22 January 2005

Hackers and Painters

In my recent job interview that was outstanding-but-somehow-went-horribly-wrong-because-they-did-not-offer-me-the-position, one of the developers (Everett?) recommended Paul Graham's book Hackers and Painters [Amazon]. The graphic design guy for the team was also in on the interview and the book came up after I mentioned to him that I have a BFA in painting.

I generally avoid books that try to combine science and Art. It's a marriage that, although they may have parallels, generally seems forced and unnecessary. However, Hackers and Painters looks to be a good read (wish list...). I'm pretty sure I heard about it before, but probably passed it by because of the aforementioned prejudice.

In the continuing story of odd coincidences, an essay by Paul Graham titled "What You'll Wish You'd Known" just bubbled up on the indispensable Blogdex. The essay is a speech he prepared for but was never able to give to a high school class. It's got some classics.

He emphasizes that you shouldn't make getting into college your goal:

It's dangerous to design your life around getting into college, because the people you have to impress to get into college are not a very discerning audience. At most colleges, it's not the professors who decide whether you get in, but admissions officers, and they are nowhere near as smart. They're the NCOs of the intellectual world. They can't tell how smart you are. The mere existence of prep schools is proof of that.


Right now most of you feel your job in life is to be a promising college applicant. But that means you're designing your life to satisfy a process so mindless that there's a whole industry devoted to subverting it. No wonder you become cynical.

Just find what interests you. Recently, someone had spoke about lack of self-motivation. Here's a concise explanation of how motivation takes hold:

I'm not saying you can get away with zero self-discipline. You probably need about the amount you need to go running. I'm often reluctant to go running, but once I do, I enjoy it. And if I don't run for several days, I feel ill. It's the same with people who do great things. They know they'll feel bad if they don't work, and they have enough discipline to get themselves to their desks to start working. But once they get started, interest takes over, and discipline is no longer necessary.

And the part about running is right on the money. I never regret it, it's just a chore to convince myself to go.

[ posted by sstrader on 22 January 2005 at 12:25:48 PM in Culture & Society ]