Financial Literacy, Work and Purpose, Church, Astrophotography, and more things I’ve been reflecting on this week

Financial Literacy

From Scott Galloway on Robinhood: “…we need to arm ourselves, and particularly our young people, with financial literacy. Everyone should be fluent in the basics of markets and how to build financial security.”

It is unfortunate that we don’t really teach the basics of free markets and personal finance and capitalism.  I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who shared some wisdom with me, and was fortunate to have stumbled into the right learning opportunities at college and in my early career.  We leave most people ill-equipped to deal with the caveat emptor markets we live in.  

I admire Hadi Partovi and what he has done with code.org to make computer science education available universally.  I wonder if financial literacy needs a similar push, who the champion could be, what set of organizations would have to be involved. 

Work and Purpose

I met Hadi back during the IE3 days at Microsoft, he was part of the best team any of us had ever worked on.  He recently posted a thread about the 25th anniversary of the IE3 project and what it meant to him.  And then he promptly got a raft of sh$t from the twitterverse about work-life balance, death marches, etc.   None of this feedback came from people who were on the ground as near as I can tell.

I can’t speak for everyone but here is my story.  At that time at Microsoft, I felt a great sense of purpose — “A PC on every desk and in every home” was empowering and exciting, it was relevant to the personal systems and nt and apps and consumer teams, everyone was pulling hard on the oar to make the PC a more useful device, and that included a great internet experience.  I was incredibly fortunate to be working during the PC wave, I was thrilled to be working on PC challenges.  

And I was thrilled to be worked with a set of like-minded great people — I learned so much from the chance to work with people at Microsoft in the late 80s and 90s, too many people to list here, but the IE team was chock full of great people and the management chain above me was great.  I worked hard and was happy to work hard.  I never had anyone tell me what hours I had to work, and I never told anyone what hours they had to work.

I am also a nerd.  And Microsoft bought me all the toys I wanted.  I had 3 computers on my desk, i rotated a new one in every 2-3 months, I was able to buy any software I wanted, I had a direct internet tap at my desk, I mean it was kind of nerd heaven.  

I didn’t work as hard as some people — I had two young kids at home, I tried to be home at dinner every night, I refused most travel.  That probably all limited my career but it was the tradeoff that worked for me.  No one ever gave me any negative feedback and all things considered, my career progressed just fine.  

The chance to work on a great mission, with great people, with all the toys I could imagine — I would have worked 48 hours a day if I could have.  I learned more, had more fun, and made lifelong friendships.  I suspect a lot of other people felt the same way.

Purpose and Church Membership

The US continues the trend away from participation in organized religion, with less than half of us now belonging to a church/synagoge/temple/mosque.  I am doubtful that human nature has changed dramatically, I suspect people are still seeking for meaning and purpose.  For some reason, church affiliation is no longer meeting that need.

I can’t say why this is happening as a trend, but I can share my story.  I grew up in a Presbyterian household and went to church and Sunday school a lot.  And Reverend Urquhart, our minister, was a thoughtful and compassionate leader — I enjoyed listening to him and I enjoyed the limited opportunities to talk directly with him.  I’ve met other senior leaders at churches since then, and some of them are the most thoughtful and interesting people I’ve ever met.

But … the rest of the church experience was not great.  Sunday school had all the cliques and bad behaviour of regular school, maybe worse, and I was not in the “cool” group.  Church services and rules were rigid.  The church community could be petty — you didn’t dare sit in the wrong pew, you had to wear the right clothes, etc.  The church had all the distasteful power dynamics of any human organization.  The church was insular — my hometown was racially and economically diverse, and I am sure had lots of problems, but you wouldn’t know it from my church community.  By the time I got to college age, I wanted nothing to do with the organized church.  

This is all relatively benign, but served to push me away from the church, and look for purpose elsewhere in life.

Random

From The Atlantic, Germany has reduced polarization over decades with a healthy investment in public media.  In the US we have largely handed over all media to private entities, and well, we all know how that has been working out.  Maybe rather than trying to regulate private media or media/tech companies, we should reinvest in the public alternative.  We don’t need to shutter or control the private entities, let them flower and prosper. 

Speaking of public media, this BBC library of sound effects is pretty awesome, free for non-commercial use.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist — wow.  I aspire to do astrophotography some day.

I didn’t understand all the features of airtags, this thread was interesting.  Now I know why my daughter complained about the airtag beeping in the van she borrowed from us.