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Ambition & Relationships

  • Are these at odds?
    • How much do the most productive people invest into their dating life?
      • What percent of time should be allocated to the relationship?
    • Is being happy/content good for impact? Do you lose hunger?
      • Anecdotally, it seems like depressed artists make the best art?
  • Do these synergize?
    • Directly: Working on a project together, collaborating, teamwork
      • Starting something ambitious together eg YCombinator
    • Indirectly: relaxation, time off, rest in motion, “emotional support”
      • Enjoying the state of just doing things together
      • There is a list of things that are bothering me atm about work - okay to share with partner?

  • Hard question I’m scared to think about: would I prefer a state of just Manifold, or just Rachel?
    • E.g. working at Streamlit/Google-equivalent and with Rachel; or Manifold but alone?
    • Media (anime/Hollywood/music) whispers “love is all you need”
    • SV/EA ask “what have you achieved”
  • Altered mental state from being together - kinda scary
    • Not sure Austin of 3 months ago would recognize Austin today as having the same objectives/values

  • Actually: Was ambition ever that core to Austin?
    • Not sure… Maybe it was more like “play” or “tinker” or “hack” or “challenge” or “helping”
  • Being in a relationship seems to be pretty selfish, or at least “us-ish”
    • Not too many positive externalities, compared to working
    • How okay is it to be selfish? Was it okay to be playing video games?
    • Relationship feels more like it could be a bottomless time suck, dangerous
      • vs I know video games are bad; love is addictive but also seems good

  • Analysis: From first principles, do people produce their best work while in happy committed relationships? Or while alone?
    • SBF, Patrick Collison, Elon Musk — don’t seem very relationship-y

  • Examples of relationships that produced amazing work together (aka power couple tier list)
    • Paul Graham & Jessica Livingston
    • Julia Wise & Jeff Kaufman
    • Ajeya Cotra & Paul Christiano
    • Bill & Melinda Gates
  • “Work-love balance”

  • Relevant reading:
    • Paul Graham on Jessica Livingston
    • Jessica and I were already dating when we started YC. At first we tried to act "professional" about this, meaning we tried to conceal it. In retrospect that seems ridiculous, and we soon dropped the pretense. And the fact that Jessica and I were a couple is a big part of what made YC what it was. YC felt like a family. The founders early on were mostly young. We all had dinner together once a week, cooked for the first couple years by me. Our first building had been a private home.
    • Paul Graham on kids
      1. I hate to say this, because being ambitious has always been a part of my identity, but having kids may make one less ambitious. It hurts to see that sentence written down. I squirm to avoid it. But if there weren't something real there, why would I squirm? The fact is, once you have kids, you're probably going to care more about them than you do about yourself. And attention is a zero-sum game. Only one idea at a time can be the top idea in your mind. Once you have kids, it will often be your kids, and that means it will less often be some project you're working on.
      2. Ctrl+f + replace “kids” with “partner”
    • Julia Wise on startup founders and kids
    • I assume there’s selection bias in what’s written publicly about this because it feels better to say “Yeah, you can do it!” than the reverse. People don’t want to look like jerks (especially sexist jerks). Parents don’t want their kids to read them saying “This was a mistake.” And more people are going to write a blog post about how they made it all work than about how it all fell apart.
  • Note that the last two are about kids — perhaps relationships feel different after a while, and I’m still in the early honeymoon phase
  • Celine Halioua on the social and personal trade-offs of building a startup