Tech Investor Joe Lonsdale On How Philosophy Makes You Better at Business | The Daily Stoic Podcast with Ryan Holiday

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Key Takeaways

  • Money is leverage to help you do things you care about
    • It forces you to stop and think what do you actually care bout
  • We can solve most problems in the world with entrepreneurship and innovation
    • But some problems need to be solved philanthropically
    • There are no financial incentives to solve many of the world’s most pressing problems
  • “You will be great if your actions are guided by your conscience, not the crowd” Cicero
  • “Unpopularity earned by doing what is right is not unpopularity at all, but glory” Cicero

Key Products Mentioned

Intro

  • Joe Lonsdale (@JTLonsdale) is a tech investor and entrepreneur, the co-founder of Palantir Technologies and a partner at 8VC
  • Host: Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday)
  • In this chat, Joe and Ryan discuss the intersection between business and philosophy, how money can be used for the common good and why we need more courage in society

The Intersection of Business and Philosophy

  • Many people see business and philosophy at odds with each other
    • There is this leftist idea that sees Academia as above the “merchant” class
      • They think that if you are busy making money you can’t devote yourself to higher values
  • Actually understanding those higher values can make one much more impactful in a positive way

How Did Wealth Change Joe?

  • Joe considers himself to be lucky to have started Palantir at a time when he was already disciplined with money
  • Money is leverage to help you do things you care about
    • It forces you to stop and think what do you actually care bout
      • For Joe, it is helping people around the world and helping to fix our society
  • We can solve most problems in the world with entrepreneurship and innovation
    • But some problems can’t be solved with entrepreneurship and you need to solve philanthropically
    • There are no financial incentives to solve many of the World’s most pressing problems
      • Examples are the reforming the criminal justice and education System
  • “Every success you have is a platform for a much bigger success” Joe Lonsdale
    • Success and wealth enable you to solve more interesting and important problems

Why Courage is Necessary and How to Cultivate it

  • Often, people with a lot of wealth are resistant to changing things
    • Many billionaires from previous generations do not feel a duty to solve society’s problems
      • Most money in politics is used to push one’s own interests
      • It’s very rare to find people who fight special interests because it’s the right thing to do
    • Joe sees this complacency due to a lack of courage
      • We are never taught courage in a society
  • How can we teach courage?
    • The first step is helping people to think more clearly
      • Understanding crony capitalism, competition, how a free society works
      • Understanding that we could all be better off if we worked on improving our systems
    • The best we can do is being courageous ourselves
      • Becoming role-models for others to look up to
    • It’s important to see that deciding to not get involved is not neutral
      • “Most people are part of the problem because they are ignoring it and being cowardly” Joe Lonsdale

On Cicero

  • Joe started the Cicero Institute to solve problems through public-private partnerships
    • He admires Cicero’s for his integrity and his belief in the power of commerce
      • “Commerce is the equalizer and the most honest way to make a living” Ryan Holiday
  • Ryan sees Cicero as falling into the trap of seeking success for its own sake, not for a bigger purpose
    • “You will be great if your actions are guided by your conscience, not the crowd” Cicero
    • Joe instead interprets that quote as Cicero’s knowing that what’s good for society, might be unpopular among the crowds
      • “Unpopularity earned by doing what is right is not unpopularity at all, but glory” Cicero

Making Sense of the World

  • Transitioning from a founder to an investor, Joe needs a lot more time to think and understand what’s happening in the world
    • For this reason, he’s actively trying to create more space for himself for reading and thinking
    • He moved away from Silicon Valley to Texas also for this reason
  • Joe’s process of making sense of the world involves a lot of iteration
    • He seeks to discuss his ideas with great thinkers and entrepreneurs so that he can get feedback
      • Peter Thiel’s research budget includes an entertainment budget for him to surround himself with smart people
      • Similarly Cato, who spent a lot of time working, engaged in long intellectual conversations at dinner

Competition in Government

  • Introducing competition within the government could create incentives to improve things and come up with new ideas
    • For example, for the DMV there could be different Government service providers
      • The ones who receive more positive feedback get a bigger budget and those who get the worst are out
    • “The fact that we don’t have competition of ideas, we don’t have accountability for things like DMV and things like voting is ridiculous” Joe Lonsdale
  • The pandemic has shown us how fragile our government is
    • In contrast, many apps (Uber, Instacart, etc..) have been continuing to support our lives effectively

Helping the Working Class

  • The least well off people in society could be doing a lot better
    • There are all sorts of costs keeping them down
      • Healthcare
      • Education
      • Housing
    • They are understandably frustrated and tempted to support socialist candidates
  • It would be easy with good policy to cut the cost of their lives in half
  • If we don’t help them, we won’t be able to keep capitalist markets
    • If we don’t keep markets we’ll stop innovating and lose the chance to make our lives even better
The Daily Stoic : , ,
Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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