June 7th, 2020
A few days ago I wrote the post A Lot About A Little.

I had a friend write a response to it, which has seemed to also have done well on Hacker News.

Some more thoughts…

A few years ago, I took a personality test, and landed on Virtuoso.

It makes perfect sense - a virtuoso starts many things, likes to get their hands dirty, jumps from project to project, and are often mechanics and engineers.

Virtuosos are really uncommon - apparently only making up only 5% of the population.

Growing up, and compared to my colleagues and friends, I’ve always been different. My friends would often comment (and still do) how weird it is that I try so many things, or how comfortable I am spending time by myself.

It wasn't until after I took this personality test that a lot of things clicked for me.

I started to embrace my "differences" more - and turned to the internet and found communities of other “virtuosos”. I found a lot of people like me condensed into communities like Twitter, WIP, digital nomads, etc. (that's one beauty of the internet)

I take pride in being a virtuoso - it has given me identity and confidence about my unusual path that I’m taking.

In my post “A Lot About A Little” - I didn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t start and try new things - it’s just something that I (personally) want to be more mindful of.

Although I embrace my personality and will always be true to myself, there are a couple things we (virtuosos) need to weary of:

  1. Starting new things as an escape
  2. Being a "master of none"

Starting new things as an escape

Starting new things and learning new skills is the beauty of life.

But there is a caveat - starting new things is often an escape from something "old and boring" in our current lives.

It can be an escape from relationships. It can be an escape from commitment. It can be an escape from career. It can be an escape from family.

In other words, be careful that you’re not starting something because you’re running away from something else.

Six years ago, I broke up with my long-term girlfriend. Looking back, part of the reason I broke up with her is that I was so excited about starting some new things in my life. I justified the heartache of the breakup with the "rush" of starting anew.

It was the time where I was switching my career to coding. I was so excited about this new career and starting something new, that I put all of my identity and happiness into it.

Although learning how to code and changing my career was a great decision, looking back, this sacrifice I made in my personal and family life was immature and it makes me cringe.

But, of course:

If you don't look back on your past self and cringe, then you didn't grow as a person.

When starting new things, make sure you are doing them for the right reasons, and understand the inevitable sacrifice that comes with them.

Being a "master of none"

Starting new things feels good. We feel accomplished.

But it’s important to look at all of the things you have started. Do you really, honestly, know much about those things?

I would argue no. You haven’t spent enough time on them. You haven’t been in the trenches, working on it and thinking about it 80 hours per week for 10+ years. 

If you think you know “a lot about a lot”, then you might be subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect - where you actually don’t know “a lot” about anything, but you don’t even know it!

A little about a lot

Here’s where I know “a little about a lot”:

  • Economics (majored in college)
  • Accounting (was a career for a couple years)
  • Coding (software engineer for 2 years)
  • Writing (I write daily)
  • Making music (was in a band in high school)
  • Running (ran 3 marathons)

My argument is not that these things haven’t made my life richer, or contributed to a greater overall result, but I actually know NOTHING about these things, and that's the beauty.

I actively spend a lot of time on some of these things, and I do love some of these things, like writing and running - and I won't stop learning new things too.

A lot about a little

Here’s where I'd like to know “a lot about a little”:

  • Starting and building businesses (Failed at 6+, done it for 5+ years)

Building businesses is where I’ve spent the most time on over the past 10 years.

When I first got into entrepreneurship (first 1-2 years), I thought I knew it all. I had confidence - I watched the YC videos, read the business books, and renowned blog posts.

Looking back, I was damn stupid and overconfident!

It was only until I got 3-5 years in (and 15,000+ hours later) where I’ve started to realize that I actually know nothing. The deeper I go, the more I realize this.

Most importantly, it’s humbling. If I never reached this point, then maybe I'd still think I knew a lot about running, or writing, etc. (overconfidence)

As far as entrepreneurship, I think I’m somewhere in the middle of the x-axis of the Dunning-Kruger graph.

Now that I have some self-awareness about what I don’t know, I realize how superficial my knowledge is about pretty much anything.

Nowadays, some people ask me for advice about starting a business. When I get on the phone with them and hear about their idea or their approach, I'm reminded of myself when I started my first business: blind with confidence, stubborn, and likely to make the same mistakes most entrepreneurs make on their first go-around.

It is the Dunning-Kruger effect in action - they haven’t worked enough at it to even know what they don’t know. It doesn’t matter the advice I give, or the blog posts that they read - the only way to realize you don’t know what you don’t know is to put in thousands of hours into something and finally have that feeling -  that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Most people never experience this, hence why we see the endless Facebook and Reddit threads of people that spouting their ideas and who truly believe they know what they are talking about, usually about politics. Likely, these people didn’t spend years as a politician or historian. 

They are also likely the victim of starting too many things, having their hand in too many cookie jars, and the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Hell, this blog post is the same issue! I don’t know much about human psychology, I just watched a couple YouTube videos on Dunning-Kruger ;) 

But that’s OK, this is just a journal and I just my ideas for the day - 99% chance I’m wrong about all of this.

"I'm so great" - The Dunning-Kruger effect