I enjoyed Garry Tan’s 3 lessons at 32 years that he wished he knew when he was 16 years – I often refer to them and it inspired this post for me.
Here are a few things I’d advise a younger me, – some re-enforcing existing behavior and some to change behavior:
- Compound learning: Optimize for learning per unit of time as early as possible in your career (read books, get exposure to new functions and industries). The earlier you learn the better this learning compounds over time and leads to better judgement and decisions. If you want to be a better investor, learn as much as you can per $ invested. When you invest small amounts you can still do big diligence (investment memos, models, post mortems etc) and you will make less expensive mistakes further down the road. Looking back, I did not read nearly enough or take enough advantage of my educational opportunities.
- Keep a low burn rate: When you are earlier in your career you can take more risk because you have lower cash requirements. These risks and experiments could lead to higher potential upside but lower predictable cashflow – you can also trade cash for more equity/ownership. It’s very easy for your lifestyle scale up (especially in fixed costs) as you make more money and these can ‘trap’ you, if you’re not deliberate about increasing your spending. This could result in optimizing short term vs. long term to maintain your lifestyle even when it may prevent you from trying something that could be more fulfilling.
- Relationships are as important as outcomes: Don’t be completely (short term) outcome driven at work, especially at the expense of relationships. Don’t only think that most important thing is ‘winning’ or shipping even if folks around you are burned along the way. When I was earlier in my career I made a number of mistakes here and thought I was making the right tradeoff at the time. Now I know this is is naive and you will benefit from building strong lasting professional relationships with high trust – over decades this will allow you to have better repeat outcomes with people you collaborate with frequently.