I spent the last two days camped out at San Francisco’s Pier 48 for the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon.
Conditions were dreadful. The Pier was freezing at night, the chairs uncomfortable, the tables damp and sticky, and oh, the smell of a thousand ripe hackers in a confined space!
By about 5am, the carpet was caked with Mexican and pizza and human bodies were curled up under every table. Between the sleepless exhaustion, the stream of junk food, and the, uh, gender ratio, I felt like I had been transported back to my undergrad years at Caltech.
People often ask me what it’s like to go to Caltech. It was much like being at a hackathon: a tiring and humbling experience that left my class with a sense of solidarity that I miss dearly even a decade later.
As much as we complained about Caltech, we loved that the school gave us the impetus to do things that were really freaking hard, in an environment where comrades would provide emotional validation when our egos got bruised. We don’t bond by doing easy things, but by doing hard things. Complaining is fun when we get to complain together.
And so it is with the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, or any difficult group venture, for that matter. We push ourselves through limit-testing endeavors because it strengthens the group and consequently strengthens ourselves. To paraphrase Christopher McDougall in Born to Run: The reason we race, or climb mountains, or stay up for 48 straight hours writing code, isn’t so much to beat each other… but to be with each other.