The Shadow, mildly frequent reader, first time poster, and all-around international man of mystery, wishes to share the following WSJ article with this readership, given our collective (FUCK, I can’t believe I just used the “C-word”) capitalist bone-bone. Without further ado, here’s the article for your sweet saline finish:
Advice to New Grads: Scale or Bail
Want to change the world? Don’t bother volunteering—get a real, ‘boring’ job.
By Andy Kessler
Dear Grads: How can you make an impact on this world? Michael Keaton told Kent State students, “I’m Batman.” Ronan Farrow encouraged Loyola Marymount’s class of 2018 to “trust that inner voice.” Human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney told Vanderbilt grads last week, “Courage is needed more than ever.”
Maybe you’re looking for something less vacuous than warmed over “Wizard of Oz” themes? If so, put down your JUUL vape pen, unplug from “Fortnite,” tuck in your “I Am the Change” shirt, and listen up. Scale or bail.
Many of you graduates think you want socially conscious careers—giving back, fighting injustice and making a difference. “Well, you know, we all want to change the world.” You want to reduce inequality, end poverty, comfort the homeless, expand human dignity. Guess what? Me too! But you’re going about it the wrong way.
Some 44% of millennials believe they do more to support social causes than the rest of their family, according to the 2017 Millennial Impact report. If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. You’re one of the privileged few who have the education to create lasting change. It may feel good to ladle soup to the hungry, but you’re wasting valuable brain waves that could be spent ushering in a future in which no one is hungry to begin with.
There’s a word that was probably never mentioned by your professors: Scale. No, not the stuff on the bottom of your bong or bathtub. It’s the concept of taking a small idea and finding ways to implement it for thousands, or millions, or even billions. Without scale, ideas are no more than hot air. Stop doing the one-off two-step. It’s time to scale up.
I hear you talking about food deserts and the need for urban eco-farms to enable food justice. You certainly have the jargon down. You can hoe and sickle and grow rutabagas to feed a few hungry folks, but then it’s really all about you. A better option: Find a way to revamp food distribution to lower prices. Or reinvent how food is grown and enriched to enable healthier diets. Call it a Neo-Green Revolution.
Don’t spend all your time caring for the sick. Prevent disease. Gene therapy, early detection and immunotherapy can change the trajectory of disease because they scale. Don’t build temporary shelters. Figure out how to 3-D print real homes quickly and cheaply. Why tutor a few students when you can capture lessons from best-of-breed teachers and deliver them electronically to millions? That’s scale.
Scale is about doing more with less. From just an idea, you really do get something for nothing. It’s about the productivity increases that create wealth. There is too much talk of sustainability, the fight over slices of a pie, zero-sum games. That’s the wrong framework. You need sustainability only if you stick to one-off moves.
Perhaps you’re doubtful. You’ve been drilled to fear a dystopian future. Relax; the world is not going to hell in a Whole Foods handbasket. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is not a documentary. Technology exists to enable scale. Only with productive jobs can you figure out which problems are important and have a fighting chance to scale and solve them.
I know what you’re thinking: A “real” job sounds boring. Your business-intelligence analyst title won’t sound as interesting at EDM festivals compared with your friend’s project to raise $10,000 and clean up a few tenements in a Rio de Janeiro favela. But I can guarantee you’re the one having real influence.
Everyone asks, “What do you do?” If you’re employed in a business that scales—and most “boring” jobs are—tell people you’re solving global poverty. Because it’s true. You’ll be more significant than selfish socially conscious conspirators. They get psychic gratification while you get the job done.
I understand that you’re young and striving for a purpose—intentional inclusivity, whole self, intersectionality, detoxifying oppression, whatever. Great. Keep that fire in your belly. But when you see oppression, think opportunity. Channel that energy to change the stagnant status quo through scale in education, banking and especially government.
If you don’t think I’m credible, you too can listen to Bono. As he told Georgetown students a few years ago, “Entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.” Of course it does. Want to change the world? Stop doing one-off volunteering and scale up.
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