I grew up poor, and one of the hardest things about being poor is that there are so few role models for success. Except for teachers, I didn't know anyone educated. Except for the people my father worked for (and mostly hated), I didn't know anyone wealthy or successful. More of the grown men I knew were failures, criminals, and addicts than successes.
As a smart child in this environment, teachers and other authority figures expected intelligence to lead to obedience, and were frustrated that I didn't care that much about their rules, that I wasn't interested in being especially good at being mediocre. With a slightly different twist in the wind, I might well have wound up a criminal myself, although I like to think I'd have been a very good one.
Even when I left my hometown to go to college, it took me years to adjust to a "normal" life. And it took me years more to realize again what I knew instinctively as a child - that succeeding at mediocrity wasn't a worthwhile life.
The men and women who have made a point of being social entrepreneurs, of being role models in communities that desperately need them - they're better, braver, and tougher than most of the founders we fawn over here. And they'll make a more meaningful contribution to the world.
In all the studying, learning, planning and risk assessment I realized it's easier and less risky to just go to college. That and stealing isn't really something to aspire to in life.
Probably why I didn't stay in finance/accounting/banking. At least salesmen have to convince you of their lies, the money wonks just take it out of your account every month.
I'm glad computer games give me the chance to play at stuff to be honest, it's a great outlet.
With a statement like that it sounds like you lack some important critical thinking skills. Try to provide concrete examples of things rather than echoing standard claptrap.
You could've asked the person to elaborate or be specific, or even contradicted or questioned them- without saying "you lack <important skill>" and "try to <be useful> rather than <being unimportant>".
Why so mean? Was the meanness intentional, or...? Genuinely curious.
"[F]inance/accounting/banking" is not one coherent blob of thieves or parasites or whatever labels otherwise apparently reasonable people get away with attaching to anything in the field. Of course it's not a divinely perfect field either (not that anyone is claiming that), of course it has big and important problems. But especially if you work in or near finance, it gets really annoying just how accepted and endorsed rampant prejudice is in the rest of society.
One helpful technique is to read what you've written out loud and consider whether it's something you'd say to someone's face.
Really, grow a thicker skin.
Here were my thoughts:
1- We could have had an interesting discussion about finance
2- instead, it went "money wonks"-> "you lack critical skills" + "standard claptrap" -> "you lack some important read-a-newspaper-in-the-last-seven-years skills".
3- Back-and-forth snide, snarky attacks are far more boring (to me) than actually discussing points of contention, different points of view, so on.
4- I definitely appreciate that you took the trouble to link to the Emergency Economic Stablization Act, but it feels to me like the conversation had already soured before that.
5- I'm writing what I'm writing not so much because of this particular instance, but because mean comments in general tend to derail otherwise interesting or could've-been-interesting threads. Which feels wasteful to me. A mean comment has a souring effect that's IMHO not worth the short-term entertainment value.
I've never heard a convincing argument about the Fair Housing Act - more than anything it reminds me of the 'spectre' of welfare queens riding around in limos that was a favorite of the right for many years. Although, I suppose if your claim is merely that it is more responsible than any individual banker, that might be plausible, if only because the contribution of any individual banker must necessarily be quite small (even if some of them did end up becoming famous for their role).
I'd go so far as to say- entrepreneurs are just people who are trying to solve problems. I get annoyed when I hear people ask things like "How do I become an entrepreneur?" in an aspirational way, as though it's some sort of cool club where all the cool kids are hanging out.
An entrepreneur is just a person who's so bothered by a particular problem, who's so dissatisfied with the status quo that she decided to get her hands dirty and make a dent in it.
> entrepreneur (n.)
1828, "manager or promoter of a theatrical production," reborrowing of French entrepreneur "one who undertakes or manages," agent noun from Old French entreprendre "undertake" (see enterprise). The word first crossed the Channel late 15c. (Middle English entreprenour) but did not stay. Meaning "business manager" is from 1852.
He created a missled and malign enterpreneuship, but he did create something.
Changing your own 'hood is the first step to changing the world. There's not enough being said about serving your neighbors and getting to know your regulars on a first name basis.
So yeah, I feel I'm going after the problems of my peers, of my tribe. My 'hood, even if it's a virtual kind of 'hood.
There have been a number of studies showing the unintentional white supremacist thinking that even folks who think of themselves as progressive and anti-racist exhibit (and even people of color and women can fall prey to these same biases against their own race or gender). That perpetuates a cycle that can only be broken by visible disruption of the cycle. i.e. people who aren't historically in leadership roles, who aren't historically in tech roles, being empowered and successful in those roles.
Note that I'm not making governmental policy suggestions here. I'm making cultural and systemic observations. I don't know the solutions, really, but awareness and acknowledgment of the problem is certainly one of the early steps.
Anyway, I loved having a good barber shop. I haven't found a good one since moving back to Texas, but it really is a nice thing to have a regular barber who does a nice job, and knows and cares about his community. It's unfortunate that there are so few barbers left...they've been replaced by the chain haircutter places that hire people straight out of beauty school; those businesses are rarely worker-owned (they rent the chairs, or are part-time employees), and rarely have any significant ties to the community (though they are often franchises, possibly owned by someone in the same city or, at least, the same state).
Unintentional bias lives in the subjective and human parts of our procedures. The fewer decisions humans make, the less bias you see.
See also this blog post I wrote recently. Drivers I flag on the street explicitly and intentionally discriminate against me about 80% of the time. With Uber/Ola/Taxi4sure it's 0%. https://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2015/why_i_like_uber.html
The objective measure for an Uber ride is orders of magnitude simpler: "is reasonably civilised, unlikely to soil the car or abuse the driver" and even then, their approach to deciding who fits, is to just try, then kick you off the system if you don't live up to the criteria.
Further, even if you can only systematize part of the process, that still helps you debug. If women all get rejected on the (blind) coding test then you don't need to waste time looking for bias. If women get rejected at the culture fit interview then you might want to look for bias at that stage.
When you control for gender the gender pay gap disappears.
By which I mean deciding which factors are biasing factors and which are not is not clear cut.
I'm glad you did, and I'm looking forward to reading more!
There are systemic changes that are needed to fix this problem. I didn't think it was particularly relevant to this article so I explicitly excluded it from my comment, but one cannot deny that government plays a huge role in all of this.
And by "fix itself" you mean it will shift even more wealth from the lower 75% to the top 1% - who will step in to fill the power void.
"Money begets money, power begets power." Society is full of self-reinforcing feedback loops like that. You need a damping factor that prevents any single individual or corporation from amassing too much power.
Look below and you see the poor and powerless, stacked one after another, poverty and powerlessness infinitely desperate the lower you look.
Unless you're near the very top or the very bottom, at every level of this power ladder the view is the same.
"I recently asked a wealthy political donor why he was supporting Bill de Blasio and his attacks on the wealthy."
"Because inequality is a problem in New York," he said. "The rich have gotten their way for too long."
Compared to the poor in developing and undeveloped countries where people earn $5 a day, your wealth and power relative to them might as well be the same as the wealth and power from 0.1% percenter relative to you. Them looking at you would feel the same as you (assuming $100,000 income) looking at a CEO making $5 million a year.
The only question is, with your wealth and power, how will you diffuse your power to reduce the world's inequality? If you can solve this problem, you can show the example for your family and close friends. If your family and close friends can solve this problem, so can your community, your neighbourhood, the rest of your city and nation.
It's an issue of mentality. A society is what it is because its members share a set of assumptions, ideas, mentalities. The one-percenters get even more one-percent-y every year because we all hold certain "truths" to be "self-evident".
For starters, we need less individualism. I'm not saying less individual freedom, mind you.
You have an observation shared with thousands of millionaires in NYC.
I'm helping my company setup a software development office in South Africa. It won't do much, but it'll provide half a dozen individuals with well paying jobs and diffuse some wealth we collect from Fortune 500 companies.
I'm also planning a trip to a developing country, paid for by that government, to deliver a class to local CS graduates there on how to become a contractors working with projects paying $50+ an hour. It won't do much but if I can help one or two individuals do this I'd be very happy. I was lucky when I traveled there for vacation, managed to talk to someone who works with the government's ministry of education.
I've only been working full time as a software engineer and formally graduated only last May and this is what I'm doing.
My wealth and power is likely more meagre than yours - but it is a lot less meagre than many others.
I hope one day you'll find your own way to help solve problems you see in this world, too.
> It's an issue of mentality.
I agree with you. See my reply to SwellJoe.
But, until the rest of the world is convinced that police are an outdated artifact of a dark age in human history and should be abolished, we have to reform the laws that inflict "justice" dramatically unevenly across races and classes.
To change the world, we first cultivate ourselves, and then our family, community, and radiate outwards, and finally the world will be changed.
When things are investigated, then true knowledge is achieved; when true knowledge is achieved, then the will becomes sincere; when the will is sincere, then the heart is set right (or then the mind sees right); when the heart is set right, then the personal life is cultivated; when the personal life is cultivated, then the family life is regulated; when the family life is regulated, then the national life is orderly; and when the national life is orderly, then there is peace in this world.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 54.
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
It will be honoured from generation to generation.
Cultivate Virtue in yourself,
And Virtue will be real.
Cultivate it in the family,
And Virtue will abound.
Cultivate it in the village,
And Virtue will grow.
Cultivate it in the nation,
And Virtue will be abundant.
Cultivate it in the universe,
And Virtue will be everywhere.
Therefore look at the body as body;
Look at the family as family;
Look at the village as village;
Look at the nation as nation;
Look at the universe as universe.
How do I know the universe is like this?
But as to the comment about MLK, it would be a mistake to comprehend the civil rights movement as being embodied in entrepreneurialism.
This being a startup community of entrepreneurs, it is tempting for us to celebrate the power of individual free enterprise paired with social cause. And that is noble. But the civil rights movement stands for organized action to fight racism at a systemic level. It is the more conservative, privileged sector that focuses on "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" individual entrepreneurialism as the pathway to racial equality.
The civil rights movement is about organized mass action to address the racism and disadvantages inherent in white-dominated institutions and social relations. That is what MLK stood for: fixing white racism and structural inequality, not merely black role models and self-esteem.
It is this "become a better person" aspect of MLK, which Dennis embodies, imho.
I'm not criticizing pg and the ycombinator crowd, in fact I have much respect and admiration for what they're trying to achieve. But I think small businesses don't get the respect that they deserve.
I'm glad to see an article like this which reminds us that small businesses can be an important part of our society. I also see some efforts by some people in the ycombinator network to expand beyond the mechanics of doing startups. I attended last year's startup school and was blown away and inspired by one of the speakers, Danae Ringelmann:
I think a lot of businesses tech and non-tech alike can take a page out of Dennis' book. You're not just running a business, for some, it can be a much more personal experience if you are willing to make the effort. As the author Don points out, he is willing to drive 30 minutes to not only see his mother, but also to get his haircut. You can't buy that kind of customer loyalty.
As with most things in life, sometimes just listening is all you need to do. Listen to your customers, make them feel important and valued. Surprisingly simple, but something most businesses fail to do.
Dennis has identified a problem that needed to be solved, has solved it and is doing it so well that his customers talk about him and keep returning.
But to a greater point: entrepreneurship isn't just about the millions or billions we more often hear in the news. Instead, it's also about the small biz owners like Dennis who aspire for great things for their communities, their family and friends, and yes, themselves.
We should shoot for the stars, but not get disappointed because we only reached the moon. Or heck, if we were able to "fly" at all... that's awesome.
Great write-up! Now, can Dennis also have an app? I'd like to help with that.
Next time when you visit him, just pass on my Hug!!
This reminds me of this movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108560/ (Who's the Man?)
A 1993 classic with a lot of known Hip Hop artists, the main characters basically help a well-known and very helpful barber in the community by joining the police and taking care of the community. Quite funny and entertaining.