Nick Bilton earlier today wrote a piece about wealth in Silicon Valley in the New York Times. He begins:
“You don’t have to spend much time in Silicon Valley to start hearing that the people don’t care about money. People here are just trying to make the world a better place. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists eat ramen noodles for dinner and drive old, clunky Hondas to work.”
Further on he discusses that despite this, there are many people in the region making lots of money, pushing up housing prices. It is harder to support a family on a low or moderate income, but many people who are going to work at tech startups are younger. They are able to share the rent with several friends and live off inexpensive ramen and pizza.
The most interesting part of the article was this sentence:
“One of the biggest reasons people here try to pretend they don’t care about the money is that some of the most successful people actually don’t.”
It reminded me of the day I went to Mr Pickle, a sandwich shop in San Francisco’s Mission District, with my wife. As we waited in line, Dustin Moskovitz came in and got in line behind us. After we left, I told my wife:
“The guy in line behind us was one of the founders of Facebook. He’s a billionaire, but you would never guess looking at him. That’s what I love about Silicon Valley.”
Who needs to chase money if acquiring riches simply puts you in the same line, buying the same sandwich, as anyone else?
Andy Warhol had a similar reaction to drinking a bottle of Coke:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
You don’t need to chase riches if Dustin Moskowitz is eating at Mr Pickle, or Jack Dorsey is drinking a coffee at Sightglass. Anyone making the salary of a working professional can do those things today. And if you aren’t playing the game of trying to be the richest person on the block, you can focus on the things that really matter in life.