David Heinemeier Hansson

August 8, 2022

Stay with the pain, don't shut this out

"Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing", intones Tyler Durden in Fight Club, as his alter-ego is screaming from the chemical burn. It's a profound scene that taps into a well of philosophical thought that humans have been struggling with forever. And it's applicable to more mundane affairs too. I like to think of this ...
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August 5, 2022

I can't save you, nobody can

In the two decades I've been managing people, there's never been a termination that didn't sting. Acting on the knowledge that someone isn't working out is probably the hardest task for any conscientious manager. It's only natural to meet that difficulty and that sting with regret: I could have done more. But the hard truth is often a ...
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August 1, 2022

A way out of the danger zone

The new Top Gun has everything America needs right now: Confident, competent, and charismatic execution. It has premiered at a time when everyone here seems to have lost faith in the grander, uniting project of this country, and thus reflects an inspiring counter to the prevailing fatalism. It's as subversive as an unironic American fl...
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July 29, 2022

There is no iceberg

It's human nature to assume there's a good reason for why things are the way they are. And that this reason is either benign, based on careful deliberation, or malignant, derived from malice or incompetence. But this is a false dichotomy that often steers us away from the simpler answer: Nobody thought about this at all. There was no p...
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June 1, 2022

I ain't no angel but I have made some startup investments

I'm not saying the only reason I've categorically refused to invest in tech startups in the past was my instinctual aversion to the term "angel investor", but it surely did play a part! There's just something so ridiculously self-serving about this angelic charade that turned me off for the longest time. So too did the fact that every ...
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May 31, 2022

Employee surveillance software is managerial bankruptcy

Moving to remote work has brought out the worst in some managers. It's revealed their insecurities and paranoia, and caused them to address these in a spectacle of incompetence. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the continued surge in interest for employee surveillance software, which risks turning a working arrangement that s...
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May 26, 2022

Who's been swimming naked?

"Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked", says Warren Buffett, and now we're indeed seeing just how many tech companies have been indecently exposed as the investment mood snaps from greed to fear. Bolt, for example, just announced a brutal 1/3 cut of all staff, after touching the sun with a $11 billion v...
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May 24, 2022

Bullshit jobs hide more easily in big companies

The late, great David Graeber struck a nerve with his 2013 essay On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. It diagnosed the "moral and spiritual damage" caused to our "collective soul" when masses of white-collar employees work pointless jobs. The thesis was confirmed by a startling poll a few years later that showed 37% of British workers t...
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May 20, 2022

This might not be the place for you

They failed to capture the hill at Netflix. That small but vocal gang of employees hellbent on canceling Chappelle last year over his comedy special. Now comes the counter offensive from the executive in the form of newly updated cultural guidelines at the company: “As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity ...
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May 11, 2022

The founder's gamble

As companies mature, grow departments, accumulate staff, and develop reliable streams of revenue, it gets structurally harder and harder to make the big decisions that might upset the applecart. This is the familiar scene of The Innovator's Dilemma. The more of everything there is, the higher the stakes appear, and the less likely prof...
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May 9, 2022

Everybody loses when legitimate power isn't exercised

Just because you have a high-ranking title, doesn't mean you're automatically right about everything. More junior employees can surely hold better insights, field smarter ideas, or judo solutions toward simplicity in a given circumstance. But it does mean you should be mostly right, most of the time, or that title isn't vested in legit...
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May 6, 2022

Celebrating the end of The Good Times

It's deja vu all over again for founders looking for easy money on soft terms to chase dreams of unicorns and waterfalls. With interest rates shooting up, a recession in the forecast, and three whirlwinds of economic hurt spinning at the same time, the fair-weather funding conditions are over. Good. See, The Good Times™ all too often s...
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May 5, 2022

Bring your work self to work

If employees are expected to spend the majority of their life at work — pulling those 60-80+ hour weeks — it's no wonder they in return demand work embraces their "whole self". But that's a terrible trade in both directions. What work and you really need is for everyone to show up with their "work self". Your work self needn't be a fac...
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May 3, 2022

Growing apart and losing touch is human and healthy

I quit Facebook back in 2011 for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the most crucial was to rebel against its core mission: Connecting the world. I was over-connected with the world, acquaintances and friends from the past, and I wanted out. Zuckerberg has repeatedly doubled down on the toxic idea that we should only have one self, one pers...
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May 2, 2022

It's hard to escape being ordinary in a connected world

There's a scene at the beginning of The LEGO Movie where the main character Emmet is faced with the brutal assessment of his bland ordinariness by the people he works with. A few quotes: "Look at Randy here, he likes sausage. That's something. Gail is perky, that's something... I mean, all [Emmet] does is say yes to everything everybod...
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April 29, 2022

Breaking from the news

I’m not sure exactly when I became addicted to the news. But I clearly remember the time before I was checking the latest developments in the world three times per day (or four or five!). I remember momentous events like 9/11 or the swine flu pandemic from an era before being hooked into an IV feed of BREAKING NEWS. World events that r...
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April 28, 2022

Rogan popped the cancel balloon

I know it's a couple of episodes ago on The Current Thing show, but remember when much of the media together with Neil Young and a motley crew of "270 health professionals" (that included dentists, consultants, students, psychologists, and a licensed marriage and family therapist) had a collective freak-out over Joe Rogan? That episode...
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April 27, 2022

Where are all the kids in America

There's a lot to notice about Copenhagen when you arrive fresh off the plane from America. Look at all those bikes! What a clean city! See all those pedestrians dutifully waiting at the crossover for the light to turn green without a car in sight! All these observations stick out, but none trigger the culture shock like seeing kids eve...
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April 25, 2022

Either/or with Mr Spaceman

Sell Twitter to Musk, and you'll regret it. Don't sell Twitter to Musk, and you'll regret that too. Sell it or don't sell it, you'll regret it either way. Such goes Kierkegaard's immortal admonition that many of life's grand dilemmas have only regrettable choices. Yet we spend much of our time trying to argue and act as if otherwise. T...
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March 25, 2022

A state of sunshine

The contrast couldn't have been starker. About a year ago, we were going through a really difficult time at Basecamp, after instituting a new etiquette around societal politics at work. Twenty-odd employees took our 3-6 months severance offer, and we became the main characters on Twitter for a moment. Today, we've just finished a wonde...
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March 18, 2022

Always provide a way out

It's never been easier to dig yourself into an ideological hole. Get swept up in The Current Thing without really thinking it through or simply by following whatever herd you've been trotting along with so far. The internet today is nothing if not a credence reinforcement program. But some times people do change their mind, some times ...
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March 16, 2022

I can't tell the difference

Despite my continued and fierce opposition to Apple'smonopolyabuses on the App Store, I continue to be thoroughly impressed with the technical advances they keep making. I don't have a problem in the slighest with admiring the engineers while skewering the business operators. And perhaps no engineering unit within Apple is currently mo...
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March 11, 2022

Back to Le Mans

The 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is back to it's pre-pandemic schedule, and will be held June 11-12, complete with the traditional scrutineering of the cars in the city center. I'll be participating in the #43 Inter Europe Competition LMP2 car running under the Polish flag alongside team mates Fabio Scherer from Switzerland ...
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March 10, 2022

The silent majority's reply

When so much of the American political discourse and agenda is being set and performed on Twitter, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking this forum accurately represents the voice of the people. But not only do the majority of people in the US never tweet, they're also increasingly disconnecting from party affiliations. Here's a ...
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March 9, 2022

You could be wrong

We recorded an episode for the REWORK podcast yesterday on the essay "Making the Call is Making Progress", which encourages training those decision-making muscles to be stronger so you can forward quicker. It included a discussion of lowering the price of making decisions by setting yourself up for cheap reversals. If making a bad call...
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March 8, 2022

The antidote to social media is being more social

I'm usually not one for coffee appointments or long business lunches, but since the pandemic restrictions were once again nixed a few months ago in Denmark, I've had the calendar packed with exactly such engagements. It's been a revelation. Part of this came as a result of giving an interview to the Danish magazine Computerworld about ...
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March 7, 2022

The long argument

It's rare that an argument is so strong that'll immediately pierce through all the cognitive defenses an opposing mind might muster. So if you only weigh an argument's worth on whether it served to convert someone to your perspective this instant, you'll usually be disappointed. "Right now, right here" is a bad timeframe to measure the...
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March 4, 2022

Weak principles, strong tribes

One of the most compelling metaphors of the battle between emotion and reason is that of the elephant and the rider. I first encountered it in Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind. It goes like this: “The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant. The rider is our conscious reasoning...
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March 3, 2022

No RailsConf

2021 was an incredible year for Ruby on Rails. We started it off still celebrating the third major version of Ruby, and left it with the accomplishment of the seventh major version of Rails. Together, these releases sparked a renewed enthusiasm for building modern web applications with Ruby on Rails, unlike anything I can recall since ...
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March 2, 2022

Diversify your life

If your existence is all about work, and work goes to shit, then life goes to shit too. If you live for your hobby, and your hobby hits the wall, then your life crashes too. If everything else is waiting until you hang with your mates, and your mates fade away, then you fade too. Betting your drive to get up in the morning on a single ...
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