Ebbs and Flows

Ebbs and Flows

It’s been over a year since I’ve put out any content online. Coming off 52 straight weeks of consistent newsletter posts, this unveiled an understood void in attention and energy. I’ve since found somewhat of a routine in San Francisco, and it’s given me some space to address a fast-growing itch to start some content back out, regardless of the cadence or quality.

Given all that the city and world have seen in the past year, thought I’d share my first lightweight piece here.

My last post to Medium stated the belief that everyone should try their hand at a startup. At the time of writing, I felt this with strong conviction. The space was the hottest it’s been since the dot-com boom and the steady influx of capital created a veil of software prosperity and growth. By all accords, it was the place and space to be.

The last year has been a reality check, both professionally and personally. Not long after moving to the city, the Silicon Valley main stage that I gazed at with such wide eyes from afar quickly popped, revealing the innards of an ecosystem that contained more disturbing realities than I may have thought. It’s been a shock to the larger tech ecosystem, forcing a long-needed reflection on how we ended up here, the underlying truths of the space, and how we move forward.

The immediate effects of this these bubbles are fairly obvious: general reductions in expenditure, slowdowns in growth, and then layoffs. But in the belly of the beast, these changes are so detrimentally impactful to the life of a city that really does rely on this energy and perception of prosperity. San Francisco truly is a startup ‘ecosystem’ - a living, dynamic, interactive environment, with a shared belief in a positive-sum net outcome. When companies and teams burn runway, lose funding, or miss hiring targets, bottom-line metrics are affected. They’ll have less capacity to hire, less capacity to invest in new and bigger ideas, and will have to cut operating costs (with human capital being the most expensive). Morale may drop and iteration speed will naturally fall. Customers (and competitors) will likely undergo similar struggles, impeding natural growth and enacting downward pressure on price. These effects run far and deep, and CEOs go into wartime mode, masking their decision to enforce mass layoffs under the cloak of efficiency.

All that to say, the shock exposes realities and numbers. Companies won’t survive without metrics to back up spending and a product that is deemed necessary by their customers. It must be a sustainable, recurring, monetized painkiller.

In the midst of all of this, we’ve seen what I believe to be one of the greatest developments and strongest levers toward a shifted society in AI. I’ll wait to provide more commentary, but at the moment it still feels like it’s adding more noise to a city that feels a bit confused.

These, along with so many other changes, have taken a toll on my well-being and mental state. After joining Retool in November of 2021, the pending move to SF was my personal dream come true. I had known for a while that I’d eventually be joining a startup out west, and in many regards felt this to be that silver bullet for curing any stresses. There was a lot of change and subsequent growth that emerged in just a year. Moving to a new city without a core group of friends, going back into the office after multiple years remote, fighting an initial sense of imposter syndrome, and living through such a change of city pace and energy has been a wonderful test.

I read Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade when I first graduated. It didn’t resonate much at the moment, but looking back at notes and other thoughts, the points have taken more hold and shape. I’m coming up on my late(ish) 20s, and while I couldn’t have thought I’d be in this space 10 years ago (considering I couldn’t tell you what SaaS stood for), I’ve also felt this lacking feeling of ‘adulthood’ I thought would come with being in the space and role I wanted so badly! Life in one’s 20s exposes this strange dichotomy between extremes - I’m seeing friends start to get married to their partners and settle down, and others going full nomad to travel the world. I’ve seen folks spend far beyond their means, and others move home and work multiple jobs. I’ve questioned friendships that haven’t stayed active after geographic separation and asked myself the cost of being so far away from close friends. In a city where things do feel new, it’s easy to question why I make the decisions I do - where I put my time and money, how I prioritize life and work, and what the routine I choose says about me. Thoughts pop up constantly and force some hard-hitting introspection.

The book doesn’t touch on all these feelings and there are some points I don’t agree with, but I strive towards the feelings of calm that must be embraced through such change.

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This is ongoing, and while I’ve taken steps to move and cultivate this sense, it’s a fulfilling area to hone in on. I do believe that shocks to any system are necessary for resilience, but the interim period of reconstruction can cause glaring uncertainties.

I don’t want to wrap a spattering of thoughts under one lesson and learning, but it's one that’s played true in my own life. Things, lives, societies, friends, relationships, and markets can’t be planned out, and they can (and likely should) go through change. The dynamics and relationships between any two parties will go through iterations and evolutions, and sometimes it’s in conflict with what feels wanted! Change is real and should be accepted, embraced, and appreciated. Unfortunately, not the easiest 🤠

Update

I think I can cleanly associate many of the feelings as my SF hype cycle.

Unicorns and sunshine → Disillusionment and disappointment → realization of realities → accepting the present moment

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Update 2

I saw this tweet the other day. Similar thoughts.