Money is an instrument of change, and you should view it more as a custodian than as a system that defines who you are as a person.
Part of why I’m so open about this is I think it gives permission for other people to be honest. I grew up in a dysfunctional household on welfare. That compounded a bunch of shit in my life that was not great. We were very focused on money, it was a huge point of pressure and tension in the family. It created massive depression in my father.
There was some point along the way where I was like, “Is money really important, or not important?” I feel very lucky, because I don’t think if you asked my sisters, they got to the same place that I did. I ended up not coveting it, and I found it to be something that I could use to really empower myself to do the things that I wanted to do.
If you really empathize with the people that are working [at restaurants], I see people who are like me. Brown-skinned, working hard, creating these beautiful experiences. I can celebrate it by, I guess, giving a Yelp review. But you can’t buy food for your kids with a fucking Yelp review. I want to tip! It gives me so much joy. You get a four or five hundred dollar bill, and in some cases you tip five hundred bucks, or a thousand bucks. And you close it. And they’re expecting forty dollars.
They will come out to you, and it’s transformational. Little things like that mean a lot to people. To be anonymously generous is a great gift that I have the ability to do.
Terry Matthews and Sam Legg
I took the bus to Newbridge. Complete luck that the controller of Newbridge would go from his nice neighborhood, through this shitty neighborhood, to get on the highway. And so he would see “this guy,” standing by the bus, and eventually he saw me inside the office, and one day he stopped and said, “Do you want a ride?”
This guy was Sam Legg. So, in the car, he was in the front seat, beside Terry, and he was able to tell me how this guy thought about this stuff. Because I would read it in the paper, and I’d be like, “Why is he doing this?”
It just completely rewired what money was. For Terry Matthews, money was an instrument of change. He had a market cap and was like, “Wow, that’s eight billion dollars of change. Ten billion dollars of change. Fifteen billion dollars of change.”
Versus, there’s another guy building a company at the same time his name is Michael Cowpland, who ran a company called Corel. Also a billionaire. And he was the exact opposite. Had a messy divorce, married some trophy wife. He took this obscene, shiny, glass from his building and covered his house in it.
You had this dichotomy of two different characters at that time in the 90s, building two very different businesses. Corel, which was a reasonable business, Newbridge, which was a reasonable business: They were both very successful but they manifested money so totally differently.
I was like, I want to be [Terry Matthews]. I want to be this mega compounder swashbuckling around trying to do really cool shit in the world. How do I do that?
Sam helped me, because you could understand from him what Terry cared about.
Now it’s just not enough. Now it’s a count, and for me I have to make sure that I have as much power to allocate, and capital to allocate, against my worldview as others who I fundamentally disagree with.
I fundamentally disagree with the Kochs, I fundamentally disagree with them. So, we just put 20 million dollars into a fleet of autonomous drones that circumnavigate the oceans. We’re measuring all of the climate change, we’re mapping it all out, we’re going to release it open-source.
After that we’re gonna be able to build the next generation of technology that actually slows down climate change. Gets us completely off petroleum and carbon reliance. And so, I’m probably, I need to have 90 billion dollars as well. And my 90 vs their 90, I’m gonna beat ‘em. I know I’m gonna beat ‘em.
And what’s going to happen is, they’re not going to be around for the next 50 or 60 years, and they’re gonna give it to their kids, and their kids will not have any grit or resilience, and so it’ll be me vs their kids, and of course I’m going to beat them.
So now it’s a race. It’s a race of the people who believe that there’s a better way to reallocate all of these things, to get as many people to the starting line as possible. And there’s a bunch of us that actually lived this out. You know, what Zuck and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are doing, it’s incredible. You know? It’s incredible what Elon Musk does. It’s incredible. All of these people have basically said it’s just a count, it’s a number, it doesn’t matter. What matters is can I do more and the more I get, the more I feel responsible to do. That’s like an amazing thing that there are people like that in the world.
And so I get energy from them, and I want to be like them.
You have to have this probabilistic approach to it. If 30% of this stuff works, my God! We’re gonna live in an unbelievably awesome world, a fairer world, a more inclusive world, a good world. But if I don’t try, then all other people are going to do is just hoard, hoard, hoard. And how is that good for anybody?