It’s been over a year since I’ve put out any content online. Coming off 52 straight weeks of consistent newsletter posts, this unveiled an understood void in attention and energy. I’ve since found somewhat of a routine in San Francisco, and it’s given me some space to address a fast-growing itch to start some content back out, regardless of the cadence or quality.
Given all that the city and world have seen in the past year, thought I’d share my first lightweight piece here.
My last post to Medium stated my belief that everyone should try their hand at a startup. At the time of writing, I felt this with strong conviction. The space was nothing short of booming with valuations skyrocketing and an abundance of shiny new SaaS tools being released. By all accords, it was the place, and space to be.
The last year has been a wake-up call, both professionally and personally. Not long after moving to the city, the silicon valley bubble that I gazed at with such wide eyes from afar quickly popped, revealing the innards of an ecosystem that revealed more disturbing realities than I may have thought. It’s been a shock to the larger tech ecosystem, forcing a long-needed reflection on how we ended up here, the true realities of the space, and how we move forward.
The immediate effects of this these bubbles are fairly obvious: general reductions in expenditure, spending, and then layoffs. But in the belly of the beast, these changes are so detrimentally impactful to the life of a city that really does rely on this energy and growth. It is truly a startup ‘ecosystem’ - it is a living, dynamic, interactive environment, with a shared belief in a positive-sum net outcome. When companies and teams run out of runway, lose funding, or miss hiring targets, bottom-line metrics are affected. They’ll have less capacity to hire, less capacity to invest in new and bigger ideas, and may have to lay off team members. Morale may drop and iteration speed will naturally fall. Customers (and competitors) will likely be going through similar struggles, impeding natural growth and putting downward pressure on price. These effects run far and deep, and CEOs go into wartime mode, masking their decision to enforce mass layoffs under the cloak of efficiency.
All that to say, the shock exposes realities and numbers. Companies won’t survive without metrics to back up spending, and a product that is deemed necessary by their customers. It’s the true painkiller vs a vitamin test.
In the midst of all of this, we’ve seen what I believe to be one of the greatest developments and strongest levers toward a shifted society in AI. I’ll wait to provide more commentary, but it’s added so much noise to a city that already feels a bit confused.
These, along with so many other changes, have taken a toll on my well-being and mental state. After joining Retool in November of 2021, the pending move to SF was my personal dream come true. I had known for a while that I’d eventually be joining a startup out west, and in many regards felt this to be that silver bullet for curing my anxieties and stresses. There was a lot of change and growth that came through the first year. Moving to a new city without a core group of friends, going back into the office after multiple years remote, fighting an initial sense of imposter syndrome, and living through such a change of city pace and energy has been a test.
I read Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade when I first moved west. It didn’t resonate much in the moment, but looking back at notes and other thoughts, the points have taken more hold and shape. I’m coming up on my late(ish) 20s, and while I couldn’t have thought I’d be in this space 10 years ago (considering I couldn’t tell you what SaaS even stood for), I’ve also felt this lacking feeling of ‘adulthood’ I thought I’d pick up and naturally just feel after the move. Life in one’s 20s exposes this strange dichotomy between extremes - I’m seeing friends start to get married to their partners, and others going full nomad to travel the world. I’ve seen folks spend like there is no limit, and others work multiple jobs and live at home to save up. I’ve lost touch with friends that I would have continued interactions with through past geographic proximity. In a city where things do feel new, it’s easy to question why I make the decisions I do - where I put my time and money, how I prioritize life and work, and what the routine I choose says about me. Thoughts pop up constantly and force some hard-hitting introspection.
The book doesn’t touch on all these feelings and there are some points I don’t agree with, but I strive towards the feelings of calm that must be embraced through such change.
This is ongoing, and while I’ve taken steps to move and cultivate this sense, I’d be lying if I said I’ve got it even close to figured out. The never-ending flow of ‘new’ in San Francisco spurs a feeling of always wanting to do more, and it makes the mundane feel like a redundancy rather than a necessary break and calm.
Things change. We live in a world of ebbs and flows, and while I feel these last few years have been most acute in terms of change and growth, it’s change that I expect to continue.
As Morgan Housel states:
Nothing too good or too bad stays that way forever, because great times plant the seeds of their own destruction through complacency and leverage, and bad times plant the seeds of their own turnaround through opportunity and panic-driven problem-solving.
It happens in investing, where every decline has to be explained and blamed on someone else, but every increase is usually accepted and attributed to your own intelligence.
It happens in business – so many big tech companies are laying off workers because they assumed the Covid-19 business bump would remain permanent.
It happens in careers, where everything from cheap money to macro tailwinds can shift the gap between how much you earn and how much value you produce.
It’s been like that forever and always will be. People are much more attuned to negative anomalies than positive ones, especially to things that impact their own lives. It’s such a hard thing to manage.
I don’t want to wrap a spattering of thoughts under one lesson and learning, but it's one that’s played true in my own life. Things, lives, societies, friends, relationships, and markets really do change, and that’s ok. It’s easy to focus on what is missing and what could be, but harder to see and appreciate what is there. Constancy can be built into life, but there are facets where this hinders larger growth and proper self-actualization. Change is real and should be accepted, embraced, and appreciated. Unfortunately, not the easiest 🤠
Since writing this piece a few weeks back I came across the chart that I think best summarizes the last year: it was very much a personal hype cycle:
Unicorns and sunshine → disillusionment and disappointment → realization of realities → accepting the present moment
I saw this tweet the other day. Similar thoughts.