Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Marc A Dishes: How to Succeed

Marc A shares some thoughts on education for success.


Part I

Part II

My own thoughts: I was undergrad econ/math, and barely had (have) the technical chops to do my job. I wish I had studied even more technical stuff.

For what it is worth, though, I think Marc misses out on some portion of the advantage of the liberal arts. Sure, don't major in the humanities (many of which have become constituent departments in one big School of Indignation Studies!). But some of those courses I took, in Shakespeare, in Art History, in Problems of Philosophy....they kindled a spark of something or other.

But you should probably choose the professor, over the course. If your school has a really fantastic prof of the humanities (Michael Moses in English, Peter Euben in Classics, at Duke; Paul Cantor in English at UVirginia, and so on), take their course no matter what the subject.

Still, with that one quibble, Marc's advice is just what I tell my own sons. This is your only chance to learn some actual skills. Don't think you will pick it up later.

Finally, Marc's view of "becoming a CEO" is perhaps a little naive. He thinks it's easy because....well, because for him it was hard NOT to succeed. He appears driven, and he hates it when things around him suck.

But many people accept sucking surroundings with a great deal of equanimity. Their idea of action is to COMPLAIN about how their job sucks, rather than trying to fix it.

So, my own list for people who want to succeed, comes down to this (summarizing Marc's)

1. Have extremely high potential (You have this, or you don't. But an amazing number of people have this, and yet they still suck)
2. Do not overplan, but also don't jump around randomly. Keep you eye on the main chance, and go all in when you have a good bet. Don't take lots of small risks, just for the sake of gambling. Take just a few really big risks, and choose those carefully. And then hold nothing back.
3. Don't fritter away your undergrad degree. Take hard classes, and choose a technical major.
4. Don't go to grad school just because you have nothing else to do. You have lots of other things to do. (See #2, above) (And, yes, Angus and I both have both MAs and Ph.D.s Look, it's a miracle we're not in jail, okay? Both our dads will tell you that.) Do as we say, not as we do. (Our dads will tell you that, too!)
5. Constantly try to get better, on several margins, rather than being the single best person in the world on one margin.
6. Have no patience for sucking, in yourself. And have very little patience for sucking in those around you. There is no reason to accept systematic failure. Energy and the constant search for opportunities are what set winners apart, perhaps even more than native ability.

Anyway, not clear my coarse little summary does the original justice. I just enjoyed reading it, and thought I would share.


Robert S. Porter said...

It would seem I've been wasting my time. I don't think I want Mr. Andreessen's success, I'd rather be happy.

Mungowitz said...

Well...."wasting" is perhaps too strong.

But it is true that one can spend the rest of one's life reading good books, and enjoying life. Why not get rich by the time you are 35, and then be happy?

Still, as I noted, I have a PhD. So why listen to me, anyway?

Robert S. Porter said...

I'd love to be rich by 35, unfortunately I don't have enough drive to place myself into a field that I do not enjoy. At the same time I know my own limitations. For example, If I was good at math I'd be an econonimic major, but I'm not, so here I am.