Architects know that some kinds of design problems are more personal than others. One of the cleanest, most abstract design problems is designing bridges. There your job is largely a matter of spanning a given distance with the least material. The other end of the spectrum is designing chairs. Chair designers have to spend their time thinking about human butts.
At every period of history, people have believed things that were just ridiculous, and believed them so strongly that you risked ostracism or even violence by saying otherwise. If our own time were any different, that would be remarkable. As far as I can tell it isn't.
If you try to solve a hard problem, the question is not whether you will use a powerful enough language, but whether you will (a) use a powerful language, (b) write a de facto interpreter for one, or (c) yourself become a human compiler for one.
As a rule of thumb, the more qualifiers there are before the name of a country, the more corrupt the rulers. A country called The Socialist People's Democratic Republic of X is probably the last place in the world you'd want to live.
When you tread water, you lift yourself up by pushing water down. Likewise, in any social hierarchy, people unsure of their own position will try to emphasize it by maltreating those they think rank below. I've read that this is why poor whites in the United States are the group most hostile to blacks.
Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.
Nerds serve two masters. They want to be popular, certainly, but they want even more to be smart. And popularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school.
The other thing that's different about the real world [compared to high school] is that it's much larger. In a large enough pool, even the smallest minorities can achieve a critical mass if they clump together.
When those far removed from the creation of wealth -- undergraduates, reporters, politicians -- hear that the richest 5% of the people have half the total wealth, they tend to think injustice! An experienced programmer would be more likely to think is that all? The top 5% of programmers probably write 99% of the good software.
I've seen occasional articles about how to manage programmers. Really there should be two articles: one about what to do if you are yourself a programmer, and one about what to do if you're not. And the second could probably be condensed into two words: give up.
Your teachers are always telling you [high school students] to behave like adults. I wonder if they'd like it if you did. You may be loud and disorganized, but you're very docile compared to adults.... Imagine the reaction of an FBI agent or taxi driver or reporter to being told they had to ask permission to go the bathroom, and only one person could go at a time.
There's no switch inside you [high school students] that magically flips when you turn a certain age or graduate from some institution. You start being an adult when you decide to take responsibility for your life. You can do that at any age.
It's not so important what you [high school students] work on, so long as you're not wasting your time. Work on things that interest you and increase your options, and worry later about which you'll take.
If I were back in high school and someone asked about my plans, I'd say that my first priority was to learn what the options were. You [high school students] don't need to be in a rush to choose your life's work. What you need to do is discover what you like. You have to work on stuff you like if you want to be good at what you do.
No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well. There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.
The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination [putting off important things to do unimportant things], because it doesn't feel like procrastination. You're "getting things done." Just the wrong things.
Another reason people don't work on big projects is, ironically, fear of wasting time. What if they fail? Then all the time they spent on it will be wasted. (In fact it probably won't be, because work on hard projects almost always leads somewhere.)
The more you realize that most judgements are greatly influenced by random, extraneous factors—that most people judging you are more like a fickle novel buyer than a wise and perceptive magistrate—the more you realize you can do things to influence the outcome.
One thing that leads us astray here is that the selector seems to be in a position of power. That makes him seem like a judge. If you regard someone judging you as a customer instead of a judge, the expectation of fairness goes away. The author of a good novel wouldn't complain that readers were unfair for preferring a potboiler with a racy cover. Stupid, perhaps, but not unfair.
Someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly.
If you'd asked me as a kid how rich people became poor, I'd have said by spending all their money. That's how it happens in books and movies, because that's the colorful way to do it. But in fact the way most fortunes are lost is not through excessive expenditure, but through bad investments.
The most dangerous way to lose time is not to spend it having fun, but to spend it doing fake work. When you spend time having fun, you know you're being self-indulgent. Alarms start to go off fairly quickly. If I woke up one morning and sat down on the sofa and watched TV all day, I'd feel like something was terribly wrong. ... But the same alarms don't go off on the days when I get nothing done, because I'm doing stuff that seems, superficially, like real work.
Being mean makes you stupid. That's why I hate fights. You never do your best work in a fight, because fights are not sufficiently general. Winning is always a function of the situation and the people involved. You don't win fights by thinking of big ideas but by thinking of tricks that work in one particular case. And yet fighting is just as much work as thinking about real problems.
I actually worry a lot that as I get "popular" I'll be able to get away with saying stupider stuff than I would have dared say before. This sort of thing happens to a lot of people, and I would really like to avoid it.