Changing Fortunes

Nov 11

Early in my tech career, I worked for a company that made software for big banks. Back then, our office was on 43rd street and Madison Ave, in the heart of NYC. That office was on the 8th floor, and the 8th floor was shared with Twitter's NYC office; we had half the floor they had the other half.

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Building a Team Outside the Boxes

Nov 11

Years ago, I was the only engineer working with the marketing team at a startup. I realized right away that many things had to be built for them to succeed. Far too many things for one engineer to build. But no one up top budgeted for a “growth engineering”* team. Especially not when the core product desperately needed help first.

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Talent Nurseries

Nov 11

Shortly after the 2008 recession, my colleague asked our CEO the toughest question of all, "do you think there'll be raises this year?" Having been burnt badly in 2008, our customers, the Big Banks, suddenly cared a lot about the risk management software we made. And if they didn't personally care, the government made them care. One way or the other, they were buying everything we made.

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Opportunity Blindness

Sep 25

You may or may not know the story of how America was actually “discovered.” When Christopher Columbus set out on his famous voyage, he was actually looking to find a shorter sea route to India. It’s how they got the Queen of Spain to fund the expedition and why the Native Americans were at first confused for Indians.

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The Money or the Title

Sep 10

When I was younger and just hitting the senior engineer rank of my career, I landed an offer at one of the big banks. When we got to the negotiation phase of the offer, I made clear that I wanted the VP title and rank at the bank.

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How to Write Online

Aug 30

I've written a lot in the last year, and I am about to give you what I think is the most important piece of advice about writing online. According to Grammarly, editing software that helps improve grammar, I am clocking in over five thousand words daily. And over 40k words on a good week. I've written over 100 essays, 68 editions of this newsletter, and over 10,000 Tweets in the last year....

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Assets & Liabilities

Apr 25

Growing up in the hood, you saw people buy a lot of liabilities and very few assets. In one part of The Bronx, New York, which was full of Albanian immigrants, there were more Mercedes Benzes in a few block radius than probably the entirety of the borough.

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Inspiration and Passion

Mar 18

Everybody thinks hard work is hard. But hard work isn't hard if you are passionate about it and inspired to do it. On the flip side of that, even easy work is hard when you hate what you are doing.

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Mar 04

Many of us born in Eastern Europe feel like our worst fears are coming true in Ukraine. I have been following the situation there nonstop.

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Procrastination is signal

Feb 11

In a heated debate inside the Small Bets community, I recently realized that working at a big company has turned me into a task monkey. And that has dulled many of my instincts.

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Serious Jokes

Feb 04

A big reason I landed on the name Memes and Motivation for my weekly newsletter is because, at some point, it became painfully clear to me that the internet was full of big jokes but also deadly serious at the same time.

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Don't Part-Time Your Dreams

Oct 11

It's too hard to work at a big company and build a startup on nights and weekends. I built a lot of projects part-time. My brother would help me. After our day jobs ended, we worked on the things that mattered most to us—trying desperately to get traction with our app so we could quit.

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Put the world in zugzwang

Oct 03

In 2008 I worked in a restaurant as a waiter. I had been in the restaurant business since at least 14 years old. By the age of 23, in 2008, I worked at Enzos Restaurant, one of the best authentic Italian restaurants in The Bronx at the time.

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Last mile problems: The last mile is the hardest

Jul 02

Last mile problems are those where 20% of our work will yield 80% of the results. Then we need to spend 80% of our time on that last 20%, the last mile problem.

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What is Growth Engineering

Jun 30

A while back, I ran the growth engineering team of a successful eCommerce startup. We acquired 10 million customers in one year from launch. We got to 1 million customers faster than Instagram; they did it in 3 months, we did it quicker.

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When to remove a bad apple

Jun 29

Letting go of one of my best-performing engineers was by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a leader. I still think if I could’ve gotten a different outcome.

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Four life-changing realizations

Jun 26

Here are four realizations that changed the way I operate my life; things I internalized that were so profound they became a part of me.

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Just Enough Time

Jun 21

There will never be enough time to make all the things I want to make and do all of the things I want to do. And the same probably holds for you too. The more I think about that simple truth, that there isn't enough time, the more I realize how unhelpful that line of thinking is.

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Pareto's pea pods have more to teach us

May 24

The Pareto law says that 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the population, also known as the 80-20 rule. Vilfredo Pareto came about this principle by noticing in his garden that 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.

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Life or Death

May 17

One of my favorite rappers of all time, Nas, says: "It's life or death for me now But you know, there's no turnin' back now This is what makes me, this is what I am"

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What have I done for you lately?

May 09

When I was 22, a bartender in a nice family restaurant, an older woman named Rose Begnal, changed my whole perspective on life. She told me—Louie, no one gives a shit about what you want, but they all deeply care about what you can do for them.

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What happens if we squeeze too much?

May 02

The mantra of modern life (if there is one) is to leave nothing on the table; after all, why would we? The gurus tell us we should try harder and seize all of the efficiency we can get out of our work. We should cut all waste in our organizations. We should take all of the other counterparties' money in a negotiation.

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How to build a great engineering team from the ground up

Apr 25

When building a house, if you want to develop one that will last, you will start with the foundation and make sure that's done right. After the foundation, you build the walls, then the roof, and then finally spend a long time inside and outside, adding the finishing touches. You will see throughout this article that building up Software Engineering teams is not too different in that regard.

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It's a Savage World

Apr 18

It is a far more savage world we live in than we are led to believe. Reasonable people would like the World to be moral, ethical, fair, and more humane, but it is not that way underneath. The modern World is especially adept at concealing its Savagery from us. Yet, it is that exact Savagery that we should see, understand, and come to terms with if we hope to do better.

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Love Boredom, Love the Grind

Apr 11

Boredom is a greater threat to our ambitions than failure. I have spent a lot of time dissecting my failures in life, and I've rarely blamed boredom for them, but the truth is that many of my failures, and probably yours too, are due to getting bored. Unless we learn to fall in love with the grind, get past the inevitable boredom that will arise, it won't be easy to reach our greatest aspirations.

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Rage Driven Development

Apr 04

I have observed that some people are fueled by something different than the rest of us. These people can attack a problem no matter how large, how much bureaucracy or mess is in the way; in fact, for them, the more, the better. These people all have one thing in common: they are consistently motivated by something the majority of us rarely feel, rage.

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From House Hacking to House Stacking

Mar 31

House stacking is when you use the process of house hacking, and you repeat it nearly every year to stack multiple rental homes and start building what the pros call a portfolio. You do this while never quitting your day job and making the entire process as passive as possible.

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New York after the Virus

Mar 27

There is lots of talk that New York is sick, and more specifically, New York City is dead. New York City has big problems in the post coronavirus age, as the office space tumbles, companies institute work from home and start dumping leases to save money. There is no question that NYC is in trouble right now but dead? Let's find out.

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From Stringed Cans to the Khala

Mar 23

I grew up in a town of fewer than 100 people and had no access to technology up to the age of ten. Up to that point, everyone knew each other on a first-name basis, and we lived off the land. The only thing I had at that time that might qualify as "tech" was a set of cans with a string that me and my best friend, who was my neighbor, used to communicate with each other.

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Dissecting Failure

Mar 21

Nobody likes to fail, and some of us hate it so much that we hide our failure. Blaming it on bad luck, bad timing, and even others is all part of the human condition. Failure is something we can build on top of, and failures are like scars; and Nicholas Taleb says that "scars signal skin in the game."

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Equity and Risk at Startups

Mar 19

The rewards in a fast-moving venture-backed Startup are tied to risk, not to contributions. If there is a successful exit, the question of fairness sticks out because employee number 20 may contribute no less to a venture's success than employee number 10 does; in fact, they may contribute even more, yet the rewards will be disproportionate.

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House Hacking the American Dream

Mar 16

House hacking is the act of buying a home and using it to build wealth while leveraging the most American thing since baseball, the 30-year fixed mortgage. The process of house hacking involves living on one part of a house you buy while renting the rest so that your monthly costs are at zero or you turn a profit.

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What do you do

Mar 01

What do any of us do? The most obvious answer to what we do, for many of us, is that we do what we can and what circumstances and opportunities permit.

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It's time to get some wins

Aug 06

Back when I was into competitive gaming, I accidentally stumbled onto a strategy to consistently get my teams into the top 25 of the worldwide gaming ladders. I call the approach "Chaining Wins", the approach held even when we started playing newer versions of those competitive games.

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After the bug, the RCA

Jul 29

Bugs, software defects, happen, and when they do they can destroy trust with your business partners and break promises to your customers.

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Realestate Investing for Engineers

Jul 24

Engineers have a massive unique advantage in today's economy, one which very few are taking advantage of to build real wealth. That advantage is a high salary coupled with a stable job and a relatively stable industry.

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Whose idea's influence you

Jul 17

There is a theory out there called the Mimetic Theory, coined by René Girard; the Theory makes claims about human behavior, culture, and perhaps most importantly about ideas.

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Women and diversity in tech

Jul 13

It is no secret that software engineering is now dominated by men, giants like Google and Facebook all have big issues with diversity especially when it comes to gender. It is not just those giants though, if we are honest with ourselves all of us in tech have this issue.

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How to Recruit and Retain Great Engineers

Mar 11

I’ve always been worried about bringing in great people to my team. Many years into this, and I am still concerned. One of the cliché phrases you hear as a people manager is: “You should never stop recruiting.” As cliché as it may sound, it’s the truth and hiring capable engineers is incredibly hard, especially today.

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The Design Review

Sep 10

The design review, and then later in the development phase, the production readiness review, are two incredibly important parts of our development cycle on the engineering team.

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Principles for High Growth Products

Jun 26

This post is from a talk I recently did for our new class of interns, 2018, at

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An Exemplary Life

Dec 07

I often write about technology online but this time I will be writing about something more important to me. I want to write about a man that had an incredibly interesting life and had a great deal of impact in mine.

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Perseverance and Burning out

Mar 14

I recently wrote a blog post about the value of doing, basically just rolling up your sleeves and getting great at what you want to be great at by just persevering.

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In the spirit of doing

Mar 02

It took me a while to learn this, but for those of of us, who are not born excelling at something we would love to be great at, we don’t have to watch in awe and just wish we could do those thing. We need to start doing, and continue doing in order to get good at the things we want to be good at.

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