In a powerful essay on Medium, entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon takes a stab at answering the question: why do people stay working in a field where they don’t want to be in the long term?
His answer lies in a classic computer science problem, in what becomes a beautiful and elegant plea for experimentation and discovery.
“A classic problem in computer science is hill climbing. Imagine you are dropped at a random spot on a hilly terrain, where you can only see a few feet in each direction due to fog. The goal is to get to the highest hill.
Consider the simplest algorithm. At any given moment, take a step in the direction that takes you higher. The risk with this method is if you happen to start near the lower hill, you’ll end up at the top of that lower hill, not the top of the tallest hill.
A more sophisticated version of this algorithm adds some randomness into your walk. You start out with lots of randomness and reduce the amount of randomness over time. This gives you a better chance of meandering near the bigger hill before you start your focused, non-random climb.
Another and generally better algorithm has you repeatedly drop yourself in random parts of the terrain, do simple hill climbing, and then after many such attempts step back and decide which of the hills were highest.”
Dixon’s message? Apply this lesson to your own career, and learn from computer science:
“Meander some in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear.”
Read the original article here.