Why pursue growth? (Ricky Weekly #38)

This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.

A picture from my life:

The city put up signs that said no basketball and zip-tied the gates at the park near my house, but #BallIsLife so the kids cut up the ties and kept playing anyway. Now there’s no more hoop, so #BallWasLife for everyone.

Thing on my mind:

A friend said recently that there are only two kinds of businesses: growing businesses and micro businesses. The rest are just struggling. As a generalization that makes sense because attention and money are limited. If your business is not growing to keep competing for that attention and money, then you will eventually lose them. Nothing stagnant is stable.

Pursuing growth seems to be the default for everything though because it’s actually hard to intentionally stay small and reject growth if you have the option. When choosing between something small and something big, we almost always choose big because bigness is rare and offers a bundle of benefits that is likely more attractive than the virtues we associate with small.

I’ve been thinking about social products a lot so let’s take Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature. Why don’t more people share only to their ten Close Friends? Sharing only to Close Friends allows us to be more real and we can build deeper connections with people we care most about, and I’m sure we all want that…but at what cost? Sharing only to ten people when we can share to hundreds means that we increase the likelihood that no one sees or reacts to our story, and us end up feeling rejected after putting ourselves out there. That’s a huge social risk that bigness eliminates. On top of that, sharing to a bigger group could potentially mean we become better friends with our acquaintances. Do we value realness and deep connections enough to stay small, take on the risk of social rejection, and potentially miss out on making new close friends?

I check the online forum Hacker News everyday and I often see people complain that Hacker News was better when it was smaller, but I wonder how many of these people are actually willing to take the trade to make Hacker News small again? There is a site called Lobste.rs that is basically set up to be the small Hacker News (you can only join if you are invited by an existing member), and while the Lobste.rs community may be more civil and more narrowly focused on computer technology, the bigger Hacker News is able to send way more traffic to people’s projects, which creates a virtuous cycle of more people coming to post their projects. The bigness of Hacker News also makes it easier to attracts both a wider diversity of people and more people with deep knowledge to a discussion. We all have limited time in the day, is staying small and participating in Lobste.rs worth missing out on the wider, deeper, and higher volume of quality discussions over at Hacker News?

Most people stay small because they don’t have a choice. Bigness is rare. But if you can go big, staying small is hard! You have to really want your creative freedom, your intimate community, etc.

Piece of content I recommend:

The Last Dance on ESPN.

According to Bill Simmons, it’s really cool that this even got made since the 500 hours of exclusive footage from the Bulls 97-98 season have been around for a long time. He thinks the recent success of docuseries like The Making of a Murderer was a big contributing factor to show ESPN, Netflix, Michael Jordan and the NBA that the MJ doc is worth investing in.

For those of you who don’t care for sports, I recommend this four-part book review of From Third World to First by Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.

As always, you can find out what I’m thinking in more real-time on Twitter and my essays are on my website. My latest essay is called From Socialcam to TikTok: How we figured out video social in a decade