a sea of no visitors

Reminds me of a mountain in the middle of a really barren, really flat desert. I shouldn’t complain, especially since this blog is 100% for-fun anyway.

Well, the real down side to having hundreds of readers is that I now have an implicit responsibility to update on a daily basis. 😉

Kobe Beef is Delicious

So I went to Vegas this weekend and visited the Prime Steakhouse.

I decided to go with the really expensive Kobe beef steak. I’ve tried a lot of good steak before, but this one took the cake (and it better for how expensive it was)! It was tender, perfectly cooked, juicy, and did I mention tender? The restaurant was really top notch, and I had a good view of the Bellagio water show from where I sat.

I must also thank my friend Nick for paying for my meal. :)

The trip ended up making me money, so maybe I’ll go again in the near future. Although, next time, I’m flying.

Lasik: 28 Things to Expect

Recently, I had the Lasik procedure done. My vision is great, and I am very happy I did it. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like, here’s my everyday-Joe summary:

Preparation

  1. I went in for consultation on a Saturday. The following Saturday, I underwent surgery. This short time frame is not unusual.
  2. The first visit is a relatively thorough eye exam (air puffs and everything). Surgery day involves more eye examinations.
  3. Before the surgery, they gave me some Valium for the “anxiety.”
  4. They numb your eye using eye drops. It makes your eyes feel a little dry and uncomfortable.
  5. They also dilate your eyes using drops.

Surgery

  1. You are awake during the operation!
  2. You must keep your eye open for the entire duration of the operation, which is not difficult considering your eyes are numb.
  3. There is a dull pain when the doctor cuts your eye (yes, a human does this part). The lasers don’t hurt.
  4. When your cornea is pealed back, your vision is absolutely dismal.
  5. I keep hearing burning eye smells like squid. It did smell like burning something, but I wouldn’t say squid.
  6. It was a little difficult staring at the red dot because your vision temporarily goes black when the doctor cuts your eye. I think this was due to the pressure on the eye as he holds it down.
  7. The “laser” portion takes about 1 minute after the eye is cut open.
  8. After the lasers are done, the doctor puts your cornea flap back in place using tweezers. You’ll immediately notice a difference in your vision (it’s great!).
  9. Each eye is done one at a time. While one is being cut, the other is taped shut.
  10. The second eye hurts more than the first. The doctor even warned me. I think it’s because you know what’s coming. I was also definitely more nervous during the second eye.

After the Surgery (first two weeks)

  1. Your vision should be improved almost immediately after you walk out of the operation. Yes, you will be walking, but, no, you shouldn’t drive (see next two points).
  2. Your eyes will hurt a lot the first 48 hours. It will be a sharp burning pain like when you dip your eye in spicy sauce. You are given numbing eye drops for this (they work for about 20 minutes).
  3. Your eyes will be very dilated. Everything is vibrant, bright, and headache inducing. It was kinda cool, but it is nearly unbearable to be outside even with sunglasses.
  4. You will need to wear goggles to sleep for the first week. This sucked. Make sure you have a nice soft pillow so the goggles don’t smash into your face too hard.
  5. As soon as you get home, just go to sleep. They recommend you sleep as much as you can the day of the surgery. Sleeping is best anyway since the burning sensation will be at its worst immediately after the surgery.
  6. No, you can’t see any marks on your eyes.
  7. You are told to avoid water in your eye for the first two weeks. I accidentally tested this and got some in my eye during a shower. Yup, it burned.
  8. Your eyes will feel dry. Constantly. It is annoying. They will give you drops for this. It mostly goes away after two weeks. This will correlate with your vision quality.
  9. Your night vision will decrease, especially early on. Here’s what I observed: the dryness causes a haze, which fogs up your vision near light sources. Since light sources fuzz up your vision and mask darker areas, seeing things in the dark becomes very hard. This haze is largely unnoticeable in daylight.

After the Surgery (Long term)

  1. Your vision goes from very good to very fuzzy for the next 24 hours. This will continue, but not as erratically, over the next few weeks.
  2. You still can’t rub your eye (I am told up to 2 months).
  3. Water from showers are okay after the second week. I have not tested if I can swim yet.
  4. Follow up or corrective surgery is usually free or very (very) cheap.

Obviously this experience won’t speak for everybody. I have two friends who got Lasik. One has perfect vision and loves it. One is complaining that his vision still isn’t perfect. We all had the same doctor.

Funny Story About My Law School Friend

I have a friend in law school who is always bugging me about web programming issues. It seems she has a genuine desire to do a web start up some day — after law school.

She nags me with questions about the “best” web language, or how she can get started. The other day, she wanted to know if it was possible to view the source code of a major database driven website. Of course, the answer was no.

So I gave her a few tips about the industry. Mainly, I de-emphasized the importance of knowing how to program and stressed she should focus on finding a good idea to hire others to implement for her. In short, focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. The conversation went something like this:

her: Should I have been a programmer?
me: Programming isn’t that great if you don’t like it.
her: But how do you start up a site if you have to rely on dirty programmers? 😛
me: But how do you start up a company if you have to rely on scum bag lawyers?

My point was that we all have something to bring to the table. :)

Programmers aren’t the ones making millions. In fact, programmers are just another cog in the business wheel. The business minded entrepreneurs are the ones with the success. Some just happen to be programmers.