Advice for ambitious 19 year olds

Usually, people are deciding between going to college (and usually working on side projects while they do so), joining a company, or starting their own startup. The secret is that any of these can be right answer, and you should make your decision based on the specific circumstances of each option. The critical point is that you want to do the thing that is most likely to get you on a path to do something great. (通常来说会选择读书,加入公司或者是创业。每一个都是正确选择,你需要根据实际情况来选择其中一个。关键是要让自己尽可能地上道,有机会去做些意义非凡的事情。)

No matter what you choose, build stuff and be around smart people. “Stuff” can be a lot of different things—open source projects outside of class, a startup, a new sales process at a company you work at—but, obviously, sitting around talking with your friends about how you guys really should build a website together does not count. The best people always seem to be building stuff and hanging around smart people, so if you have to decide between several options, this may be a good filter. (不管你的选择是什么,两件事:搞东西以及和聪明人合作。)

In making this decision, you want to take the right kind of risk. Most people think about risk the wrong way—for example, staying in college seems like a non-risky path. However, getting nothing done for four of your most productive years is actually pretty risky. Starting a company that you’re in love with is the right kind of risk. Becoming employee number 50 at a company that still has a good chance of failure is the wrong kind of risk.(在做决定时,要学会承担正确的风险。待在大学并不是没有风险,比如大学四年不做什么正经事情。创办自己公司投身自己热爱的事业则是正确的风险;以#50员工加入一家很有可能失败的公司则是错误的风险)

If you stay in college, make sure you learn something worthwhile and work on interesting projects—college is probably the best place to meet people to work with. If you’re really worried you’ll miss some critical social experience by dropping out of college, you should probably stay. (如果选择待在学校,确保自己学习和做些有趣的项目。通常学校是最适合找到合作伙伴的地方,如果你非常担心自己因为辍学而失去这种经历的话,那么你应该留在学校。)

If you join a company, my general advice is to join a company on a breakout trajectory. There are a usually a handful of these at a time, and they are usually identifiable to a smart young person. They are a very good risk/reward tradeoff. Such a company is almost certainly going to be successful, but the rest of the world isn’t quite as convinced of it as they should be. Fortunately, these companies love ambitious young people. In addition to the equity being a great deal (you might get 1/10th of the equity you’d get if you join a tiny new startup, but at 1/100th or 1/1000th of the risk), you will work with very good people, learn what success looks like, and get a W on your record (which turns out to be quite valuable). Spending a few years at a company that fails has path consequences, and working at an already-massively-successful company means you will learn much less, and probably work with less impressive people.(如果选择去公司的话,那么要去那种有突破方向的公司。通常这样的公司不是太多,并且对于聪明的年轻人很容易识别出来。这些公司风险回报率非常好,并且注定是要成功的,只不过对其他人来说并不显而易见。幸运的是这些公司也非常喜欢有雄心的年轻人。除了可观的股票之外,还可以和牛人工作和向他们学习,并且在履历上得到个W(??). 选择那些会失败的小公司会对职业发展不利,而选择去已经成功的大公司学习机会更少也不容易和牛人共事。)

Incidentally, don’t let salary be a factor. I just watched someone turn down one of these breakout companies because Microsoft offered him $30k per year more in salary—that was a terrible decision. He will not build interesting things and may not work with smart people. In a few years, when it’s time for something new, the options in front of him will be much worse than they could have been.(顺便说句,不要让薪水左右。)

If you start a company, only do so if you have an idea you’re in love with. If you’re hanging out with your friends trying to come up with an idea, I don’t think you should start that company (although there are many who disagree with me). Starting a failed startup is less bad than joining a failed company as an employee (and you’ll certainly learn much more in the former case). If you fail at an idea that you really loved and could have been great, you’re unlikely to regret it, and people will not hold it against you. Failing at a me-too copycat startup is worse. Remember that there will be lots of other opportunities to start companies, and that startups are a 6-10 year commitment—wait for the right one(自己创业失败比加入创业公司失败好要点,因为至少你能够学到非常多的东西。只有当你非常热爱某个idea时候你才需要创业,即使失败你也不太可能会感到遗憾,其他人也不会埋怨你。做copycat创业失败更加悲剧。创业的机会有很多,并且通常要做6-10年,所以要等待正确的那个机会)

One big pro for starting a company is that it’s usually the way to learn the most in the shortest amount of time. One big con is that it’s easy to start a company for the wrong reasons—usually so that you can say you’re starting a company—and this makes it easy to cloud your judgment. No matter what you choose, keep your personal burn rate low and minimize your commitments. I have seen a lot of people miss great opportunities because they couldn’t afford a reduction in salary or because they couldn’t move or didn’t have the time.(不要为了面子等一些错误原因而创业,以及保持低开销)

Think about risk the right way. Drew Houston gave a great commencement speech where he said you only have to be right once. That’s true. The risk is not getting on the path where you get to be right that one critical time. (风险是,在关键时间点上,你错过了你本应该选择正确的路)