Lessons from a 40 year old

So, this was posted on Boing Boing last week, but I only just got a chance to watch it. This is a talk at “Webstock,” by Matt Haughey, the guy who started Metafilter. (He also has a cool blog called A Whole Lotta Nothing.) He talks about the value of maintaining work-life balance, and avoiding the pitfalls that come with the raise-huge-money-and-grow-really-fast model that everyone in the tech industry seems to want to pursue. Instead, he favors a model where you work reasonable hours, build a quality product, and focus on a long-term strategy.

A lot of this resonates with some of the things we’re trying to do with the Ronin Institute. Of course, academia isn’t exactly plagued by a get-rich-quick mentality. However, there are some analogous traps that a lot of people fall into. Younger scholars often feel like they have to score the big paper in Science or Nature, and beat themselves up for doing work that is good, solid research, but not the sort that grabs headline. Faculty often feel a pressure to bring in large grants, and will sometimes let this drive their research agenda, rather than letting the research questions be the driver.

I like to imagine that the independent scholar is following the Metafilter model rather than the Facebook model. Because, you know what’s cooler than a billion dollars? A million dollars, and your soul.

Anyway, this is well worth a watch when you’re chilling out, or when you’ve just set up a batch of simulations. While the mapping from Silicon Valley to the Ivory Tower is not one-to-one, there is enough similarity there to make the talk thought provoking for anyone who wants to ponder how to integrate scholarship into their life.

Webstock ’12: Matt Haughey – Lessons from a 40 year old from Webstock on Vimeo.

One thought on “Lessons from a 40 year old

  1. “Because, you know what’s cooler than a billion dollars? A million dollars, and your soul.” That pretty well sums up my feelings after spending much of last year in Silicon Valley. Much as when I was postdocing and on the way toward the tenure track, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I just didn’t want what I was “supposed” to want in that environment.

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