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Pursue your Anguish

I’ve been thinking about one of the startup world’s favorite over-repeated mottos: — “pursue your passion.” I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, but it took some doing to understand why it felt wrong to me.

In the sense that a passion is something you strongly enjoy, even love, what’s wrong with pursuing your passion? It sounds so neat — you can even create a simple plan: 1) find a passion; 2) pursue it. Nothing tugging strong enough to call it a passion? Spend the time to seek one. Repeat. We’ve all watched enough romance movies to know what it’s like to be a brave hero in search of true love. But I’d like to propose that if you’re going to start a business, to shift the way things are done, to do something, I think the answer is instead this: to pursue your anguish. Pursue the thing you have some deep, unresting problems with.

The issue with pursuing your passion, is that it necessarily

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PLIBMTTBHGATY

We threw a little event this weekend: “Programming Languages I’ve Been Meaning To Try But Haven’t Gotten Around To Yet [PLIBMTTBHGATY]” where 60 people congregated in the Stripe offices with wifi, coffee and vittles, just to try out any new programming language. (By ‘we’ I mean I did some of the work of spreading the word and convincing people to attend, and Kat Li at Stripe made everything relevant to logistics of the event actually happen. Thank you Kat!)

How did it go? Personally, I had a blast. People came to work on all manner of unusual projects in all sorts of languages — from Elixir, ATS, and Mondrian to Rust, Lua, Haskell, Go (these last two were by far the most popular). There were a few projects in Ruby, or Python, and a few attempts at writing brand new languages too.

My favorite part of this sort of gathering is watching people meet each other and talk about

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