What You Need To Do To Live a Good Life

Don’t Be a Sheeple

The White House hosts GES 2016 Global Entrepreneurial Summit at Stanford [June 24, 2016]

Years ago when I was an MBA student at the Stanford, Jonathan Rosenberg, former Senior Vice President at Google, guest-lectured one of our classes. To a class of 60 MBA students, Jonathan goes:

“How many of you want to have successful careers in the future?”
Everyone in class raises their hands. After all, we were MBAs.
“Okay, now you guys should find partners who want to be stay-at-home spouses,” Jonathan says.
One of my classmates, let’s call her Yulia, says “But, my boyfriend is going to medical school. He wants to be a doctor. We both want successful careers.”
Jonathan goes, “That won’t work. You guys need to choose one person to pursue a successful career, and the other person supports.”
Anger flashes across Yulia’s face and she volleys back “But I don’t think that’s the way it should be.”
Yulia’s doing a degree at the Harvard Kennedy School, alongside her Stanford MBA. I think: Yulia is making a scene, I wonder if she learned it from Harvard?
Jonathan goes: “Well, that’s the way the world works.”
Yulia injects: “But just because that’s the way the world is, doesn’t mean that’s the way the world has to be.”
Jonathan say “I’m just saying you have to be realistic. The reality is that you cannot have a dual career family.”

Nope, Jonathan, the reality is that you can. It’s a common perception that you cannot. Go back to history and you’ll see tons of examples. Before the agricultural revolution, farmers had dual career families. Yep, both parents worked in the farms, and heck, their kids worked in the farms too. Every family was a dual-career family because they had to, for survival. Today, people who don’t know this history have a perception that this reality cannot exist.

The point of my MBA story is simply that the most obvious realities is often the ones that are hardest to see, and the hardest to understand. But in the trenches of adulthood, your ability to separate reality from perception has life-or-death implications — it determines whether you will live life in a waking coma. As I learned from Barack Obama at GES this week: many people live as sheeples. Sheeples are people who follow the crowd’s beliefs like sheep. Their perception of the world is simply what other people tells them to believe.

But what’s reality versus perception? How do you distinguish them? That’s where your education comes in. The point of education is not about books, or dogma, or even getting jobs so you can build your wealth. The point of education is to develop an ability to separate reality from perception. To recognize that your perception is most likely better or worse than reality, be it you’re an optimist or pessimist. The point of education is to awaken yourself from your waking coma. To find reality through facts. To not be blindly driven by the mundane stresses of your everyday adult life.

Why might you want to do that? Well if you’re automatically 100% certain that you know what reality is, if you want to operate within your default perceptions, then fine. Then you will not consider possibilities beyond what the sheeples believe. But if you learn how to think, how to expand your awareness, then you will see that you have other options. You can have that two career family, if that’s what you want. It is in your power to experience the world around you in a more fulfilling way. It is in your power to no longer experience a life that you detest. And when you do that, you’ll be struck with awe by the world around you. You’ll be fully, truly, searingly alive. You’ll feel on fire, connected with living creatures. Or at the least, you’ll live a better life.

Now, all this is just my belief on how to live a better life. If you choose to believe this, it doesn’t guarantee you life after death. But the simple reality is life before death. It’s about the value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with wealth, and everything to do with simple reality. Reality that is so real and essential, yet so hidden to us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over again:

Don’t be a sheeple.

Don’t be a sheeple.


Thank you to GES for bringing a special group of people together in Silicon Valley. To Barack Obama for speaking about the audacity of change, Rory Faber for speaking about the proliferation of sheeples, and Vu Van for being my partner in crime.

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