No mercy / no malice

I first came across a talk by NYU Professor Scott Galloway two and a half years ago. He gave a 15 minute overview of what was going on in tech at the DLD conference in NYU. I found his talk very insightful and used some of his material when I gave a couple of presentations on the same topic while I was in graduate school. But, I wasn’t really drawn to him as I thought of him as someone who seemed to just enjoy being controversial.

When I stumbled upon his material again this year, I found it thought provoking again. So, I subscribed to his weekly newsletter – “No Mercy/No Malice.” I’ve been subscribed for the past few months and have begun to really look forward to receiving them on Friday’s.

He splits his newsletter into two parts – one half is commentary on technology and one half is commentary on life. I came for the commentary on tech but I find myself sticking around for the life.

I thought I’d share a portion from his “life” section from 2 weeks ago – a post about the schools he went to when he was growing up.

It seemed as if the teachers at Emerson were angry and hungover a lot. Emerson defined the term “warehousing” youth. Most of the affluent white kids transferred throughout the first year, leaving a student body from middle and lower income households. We had black against white softball games and, though technically an integrated school, we self-segregated on campus. There was little commingling until the ninth grade, when you began to see friendships form across racial boundaries. My closest friend was a Mormon kid, Brett.

We then went to University High School in Santa Monica, which had a similar demographic makeup. A strange and nice thing happened: we all began to get along. I still hung out with Brett, but also was friends with Ronnie Drake, a black kid who lived in Bell Gardens and was starting middle linebacker for the University Warriors football team. Our mascot was a Native American with a headdress, screaming as if he was mid-battle. The mascot has since been changed to the Wildcats, but that’s another post.

Ronnie’s dad was a reverend who would bellow, when I would visit, “Somebody feed this boy.” I drove a Renault Le Car and wore cut-off shirts, Top-Siders with no socks, and Vuarnets. Ronnie drove a Buick, liked silk shirts, and also wore Top-Siders. I was hoping to get into a UC campus, and Ronnie was hoping to get a football scholarship, which he did, to Linfield College in Oregon.

We all studied, partied, and took ski trips to Mammoth together. After being color-blind in elementary school, we were again color-blind in high school. We lived in different neighborhoods, listened to different music, and wore different clothes. But the things that united us overrode our differences. We were all awkwardly spilling into adulthood, establishing the links between effort and achievement, trying to figure out who we were, what attributes we wanted to develop, and what was next given your grades and early indications on your potential. It wasn’t a given that we were all going to college, nor would even get a job.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” It’s not that we didn’t like each other. We just needed to get to know one another better.

Thanks to his strong opinions, his newsletter never lacks personality. For instance, here’s the end of his note from yesterday – There are few better examples of what Pope Francis refers to as an unhealthy “idolatry of money” than our obsession with Steve Jobs. Though he accumulated an estimated $8.3 billion fortune through his holdings in Apple and a 7.4% stake in Disney, there is no public record of Mr. Jobs giving money to charity. It is conventional wisdom that Steve Jobs put “a dent in the universe.” No, he didn’t. Steve Jobs, in my view, spat on the universe. People who get up every morning, get their kids dressed, get them to school, and have an irrational passion for their kids’ well-being, dent the universe. The world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone.

But, what I love is that he makes me stop and think – every week. And, for that I’m grateful.

Thanks Prof Galloway.

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