reading: Thinking, Fast and Slow: Part 1

Today I learned something interesting in the book I am reading, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Turns out that the geographical areas with notably high instances of kidney cancer are rural. Also, the geographical areas with notably low instances of kidney cancer are rural. Our minds attribute these opposite outcomes as causal, but they are not – they are statistical.

Think of a study – the larger the sample size, the more accurate. So an urban area has a larger population/sample size and therefore a more realistic/normal number of kidney cancer instances – rural areas have small populations so a proportional extreme is more possible.

While reading the book, which centers on misled decision-making, I continually apply it to my current decisions – regarding job trajectory and career. Today, I had an epiphany.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love startups, especially early-stage startups, because you feel you’re changing the world and don’t have to deal with large departments and meetings – you have a good idea, you build it. Stuff happens fast.

At church yesterday I met a guy who ask me if tech startups were usually short gigs – he likes to stay at a job for longer. I had never heard this before. I thought people stayed at jobs as long as they enjoyed them or were learning something, but why would you stay longer? This need for security and consistency, to be honest, is a bit foreign to me.

But, I would like to find a vocation and company that I like well enough that I don’t have a quarter-life crisis every couple of months. Thing is, I did – my last job was my dream job, and in the end there were two reasons the fairy tale ended, and both had to do with the fact that it was an early-stage startup. Then I read this by Michael O. Church:

“Experience has led me to conclude that there isn’t much of a difference in mean quality between large and small companies, but there is a lot more variation in the small ones, for rather obvious reasons.” – Don’t waste your time in crappy startup jobs

It’s the same law of probability. My boss used to say that startups are in for failure with a chance at success, not the other way around. Big companies tend to grow and succeed iteratively, because they are large. Small companies might do the same, but there will be some that don’t grow at all and some that find wild success, both financial *and* in changing the world, in a small amount of time.

In the end it’s the same lesson as the movie He’s Just Not That Into You. We hear these stories of so-and-so who started with nothing and built something, and nobody has made a list of the great ideas that were once startups and never more.

I’m not talking down startups in general, but trying to put things into perspective for my own personal situation, at this specific point in time. I think the greatest differentiator in success is not the ability to dream but the work ethic. But perhaps that same forward-thinking, drive and intuition into the future of [whatever industry] can serve my own hunger at a larger company as well.

My needs today, in terms of career, vocation and so on, are different than they were a year ago, and it’s difficult to know what choice I make until the moment it is offered to me.