kottke.org posts about Jeff Atwood

The lessons of Steve JobsFeb 07 2012

At the end of this month Jeff Atwood is leaving Stack Exchange, a company he cofounded with Joel Spolsky. In a post on his blog, he explains why:

Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn't sustainible for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks. [...] Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.

In his post, Jeff points to a similar post by another entrepreneur, Brad Wardell.

In the last several years, the company has been successful enough to generate a substantial amount of capital. And with it, I have been fortunate to bring in people with great talent. And so I started thinking of all the amazing things we would do. I would put in crazy hours to do it, of course, but we would go and do amazing things.

Then Steve Jobs died.

And suddenly I realized something. What is the objective here? My oldest child just turned 15. My other two are no longer little either. And I have been missing out on them.

And another from Eric Karjaluoto:

For a long time, work was my only thing. I worked evenings, weekends, and Christmas. At those rare times when I wasn't at work in body, I was there in spirit, unable to speak or think of much else. I wanted so badly to climb the mountain that I stopped asking why I was doing it.

I admire [Jobs] for the mountains he climbed. At the same time, I wonder if he missed the whole point, becoming the John Henry of our time. He won the race, but at what cost?

Me? I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.

This mirrors my main reaction to Jobs' death and Isaacson's book as well. I wasn't working 80 hours a week or leading a growing company or even spending very little time with my kids but I was pushing pretty hard on Stellar, pushing it towards a potential future of insane working hours, intense stress, and a whole lot less time with my family (and selfishly, less time for myself). Since Jobs died, I've been pushing a little less hard in that direction.

Four is hardly a trend but it is interesting that the death and biography of the greatest businessman of our generation -- someone who was responsible for so many world-changing products and ideas, who shaped our world through sheer force of will & imagination, etc. etc. -- is inspiring some people to turn away from the lifestyle & choices that made Jobs so successful & inspiring in the public sphere and to attempt the path that Jobs did not.

Protecting yourself from your own irrationalitySep 14 2009

Using examples from Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Jeff Atwood shows us how to keep our guard up against people trying to sell you things and, ultimately, ourselves.

Realize that some premium options exist as decoys -- that is, they are there only to make the less expensive options look more appealing, because they're easy to compare. Don't make binding decisions solely based on how easy it is to compare two side-by-side options from the same vendor. Try comparing all the alternatives, even those from other vendors.

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