HTSAS Lecture 3

As a current college student, I feel a bit compelled to write specifically about Paul Graham’s points on college and higher level education. It’s interesting in that he really just affirms that higher level education is not as broken (and useless) as everyone makes it out to be. And because of that, I’ve put more thought into the role of college, especially in the scope of startups.

PG is right when he says that what you learn will be useful to you later on. It’s a form of self-selection in which the knowledge base that you ultimately accrue from your undergraduate studies is one of your sources of inspiration for startup ideas and is one of your main tools in coping with new problems. There isn’t a particularly optimal field to enter because really, any field would do. (It is understood you are at least interested in that field to begin with because that would certainly motivate you to reach the edge of knowledge in the field and to understand it more thoroughly).

First, as you spend a large amount of your time studying and delving into a subject area, you naturally start to think about its shortcomings and strengths, which can lead to a startup idea. And more than that, that subject should be occupying a fair portion of your thoughts, so startup ideas are likelier to come from them than others. And of course, the nature of the field itself doesn’t matter quite as much.

Second, when you try to solve a problem, you naturally reach for your most frequently used tools, and assuming you spent a sufficiently large enough time on a certain subject area, you would naturally try to apply it to your current problem. And often times, the two may not seem relevant, but you will probably find a way to make them relate anyway. (Steve Jobs, for example, used his knowledge of typography to help make his users’ experience incomparably amazing).

To note, while PG specified that the subject had to matter, I’m not convinced this is entirely helpful advice. After all, it’s hard to predict what will matter in the future. You would presumably gain insight into that for a particular field after studying it long enough.

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