Monday, May 12, 2014

You Can't Avoid Putting In The Time

I have a lot of admiration for people who are willing to say unpopular things.  Experience has taught me that popularity is only weakly correlated with correctness, and that a willingness to say unpopular things may often be the only way to say true things.

Penelope Trunk is one of several friends who have made a career out of saying unpopular things.  Penelope is willing to weigh in on topics that others wouldn't touch with a radio-controlled drone (including me).  Which is why I really got a lot out of her most recent blog post on parenting:

Here is the critical passage:

"There are not limited-time-but-still-meaningful jobs. And there is not limited-time-but-still-meaningful parenting. Because both imply that you somehow beat the system and avoid the tough tradeoffs.

There is only the truth that you get what you give. If you give a lot to your kids, you get a lot from your kids. If you give a little, you get a little. And the same is true with your work."

On the one hand, my natural instinct is to argue for nuance, and to note that you can sometimes apply the Pareto Principle, whether at work or at home.  But while that argument is technically true, in practice, it gets used as a piece of sophistry to make us feel better about our choices.

We all want permission to do what we want to do, and to believe that making those choices are the optimal path to having our cake and eating it too.  But deep down, we know that's a lie.

I met with an entrepreneur today.  He's made me money, so of course I like him.  But he's recently gotten engaged, and is pondering whether he should "be responsible" and get a normal job.

Of course, I'm sure he'd have felt relieved had I told him, "The responsible thing is to be an entrepreneur!"

But I didn't, and even if I did, he's probably too smart to believe that.

Instead, I told him, "If you could live this next decade 10 times, nine out of those 10 times, you'd end up better off economically by getting a normal job.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't be an entrepreneur.  It does mean that you need to decide right now that you (and your family) can live with the likely consequences.  Make decisions based on truths, not hopes."

Life is all about tradeoffs, and most good things--whether successful startups or great relationships with your family--require you to put in the time.  Make your choice with open eyes, and understand what it means to live with the results.