Google's obsession with metrics was forcing me to take stock of my own capabilities. What did I bring to the table? What were my limits? How did I compare? Insecurity was a game all Googlers could play, especially about intellectual inferiority. Everyone but a handful felt they were bringing down the curve. I began to realize how closely self-doubt was linked to ambition and how adeptly Google leveraged the latter to inflate the former—urging us to pull ever harder to advance not just ourselves but the company as a whole.
Toward the end of my Google run, a newly hired senior manager put into words what I had discovered long before. "Let's face it, Doug," he confided, "Google hires really bright, insecure people and then applies sufficient pressure that no matter how hard they work, they're never able to consider themselves successful. Look at all the kids in my group who work absurd hours and still feel they're not keeping up with everyone else."