it’s pretty clear that startups don’t suit those people
that choose to apply themselves more fully outside of work
Exactly. If you’re not monomaniacally passionate about some particular job, then starting a small business based around that job is likely to be a very dumb idea. The job, and the abovementioned boring minutiae of running the business, will consume your entire life until the business gets big enough that you can delegate away the stuff you don’t like, or (much more likely…) until the business fails (not necessarily through any fault of yours).
Plenty of people just as smart as Paul Graham have started small businesses and ended up destitute, miserable, and only allowed to see their kids every second weekend. Starting your own business is a crapshoot, many of the factors are not within your control, and the odds are not in your favour.
Oh, and even if you ARE a passionate and brilliant programmer, apparently you’re still a loser by Graham’s standards if you happen to be fascinated by some area of programming for which there isn’t much of a market. Or perhaps you’re meant to strike out boldly on your own in a business venture which you know for a fact is utterly doomed. I’m not entirely clear on this part.