My Kid’s Trust Fund Says” Get Back To Work”

Patrick posted an ad from a bygone era.

I picture Tim Allen reading that tweet, “They don’t make men like they used to, arh arh!!”

There are a lot of psychohistory comments in that thread but I’m gonna stay on the surface.

Josh commented predictably. He’s a VC and is generally quite vocal about the importance of startup teams working in-person.

[I’m not wading into the binary in-person vs remote debate. One of my smartest buddies runs a SaaS startup with 50-75 employees and would die on the in-person hill as far as the ability to compete in his space. I have other friends running fully distributed trading firms. Personally, I felt like being remote was fine, but I’m old, with established relationships and never worked in places with high colleague churn anyway. I’d just defer to whatever people who run stuff decide is best for their own organizations. I don’t need to have a global opinion on this.]

Ok, I’ll preface this by saying I like and follow Josh. But while his tweet advances his own consistent beliefs, I had the same reaction to the tweet as @ferventfinance — the issue of remote work is impertinent to the ad’s call to adventure.

We are taking Josh’s tweet too seriously, but it got a lot of love and I’m a bit wary of the sentiment behind that. If I had to project, I’m guessing the average person who hearted that tweet would strongly agree with the statement “entitled millennials/zoomers are destroying America”. Ironically, I don’t think Josh would agree with that. And I don’t agree with that statement either.

The sentiment is a close cousin of “people don’t want to work no more”. I’m sorry but if you feel like nodding along with that, hurry along —there are kids who need to be told to get off your lawn. In Nobody Wants To Work Anymore, Joachim Klement humorously (it takes 15 seconds to scan that post) reminds us that serious men have been shaking their fists at clouds for over a century.

And even if the sense that nobody wants to work was somehow more valid today than it was in those old newspaper clippings, you’d have to wonder what prompts that perception. The “back-in-my-day-I-walked-uphill-in-the-snow-both-ways” conservative slant will gravitate to explanations of declining work ethic. The liberal, Zach de la Rocha slant will scream that even if that was true, it was because a regressive system has reinforced Matthew effects until discouragement finally surrendered to alienation.

First, I’ll ask you. If you have any thoughts or want to share links that you found compelling on this please pass them along. I confess. My own impulse leans more towards the RATM side. I said “lean”. The first rule of Fight Club is you never go full Epsilon Theory. [A revealing barometer for this readership is how many people got that reference. I’m always testing you even if you don’t know it. Muahuhaha].

It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it feels like some social contract has been unraveled. That unraveling feels like it’s been happening since the internet took off and accelerated since the pandemic. I’m not a great student of history and any opinion I have about culture at large is discardable as lazy vibes. Instead, I’ll just point you to people who seem to be doing a decent job of investigating the scene of the unraveling.

Last week, I mentioned Rob Henderson’s Happiness Lottery. One of the quotes I excerpted is directly relevant to Patrick’s tweet:

I will never tire of highlighting this simple and profound finding: Sociometric status (respect and admiration from peers) is more important for well-being than socioeconomic status. In his powerful book Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton writes: “Provided that it is not accompanied by humiliation, discomfort can be endured for long periods without complaint. For proof of this, we have only to look to the example of the many soldiers and explorers who have, over the centuries, willingly tolerated privations far exceeding those suffered by the poorest members of their societies, so long as they were sustained throughout their hardships by an awareness of esteem in which they were held by others.”

Look at us today. We worship riches. We have spineless leadership, an assertion that needs no supporting evidence. The richest man in the world is a pathological liar who can’t resist the juvenile urge to move asset prices around with his thumbs. With the energy of a child who takes their ball and goes home, he bluffed that he would actually buy Twitter. He believes he’s above the law and who knows, maybe he is. But he’s long since discarded the looser pro-social ties of honesty and therefore honor.

Start to google “veterans” and this is the auto-complete:

That’s hardly scientific, but don’t you have the sense that the people who serve must look around at the leadership and think they’ve been played for suckers? The idea of doing the right thing feels like it’s becoming…quaint. You’re a patsy in a world of climbers all trying to “build generational wealth” so their children can be above the calls for cooperation1

from which true honor derives.

The children. Oh no, they won’t be failsons. From the grave, our trusts will guide our precious legacies, oops, I mean heirs and grandheirs. We’ll leave them links to threadbois explaining how they too can roll up dentist offices to flip to Blackhenge or whatever fund has $2 quadrillion of AUM and a negative cost of capital. Welcome to the mind of mobile capital in 2022.

Here’s a quaint thought. Role models matter. If people don’t want to go to an office, it’s exactly because there’s no adventure there. It’s not in their bedroom either, but at least they don’t need to suffer the indignity of risking their life on BART so their boss can exit at a high enough multiple to take some time off, before he searches for the CIO that will lead his family office. If the team energized you and you believed you needed to be in-person, you’d go. Note I said “energized” not “incentivized” because we take that word way too narrowly. That was Henderson’s point.

There are athletes who will run through a wall for their team and their coach. That feeling hasn’t disappeared. The people who inspire it have.

Umm, sorry. That got a bit out of hand. I might have blacked out for a second.

Seriously, back to people that are making reasonable guesses about what the hell is going on. Jim O’Shaughnessy (Patrick from the first tweet’s father) hosts the Infinite Loops podcast. He is well-read and gets smart guests who can go toe-to-toe with him in exploring what he refers to as the “Great Reshuffle”. A recent episode with Matthew Clifford made me listen twice. I pulled some takeaways that tie in well with today’s ramblings. You can check them out but I of course encourage you to give it a listen. Matthew is humble, brilliant, clear-eyed yet optimistic (I know that sounds impossible but just listen).

5 Ideas By Matthew Clifford on the Infinite Loops Podcast (14 min read)

If I excerpt here, it will be too long…it was a dense discussion and I did my best to distill what stood out to me. I reduced it to 5 topics:

  1. Modernity as the rise of variance-dampening institutions
  2. The internet as a variance amplifier and the role of ambition
  3. A verdict on whether the internet is a net good or net danger?
  4. Balancing equality and efficiency in the name of self-preservation
  5. Moral luck (which reminded me of epistemic humility as kindness)

For the people interested in Matthew’s prolific knowledge on backing start-ups, the back half of the episode is loaded with insight and a crazy stat about Iranian entrepreneurs in Singapore.

If you want to dive deeper, Matthew’s book was just released Thursday and is already #1 in its category on Amazon. Looks like a great read if you got dat thymos feelin.

How to Be a Founder: How Entrepreneurs can Identify, Fund and Launch their Best Ideas (Amazon Smile link)

[Note this is the Kindle version. The hardcover comes out in October]

  1. Cooperation. Flip a vowel to a consonant and a consonant to a vowel and you get Corporation. Jack White has a song of the same title whose words and music befit the message. A few lyrics:

    Yeah, I’m thinking about starting a corporation
    Who’s with me?
    Nowadays, that’s how you get adulation
    Who wants to start a corporation?
    I’m thinking about taking it all the way to the top
    Who’s with me?

    I’m gonna buy up all the empty lots and make one giant farm
    Who’s with me?
    Yeah, you know what I’m talking about?
    Who’s with me?
    Yeah, I’m thinking about starting a corporation
    Who’s with me?

    Take it right to the top

    Enjoy the vid and the song:

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