Paul Graham and Schrodinger’s pussy

Paul Graham is always throwing out nuggets of wisdom and one such piece of advise that is extremely popular is ‘Do things that don’t scale’. There are many examples of startups that have taken this advice to heart and started off with a completely non-scalable way of doing things and now have huge audiences. Airbnb, for example.

Doing things that don’t scale is sound advice for one simple reason. It grounds you to reality. The strengths of and expectations from a company that is small and just starting off are completely different from the strengths of and expectations from a company like Uber or Facebook or Google. And these strengths and expectations change over time as the companies grow. So, trying to operate like Uber does today during a company’s early days is pointless. As the CEO at my previous company used to say, a startup and an established company, when asked to cross a fence of barbed wire, the startup just bulldozes through the barbed wire and come out bleeding with cuts and bruises, while the established company will figure out where the gate to the fence is, unlock it and come out unscathed, albeit a fair deal later than the startup.

Running through barbed wire can be done once. It can’t be done every time. It is not scalable. Finding the gate and unlocking it can be done every time and scalable. But the startup doesn’t have the luxury of time and resources to do it the scalable way. Maybe it will die trying if it goes down that path. Hence, it runs through the fence. To survive. And if it survives, will figure out how to cross the fence in a scalable way later.

And then there’s Schrodinger’s cat. It is a thought experiment. Put a cat in a box and given the rules of quantum physics, the cat is both dead and alive until you open the box to look at an isolated outcome of it being either dead or alive. Today, I came across this hilarious article that takes this analogy to women on the Internet, where women are both available to you and disgusted by your perversion at the same time, until you swipe right (open the box with the cat) and find out it is either of the two (very likely she is disgusted).

How is this analogy of Schrodinger’s pussy related to Paul Graham, you wonder?

Simple. Do things that don’t scale.

While it is all the more evident when you’re swiping right, it is true in all relationships. And the things that don’t scale here are — giving people your time, listening to them, showing concern for them, and being authentic.

Quoting from the hilarious article:

“Correctly applied Science might get you laid. Also, not being a dick helps.”
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