"If we take man as he is, we make him worse. But if we take him as he should be, then we make him capable of becoming what he can be."
Technology, Decisions, CEO Pay and Jobs
I’ve appreciated and learned from the other answers on this page but I feel none really answer the question.
It’s technology’s fault.
Businesses are all about making decisions. The high leverage decisions are the valuable ones. Technology has changed the organizational structure so that CEOs have more real decision making power (better information, better communication) and thus provide more real value to the company. I would almost posture a new law
If a new technology enables a decision to be passed up the value chain - then it will be passed up the value chain.
Technology is not some great leveler of the the playing field or some magical jobs creator. Technology replaces jobs that shouldn’t exist anymore. To create jobs, technology must create more decisions than it replaces.
So you have two trends.
A. Technology replaces jobs with automation. Technology creates jobs by creating new decisions. Which is greater?
B. Technology concentrates decision making power. The more high leverage decisions someone makes (or is perceived to make, or is perceived as being responsible for) - the more valuable they are to the company.
CEOs of the past could play golf 4 times a week. Most of their managers made the decisions and the CEO concentrated on pulling regulatory strings and finding tax loopholes (sarcasm, sort of). This made sense when insight was difficult and communication was difficult. But in this new age:
The touch on the iPad is mightier than the golf swing
Entrepreneurship is Love
There is an aphorism that is often said - “You can’t have something until you are willing to give it up.” I think this is a core truth. For example things that I think are true:
- You can’t be original unless you are willing to be not original.
- You can’t be wealthy until you are willing to be poor.
- You can’t be powerful unless you are willing to be weak.
- You can’t be happy unless you are willing to sacrifice your own happiness.
- You can’t love unless you are willing to not be loved.
Wealth, power, fame, comfort, safety, happiness — all the things that humans seek actually control us and are chains which bind us. Devotion to the pursuit of any of these things is a god we have made in our own minds. A god meaning something which we think if we can attain will be happy. (You know something falls into this category if you have or would lie to get it.)
- If you are so focused on becoming wealthy - you will likely never feel that you have enough.
- If you are so focused on being powerful - you will likely never be happy with the influence you have and paranoia and insecurity will devour any power you might have.
- If you are so focused on being original as an artist - you will so obsess over what others have done and what others will thinks that you will never be able to truly look inside yourself and find the genius within.
- If you are so focused on being loved - you will always be incredibly insecure and never find true relationship.
This strikes a lot of people at first like ascetism and detachment are then the correct courses to pursue. But this is wrong and completely and obviously so. If you are seeking simplicity and detachment for your own happiness, you will never find it.
What this really means is that if you pursue selfish gain, you will never reap the rewards. Individualism is so corruptive. It teaches us to maximize our individual gain - but it seems that the focus on maximizing our own share is what also guarentees we will never be able to enjoy what we have. Only by seeking the good of others first, truly for it’s own sake, will be able to be wealthy, and powerful, and loved, and original, and happy, and free.
This has pretty disturbing applications for entrepreneurship. For instance - I do not get along well with those that are starting companies for overtly selfish reasons. And anecdotally I would wager they are worse entrepreneurs. Given a spare second - they think about themselves and not their customer. That’s a worrying sign.
However I get along really well with those that are doing what they do because they love the people that have the problem they are trying to solve. These entrepreneurs want to serve their customers by truly understanding their problem and their need with empathy and compassion so that they can devise the best solution to make the pain go away. What an honest and noble quest.
Making the world more like it should be by caring enough for those that have the problem to do something and do it with all your heart.
It is not done for selfish want or gain but for love for others and mankind (even if they don’t love you back). The top 1% of entrepreneurs don’t ever care to start companies at all. They simply use a company as a structure to make an effective, scalable and sustainable impact. The best entrepreneurs in the world love their customer more than themselves and love their employees more than themselves. They do what they do because they recognize the world sucks - and they care enough to fix it - even if they become martyrs along the way. Are you willing to make that sacrifice? If I were an investor that is the only thing kind of person I would invest in because those are the people that change the world.
Pride will always hold you back - love will always drive you forward.
Why we want to believe Steve Jobs will be remembered
In June, Malcolm Gladwell made the comment that “And of the great entrepreneurs of this era people will have forgotten Steve Jobs. Who’s Steve Jobs again?” This rustled a lot of feathers especially among the tech community.
“Steve Jobs was a genius! Who does this Malcolm guy think he is anyway!?”
There was a lot of spirited debate. Some people noted previous titans of industry that have long since been forgotten. Some said that Gladwell was simply (very effectively) generating press and selling books.
Whether or whether not Steve Jobs will be remembered is an interesting question but not one I want to address here. What fascinates me is how passionate people were about defending Steve Jobs and I think the reason is pretty clear.
Steve Jobs was and is one of the heros of the tech community. He was not just our hero but the ambassador for our community to the world. We wanted to believe that technology could save the world - and it seems that perhaps we needed a magician named Steve Jobs to convince us of that.
But why is the notion that your hero will be forgotten so upsetting? For instance if I were to tell you that in 50 years no one would know who Batman is - that probably wouldn’t upset you very much. I think the reason it is so upsetting is because it drives at the existential quandary we all find ourselves in. If the name of our hero doesn’t even make it 50 years, what hope is there for our names? If our names do not outlive us - what purpose and meaning did this life have? We want to believe that Steve Jobs will be remembered with the hope that in the best case we will be remembered also, and in the worst that at least our blood, sweat, and tears we will live on through his name.
Finding apps is a weirdly hard process. What apps to my friends love and use everyday? Do I really have to ask them and be that annoying new guy who just got an iPhone? Seemingly yes I do. So to spare you the trouble (although feel free to ask me), these are the apps I like: [updated November 20, 2012]
Chrome Browser: WAY better than Safari. Nice tab management. Syncing of bookmarks, history, and open tabs with your desktop. Awesome.
Calendar: Gets the first slot because managing my calendar is not my strong suit.
Notes: Great for jotting down stuff. The sync with mountain lion over iCloud is really phenomenal.
Clear: A wonderful to-do list app. Simple, beautiful, clever. Clear also just released a Mac app that auto-syncs.
Spotify: Makes thinking about and listening to music seamless. It’s a really interesting experience to have. Syncs with the mac app as well and soon the web client.
Sparrow: A good email client. I also use the Mac version. I just wish it was updated for the iPhone 5’s screen height
Path: Share moments with close friends. I use this for more personal things than I’m willing to put on Facebook.
Pair: Share moments with my fiance Bridget.
Lift: Goal setting.
Pocket: Save articles from browser and autodelivered and optimized for mobile.
Foursquare: It’s on my home screen because I am interested in experimenting with life-logging where I go. However I am very bad at remembering to do so. Not sure it will stay here much longer.
App Store: Obvious
Trello: Tracking larger projects. I track my company’s progress here and even do some personal planning.
Clock: My alarm- It isn’t great but I haven’t found a better solution
AccuWeather: I don’t know why this is here.
Maps: I love in a city is navigation is sometimes important.
Transit: A nifty little public transit routing application that makes up for all the downfalls of Apple Maps (no public transit routing)
Other apps not on the home screen:
Amazon: makes ordering those essentials easy to do on the go.
Square Wallet: Basically only use this with the food trucks, but it’s a fun way to pay.
Cardmunch: Scan a business card and automatically have all the info digitized including a link to the person’s linkedIn. Really great.
Google Drive: Just nice to have for accessing Google Docs.
Yelp: Find great restaurants.
Photosynth: Easily great amazing 360 panoramas.
Social Apps that I have but try not to use: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora
"The soul, — freed from vice, purged by studies of true philosophy, versed in spiritual life, and practised in matters of the intellect, devoted to the contemplation of her own substance, — as if awakened from deepest sleep, opens those eyes which all possess but few use, and sees in herself a ray of that light which is the true image of the angelic beauty communicated to her, and of which she then communicates a faint shadow to the body."
The Book of the Courtier by Baldassarre Castiglione
Driving Awareness and Empathy
Walking around San Francisco desensitizes you to a lot of things, including people in the most dire of straits. They are the homeless, the drug addicts, those down on their luck. They are ubiquitous - nearly on every street corner. Some actively ask you for a quarter, 50 cents, or a ticket for the bus, but most sit there with a cardboard sign. It is so commonplace that we cease to view them as humans just like us, with hopes, and dreams, and in need of love and meaning.
It’s really sad. This social ostracism is what stirs their fears and drives them back into the ground even harder. The homelessness problem is an incredibly complex one with no simple solutions and no easy ones. I don’t know pretend to have an answer to solve it but I do wonder about how we can force awareness and increase empathy. It’s a good place to start.
I was riding the Metro the other day in the same car as a homeless guy. He was wearing a really nice jacket with Slide’s logo on the chest (Max Levchin’s company that sold to Google for $182M). While this is nothing out of the ordinary, the thing that really struck me is that I noticed. And I remembered. And that I’m writing about it now. This sort of jacket is normally the type that you would expect a VC or a CEO to wear, certainly not someone like that.
Why does this matter? Because I found myself spending the time to consider who that person was - in the same way I would if they were a VC or CEO. These positions are closest to my personal goals and thus closest to my humanity. So we have that which is closest to my humanity being worn by a person who is seemingly farthest from it. It was a really wonderful dichotomy. And it made me stop and think.
The only way to get entrepreneurs to solve the really big problems in the world is to figure out how to stir up real empathy. Knowledge is not the problem. Maybe giving out startup tshirts and jackets to the least of us is the first step.
Birthdays are strange things aren’t they?
Part of us wants to eschew the attention, because we know it’s not warranted. So we happen to be born on this day. Why should you love me any more this day than any other day? Why is this day 23 years later special?
But we all secretly love our birthdays too. A day about us! Heck yea! Not in a bad way - but a good excuse for friends past and friends now to get out from behind their own insecurities and say how much they love us. Such well wishes would be a little weird any other day of the year.
Maybe that’s why birthdays are a little sad too. Birthdays remind us of our humanity. Our actions and the actions of our friends remind us of our fears and weaknesses. Maybe that’s why so many people escape on their birthdays, to a remote location by themselves or to alcohol surrounded with friends. Same thing.
"Every man is born an original, but sadly, most men die copies."
Something I wrote a year ago:
It is ironic how a stream of consciousness journal requires one to be mindful of one’s thoughts which ultimately is the thing to be achieved. The desired end result. To be conscious of the present.
Take control of your mind. The irony lies in that reflecting on the past - you gain the present. And when you gain the present - you have the power to take on the future. Be intentional with your next hour, your day, this year, and your life. Life’s too short to do anything else.