Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected two poems by William Lessard for his series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

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Installation view of Rachel Whiteread’s ‘EMBANKMENT’ in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, London, 2005 (via Gordon Joly on Flickr)

What Are You Optimizing For?

I let less important things implode in order to get positive things done.
What-could-be-cool doesn’t scale.
I’m trying to up my game.
But there are certain areas I won’t touch.
Like I love those dress socks at Target with the golden tips.
I was living in “Man José”—everyone who lives out here knows what I mean.
I was batching my dates like email.
My goal was 20 coffee dates in three days.
I hired competing online services to do the booking.
I offered bonuses and other incentives to ensure maximum engagement.
It started out as an experiment.
I wound up getting a reasonably long-term girlfriend out of the deal.
Outsourcing your love life is not for everyone.
I’m way more comfortable with situations that are high-touch, low form-factor.
It’s like finding a new app or new investment.
It’s about the magic of the discovery.
Having fixed set-points to reassess is also important.
I know this older dude who gets quarterly reports from his wife.
It’s a brilliant system.
She rates him as a husband, a lover, a father, a provider.
It’s all on a 10-point scale.
He never gets a perfect 40-point score.
But he and his wife have a target number he has to hit.
Everything is about the right expected multiple.
What are you optimizing for?
That’s what I ask when someone wants the perfect diet or exercise plan.
I know this team of French developers in Manila.
They incorporate coding into their jungle workout sessions.
The number of lines of code they do in a day is the number of kettlebell sit-ups they do.
The CEO is ex-French Special Forces.
Attack and annihilate all benchmarks is their benchmark.
I’m more about the long-tail.
My ketosis breakfast is pu’erh tea, plus ginger and turmeric.
I also add a dash of green tea.
The difference in pharmacokinetics is the hack.
I love the extended 15-percent gain.


I measured the circumference of my head.
It’s the same as my wife’s waist.
I got five million from a small group of investors.
I’ve been keeping metrics on everything.
The plan is to try a bunch of different stuff, aggressively kill off everything that isn’t working.
You need a focused metric.
A diversified identity is also important.
I know a lot of startup founders who are into rock climbing.
Molly’s training isn’t advancing in a stair-step fashion.
We were out in the park for five hours last Sunday.
She’d make progress, then just want to play.
I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions.
The best one I heard is to pee outside with her.
It’s about establishing your pack.
Humans thrived over Neanderthals by training wolves to hunt the best prey.
I enjoy working with a small team again.
Startup founders make the mistake of getting too attached.
Someone sent me a link to this great new app.
You create buckets for each project.
I have buckets for apps, buckets for Molly’s training, buckets for drinking.
Last month was a bad month.
I averaged 3.74 drinks per day.
This month is 1.52, but I’m about to go on vacation again.
We’re taking Molly with us.
The adoption service advised against any separation.
It was the same way with my first company.
I’m 42.6% through my 30s.
I’m working with a different value proposition.
The target is price-insensitive markets.
A high-value product people obsess over is the ideal.
Different investors bring different metrics.
I look at margin of safety.
Lately I’ve become bean-curious.
Would people pay 100 dollars for a coffee that takes an hour to make?
I know I would.

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William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, NPR, Prelude, and Wired. He won the first-annual “Bureaucratic Writing Contest” hosted by tNY.Press. He was recently accepted into the Ashbery Home School.

Joe Pan grew up along the Space Coast of Florida and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His debut poetry book, Autobiomythography & Gallery, was named “Best First Book of the Year” by Coldfront...