The Making of a (late) Capitalist

“What was that!?!?”, my friend yelled.

It was a clear, crisp September night in Alaska.  All the tourists had gone home.  All the kids had gone back to college.  All the people who lived from season-to-season were biding their time until the snow started falling “down south”.

We had a pallet fire down on the beach.  There was booze, mixed company, and a chance to see some northern lights .  The amount of stars that can be seen from the northern latitudes will blow your mind.  I’d like to say our motives were pure, but they rarely were.

What was that?  That was huge.  Big enough to stop conversation among the guys, and fast enough the ladies didn’t have a chance to scream.

We were a confident group of young men.  We climbed mountains.  We skied chutes.  We flew planes and helicopters.  We chased a brown bear through the streets howling like a pack of wild dogs.

Dumb, but fun.

We were lucky it was fast.  It was well over 600 lbs.  They say be careful what you ask for….you might corner it.

When I retired to my tent that night, I put my Dad’s .357 Magnum under my pillow.  Even falling asleep in Alaska can be an adventure.

I have come within 10 yards of a bear on more than one booze-fueled occasion.   Sorry mom.

It was a thrill, but when I look back on it, I was fueled by both liquid courage, and the Alaska Mountain Guide posse.  I joined Alaska Mountain Guides as a 26-year-old. These kids were still in college or just out. I was late to that party.  That lifestyle was cut short by vertigo.

At any given moment there was a chance I would get fall-to-the-floor dizzy.  That kind of rules out climbing mountains and being liable for people’s safety while skiing steep faces in Alaska.

I went back to school for biochemical engineering to prove that I was smart.  I didn’t finish and was late again.  The problem was the entrepreneurship classes I took, and physical chemistry class on the horizon.

The idea of teaching entrepreneurship at college is ironic at best.  The program director was a smart man, who I liked, but as far as I could tell, never actually an entrepreneur.  Never-the-less he was a savvy businessman and a good teacher.

One day during class we had a biotechnology entrepreneur give a presentation.  The whole reason (not really, but that’s another post) I had been studying biochemical engineering was because I wanted to become a biotech entrepreneur.

This guy’s track record was amazing.  I think he launched 5 biotechs.  3 were acquired, 1 bust, and 1 he took public.  I might be misremembering, but not by much.

At the end of his presentation, I told him about my plan and asked him the $1 Million question, “What advice do you have for me?”

“My honest advice is…don’t do it.”

What?  Did I just hear that correctly?

He went on to explain that the climate around the Food and Drug Administration approval process was slow, boring, and expensive.  He didn’t see anything changing for the better anytime soon.

Dejected I asked, “What would you do then?”

“Go tech”, he said.

I took his advice.  Not willing to start over in school I decided to focus on the area of business that I could provide the most value in the least amount of time.  Marketing and Sales.

I was 33 when I received that advice.  Late again.

It feels late because I’m surrounded by young folks in San Francisco who are at their first real job.  I have different priorities, so they think (know?) that I’m weird.  I say “no” to the extended Happy Hour that they go to every other night.  I try to keep work and play separate.

The one party I hope I’m not late to, being satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.

I’m after what, in the parlance of our time, is called f-you money.  I really am.

How much is f-you money?

I’ll refer you to Felix Dennis, and his poorly titled but amazing and honest book, How to Get Rich.  The table in his book gives you the amount of cash you need to join the “Lesser Rich”, “Comfortable Poor”,  and the “Filthy Rich”.  Which club do you want to be in?

How do you get to f-you money?

I don’t know yet.  I’m guessing it’s by saying no…..a lot.

I managed to say no to a rather attractive co-worker in her mid-twenties.

She had a boyfriend when I asked her out a few months prior.  Now, she was asking me to stick around Happy Hour.  She was in the middle of a rough patch in her relationship.  I had a feeling she was trying to make someone else jealous, so I leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I can say no to anything….including a woman as attractive as you.  It wasn’t going to be worth it.

There are some parties I will never be late to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>