The Insurgent Who Loved Me

On class traitors and eight-year-olds

I’m on my book tour (The Algebra of Happiness, Penguin Portfolio), and I’m spent. The 30–40 interviews, talks, and podcasts have me not just tired, but sated on… me. Talking about happiness this much feels like virtue signaling, or the third bag of SweeTarts you ate as a teen. I feel like if anybody, including me, consumes any more of me and my advice on happiness, they’re going to throw up all over the back seat.

Class Traitor

So, brother, welcome to the resistance.

Uber IPO and Heat Shields

He’s also lipstick on cancer. Ride-hailing is the tobacco of the gig economy and the most recent battle waged by the lords against the serfs in the US. We’ve sequestered the mostly non-white, mostly non-college-educated drivers (3.9 million of them) from the mostly white, mostly college-educated employees (22,000 of them) at HQ, who will split, with their investors, the value of BMW and Ford. Btw, BMW and Ford employ 334,000 people. Pretty sure most have health insurance. The average hourly wage at Ford is $26/hr. At Uber, it’s $9/hr.

Uber is going public today. Unlike Lyft, which will either be acquired or go out of business, Uber has a global brand and has demonstrated they have a flywheel — Uber Eats. CNBC reported they were pricing at the low point of their range. However, they are putting more lipstick on the pig, as Uber’s valuation is down 33% from the $120 billion reported earlier this year. “Let’s hope the markets haven’t put down the crack pipe,” said the board/bankers at Uber.

If Uber leverages their formidable brand, culture of innovation, and flywheel, they could be worth $40 billion, even $50 billion — a 50% decline from their pricing the eve of the IPO.

The Insurgent Who Loved Me

The result is simple: there is a thin layer of anxiety, even terror in our house. At any moment, he might strike. Will he refuse to take a bath? Will we hear an unnatural thud from upstairs, a pause, and then a scream from his brother? Despite the Hallmark Channel trying to convince us otherwise, research shows people who don’t have kids are often happier (see above: climate of terror).

A Series of Moments

Also, budding ambition made me much more centered on the future, again taking me out of the moment. School, religion, society all link success with planning your future — focusing your current capital (attention, thought, effort) on shaping your life ahead. The MBA program at Stern and my boys’ 2nd and 5th grade teachers train us to lose the moment. It works. Always thinking about tomorrow (need to review client PowerPoint deck), next week (what investors should I set up coffee with, as I need to set the groundwork for our Series C financing). Never in the moment. When I’m lying in bed with my boys as they fall asleep — not proud of this — I often check my email on my phone. If time is a series of moments, being in the here and now, I’m losing time. Years become seasons, and then a series of fewer moments that find purchase in my brain.

Life… is… slipping… through… my grasp.

Catheter TV

CNBC is less business television than catheter television. The average age of the CNBC viewer is 67. Since my sons are eight and 11, that means there were two viewers in Osaka or the San Ysidro Valley (two “blue zones”) aged 122 and 127. The typical viewer of CNBC is a guy and his oxygen tank, wondering if he should buy or sell Amazon for his 401(k). He loves the hotties on catheter TV, and thinks that young whippersnapper Cramer (64) is a real hoot.

The commercials are a four-minute lesson in how much it sucks to be old — catheters, CPAPs, Life Alert, and opioid-induced constipation. Broadcast television has become so desperate, they’re willing to run commercials that are thinly veiled attempts to defraud seniors. For just $49.99 you can learn to “Trade like Chuck!” Who’s Chuck? An old man who discovered a “proprietary” trading method and can now take his kids and grandkids on beach holidays. So, order now. The mushroom cloud s**tshow that is a corrupt Facebook provides shade for blatant attempts to steal from seniors vis-à-vis respectable business journalists. But I digress.

A commercial for a statin that lowers cholesterol levels comes on catheter TV. My eight-year-old is in new territory, as TV has taught him that not only do we not get sick, but most people have some sort of superhuman power like controlling the weather, being immortal, or the ability to read minds. But seven minutes of catheter television, and the harshness of life has hit him square in the eyes. He asks, “What’s cholesterol?” His older brother knows everything, and reminds us several dozen times a day. “It’s how old people die.”

The insurgent absorbs this information, pauses, and his lower lip begins (no joke) to quiver. He glances at his brother (nope, he’s safe), shifts his gaze to his mother (okay, she looks young), and then fixes his eyes on me. The room feels still. He is discovering mortality… that it’s possible to lose people you love. And his dad is old. He flops over like a fish on a boat, scrambles across the couch on his elbows and knees, like a GI in training traversing under barbed wire, and wraps himself around me, hugging me like a tree. He demands/requests/begs: “Daddy, don’t catch cholesterol.” Time’s inevitable march stops.

It’s a worthwhile query: Who are the people who arrest time for you? These people are your life. The rest is just filler.

In the Moment

This is it. An instant.

Time is barreling me toward the end. But all things past and future are rendered obsolete by the present — this moment. He is an insurgent, wreaking chaos in our house. But he loves me… completely. And that’s enough.

Life is so rich,
Scott

P.S. As a preview of my new book — Recode/Decode interview with my partner in crime Kara Swisher.

Prof Marketing @NYUStern · Founder @L2_digital @redenvelope @prophetBrand · Contributor @bloombergtv · Cohost Pivot podcast · Weekly musings profgalloway.com

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