Tom Critchlow

Weird Work

Wisdom from Venkatesh

January 22, 2019

Venkatesh from Ribbonfarm recently put out an AMA call. I responded with this question:

What advice would you give to an independent consultant looking to do more “weird” or non-traditional work - for example the philosopher-in-residence work you did for A16Z and the original Breaking Smart? Thanks!

(for those not familiar with Breaking Smart, it is a meditation and modernization of the adage “software is eating the world” from Venkatesh but sprung out of a year long “philosopher in residence” program with Andreessen Horowitz. From Marc Andreessen: In 2014, a few of us invited Venkatesh Rao to spend the year at Andreessen Horowitz as a consultant to explore the nature of such historic tech transformations. In particular, we set out to answer the question: Between both the breathless and despairing extremes of viewing the future, could an intellectually rigorous case be made for pragmatic optimism?” It’s remained one of my aspirational concepts - how to do less conventional work as a consultant.)

Venkatesh responds (bolding mine):

I think you just have to do whatever most energizes you and produces a lot of output, and let the work/opportunities find you. I have never gotten an enjoyable weird gig out of going fishing myself. You choose boring, normal work, but interesting, weird work chooses you.

Quantity has a quality all its own as Lenin said. The sheer volume of your work is what works as a signal of weirdness, because anyone can be do a one-off weird thing, but only volume can signal a consistently weird production sensibility that will inspire people betting on you. The energy evident in a body of work is the most honest signal about it that makes people trust you to do things for them.

“only volume can signal a consistently weird production sensibility that will inspire people betting on you” - worth meditating on.

Read the rest of the AMA answers here: breaking smart archives

This blog is written by Tom Critchlow, an independent strategy consultant living and working in Brooklyn, NY. If you like what you read please leave a comment below in disqus or sign up for my Tinyletter.