Jason Calacanis on Education, Parenting, and the Future of Work – 2 Cent Dad Podcast

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Key Takeaways

  • “One of the things I’ve learned at the age of 46 is that people tend to not remember the mistakes. They tend to rally around your victories.”
  • Automation is causing many jobs to violently evaporate
  • The education system is not currently set up to prepare kids for the rapidly changing work environment of the next few decades
  • Happiness comes from:
    • The work you produce 
    • How aligned that work is with your interests
    • Whether or not you wake up every day with a sense of joy that you get to participate in something purposeful
  • Instill in your children a sense of intrinsic motivation and curiosity rather than forcing them down this path of credentials, high scores, and prestigious schools
  • Two changes in education Jason would like to see:
    • We need way more teachers (the student to teacher ratio should not be > 10-1)
    • Schools should be available 7 days a week, from 7 AM – 7 PM, 365 days a year
  • One of the best ways to set yourself up for success – pick a technical skill, acquire it, and then become great at it
  • Kids value your TIME the most
    • “Love is spelled T-I-M-E in my mind”
    • To add – “It’s not the number of hours you spend with your kids, it’s how present you are in those hours”

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Host – Mike Sudyk (@sudyk)
  • This blast from the past was recorded back in 2017
  • Jason Calacanis (@jason) is the host of the This Week in Startups podcast (check out the Podcast Notes)
    • He’s also an investor in quite a few companies (including Calm and Uber)
  • “Anyone who’s listening who’s a father understands that this is the most important job title we have and out biggest investment” – Jason

Jason’s Book – Angel

  • The book details how Jason went from rags to riches (or really – riches to mega riches)
  • “I’ve got a lot of wounds, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and one of the things I’ve learned at the age of 46 is that people tend to not remember the mistakes. They tend to rally around your victories.”
  • “The book is meant to be extremely candid. There’s no guarantee you’re going to win. There’s a significant chance you’re going to lose. But it’s worth writing about how great wealth is created in the world. It’s a mystery to many.”
  • Many founders paint the rosiest picture possible at the extent of the truth when talking with investors
    • Jason estimates ~3-10% of people who pitch him don’t make it through his due diligence process and are caught in one or multiple lies about their business
    • “If you’re an angel investor, the opportunity is to invest in companies that have yet to break out. In other words, we invest in potential. You don’t have the expectation that things are perfect.”

The Future of Work

  • “One of the reasons I wrote the book is because I’m very concerned about the future of jobs and wealth creation”
    • Gen Xers/millennials were taught that wealth is created largely by getting a great job, being frugal, owning/paying down your home, continuing to be frugal, buying a rental property, etc.
  • Jobs in retail and trucking are going to violently evaporate 
    • Cashiers are being replaced by portals/robots
    • EZ pass is replacing toll both monitors
  • “All of this means we’re going to live in a beautiful and horrible future”
    • The beautiful part – people don’t have to sit in a toll booth or drive a truck long distances
    • The downside – millions of people will be out of a job

Alternative Education

  • Kids today are going to experience a world that flips 3 or more times in their lifetime with the introduction of AI, robotics, advancements in syn-bio, etc.
    • “I believe the education system will not serve them well”
  • Jason has two twin daughters (age 16) and a 7-year-old girl
    • He’s doing his best to educate them all on the pros/cons of college and how they compare to starting a business of your own out of the gate
      • In fact – his youngest is in the process of setting up a small ice cream stand where she’ll learn: customer service, cost management, sales, market research, marketing, cost of goods & unit economics
        • “I don’t think anything she’s learning in school would allow for that… This will give her a sick advantage over her contemporaries. That’s what life’s about. You got to have an edge. People don’t want to believe the world’s a zero-sum game. I can tell you… it is LARGELY a zero-sum game.”
  • Jason frequently uses his Amazon Alexa to explain vocab words to his kids
    • “I think communication and verbal ability is something that will help kids get through this next changing environment”

The Palo Alto Suicide Problem

  • “I see a lot of people focused on exactly the wrong thing [in the Bay Area] which is status and competition. They’re obsessed with their kids getting into colleges, obsessed with them taking AP courses… I think they’re obsessed with being in the best schools and having their kids alongside other affluent people.”
  • There is a VERY high suicide rate among kids in Palo Alto (and it’s not talked about)
    • From 2003-2015 the suicide rate was 14.1 per 100k kids (the national average is 5/100K) – Palo Alto high schools lead the country in suicide deaths
    • “For one of the most affluent places in the country to lead in the suicide rate of children should give pause to the parents of the community”
    • “It’s just unbelievable, this number of young people killing themselves, and it’s literally over competition in school”

The True Source of Happiness

  • At the end of the day, you CAN be successful if you don’t get into a top-tier university or do well in high school
    • “The correlation between success and going to an Ivy League school is going to break”
  • “The people who are going to be happiest in life are the ones who feel a sense of mastery that they have control over their destiny. They don’t need to have gotten better SAT scores or gone to a better school than the person next to them… they should judge themselves by the work they produce in the world, how aligned that work is with their interests, and whether or not they wake up every day with a sense of joy that they get to participate in something purposeful that matters to them.”
    • “We’re living in a time, because of things like Instagram and peer pressure, where everybody thinks they need to live this Kardashian lifestyle. The Kardashians are not a happy family nor a family to aspire to be anything like.”
  • In general – “I think people rely too much on school and not on themselves”
  • Instill in your children a sense of intrinsic motivation and curiosity, rather than forcing them down this path of credentials, high scores, and prestigious schools

How Jason Would Innovate the Education Space

  • Jason’s ideal student to teacher ratio? – No more than 10 to 1
  • “As far as I’m concerned, I’d love it if we raised the tax rate on affluent people and put all that money towards education and just tripled the number of teachers in society”
  • In addition – “Schools should be available 7 days a week and from 7 AM – 7 PM”
    • Kids would have the option of going on Saturday/Sunday for project-based work if need be (i.e. if their parents worked on the weekends)
    • “Schools should be available 12 months a year, 365 days a year”
      • “Our society would be amazingly beautiful and it wouldn’t cost that much for schools to be available for 365 days a year. Anybody who thinks that’s a large expense just doesn’t understand the numbers. What we spend on defense, the tax breaks we’ve given over the years… it’s criminal.”
    • Where would the money come from? – Tax the wealthy 3-5% more 
      • “I think out of the million most affluent people you’d get 990,000 saying ‘yes’ to this… that’s 99%!”

The Tools are Abundant, It’s the Desire to Learn That’s Scarce

  • You can now acquire pretty much ANY skill online
    • The biggest limiting factor – time
      • BUT – “The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day”
  • One of the best ways to set yourself up for success – pick a technical skill, acquire it, and then become great at it
  • Y Combinator has a free course on how to be a startup founder
  • Books are practically free
  • “Knowledge is so cheap and available yet people don’t want to read books and learn skills”
    • “Everyone wants the Kim Kardashian private jet, but they don’t want to put the work in that it takes to get a private jet”

A Bad Combination

  • “We’ve made it easier and easier for the rich to get richer and harder and harder for people who are poor and middle class to move up”
    • How so? – Mainly because of the ridiculously low tax rates on the rich (former) and the low minimum wages (latter)
  • “The system just seems rigged in so many ways to make the rich richer that I think it’s leading to the revolution we’re experiencing which is that things don’t feel equitable… The rich have to pay more taxes, education has to be free and more available, and we have to work on upward mobility.”
  • And to add – low-income jobs are being replaced by automation/AI
    • “This is a very bad combination… very scary”

What’s one piece of parenting advice Jason would give to a new dad?

  • Kids value your TIME the most
    • “Love is spelled T-I-M-E in my mind”
  • When you’re with your kids, ditch your phone
    • “It’s not the number of hours you spend with your kids, it’s how present you are in those hours”
  • Outdoor activity is MAGIC for kids – Jason loves to take his kids hiking 

Additional Notes

  • Know your definition of success
    • So many people have no idea what a successful life looks like for them and are just going along with the flow
  • “The idea of people sitting in an office and shutting up for 12 hours a day is NOT the future”
    • Silicon Valley companies are encouraging people to cycle work with frequent activity/play during the day (ping pong, walking outside, yoga)
  • Jason has started teaching his kids to meditate
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