Coping with inputs

i’ve written songs, books, and code. i’ve produced viral videos, analysis, and jokes. these projects have one thing in common: the input didn’t feel like the output.

laughing at a joke is bliss. creating a joke is painful. listening to a melody is inspiring. composing one is disonnance. reading prose is a brain massage. writing it is torture.

to ship something beautiful, you have to endure ugly. perhaps this is why so many side projects fail; naive creators optimize for a “fun process.”


here Seinfeld, arguably the most successful comedian of all time, describes the anatomy of a joke. This one about Pop-Tarts took him 2 years.

rapper Lil’ Dicky said he “spends 6 months in his room writing 1 verse.” although active since 2011, he’s famous for 4 songs.

R.E.M. toured for 10 years with mild success. then every band member switched instruments and wrote their first hit album.


if there’s an inverse relationship between the consumption and creation of Good Work, the entertainment factor of our process could be a leading indicator of its eventual reception.

anecdotally this was true for my tech career.

my desired outcome at age 22: recurring revenue while i sleep. to get there i had to learn to code. but to learn programming i had to quit my job. and to afford unemployment i had to become a superhost on Airbnb. which to accomplish from 1000s of miles away in Thailand and California i had to hire an NYU student to run the listing.

Airbnb host → SaaS founder → money in my sleep → writing this post from Seoul, Korea with an empty calendar.

this afternoon i’ll read a book about math. tomorrow i’ll exercise. in a few months i’ll record a K-pop song. the input does not resemble the output.

*photo is a collection of 10 prototypes for a Korean board game i’m creating.