Home run hitters and things
I'm late to this blog post, and there's mountains of analysis to be made on all the points in this post, but I'll try to stick to a few. First, the subject of the post itself is a great explanation of a phenomenon that you notice when you read a lot of VC/entrepreneur blogs and/or listen to podcasts (This Week in Startups comes to mind immediately), namely that they lionize the founders who are aiming for billion dollar businesses and tend to belittle any whose ambitions are less aggressive than that, almost to the point of maligning them. It seemed strange to me at first that this crowd generally seemed to regard people who are moderately to very successful as failures, even if they've potentially changed the world through a means other than founding a billion dollar company. It makes more sense when you realize that to make money as investors, they have to aim for those exceptional people. And that many of them just generally have that mindset in the first place (hence why they do what they do). Paul Graham does acknowledge in the first note that this view is limited to what matters financially.
The second point that I love here is the idea he mentions towards they end that he can lay out the right thing to do, but not do it. This inability to follow through on a logically arrived upon conclusion has always intrigued me. It applies across a wide range of behaviors. In particular, I've noticed it seeps into behavior in relationships. Often people know they should (or shouldn't) do something; they should be honest, they should try to resolve rather than win an argument, they should be calm and rational rather than angry/hurt and emotional -- whatever the behavior may be -- but they just can't. And why is that? My feelings on this issue vacillate constantly.
On the one hand, I hate it. I'm all about going against the grain of traditional thinking. Using your intelligence to figure out ways of behaving that are counter to what all the schmucks out there are doing, and achieving a level of self control that bests your flawed inclinations. Keeping your emotional responses from subverting your efforts towards goals that you definitely do want.
On the other hand, I love it; maybe it's a quintessential part of the human experience. Maybe feeling emotions so strongly that they override that part of your brain that controls logic (neocortex?) is what it means to be alive. Maybe what you think you know with certainty is the thing you should do is not actually the thing you should do, and the ostensibly irrational behavior protects you from your own "rational conclusions" that you've reached by mistake due to some error (small or large) in your calculated logic. Likely it's just a byproduct of millions of years of evolution, that going so far against the grain of traditional thinking, of what everybody else is doing, is usually a bad idea and leads bad places (e.g. your genes dying out).