“With more success comes greater problems along with greater ability to solve them.”
Mark Victor Hansen.
Paul Graham’s essays are a great read. There is something unique about the way he views his subject matter (usually startups) and then has the ability to break it down into highly insightful chunks of wisdom for his readers to learn from.
For example, so much of Paul’s essay entitled “Schlep Blindness” strikes a chord with me in relation to OSS projects that I’ve included a huge slab of it below.
“No one likes schleps [tedious, unpleasant tasks], but hackers especially dislike them. Most hackers who start startups wish they could do it by just writing some clever software, putting it on a server somewhere, and watching the money roll in—without ever having to talk to users, or negotiate with other companies, or deal with other people’s broken code. Maybe that’s possible, but I haven’t seen it.
One of the many things we do at Y Combinator is teach hackers about the inevitability of schleps. No, you can’t start a startup by just writing code. I remember going through this realization myself. There was a point in 1995 when I was still trying to convince myself I could start a company by just writing code. But I soon learned from experience that schleps are not merely inevitable, but pretty much what business consists of. A company is defined by the schleps it will undertake. And schleps should be dealt with the same way you’d deal with a cold swimming pool: just jump in. Which is not to say you should seek out unpleasant work per se, but that you should never shrink from it if it’s on the path to something great
The most dangerous thing about our dislike of schleps is that much of it is unconscious. Your unconscious won’t even let you see ideas that involve painful schleps. That’s schlep blindness.
The phenomenon isn’t limited to startups. Most people don’t consciously decide not to be in as good physical shape as Olympic athletes, for example. Their unconscious mind decides for them, shrinking from the work involved..”
Looking back on your own career, do you notice that it’s the hardest assignments that you’re most proud of? And do you also notice that you found your way into most of those challenges being oblivious to the difficulties that lay ahead? OSS projects have definitely ticked both of those boxes to be the pinnacles in my career to date.
It makes me wonder what activities I’ve subconsciously avoided because they involve painful schleps. Or what we in the OSS industry as a collective have avoided because it just inherently seems too hard.
What do you perceive to be the moon-shots in our industry? The tasks that are just so hard that we’ve never tried to tackle them or never even thought to try to tackle them. What is OSS‘s equivalent of finding the cure for cancer?
I think it’s the OSS version of the Model-T Ford. It’s the vehicle that turns what has been a highly customised, hugely innovative, but expensive and unreliable beast into something that’s accessible to the masses, with a huge amount of room for configurability still engineered into it. I get the distinct impression that a whole range of ideas and technologies are currently coming together and will provide the spark that becomes the OSS equivalent of Ford’s production line.Read the Passionate About OSS Blog for more or Subscribe to the Passionate About OSS Blog by Email