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David Heinemeier shares some principles to go against the grain

J. P. Solano
Mar 16, 2018 · 8 min read

David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) is well known as the creator of Ruby on Rails and also for his raw opinions. In the last episode of Chase Jarvis (CJ) Live Show, he shared pearls of wisdom about technologies, remote work, creativity and life itself. If you only have some minutes, I made a compelling list of the best quotes from the interview but I recommend you to take the time and see it completely.

Here there are the best quotes:


(DHH) Programming has changed since 2000. Back then, developers did not identify themselves as creative persons, they identify more like engineers or scientists. Now is OK be a creative programmer.

(DHH) Programming is not just all about maths, programming could be cool using the tools that match your interests (like Ruby for him)

(DHH) His first real project in Ruby was Basecamp in 2003, still doing today.

(DHH) You can start programming at any moment in your life, he starts in his early 20s.

(CJ) Ideas need frameworks to really happen and come to life.

(DHH) Basecamp started as an internal project to fix a communication problem with their clients.

(DHH) Ruby & Rails start with a very slow step-by-step process of creating features without big ambitions and without any of the risks of putting all your eggs in one basket.


(DHH) A founding myth is this heroic ideal of unless you risk everything and you’re basically on the verge of starvation, it’s not really worth it. You can have clients paying you money for founding your ideas until your business is finally strong enough to focus on one thing.

(DHH) The myth is that entrepreneurship requires massive risk, and in many cases also require a huge amount of capital and you have to be someone who just has both qualities. That is the archetype of the silicon-valley-style entrepreneur.

(DHH) Also was the narrative that this is how you make software companies. And Basecamp is the antithesis of all that.

(DHH) The way we build Basecamp is a lot easier, a lot more accessible to a lot more people. And it’s more sustainable and healthy. The silicon-valley way its just one particular, very narrow path, that can produce spectacular successes like Facebook and Google but only in 1/100000 cases. The rest is just a massive waste of human potential.

(DHH) If someone wants to start a new business, if he or she wants to be an entrepreneur, especially in software, he or she should be able to look at least two paths, not just the silicon-valley way

(DHH) We have internet, that gave so many people so many opportunities, that we can’t narrow the whole thing down to this one silicon valley archetype of what a software company has to be.

(DHH) We didn’t do anything special! How many people out there can do a client business, get a couple of clients, pay the bills, a still have a little bit of time left over, so they can pursue their things as a side project? Lots of people, right? Versus this tiny group of people who can manage to convince VC to give them money.

(DHH) You don’t need all that stuff to start a software business or business in general. If you want to build a wonderful $10 million a year business, you cannot do that with that path. The silicon valley path is great for a $100 millions, $1B business because VC only care about grand slams.

(DHH) The vast majority of people just don’t need too much software. Make a simple solution at a reasonable price is a great strategy.

(DHH) The integration story is still a green field of opportunities.

(DHH) Ruby on Rails is like Basecamp, try to take a lot of ideas, put them into one package that just works.

(DHH) Everything doesn’t have to be a construction kit. People are willing to pay for finished things.

(DHH) Everybody puts their shit together in the same way, especially in technology. Why not we agree in one way and move to another thing.

(DHH) There is a focus on the glory to inventing something new, what is 1%, but there’s 99% which just takes the pieces that already there, put them together in a different order, and all the sudden, that order is exactly what a group of people need. There should be more focus on that, it’s fucking great!

(DHH) It what the vast majority of people in the world should be doing, taking things that already exist and putting them together in interesting, slightly twisted, slightly subtly different ways.

(DHH) Basecamp and Ruby and Rails invented nothing, we just put together pieces of functionality that we want to use together and other people want together.

(DHH) We live in the false narrative where either you have to be a genius or you have to work 120 hours a week to be an entrepreneur. With 7 or 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week you have plenty of time to make great thinks too.

(DHH) You can create great, sustainable, wonderful, impactful businesses on 40 hours a week. You can create great software inventing nothing. Just putting things together in novel ways. You can get a business off the ground without mortgaging your house five times over, just treating it as a side project until there’s some traction you get going. We do it, so you are allowed to do it too.

(DHH) Also, it about the success criteria. There’s a such a focus on your success in business, or in software, it’s as if you build facebook or google, or whatever.

(DHH) The difference between being an entrepreneur to start something and just barely scraping by and getting a business that makes, say a million dollars a year that is 97% of the difference that you will ever experience in material goodness. Once you get to the point where you have a million dollars cleaned in the bank, your life is 97% different from having zero and having to worry about every paycheck and so on, versus the difference between jumping from 1 million to 10 million, maybe that’s another 2% and the difference between 10 million to a billion is the last percent. So, why wouldn’t you focus your odds on getting to like the 97% of the value? Because the odds are totally different.

(DHH) The odds of you setting out to start a business that’s gonna make a million dollars a year, they’re still not great, it’s hard, but they’re infinitely better than the odds of you starting the next facebook or google.

(DHH) This is another misconception. If you have something to say, you’re only allowed to say it once. Then, it’s not new anymore. But, if you want an impact, you better damn well be ready to say the same thing 10,000 times.


(DHH) The culture of ASAP is poisoning the path to get things done.

(DHH) Meeting are toxic. Do you know how much stuff you can get done if no one’s interrupting you for five hours?

(DHH) Managers think they need more staff, more people, but what they need is how to make the hours count. It not the number of hours, it’s the quality of those hours.

(DHH) Programmers need headspace, focus, dedication on the screen. If they are sitting in an open office beside a sales guy that is yelling on the phone, What’s the quality of that? It is shit.

(DHH) Stop creating a monkey business where you only are pretending make valuable work and focus on getting things done.

(DHH) Remote work is the best way to the get all these quality hours.

(DHH) There are great IT talent outside of the common tech hub cities like San Francisco or NYC

(DHH) Classic business has been controlled by extroverted persons, like manager or salespeople and force creative and introverted people like programmer or designers to flow the rules, a cost of the productivity.

Ruby and Rails (R&R)

(DHH) I made R&R in 2004 as a sense of gratitude to the open source community.

(DHH) I hate repeating myself, so I encode the solution inside a box and reuse it the next time.

(DHH) I want to continue to allow programmers to focus on the creative endeavor more than the complex part of coding.


(DHH) I’m well past good enough and done enough, I don’t owe the world anything more than what I ‘ve put into it right now.

(DHH) I have complete freedom to do what I want to do without worry about money any more. That is freedom. So then the question is Why am I doing this? What is the meaning behind it? And the meaning is not adding another zero to my bank account.

(DHH) Humans are wired to accumulate things, but that is not of what is life about it. We need to look for meaning, for continue doing your favorite things and creating the best we can produce to the world.

(DHH) I love the 80/20 principle. If I can put in 20% and I can get 80 back.

(DHH) Stoicism is a really healthy antidote to all these other pressures that we have in life.

(DHH) The easiest thing you can do when you have something good is to fuck it up by keep striving for more, and more, and more.

(DHH) One practice is negative visualizations: This idea that loss is going to happen and you better start preparing for it now.

(DHH) If you’re all in on one thing and that thing goes away you’re all out. That’s not a good strategy in life. I need to find ways to diversify my ego, my sense of self-worth and all the things, my interests. If one pillar crashes down, I’m still here and I’m still totally fine.

(DHH) We need to constantly expand our comfort zone. Sucess and wealth narrow our comfort zone to a very thin slide because of the expectations about what life is extremely high, and that make you an asshole, and you enter into the autopilot life mode. Broaden your comfort zone to resist the asshole temptation.

(DHH) Amor Fati, loving your faith. The obstacle is the way. (find the book)

(DHH) Practice writing, as a way of think and letting it out.

(DHH) Love constraints, we can’t do everything with unlimited resources, set limits for getting things done.

(DHH) The main feedback of you has to come from yourself, not for external feedback loops.

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More posts from J.P. Solano:

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