No one really checks the Internet for my past stuff
But that was five years ago – I’m a different person now
It was a private email that wasn’t to be shared
Pigs really can fly…
Evan Spiegel, CEO of the Millennially-loved SnapChat, has found himself in quite a pickle over the past few days both with the emergence of emails he wrote while a student at Stanford and for his predictable response.
His overtly misogynistic words have caused all sorts of opinions to fly at the intersection of Technology Highway and Bad Taste Boulevard. Folks on one corner are singing, “Boyz Will Be Boyz” while the opposite corner is crooning, “The Three or More Billion Dollar Devaluation Blues” – all in four-part cross-Generational harmony. And none of it is music to anyone’s ears.
Has screwing women – literally and figuratively – become a requirement for many tech entrepreneurs and their startups? Is a brogrammer culture truly the organizational structure of preference in new technology companies? When will investors begin to actually devalue companies as a result of the bad non-business behavior of company executives? Consider activities that take place in our nation’s capitol…
In Washington, DC, egregious past behavior derails a political career faster than it takes for an ice cream cone to melt while waiting on a line outside the Phoenix VA at noon on a Summer day. It’s bad enough that investment firms lack the ability and experience to assist their portfolio companies in hiring needed talent – which follows the general trend in recruiting that the barrier to entry is very low, let alone assess the leadership qualities of the young entrepreneurs appearing in their boardrooms looking for funding.
Since when did misogyny and bad taste become valued components of successful entrepreneurism and fundraising? Unless these investors also have serious skeletons in their closets, I cannot for the life of me see why they would touch investors like Mr. Siegel with a 10 million dollar Series B pole.
As far as investment firms reducing the value of a portfolio company – I’m not holding my breath…
Yet the 23-year old Spiegel isn’t alone; a very large portion of this current Generation of startup “leaders” might be the most lack-of-life and business aware group in recent memory. When you’ve been on the CEO Track since pre-school, there’s not a whole lot of time left to teach life lessons when the same responsibility lessons that were taught to the annoying Boomer generation have been replaced by devouring such classic tomes as “Dr. Seuss Goes to Entrepreneur’s School” and “Horton Hears An IPO.”
Morality and civility be damned; if they haven’t experienced it with their own two eyes, ears, and hands and received a Blue Ribbon for their efforts, it just ain’t true.
So while I have been writing somewhat for effect and shock-value – of course, I don’t believe that most Millennials are egotistical snot-rags – there are extremely important bits of life advice here that must start with untangling what has been reinforced in the heads of our early careerists (a kinder, less emotionally-driven form of the label, ”Millennial”).
Mark Babbitt, CEO of YouTern.com, wrote an especially heartfelt post based on his life experiences and abundance of practical wisdom in which he postulates that today’s college grads must unlearn 6 things they learned in college that they have been brainwashed into believing were true and inviolate.
Read it – and just pause long enough to ask yourself if Mark is right. No…wait a decade or two, have a family, catch a few of life’s curveballs and knuckleballs, then break out the list again and see if Mark’s words make sense to you.
One thing he’s not doing is denigrating you and your thoughts; the reason I know this is that we were actually once you, and we also believed the same shuck and jive that you believe to be true about college, work, careers, and life. Many of us still possess and are driven by that wild-eyed, we-can-do-anything-our-minds-can-dream-up joie de vivre but we’re somewhat limited by the cards we’ve been dealt from the deck of life’s responsibilities.
We have no ulterior motives here but to point out life’s land mines and patches of quicksand in the hope that you can actually get to where you want to go by minimizing the personal and professional train wrecks we’ve experienced. My motivation is simple – no one did this for me. While my parents weren’t college educated, they worked hard, offered an immense amount of love and encouragement, taught important lessons about responsibility, honesty, integrity, and perseverance, and always told me that if I wanted to finish first I had to work harder and smarter, and be kind to everyone around me. They never taught me to “wait my turn” but to simply “do my best.”
Yes, there have been times when I’ve strayed from the lessons my parents taught; most everyone does – often without knowing. Yet there’s a Zen saying by Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin that alludes to how wisdom can eventually come to those who are aware…
Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.
Again, we’re not Baby Boomers – but we are older versions of you with the scars to prove it.
Back to Mr. Siegel the early careerist…
I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that the original name of SnapChat was Picaboo – as in the childhood line, “Peek-A-Boo, I see you.” Or that it really was discussed as a sexting tool.
Isn’t it ironic that Spiegel helped to create a tool that enables others to behave the way he likely did while in college without being caught so they wouldn’t feel horrible and embarrassed? In his “younger days” emails, he encouraged his fellow frat boys to get sorority women drunk enough to have sex with them – this is literally rape. According to RAINN, there’s an average of 237,868 victims of sexual assault and rape annually in the United States – meaning every 2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted.
This is why Spiegel’s original emails, his tepid apology, and the outpouring of disgust – and alas, support, is a very big deal. And he’s giving YOU a really bad name because many young and old are referring to him not as the SnapChat CEO but as another spoiled, clueless Millennial.
Time to get your collective acts together, look in the mirror, and join the part of the human race that has developed its own collective sense of practical wisdom. Be kind to everyone – and if you slip, apologize. Stop living your label; stop giving ammunition to those who want to package you along with others your age – even the ones who are behaving badly and are transferring their stench to you by label proxy. Stop wanting to be like them – because success in life is measured more in kindness than net worth.
One day you will wake up and you will be me. You will be older. You will have more wrinkles. You won’t be able to eat the 15 tacos like you used to on Taco Tuesdays (please believe me – you’ll try). You will have made some exceptionally good career choices; you will of made some exceptionally bad ones. You will have had some exceptionally good bosses and some exceptionally bad bosses.
One day you will say things, then you’ll look over you’re left and right shoulder for your parents – because you have become them. Sounds frightening? Well – it shouldn’t. It’s the real circle of life.
Until then, remember to keep your words short and sweet because one day you might have to eat them – and no one will be there to clean up your puke. Just as carpenters know to measure twice, cut once, learn to count one-two-three Mississippi before your take that picture or click <Send> before that email enters the Land of No Return.
If you still think that we’re jealous, techno-idiots who have no idea what you’re going through, you might just discover that your sure-thing business idea that you figured would make you a Billionaire has only made you a Pariah because you failed to heed the advice of old bastards who just wanted to help.
And you better hope that those SnapChats really have disappeared…