Today I went to watch Digg’s two resident proteges, Danny Trinh and Jeff Hodsdon, give presentations at the Teens in Tech Conference, which was put together by Daniel Brusilovsky. The conference was full of youthful enthusiasm and, overall, a hilarious and fun event for teenagers by teenagers.
After Daniel and Sam Levin had given the opening introduction, Jessica Mah gave a presentation on being a teenage entrepreneur. After she and Danny Trinh had finished their keynotes I tweeted out some rather blunt criticisms of Jessica’s keynote. Unfortunately, I couldn’t elaborate on why I thought that way in the 140 characters that Twitter gives me so I thought I’d elaborate in a blog post.
- The main crux of her talk was that you should ignore your teenage obligations (school, homework, etc.) to pursue being an entrepreneur. Jessica Mah is a rock star amongst teenage tech nerds and, in my opinion, is being irresponsible as a role model by saying, basically, “Fuck school! Build stuff!” Even more perplexing, is that, despite this being her overwhelming advice, she’s currently a junior at UC Berkeley.
- She mentioned a story where she was basically brushing off customers for one of her companies in favor of playing video games. How is horrible customer service a good idea?
- Mah kept making the point that procrastinating makes you awesome. I’m fairly sure that my good friends Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk would disagree with this point. You’ve got to, as Gary says so eloquently, “Hustle your face off.” if you want to succeed.
- She kept saying that being ignorant was a good thing. I think her point was that they have naivety and youthful enthusiasm on their side, which they do. Ignorance, on the other hand, tends to, by definition, mean a willful lack of knowledge.
Contrast her talk with Danny Trinh’s hilarious “The Milk & The Cookies” talk. Danny talked about personal maturity (The Milk), which is something you can’t fake and professional maturity (The Cookies) which you get to choose and enhances your personal maturity.
One of the points that I love that Danny made was that, “You’re not the best.” There’s a fine line between youthful enthusiasm and arrogance. A line I’ve fought with myself. To this day, despite my many successes, I’m not the best at anything. I’m a great PHP coder, a good systems engineer, and a horrible dancer. Danny’s suggestion, which I agree with 100%, is to surround yourself with the best to raise your game. All you can really do is continue to push yourself.
That’s the lesson that the teenagers at Teens in Tech should walk away with, if nothing else.
Joe — thanks for coming to the Teens in Tech conference today. It was great to have the Digg crew at the event to support it’s younger ones 🙂