According to Chris Sacca, the Lowercase Capital partner who made more than $US1 billion through his investments in companies like Twitter and Uber, Silicon Valley doesn’t need more business advice. It needs a lesson in empathy.
The current generation of entrepreneurs, investors, and programmers have a tendency to live in a bubble removed from the rest of the world, he tells “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss in the latest episode of Ferriss’ podcast.
They may be more highly educated than those who came before them, but they’re lacking the valuable experience that doesn’t come with a degree, like working construction or waiting tables in the summer, travelling, and volunteering in poorer parts of the world.
That’s resulted in a concentration of tech workers and investors with “narrow-band perspectives on the world,” Sacca says. “They were missing empathy. So they weren’t able to put themselves in the shoes of the folks they might be building a product for, what the problems of the world might be.”
He tells Ferriss that he’s always looking for ways to offset this problem for the founders he works with, as well as himself, and frequently recommends the following books.
“Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived” by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton
Peter Barton made a fortune in tech as the founder and CEO of Liberty Media, which acquired clients like the Discovery Channel and QVC. He left the company in 1997 and became the head of a foundation, a professor, and a Yahoo board member — he was busy, but he had enough freedom to enjoy spending time with his family. Then, in December 1998, he was diagnosed with incurable stomach cancer.
In 2002, Barton was approaching death and reached out to the writer Laurence Shames to help him tell his story. Barton died before “Not Fade Away” was published.
The book is Barton’s exploration of dealing with his mortality and taking stock of what truly mattered in his 51 years.
“You will cry reading this book,” Sacca says.
“It’s an exercise in what’s on the mind of the person who’s dying, and how is he thinking about the impact of his death on his family, on his friends, on his business partners, on his legacy, on the continuing responsibilities as a dad even though he’s passed on to the next life.”
“The book will not only leave you feeling incredibly lucky for what we’ve got here and where we are,” he says, “but at the same time will sharpen that sense of how do I put myself in somebody else’s shoes.”
“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” by Mohsin Hamid
This book is written in the second-person. It addresses the reader as “you,” making you the hero of the story.
It’s about growing up in a Southeast Asian slum and escaping to develop a business that brings you to an unnamed city in “rising Asia,” where you become a wealthy entrepreneur.
Hamid, whose family is from Pakistan, has lived there as well as in the US and UK. “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” published in 2013, is his profound twist on a self-help book, a meditation on ambition across vastly different social classes.
“You close that book and you feel like you’ve walked through 15 or 20 different lives in another world,” Sacca says.
“And I just think more of that would be better for all of us. I think it would be better for our industry, for the depth and the impact of the products we build. I just think it would be better for getting along with each other.”
After all, he says, it’s hard to lose sleep over a competitor’s new product when you have an appreciation for the magnitude of the privileges in your life.
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