I was at the Crunchies, an award ceremony for tech companies a couple of weeks ago. It’s a bit like the Oscars of tech.
After telling one of the suits what I’d done with my marketing work, he said:
“Every fucktard offers me that. Why are you any different?!?”
I’ve never met anyone so obnoxiously rude.
He had no manners. and I’d done nothing to him to be treated with such little respect.
So I looked him in the eye and said: “What do I do differently? I don’t work with people like you” and I walked away.
“What do you do?” is the first question you’ll get here, if you’re into business-y stuff.
It’s a game of sizing people up.
I have one friend who was first approached at a networking event by this chain of questions:
“What do you do?”
“How much money has your company raised?”
“You’re not telling me. You clearly haven’t raised anything.” The guy went away.
Then the guy came back later in the evening, after learning that my friend’s company had raised several million.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I don’t want to shove it in your face and you shouldn’t judge me on that.”
Without wanting to make generalisations, in Britain and Europe, we laugh at ourselves all the time.
We make fun of our weaknesses, we banter and most people treat each other with respect.
You’ll speak to most American businesspeople and they won’t laugh for 30 minutes in a conversation. Nor will they smile. They just seem dead inside, no matter how hard you try – especially the ones in corporate office jobs.
While here, I made a British friend who explained it all.
“Once you know what someone optimises their life for, all their decisions make sense.”
Suddenly I understood all these experiences.
The rude guy at the Crunchies was optimising to make as much money as he could, regardless of how badly he treated people.
My parents optimised their lives to bring up 2 decent, respectable boys who have the right kind of values.
Other friends of mine optimise their lives to be liked by a lot of people and to be the centre of attention.
This trip has made me figure out that I want to optimise my life to have a big positive impact on as many people as possible.
Ultimately, the problem with American culture is emotional insecurity. Americans (in general) are hard-nosed because they’re afraid of being honest. They’re not comfortable with themselves.
These rude VC people I met at the crunchies didn’t need more money, they needed a hug.
They needed someone to talk through what was bothering them and to challenge them about their career. They were macho men, who don’t talk about feelings.
At the end of the day, the way you make people feel is all that really matters. Once you make people feel good about themselves and help them out, the rest will come.
Silicon Valley doesn’t value that.