David Heinemeier Hansson

June 19, 2023

Turn down the volume on the world

It's hard to think original thoughts if your senses are being perpetually flooded with everything from everyone all the time. And it's hard to protect your senses against this if you're constantly in close mental proximity to those who've had success running the established script. To escape back to first principles, you need to consciously turn down the volume on the world.

I credit much of the novel work we've done on product development, organizational design, and software tooling at 37signals with being far removed from the centers of Silicon Valley. Physically, spiritually, and mentally. Right from the start.

Being in Chicago in those early years of the post-dot-com-bust internet was like living in a monastery. We knew there was a party going on a hundred miles inland, but the debauchery was never so close as to color our thinking or tempt our aspirations. We were geographically destined to see the world in a different light.

This was before social media. When much of Silicon Valley's propaganda had to be carried by monthly magazines and the occasionally breathless mainstream story. Which made it so much easier to tune out. Now it's more work.

It takes concerted effort these days to escape the AI FOMO fest, say. Like it required fortitude to resist the fear of missing out on the latest coin hype before that. Every feed is there to homogenize your thinking into a preconfigured camp. For or against, hype or denounce. These are all just plusses and minuses in front of the same thinking.

If you want more than this, you ought to embrace the paradox that there are times when the less you know raises the bar for what you can do. Don't drown out our inner drumbeat by living all your days inside the permanent intellectual festival of your profession.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.