I did the NYC Century Tour yesterday--a 100mi bike ride around the city sponsored by Transportation Alternatives where thousands of riders are circumnavigating the far reaches of the boroughs on two wheels. It was a great day and the weather couldn't be better.
One thing that struck me is how diverse the cityscape is outside of Manhattan. Biking through the streets of Far Rockaway, it could not have felt further removed from dodging traffic down Broadway. It's the same feeling I get when I'm on a kayak in the East River, pulling up on the sand at Valentino Park or Hallet's Cove.
For anyone who has ever said that the city is too busy, too fast, too anything... I don't think they're open to how varied a life you can live here. Not only do you not need to go at the pace of the person next to you, but there are many places in the city where the pace is quite different than lower Manhattan.
The race is long, and if you're not living your life at your own pace, you're going to burn out very quickly.
In fact, I think people get way too caught up--especially in the startup world--in the idea that you have to live your life and run your business a certain way. I'm afraid that they're conceding too much about how they want to live, how they get treated by others, and who they portray themselves to be in an effort to be accepted or successful.
We live in a time where the paths to success have never been so open and so diverse. Access to the right people, to sources of capital, and to talent has never ever been more open than right here and right now. Gatekeepers are a thing of the past and there is no single individual who stands in the way of your goals--not any investor, hire, reporter, or "influencer".
This is doublely true for a place like New York City where there are so many resources that aren't actually part of "the scene" and the rules of engagement are separate from anything accepted as a norm in the tech community. There is more capital here in NYC that *doesn't* read Techcrunch than in any other
place in the world. There are more developers *not* working on social apps here than anywhere. You don't have to work for any entrepreneur you don't respect or who doesn't respect you, because no matter what their reputation in the tech community is, there's a much larger community of people here that has never even heard of them.
Technology is powering a world where this is your life and you are the center of it. You are more empowered to create your own rules than ever before--and yet the pile-on to get in front of a limited number of highly visible people and resources has grown into a religious fervor. A lot of entrepreneurs and startup folks aren't living and working as if there's an abundance of resources out there to help them. They're fighting over the scraps of people with high Klout scores.
You don't need an accelerator or that one "kingmaking" angel investor to be a success--especially if you don't like who they are as a person or how they treat people. In fact, it's incredibly important for you to draw lines in the sand for how you want to work with people and what you expect from them--because those lines will determine what your work and live experience is going to be in the future. Those who get a lot generally demand a lot. When you stick to your values and you're willing to say no to people and things that don't meet your high expectations, you won't get bogged down by things that bring you down.
In fact, saying "no" is an important part of this equation. Knowing what's not right for you will free you up to be able to accept what you do want. Too many people blindly say yes to anything they think will move them just a half an inch forward, and so they'll miss out on opportunities to catapult them light years ahead. When you say yes to that engineering hire, even though you know you don't share the same values, you not only miss out on the next person who was a better fit, but you're well on your way to building an organization whose values don't reflect the kind of company you want to work for.
The startup world is full of examples of how you can run your business and your life--and that's a good thing. Being able to get a ton of ideas on all of the various ways to do things gives you a number of ideas to pick and choose from--but they're just options. Don't take any methodolgy or mode of living too seriously--lest you become a Lean Starup Four Hour Body Scrum Master who pulls all-nighters without any idea of why you're doing it, other than it's apperence of working for others.
Go your own route. Most of the people going their own route don't get covered much in the tech media--because they don't pattern match for what we know of the successes we've heard before. It's so much easier for a journalist to cover a story about the next Instagram built by young hackers, because they can generally predict a certain amount of traffic around that story. It's easy for a young analyst at a VC firm to get behind the next version of Twitter because she's already seen how big that opportunity can get. When you ask people to evaluate something they've never seen before--some hardware project build by people as a hobby project on the side who aren't even thinking about venture capital--they don't know what to do. That's because the scope of what people are paying attention to is infintissimally small. People aren't getting outside of themselves enough and outside of other people who also know the same lives they do to really get at the heart of what motivates people and think more thoughtfully about what drives success.
Your success will be driven by your unique approach, so don't try to copy others' paths as if they're a guarantee of success.
The instructions for building the next big thing are undoubtedly not some cliff note version of how people build the last big thing.
So go build your own world on your own terms in your own way.
Figure out the people you really love and convince them to be a part of it--not just because they're on some list somewhere, but because you genuinely enjoy working with them. There's a difference between "best practices" and mindlessly following what tech blogs say is currently happening in the tiny little world around you.