Live Your Life

By editor on February 20, 2018 — 4 mins read

It’s funny, and this is going to sound flippant, but I don’t particularly care. Now, that’s taken me a long journey to get to a place where I can comfortably tell you that answer. But I don’t care. I don’t care what they think.

I’m on a path. I have to do what I have to do. I’m at a point in my life, now, where I have to be very inside-out motivated, and so it would be disingenuous for me to give some glib answer about what I want them to think of me because honestly, at some very, very, basic level I just don’t care.

Everybody grows up in these social hierarchies that pound into you certain ways of behaving and certain value systems. That happens if you’re born a woman instead of a man, that happens if you’re born black vs. white, or if you’re born Muslim vs. Catholic… All of these things basically have, in unfortunate ways, these predefined expectations of you as an individual. And so in many ways a lot of people, despite their best intentions to break away from that, get beaten down into a system where that’s what they end up living out.

And so, you know, in my example, my parents emigrated to Canada. We grew up on welfare, I’m kind of like, very honest with it now, because I’ve accepted it and lived it. I was deeply ashamed of it when I grew up. I was a pathological liar about it when I grew up, and all my friends knew that I was lying. I’d have them drop me off like 18 blocks away from where I actually lived and I would walk home. And I pretended I lived in a house that I didn’t live in, I mean, it was crazy.

I was deeply trying to live out… because I went to this rich high school, and I was like the only not-rich kid, and so it just created all these things that it’s taken me a long time to unpack.

And when I went to school my parents were like, “Oh you have to be a doctor or an engineer or a lawyer, because that’s the only way we’ll feel socially validated for all the sacrifices we made to be here.” And I did it. I checked the box. And then when I graduated they were like, “Oh you need to do the thing that’s most respected; I went to work at an investment bank for a year.”

So for many years, I was living my parents’ life, and I was basically getting outside-in validation. And then at some point, it just started to chip away where there was this little circuitry break, and I just kept saying, “I just don’t feel right about the decisions that I’m making.” And that culminated, ultimately, after I went to a place like Facebook that gave me tremendous confidence in my own abilities.

I was just always telling myself, “I just don’t feel like I’m living my life.” And look. I have it much easier than other people, because I think that the struggles that they go through are much deeper and much more psychological. I mean, I didn’t deal with like tremendous abuse in that way. It was just more of a constant Chinese water-drip torture of like this is what you should do, this is what you should do. It’s just very hard to push back and say no, because there’s no counterfactual to measure it against.

It’s taken me a long time to unpack all of this, and to be truly comfortable with who I am as a person, to not care as much… It’s helped that I’ve been successful because it validates my own internal sense of self-worth. All these things are precursors. I’m not saying there’s some magic formula, and you read a book, and all of a sudden you have this great self-confidence. I’m just saying that, I think that a lot of people want to live their own life, inside-out, and I think that they’re all looking for ways in which they can get, an amount of success that validates the choices that they really do want to make in their life.

I go back to, well what if there were systems that actually created a more democratic way for a different class, and a broader class of people to run the race and be successful? You’d probably have, in broadly-speaking terms, a more self-actualized, confident society. There’d be less bravado. As a result, I think at a very macro scale, there’d just be a lot less bad things. And I think that’s probably, generally good for all of us. (14:25)

Posted in: Life

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.