on being critical
Max Liebermann, Woman and Her Goats in the Dunes, 1890
I remembered something funny last night about Christmas as a kid. For many (all) years of my childhood I was obsessed with dolls, and every year I would tell Santa Claus (my mom) the exact Barbie or Bratz I wanted. It would be like, This year I want 2005 Christmas Wonderland Snowflake Barbie. My mom, of course, was the kind of person who would hear this and go, Let’s freestyle and get a different Barbie altogether. Maybe Surf’s Up Barbie. Not because it’s more inexpensive or more convenient—just because my mom is the kind of person who doesn’t believe in precision. If you give her a recipe, she will not follow it. If you try to tell her what to do… God bless your soul. Anyway, this would drive me absolutely insane, and every Christmas there would be a throwdown where I would burst into tears because I didn’t get the thing I asked for and she would be like “What’s wrong with you, you brat.”
The moral of the story is that I’ve always been a control freak. Not about everything—I’m more than happy to go to a bad restaurant or take a detour on the drive. But if I’m fixated on something, I want it to be exactly right.
My entire life has been shaped by this character trait. This is why I’m a writer. This is why I wanted to do a startup. Autonomy is the only sure way to make sure you get exactly what you want.