Deflating Ego

By editor on January 28, 2018 — 2 mins read

I can give you a very elegant narrative now: I came to a point in my life where I was tired of checking boxes for people. I had basically been living my parents’ life. When I went to college, they basically helped me decide what college, what major.

In many ways I was repressed. I wasn’t myself. I didn’t have a particularly fun high school experience. My dad was the one who went to the guidance counselor and got me to skip a grade, but then I was smaller than everybody else. I graduated at 16, and my voice had barely broken, I had not even really gone through puberty. I never had a girlfriend. All this shit!

I graduated and got a job working at this bank, and we were in a really tough financial situation. I grew up on welfare. With this bank, you could make money, and so I went to this bank to make money. I was a derivatives trader, I did really well, and I learned two things.

One, is that I’m really good at risk. I know how to take risk, and I’m relatively fearless about money because I never had an attachment to money, because I didn’t have money. The second thing I realized about myself is that I would ask these questions about my surroundings and I could never get a good answer but I would be pushing it down. You know, the guy that I work with is a total douchebag, but who cares? I’m going to make $120,000.

Eventually I got to a point after my first year where I was paid well, I was able to pay off my student debt, and I had a really seminal moment. I was going in for a super bonus, on top of what I’d get paid, because I’d done something really good for [the bank] and I had made them money. I expected $300,000, or $400,000. My boss at the time paid me $0. And it was because he saw that I was getting too egotistical and superficial.

I broke down, and I was crying. I walked out of his office, crying, I walked into the bathroom. And I asked, what am I doing? He’s right, I’m wrong. I didn’t like the person I was becoming, and I was like, “I’m just going to stop checking the boxes that my parents were telling me to check.” And it’s not their fault. They came from this place where they gave up everything, and not only did they want me to be successful, but they needed to have social capital that they could trade with their friends to make them feel better about their decisions.

It was a very complicated time, and I just [decided to leave] and apply for any job. (5:00)

Posted in: Ego

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.