Michelle Lara Lin

Co-founder & CEO at Nailpolis. Married to art, neuroscience, and code.

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The Woman Entrepreneur’s Handicap

You are not an entrepreneur. You are a woman entrepreneur.

You are not a programmer. You are a girl who codes.

You will never be able to hold a normal conversation about the code that you write. The instant you begin to talk about programming, a tornado of affirmative action will sweep you off your feet, and you will be involuntarily dragged and shoved into every single “girl who codes” movement and every other tech initiative desperate for an appearance of equality. You are a woman programmer.

No one will ever evaluate you for the quality of your work, your competence, integrity, determination, or ability to execute. You sometimes feel that you are trapped behind a soundproof glass window, screaming and punching the glass until your knuckles are bleeding. You demand to be heard, but as long as it is code or business that exits your mouth, no one listens. You are a woman entrepreneur.

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If you care about your company, stop treating yourself like shit.

Startup stories tend to glorify the ramen-eating entrepreneurs who have “no time” to exercise and get no more 4 hours of sleep every night. This sort of glorification runs under the assumption that time spent working is positively correlated to the success of the company…

That is B.S.

The reality is closer to this:

Where productivity is:

The ramen-eating entrepreneurs defend sleep deprivation and poor health with the hackneyed line:

“I have no time.”

This is a shitty excuse.

Yes, you need to spend time to get results for your company. But your productivity is subject to exponential decay over time. The more time you spend continuously working, the more your productivity wanes.

Furthermore, if you’re in poor health and sleep deprived, your productivity will just suck. Period.

So if the sheer awesomeness of being healthy is not enough to convince you to be healthy, then

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Romantic lies about passion and entrepreneurship

There is a romanticized notion that if you pursue a passion, work becomes smooth sailing–work is only “hard” if you hate what you do, and if you pursue a passion, you’re only doing what you love, and therefore relish every skip of your beating heart.

This also leads many to believe that if you’re passionate about something, you don’t have to put in much effort to succeed at it. The success comes as naturally as breathing. It would be absurd to “breathe harder"–you simply keep breathing. The success will follow naturally.

This is a seductive notion, particularly to aspiring entrepreneurs. But it’s a lie. And it’s dangerously misleading.

Let me tell you about my passion. I am an obsessive, greedy reader. Every time I read something that inspires or provokes me, I get this strange, hoarding impulse to jot it down in a notebook. This reached an apex in college, when I went through an

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Every time the media reports something sensational and your Facebook feed won’t shut up…


[Media coverage] is itself biased toward novelty and poignancy. The media do not just shape what the public is interested in, but also are shaped by it. Editors cannot ignore the public’s demand that certain topics and viewpoints receive extensive coverage. Unusual events (such as botulism) attract disproportionate attention and are consequently perceived as less unusual than they really are. The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.


An availability cascade is a self-sustaining chain of events, which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action. On some occasions, a media story about a risk catches the attention of a segment of the public, which

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Why Startups Are Like Modern Abstract Art

I find a lot of modern art intolerable. Especially abstract art. Back in New York I used to frequent the MoMA and Met, and whenever I walked by an abstract painting, I’d sneer:
“Really? You call this art? A 5 year old kid could have done this.”

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Soft Spoken, 1969. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

If I went with a friend, things would get amusing. I’d feign art history expertise and start overanalyzing every Rothko, Pollock, Newman, and Reinhardt piece with a subpar British accent:

“The black space that occupies a large part of the canvas represents the uncertainty and acquired synesthesia of visions in moments of frenzied distress. Isn’t it remarkable – the tension that is distilled from the simultaneous decadence and synergy from the canvas? The temporality of human existence is corroded in the violent strokes of paint on the canvas, that

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