Business Problem Solving

Resourcefulness & Control

Like real world resourcefulness, conversational resourcefulness often means doing things you don’t want to. Chasing down all the implications of what’s said to you can sometimes lead to uncomfortable conclusions. The best word to describe the failure to do so is probably “denial,” though that seems a bit too narrow. A better way to describe the situation would be to say that the unsuccessful founders had the sort of conservatism that comes from weakness. They traversed idea space as gingerly as a very old person traverses the physical world. [1]

The unsuccessful founders weren’t stupid. Intellectually they were as capable as the successful founders of following all the implications of what one said to them. They just weren’t eager to. Link

There are great startup ideas lying around unexploited right under our noses. One reason we don’t see them is a phenomenon I call schlep blindness. Schlep was originally a Yiddish word but has passed into general use in the US. It means a tedious, unpleasant task.

No one likes schleps, but hackers especially dislike them. Most hackers who start startups wish they could do it by just writing some clever software, putting it on a server somewhere, and watching the money roll in—without ever having to talk to users, or negotiate with other companies, or deal with other people’s broken code. Maybe that’s possible, but I haven’t seen it.

One of the many things we do at Y Combinator is teach hackers about the inevitability of schleps. No, you can’t start a startup by just writing code. I remember going through this realization myself. There was a point in 1995 when I was still trying to convince myself I could start a company by just writing code. But I soon learned from experience that schleps are not merely inevitable, but pretty much what business consists of. A company is defined by the schleps it will undertake. And schleps should be dealt with the same way you’d deal with a cold swimming pool: just jump in. Which is not to say you should seek out unpleasant work per se, but that you should never shrink from it if it’s on the path to something great.

The most dangerous thing about our dislike of schleps is that much of it is unconscious. Your unconscious won’t even let you see ideas that involve painful schleps. That’s schlep blindness.

How do you overcome schlep blindness? Frankly, the most valuable antidote to schlep blindness is probably ignorance. Most successful founders would probably say that if they’d known when they were starting their company about the obstacles they’d have to overcome, they might never have started it. Maybe that’s one reason the most successful startups of all so often have young founders.

In practice the founders grow with the problems. But no one seems able to foresee that, not even older, more experienced founders. So the reason younger founders have an advantage is that they make two mistakes that cancel each other out. They don’t know how much they can grow, but they also don’t know how much they’ll need to. Older founders only make the first mistake.

Ignorance can’t solve everything though. Some ideas so obviously entail alarming schleps that anyone can see them. How do you see ideas like that? The trick I recommend is to take yourself out of the picture. Instead of asking “what problem should I solve?” ask “what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?” If someone who had to process payments before Stripe had tried asking that, Stripe would have been one of the first things they wished for.


What would someone who was the opposite of hapless be like? They’d be relentlessly resourceful. Not merely relentless. That’s not enough to make things go your way except in a few mostly uninteresting domains. In any interesting domain, the difficulties will be novel. Which means you can’t simply plow through them, because you don’t know initially how hard they are; you don’t know whether you’re about to plow through a block of foam or granite. So you have to be resourceful. You have to keep trying new things.

Be relentlessly resourceful.

That sounds right, but is it simply a description of how to be successful in general? I don’t think so. This isn’t the recipe for success in writing or painting, for example. In that kind of work the recipe is more to be actively curious. Resourceful implies the obstacles are external, which they generally are in startups. But in writing and painting they’re mostly internal; the obstacle is your own obtuseness. [2] Link

What  Control Is 

As a former spec ops guy, pilot, author, CEO, etc.  (control heavy professions), I’ve learned that being in control is NOT about:

  • Controlling the behavior of anybody else.
  • Control over EVERY detail and every situation (the micro environment).
  • Control of everything that’s going on in the world (the macro environment).

If you attempt any of the above, you are a control freak.  You won’t be happy with yourself, people will find you miserable to be around, and you will be unlikely to achieve the results you seek.

Real control, the kind of control that keeps you alive on dangerous missions and gets you out-sized results regardless of how difficult things become, is simple.  It’s control over:

  • Preparation.  Planning.  Skills.  Resources.  Enter every situation ahead of the power curve.
  • Direction.  No plan survives first contact.  Know where you are going.
  • Process.   How you get things done, matters.

As you can see, real control is about knowing how to think correctly. Link

Some Suggestions For Building Self Control:

  • Simulate poverty. Sleep on the floor for 2 weeks. Use very light padding if your back is too sensitive.
  • Wear raggedy, old clothing for these 2 weeks.
  • Fast for a day, cut down on your overall calorie content for the 2 week period
  • Stop whatever you are doing, and on a set time, find a simple object like a doorknob and focus only on that object for 5 minutes. If any thoughts come, let them wash over you and restore your focus only on the sight of the object. Increase it up to 30 minutes gradually, so that you can pull yourself out of whatever train of thought you are in and achieve a hard focus.
  • Spend 30 days straight without whining about anything. Reset the clock each time you fuck it up. You should focus only on analyzing and fixing problems, not getting negative emotions involved into them.
  • Don’t ejaculate at all for 14 days and make sure you lift weights. Other people have gone into more detail so I won’t rehash it all again.
  • Do a CARVER matrix on any goals you have and figure out what is most important and what should slide. Knowing that you’re working on hard problems makes it easier to focus

By Eric Patton

Well look down Yonder Gabriel, put your feet on the
land and see

But Gabriel don't you blow your trumpet till you hear
from me

There ain't no grave can hold my body down

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