Duty of Risk

I’m immensely privileged, and that’s an understatement. If I wanted to gain maximal monetary leverage, my entire emergency fund could consist of $500 for a flight back to my parents place in Canada.

I don’t do this because I think it’s kinda rude to my parents who already sacrificed so much. I’m struggling to call their upbringing “poor” because I think they’d tend to disagree, but I’ll say there wasn’t funds to spare. My mother used to sneak out to do school because her father was fundamentally against the idea and both of them put themselves through college taking on debt. My father went out to the west coast alone to setup shop, intending to move to Seattle for a job. He was stopped at the border and told to turn around and spent the next 2 years on and off work before landing in his career.

Contrasting this to my situation, where I slacked off through college, got a six figure job with a big cash signing bonus and rode into the New York on a golden carpet funded by big company lawyers, only to quit 6 months later because I “didn’t find the work interesting”. My parents should have slapped me, disowned me, anything. I couldn’t bare to tell them until I had something else lined up that I was super stoked about. I remember when I told them they just said “So long as you’re happy and healthy. Are you coming home first or going straight there?”

So, I’ll never be homeless. That’s a sacrifice my parents made. Now, is it irresponsible for me not to use it?

Many engineers/people I know struggle with a common problem: startup, or big company. On one hand, you can do meaningful, impactful work with high leverage and a chance of making something world changing. On the other hand, you can have an almost guaranteed lifetime earnings in the 8 figure range, your children have a great life, and you’ll have lots of time outside work and spare change to do almost anything your heart desires.

Do those who carry more privilege carry a duty of risk to make higher leverage asymmetric bets? Over all these bets have the capacity to build businesses which employ hundreds to hundreds of thousands of people. Is it fair to wash an entire generation of sacrifices to simply be content and well off?

Or, is pursuing ones passion at the cost of a generation sacrificed for your kids to have a better life, only to try and “reach for the stars” and end up broke and living at home the actual wash of a generation, because your kind could have grown up with neigh infinite flexibility?

If the founder of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, grew up with rich parents, does he have a duty to reach for the stars? His parents could likely support him for the rest of his life and barely feel it.

Personally, I think so. Given the marginal delta Evan could have had over his parents, it makes sense to shoot for the stars.

However, for someone who comes to a country and can support their entire family tree, obviously it doesn't. In fact, it's almost more responsible at that point to put your feelings of longing aside, shut up, and extract value. In this case, there's even more duty to provide value if you're on the other side of the spectrum.

Obviously, neither side of this is black and white, or wrong or right, but it's worth thinking about. I know I do.