Reward of Good Work

From Weekly I/O#77

"Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations." - Tim O'Reilly


Money serves as a means, not the end goal. We need gasoline to drive around, not to tour the gas stations to see how much extra gas we can get.

This quote echoes two anecdotes from Kevin Kelly in this podcast:

On Crypto, Kevin used to say to people,

"I'm willing to have a conversation about Crypto, but here's one caveat: you can't mention the word money. You can't talk about making money, saving money, whatever it is. Let's talk about Crypto without talking about money."

Those conversations usually become very short. Kevin found it boring because it was only a single dimension about money, which is not the case with the Internet and AI where we don't have to only talk about money.

Though I found some concepts behind Crypto fascinating, such as incentive design of Cryptoeconomics, Zero-knowledge proof, and encryption, conversations about Crypto often bore me for the same reason as Kelly mentioned.

On wealth, Kevin has some advice:

"You should try as hard as possible to never have $1 billion."

For many billionaires he knows, many 0s are an incredible burden that distorts their kids and families. The weight of it becomes something they always have to attend to. The responsibility of managing such wealth overshadows its utility, turning it into an overwhelming task.

He argues that, for most aspirations, a fraction of that wealth is enough. You don't need to join Wall Street for a few years to do a motorcycle trip across China because six months working at McDonald's should save you enough money. In most cases, money is not the gating factor for what most people want to do.

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