[R]emember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites.
If you think that the bad or indifferent results that too often come out of Washington are due to base motives and bad intentions, you are giving politicians and policymakers way too much credit for being effective. Honest error in the face of complex and possibly intractable problems is a far more important source of bad results than are bad motives.
Applies equally to business.
Those most worthy of admiration are those who have made the best use of their advantages or, alternatively, coped most courageously with their adversities. I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect—and help, if necessary—than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too.
Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks he or she knows where they will be in 10 years, much less in 30, is simply lacking imagination.
Sometimes, Hollywood screenwriters create scripts filled with inside jokes that only people in Hollywood could appreciate. Sometimes, New York media writers write about other New York media writers. And sometimes, tech entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley to the south create companies best appreciated by other people who live and breathe technology.
One of the great small pleasures of used books is the occasional marginalia of a previous owner. You learn a tiny bit about that anonymous soul by seeing the passages she underlined, or tidily double-underlined, or exclamation-pointed, or starred madly and messily. You begin to worry about the girl who found so much to mark in To The Lighthouse, or fall in love, a little bit, with the person who found all the funniest parts of Catch 22. (It is another type of intimacy entirely to borrow a book from someone you know, and to discover what he found worth picking up a pen for.)
Leadership is an overlap of many things rather than a commodity, a combination of the more prosaic traits of developed intelligence, self-confidence leavened by humility, poise in public, and interest in other human beings. Some of these constituent parts can be modeled, some can be transmitted in the classroom, but many just have to be picked up—that is, if the person even wants to pick them up.
Be wary of any institution that claims it can teach you to be a leader. There’s usually an inverse relationship between good marketing about leadership and good instruction.
“There are fifty or so billionaires and tens of thousands of millionaires in Silicon Valley.” Think about that for a second: tens of thousands of millionaires, almost all them created by companies that didn’t exist two decades ago.
The defining difference between Silicon Valley companies and almost every other industry in the U.S. is the virtually universal practice among tech companies of distributing meaningful equity (usually in the form of stock options) to ordinary employees. Before companies like Fairchild and Hewlett-Packard began the practice fifty years ago, distributing stock options to anyone other than top management was virtually unheard of. But the engineering tradition that spawned Silicon Valley was much more egalitarian than traditional corporate culture.
This would be nice if it were true, but ESOP plans existed (and were used often) long before Silicon Valley. To be fair, the modern ESOP was invented in SF, but at Peninsula Newspapers, not Fairchild. It’s more accurate to say that SV perfected the art of distributing wealth historically concentrated in one or two multi-digit billionaires across the bank accounts of four or five single-digit billionaires and a few multimillionaires to boot. An improvement for sure, but not quite the egalitarian miracle we’d like to believe.
That’s not to say that SV doesn’t have its structural advantages. For instance, there’s ample evidence that California’s distaste for non-compete clauses has played a very large role in productivity enhancement, which makes sense if you believe (as Steven Johnson does) that innovation derives from the continuous interplay of ideas. But does anybody in SV actually believe that technological innovation is driven solely (or even mostly) by the profit incentive? Because the evidence (at least according to TED) suggests otherwise…