A Lifelong Trip
An increasing number of entrepreneurs aged twenty-something in Silicon Valley are reportedly ‘micro-dosing’ on psychedelic drugs. They say it’s making them better leaders.
According to Rolling Stone a microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose — around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2–0.5 grams of mushrooms. The dose is subperceptual — enough to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.
Startup founders and executives in Silicon Valley are trying to find the philosopher’s stone that will magically convert their brains into peak performing brains of the members of the cluster of billionaires. They claim that a micro dose of LSD make them feel the flow — to bring their brain to the peak performance condition. Maybe, they are not entirely wrong about the effect of microdosing but they are moving in an entirely wrong direction compared to the members of the cluster.
Members of the cluster of billionaires spend decades in the state of flow without any chemical boosters. The investment of time is not a miracle. It produces much more sustainable outcome than microdosing because it creates a number of very strong positive feedback loops which reinforce epigenetic changes in their brains and make these changes hard to be reversed. The queens’ race starts with so small steps that they may be easily left unnoticed. Therefore many people who are too much in a hurry of chasing their immediate success easily miss them.
“Successful people do everything what unsuccessful people don’t want to do.” Says John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire who slept in his car and sold shampoo door-to-door before he teamed up with Paul Mitchell in 1980 and turned $700 into hair-care outfit John Paul Mitchell Systems. It’s a cruel truth for those who are dreaming about consuming billions instead of working on making great products.
“Russia’s most influential tech investor, Yuri Milner, was an early backer of Facebook and Twitter through his venture fund, DST Global. He sold those stakes but later invested in Spotify and Airbnb. He also bet big on Chinese tech companies, including online retailers Alibaba and JD. Com, and led multiple funding rounds in mobile phone maker Xiaomi. A former physicist, Milner joined Google’s Sergey Brin and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in 2012 to found the Breakthrough Prize, which rewards top scientists with lucrative prizes and a glitzy awards ceremony. In July 2015, he launched “Breakthrough Listen,” a $100 million project to search for alien life. “The biggest questions of our existence are at stake,” he wrote in an open letter cosigned by eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and others.” Forbes writes about #544 at its Billionaires list of 2017.
Yuri Milner only started to learn the internet when he became my executive search client back in 2000. I failed to deliver him qualified candidates on time but the collapse of NASDAQ saved my ass. It saved Milner from the need to pay our success fee and the severance pay to highly overpaid candidates — the only ones which we could possibly find before the internet busted.
However Milner’s need in executives had not evaporated entirely as it had happened to the need of all other investors in the internet in 2001. He was not yet a billionaire then but he already behaved like one. He said to me that the right time had come for him to explore the new market without wasting a fortune. Candidates’ compensations dropped down twofold. So did our fees but we were working when others were just idle. We were moving as if we knew something better than the rest of the market and everyone wanted to speak to us. That was the Milner’s style. It is the style of the cluster of billionaires. Chaos is not a disaster for them. It’s a maximization of opportunities.
“In 1999, inspired by Mary Meeker’s research, I put up most of my capital, $750,000, to start an Internet company that ultimately went public in November 2010, as the largest European Internet IPO at the time, Mail.ru Group.” Yuri Milner said to Parmy Olsson of Forbes in a Q&A session held when Forbes has recognized him among 100 Greatest Living Business Minds in September 2017, “Initially the company was funded by U.S. angel investors as well as friends and family. Then in 2001 we lost 97% of our value, which I thought for a while must be the world record, until recently Masayoshi Son told me that SoftBank lost 99% around the same time. Mail.ru survived, but I had to cut expenses by 80% for the next few years, including cutting my own salary to $1.”
Yuri Milner stays in the condition of flow at least since the time of our first encounter back in 1999–2000. No microdosing can possibly help him reach such a state. He frequently refers to his scientific past when asked about grounds for his projections and decisions. He is investing in the right people, not businesses. Being ‘right’ for Milner doesn’t mean to meet some fixed criteria. He is not a fan of Anna Karenina principle that says that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” On the contrary, Milner believes that each founder of a super successful company is different. He gets to know each of the founders he is interested in extremely well. He used to have long walks together with Jan Koum before investing into WhatsApp talking hours about everything except business.
He picks founders who look like they will change the world over the next 10 to 20 years. For Milner investing is all about finding the right person that means meeting a lot of people and digging deep with those who seem the right fit. Anyway, the positive outcome is not guaranteed. You can not even hit the target more frequently than to miss it. You need to at least do it sometimes. “That’s why investing is so difficult,” he says. “Each time it’s slightly different. If there was a formula, everyone would be doing it.”
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