What's your edge?

Regardless of age, it's an excellent question to kick off the new year. 

In a recent interview I listened to, Alex Danco offers this insight:

"You, yourself, are a business, even if you don’t run or operate a business, because your job is to figure out what is special about you and what your edge is in doing anything. And if nobody else knows what that edge is, and if you don’t know what that edge is, then you’re going to be a pretty undifferentiated little Business of You. Life is not going to be that fun for you because you’re going to have to compete for everything, you’re going to have to pay market price for everything, and you’re going to have to apply to jobs rather than have them apply to you."

Excuse me, but I was only taught to apply to jobs...

And Mike Solana, when asked about the best advice he's ever received, offers this (long, but excellent) perspective:

“I think the best piece of advice I ever received came from Peter [Thiel], though it wasn’t framed necessarily as advice. We were working on the class together at Stanford. That class became his book Zero to One. In it he talked a lot about competition and not competing with other people. The problem with this advice, is it’s so hard to actually follow because we’re instinctively drawn towards copying other people and struggling with them — especially people we respect. We end up copying those people. We look for cues on how to be and how to exist. We want the things that they want. This is all a part of something called mimetic theory, it’s Rene Girard stuff. So, [the advice] was to avoid competition and to focus on the things that make you uniquely yourself, which, again, is a very hard thing to do. But it’s something that I actually struggled with a lot right around that time… This is back in 2011-2012. Right after the class was finished at Stanford that summer, I remember looking around at all of these people who I was almost worshipping back then, all of the technologists in Silicon Valley building these incredible things. People who had built incredible things! From Peter Thiel to Elon Musk, there was just this entire spectrum of people that I was looking at who were these like philosopher kings building the future. … And even most of the people at Founders Fund back then had technical backgrounds and I feared that I was technically deficient, that if I was to be taken seriously, by even myself, I should be a programmer, I should be coding, I should learn Python, I should learn Javascript. So I spent an entire summer trying to teach myself these languages and not writing prose, not working on Twitter, and certainly not [podcasting]… I thought I was fixing myself, like I was going to fill up these deficiencies that I had and I would be as good as these people that I really respected. But the truth is, I realized, by the end of the summer, if I studied really hard, and I worked really hard, I could be a sort of decent engineer. I could be as good as a 19-year-old Stanford student, maybe a few years from now. But I was already a really good writer. I was a better write than most people because most people are not even writing. Right? So I kind of just changed my focus. I thought, instead of trying to get better at things that I’m not good at all, what if I tried to make myself much, much, much better at things that I’m already better at than most people. And that became the new trajectory of my life and that opened all of the doors that I’ve walked through since. I’m really happy to be working on the kinds of things that I’m working on. I’m really happy to have embraced my, I think, edges rather than worried about my deficits. And, I think, that that’s the advice that I’d give to anyone, always: Identify the thing that you’re already better at and put everything into that. Lead with that. … It took me a long time to believe in myself, to believe that there were things that I could do that these people who were so great, who I loved so much, could not do or could not do as well. … I think that we all have things like that. You have to love yourself enough to identify those things and to care about them and to say, ‘No, this is valuable. I have a value that I’m bringing to the world, it is unique and I’m going to feed the unique things about me.’”

This quote took waaaaaaay too long to transcribe, but I enjoyed it.

Parenting and expectations

A few days ago I scooped poop out of a bathtub — with my bare hands. I had to act quickly. The poop was crumbling (disintegrating?) before my eyes. Scoop, scoop, scoop. Done. I then rinsed my three-year-old and reminded her that toilets, not tubs, were made for pooping. Off she went.

I'm sold on the idea that how I react today to my kids' tantrums, spilled juice, wet beds, or poop in the bathtub will determine how much they trust me in the future. I can't blow this. I want them to talk to me. I want them to feel comfortable being vulnerable around me. Luckily, I don't get just one shot to figure this out. Each day I seem to have a new or repeating opportunity to practice the skill of controlling my emotions and recalibrating my expectations.

I once heard Jeff Kearl say, "Satisfaction is a function of expectations." Jeff wasn't talking about parenting, but it's just as applicable. Chill and happy parenting is a function of expectations. It has taken me eight years and four beautiful girls to stay chill...most of the time. I'll figure this out eventually.