Christian Rudder is a mathematician and cofounded OkCupid, that crazy dating site. Apparently he wasn’t good enough at math to work at a hedge fund so he started playing with data his company collected instead.
Good thing for us. His book, Dataclysm, is the most fascinating book I’ve read this year. It is simultaneously easy to read, intensely intelligent, and hilarious.
Dataclysm is not a business book by any means. Yet I found a lot of what he had to say more instructive for entrepreneurs than most business books.
I’ve put together a collection of some of my favorite lessons from the book.
“Just Be Yourself”
There’s no excuse for us to be dulled versions of ourselves anymore. Your fear of rejection for being weird should now finally be eclipsed by the fear of being unoriginal. It feels better, sure, we’ve always known that. Data has shown that it also gets us better results.
“In any group of women who are all equally good-looking, the number of messages they get is highly correlated to the variance: from the pageant queens to the most homely women to the people right in between, the individuals who get the most affection will be the polarizing ones. And the effect isn’t small—being highly polarizing will in fact get you about 70 percent more messages. That means variance allows you to effectively jump several “leagues” up in the dating pecking order—for example, a very low-rated woman (20th percentile) with high variance in her votes gets hit on as much as a typical woman in the 70th percentile.
Moreover, the men giving out those 1s and 2s are not themselves hitting on the women—people practically never contact someone they’ve rated poorly. It’s that having haters somehow induces everyone else to want you more. People not liking you somehow brings you more attention entirely on its own. And, yes, in his underground castle, Karl Rove smiles knowingly, petting and enormous toad.”
What’s the Aristotle quote?
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
It turns out that criticism is a byproduct of doing something worthwhile (this is not to say that criticism signals that you are absolutely doing something right, though). Soylent has enjoyed a huge boost in popularity thanks to it’s controversial nature.
Peter Thiel talks about uniqueness of founders in Zero to One:
Perhaps the founder distribution is, however strangely, an inverted normal distribution. Both tails are extremely fat. Perhaps founders are complex combinations of, e.g., extreme insiders and extreme outsiders at the same time. Our ideological narratives tend to isolate and reinforce just one side. But maybe those narratives don’t work for founders. Maybe the truth about founders comes from both sides.
He pictures this idea with this distribution:
Founders tend to sit at the extremes–both of them. [click to continue…]