Standing Up For Your Values

Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, discusses CEO activism and the role of corporate ethical responsibility in this New York Times interview with David Gelles (Corner Office column):

Gelles: PayPal was one of the first financial companies to take a stand on guns. How did you arrive at that decision?

Schulman: If you’re going to have a consistent set of values that you stand up for, they have to be reflected in your acceptable use policy. Around the violence in Charlottesville, we identified a number of groups that espouse hate or violence, and we don’t allow them to use PayPal to fund-raise.

And we do not allow PayPal to be used for guns and ammunition. That there are rules and regulations in terms of background checks is extraordinarily important. But if somebody is going to do something online, we can’t fully vouch for those background checks. And so therefore we just outlaw it.

Gelles: It’s not always comfortable for C.E.O.s to take a stand on these issues. How do you decide where to draw that line?

Schulman: Companies, and by extension their management teams and their C.E.O.s, have a moral obligation to try to be a force for good. I don’t think there’s any way that we can shirk that responsibility, and I don’t think there’s any way to fully stand away from the culture wars around us. You have to take a stand. That stand shouldn’t be a political one. But it should be one that is based on your values and your mission.

Our Planet Does Not Need Our Saving

Adam Frank, professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, writes in a New York Times op-ed,

Our planet does not need our saving. The biosphere has endured cataclysms far worse than us—and after millions of years thrived again. Even the Earth’s five fearsome mass extinctions became opportunities for the biosphere’s creativity, driving new rounds of evolutionary experiments.

As the great biologist Lynn Margulis once put it, “Gaia is a tough bitch.” In the long term, the biosphere will handle pretty much anything we throw at it, including climate change.

What Earth’s history does make clear, however, is that if we don’t take the right kind of action soon the biosphere will simply move on without us, creating new versions of itself in the changing climate we’re generating now.

Relaxing With Ambiguity

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron writes in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2005):

The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does not believe in God… Theism is a deep seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold… Nontheism is relaxing in with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves… Nontheism is finally recognizing that there is no baby sitter you can count on.

The Rock Test to Avoid Being Accused of Sexual Harassment

Anne Victoria Clark (The Medium’s Human Parts blog) offers tips for men confused on how to treat women they work with:

It’s as clear cut as this: Treat all women like you would treat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I know, this sounds weird, but trust me, this is a visualization exercise that will work wonders in your dealings with the women in your workplace. When a woman approaches you, just replace her in your mind with The Rock. Then, behave accordingly.

Simply offer them the same respect, admiration, and healthy dose of fear you’d offer anyone who could completely destroy you should you deserve it.

Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean in’ Offers Demure Insights into Gender Differences

Christina Hoff Sommers at The Atlantic feels that, in Lean In (2013,) Sheryl Sandberg’s endeavor to unshackle American women from gender stereotypes may be merely hindering their true path to freedom:

An up-to-date manifesto on women and work should steer clear of encounter groups and boys-must-play-with dolls rhetoric. It should make room for human reality: that in the pursuit of happiness, men and women often take different paths. Gender differences can sometimes be symptoms of oppression and subordination. But in a modern society they can also be the felicitous consequences of liberated choice—of the “free to be you and me” that women have been working towards for generations.

Avoid Extremely Intense Ideology

From Charlie Munger’s USC Gould School of Law commencement address:

Another thing to avoid is extremely intense ideology because it cabbages up one’s mind. You see a lot of it in the worst of the TV preachers. They have different, intense, inconsistent ideas about technical theology, and a lot of them have minds reduced to cabbage. And that can happen with political ideology. And if you’re young, it’s particularly easy to drift into intense and foolish political ideology and never get out. When you announce that you’re a loyal member of some cult-like group and you start shouting out the orthodox ideology, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, pounding it in. You’re ruining your mind, sometimes with startling speed. So you want to be very careful with intense ideology. It presents a big danger for the only mind you’re ever going to have.

Source: Poor Charlie’s Almanack

When Triviality Drops Away

Cognitive scientist and author Guy Claxton writes in The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World (1999):

One’s attitude to death is very important in Buddhism. When we forget our mortality and the mortality of our loved ones, it is possible for our priorities to go haywire, and for us to become bamboozled into thinking that all kinds of peripheral things – wealth, status, popularity – are of the essence. Sometimes it takes an angina attack or a stroke to remind us of what we value most. In one of his books about the Yacqui Indian sage Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda reports him as saying, “When your death makes a gesture to you, an enormous weight of triviality drops away.” Though, being forgetful, it is perfectly possible for us to pick it up again!

Trophy Board Members

Citing the case of Theranos, venture capitalist Fred Wilson remarks that trophy board members rarely help and often hurt a start-up company:

I am not reading Bad Blood, the book about Theranos, but many of my friends and colleagues are.

One of the many “tells” that Theranos was not a good company was the board chock full of trophy board members.

A “trophy” board member is someone with a big name who, in theory, brings credibility and connections to your company. They are often out of the world of politics, or a Fortune 500 CEO job, or Wall Street.

I dislike trophy board members and advise our portfolio companies to avoid them. But they don’t always take our advice.

The Difference Between New Coders and Experienced Coders

Cecily Carver writes about things she wished someone had told her when she was learning how to code:

I’ve found that a big difference between new coders and experienced coders is faith: faith that things are going wrong for a logical and discoverable reason, faith that problems are fixable, faith that there is a way to accomplish the goal. The path from “not working” to “working” might not be obvious, but with patience you can usually find it.

Why Should We Be Open-Minded

From Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel (2000):

If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don’t find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don’t cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.