David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) joins the podcast. For many people, DHH needs no introduction…but just in case, here is a little background on how David keeps himself busy (apart from fatherhood):
- Founder and CTO at Basecamp
As expected, David brings his energy and passion to the conversation about parenting—a talk which is both opinionated and thought provoking. He shares many of his views, from the “screen time” of his 4-year-old, to which practices promote intrinsic motivation, and why classic reward cycles are completely bogus. Here is a list of the resources that David mentions in the episode:
- Alfie Cohen http://www.alfiekohn.org/
- Punished by Rewards book
- Flow book
The systemic risks to “finding the best for my kid”. If the “best” is an Ivy League education or high paying job then you are already lost. Happiness is not correlated to the factors of success that society often put the most weight on.
Show notes (time stamps are approximate)
Magic the gathering card game was the first thing that he sold/traded. Gave him the early understanding of sales and making deals. Spent summers as a young boy trading/selling cards.
3:27 got into selling pirated software. Ran an Elite Bulletin Board forum (13-15 years old). Made his own money prior to “commerce”, delivered newspapers at age 10. Learned salesmanship in trading.
7:00 Everyone should work jobs they hate to give them memories and experiences.
7:57 Work for other people in the line of business you want and have a bad experience, it teaches you what NOT to do.
10:22 Empathy for those that you are managing/working with is key to learning from experiences and improving on things when you call the shots.
11:50 “If I can see all the things that are wrong here, then I can do a better job here.” DHH on management.
13:47 In the life of most entrepreneurs there is something in their formative experiences that “pisses them off”. They think, I can do this better.
15:00 My dad was wheeling and dealing and fixing electronics which taught me the way NOT to do it and what I would want to change in what I did. “My mom was an incredible pep talk coach” Source of his confidence. Love from his parents were not contingent on results.
20:37 Growing up we were poor by most respects.
23:20 How is he NOT spoiling his children? Artificial scarcity as a practice is false. Having everything does not make a happy kid or happy adult either. What is important is to instill a sense of what really matters.
25:20 Setting things up in a reward cycle is a really bad mechanic. Teaching people self reliance does not happen via carrot reward cycles that kick in when they do things they don’t want to do.
26:30 I’m not going to limit him [my son] by any means. How does it matter if he wants to
27:20 Limiting screen time is bogus. Limiting scarcity only promotes demand. Let him play with the iPad and let him find out what his natural limits is.
29:50 Study on cocaine addiction and rats and who it relates to screen time and the variety of options being a solution.
31:20 Disclaimer: “All of this is sample size of 2, my upbringing and with my son.”
32:19 Put all the activities in front of my son and let him figure out what he gravitates to and him discover his own limits.
33:45 Nature vs nurture in his son
36:00 wife and him on the same page with parenting
37:00 What has influenced your parenting style?
37:19 Alfie Cohen http://www.alfiekohn.org/
Myth of the Spoiled Child (link)
Punished by Rewards book (link)
Flow book by Mihaly C. (link)
Intrinsic motivators are key. The western education system does its best to rid kids of the intrinsic motivation. You need to start early to protect your child’s psyche early on. You are against forces much stronger than yourself.
41:15 Elite institutions are not the path to success.
42:30 Kids age four interviewing for preschools is completely stupid. I want my son to run around and play at preschool and not have pressure to think about what college he is getting into.
47:00 Start of his general overview on parenting philosophy…
48:00 last words of advice.
The systemic risks to “finding the best for my kid”. If the “best” is an Ivy League education or high paying job then you are already lost. Happiness is not correlated to the factors of success that society often put the most weight on.
50:40 Studies on suicide rates among kids that are pushed to the high standards of performance by their parents.
52:00 When your direction in life is driven by fear they you have already shut off many important parts of your mind. Get rid of the fear!
Transcription below (typos may exist…)
[00:00:00] Mike: [00:00:00] Welcome to the 2 cent dad podcast, where we interview dads to discuss their journeys of intentional fatherhood while doing work they care about and living a life of purpose. I’m your host, Mike Sudyk.
DHH: [00:00:19] Our strategy has been put all the tech activities in front of Colt. Let him figure out what the right dose is.
Don’t try to think that we know the right amount of people that is supposed to be sufficient or enough in each of these circumstances, teach him to find it, no limits to find his own level of enjoyment, and then just give him options to find something that, that tell your door.
Mike: [00:00:47] Today on the podcast, I’m joined by David Heinemeier Hansson or DHH as most of you know him by David is co founder of base camp in vendor of Ruby on rails, also a race car driver, New [00:01:00] York times bestselling author of the books, rework and remote.
David does not disappoint in this episode as always. He challenges the status quo. He’s very opinionated, but share some very. Insightful knowledge in living life and raising kids. So without further ado, let’s get into the interview with David.
So David you’re known as a best selling author of multiple books of running the very successful project management tool base camp, venting Ruby on rails amongst other things. But I’m just curious if maybe you could start by taking us way back to what is the very first thing you sold? What is the thing that you got started on this whole entrepreneurial journey of building companies, writing books?
What is the very first thing that you actually saw?
DHH: [00:01:55] So the first thing I ever sold. I think maybe there’s depends on whether you [00:02:00] say sold or traded because I got into magic, the gathering the card game. it’s a trading card game, people use to play and back in, when was that? Sometime nineties.
I’m trying to remember the order here, but, I have a lot of memories around the horse trading, the card training that went on in that, form. a lot of, early memories about how to make deals and put things together and give people what they want. so our learned a lot from doing, doing that, especially since with a game like magic, you gathering there’s a bunch of cards that are very sought after and subsequently very expensive, but it isn’t necessarily with the cards that people want when they’re trying to put something together.
I started with a very modest deck, a set of cars, and then traded that all the way up until I had a collection of cards that were worth, I don’t know, 50 times what I started with. So that was a, there was a relief, fun experience, a really fun summer. It was very [00:03:00] intense summer where I spent like a pretty much, most of my days trading cards and also playing them a little bit, but I found a lot of interest in the trading.
I’d say the other part of it, where I took some of those. Early memories about selling stuff was pirate software actually. I used to run a, Electronic bulletin boards that BBS, and elite PBS as it was called, which was basically just trading pirate offer, which gave me a lot of contacts in the, pirate software world.
And back in the early to mid nineties. Way that a lot of this cell phone was distributed with NCDs people didn’t have the bandwidth to download these things. I kinda got just hooked up with selling those, and again, just finding out, buy low, sell high and, getting the connections to get the.
Goods closer to where they were being manufactured. so I think those are two of the early formative experiences on making business.
Mike: [00:03:56] So how old are you at this point? are you grade school? Middle school?
DHH: [00:03:59] like [00:04:00] 13. 15. Okay. So I’m thinking that something in that range, I’ve been. Making my own money, even before getting into commerce.
So to speak earliest, maybe I started at 10 delivering newspapers. quickly find out that, sort of manual labor at a fixed rate was not necessarily the path that I wanted to take to get where I wanted it to go selling a product in whatever form it is, or arbitrage as it was with the trading cards was, both more lucrative, more fun and more engaging.
Mike: [00:04:38] Yeah. And it sounds like you get like a thrill out of that, you’re learning how to figure out who’s collecting what’s scarcity and how do you turn that around?
DHH: [00:04:45] Yeah. And marketing too. There was a lot of salesmanship actually that went into the whole trading card game.
It was a lot of, the way you build, or a mass more wealth than the trading card game is that you take something of lesser value and then you trade it to someone. [00:05:00] even Steven for something of more value, Which basically puts you in the position of being the sales person for the thing of lower value.
This card might not really be as valuable as this other question. That’s not really what you’re saying, but you’re saying like, Hey, this is really the card you need for your deck. This would really complete your deck and make it so much better. This is actually a really weird card. I don’t know a lot of people running your ass one, and you just try all the marketing techniques, which are really the same fundamental marketing techniques.
scarcity appeal to authority, popularity, all of the things that, Are the root causes of, most desires and business you can put to good use in any kind of selling and trading card is a good a place as any to learn that.
Mike: [00:05:42] Sure. So you said that the, you had the lesson of manual labor was not for you, delivering newspapers.
That’s one thing you hear from some entrepreneurs will say, I wish, you really need to have a job where you have to do manual labor because it gives you an appreciation for. running your own business, or even when you get into something like [00:06:00] software that’s, easier or more scalable, or, it’s not a one for one trade off.
Do you feel like that was pretty transformative for you to teach you that lesson early? And then you were able to move to a place where you’re you’re you’re not doing a direct one for one trading hours for money thing.
DHH: [00:06:17] Absolutely. I think everyone should work manual labor, and I think everyone should work jobs that they hate.
For some period of time to give them those memories and those experiences about things can be. And while it’s important to do the thing on manual labor, delivering newspapers, I worked at a grocery store. I did a lot of other stuff, actually, all the way through, even concurrently with doing these other things I was doing.
We were still having these jobs too. Cause it was just a steady income that you could always depend on. Yeah, I think that was important, but even more important than that was to work for other people in the line of business that you want to pursue and have a bad experience doing. So the vast majority of lessons that I took away [00:07:00] from working at the, internet startups scene in Copenhagen, in the late nineties, early two thousands were just a treasure trove of things not to do.
And ways not to act and ways not to configure your company ways, not to announce things when it’s not to do cutbacks ways, not to invent there. Weren’t a whole lot of lessons necessarily about how to do things, but I get that from somewhere else. I think it’s more far more important to feel on your own body, the effects of poor management.
Yeah. If you are ever to pursue a career in some form of management, right? Cause I think a reason why I had a lot, yeah. These poor experiences was that the people who were running these companies that I were part of, they had never worked for someone else in this. there were first time at it, from a vantage point, considerable power and influence.
They were at the top of the stack and they didn’t know [00:08:00] how it felt to. Be the subjects
Mike: [00:08:03] of that.
DHH: [00:08:04] And that led to some lots of scenarios where you just go dude, can’t you see how this is making us feel as employees, that this is just a shitty way of conducting yourself or instituting change. So I really took a lot away from that, which to this day continues to inform how I do everything at base camp.
I’m always thinking Oh, if I was on the other side, if I was sitting and getting this piece of information in this way, how would I feel about that or Institute in this change? I’m constantly thinking Hey, remember when I was on the other side, remember how that felt and that’s just credibly valuable.
Mike: [00:08:42] Yeah, definitely. No, I can definitely see that. that’s, that is rare to have, it’s almost an empathy, for the people that are working for you cause you’ve been there, but how do you,
DHH: [00:08:53] and I think that empathy is so people have a lot of, just natural empathy and that’s great, but [00:09:00] in my mind, there’s nothing more powerful than immediate empathy that comes from experience of being in the same situation under the same circumstances.
because it’s not a magic. I can just pull back in the memory bank and think of a thousand cases, what, not of thousands, lots of cases, where I was subject to similar things and Oh, remember, Oh yeah, they did a really poor job on this because a, B, C, and D, I’m not gonna get up on ABC and D I’m not caught up in all sorts of new and novel ways that I didn’t myself, but at least I can cut down on the most obvious is, blunders that.
Most people who have not been subject to management from other people go through, when would they become managers?
Mike: [00:09:44] And so you’re, shortcutting your way to success in a lot of ways, because you’re not having to go through all those failures.
DHH: [00:09:49] Yeah. it is the basic experience, like having experience with other people’s poor decisions hopefully informs you to perform better and have [00:10:00] less poor outcomes as a result.
Mike: [00:10:02] Yeah. so as you go through those experience, you’re obviously, learning, saying, okay, I’m working for this guy and he’s doing a bad job managing, or, they made all these mistakes. You’re cataloging those in your mind saying, I’m learning from that, but you’re, I would imagine it sounds like you were intentionally studying these people and understanding that.
did you go into, did you have a, an earlier knowledge thing? I want to work for myself eventually. Is that something that was like instilled with you and your parents? Like where did you get that drive? Or was it sheerly that you had such bad experiences that you’re like, I have to work for myself.
DHH: [00:10:36] I think part of what informed this was indeed those bad experiences. and they just gave me a sense of thinking if I can see all the things that are wrong here, I think I have a better shot at doing this better if I was in your shoes, I’d be doing a better job right now. I’m not so we’re not.
And that just pisses me off. Like I can’t, I have a hard time [00:11:00] seeing things that could be better not being better. And there’s just only so much you can do, like most of these companies, I was at the lowest rung, Like I was at the entry level. So I knew, I learned. That the amount of influence, and pack that I could have from the bottom of the organization was limited that I could have a bunch of better ideas about how to do things.
But if I was at the entry level of the organization, I was not setting the tone. I got it, my call and I couldn’t sit well with that. I’m. I’m a poor employee in a lot of ways. and many of those ways is because I just, I can’t deal with things that could be better, that aren’t made better. and I just sit with that knowledge thinking like, what the fuck?
I know this should be better. I know how we can do it better. We’re not doing it better because nobody’s going to give a shit what I have to say about things, right? So the only way to make sure that people give a shit, you have to say about things as well is your [00:12:00] thing that was at the scene. That’s a sort of defensive strategy and perhaps that’s particular to my experience, if on the other hand I had the experience that, I started working at these companies and they were greatly run and I’d had a lot of success, perhaps.
Yes, I wouldn’t have had as much of a motivation to strike out on my own, which I think is why a lot of entrepreneurs that I know they there’s something in their formative experiences that. takes them off, pisses them off actually, where they think I can do this better. And if you don’t have those experiences, if you actually enter things that aren’t working, that are working and people are making good sound decisions and you go yeah, that’s really cool.
We’re heading the right direction. I can totally see how you wouldn’t be instilled with this. Need to do things yourself, to control things yourself.
Mike: [00:12:54] Yeah. Is that, you said formative experiences in employment. Do you feel like there [00:13:00] was formative experiences when you were growing up, like as a kid that kind of gave you that context?
my dad was an entrepreneur, so I’ve followed that path to some extent, but he always was starting things, he seemed was always exploring these different opportunities. So I felt like that. I feel like that kind of shaped my view and the path that I took. So I was always thinking, when I even want to work for people, it’s like I had some of those thoughts that you’ve had.
So it’s I attribute that back to, I think, some of my formative years, but seeing that somewhat modeled, just curious, like what, what did your parents do? what, how
DHH: [00:13:30] do you find that shape? It’s funny because in many ways it’s the same. Formative experiences as I saw a shitty job being done, so my dad was a wheeling and dealing things too.
he was fixing electronics for people. and while there were some influences of putting a good deal together. And so on, most of the influences was. Dude, do you have a terrible management of cashflow? Do you don’t have a deal pipeline [00:14:00] that makes any sense the unit approach in these things make no sense?
A lot of it was basically seeing mismanagement again, Seeing things just done poorly. perhaps not realizing at the time, but. Coming to that realization that, yeah, this was a poor way to make a living, not a consistent way to do it. And, just to, Oh, poor or leverage like one unit in sometimes half a unit out and you just go like what?
I just went eventually what I don’t want to do that. In many ways, it’s the same setup as going through manual labor. Like you put one in and you get one out and you just go yeah, those are not the, that’s not the magic box that I want to keep putting stuff into. I want to put stuff in where it put one in and get a thousand out or put one in and get 10,000 out.
how can I set myself up to have that kind of leverage?
Mike: [00:14:55] yeah, that makes sense.
DHH: [00:14:56] That doesn’t mean there weren’t other. Role models. I have [00:15:00] plenty of things to look at, literature and elsewhere to find the inspiration about how to do things well, because I think while I do think it’s more important in any ways to see things done poorly, it’s also important to have some direction of how things could be done.
Mike: [00:15:17] sure. How do you, so the other, just to hit on the kind of upbringing thing, the other big thing, it seems like you have a lot of his confidence just to say that, Hey, I’m gonna, I think I could do this better. So that’s, that takes a lot of, self-assurance and saying I’m gonna, I’m gonna just try this and I’m gonna go out there and do a better job than these guys, because I’ve already learned the lessons, but I have enough competence to step out and say, I’m going to, I’m going to do it.
And I know that you, I think you, in the past, in other interviews have said, You have a low, actually really low risk tolerance because you make pretty sound decisions based on what you’ve seen in the past. but back to the self confidence thing, it’s do you feel like that there were things in your life early on that kind of taught you that, or you always had that because in parenting that’s, [00:16:00] teaching kids self confidence, is that, are there things that you felt like was big in your life that gave you
DHH: [00:16:05] that.
Absolutely. I think, especially my mom was, an inquiry sort of pep talk coach. yeah. And there was never any pressure for me to feel bad about, especially around schooling. lots of parents would like. gotta do your homework or you gotta get certain grades or your performance in school is tied to our evaluation of you as a person and by infliction or indirection, our love.
And that was never the case. There was never a link like that. which basically just instilled in me the sense that, I can do whatever I want. The affection and love that I receive is not contingent that. I’m sorry. So in some cases that meant blowing things off. In some cases that meant doing very poorly in a variety of subjects that I didn’t care for [00:17:00] at that specific time in time.
getting flunking classes, not only flunking classes, what I like even more was doing the math on exactly how much I could skip. German language education and not get suspended. I think you could have 21%, absentee. So I calculated out what 21% meant. And like how many of the early classes could I skip and still Dodge under the 21%?
And I think I got within a class of two, like I think I had 20.7 or something at the end. That’s
Mike: [00:17:34] that’s efficiency right there.
DHH: [00:17:36] It really is efficiency. Where I used that efficiency was, then I translated all the things that I didn’t want to spend any time on. It did not spend any time on like German language education.
And in some years, Matt, and then I invested all that time in something else that I cared about much more deeply, like running my own elite Bolton board, like starting my own gaming website at [00:18:00] 15 or 16. And. Running things that I cared about, not because some report card was going to score me well, like certainly weren’t and it was going to score me worse off for it.
But I had the confidence, from an, a love that wasn’t contingent on results or following the path that my parents wanted me to follow. Yeah. I could do that. And I really, I do think that is probably one of the best aspects of. What I learned growing up that, part of it too, was the fact that I written about recently, like we were poor by any definition of Dana’s society, but it didn’t feel like it partly that’s because Denmark is pretty damn awesome at making people who are poor much better off than poor people.
Most the rest of the world. I think Tim, where he was pretty much just the top of doing that very well. I’m part of, it was also again, and [00:19:00] especially my mother arranging things in such a way that a, we didn’t feel any loss from that. Okay. So we couldn’t buy all the things. Nope. Okay. okay. But still good to have enough of the things that it felt like we were in touch with the other, the social circle.
So I could still hang out with kids that weren’t poor at all and not feel like AI was now cast or that we lived a much worse life, actually back in many ways, I had the experience of thinking those kids that I’d have been better off. Like I don’t want to trade with you. I don’t want parents, I’ll take my parents that are far worse off rather than that of your parents were far better off, but treat you in these ways that are not how I would want to be treated.
So I think that gave me also an appreciation of just the limits of material success. and does by direction of that, or through that learning that. Okay. it [00:20:00] doesn’t really like if I don’t finish well in school in a certain number of subjects and that mean that can’t be a doctor or lawyer or whatever.
So yeah, like that’s not going to define me. I’m going to live a great life regardless. so let me just pursue the things that I really care about, the things that I’m really passionate about, and if they turn out to be things that are something that leads to quote unquote success, then that’s great.
And if it doesn’t, then that’s also great. and my happiness is not tied to those things, which I think is incredibly important for me now, looking at things, raising children is that I want to make sure that passed that on, especially since we’re in such a different situation, right? Like I am now like ludicrous, Christly wealthy compared to where we were when I grew up.
And I think a lot of. When I’ve seen a lot of parents who go through that transition, they end up with some very distorted views of the world that they didn’t pass off. And then their kids grow up to be [00:21:00] not like they were and not appreciate the same things and so forth and overestimating. Oh, I didn’t have all the toys when I was a kid.
So my kids are going to have all the toys that they could possibly have because that’s what defines happiness. And you just go eh, no.
Mike: [00:21:18] How, so how are you practically doing that? Because, that’s, it seems like it’d be a hard thing to do. especially, it’s a mindset, but it’s a, it has to be a little bit more intentional almost to limit that and not to give them that mindset or spoil them,
DHH: [00:21:30] Yeah. It’s funny because there’s two sides of that. One is this whole notion of spoiling, which. I have all sorts of problems with as well. because it’s this artificial scarcity, there’s a lot of people say Oh, you make sure you don’t give your kids everything that they want.
Because they need to learn how to work for things themselves. And that’s the true grit and so on. I hate to see it go. I actually know my experience. that’s not how, that’s not the key, the things that I took away of being good about my childhood that I had to. pass [00:22:00] newspapers around to buy the toys that I wanted.
if I was going to take anything away from that, it certainly wasn’t that aspect of it. That isn’t the thing I want to pass on. I’d much rather pass on this notion that it just doesn’t matter that much, but you’re gonna have all the toys in the world that doesn’t matter. Are you a happy kid?
you can be allowed to have all these things. And again, it doesn’t make you a happy kid and it certainly does not make you a happy adult. The number of adults that I know who have quote, unquote, everything, and they’re still not the happiest people on earth. there’s a great overlap between those groups.
So what’s more important for me is to instill a sense and cultivate a sense of the things that really matter. And to me, the things that really matter is being passionate about things. As in you want to do them for their own intrinsic motivation. Not for the extrinsic stuff. And that’s where I think the spoiling part, like the over anxiety about sports, you kids, then [00:23:00] you trick that in.
Oh, I’m really going to teach my kids that hard work is the path to a successful and Gregg life. okay. If you do the dishes and you do these things, then you’re going to get this thing. It’s just setting things up in a reward cycle that I think is. Not only think, but I’ve since been, informed by people where she studied this stuff, that’s actually a really bad mechanic.
a way of teaching people self-reliance and happiness and so on. Doesn’t happen by setting these carrot reward cycles, where you’re you have these, these carrots that kick in when they do things they don’t want to do. In fact, that’s the last thing I want to teach my kids. The last thing I want to teach my kids, they said, Oh, just do all these things that are actually really shitty that you actually don’t really want to do, because then we can get these things that you think you want, even though you’ll realize that actually they don’t matter that much.
So [00:24:00] that’s how I’ve ended up basically having a, sort of a notion that spoiling in terms of. Like toys or whatever that is not something I’m going to worry about. At least not in a material sense. So if Colt wants a toy car, like even have a toy car, like just a toy car might cost $4. I could totally see, like someone thinking like, let me know.
They should learn to assess the money to learn the value of money, and then they should buy that stuff themselves and just go no, it just matters. that’s not the most important lesson here. Like he wants to play with 10 toy cars and I have to buy 10 tow cars at $4 each or whatever.
okay. Like how does that matter? So anyway, that’s one part of it. The other part of it that I found is that I pretty strong believers sometime to my own detriment of my happiness in the short term of letting kids figure out their own limits. So [00:25:00] another sort of parenting thing is like, Oh, how much screen time do you allow your kids to have?
How much time can they sit in front of an iPad to do it? And my general principle there is you can sit in front of an it as long as you want. And until you tie it up it and know what happens, they get tired of it. At least that’s what happened in the case of my son, right? Like when he first got my pet, he was like, that’s the greatest thing ever.
Any was on it for, I dunno, three hours and four hours a day, far beyond the limit of what also clever people supposedly say is, Oh, you should have, let me do a screen time to one hour a day. Why would I want to build up a sense of scarcity that like, this is. Scarcity in all boats. It right? Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
I think it’s more valuable. I’m going to want to do it more when I can have it less. So our strategy, at least in the broad sense of it have been, you just play your iPad as much as you want. And what happened. There was an intense phase [00:26:00] of using the iPad a ton, and then there was a phase of realizing actually I’m done with this.
I’m bored. Let’s play with some toy cars. Build some Legos, but that’s outside,
Mike: [00:26:10] but that’s educated on those other things being available and you somewhat promoting those other things, right? it’s, you have to, also offer the better alternatives because I think those are more fulfilling in the end.
I see that with my kids. it’s they’ll play with the iPad and they’re like glazed over and they might watch a show or two, but like my son, when he’s playing Legos, he’s like into it. He’s asking me to come play with him. And it’s you can see that he enjoys it better because it’s not just mushing his brain.
I let him, I’m
DHH: [00:26:34] not, I’m not, yeah. My aspect is too that it doesn’t match their brains that much. Like I played an ungodly. Amount of video games growing up. And I want to make sure that cult a we least a fair share of that. So in my mind, it’s actually, it’s very important for him to get it daily dose of electronic entertainment.
I am certainly not. Oh, you can only play with the ecologic Lego tree stuff’s here and then that’s, [00:27:00] what’s going to teach you how to be a wholesome person. come on, give me a break. That being said, I want to, for him to just figure out what do you enjoy doing? What are you naturally, what are your natural limits?
And as you say, totally predicates on having the choices available, right? One of the studies that come to mind with this is, There was a famous study on a cocaine addiction. Were there some lap rats running around, inside a cage where it just has the dispensary of cocaine. And the big conclusion from that study was well left to its own devices.
The voting will go for the cocaine and eat it until it dies. And you’re going like, Oh, this is so horrible. if someone has cocaine available, they’ll just. Take cocaine until they die. And for a very long time, that studies stood undisputed. And then I think in the mid two thousands, there was another study that came out that basic said, yeah, but if cocaine is in one of those dispensers and then in the same room, boom, there’s also a spinning wheel.
There’s some water for them to splash in. There’s other rodents to play with, guess what? They don’t just eat cocaine until they [00:28:00] die. They do other things too. And I think that’s the parallel that I. Like to point this to is if the iPad supposedly is cocaine. yes. If that’s the only thing you put in, like the choices to be is either you play with your iPad or you’re bored out of your mind.
Yeah. People are going to, or kids are going to play with their iPad all day long. But if the choice is play with your iPad, play with your cars, read a bunch of books, run around outside, watch a show, help cooking. How do other things help run to the store and help do any of this variety? Yeah, they have activities, right?
they’re not just going to kick pick the thing. Quote, unquote, unless it’s their mind and get all of this stuff is sample size to me, remembering my own childhood and watching one kid grow up. slug me informed by the, academic studies that I read that I’m sure it’s also biased to which reading things that [00:29:00] tell them the biases that I already have, but still, that’s not to say there aren’t other kids that would just.
Given the choice to have an iPad and then just wish their brains out. maybe that happens.
Mike: [00:29:10] They’re doing that in a room where maybe they’re doing it, like in their own bedroom where they’re not, where their parents aren’t cooking or they’re not, you’re modeling to those things that you find value in.
you find value in the video games, but you also find value maybe in cooking or, race, car driving as you do. And it’s if you don’t have that, then yeah, there it’s the cocaine scenario. But you’re also, it’s not that it’s available. I feel like it’s almost predicated on modeling it and finding enjoyment and satisfaction in it, and those are
DHH: [00:29:34] activities.
our strategy has been put all the activities in front of Colt. Let him figure out what the right dose is. Don’t try to think that we know the right amount of play that is supposed to be sufficient or enough in each of these circumstances, teach him to find his own limits. To find his own level of enjoyment and then just give him enough options to find [00:30:00] something that, that he’ll enjoy.
I’d 10 times rather have him sit with a smile on his face, playing the iPad, then him with a frown on his face, playing with some stupid shit that I gave him that I wanted him to play with, because that fulfilled my notion of what is supposed to be wholesome play. talk about the tyranny of, of parental choices.
and It serves us well to that. Maybe it’s because our genes are cultivated, but this, but he’s having none of it. So whenever we dictate or superimpose our choices on it, he’s pretty quick to say I don’t like those choices actually, that the literal quote, I don’t like those choices. so I feel like that’s, it’s pretty well instilled already.
So yeah, even if we shouldn’t have been on board with this, maybe we would have, yeah. Gotten on board with it simple because that’s his personality.
Mike: [00:30:46] And you use the apples and fall too far from the tree. I just take it then.
DHH: [00:30:51] No, I think that is, that’s quite app. It’s a really funny thing, because especially with small kids, you just go like how [00:31:00] much nurture could already have influenced this.
You just go there’s, the genes are playing a role here. And there is something that’s just mapped out from pretty early age, since terms of stubbornness and, desire to. Walk to your own beat and so forth and just go that’s, it’s interesting. And we saw that even from him being like one year old, where you just go like that can’t be that much cultural influence that dictates that when he just runs off and he wants to do something on his own, he doesn’t even look back at us.
I get just that fearlessness that some kids have, which. I’m sure that’s not a universally good thing. If you’re out in jungle that perhaps that’s the thing that gets eaten by a tiger, right?
Mike: [00:31:44] Yeah. I think it’s so fascinating. And I think it will be because you have a second one on the way, right?
So that. That’s like really fascinating to see both of them. Like when my daughter was born in there, my son and my daughter are pretty different in personality. And it’s so interesting to see them interact and how early on [00:32:00] that was so different. but they get along well, but they’re just way different personalities and.
It’s just, I think it’s so fascinating. the nature nurture thing is crazy. one of the things, the examples, it’s funny, you’re talking, it’s like the, my daughter is actually more, just self assured self-reliant and my son is more just he’ll go along with the flow. So she’ll take advantage of him in some ways she’ll come, just rip a toy out of his hand and he’ll just be like, okay, whatever, it’s you have to be like, , she doesn’t have to do that.
like you can say, you don’t have to, you have to correct it a little bit, but at the same time, you let them sort that out, like he, he might not let her do that all the time, but sometimes he’ll be like, he’ll stick up for himself and I’ll go grab it back, So you get to just let them sort out learn, which is really interesting.
DHH: [00:32:43] Absolutely. Yeah. I’m a. I’m curious to see how it’s gonna shake out. I’ve got like a, another month to go and then there’ll be two of them.
Mike: [00:32:51] Great. So curious, you’re have your wife and you always been on the same page with this style of parenting and some of your thoughts and
DHH: [00:32:58] stuff.
[00:33:00] Yes. And actually in very large terms, surprising beyond, on a similar foot here, we have biases that tell very much in the same direction and, read the same sort of studies and come to the same conclusions in those kinds of, discussions. so there really, hasn’t been a lot of, a conflict there, which I’m happy.
I think that, I could just imagine, if you have a style where you do want to impose your sense of what proper play is or any of these and other things that aren’t as much as just going yeah. With what your kid wants to do, that could lead to more of a conflict. So we’ve thankfully been spared that it’s hard enough, even when you do agree to, Sort of deal with a kid,
Mike: [00:33:46] yeah, I hear you on that one.
Definitely. so you mentioned some of the studies that you guys have read, that cocaine study that you talked about, what are some other like books or papers or, thinkers out there that have influenced your parenting style?
DHH: [00:33:59] I [00:34:00] think, the main one is a guy Alfie Cohen. who’s written a ton of books.
He does, all sorts of studies on kids and learning styles and so forth. and many of the topics that we’ve been talking about, it’s almost taken out of the book titles that he has. He has, a good book called the myth of the spoiled child. So you can see some of the stuff we’ve been talking about there.
he has another one called punished by rewards, which this isn’t all just. To do with kids punished by rewards in particular, it’s informed a lot of what I think about employees and employer relationships as well. alongside it’s this notion of intrinsic motivation and how important it is to protect that, on the topic of intrinsic motivation.
There’s a great book called flow by BKL. And again, I can’t pronounce his last name, but, that book on flow. It’s just a great dive into why it makes so happy to be intrinsically motivated by the passions [00:35:00] and things we’re interested in and getting better. many of the reasons why I came to endure programming and I came to enjoy racing cars and other activities where you can fall into this flow, it goes to this transition zone where you lose track of time and space.
and. I think that’s been such an important source of my happiness that I want to make sure the cult gets this really early on that, where he invests his time is things that are intrinsically motivating. Not because some teacher’s going to grade him on it. Not because I’m going to say, Oh, what a good kid you are.
If you do these things, not a piece, not because he’s going to make money off of it. Not of any of these extrinsic motivators. because I think the. Schooling system in most of the Western world does its very best at destroying intrinsic motivation. It does its very best reducing learning to a game of getting good grades.
and you [00:36:00] really have to counteract that force. And in my opinion, start early with that counteract. If you want to have any shot at, giving your kids the defenses that they need to protect their own psyche and their own motivations and so forth. I think that’s one of the things that, post my wife and I have been.
Seeing and vividly remember, how much of learning during the school years is reduced to, Oh, I just want to beat the test, and teach to the test and so on when you then come out on the other side realizing, how much of all this stuff that I crammed to alone to beat this test? Can I either still remember or what can I employ?
Why am I even in here? It’s it’s. A very good way of turning people off, continued learning for the rest of your life. When you reduced learning to distinct, did you do for other people you do to please your teachers or your parents or whatever, [00:37:00] and no surgery don’t want any of that. Want to protect Colts, intrinsic motivation.
The very best that I can. And even knowing you’re up against forces that are. In many cases, much stronger than yourself. So you can just do your best to give the machine well, to hopefully counteract it.
Mike: [00:37:18] Definitely. So what are you guys doing for education then? as I’m beyond, when he gets into schooling age, are you guys, is there a special school you send it to, or your homeschool or what does that look like for that stage?
DHH: [00:37:28] Yeah. So one of the main things that, I find funny is that a lot of people in tech, especially people in sort of San Francisco area and that. So aspect of the tech scene are very much Oh, STEM research and getting people started or getting kids started really early on. And I got to get them into Harvard.
I got to get them into Stanford. I gotta get to these elite institutions. And then that thing of my ex appearance and my wife had a similar experience. Like we did not go to top tier schools. We did not go to Tufts, your universities. We did not get a quote unquote, [00:38:00] top tier education or not education schooling.
we’ve got a top tier education in many ways. And it was because we care too nurtured that education that we took away, that it’s far more important to be someone who is fully engaged and learning everything there is to learn about a certain subject at Podunk university than it is to be someone who’s completely, this is the solution then jaded going to Stanford.
Yeah, I can. that’s a dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be that stark. I think there’s truth to that. When you set things up and I’ve heard this, we’ve heard this thinking about even just preschools talking to kids like, Oh yeah. So if you want to get into this preschool, please apply 12 minutes in advance.
There’s this 12 paper application process. And we’d like to see your, for an interview. And I just go Are you fucking kidding me? what I want cult to do at three or four or five year olds is run around, bumping into things, [00:39:00] jump off tall stuff, then hurt himself and otherwise just have a blast.
but he’s going to be,
Mike: [00:39:08] he’s going to be way behind that. The rest of the pack.
DHH: [00:39:10] Exactly. Exactly. This is. It just sometimes just blows my head where I just go, you’re seriously telling me that at kids age four, you’re thinking about which university he’s going to get into by pick up which preschool he goes to.
Holy shit, life is hell and I would not want it for all the good in the world. People in this situation, probably think Oh, this is what I have to do. It’s such a competitive world. Have you seen the Chinese? They’re studying the crates. They’re turning out so many engineers we’re fucked. And I just go mother, like that is what living in fears, like what a miserable experience and how can we not have that experience?
In fact, we just had this experience here in Spain. Cult started in a Montessori school, [00:40:00] which I think there’s otherwise a ton of good things about Montessori. And they have a lot at the right idea as well. This particular incarnation of the Montessori school was started by some Brits who also had the British.
Influence of respect is very important. You should have respect for you too. I literally, that was their key word. if they had tried to sum up the whole school, like the one word they picked was respect and I just went like that should have set up alarm bells as loud as anything, because respect is probably the last word that I am interested in when we’re talking about the three year old.
I don’t want this for the one year old to respect for anything like that is very low on the list of priorities that I have three year old, Is respect. So yeah. fast forward, this was not a good fit for Cole. you did not suitably respect his teachers, so he didn’t have a good time because he wasn’t this docile kid that just did everything that they wanted him to do at the time that they wanted him to do without.
[00:41:00] Pro protest. So you protest it loud. And we came to the realization that, yeah, this wasn’t the right school. So we took them to another school where the keyword was not respect where they are. The teachers were a little more interested in just having three year olds and four year olds run around and be three and four year olds.
And lo and behold, he’s thriving. I’m doing great. And, everything is. Wonderful. That’s wonderful. As three and four year olds can be, which is like complete maniacs in one second. And the cutest things on earth the next second. So you still have to Jacqueline, I think, but, yeah. So dad only reinforces the whole setup, right?
That I’m like, so being left behind as a three year old, what is it that you’re going to learn from grade one to grade 10? That is so damn important. That’s going to dictate the rest of your life. If you aren’t at the head of the pack. Bullshit. Nothing you just need to learn to read and write.
And most importantly, dilemma develop a love of learning that you will carry forth with you. And, that’s it. Oh, then the kid [00:42:00] won’t get into the most prestigious college, so right. the correlation that I’ve seen between people who went through elite schooling and happy people poor in many cases, I’d say negative.
Yeah. the whole thing we’re trying to set up is how do you live a good life? How do you have a happy, good life having a happy, good life? as I said, I believe very vaguely and poorly correlated with quote unquote, top tier education. very vaguely important. Yeah. Related with making all the money in the world and so on.
and then people say, there’s these, if you were to say you’ve made yours and so on. So forth. Yeah, I did at after age 26. And then I had like up until 26, where did none of those things and had none of those things. And then I was a pretty happy kid again. Some of this is situational. Some of this is societal, or you’re going to have a worst time being a poor [00:43:00] kid in the U S I guarantee you that.
so I get where some of the, anxieties come from that does not make them productive. So at least being upfront about what your fears are and so forth, I think would be a step forward.
Mike: [00:43:14] So what do, we just to bring it to a close, see what, what are. The, some of the things that you would say to someone that’s new, a new parent, it sounds like what you’re saying a lot of is starts at, at the individual level, it starts at the parents level.
having that intrinsic drive, having that appreciation for a good life and not just chasing carrots. But, if you were to give some piece of advice, like one or two nuggets of advice to a guy that comes to you and says, Hey, David, I just found out my wife’s pregnant and be having a baby here in about nine months.
And what, David, how, what do you got? You got one kid, what are you? what can you tell me? what do you say to that guy?
DHH: [00:43:48] Sure. I would, give him a reading list or her a reading list of books that. Help explain these arguments in very clear terms. And I think the myth of the [00:44:00] spiral child punished by rewards and stoicism the guide to a good life.
That’s a great start right there. And I think taking some of this pressure out of it, I think there’s just a lot of parents who feel like a lot of intense pressure, very early on Oh, I got to get the best for my kid, or I got to get the best for me to get. And. They don’t see the systemic risks in, seeking this quote unquote best for your kid.
the definition of what best is matters quite a lot. And if the definition of best in your particular cases gets a high paying job or gets an Ivy league education or something like that, like you’re already, like you’re already off into the weeds. those might be means to some end. I don’t think there a means to.
Very many important ends, but even if they are, there’s still mean figuring out what the end is. And for me, it’s, I want Cole to have the happiest life you can have [00:45:00] and the road, the lifts to that, or leads to that is it’s again, poorly correlated with these other traditional, so factors of, of success.
so yeah. Chill out from down again. This is from my perspective does not include someone who lives on. $18,000 a year in the U S and can’t afford healthcare or feeding their kids. that’s the case. freak out by all means. I don’t think that necessarily helps, but you have a different life circumstances to me.
and I don’t know if I can help that much. I think there’s a. Sort of a radius where your experiences are more applicable to other people. And my radius is, more with people who have to the core comforts of life squared away. so the further you get away from that, the, the less it may apply or that other [00:46:00] things might be more important.
stealth, I don’t think that, what, one last thing I’d say is, it’s been a great, sets of studies and I think there’s even a book and it was summarized. And I’m trying to remember who published this about the, suicide rings in, near San Francisco and Silicon Valley, that I thought were extremely informative that, the pressure that gets started about coming out of those environments, quote, unquote, the best schooling with the sort of most achieving parents and so on are.
Horrible also to studies coming out saying that kids from that sector like there, they’re just as bad with crime, although the crime to be more or less petty after violence and more in the case of, drugs and abuse and autism, other Delinquent behavior. So to speak to as coping mechanisms, to deal with this intense pressure of having a parents that are intent, that a successful life goes through an education Stanford [00:47:00] and the job at Google and work life altering things.
it was maybe you can find it for the show notes, but I thought that was a, just a great summary of all these things that are bad about quote unquote ambition.
Mike: [00:47:12] Yeah, definitely. They it’s so much built up on something to lose it. it seems and that’s what I mean, you, it seems like your background, it was like coming from more humble beginnings.
You didn’t have this pressure that there’s something to lose, but not only that you saw the lifestyle of the quote, successful people and said, I don’t really like that. that’s not necessarily something I want to maintain and
DHH: [00:47:32] I can appreciate it. This whole notion of something to lose comes from a position of something or fear.
And when your parenting style or direction in life is driven by fear. You’ve already shut off many of the important parts of your brain and reduced it to this lizard mode, fight or flight. And they’re far more interesting things to pursue in this world when you can liberate your from [00:48:00] the chains of fear and.
Just get into little bit, a lot here and a little bit of passion and a little bit of more positive emotions. yeah. Get rid of this year.
Mike: [00:48:13] I couldn’t agree more.
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