People Have The Right To Be Stupid

I get annoyed when I read a story about someone who — rather publicly — makes a really dumb decision. When they’ve got an opportunity to do something amazing and instead do something… stupid.

I pointed this out to a friend last week, and she told me something perfect: “People have the right to be stupid.”

As in: People have the right to spend their money the wrong way.

As in: People have the right to hang out with the wrong crowds, or to waste time on the wrong projects.

As in: People don’t just have the right to — they’re going to. You can’t always stop these stupid decisions. Sometimes, you just have to stand there and watch stupid happen.

Now here’s the thing you have to remind yourself: It is not your job to stop other people’s stupid. Sometimes, in the course of doing the work, people get so wrapped up in the work that they make decisions that seem smart to them — but obviously stupid to everyone else.

I keep reminding myself: It’s not your job to stop other people from making those mistakes. You can offer advice, and you can reach out to help — but mistakes will be made.

Stupid just happens. It’s frustrating, but it happens.

(But hopefully not to you.)

That photo of a truly stupid sign comes via Flickr’s Chris Ingrassia.

What Should I Do With My Life?


There are times when I look around at myself and the life I have — 26, working at a rapidly-growing company, building cool stuff with a really awesome team — and I manage to convince myself that I am absolutely nowhere.

I look around, and all I see are people going places, and I don’t see myself doing the same.

I feel stuck in the mud.

And then I ask myself question that everyone asks at some point: What should I do with my life?

It is a big, scary question.

I’d like to think that my grandparents asked themselves that question. One grandpa became a doctor, and the other became a pharmacist, and that was their life’s work. They picked a life and stuck with it.

But thanks to a few factors — for me, it’s hard work, a bit of luck, the comfort of a few dollars in the bank, and the way the internet has changed everything about how people make and share things — I don’t see one path. I don’t see one life.

I see many paths, and many lives.

There is a wonderful anecdote in the autobiography of Katharine Graham, the longtime Washington Post publisher. She talks about her father, Eugene Meyer. He started out as a businessman. Then he transitioned to a life in government — he served as the chairman of the Fed, and later the first president of the World Bank. Then he bought the Post. Then he got into community service. And finally, towards retirement, he pushed himself into family life.

Graham writes about these stages as the arcs of Meyer’s life. He had the arc as a private businessman, and the arc as public servant. He had arcs as a champion of certain causes, and an arc devoted to family. Some arcs lasted a decade. Some lasted longer. But his life wasn’t one continuous thread — just a series of strands that he wove together into something impressive.

That idea of arcs has stuck with me. There are a lot of things I’d like to do with my life. There’s an overarching theme, certainly: I’d like to keep making awesome things with great people, and I want those things to serve and to entertain others.

But I know that things will come into my life that will make me change my plans. I know how much the internet has changed things already, and it’s going to keep changing things. I’m going to leave New York at some point, and that’ll change things.

Family will change things — in a wonderful way, I hope.

And I love that idea of arcs. I love the idea that as things change, so can I.

There is not a thing I want to do with my life. There are a lot of things.

A decade ago, I first started working as a reporter. In a way, I see that arc slowly winding down. I’ve been transitioning into a new arc — as someone who makes stuff — and that’s really exciting.

I do not know what the next arc is. But I know this:

When I think about the question of What I should do with my life?, I feel stuck, and scared.

When I think about the arcs, and the chance to keep learning and growing and doing new things — even if that means big change along the way — I feel excited, and nervous.

It is a wonderful feeling, and I want to keep chasing it.

That’s a photo of me stuck in the mud in New York. I took it.

Should Work Be Fun?

I have a fun job. I really do. I get to make fun things on the internet that people like to share and play with and laugh about.

When I talk to people who want to work at my company, this comes up a lot: It seems like it’d be fun to work there! Everyone I talk to wants to work at a fun office.

But I’m not sure that’s where we should put the emphasis. Yes, it’s great to work at a fun office. But I’d rather work at a place that challenges me, and that gives me the chance to work with great people who I can learn from.

I’m not at BuzzFeed because it’s fun — I’m there because of the challenge, and because of the opportunity to learn.

Is it fun? is a nice question to ask, but it should not be THE question.

I know I’m lucky to work at a place that offers me that AND is a lot of fun. But if I had to choose just one, I’d choose the place that pushes me. In the long run, that’s going to open up the most doors for me.

Losing Sense Of Time

A week ago today, I sat in a room and listened to Jerry Seinfeld speak. It was seven days ago.

It feels like months ago.

One of the things about working on the internet is that time moves in incredibly bizarre ways. News that blows up in the morning is forgotten by the afternoon. Things move fast.

And it messes with your sense of time. It makes the weeks difficult to track — there’s just so much you’ll come into contact with in the course of five days.

That’s why I’ve found it’s so important to set goals at the start of the week, and to spend some time on Fridays looking back at what’s actually been accomplished. I’ve discovered that on internet time, I’m capable of wasting lots of time. And if I’m not diligent about tracking my goals/accomplishments, I’ll get to Friday and discover that I’ve spent a week feeling busy, but really going nowhere.

That photo of time literally flying comes via Flickr’s @aussiegall.

Seinfeld’s Thoughts On Money.

I got to see Jerry Seinfeld get interviewed on Monday night. This quote from the interview really struck me:

“If you really want to make money, never make a decision based on money. If you chase money, you’re going to get less of it. If you chase a thing that you love that’s interesting, only because you love that thing, you’ll make more money.”

I love that. It’s something I’ve been thinking about (and writing about here) for a long time. I’m in my 20s, and it’s far too early for me to say where my career is going or what might even happen next. But I’ve tried to put great people and great projects first, and to focus on doing the work as best I can. Decisions — like the one to start — came from a desire to make something great, not to make money.

Do I hope to make money some day? Sure! Better yet: I expect to.

But right now, I’m focused on making great things that people love to share, and I’m learning how to get better at it every day. These are decisions you make for the long run. Hopefully, in time, Jerry’s right, and the money follows.