Personal Asymptotes

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Miscellanous / Thursday

This post is a bit different from the others in that I will introduce an idea that is supposed to inspire reflection. It’s an idea that I found very powerful and I hope you can get some value from it.

A few weeks ago, I read an amazing blog post by Eugene Wei. He was one of the earliest employees at Amazon and writes one of the blogs that have affected my thinking deeply. The post was titled Invisible Asymptotes. While the majority of the post focused on the potential natural growth limitations of different tech companies, at the end of the post he talked about how this idea of limitations applied to individuals as well:

In my experience, the most successful people I know are much more conscious of their own personal asymptotes at a much earlier age than others. They ruthlessly and expediently flush them out. One successful person I know determined in grade school that she’d never be a world-class tennis player or pianist. Another mentioned to me how, in their freshman year of college, they realized they’d never be the best mathematician in their own dorm, let alone in the world. Another knew a year into a job that he wouldn’t be the best programmer at his company and so he switched over into management; he rose to become CEO.

By discovering their own limitations early, they are also quicker to discover vectors on which they’re personally unbounded.


The article forced me to think hard about my own personal asymptotes. Inspired by another influential bloggers Ben Thompson, I made a little diagram:

Paper.Paper Tools.15.jpg

The worst thing is to be stuck in the unfortunate valley when you know that’s where you are stuck. As Eugene points out, identity your asymptotes early allow us to avoid and shoot past them.

This weekend, I want you to take 10-15 minutes out of your normal routine and reflect on this question – what are your personal asymptotes?

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Best of the blog – A Summer of Learning

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