Unleashing Potential

I am one of the luckiest people I know. I was born in the United States, my parents were doctors and I grew up upper middle class. I was raised in a household that was filled with love. My parents always supported and encouraged me to explore my interests. I went to private school until high school, and they paid my way through college. I was afforded opportunities to make mistakes, learn from them, and in many instances make the same mistakes again. I have a remarkably loving and supportive wife and two children who provide me with enough motivation and joy to last many lifetimes. 

Professionally speaking, I’ve started two companies which both had successful exits. This would have never happened had I not been gifted the opportunity to enter the tech startup world after college at tumblr. Which only happened because of the dumb luck I was born into. 

While I worked hard along the way, I don’t think I’m more deserving of this luck than others. Over the course of my career I’ve met countless people with incredible talent. They’re much smarter and more driven than I am. And the obstacles they’ve overcome to get where they are are unlike anything I’ve encountered or will encounter in my lifetime. They were not born into the same luck that I was. 

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is what the world would look like if all the talented and brilliant people in the world were afforded the same opportunities I was. It’s easy to take for granted the things that differentiate our upbringing in developed countries: we have education systems, healthcare, food, live above the poverty line, and aren’t fearful for our lives on a daily basis. While it’s far from perfect and there’s much room for improvement, for the most part we have security psychologically, physically, and economically. Tragically, a majority of the world experiences the opposite of this. 

But imagine if everyone had access to a similar set of positive circumstances. Imagine how much potential would be unleashed amongst new entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, builders, etc. Our rate of progress across virtually every vector would accelerate exponentially. If you’re reading this, the fortunate truth is that there are countless people out there that are smarter and more talented than us. But they do not have the opportunity to flourish the same way you and I do. But that can change, and it can happen within our lifetime.

I just started reading The Network State and on the first page Balaji reminded me of this once again: 

…all those people from the middle of nowhere, passed over by the establishment, with crazy-but-correct ideas, who could do great things if only given the opportunity.

What if they weren’t passed over by the establishment? What if those crazy-but-correct ideas were given the chance to flourish? The world would look a lot different. The world can look a lot different. And I’m increasingly convinced that this is one of the most profoundly impactful ways to make it so.

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