Why not You?
All Things Venture #087
I had a teammate in college who was the life of the party. A real guy’s guy, but not overbearing. Someone that you could shoot the shit with, with just about anything. Politics, careers, technology. He was an open book who wanted to be successful, and for you to be successful as well. He was a year younger than me, and one of his go to sayings was, “It’s a great day to be great.” It became a bit of a team motto of ours, and one of those inner friend group sayings that we kept up for the next 3 years. I think about that phrase a lot. “It’s a great day to be great.” It sounds cliche. It sounds like the type of thing you see engraved on a mall bought tiger-eye bracelet, or the type of thing you find on a handcrafted motivational poster made by a verified Etsy seller. In any event, cliche as it sounds, it has always resonated with me.
Recently, it reminded me of another quote that was somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind. I had to google it to find the whole thing, but it comes from the late, the great Steve Jobs. Here’s what it was:
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world-try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. But life-that's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it-you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” (source)
Now I am not one of these people in tech who will endlessly fawn over Jobs, nor do I think he is perfect by any stretch of imagination. But man. You have got to give credit where credit is due. That shit is inspiring. The agency that this statement has? And provides? It’s something else. It practically jumped off the page and shook me awake this morning. What’s even more impressive? Steve Jobs wasn’t shot out of the success cannon. He wasn’t a dyed in the wool, silver spoon in mouth, triple legacy, I have every resource in the world type of person. He took a meandering path. An adopted son of a middle class family. A college dropout. A meandering search for spirtitual enlightment in India. A failure in his first stint as CEO at Apple. He was someone, like anyone, like any of us, who was riddled with flaws, internalized self-doubt, and had their own personal and professional challenges. And so what? He overcame them. He willed to life the very thing you’re likely reading this article on. He set the foundation for Apple to be a $2 trillion dollar company. This turtleneck wearing mf’er, f’d around and found out, and in the process - changed the world!
All of which, begs me to ask the question.
Why not you?
With whatever idea you have in your head, whatever problem you notice in the world, whatever vision you have for the future. Why can’t you be the person to bring that vision to life? Why can’t you be the person to effectuate a new solution?
Take Steve’s word for it, “everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” Sure, people have different skills. People have different strengths, different advantages. People have different areas of interest, or expertise, or networks, but those all can be built! They can be grown! They can be refined. They can be tinkered with. They can be torn down, rebuilt, questioned, affirmed, reaffirmed, and improved! They can be improved in a day. They can be improved in a week, in a month, in a year - whatever you want. Whatever you decide. Whatever you focus your effort on, your energy on, your desire on - more likely than not, it has a chance of becoming reality, or at least some shade of it.
To be honest I was fired up this morning from the jump. I was excited about the future, I was excited about the opportunity I have to do something special and I wanted to share that energy, that excitement with all of you. One of my absolute favorite things about technology and the world of venture capital is, when it’s at it’s best, how open and collaborative these communities can be. Yes there is an innate, underlying desire for many people to absolutely rake in cash (not a bad thing, imo). But there is also a desire to help. A desire to build. A desire to be impactful in the world. Personally, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t care about leaving my mark. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t hustling to try to see what the edges of life, the edges of opportunity could be.
With all that being said, I’ll leave you all with this. I mentioned the other week that I was reading the fantastic book, “Merchants of Debt” which is about the early days, and subsequent journey of KKR. There’s another quote from the book that I also find incredibly inspiring, that I think similarlly applies.
“In his early years at Bear, Stearns, Kravis was constantly on the go. “There was no such thing for Henry as ten minutes with nothing to do.” Shiftan remembered. Stuck at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport one day, waiting for a connecting flight, Shiftan settled into a waiting lounge and read the newspaper, expecting Kravis to join him. Kravis didn’t. He found a pay phone, riffled through the yellow pages, and began cold-calling local business brokers, asking if they knew of any companies up for sale. (They didn’t)”
What I love about this quote is that it’s an example of someone in the attempt to influence the world. It is an attempt from someone looking to carve out their own path, an attempt to see how broad their life could be, to see just how tightly luck and opportunity are intertwined. It is also a glimpse into the early days of someone who became wildly successful, in no small part because of attempts like the above. I fundamentally believe that despite the towering stature and success today of people like Henry Kravis and Steve Jobs, that there is nothing limiting you, me, any of us, from achieving similar heights. I’ll say it again for emphasis. There is nothing limiting you, me, or any of us - from achieving similar heights.
Someone, is going to create a new $2 trillion dollar company.
Someone, is going to create a system that brings affordable, renewable energy to the world in mass.
Someone, is going to redefine how we create, interact with, and consume media.
Someone, is going to rearchitect our financial system and close the gap between those with capital, and those who need capital
Someone, is going to shift the world in the direction of their own ambition, their own vision, their own solutions.
So again I ask,
Why not you?
Hope you all enjoyed today’s article. It’s a great day to be great. I’ll talk to you all soon.