Advice that surprises you

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Startups are so weird, Paul Graham contends, that if you trust your instincts, you’ll make a lot of mistakes:

When I was running Y Combinator I used to joke that our function was to tell founders things they would ignore. It’s really true. Batch after batch, the YC partners warn founders about mistakes they’re about to make, and the founders ignore them, and then come back a year later and say “I wish we’d listened.”

Why do the founders ignore the partners’ advice? Well, that’s the thing about counterintuitive ideas: they contradict your intuitions. They seem wrong. So of course your first impulse is to disregard them. And in fact my joking description is not merely the curse of Y Combinator but part of its raison d’etre. If founders’ instincts already gave them the right answers, they wouldn’t need us. You only need other people to give you advice that surprises you. That’s why there are a lot of ski instructors and not many running instructors.

Read the whole thing — and the footnotes.


  1. Tryptophan says:

    This talk was part of a wider series of talks about startups that I recommend. You can get them all here.

    Great blog by the way.

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