Tangential Tuesdays #67

So You Want To Be a Chef, NH Skiing, Inequality

Hey Team, happy Tuesday. We are living in some wild times right now. I suspect this time period will be written about for years to come (for a number of reasons).

I am not one to panic at all (due to the current state of the markets OR corona), and I don’t think you should either. That said - we should take coronavirus very seriously.

This tweet said it best:

Okay - enough of that, let’s get on with the newsletter.



Ambition

I was talking to a stranger over the weekend about ambition. We both agreed that we’d gotten less ambitious since finishing college and moving to the bay area.

The first question is why?

(Disclaimer: I talk generally below, but I am really just talking about my own experiences from a short time living/working in the bay area)

Why

The roots of post-grad lack of ambition start with naivete and a lack of options. Most highly ambitious college seniors I know don’t join a big tech company like Facebook or Google.

But they don’t feel ready to start their own company and don’t have the network or skillset to join a high-quality early-stage start-up.

So they join a midstage, pre-IPO company.

It’s worth noting that these types of jobs are also the ones that are rewarded with the most social capital (at least in the short-term).

But, at least in my (extremely limited) experience, these jobs are less crazy than I imagined. I put in very “regular” hours and am rarely put in high-pressure situations to perform. I continue to learn things, but not in the same, all-consuming way I seemed to in college and not with the same passion.

I go to work each day, do a decent job, and then leave. And I am rewarded well for it! I am making more money at age 24 than I thought I ever would in my life.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

- Nassim Taleb

I can’t help but wonder if there lies part of the problem. Once we get a taste of making money in tech and make friends across all of the tech companies, it’s hard not to fell the pull of climbing the closest mountain. It’s easy to forget that the reason I moved to SF was to take risks when I meet someone my age at Stripe making 300k.

And the worst part is, a certain degree of focus on money is actually rational. Many recent graduates have significant student debt.

There will, of course, be people argue that all of these things are good.

  • Focus more on being well-rounded, social, friendships

  • Money = freedom

  • Happiness > ambition

On a certain level, I agree. I also think comfort has a way of tricking you into forgetting the things you deeply care about. If you want to live a nice life and retire early, banking 300+k/year at Airbnb or Stripe is probably the way to go. But just because people around you want that doesn’t mean you also want that.


At this point, you might also be thinking: THIS IS THE ULTIMATE FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.

Maybe - but I think it’s bigger than that. We need ambitious people to take risks for progress to happen. That feels important.


The followup, what can we do about it?

  • Just do it. I own my decisions. There is nothing stopping me from making less money in favor of more risk and ambition.

  • Encourage friends around you with similar goals to do the same.

  • Communities like On Deck are helping

That’s it. Thanks for reading this *rant*


So You Wanna Be a Chef— by Bourdain (h/t Trevor Mckendrick)

If you enjoy cooking at all, or are just obsessed with Anthony Bourdain in general (me) you will love this article.

I feel like every industry that gets glorified needs a letter like this.

Even though I have no plans to quit working in tech (ever really) - I feel like there’s a lot of lessons here.

If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go. Use every possible resource you have to work in the very best kitchens that will have you—however little (if anything) they pay—and relentlessly harangue every possible connection, every great chef whose kitchen offers a glimmer of hope of acceptance. Keep at it. A three-star chef friend in Europe reports receiving month after month of faxes from one aspiring apprentice cook—and responding with “no” each time. But finally he broke down, impressed by the kid’s unrelenting, never wavering determination.

It very much depends on what you’re optimizing for, but it seems like a key to being great at anything is willing to make extreme sacrifices in the short term in exchange for long-term learning.

The ideal progression for a nascent culinary career would be to, first, take a jump straight into the deep end of the pool. Long before student loans and culinary school, take the trouble to find out who you are.

Are you the type of person who likes the searing heat, the mad pace, the never-ending stress and melodrama, the low pay, probable lack of benefits, inequity and futility, the cuts and burns and damage to body and brain—the lack of anything resembling normal hours or a normal personal life?

Or are you like everybody else? A normal person?

Find out sooner rather than later. Work—for free, if necessary—in a busy kitchen.

^I’m sure I would never have listened to any of this advice at 18 - but I can’t help but think this also applies to other industries.

If I understood what the day to day of a chemical engineer looked like before spending 4 years of my life studying it, it probably would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering.

Read it here.


My favorite skier, skiing in my favorite mountain range. It doesn’t get better than this 🙂


Inequality is one of the biggest problems we face today.

agree or disagree?

Here’s Paul Graham’s controversial take:

Let's be clear about that. Eliminating great variations in wealth would mean eliminating startups. And that doesn't seem a wise move. Especially since it would only mean you eliminated startups in your own country. Ambitious people already move halfway around the world to further their careers, and startups can operate from anywhere nowadays. So if you made it impossible to get rich by creating wealth in your country, people who wanted to do that would just leave and do it somewhere else. Which would certainly get you a lower Gini coefficient, along with a lesson in being careful what you ask for.

Read the article here.


Thumbtack is essentially mandatory work from home starting this Thursday due to COVID19. Probably for an absolute minimum of 2 weeks…it’s going to be interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever worked more than two straight days remotely before.

I’ll be probably cooking and eating out a lot more than normal. Sooo if you have any recipe recommendations or restaurant recommendations, send them my way 😃.


That’s all for this week. Stay safe out there

- Taylor