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"If I pivot, will I derail my career?"
Jason's story, part 3/3
“Will I derail my career as a startup founder? This question nagged at me as I considered pursuing my blog, The Roots of Progress, full-time. Would people in the tech industry say that I wasn’t going anywhere as a founder, that I had tried once or twice, then given up? How would I make money? Would I like intellectual work as my profession, when I was doing it all day, when I was evaluated on it, or when I felt uninspired?
I had started The Roots of Progress in 2017. At first it was just some notes from my readings about the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. I was interested in what drives human progress: how did mankind emerge from the caves and build the modern world? Why did it take so long for progress to take off?
Some two years later I posted, ‘Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?’ It went viral. Around then, Tyler Cowen and Patrick Collison wrote ‘We Need a New Science of Progress’ in The Atlantic. Suddenly, there was a name for what I was doing and a community of people who were interested in it.
I was interviewing with exciting tech startups at the time. It would have been easy to accept one of their offers. Yet I knew that despite this, I wouldn’t stop working on The Roots of Progress. On the other hand, if I pursued The Roots of Progress full-time, I felt no call to do engineering on the side. In that way, my choice was easy: The Roots of Progress was the only thing I couldn’t imagine not doing.
In another way, my choice was hard. For 25 years, my purpose has been to found a startup and have a huge impact on the world. The Roots of Progress is a new venture, but not a startup. It won’t scale to unicorn revenue and earn that kind of credibility. I’ve since come to see that a great intellectual product is another way to have a significant impact. Financially, a grant from Cowen’s Emergent Ventures has helped me to take the leap.
In the past 18 months, I’ve been hired to develop a course on Progress, spoken about it, grown my audience, and begun working on a book. Beyond that, I can’t see very far into the future, but there is so much momentum and there are so many interesting opportunities that I haven’t looked back.”
Have you ever taken a great leap into the unknown? Tell us in the comments!