Thiel Fellowship Closing Ceremony Speech

I have come to the conclusion that I suck at blogging on demand and that if I make myself write a post on Monday I will generally tend to wait until the last minute to write it. To counter this, I’m going to try writing every other day and only posting the best two pieces on Monday and Friday. If that still fails, I’ll try every day and Tynan can tell me I told you so.

Anyway, in the meantime, as it’s midnight CST here on Monday, here’s the short semi-prepared speech I gave this weekend at the Thiel Fellowship Closing Ceremonies (we all gave a two minute quip about our two years).

There were a lot of surprising things I learned as a Thiel Fellow, but one of the most striking is how quickly two years go by. Most of my life’s seemed interminably slow, and when I accepted the fellowship two years seemed like forever. But here I am, two years later, and it feels like it’s gone by in the blink of an eye.

I have a few theories as for why that is. One of them is that strangely enough, the fact that the Fellowship seems to have passed so quickly is an indication of just how much experience it managed to cram into two short years. Looking back, the entirety of the fellowship feels like one long day of building things, learning, and meeting incredible people. There was no time to realize that time was passing.

In two years, I managed to fail at one startup, learn a ton of lessons, meet an amazing cofounder on an equally amazing trip to Antarctica organized by an also equally amazing mentor, discover, develop, and invent transdermal caffeine, patent transdermal caffeine, and am now in the process of building our new venture with the launch of our flagship product Sprayable Energy.

I think I’ve learned a few things along the way. One is a simple one – perseverance and determination, along with experience, goes a long way. Especially in startups, progress in the short term is incredibly difficult to measure, as it’s more often than not not linear or even sequential. One minute we might be on top of the world, and the next in a massive ditch. And a few minutes after that, we might be on top of the world again. So I’ve learned to not put so much weight on the short term and optimize for the long term, and we’ll see what happens in the end.

Another lesson was less apparent to me, and that’s that oak trees come from acorns. Richard Hamming gave a great talk called You and Your Research – in it, he noted that great work never came about as the result of trying for the great thing straight off – it always resulted from starting small, and planting the little seeds that ultimately grew into mighty oaks. So I guess what I’ve learned here again is to aim for the long term – I’m very impatient, but there’s no point in trying to build a skyscraper without first setting the foundation.

Anyway, I’d like to thank all my fellow fellows and everyone else in the network for being awesome friends and mentors and helping make this experience something I’ll never forget. And I want to thank my family for always being right behind me, supporting me the entire way. And I’d like to say a word of encouragement to all the incoming fellows – I’m super excited to see what you all do, and we’ll all get there in the end :).



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