Breaking down the myth of the starving artist

When you’re figuring out what to do with your life, you may have come across a certain Venn diagram.

This diagram is terrible. Let me explain why.

It’s three circles-things you’re good at, things you’re passionate about, and things people think are valuable. According to whoever created the diagram, you should work on things that end up at the intersection of the three circles. And they’re right, kinda.

If you work on something you’re good at and valuable, but not passionate about, you will burn out quickly.

If you do something valuable that you’re passionate about but don’t have the…

Illustration courtesy of

A simple technique for 10x understanding

TL;DR — Read the book, summarize each section, and rewrite the book based on your summaries.

This is basically a modified Feynman Technique. It’s quite simple, and only requires three steps, which I’ll go into more detail below:

  1. Read the book like a normal person
  2. Take notes, record anything interesting that sticks out to you
  3. Write your own version of that book, based on your notes

The beauty of this technique is that you’ll never forget what you read. For example, I distilled David Keith’s book The Case for Climate Engineering (which is actually about solar radiation management, not climate…

A short guide to the counterintuitive advice for producing your best work.

It’s the year 1496.

You, a random observer, perhaps a time traveler, happen to stumble upon the great Leonardo da Vinci painting one of the most recognizable paintings in the world— The Last Supper.

Leonardo stares at the painting for an hour. Scrutinizing every detail, going through every single possibility within his mind. He spends an agonizing amount of time doing nothing but staring at his painting.

Then, he makes one single brushstroke and leaves.

He’s done for the day.

You say to yourself, “wow, this guy is the least productive person I’ve ever seen”, as you climb back into…

Don’t start one project. Start 20.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

TL;DR = If you don’t know what to do with your life, start a bunch of cheap projects. The ones that aren’t worth doing would die off naturally, then you can focus your energy and effort on the projects that matter.

“I want to start something, but I don’t know what to start” is a common problem that can be solved by applying a principle from ecology known as r and K selection theory.

Step 1. Start a ton of projects. As many as you can. Don’t think. Just start.

When I don’t know what I should work on next, I apply the term “breed like rabbits” to my philosophy. How do rabbits breed? …

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

When I received the email confirming that I was invited to a Product Hunt Makers + YC Office Hours session, I was super grateful, then super stressed out. It’s freaking Y Combinator.

Later that day, I sat in front of a computer in my dorm and joined a video conversation with about 20 other Makers from Product Hunt and Michael Seibel, a partner (and CEO) at Y Combinator.

I took about three pages of notes, and I’ll share some of that advice here.

Thanks to Product Hunt Makers and Michael for organizing this!

Some specific stuff about YC applications

If you’re applying to Y Combinator for…

Gustave Shakusky

Creativity consultant interested in startups, life, and Pleistocene rewilding. Father of 3.

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