Fond Of The Pod—Essay Edition I—Paul Graham | by Udi | Apr, 2022

Photo by Neil Daftary on Unsplash

Co-Founder of YC’s thoughts from Nov 2009 to Feb 2022

It is utterly incomprehensible that, for near zero costs, we can eavesdrop in on conversations between the greatest minds of our generation. Mankind’s visionaries, scientists, entrepreneurs and creatives have never before been more accessible. Wind the clock back and imagine being able to listen in on Alan Watts debate Allen Ginsburg and Timothy Leary on Shamanism. Or to James Baldwin and William F Buckley debating race and the American dream. Anyone with an internet connection, and a curious mind, is at liberty to plug into an auditory universe of ideas & experience defining the future.

How? The mighty podcast.

Given this absurdity, I’ve taken it upon myself to review my favorite material gleaned from one of my favourite, & most productive, pastimes — listening to podcasts. Selfishly, my aim is to dial down the sheer volume that seems to go in one ear and out the other. Magnanimously, an outcome perhaps for you — dear reader — will be the inspiration to spend the five seconds or so it takes to download one and experience the magic for yourself.

indie hackers

This series of reflections about podcasts I love was never meant to be based on essays. For those brave souls that have been diving deep into Reid Hoffman strategies gleaned from his epic podcast Masters of Scale know this. So too do those who’ve gleefully dipped their toes into my Fond of the Pod take on the start up podcast by Gimlet Media. In prepping to do the same for a podcast series which I absolutely LOVE — Indie Hackers — I came across a very specific episode with Nathan Barry of Convertkit which forced a pivot!

indie hacker, hosted by Courtland Allen, is about entrepreneurs who have created profitable online business. These people typically start off with limited resources, small teams (perhaps even solo), and build incredible lives (as well as businesses) by leveraging the digital tools we all have at our disposal.

Photo by Peggy Anke on Unsplash

The shared experience is actionable. The insights are transparent — probably its defining quality as there are very few forums where entrepreneurs are as frank about their numbers, practices, strategies, tools and techniques. This is intentionally engineered by Courtland, who has historically prioritized such interviewee’s. As an audience we love it. It is also a natural byproduct of a fiercely collaborative community which has fostered a positive-sum game mentality where by all who participate aim to make the pie bigger; as opposed to zero-sum thinking with all vying for bigger slices of a pie for themselves.

In the Nathan Barry episode they mention a series of essays written by Paul Graham, founder of Y-Combinator, which are freely accessible on his website. I was intrigued. They challenged not-one in particular to read as many of his insights as possible given he is one of the forefathers of start-up culture in silicon valley as we know it today. I agreed to the challenge, heeded the call, and so set off to read every single one in an attempt to synthesize them in some way for myself and my readers!

“A book (average size circa 70,000 words) takes six months to write to convey an idea (convincingly albeit) for instance the ‘Sapiens’ idea that myths and storytelling are the essence of human survival. An essay, however, takes just one week to write (size circa 3,000 words) and end up at the same result: conveying an idea. This is much more accessible to do, and way more easily consumable.”

SongADao

Jonathan Mann is a musician who has been writing a song a day for 13 years and 93 days as of Sunday April 3rd 2022. I have formed a DAO (decentralized autonomous organisation) called SongADAO which is essentially a group of people who:

A) love music and are interested in new ways to interact with it
B) are interested in pursuing their goals more concertedly and applying the same ethos and ethics to their own aims
C) are investing their resources (financial, temporary, attentional etc) into reshaping our experience of intersection between the arts and commerce in the new Web3 landscape

I joined the DAO’s discord recently and was invited to participate in a challenge to publish any art of your choosing, alongside a few friends, every day of April 2022. Here we are on Day 3 and this piece which i’ve been sitting on for months is finally getting published.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“I write to discover what I know.”
— Flannery O’Connor

Paul Graham has published 210 essays on his website since 1993.

That means on average he has written about one essay a month, with varying length and depth, alongside building businesses like ViaWeb and Y-Combinator. The pieces are sourced from a rich catalog of resources such as chapters from his books, vignettes from his speeches, notes from his lectures, feedback to (and from) his companies or investors or partners, and so on.

Over time he has assembled a group of friends to bounce his ideas off. This team is constantly being built in ways that enrich and enliven the material by coloring it with perspective, experience, and diversity of thought. Many of those who contribute have worked with him in the past in some way; or inspired him too.

There are key themes that come up regularly. His exposure of him to world changing teams, ideas, and individuals give credence and clarity to these as he continually grows into assuming the pastoral role for which he is now so well renowned. His passion for art, programming, and building businesses too are essential ingredients.

  • Follow your curiosity and your interests
  • Cultivate independent-mindedness
  • Writing is invaluable for generating & articulating well-formed ideas

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit”
—Richard Bach

What an honor to have read through 85 of the essays so far. I am humbled and grateful to have such a rich resource to draw from.

For the most part I take the core insight of each essay and distill it into a sentence or two for a flavor of the key message being shared. Paul’s website does this to an ever greater extent by simply using concise essay title’s. This was as much a learning exercise for me as a mission to create resources others could tap into and use as a bridge towards delving into his material from him, and creating their own from him! Sometimes I use Paul’s words, most times I use my own.

“I wouldn’t want to work on anything I didn’t want to take over my life” — Paul Graham

Please let me know this encouraged you to read the essays, or download the indie hackers podcast. Critique is rare and wonderful — Paul has his crew, I’m looking for mine. Do share thoughts as comments or connect with me on twitter or email at papaandthejimjams [at] gmail [dot] com.

I am writing an essay a day in April 2022 either here or over at my Dad page.

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