It Matters How We Get There

1. Why bother to write this?

There are endless conversations about “whether it matters how you get there” ever since the beginning of mankind. I understand it’s almost impossible to end this debate any time soon, so I will try to put it in context to make it easier.

Specifically, now I am working in transportation industry, I started to think this argument from a slightly different but more concrete angle, which is “whether it matters how you get from point A to point B”.

I was and continue to be a strong believer of “it does matter”. I will explain here why it matters to me, and to you as well, and what we can do as a team going forward.

Please note that the views expressed here are my own, and are based on my personal experience and observations. These views are not the views of my employer, or directly related to my current position.

2: Who am I?

My name is Shenghu Yang and I am a software engineer at Lyft since early 2015.

Like many of us in California, I carry a label of “immigrant”. Actually who doesn’t? I was born in Southern China and landed at Pittsburgh, PA when I was 24. After two years in Carnegie Mellon university, I decided to pursue my version of American dream as an engineer in Silicon Valley.

Now I am at my early 30s. As father of two, I started to think a lot on how to educate my 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-young son. One thing I am actively thinking is how to answer them when someday they ask me “Dad, does it matter how we get there?”.

3: Why it matters to me?

Ever since I can remember, my father kept telling and demonstrating me a Chinese old saying, which is “Gentlemen love fortune, but in a proper way”. Throughout my school years, I was repeatedly educated that “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” I took those words seriously and completely, and it became the foundation of who I am.

My father died from lung cancer couple of years back. I still clearly remember all those heart broken days. Large part of this misfortune I think is due to air pollution caused by greedy and unsustainable economic development in my home town.

It is my personal loss due to greedy people who don’t care about how they get there. There are way more similar examples out there. However, there must be a better way to get there, which might take a bit longer, but once we get there it will sustain in an even longer term.

4: It matters to you, you may not realize it yet

For those who think that it doesn’t matter how you get there, I don’t think they are not against crime, violation or any other unlawful behavior. In other words, “be lawful” matters to you, hence I will simply skip this part.

Let’s focus on the so-called “gray areas”, where people might be on an assumption that the nicer ways would cost them more time and/or money, drag their career growth or eventually fail their business goal.

Yes, they are right, but only to some extend. Being “nicer” guys might cost you all of the above, but remember “bad” guys quickly lose their friends, stall & fail their career and screw up their business. If your destiny is the same anyway, why not having a more elegant journey.

Take a step back, think it in a longer term (if not life long), it might seem you are laggard at the beginning, but what really makes you is not the first mover advantage. Counter intuitively, it is the last mover who stay there long, for example Facebook was not the winning social network at the beginning, Google was not the winning search engine at the beginning neither. None of them is first mover, but both of them took the right amount of time & patience to build their network, scale, technology and most importantly brand, and eventually become the last major movers in their own fields.

5: All right, but there is not much I can do

People might think that I am just a small fish, while those big things can only come from big ones. Wrong, absolutely wrong!!! Let me show you why.

It’s perfectly reasonable that we do not donate 95% of our fortune as Bill and Melinda Gates do (5% to them is still ~4B). It’s perfectly reasonable that we do not devote ourselves to a transition to sustainable energy like Elon Musk does (as we have other important agenda).

However, have you thought why those big ones are working relentlessly on the mission to a better world? It’s because of you, all those influencers are just the reflection of our core values as a society. Honestly I would like to call them “influencees” more than “influencers”. It’s all those small things we do influence those with bigger power. By small things I mean it could be as basic as I buy product/service from companies which care more about our community; as little as my Facebook friends like a page of renewable energy; as simple as my colleague packs some food at restaurant and brings them to homeless on his way home. Slowly it could grow to as bigger as my roommate chooses donating his money over buying his own house.

I used to believe that “Money can’t buy you happiness”, where the point there is don’t be greedy and there is a happy world out there beyond money.

While I continue to believe the above logic, I also start to believe that “If money can’t buy you happiness, you don’t spend it right”. Here the point is you can buy other people in need happiness which ultimately translates to your own happiness.

6: It matters how you get from point A to Point B

As I said, I am working in transportation industry, so I would like to talk it a bit more as I have more context on it.

The big trend now is moving towards a sustainable transportation. Unsurprisingly, every one of us can contribute. You can definitely walk more, bike more and take more public transit, and you don’t have to dump your gasoline car today and buy an electric one if it costs you more money or hassle. You don’t have to go with ride-sharing if it doesn’t make a whole lot of economic sense. Even if you do choose ride-sharing, you don’t have to choose one over other platforms simply because one platform, say Lyft (or other based on your own judgement), has a nicer culture or brand (time & money matter too if not more).

What matters is not that you spend more just for good will; What matters here is all of us share the same core value of sustainable transportation, e.g. given same or similar cost implication, we all choose electric vehicle over gasoline cars, ride-sharing (or carpooling) over car ownership (much lower utilization means more wasted resource).

Finally, speaking of ride sharing, let’s go back to the question of “whether it matters how we get from point A to point B”. I hope by now we all share an answer that “it matters”, by this it absolutely doesn’t mean you should spend more or wait longer, it means that you care about sustainable energy, culture, brand and experience, without sacrificing your money and time.

7: The end

It matters how we get this far, and how we get from here to our next destination. Together we are marching towards a better world. Small thing has much bigger impact than you might think.

Remember, you are beautiful.