Pathways of Success

You’re obviously a very capable, smart person: would the Aella story would have landed in the same spot if you had a different start in life? If you hadn’t worked in a factory say, or if your family had been different? Would you be a Y Combinator founder right now instead? Nothing against the current line of work, but I often ask myself the counterfactual of where I’d be if matters were otherwise.

It’s unlikely. Part of the reason I’ve been so successful is that I accidentally ended up in something smart, young women don’t end up in, which is sex work. Most people with some level of competence end up in college, and I didn’t for various reasons. That put me already into a minority….you mentioned earlier that you yourself stand at the desolate intersection of a Venn diagram of two different worlds. That has propelled me at a greater level of success than would have otherwise happened.

I really tried to go to college. Because I was very much stuck in the standard this is what success looks like. I had very, very small world view of what was possible for me. And when I didn’t get to go to college, I cried. I was really sad: “well I guess minimum wage jobs are forever.” That’s what my world was.

I think sex work really helped broaden that; it taught me kind of by accident that you can have success in life through very different ways. If you take risks, if you do the thing that other people don’t typically do, but you do it very seriously and you do it very well, then that in itself earns some sort of respect or validation or the skills translate to other things. And I would never have been able to predict that beforehand.”

-Antonio Garcia Martinez, “Wherein I pay Aella for sex, and we just chat instead*ThePullRequest.com. January 18, 2022

That last paragraph is on point. It’s one thing to be the best. It’s another thing to be the only. And the path to both can be helpfully thought of as a manifestation of the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

Suckin’ at Something…

“Every winner begins as a loser,” …But not every failure leads to success…It turns out that trying again and again only works if you learn from your previous failures. The idea is to work smart, not hard. ‘You have to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and then focus on what needs to be improved instead of thrashing around and changing everything,’ says Wang. ‘The people who failed didn’t necessarily work less [than those who succeeded]. They could actually have worked more; it’s just that they made more unnecessary changes.’

[A] key indicator (besides keeping the stuff that works and focusing on what doesn’t) is the time between consecutive failed attempts, which should decrease steadily. In other words, the faster you fail, the better your chances of success, and the more time between attempts, the more likely you are to fail again. “If someone has applied for a grant and they are three failures in,” Wang says, “if we just look at the timing between the failures, we will be able to predict whether they will eventually succeed or not.”

-David Noonan, “Failure Found to Be an “Essential Prerequisite” for Success.” Scientific American. October 30, 2019.

Or, to put it another way, a focus on process produces better outcomes.