Techniques for Dealing With Skepticism

Skepticism when building something new occurs in two ways 1) personally (worry of building something that is not good, failing) and 2) externally (others telling you your idea is bad or that your implementation sucks).

There are a few ways to overcome skepticism. Be slightly overconfident—you will think you have something better than you do. Surround yourself with people who are simultaneously encouraging and critical to get the right kind of feedback (also smart working on hard problems tend to converge). Make incremental progress—starting with a hack lowers expectations. Finally, leading with curiosity—following idea to it’s conclusion because you are curious where it ends up.

Read Paul Graham’s essay on early work.

  • Being a Better Judge of Early Work Inoculates You from Skepticism

    We tend to judge early versions of work too harshly due to skepticism. This causes us to fail to push through the ugly early work of ambitious projects (or not try at all). By having a better understanding of what early work looks like we can push past skepticism from ourselves and those around us.

  • Being Obsessed With What You Are Building Is a Competitive Advantage

    When building a company and product, having a singular obsession with working on it and solving the problem is an advantage over competitors that do not. The obsession leads to exploring the area in depth, more than any rational person would do. This leads to all sorts of discoveries overlooked by others.

  • Science Is a War Against Skepticism and Dogmatism

    Both skepticism and dogmatism are counter to science. With too much skepticism, nothing can be believed—not even our own senses. With too much dogmatism, the wisdom of crowds is unquestioned and quickly turns into the madness of crowds.

  • Sink That First Stake

    Physically making progress on a project makes it much harder to undo due to loss aversion and the sunk cost fallacy.