Embracing Micro-Speed, Macro-Patience

Thoughts on knowing what to optimize for

Siddharth Sharma
11 min readApr 12, 2023
The Planning Fallacy and the Paradox of Indefiniteness

“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” — Steve Jobs

In the world of tech, innovation is driven by those who dare to think differently. For most technologists, their ability to optimize for the right situations and cultivate contrarian ideas are what enable favorable long-term outcomes. However, when I went to FloMo for dinner a few days ago, one of my friends introduced me to new ideas in psychology and philosophy when we were talking about what the future would look like in 2050. He explained that when it comes to building, you should move fast now and be patient with the results. This doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking but it got me thinking about what it takes to best deliver cool projects and ideas.

While it seems that optimizing for a set of broad, future goals is the way to go, my thinking better aligns with iterating rapidly toward things you care about in the short term with high performance. What does this mean? Selecting your projects to be prioritized towards pure learning and excitement can lead to the best long-term outcomes without explicit planning. Such an idea can be expressed as embracing micro-speed and macro-patience (MSMP). The phrase was originally coined by Gary Vaynerchuk. As part of MSMP, you want to minimize the planning fallacy by choosing what brings you the most current happiness and pleasure from your current work. Short-term execution that comes from the heart is good because long-term direction is dependent on the self-reassurance that your current work is moving you in the right direction. In other words, you must believe that long-term outcomes will naturally come to fruition based on the alignment of precise short-term intuition. Long-term planning gives meaning to your short-term execution — but it shouldn’t be the sole driver. When we think about a life or career in layers of work (different periods in time with each having its own goals and motivations), choosing to concretize your mental models and execution style paired with sourcing the correct intuition as part of MSMP could be more favorable rather than purely reducing regret.

These concepts are especially tricky in college since there will be more unique opportunities in these 4 years due to the inherent intellectual freedom of most undergrad programs. As a student myself, picking and choosing my battles is tough: it’s super easy to overthink and get stuck on what is missed and what is not, from choosing projects to classes to spending time with friends and family. In this piece, I hope to present some insights into making the most of the future without having a thorough mental roadmap or career planned out.

The Art of Micro-Speed and Macro-Patience

In technology, speed is crucial. Micro-speed is the ability to iterate quickly, make decisions, and learn from failures. Macro-patience, on the other hand, involves staying committed to your long-term vision while adapting to the ever-changing tech landscape. Balancing these two elements is essential for any technologist. Consider an engineer developing a new system for serving ML inference. They must rapidly iterate through several codebases and fix GPU bugs (micro-speed) while keeping their long-term vision of revolutionizing a particular workflow in a large ecosystem intact (macro-patience). However, micro-speed should not compromise the quality of your work. Balance your rapid progress with attention to detail and a focus on delivering reliable, well-crafted products. Maintain a long-term perspective, but be prepared to seize opportunities when they arise. Moreover, don’t let your long-term vision subtract from your day-to-day efforts: bring your best every day. Part of working with micro-speed and macro-patience lies in not dwelling over long-term outcomes or optimizing for something more than 3–4 layers beyond your current pursuits (likely objectives that are at minimum several months or years away). Being memorylessness to a degree in regard to your current mental window of the future could work in your favor. Perhaps by approaching things with approximate indeterminate optimism in the near future with a determined set of models and worldview, we asymptote towards the maximal form of determinate optimism, the fact that you determine the future even though it can be factored as a sum of random events:

You are not a Lottery Ticket — Zero to One, Peter Thiel

Contrarian Ideas

Contrarian ideas challenge the status quo and have the potential to disrupt industries. In the tech world, these ideas often lead to groundbreaking innovations, such as the creation of the Internet, personal computers, and smartphones. Perhaps the future awaits with inflections like quantum computing and longevity. To identify contrarian ideas, ask questions, and challenge assumptions. Seek out alternative perspectives, engage with people from different backgrounds, and explore unfamiliar industries. Don’t be afraid to question conventional wisdom, even if your ideas are met with skepticism. Every major technological breakthrough began as a seemingly impossible idea. Be willing to fail because you won’t find new angles or unexplored perspectives without the capacity to fail — we will all likely fail many times. Believe in your abilities to make the unknown known. Taking risks should be normalized to a degree: when you take calculated risks and work with a sense of purpose is when you truly begin to think outside the box. Good things, especially those that correspond that unexplored paths are hard so time and macro-patience are your best friend. In college, the concept of finding contrarian ideas is difficult to pinpoint because there tends to be a lot more noise compared to signal. With so many classes, clubs, career paths, and conflicting interests for me across CS & Math, it’s easy to get lost but I think it’s about coming back to what makes me tick — for me, that’s exploring frontiers in AI — and going all in on that. I don’t need to figure out the details of future layers like one month from now, one quarter from now, etc. to maximize my current learnings and explore the unexplored.

Some folks who said “Okay this doesn’t exist, let’s bring it to life”

Winning via Ergodicity

What does it mean to win? To optimize for winning, begin by identifying your unique strengths and passions. Align your goals with these intrinsic motivators to ensure you remain engaged and committed. Be open to changing your approach when necessary, staying adaptable, and learning from your mistakes. The intersection of your strengths, passions, and opportunities will serve as a foundation for your success. Winning in the traditional sense of the word also shouldn’t be the way to go. In reference to the concept of micro-speed & macro-patience, the reality is that we should all win. Do good work that serves you and others. Ergodicity, a concept from statistical mechanics and probability theory, has significant implications for winning as well. In an ergodic system, long-term behavior is independent of initial conditions, and time averages equal ensemble averages. For example, if a software system is ergodic, it means that the behavior of a single user or test case can be representative of the system as a whole. This can help technologists make more informed decisions about how to design and test software, how to optimize the user experience, and how to manage risk and security concerns. The human experience is broadly ergodic: we all lead different daily existences as observed from the outside yet our learnings and principles across several million humans converge to a relatively uniform understanding of what is moral and considered useful for living “a good life.” To win and reach success regardless of how you define it, it’s key to recognize that you are part of a system with known truths and unknown realities. You can exploit existing information while exploring your own bounds to best capture relevant opportunities.

Ergodicity … the coolest idea you’ve never heard of

To win, I think it helps to embrace ergodicity: you are one part of the massively complex system that is human civilization. By recognizing that the long-term outcomes of a system can be predicted based on a single realization, individuals can focus on making informed decisions in the present moment, without worrying excessively about the future. This can be particularly helpful in situations where the future is particularly uncertain or complex. This will be likely most helpful as I prepare to graduate or when the economy is symbolically enveloped by storm clouds. By embracing the principles of ergodicity, individuals can make decisions based on a deep understanding of the systems and contexts in which they operate, and adjust their actions and strategies over time based on new information and feedback. This can help increase their chances of success, fulfillment, and happiness, even in the face of uncertainty and change.

Transcending 99.9%> & The Why

Many people approach their actions and planning with the mental model of a regret minimization framework: inherently optimizing for avoiding gaps or things that could have gone better (AKA avoiding FOMO). I don’t think this is the way to go. This is because blindly minimizing generalized regret misses the point of why one regrets something in the first place. Do you regret not being able to work on Project X because you don’t get think you will get a similar opportunity any time soon? Do you regret not being able to collaborate with person Y because everyone else seems to think they are talented? Do you regret missing event Z because your peers would want to go? Many times, our own regrets are externally governed. We usually want to take on certain opportunities because most think that is the way to go. Firstly, this is an inherent contradiction to exploring new and contrarian ideas. Second, it’s rare to stop and think about why something matters to us. A lot of people want success in the typical sense (being in the top <0.01%) but aren’t even sure why. Perhaps, it’s for validation but this doesn’t necessarily correspond to what people most truly want since even the strongest validation isn’t connected to intrinsic feelings. If you can be patient and precise with what you truly want out of the next A weeks, B months, and C years, then you will better know what learning opportunities will serve you best now and then for those coming periods of time. You don’t need to lay out goals but rather just concretize things you care about and figure out what pursuits align with that in your current perceptive field. More than the how of you accomplish it, spend time on the why as part of your mental framework. Then only will your ambitions and learnings be more directed.

Ray Dalio’s Cycle of Growth from Principles

Build and see what you don’t yet see

As humans we typically only see within our mental perceptive field: a spatial smorgasbord of ideas, people, and work that we interact with day-to-day and week-to-week. Yet what makes you unique isn’t totally encapsulated by what is in your immediate perceptive field: you have dreams and aspirations, some of which can’t be grounded in logic or reasoning — they are simply unique to your growth and the human experience. These abstract notions can be described in many ways — passion, fervor, ardor, etc. Extending your view beyond the typical bounds of human endeavor can serve you better than you think. Take that class that seems like it doesn’t match anything you’ve already learned, pursue that hobby that everyone brushes off, and challenge yourself in ways that most don’t see why you would need to do so. I particularly enjoy the humanities with history and philosophy so I am striving to take more classes in those subjects to add to the dimensionality of my worldview. Beyond stepping out of one’s comfort zone, the greatest learning experiences often come from pursuing unique projects and building things of value, even when working independently. These projects can lead to mini breakthroughs and force you to think differently, helping you develop expertise in your field. It’s also great to just do things for the sake of “why not.” For students like me, it’s a lot of good fun and dual learning to work on fun side projects simply just because, especially with friends who share similar interests. Embracing challenges and unconventional paths is hard, especially if they appear risky. By “staying hungry and staying foolish” as part of your optimization framework, you’ll maximize your learning, cultivate resilience, and ultimately, create something of lasting value (a lot of things will live on the internet forever). How do you actually accomplish this? One common saying is to move fast and break things (AKA investing in micro-speed since that’s when lightning strikes).

So to be a creative person, you need to “feed” or “invest” in yourself by exploring uncharted paths that are outside the realm of your past experience. Seek out new dimensions of yourself — especially those that carry a romantic scent. But one has no way of knowing which of these paths will lead anywhere in advance. That’s the wonderful thing about it, in a way. The only thing one can do is to believe that some of what you follow with your heart will indeed come back to make your life much richer. And it will. And you will gain an ever firmer trust in your instincts and intuition. — Steve Jobs

Startups, projects, hacks (my favorite kind) — there are a lot of different ways to accomplish this with tech. Good conversations also help to configure one’s own creativity. Simply put, be creative, use your time for something you truly enjoy, and make something cool. It will take some speed and certainly, some patience to see it all really come to life.

Such an epic shirt (YC)

Closing Thoughts

So much to learn and such little time.

At the end of the day, we’re only here for N years: the journey is the fun part. It’s pretty important to strike a balance between your ambitions and the execution of your ideas. Don’t let the road ahead entrap you, your life is a continuum with valleys and hills that you can’t yet see: there will always be a degree of the indefinite. However, you can develop a framework and set of models by which your optimization for best-case scenarios is stabilized. Rather than minimize regret across different scenarios or regret not getting to explore several paths, fear that you don’t spend your time doing what you truly love and enjoy. Maintain focus on your long-term vision, but be prepared to pivot and adapt as needed. By practicing micro-speed and macro patience, you will build and learn — just know that you’re probably going to fail a lot while you’re at it but that’s what makes it fun.

You wouldn’t want it any other way.