I haven't blogged in over a year for two reasons.

1. I found that often time my learning already has systematic review in books. The ones written by myself are less helpful than I thought.

2. It’s probably good to say less and do more. Delay gratification. I don’t want to put out too much nonsense and have too little action.

But I later found out that they are not quite right. In systems of sciences, most things can be derived from a few axioms, but still need specific theorems and tests to guide the action. For writing, as long as it can be beneficial and relatively easy to resonate, it has value and is not nonsense.

Back to the topic: I’ve come to realize the quality of measurement of choices is heavily influenced by the size of the ruler. Of course, this ruler may not be one-dimensional, or it may not be straight, but overtime I found that the most critical factor is whether the ruler is long enough. For example, if you use a short ruler to measure whether a train rail is straight, the answer is alwyas yes. As I grow older, I often find that I was wrong on certain issues or made the wrong choices. And it’s often my ruler for measurement was too short.

A couple scenarios:

1. Choose a job: After graduating from college, you feel that the difference between the salary of $150K and $200K is big given the ruler at that time. But maybe 3-5 years later, you will find this gap as almost a rounding error, and the initial difference should have been ignored.

2. Looking for a partner: Young people rarely pay attention to the character, values, and pursuits of their future partners, as compared  to appearance, liveliness, or even constellations and hobbies. But many happy married friends told me, what people look for will change.

3. Lu Xun once wrote “Brotherhood will survive all vicissitudes, and a smile is all we need to dissolve old grudges” to describe people after war. Since the tragedy has passed, the ruler will naturally become longer, and the grudges are no longer important. Right and wrong without a long enough horizon is trivial.

Some people may say these examples simply require experience. I agree. But I think it depends more on the length of the ruler in your heart.

So in the startup world, how long of a ruler should a startup company use?

1. Do you recruit engineers based on the ability to GDB print maps, write word segmentation programs, or recruit product managers based on their ability to use visio maps?

2. Do you judge sales candidates on the basis of past customer relationships in the industry, or if they have existing medical connections when selecting PR managers?

I guess it depends on how you look at your company. If you priortize short-term progress, these rulers are appropriate. But if you look at startup as a marathon where value creation takes place at the tail end, none of these is important criteria. You should pay more attention to character, style, learning ability, self-awareness, and values.

The following three rulers are in ascending order when consider a candidate: the role a candidate can grow to after one year and the potential impact to the company; if you would still hope to work with him or her even this company fails and you start another company; whether he or she can be a great working partner for the rest of your life.

On strategy or financing front, this is particularly hard when your company is small and desparate. But the greatest have done it. Bytedance said no to both Tencent and Alibaba’s investment. A check no Chinese startups can resist. Bytedance used a longer ruler. It allowed them to be independent and long-term strategic. And today they are in a singular position to challenge the big dogs.

So next time, don’t let short-term benefit affect your judgement. When you have a hard time making decisions, take a step back. Choose a better ruler. And use long-term horizon to measure against your choices.