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Back To The Grass
Getting Off The Grid
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The title of this piece is not, as it may first appear, an apology for my latest relapse in my marijuana habit. It is, instead, a call back to a previous piece I wrote a few months ago.
This piece, much like that post, is a week where my thoughts are limited here because I’m off the grid. This week, there’s only one thought that I find myself ruminating on:
“We can’t assist or save the age, but the attempt to do so is the only way we have of even coming close to realizing some dignity and meaning for our lives. The longer the odds, the greater the obligation to try and beat them.” (Jason Zweig)
Next week for Contrary Research, we’re publishing a deep dive on how to build a decarbonized future. And as I’ve been editing the piece, I can’t help but feel the burden of the odds.
I so often feel the same way about a myriad of issues, not the least of which is climate change. Criminal justice, social programs, child hunger, and so much more. The burden of the odds of successful solving anything can be overwhelming.
At the same time, I’m reflecting on the piece that I published on the existential risk that faces venture capital, particularly the implications of a report called “Venture Predation.”
There is a broader discussion that I’ll write someday about the supposed death of venture capital someday. A fundamental component in the existence of venture capital is this idea that the vast majority of funds will, most likely, underperform the S&P 500. That’s true across asset classes. But, to Jason’s point, that is precisely the point. Everyone proposes to beat those odds.
Mike Birbiglia, a great comedian, has a joke where he criticizes people crediting Abraham Lincoln for the quote “Whatever you are, be a good one.” But I actually really like the quote. And I intend to help my children live by it. If they want to be an actor, I encourage them to be truly exceptional at what they do.
Now, there is certainly a balance. I am, by no means, an intense contender about everything I do or my children do. I want them to find a balance between being good, and being happy. I’m not looking to encourage my kids to be the subject matter for Black Swan 2, yaknowwhatimean?
Instead, I see the pursuit of greatness as a state of mind more than a status. Several months ago, I wrote a piece about learning how to dream, and using Walt Disney as a backdrop for that discussion.
That act of learning to dream is, similarly, a state of mind more than any particular accomplishment. In that same piece, I quoted a sentiment from figs video with Alan Rickman:
My favorite part of his response to the question of advice for young actors:
“Forget about acting. Whatever you do as an actor is cumulative. Go to art galleries, listen to music, know what's happening on the news, in the world, and form your opinions, develop your taste and judgement. So that when a quality piece of writing is put in front of you your imagination, which you've nurtured, has something to bounce off of."
As we all occasionally take a break, and consider the implications of the odds against us, it is critical to think about how valuable the experience is, independent of the outcome.
As an investor, there is value in recognizing the value of your life that’s been lived. You can become a better investor by seeking out the experiences that make you into a more well-rounded character. The pursuit of greatness is state of mind, not a one off accomplishment. It’s not about what you are, it’s about what you are becoming.
Go touch some grass my friends. Get to know yourself a little bit. God speed.
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