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How to be interesting

24 November 2019

If I were giving job-seeking advice to my college-age self, or to someone in college looking for their first job, I’d tell them to not spend so much time on the traditional job-search methods of résumés and cold-emails. Instead, just be as interesting of a person as you can. One of the best ways to send opportunities your way is to be an interesting person. If you’re an interesting person who’s always doing something, who’s always got something going on, people will naturally send stuff your way so you can be a part of their lives. People like being around people who are going places. Don’t worry too much about your GPA. Well, don’t fail out. But if you don’t have a 4.0, don’t stress about it. One of my favorite quotes from Chris Sacca is: “your GPA only matters to people who have no other reason to find you interesting.” If you’re interesting person, you’ll get a decent job anyway.

Well, what does interesting mean?

Someone who is interesting, well, does interesting things!

But, how do you do interesting things?

I think there are two parts to it: One, you have to follow your genuine interests. Two, you have to demonstrate your interests by making things in align with your interests.

If you’re interested in something, that’s what you should focus on. Today deep learning and blockchain are hot. But if you don’t like those things, don’t work on them! If you like underwater basket weaving, or photographing clowns in Tajikistan, do that!

The reason is that it’s hard to get good at something. It’s hard to get good enough at something where someone will pay you to do it, and even harder to become great at it so you can “write your own ticket”, so to speak. It involves years of long hours, tedium, and painful moments. Every activity, no matter how outwardly glamorous, has its version of grunt work. And the time you spend on grunt work far outweighs the moments of glamour.

The trick is to find something to do where, for you, the journey is the destination. Where you enjoy the grunt work. Where you enjoy the activity in and of itself. That’s the only way you’ll be able to stand the process of improving your skills in an area.

The second part is the produce. It’s easy to consume and criticize the work of others. What’s much harder is to put your own ideas out there to be evaluated by others. Production makes you stand out. Damn near everybody likes listening to music. How many of us make our own music? Even on social networks, the most low-level form of “production” we’ve created, people just read other people’s posts instead of putting out their own.

Production is the proof that you know how to do what you say you do. It’s the thing nobody can take away from you. It’s a way to show, not tell, others your interests.

Doing things has real cost to you. Just buying something doesn’t work. Marketers sell us products promising that they’ll make us distinct, but in reality it’s just cheap signaling. In the past, what you bought used to be a powerful signal. When clothes were expensive if you saw a guy in a tailored suit, you could rightly extrapolate that this guy was professionally successful and, by extension, reasonably intelligent and industrious. Today, with mass availability of credit, anyone can buy nearly anything. So, what you buy means nothing. Extrapolations of the Chris Sacca quote above could be “what you buy only matters to people who have no other reason to find you interesting” and “if you don’t give people another reason to find you interesting, you’ll use consumerism as a tool to be interesting”. If you don’t have anything else in your life that makes you interesting, what you buy becomes bigger deal. But if you have a body of work and a reputation behind you, you’ll care a lot less about your consumption.

So, that’s it! Follow your interests and make stuff.