Paul graham essay do what you love

Is it really true that being an engineer at Google is less prestigious than being a professor at Harvard?

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Very good jobs, for sure: interesting, well paid, at least reasonably high-status, some prospect of making the world a better place. I would expect that both Harvard professors and Google software developers generally work extremely hard. Your email address will not be published. Paul Graham touches on this disregard for prestige in his essay How to do what you love.

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Andrew Gelman. John, Matt: Is it really true that being an engineer at Google is less prestigious than being a professor at Harvard? Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. A fellow would be walking along a street and suddenly modality qua modality would spring upon him. I didn't ever quite understand these papers, but I figured I'd get around to that later, when I had time to reread them more closely. In the meantime I tried my best to imitate them. This was, I can now see, a doomed undertaking, because they weren't really saying anything.

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No philosopher ever refuted another, for example, because no one said anything definite enough to refute. Needless to say, my imitations didn't say anything either. In grad school I was still wasting time imitating the wrong things. There was then a fashionable type of program called an expert system, at the core of which was something called an inference engine. I looked at what these things did and thought "I could write that in a thousand lines of code. What an opportunity, I thought; these impressive things seem easy to me; I must be pretty sharp.


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It was simply a fad. The books the professors wrote about expert systems are now ignored.


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They were not even on a path to anything interesting. And the customers paying so much for them were largely the same government agencies that paid thousands for screwdrivers and toilet seats. How do you avoid copying the wrong things? Copy only what you genuinely like. That would have saved me in all three cases. I didn't enjoy the short stories we had to read in English classes; I didn't learn anything from philosophy papers; I didn't use expert systems myself.

Lecture 3 - Before the Startup (Paul Graham)

I believed these things were good because they were admired. It can be hard to separate the things you like from the things you're impressed with. One trick is to ignore presentation. Whenever I see a painting impressively hung in a museum, I ask myself: how much would I pay for this if I found it at a garage sale, dirty and frameless, and with no idea who painted it? If you walk around a museum trying this experiment, you'll find you get some truly startling results.

Don't ignore this data point just because it's an outlier.


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Another way to figure out what you like is to look at what you enjoy as guilty pleasures. Many things people like, especially if they're young and ambitious, they like largely for the feeling of virtue in liking them. A guilty pleasure is at least a pure one.

What do you read when you don't feel up to being virtuous? What kind of book do you read and feel sad that there's only half of it left, instead of being impressed that you're half way through? That's what you really like. Even when you find genuinely good things to copy, there's another pitfall to be avoided. Be careful to copy what makes them good, rather than their flaws.