David Heinemeier Hansson

September 26, 2022

Expectations are everything

It's well established that Olympians who finish 2nd are less satisfied than the ones who finish 3rd. It's "I was so close to winning" vs "I'm just happy to have made the podium". Expectations at work! I got reminder of just how true this is racing at Spa in the European Le Mans Series yesterday. We started the race with the absolute lo...
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September 22, 2022

Misery starts when the struggle ends

In the essay "Can socialists be happy?", George Orwell makes the penetrating observation that while humans can imagine hell in minute detail, heaven escapes anything but the most fuzzy, vague descriptions. We can't conceive of happiness beyond a reprieve from what currently ails us. It's a profound conclusion that has far-reaching impl...
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September 15, 2022

Unreasonable people

It takes unreasonable people to do unreasonable things. It's highly unreasonable to set off to change the way cars are powered across the world. To turn what started almost as a joke – a car driven by a floor full of laptop batteries?? – into that unreasonable reality that we stop pouring liquid flammables into a car that then propels ...
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September 14, 2022

I love being wrong

Being wrong means learning more about the world, and how it really works. It means correcting misconceptions you've held to be true. It means infusing your future judgements with an extra pinch of humility. It's a treat to be wrong. When you've been wrong enough times in your life or career, it invites you to think in bets. If you hold...
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September 7, 2022

The faith of Andrew Tate

“Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks Lick on these nuts and suck the dick Get's the fuck out after you're done — "Bitches Ain't Shit", Dr. Dre, 1992 [Lyrics | Video]” Dr Dre has 7M followers on Instagram. This 2011 derivative of the song by Tyga has 31M views on YouTube. “I don't love 'em, I fu...
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September 6, 2022

The path to meaning is paved with responsibility

That the antidote to a flailing existence might be more responsibility can come off as counterintuitive. Why would you ask more of someone who's already struggling? But that objection flips the cause and effect. Lots of people are struggling exactly because not enough is asked of them. I remember a version of this diagnosis being expla...
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September 5, 2022

God's will

I'm no scholar on Nietzsche, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the philosopher who declared God Is Dead was the very same trying to preserve the essence of God's will in the principle of Amor Fati (love your fate). The ability to accept reality as it unfolds is a gift Christians is offered in their communal theology, but one th...
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August 29, 2022

Don't keep all your digital services with one company

The crazy case of the father from San Francisco who lost all his email, contacts, pictures, apps, and phone number – everything else connected to Google! – because of a false accusation of child pornography by AI is not just terrifying, but a warning siren for all. It connects directly to the case where Apple nuked the digital life of ...
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August 23, 2022

Cultural intuition

We can't write down everything that factors into the conduct of the business. There simply isn't the time or the foresight available to carefully catalogue all possible scenarios, trade-offs, and decision trees one might encounter in the course of running a modern, creative business. And even if there were, such a tome would become a s...
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August 22, 2022

Mission statements are worse than worthless

I'm sure it's theoretically possible to write a mission statement that actually says something and actually matters. Just like it's theoretically possible to find that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But chances are far better that the rainbow springs straight out of a dumpster than a pot of gold, and that the mission statement is...
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August 17, 2022

Let it slide

No matter the size of the business, there'll always be an unlimited number of tasks left to do, processes left to improve, and contingencies left to plan. The work is truly never done, so regardless of how much effort is put in, you'll inevitably end the day unfinished. All you can control is what you're willing to let slide. Most days...
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August 16, 2022

Try hard not to solve hard problems

You don't have to solve the majority of hard problems you encounter in either business, design, or programming. Almost all of them can be restated as an easy problem, if you dare question the assumptions, reweigh the trade-offs, and stop diving after sunk cost. Above all the other principles at 37signals, this is our key to keeping the...
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August 10, 2022

Turning the phone into a tool again

I've been keen to use my phone less for a long time. So on a recent holiday, I banished it completely for a week, while reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. That felt great. But as Newport notes, it's easy to fall back into bad old habits, if all you do is a sabbatical from your phone. His book details a bunch of good remedies, b...
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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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