Weaknesses

James Dong
Jun 7, 2017 · 4 min read

The entire process of finding, building, and moving into a store for Last Minute Gear has really highlighted some key weaknesses of mine I’d really like to work on. My mind works in 2 core ways:

I constantly see analogies & relationships between things.

The blog post I wanted to publish today got delayed because it morphed from writing about exceptions handling to political correctness to politics and then some. I started Last Minute Gear because when I diagrammed out the interconnectedness of sustainability challenges, consumerism was a core trunk. The truth is, everything is related (butterfly effect and all). But be that as it may, to dwell endlessly on the tangled-ness of a ball of thread is to make no progress in unraveling it.

I constantly see both sides & the spectrum of gray

When I left Bain, I made a list of the most important lessons I learned. The one that seems most dominant in my everyday thinking is the fact that everything lies on a spectrum. It’s not good to try to catch every exception and error, just as it’s not good to ignore them all. When I started writing code, my paranoia led me to write code to catch errors that would basically be a result of the language itself not functioning. For example:

That’s a facetious example, but very close to the real deal. It’s also not good to be totally politically correct to the point where you can’t express emotion (or words longer than 2 syllables) for fear of alternative connotations. But nor is it good to be so ignorant that you blatantly offend others and incite violence.

Everyone knows this, and I feel like most people pick somewhere in the middle that makes sense for them, and tend to stay there. I bounce from end-to-end, empathizing with the argument du jour and rethinking my entire action set.

Consequently…

The above may seem like humble brags — like when a recruiter asks you about your weaknesses in an interview and you say you’re just too detail-oriented or too polished in communications. But they’re not (for me, to the degree which they rule me) because that kind of mentality leads to me thinking that everything is pointless.

I frequently find that I’m unable to reach a point. In the original blog post that this was going to be, I started writing about exceptions handling, and then 2 things happened:

  1. I started seeing parallels. Handling exceptions is like policing speech is like writing contracts is like adding footnotes, etc. Some parallels were easy to understand, others required more of a stretch. But either way, pretty soon I ended up with 4 pages and a sinking feeling of — how can I write this, it’s basically the world??
  2. It’s not enough to write about what exception handling is. One has to have an opinion on how optimal exception handling. For each parallel I was thinking well what’s optimal? Do you catch all exceptions or just some? Well, better to be safe than sorry, well then it really depends because in start-up-mode you can’t really afford to (some start-ups don’t write any test code even I’ve heard). How much should you police your language, to what extent should you write footnotes? In some cases when my thinking goes down this path, I become unable to draw any conclusions, trapped by a million situations. In other cases, I just throw up my hands and say, what’s the point? Everything depends on context, there are no rules-of-thumb (except sometimes there are, and sometimes there are not [see what I mean? This kind of thinking is already metastasizing!])

Not being able to reach a point in writing a blog post isn’t the end of the world (when I started blogging, I told myself to write in 1 hour, but gradually that’s creeped so that now posts can take several hours across multiple days). But how the above translates into day-to-day for Last Minute Gear is that I find it very hard to make decisions.

Decisions were already hard to begin with. There’s never enough information, hindsight is 20–20. The difficulty level exponentially increased because as a green business, we try to add that layer into decision making, always thinking (predicting) what’s better for the environment (i.e., what has greater longevity). And then my mind makes it worse by saying, well, this decision is just like a hundred others, so does it hinge on those decisions too? Or this decision is trading off A for B, but what if we traded off B for A?

The real impact is that Last Minute Gear moved into the retail store space in mid-April. My goal was to finish the store build-out by end of May, and that’s not possible. A big driver for why this has happened is just that it’s been so difficult for me to decide on fixtures, furniture, etc.

But hopefully with this self-awareness will come some positive growth. At least, I wrote this blog post in 1 hour exactly!


I blog about life & work on my entrepreneurial journey. We’re building the best outdoor gear shop at Last Minute Gear!

James Dong

Written by

Rent camping gear & snowsports apparel up to 1 hour before your trip! (https://www.lastmingear.com ). Formerly @BainandCompany & @Cal

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