Learn, Earn, Serve

This post has a backstory.  When I was considering colleges, I was living in Hong Kong and it was really between two great schools: Lewis and Clark (which offered me a full-ride along with a stipend) and Swarthmore (which offered me some aid, but not really very much).  Lewis and Clark, in their extreme interest, also managed to track down an alumnist in Hong Kong (whose name I have long-since lost, which is a shame, since I owe him a great deal).

I told him about my options and he was prompt in his reply: “Are you kidding?  Go to Swarthmore.”  Probably not the pitch Lewis and Clark was hoping he’d make.

“It is simple.  Money is just money.  Life goes in stages: first you learn, then you earn, then you serve.  Go to Swat, no matter what it costs, then earn good money until you’re 45, are debt-free, and have money saved up, then go serve the ideals you really care about.”

There is plenty to dispute about that advice: the value of a particular college over another, how hard it is to leave a job that pays you well at 45, how easy it is to serve when your knees are going and you really like comfy beds.  But there is a core of simple truth there: that you don’t have to do everything at once and that you can have ideals without having them be the primary force behind all decisions.  Indeed, any notion of “balance” suggests that different forces have to guide you at different times and that single-minded pursuit of anything just makes you sick and tired and too poor to have the effect you want to have.

The reason this comes up tonight is a conversation with a friend who is choosing between a job that will likely result in about $5m in two years (as a company exits) as compared to a job that gives him the chance to have paradigm-shifting power and pay relatively well (just not $5m well).  As we talked, it became clear that he really wanted to take the $5m job, but hated having to admit to himself that money matters.

But money does matter.  I’m not suggesting it is easy to remember all your lofty goals  after you have a $5m check in your pocket; on the contrary, I think it is damn hard.  But I think it can be done.

GetRaised.com got built because we had enough money to do it.  If we had more money, it would be even better.  And it is just that simple: all the millions of extra dollars that we’ve helped women earn, all the narrowing of the gender wage gap, would not have been possible if we hadn’t made enough money to see us through the creation of the product.  GetRaise is a pretty strong argument for why sometimes, taking the money is not only not bad, its actually good.