The Power Of Civil And Intelligent Debate To Make Us All Better

One of the things I cherish about the AVC community is the civil and intelligent debate that goes on here. It has made me crystalize my thinking in ways that would not have happened without it. I was reminded of that when I read Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments on Antonin Scalia, in particular this part:

We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.

Debate and dissent are critical. If you can’t cite the opposing point of view on an issue, you may not have thought it through as well as you should.

When I think through all of our investment decisions at USV, it is the ones that we breezed through and got to an answer quickly where we made the biggest mistakes. Some of our best investment decisions started out with a strong dissenter or two, often me. I remember my indignation at the idea that we would invest in a search engine (duckduckgo). But others convinced me that I was wrong and that has turned out incredibly well for us.

Maybe the most important part of the title to this post is the word civil. Without civility (and respect), it is hard to have intelligent debate. Respecting those with opposing views, working to understand them, and listening closely to them is the key. Even if they don’t change your mind, they can reshape how you discuss and present your views. And that can make all the difference in the world.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    yeah whatever. bozo#####…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Nice.But: Much of the reason for such groups with such certainty is that people are insecure and want the certainty that they are 100% right. Then, nearly a necessary consequence is that anything else is wrong, bad, a threat, etc.Further, belonging to a group is one of the most important sources of security — E. Fromm, The Art of Loving. Similarly, also in Fromm, for devotion to a religion. Put these two together, and get the statement of Isiah Berlin you quoted.So, given two separate groups, say, also with separate religions, then it is likely that they will fight. E.g., one of the reasons to join a group is to pursue the aims of the group which include getting more power. So, with two such groups, with each seeking more power, we have likely conflict.One classic way for a religious group to get more power is to take over the government and, thus, use the power of government to add to their power, e.g., to fight other groups. After the rivers of Europe ran red for centuries, eventually the idea and wisdom of separation of church and state became accepted. But, various religions still try, say, to pass laws that contain the doctrine of their religion, in the US, Europe, etc.Simple enough. We’re all supposed to know that although W had a really tough time seeing that in the Mideast.

  2. JimHirshfield

    Here, here.

    1. JimHirshfield

      I agree whole heartedly!

      1. JimHirshfield

        Oh, stop sucking up

        1. JimHirshfield

          F you

          1. LE

            Comment storm! Quite simply one of the funniest things you ever did on AVC.

    2. Rohan

      I’m always on the look out for the hilarious Jim comment these days.

      1. William Mougayar

        There is no debate about that.

        1. Anne Libby

          (Cue @JimHirshfield:disqus, to disagree with you.)

        2. JimHirshfield

          I agree with you more than you agree with yourself

          1. Mario Cantin

            Everyone keeps throwing that line around. Was it JLM’s line in the first place?

          2. JimHirshfield

            Indeed it was. Well played.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            I saw what you did there.

  3. JJ Donovan

    I think the management adage of “Conflict is the success of a team” is another way to look at things.

  4. Tom Labus

    We seemed to have crossed that line. What happened to the “loyal opposition”?Not much listening anymore or discussion in our politics

    1. Anne Libby

      So many lines, Tom! I would not want any of our little kids to see grown men acting like this in public.No doubt this behavior has always been there. But now it’s being normalized.

      1. Dan Moore

        I wonder if some of the normalization is due to the echo chamber effect, where we listen to those that have the same views, as well as the big sort, where we tend to live with folks that think like us.I think it is also fatigue. There is so much to do in life (fun and/or lucrative and/or required) that the hard work of understanding other’s positions can fall by the wayside. Shortsighted, I know.

        1. JLM

          .Confirmation bias is the biggest problem in any debate. The GOPe goes to their country club and talks to each other not allowing a single dissenting view to be mixed with their bourbon and ginger ale.In this manner, they misunderstand what is happening because in the past, they dictated what was to happen. That arrangement is now broken for all time.It may be the Internet. It is absolutely anger. It is real.We are all so busy, we require 6-7 lives to do what needs to be done.When I was a CEO, I was a Saturday worker. I worked some late Sundays and I was quite pleased with myself.Later, I was not so diligent.I accomplished more — through effective delegation.If I had never worked a Friday, Saturday, Sunday my entire life — the outcomes would have been identical. When I work with youngish CEOs I will whisper it. Not evangelize it, just whisper it. It is amazing to see the tension evaporate with effective delegation.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Anne Libby


      2. JLM

        .Actually our children would recognize it immediately — 3rd grade recess behavior.I enjoyed the recent Republican debate in Greenville but it really was a food fight.You have to understand NASCAR to know why that works in South Carolina.http://themusingsofthebigre…It is all about the wrecks. Folks go to NASCAR to see the wrecks.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Anne Libby

          Haha, exactly. Or WWE.That said, the kids in my life aren’t seeing that stuff in school. (Or on my watch.) The debate — and I use that term loosely — they may be.

      3. LE

        I would not want any of our little kids to see grown men acting like this in public.They all tell lies and they all tell half truths. It becomes a problem though when they do that with other candidates as the recipient. Apparently (at least according to Chris Matthews of CNBC) in South Carolina it’s especially vial (robo calls of misinformation) because in the end it does win races because the voters are swayed. What do you do then? Loose the war or use chemical weapons?

        1. Anne Libby

          The yelling , profanity, and coarse characterizations of entire ethnic and religious groups are what I don’t want kids to see. Kids won’t pick up on the lies yetAlso, I feel like it’s influencing adult behavior outside of the political sphere. (Horror story I can’t share in public about what a friend heard a client say.)We don’t need our kids thinking this is okay.

          1. LE

            The yelling , profanity, and coarse characterizations of entire ethnic and religious groups are what I don’t want kids to see. Kids won’t pick up on the lies yetI agree that is not ideal but let’s face it in this day and age I question how much that really matters with all of the crappy content that kids are exposed to. This isn’t the glorious 1940’s era of shiny war movies.Did you read about the latest with Spitzer? And what about Kennedy and Clinton? Is language worse than behavior? Or Bush showing off his gun engraving yesterday?Also, I feel like it’s influencing adult behavior outside of the political sphere. (Horror story I can’t share in public about what a friend heard a client say.)Well the way I look at it it’s payback for the world being to PC. Kind of in the same way that riots were a reaction to extreme oppression (or whatever they were in reaction to).

          2. Anne Libby

            It’s complicated. In my family — and many others , too — kids aren’t seeing crappy content at home. Gotta let go of what happens at school.And that gun thing, gah.Maybe it was a social media win in circles I’m not in/not seeing? I cannot imagine heads of state from other countries seeing someone who would message himself like that as a peer

          3. LE

            I cannot imagine heads of state from other countries seeing someone who would message himself like that as a peerPeople who run countries are high capacity circuits. They aren’t looking to be bossom buddies with someone they respond on fear and respect and in some cases to crazy as well. It’s all about getting the job done. As such it doesn’t matter how that goal is achieved. Look at the cold war and Kruschev as only one example.Also I am sure they know that just because someone comes across as cool and reasonable doesn’t mean they aren’t grin fucking you (Suster term) anyway. It’s all a game these are people that somehow got into the highest power position possible they don’t operate by any other rules.Bush of course doesn’t even fall into that category in some ways. The only reason he is even being talked about is because of his father and his brother. And even his brother is only talked about because of his father. He didn’t really earn anything relative to what he has achieved.

    2. kevando

      This is why I like candidates like Bernie Sanders. He helps nudge the debate somewhere more productive.

      1. LE

        How so?

      2. JLM

        .There is not a chance in the world that I would ever vote for Bernie Sanders but I freely admit I love listening to him speak. I love it.Bernie is true to a view that is so bat shit crazy as to be totally entertaining. I love free shit and then I remind myself — “Hey, he’s going to make ME pay for all that free shit.”Still, I agree with much of what he says particularly about the money in politics.”Do we think the people are stupid?”The answer to that is a resounding, “Yes.”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. kevando

          > “Hey, he’s going to make ME pay for all that free shit.”As long as we’re actually debating WHERE our tax$ goes, I am happy that one day we will debate charts like this on the news :)https://www.nationalpriorit…

          1. JLM

            .The US is currently enjoying the greatest flow of Federal revenue in the history of our Republic and not one person is even whispering about controlling the rate of growth of Federal expenditures.Not cutting costs, not ditching unnecessary departments, just dampening the rate of annual growth baked into the budget process.Given the strength of current revenues, we could balance the budget in 2-3 years if we had a man with a sharp pencil, a calculator, an eraser, and a yellow pad.We could achieve energy independence simultaneously.We’d be able to embrace some really crazy free shit five years from now — nah.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Tom Labus

            Left or Right. You try that, you may get shot or at least character assassinated.You get a bunch of AVC’ers, some beer and a few accountants……

          3. JLM

            .’Hell, Tom, I’d trust you by yourself. You have common sense.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Richard

          Let’s be honest… public colleges were essentially free until 1990.

          1. JLM

            .Getting a college education at a public institution with in state tuition is easy.You apply yourself and qualify out of one semester of AP while a high school senior. There goes year one.You take the basics at a community college. There goes year two.You pay in-state tuition while going to college through the summer.You can take advantage of work-study, internships, just plain work.Only then do you begin to think about borrowing money.Or, you can enlist in the Army and get the GI Bill or get an ROTC scholarship. During the Iraq/Afghan wars they were giving ROTC scholarships (tuition, room, board, books, uniforms, plus a monthly stipend) to anyone with a heartbeat.Where there is a will, there is a way.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        3. Richard

          Though not as much as this guy.

    3. LE

      “In the mud” means in the mud. If your opponent has stooped to a low level with what they say about you it’s often hard to not return fire.

      1. Tom Labus

        sad but so true. How is the cycle broken?

        1. LE

          I don’t feel that the cycle can be broken although it might be broken just by chance.Reason? While there can be rules for a debate (or for a blog) or a town meeting, there are no rules that can or will ever be enforced for a process. Nobody is in charge of a process. And it only takes one person to break ranks for others to need to step down in the mud and join them. Plus their statements are analog in nature and subject to interpretation which can vary greatly. If men didn’t differ in what they thought words meant cases wouldn’t end up in the Supreme court.Look in the first few democratic debates (with only, what was it 3 debaters?) they talked about how civil they were vs. the republicans. They were so proud of themselves (Sanders even gave the ball to Hillary with the email server issue ‘here take this shot it’s on me!’)Now all of that has changed they might sound more civil but the words and what they say are close to what the republicans are doing. And wrapping a lie or a stretched truth in nice respectful language doesn’t make it better (and actually could be considered a grin fuck in a way).Separately “the process” is there any difference between Trump floating an idea that he knows he will not be able to do (to gain votes) and Sanders floating an idea that he knows he won’t be able to do but sounds calm, reasonable and nice to get votes that is supported by another and generally younger group?

          1. JLM

            .The biggest difference in the debates is that the Dem debate moderators are all proponents of someone on that stage and in the Rep debates they are all opponents of everyone on that stage.I think the RNC should balance the political affiliation of the moderators — half Dem and half Rep.I doubt there is a single primary moderator of any Rep debate who has ever voted in a Rep primary while I am certain all of them have voted for Dem presidential candidates.The RNC is nuts. They own the “content.”The RNC should put on the debates and take bids from the networks to present them. Maybe even live stream them themselves on their own channel.Just like sporting events. Texas (just like Notre Dame and the SEC) got tired of making others rich on their content and created the Longhorn Network in partnership with ESPN.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. LE

            The RNC should put on the debates and take bids from the networks to present them. Maybe even live stream them themselves on their own channel.A great point. And if that happens we can thank Trump and Sanders for making it interesting enough for the parties to hold the power to do that. Of course by the law of unintended consequences that will mean problems will emerge.Separately annoys me that Facebook is a sponsor and gets a logo on the step and repeat. Ditto for google.

          3. JLM

            .Given the complete domination of “earned media” by Trump one is tempted to think that a media savvy guy like him is eventually going to stand up a TV station along with YouTube, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.The debates would be incredibly more interesting if you were watching a Charlie Rose type two on two (Jeb and Donald) working out for 60 minutes.I think there is a “for profit” opportunity hidden in there somewhere.If I were the Donald I would do a fireside chat with a PPT and just lay it out. For all the bullshit associated with the guy he has absolutely driven the debate agenda and he has provided more energy than any three candidates and he has made more people interested in politics than ever before.He has tapped into an anger that is not able to be compartmentalized as either right, left, or center. It is just anger.People will be studying the notion of Trump “earned media” in grad school next semester.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. LE

            If I were the Donald I would do a fireside chat with a PPT and just lay it out.I am actually surprised that no candidate at their rallies puts up a jumbotron and shows short video clips. Think of the powerful impact that could have. Instead of just words you can roll clips of your opponents doing and saying the wrong things.Downside of course is they will do the same to you but then again in their audience is there supporters, not your supporters.

        2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          It depends on whether you drink your own kool aid – or hate that drink. If you can listen, deconstruct, overlook judgement (people will judge) and reform your own view based on new data – you win – sure people may not see your win – but (unless you are a politician) – who cares.

    4. JLM

      .I think much of this is attributable to the impact of money on and in politics. It is no longer about governance, it is about money.No sooner does a freshly minted Congressman go to Washington than he is bum rushed by the lobbyists — the ones who didn’t fund his campaign to start with.Then, he is involved in making huge financial decisions that impact business enterprises (the impact of Obamacare on the insurance companies, as an example) which generate huge amounts of money to support the Congressman’s election.Then, there is the wholesale “buying” of the person himself with extravagant entertainment which is nothing more than pimping.Then, there is the local impact of any legislation such as whether Boeing is going to be able to move a union plant from the Northwest to “right to work” South Carolina. The Congressman, looking solely to re-election, would not do anything (such as closing a military base) which would impact his local support.The impact of Citizens United makes it possible to buy a vote in Wyoming as certainly — and much cheaper — than in Houston. It is the correct interpretation, legally. It is terrible law.A former Congressman of mine went to Congress as a pauper and returned 30 years later worth $30MM — how did that happen?I think it’s the money.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        Salesman, attorneys, PR people, reporters, and lobbyists [1] are also quite good at making you think that they like you and are your friend. Personally and it’s not just business. While in some cases this is probably the true, the fact is in most cases the underlying motivation comes from a benefit they gain by, for lack of a better way to put it, being nice to you. Who needs a therapist when you can have any of the aforementioned people sit and listen intently to everything that you say (better than mom would) and stroke ‘yer ego?[1] Have never dealt with lobbyists personally but I will throw them in because this is most certainly the case.

      2. christopolis

        Money in politics or money in government? I would say money in government. The federal government is managing so much money there is no way they could do it without lobbyists telling them how it has to be spent.

        1. JLM

          .Both because the money in gov’t comes from the taxpayer who wears the yoke put upon them by the politicians.It is, after all, our freakin’ money they’re spending, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. christopolis

            the cause of money in politics is not politicians and it is not lobbyists it is the ideology of the electorate. Vast numbers of people want free stuff and they want jobs and they do not care how those things are obtained. It is that philosophy that causes the symptoms ( greedy politicians and lobbyists) not the other way around.

          2. JLM

            .Uhhh, Christopolis, to be able to provide money you must HAVE money.It is initially coming from the likes of people like Soros and Koch’s.The Soros’ and the Koch’s of the world make the offer first to rent the electorate before negotiating the prices. The candidates come on bended knee to borrow the rented electorate.Wanting free shit does not generate money to invest in the system.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. christopolis

            there are three things we are discussing. I have done a bad job distinguishing them1. money chasing political favor2. money that the government has to spend on political favor3. money attempting to stop others from getting political favorIf the electorate wants free stuff and jobs they will cause there to be money chasing political favor It’s nut to think that you banish lobbyists or contributions and you will somehow reduce the demand for 2. The only way to stop 2 is to convince the electorate of the immorality of taking or demanding something you did not earn. You can hamstring lobbyists and contributions all you want and it won’t make an iota of difference.Not that familiar with them but the Kochs seem to be an example of 3.

      3. Tom Labus

        Money is the key no doubt.But look at the “strict constitutionalists” who now want to toss the constitution for political points.

        1. JLM

          .Not sure I get your point, Tom.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Tom Labus

            The reaction to the Court opening.

      4. mikenolan99

        I can’t recall the source, but I remember learning that the fallacy is that Lobbyist cajol lawmakers – when in fact it is the lawmakers who, in an effort to raise ~$10k+ per day – reach out first to lobbyist for their “input” on topics.

        1. JLM

          .It is clearly a drug abuser — drug supplier relationship.Money is the drug.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      5. PhilipSugar

        You know I think this is because of our legal system and the fact that most politicians are lawyers.As a lawyer in the U.S. you are obligated to fight for your client no matter if they are right or wrong. Fight as hard as you can. The opposing side is always wrong at all costs.That is toxic.News media has done the same thing. Find the “GOTCHA” question.None of it is right.

        1. LE

          With criminal law, the fight for your client even if they are wrong is an important part of holding law enforcement accountable and making sure they do their jobs. You have to believe in the process is the way I look at it.If you watch enough of those “48 Hours” and “Dateline” what you find is that to most victims families automatically aren’t interested “in justice” which is what they say, but emotionally interested in the person the police say is guilty getting the longest sentence possible.

          1. PhilipSugar

            It goes both ways. Prosecution just wants a conviction, they play some dirty tricks, defense wants acquittals they do as well.I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with inexperienced partners and they say lets sue them, call the lawyer, and say they say we should sue them!!I’ve never seen a lawyer say, that’s a really bad idea.My biggest business mistake ever was suing a huge company. They were abusing us saying I need this change in the code RIGHT NOW! Then when the one out of ten times something didn’t work they cited a clause that said we would never give them beta code.They said they wanted some money back, my partner consulted a lawyer, the lawyer said sue them but don’t serve them, that way we will get venue. WORST ADVICE EVER.I said that sounds like a bad idea. I didn’t jump up and down and scream on the table. I can remember my partner who was an aggressive businessman say: “why are you backing down we are right”We did, they found out, the guy who was being a jerk literally held his head in his hands and said why did you do that???It was on. On like Donkey Kong. Their lawyers were like a pack of rabid dogs.They knew how to bleed us, they knew how to depose employees, ex-employees, spouses of employees, divorced spouses, ask for things just to run up the bill.It was ugly. I remember they gave one of our ex employees who moved down to Atlanta a job. She said we were a totally un-professional place to work. We decided to go through all of her emails. She had sent many company emails to two different co-workers graphically discussing the sexual acts that she enjoyed with them on her office desk.I never wanted to know that.Our lawyers were ecstatic. It was such a gotcha moment like the press loves. Hmmmm… say they were unprofessional, what do you think about these emails??? How professional is that very graphic behavior at work???? Her (mortified as the emails were read in front of ten people): Those are my private emails!!!! No, here is your signed personnel handbook where you agree they are company property. Their lawyers are disgusted she was now worthless, ours in glee she had been completely and thoroughly humiliated, as each and every one was reviewed and read into the record.She didn’t keep her job there long.There was nothing about the law or what was right, it was about applying maximum pain.

          2. LE

            It was on. On like Donkey Kong. Their lawyers were like a pack of rabid dogs.Scorched earth. I run into this with negotiating some times. The lack of rationality and gambling mentality on the part of a seller. I normally advise people that hire me to move on in that case unless they are willing to BOGU. I have one case right now where the company is rebranding because the seller isn’t on this planet (where “this planet” is not “no bargain” but “lottery”).They knew how to bleed us, they knew how to depose employees, ex-employees, spouses of employees, divorced spouses, ask for things just to run up the bill.I mean that is something that is so obvious and clear to anyone who has been around the block over the years. I am surprised that your attorney sucked so much to not have you avoid or anticipate that behavior. I’ve run into the same just helping former girlfriends with their divorces. In one case I managed to have my girlfriend write a letter to the court and they issued an order to pickup the husband (was an anesthesiologist) and throw him in jail for contempt. (He said he couldn’t get off for a hearing and I wrote the letter which essentially said he could get a partner to cover for him and it pissed off the judge to no end..) He missed being arrested only because he was not at home and was in NJ at the hospital.Then later at a hearing I advised her to not piss off the judge and she ignored what I told her. They threw her into jail and I had to go bail her out. In order to do so I had to cut a deal with her husbands attorney to agree to something. One of my finer moments actually.There was nothing about the law or what was right, it was about applying maximum pain.If I may ask, how much did the legal work cost you on this escapade?I had a case the other day where someone came to me for consulting. (startup). I never do formal “contracts” everything is by email. The guy says “do you have a contract”? I said “I don’t do contracts just emails that explain everything clearly”. He said “do you want me to have our lawyers draw something up?” I said “I won’t sign it besides I am not going to sue you and the amount isn’t high enough for me to do that anyway”. (< $20,000 let’s say). Besides my reputation is more important and you were referred by someone so… I understand why he asked of course.

          3. PhilipSugar

            It cost three times more than the amount we were arguing over. Their attorneys were in house.It was a long time ago.

      6. Lawrence Brass

        This is the sad truth, it happens in almost every place in the world. It has to be accepted as part of the human condition to really deal with it, but it is often disguised or neglected so most people doesn’t really care about the problem.

  5. Phil Chacko

    I enjoy nothing more than arguing like crazy over coffee or beer. It’s how I choose my friends.

  6. awaldstein

    My greatest takeaway from hanging out here for a bunch of years is that I never thought it possible to become such good friends with people that I disagreed with so wholeheartedly.That’s the magic of avc to me.

    1. William Mougayar

      Well said. With disagreements come respect. But it depends on the communications style.

      1. awaldstein

        Been rereading E.B White a bit lately when I can’t sleep.He is hands down the master of expression.To paraphrase his last sentences in Charlotte’s Web…How often do you have a good friend who is also a great writer and can saber a champagne bottle with the best of them?

          1. awaldstein

            I lived by this book in the past.When I ran large organizations I bought hundreds of copies of this for each person on the team.Now I read novels and his essays.

          2. William Mougayar

            am looking for them.

          3. BillMcNeely

            this picture caught me off guard as William Douglas Strunk was my given name before the judge gave the option to change it at adoption.

          4. William Mougayar

            really…didn’t know that about you.

          5. Donna Brewington White

            Was he referring to you? You ol’ saberer you.

          6. William Mougayar

            yup, but he seemed to have deleted that part afterwards. See this pic of me sabering a bottle at a friend’s wedding. Look at that perfect cut. Napoleon would be jealous :)https://uploads.disquscdn.c…

          7. Donna Brewington White

            Duly impressed.

          8. awaldstein

            didn’t delete anything my sabering friend!it was a take off of course from this famous line spoken by Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte’s Web about of course Charlotte herself!“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

          9. William Mougayar


          10. PhilipSugar

            I have read that book several times.

          11. William Mougayar

            yup…i seem to pull it out every 4-5 years. actually, re-reading now in light of my intensive book writing schedule for the next 3 weeks.

    2. fredwilson

      Me too Arnold. Me too

    3. Twain Twain

      Every commenter here has different frames of reference because of our education, career and life experiences, culture, perceptual biases.Once I read deeper into comments I disagree with, I understand more WHY people arrived at that view and I appreciate that they spent time to develop a view and to share it.When I was in my teens I was a lot more combative in discourse in a “HOW could you think such a thing?!” way.Then I learnt to ask, “Why do you see things differently?”We need grit and antagonism to make pearls and volcanic conditions to make diamonds and the rough edges inside the washing machine to clean our clothes.

      1. LE

        Once I read deeper into comments I disagree with, I understand more WHY people arrived at that view and I appreciate that they spent time to develop a view and to share it.Exactly and this goes IRL as well. While it’s easy to just think someone is (as only one example) a racist and is flat out wrong, there are always reasons why they got to that point. It doesn’t help to simply yell out “you are fucked up with how you think” and shrug with disgust, without understanding why they think like that. Which is almost certainly based on their upbringing, and/or who they hung around with when younger that brainwashed them, or what they have personally observed (that you have not). Where they have been in life and what their experiences have been. It’s always important (in order to make a change) to get to the root of what I will call the “foundation of current behavior”. In this sense it’s unfortunate when people, the media, and especially social media ostracize and berate people for something they said in the present day but especially in the past. Or, in some cases, go to measures to have them loose their job.

        1. Twain Twain

          The most wonderful capacity in us humans is our ability to learn and to evolve and improve with that learning.The other side of the coin is that other people CALIBRATE our thinking and behaviors.Some of us, at various points, may have been aware / unaware of our own ignorance, prejudices, biases, stupidities, absurdities etc. and those of others.Over time, we discover that other people aren’t right or wrong and neither are we. Nothing’s black and white and binary in that way.Everything’s a spectrum with color and nuance and contextual perspective.The key is simply to keep learning about, from and with others who are different from us.

    4. Ana Milicevic

      I stopped by today to leave essentially the same comment. It’s easy to get to unanimous decisions and opinions within one’s own social circle; your friends tend to have similar backgrounds, values, challenges, hopes as you do. It’s natural to gravitate towards people who think like you and within our own individual bubbles it can be quite a challenge to find someone with dramatically different opinions. That’s one of the main reasons I like this bar so much.Yet again a sports metaphor is apt: great rivalries make each of the rivals better. Lauda & Hunt, Senna & Prost, Djokovic & Federer, Sampras & Agassi, etc. Why wouldn’t it be the same way for intellectual exercise too?

      1. JLM

        .Well, it is. A good watch is the famous William Buckley v Gore Vidal debates.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. awaldstein

        Diversity as a idea crosses many categories as the key to a better future.

      3. PhilipSugar

        I love your first two examples are F1 racers. I would never have suspected that…how great is that.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          The movie about the first two was pretty good.

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Ain’t that the truth!

  7. Shaun Dakin

    Agree. However Washington and most of the State houses have devolved.And today we have the leadership of the gop saying NO! To replacing scalia.Insanity.

    1. JLM

      .The duty of the Senate, as codified in the Constitution, is to “advise and consent.”The word “advise” has as much legal weight as the duty to “consent.”In the course of consenting, there is no case to be made that the Senate would be expected to “rubber stamp” the President’s nomination.A fair minded person might consider that what we are seeing now is the Senate providing its advice to the President before he decides on what person to nominate. It is as normal and regular as it gets these days in Washington.Justice Anthony Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan but only after the demise of his Bork and Ginsburg nominations. In this instance, it took a third nominee, Kennedy, to win the support of the Senate.In the Bork case, which gave rise to the term “Borking” so virulently was he savaged, Teddy Kennedy announced within minutes of the nomination — long before there was even a hearing on the man — that he would oppose the nomination.Bork was nominated on 1 July and on the 5th of July Benjamin Hooks (NAACP head) famously stated: “We will fight it all the way – until hell freezes over, and then we’ll skate across on the ice.”Neither Kennedy or Hooks had even met Bork.Bork’s failure (which delved into such silliness as his video rentals) gave way to Reagan’s prospective nomination of Donald H Ginsburg, Harvard prof, who was accused of and admitted to using marijuana.Interestingly enough, 21 years later, Clarence Thomas would make a similar admission and be seated ovecoming the famous “pubic hair on the soft drink can” utterance by Anita Hill.Ginsburg’s nomination was technically never put forward so carefully did Reagan listen to the advice of the Senate who indicated they would not confirm him.[In the actual vote on Bork, it is interesting to note that Dem Sens Boren and Holliings voted in favor while Rep Sens Chafee, Packwood, Specter, Stafford, Waqrner, Weicker voted against. The final tally was 42-58.]Only then did Reagan nominate Anthony Kennedy who was put forward on 11 Nov and confirmed on 3 February by a 97-0 vote.The entire actual confirmation process took seven months though Justice Lewis Powell had revealed his decision to resign from the Court — thereby creating the vacancy to be filled — almost a year earlier.The process of resignation, deliberation, nomination, debate, and confirmation arguably took well more than a year and a half.The parallels with the current situation are quite close. The Democrats felt that the replacement of Powell, a moderate, with a Reagan conservative would undoubtedly nudge the Court to the right.The Democrats were long on record advising the President that they would oppose “any Reagan nominee” as being unsuitable. “Any nominee” with no knowledge of who that might be.The Bork-Ginsburg-Kennedy transformation showed how clearly their advice was heeded by Reagan as Kennedy was ultimately confirmed by a 97-0 vote.It is difficult to see the current situation in any different light. The Republicans, who control the Senate, have given to the President clear advice, no differently than the Democrats did to President Reagan.The Senate can receive the nomination, deliberate at their leisure and simply vote it down while saying, “Next?”This achieves the desired result from a Republican perspective.In some ways their clear intention of not being forced to conduct such a hearing in the scant time before we know who the next President will be — nine months — is pragmatic and adult.Why go through such a charade?The outcome is likely to be the same as the Reagan nominees.The time line is different in that President Obama will be out of office by the time this “normal” process runs its course. That is a reality of the passage of time and not politics.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Michael Rattner

        I thought this was an extremely good analysis of why Obama should nominate a candidate. It’s not because they have a chance of getting confirmed, but rather who will be angered and motivated to vote Democratic in the next election when the candidate is blocked:

        1. JLM

          .Giving Donald Trump more anger into which to tap hardly seems like a workable strategy for the Democrats.How many voters can even name the SCOTUS?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. JLM

          .Adding more anger to the debate seems to benefit only one guy — Donald Trump. He is channeling the anger.Obama rants against the Senate and Trump says, “See, I told you. Washington DC is fucked up. Elect me to sort it out.”I doubt there is an undecided voter who pulls the lever for Hillary or Bernie based on the SCOTUS nominee being the deciding factor.Most folks couldn’t even explain who the Supremes are. Name them? Huh!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. William Mougayar

    “Intellectuals can debate. Idiots just argue.”– Dani ReynoldsThe civility part brings respect and order to a debate, which is supposed to strengthen ideas. No one person has the whole picture. Debates bring more clarity.”It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”– Joseph Joubert (french writer)

  9. BillMcNeely

    Civility… Respect… Words and deeds often missing in today’s world.Thanks AVC!

  10. pointsnfigures

    Yup. At the University of Chicago where Scalia did his law degree, they embrace that concept. In the same department, you have Eugene Fama, and Richard Thayler. Austan Goolsbee is on the faculty that gave us Milton Friedman. Chicago emphazises freedom of speech and expression-and has a university statement that other schools should follow. Unfortunately in today’s environment, they don’t. Witness Missouri.Loved reading and listening to Scalia. A true giant who could make the complications of law make sense to the average person. He was really for the little guy against the collective. He will be missed.

  11. sigmaalgebra

    Ah, small potatoes! You are looking at an elephant and seeing only a gnat!The Internet is the giant step up in the ascent of man for the crucial input of information. It’s changing the economy, business, education, politics, etc.E.g., in politics, some Web sites routinely get four digits worth of comments on just one article, in particular comments via, IIRC AVC company, Disqus. All that commenting yields lots more information.E.g., during a political debate, apparently commonly the audience does use Google search to do fact checks on what the heck some candidate said. And Google can graph the activity.Woe be to a candidate whose remark is easily contradicted by a simple Google search: The blogs will light up and eviscerate and excoriate at least the remark and maybe also the candidate.As civilization started with next to nothing, newspapers helped a lot. Radio added to that. TV helped until it turned into just entertainment. Now the Internet is just overwhelming and unstoppable: For nearly any content at all for which there is any audience at all, there’s a shot at getting that content in front of the potential audience.And, thus, there is the biggie issue as via AVC and Ben Evans a few weeks ago, content discovery, that is, letting people find what they will like in the trillions of Web pages out there. So, there’s a need for new tools for search, discovery, recommendation, curation, notification, subscription, filtering, etc.When we make enough progress for such search, the Internet will let small, radical, but well supported ideas go viral, get traction, and change the world. Maybe we had such changes in some small villages in the past, but now, at least on niche topics, we are well on the way to regarding the whole earth as such a village discussion. Indeed, the reason Tim Berners-Lee developed HTTP and HTML was for a physics newsletter. Fora were already popular, and the Web made them much more popular. For now, for LIGO, there’s been a three day Reddit AMA. Lots of new information!

  12. riemannzeta

    Synergistic moment this morning as I saw this in another story in my stream”Friendship lies in contradiction and not in agreement!”https://www.brainpickings.o……so UNFORTUNATELY I couldn’t agree more!

  13. Stuart Kime

    It’s true, great teams fight well. When I make a new startup I like to have the core team fail in front of each other. You can use anything from pottery classes, improv comedy, or wake surfing lessons the key is to find things that none of them know how to do. After everyone has sufficiently face planted (literally, and including the CEO) all false pretenses are gone. And when the pretension is gone, respect is free to flow.

    1. drmarasmith

      I do something similar with coaches and teachers – have them try something that is hard and fail in front of others so they can be tethered to that feeling of struggle/fighting and trying – (which they so often tell others they aren’t doing)

  14. ZekeV

    Scalia wrote for law students, and was a rare bright spot in the required reading. It’s easy to underestimate the power of good writing. Scalia will have a lasting influence on Constitutional interpretation for centuries to come, even while his substantive political preferences on a personal level (or what we imagine his views were) currently appear to be on the losing side of history.

  15. WA

    The sweet sound of synthesis.

  16. Lynn Kasel

    I was at the National Prayer Breakfast a few weeks ago. Much of the agenda was designed to promote prayer as a means of global cooperation and as an alternative to conflict. There was little discussion about dealing with real conflict.Unfortunately, it seems that civility is most easily lost when the debaters represent people with deeply opposing interests. And in politics, the outcome of a debate can have a real impact on peoples lives.It strikes me that the debate here at AVC is amongst a group that shares a common interest. This is a luxury that we all get to enjoy. Thanks Fred.

  17. jason wright

    what was the process like when deciding on Airbnb, heated disagreement or unanimity?

    1. fredwilson

      heated disagreement. we should have listened to the youngsters in the room. we do that more now 🙂

  18. drmarasmith

    So much transformation and learning can happen under the umbrella of respect. Thanks to the AVC community for collectively making sure there is one, and it is continually open!

  19. Elia Freedman

    I sat on a jury two weeks ago. It was a fairly simple case but after it was over the judge asked us all to hang around for a minute and came into talk. He asked if we were unanimous in either of the two charges. He commented that he doesn’t like when his trials are unanimously decided because he believes that his juries work through the issue less in those instances. It was a very interesting comment.

    1. fredwilson

      a lot like our super fast investment decisions

  20. DJL

    I couldn’t agree more. But I would suggest that intellectually “honest” be added to the title. What has happened in our public discourse (even at the level of the Supreme Court) is that political ideology is routinely disguised as “intellectual” analysis. So I can lie, mislead and promote ideas and and shroud them in intelligent-sounding statements.For example, the facts about made-made climate change have been totally covered, and the debate has disintegrated into name calling: “climate change deniers.” The factual discussion about the real benefit of social programs has been clobbered into name-calling “haters of women and children and poor people.”While Justice Ginsburg’s comments were very nice, let’s not kid ourselves about what is at stake here: If Obama is able to nominate the next Supreme Court justice then the most powerful political organization in the United States will go Liberal. If he cannot, then it will likely go Conservative. The crazy debate has already started. But let’s just speak the truth on both sides: “I want it to go my way!”

    1. Salt Shaker

      Obama is smart enough to know a moderate choice is needed here. Anyone perceived as too liberal is a non-starter and would only result in “pot stirring.” Congress has passed muster on a few worthy judicial candidates at lower court levels, so there’s precedent for Congressional approval for several bonafides, although the context (and stakes) for approval at the SCOTUS level are unquestionably quite different.

      1. LE

        Not only that but note that the republicans will drive a harder bargain by going down the road of “non-starter for Obama to appoint” then if they put up a lesser fight and said “ok we will do our civic duty”. As a result their approach is the correct strategy.

      2. JLM

        .Huh?He has already leaked his potential nominees. One of them is Eric Holder.Whoever is nominated is likely not to have any or very limited judicial experience as they will have a long list of actual decisions, opinions, and a verifiable track record.Obama learned his lesson with Sotomayer, who was the first woman Hispanic, who had a judicial track record. Absent her tokenship, he opinions almost sunk her.Compare that to Elena Kagan who had never sat on the bench though she had been nominated and failed to win confirmation.Amongst the leaked list of nominees is the current AG Lynch who is a totally undistinguished jurist.A fair minded person, wallowing in their admiration of Justice Scalia, would at least look for a jurist who had a similar track of record of practicing, teaching, and applying the law in both the political sphere and in private practice.Being smart as Hell couldn’t hurt.To suggest that this lame duck President, in the last year of his lame duckedness, is about to nominate a “moderate” candidate is breathtaking.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Salt Shaker

          A liberal nominee will only contribute to the obstructionism that prevails today. Maybe it’s a tad naive on my part, but I’m hopeful a saner (and more conciliatory) mind will prevail. Too liberal a choice is a non-starter, while a moderate choice puts pressure on the GOP (and McConnell) to approve. Anything less is just, sadly, politics as usual. Obama can nominate whomever he wants, but there’s no, zero, zilch upside in nominating a liberal candidate w/ a rat’s chance in hell.

          1. JLM

            .Obama will nominate an ideological mirror image of himself and his most recent nominees.He is not looking to temper anything. It will become a campaign issue but it will never be understood by Joe Sixpack.He announced his intentions in the very same paragraph in which he praised Justice Scalia. Only a period at the end of a sentence posed as a “decent interval” between when he ended the praise of the man’s life and began the politics.He has allowed the names of AGs Lynch and Holder to enter the public fray already, hardly thoughtful suggestions.We should make a small wager on this to keep it interesting, no?OTOH, if McConnell were to allow an Obama nominee to see the light of day, he would be defeated. His hands are tied and he has no such flexibility.Every single Republican candidate will be unanimous in this view. They can’t be otherwise.As is said, “It kicks as hard as it shoots.”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Salt Shaker

            Ha, I’d be more comfortable placing a wager w/ you that Trump won’t be the next POTUS than who O will nominate for SCOTUS.

          3. JLM

            .I would take that bet, only to be gentlemanly, but there would have to be some very high odds.While I think that Trump has nudged the debate into what Americans have been thinking, his level of personal churlishness — charming when doled out in thimblefuls — has become a tsunami.I can’t believe that Jeb doesn’t go ugly on an ape on him. I would long since have dusted off my college boxing skills and laid him out.OTOH, it is SC and there is that NASCAR bent to things.http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. Salt Shaker

            Jeb’s getting a little testy, but he frankly doesn’t have it in him. Trump basically emasculated him before smoke cleared from the starter’s pistol, though I think Jeb had his best debate in SC. Carson will be gone shortly and Jeb soon thereafter if he doesn’t make up ground. He has the funding to keep going but to what end? Cruz should be kicking Trump’s butt in SC and he isn’t? That doesn’t bode well for him. Can’t give you odds on a Presidential bet when Trump is the prohibitive fav as the GOP nominee. Plus, as you’ve pointed out numerous times, the party owns Congress. You’re hedging, JLM.

          5. JLM

            .Guilty as charged.We are not quite close enough to call the outcome but those who said, “Oh, Trump has done it now.” or “Wait until the actual voting begins.”Well, those folks have been proven wrong.Things like the untimely death of Justice Scalia will crop up and I am convinced there will be a big terrorist incident yet again. We are a million years from the actual nomination but unless someone beats Trump like a rented mule, humiliates him — it is pretty close to over if he wins SC.I would be willing to give Trump a chance but I am about out of patience with his churlishness. Jeb has lost on simple manliness.Nobody should be “shushed” and take it like he did. Nobody should summon his Momma to bail him out. W is going to make people in SC like Jeb less and W more.One also has to believe that a guy in #2 or #3 begins to realistically consider the possibility of being VP.We shall bet a burger and I will buy regardless of the outcome.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. LE

            Agree on Trump but if he has to clean toilets to get elected then so be it. Whatever it takes to get the job done. If the language and behavior continues to work and do the trick I will look the other way. As mentioned was painful to watch though. Mainly because I thought he got to angry to easily but then again that anger comes in handy in motivating people. Trump is similar (to Jobs) in that way. He’s a “make daddy happy” kind of a manager. Daddy doesn’t smile often (note that about Trump) so you want to earn his favor by pleasing him. Not everybody gets a trophy. When you get a trophy from him you feel really good. And you know he isn’t grin fucking you either (at least not at that stage of things).Separate thought. Republicans are 100% justified with blocking Obama’s nominee if it isn’t the birthday present they want. Why? He shoved his Obamacare down everyone’s throat and now is payback time.

          7. LE

            Jeb’s getting a little testy, but he frankly doesn’t have it in him.Mammas boy. Not his own man. His family owns him. That’s a problem. He thinks his mommy is “the finest woman out there”. To which Trump said “well then she should run”.

      3. DJL

        With all due respect, this is not likely to happen. Obama has not done one “moderate” thing in his entire Presidency. Per the comments below – he will nominate an ideological copy of himself, as he has done for all of his cabinet and other positions.

        1. Salt Shaker

          You’re prob right, but hope you’re wrong. A liberal choice will only empower Trump, as JLM has astutely noted. Washington gridlock.

    2. JLM

      .This decision point is not different than the Reagan — Bork, Ginsburg, Kennedy — appointment and confirmation wherein Ted Kennedy announced he would oppose whoever Reagan nominated to replace Justice Lewis Powell even before he nominated anyone.Justice Powell had announced his intention to retire on a date certain a year earlier.Justice Kennedy was confirmed 73-0. [I have always wondered what happened to the otehr 27 Senators.]BTW, people forget that Reagan appointed the first woman to the SCOTUS, Justice O’Connor, a cowgirl from New Mexico, I think.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. sigmaalgebra

      > If Obama is able to nominate the next Supreme Court justice then the most powerful political organization in the United tates will go Liberal.Nope. The situation is just the Constitution 101: Obama can nominate anyone for any reason or no reason. And nothing happens unless the Senate confirms, and they can do that or not do that for any reason or no reason. The Senate is under no, none, nada, nichts, zip, zilch, zero obligation to confirm. Instead, the Senate can reject for any reason or no reason; they don’t have to have a reason; if they have a reason, it doesn’t have to be a good reason; if they have a reason, they don’t have to give a reason; if they give a reason, it doesn’t have to be the right reason; they are free to give a reason even if they don’t have a reason. Simple.Our founding fathers were smart cookies, able to build a stable government from flawed, unstable people. Smart cookies.

  21. Kent Karlsen

    Nice post. Related to investment decisions: When you always do the first thing that is an obvious thing to do, you end up doing milk and bread business. If you dare, and can afford, to explore things you really love, you might end up to change the world. At least a little bit. Love this community.

  22. Brandon Burns

    I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes I fool myself into thinking that all people realize that the only way they learn is through the discourse of ideas with other people. Actually, few get it.You find spots like AVC, where you get used to being open in the way you express and receive criticism, and then carry that into your day-to-day life… only to one day unwittingly open your mouth to someone who falls apart at the slightest suggestion that they might be wrong, and you remember that the ability to engage in a civil debate is rare, and you become much more appreciative of the special people and places that provide it to you.I’m sure there isn’t a single AVC reader who has gotten annoyed or just down right pissed at some of the things that have been said in this forum (well, except maybe Jim!) but, in the end, safe spaces to speak your mind and learn from others aren’t around every corner, so ultimately we all end up right back here.

    1. LE

      Great comment.The annoyance?. Sometimes you get annoyed because when you know all of the characters you find that they repeat themselves quite frequently. [1] You already know their shtick, their history, their point of view. However there are new readers and not so frequent readers who perhaps aren’t aware of the information, sayings, or catch phrase that you have heard 20 times already. [2][1] I know I repeat myself and I cringe every time I choose to do that because I annoy myself since I am especially sensitive to patterns.[2] In a way this is similar to TV commercials that you constantly see.

  23. JLM

    .When ideas wrestle, the result is better and stronger ideas.This is what is missing in Washington — regular order wherein a legislative initiative is subjected to subcommittee, committee, and only then floor debate.Even when a proponent knows they have the votes to carry the day, the debate provides education and serves as a “heat sink” — you folk who were tortured through thermo know what this means — to absorb all the energy that if left unabsorbed will manifest itself as anger thereafter.It is the weighing of the benefits v the costs, the pros v the cons. It does not have to be contentious and it can smoke out the “known unknowns” where the risk in life exists.In business, the use of a written decision memorandum to make big decisions in which the merits of an idea are outlined by its principal proponent and then discussed and argued — argument is simply the extension of debate to “argue” for a particular position.This decision memorandum can then become the place wherein every person involved puts their signature on the plan thereby avoiding the “orphaning” of a troubled acquisition or initiative.The decision memorandum then becomes the vehicle by which management broaches the subject to the Board. It is a technique. It is process and it works.I stole this idea from watching the mechanizations of a Fortune 5 board of directors who had paid full tuition to manufacture it in the first place.It is the equivalent of the Ranger Five Paragraph Field Order with which every Ranger briefs his patrol on the eve of a raid.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  24. Salt Shaker

    Perhaps intended, perhaps not, but I interpreted Fred’s post as a response to the discourse that transpired here the other day at AVC. It sadly devolved into commentary that lacked “civility (and respect).” Maybe I’m an outlier, but I found it quite disturbing.

    1. LE

      I was slammed pretty good in the post that I think you are referring to. I was called “ignorant” and then the same person said this:I dislike when I see someone like Fred / Mark put out something thoughtful in solidarity and then get disappointed by lame comments. I have higher expectation for this community.It isn’t that someone disagrees with what you say, it’s the way they go about the criticism that’s obvious.In other words it comes across as “my view is the right view and anything that doesn’t support my view is not right in anyway, shape or form”. [1][1] This is actually reminiscent of the way that many children of immigrants that I know (including myself) were raised. Note: I don’t speak for everyone, just the people that I have observed in my community and some anecdotal media references.The way it goes is like this. The young people say something. The older people tell them, in so many words, that they are fucked up beyond belief for the way they think. This is an attempt to control them and put them in their place. As a result they end up stiffing creativity and good ideas that the young people might have. Because they are afraid to open their mouth and say anything. It’s especially severe when an entire family gangs up on you to put you in your place.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I have to say, I’ve learned to wait out my reflex reactions to your comments because some days you say so many things I agree with, and then other days you have me shaking “my damn head” 😉 I often read twice or thrice to make sure I’m *really* understanding what you mean.I did think that the “ignorant” wording came on a little strong. But try to understand: you can’t imagine how many times a day, week, month, POC and women are put in a position of being *expected* to enlighten people. It’s often with an attitude of “enlighten me or get bent.” It’s exhausting. Especially when it’s pretty easy to educate oneself on these issues if one really wants to.That same ‘gang up’ feeling you describe is exactly what POC and women experience all the time, every day. I’m not exaggerating. So maybe you can understand a bit where she was coming from. It may have felt to her like you were peeing on something very important to her and deeply felt.

        1. LE

          One thing though Kirsten. In the comment that I made in question, why did people feel that it was a POC issue that I was raising when what I was talking about “athletes”? Wasn’t that a bit of a conclusion that people might have jumped to? Wouldn’t that be the same as me thinking that if a businessman being discussed was jewish (which I am) and they had cheated someone or stolen and someone said “oh those businesspeople will take advantage of anyone and everyone” then I got all defensive because I thought it was because they were jewish and an old stereotype?Also, is it fair that a regular person such as myself has to walk on eggshells because of how someone is treated by others or in another context or because of history? So much so that I have to watch what I say? I am not talking about other things that I might say (where I could be wrong and cross some line) but more specifically the “crime” of the comment in question.Re: Women. Here is one for you that I just heard the other day from my wife. As I’ve mentioned she is a Doctor. She told me it’s not unusual for older male doctors when they are talking to her at the hospital about a patient to start to rub her neck! Isn’t that wild? She said it’s only older doctors, not younger doctors. She said it wasn’t in a sexual way at all. I am baffled by this. She also told me when she started her job the women nurses didn’t treat her the same as they treated the male doctors. So yes I know this happens. I’ve told the story of my ex wife and the “your tits look good in purple” comment on AVC before.Here is another story for you (along the lines of “walk on eggshells”).Before I married my wife several years ago I dated a women who was also a doctor (for many years). One day I was putting on those stretching gloves like people in medicine use (to do some cleaning). I said to her “can you give me a hand with putting these on?” (it’s easier with another person, right?). She absolutely freaked out! She refused to do that and considered it insulting! True story! So my point is I have a hard time (and this goes to the point of politically correct) watching out for people’s feelings when they are perhaps a bit to sensitive.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I understand what you’re saying, truly. And I believe that you meant nothing racially prejudiced in your comment.But in fact I think that “watching what you say” is exactly what all white people need to be doing. Not as a way of covering our asses, but as a way of really deeply thinking about what we’re saying and why we’re saying it when it comes to matters of race.I hear you that you didn’t feel your comment was directed at Magic’s race. But the video itself was about diversity, and he was there because of his race. To lump Magic in with all “those athletes” may in and of itself be a racist comment to be making (even though you consciously didn’t mean it that way). One can say racist things without meaning to be racist.The times we live in ask of white people to rethink *everything* they *think* they know about race. It’s the least we can do. Our job if we care about this issue is to be searching relentlessly for unconscious bias in ourselves. It’s there, even in the most “bleeding heart” liberal. Do I think that’s fair? Yes, I do.I would understand if you feel like this is just a way for you to always be falling into a trap of being accused of being racist. I promise you that’s not the purpose. The point is that at this moment in history the burden is now upon white people (at least those who want to be a part of a new age in racial justice) to think before they speak, not to be P.C., but to reflect deeply about the meaning, effect and unconscious thoughts surrounding what they’re about to say. It’s about coming to grips with deeply held beliefs we didn’t even know we had.It’s all part of being the change we want to see in the world. Everything matters, even “small” conversations like these.Personally, I believe it’s about listening more than speaking when a POC is speaking about race, assuming that there is much I don’t know or understand.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      There were a couple of pretty impassioned comments made (although, I saw much of it as actually meant to be funny, not mean).Could we stop for a moment to *try* and see where that passion comes from? We weren’t talking about candidates or what’s going to happen to TWTR stock. We were talking about the very state of a very many people’s lives.Some here seem to truly believe they’re being diplomatic when in fact what they have is a gift for velvet-gloved insults. Many of us are reacting to that patronizing sort of ‘tact.’ We see it. It doesn’t go above our heads. I’m not so sure that either side, the other day, made comments any more insulting than the other. One just didn’t cloak it in back-handed, head-patting compliments.Many of the very regular and verbose commenters here are not willing to consider they might just be wrong or even just out of line. They’d rather pull rank with their age and “years of experience,” even when talking with someone who is speaking from *their* own *direct* experience.The majority of the regular commenters here have zero idea what it’s like as a woman or POC to look at the sea of white male faces in this comments section and work up the courage to join in. Of course it’s civil. How could some place so homogeneous _not_ be? Nonetheless, something racist or misogynistic is said here every single week, and I get to make the decision about whether or not to wade into the experience of calling it out. And I’m often the only one who does so. No one here has ever replied, “I never looked at it that way. Perhaps I have some thinking to do.”Nonetheless, the grown-up, productive discourse here remains a model for all webdom. I myself am quite proud of my friendship with Andy Swan 😉 You’re all still better than most comment sections anywhere else. So there’s that!

      1. Salt Shaker

        Thanks for the comment. I thought some of the dialogue was way over the top, worse than I’ve ever seen here frankly. Maybe I was interpreting too literally. Passions frequently get inflamed, but when it comes to race, gender and religion that’s when perhaps even greater sensitivity should prevail. I obv have no idea what it’s like to be a POC, nor a woman for that matter. I was raised in a fairly insular environment, and I frankly didn’t start seeing the ways of the world until I went away to college. I’ve since seen enough in life and biz to understand it’s hardly a level playing field. As a society we’ve only scratched the surface of where we need to be, and that prob applies to me as well.

        1. Simone

          ‘As a society we’ve only scratched the surface of where we need to be’ – this is exactly what the recent comments here have proved, as well as the Oscar’s boycott/reactions from white actors proved, as well as Marc Andreessen’s comments re colonialism proved. Funny timing, btw. P.S. I also thought that was the intention of this blog entry and I found the ‘gentile reminder’ rather British 🙂 (vs a direct request to all to behave or leave)…

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Well now you’ve fixed it so I can’t claim that no one here has ever replied to me with, “Perhaps I have some thinking to do!” 😉

      2. Simone

        I’ve said this before, some people think this is their personal fb page or even living room (although some believes are wrong regardless if expressed in private). In my kindest form, I choose to believe some people just don’t know what they are talking about because they didn’t have to.It’s not just us here (this will Not make you feel better)

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I’ve often said Twitter is a Rorschach test 😉

          1. Simone

            I didn’t know the name for the images test, so I just learnt something new, thank you

      3. Stephen Voris

        Culture shock works both ways, does it not? To borrow some blatant stereotyping, I’d be totally out of my element at a block party or a knitting group (or, for that matter, in a legislature or a prison); what’s common sense in one context may be flat-out wrong in another. If you have people with one set of cultural assumptions visiting/talking/working with people with a different set, there’s going to be friction, there’s going to be miscommunication – whose responsibility is it to do the translating? The visitors’, or the visit-ees’?The answer to that question is, I think, itself cultural, but I’m curious what others think here.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I guess it depends upon whether the visitees really want the visitors to come to the party, stay at the party and come to the next party. Or do they want just the opposite?Or, even more to the point, does the party have a sign over it saying “All are welcome!” but then a punch bowl labeled “friends of the house only.”In the context of the national conversation on race, I would argue that a group of white people talking about diversity is more like a party thrown by POC that the white people have wandered into (and likely started telling the POC how they’re partying wrong). In fact, that’s exactly what it’s like.In a way, Sunday was like that. The diversity banner was raised, and when diverse people showed up and said, “Allow me to tell you something about diversity,” some (not all) people told them to shut up and stop ruining the diversity party.

          1. Stephen Voris

            Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem comes to mind, here, despite its original domain being mathematics rather than culture; I think there’s an analogous situation when it comes to human experience.On the mathematical end, the summary is roughly – “useful, complete, consistent: pick two”. That is – there are no perfect filters.As for the visitees’ preferences on whether the visitors come back – some do, some don’t. Sort of the annoying side of the coin when it comes to diversity – there’s no bright line between honest ignorance (or mistaken beliefs) and trolling/insults/etc. One person’s offer to help may be another’s insinuation of weakness.

      4. Yinka!

        Yes. While I’m more likely to call shenanigans, the timing is a factor. E.g. if there are already soo many comments by the time I pull up on a discussion or if I’m viewing much later on (post publish date), then I’m unlikely to comment as I view the discussion as being over.But I’ve also encountered or observed interesting reactions that include smug out-of-touchness (from people debating things they have no direct knowledge of) and outright jaundiced views, which makes me wonder why they even engage in the first place. Then I realize that the aim was to proclaim, not inform or learn. Equally disappointing is to see others ignore such and continue the convo with them without skipping a beat.Now this thread now has me curious about which discussion I missed. Edit: I just saw it (“Video Of The Week: Diversity In Tech Startups”) and WOW.

  25. RameshJain

    Very well articulated. Intelligent discussions and discourses are the most imortant ingredients in our growth.

  26. Richard

    I can’t help but notice the lack of discussion and debate in the VC community over the events that took place at Zenefits or for that matter debate amounst VCs at all. Is there a unwritten rule to avoid debate of investments outside of one’s fund?

    1. JLM

      .A lot of folks from Zenefits are going to become familiar with the criminal justice system before this is over.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Richard

        Will will see just how persuasive the lobbying $$ of FB is.

    2. LE

      Tangled web of acquaintances with plenty to lose.Of course Fred is often able to do this by making a statement that is benign and then tossing the carcass to the commenters who do the dirty work (if you want to call it that).

      1. Richard

        Yep, feels like @msuster is bravely (ever so slightly) bucking he trend.

  27. ashkan

    As a law student looking to get into the venture world, I cant agree more that great decisions come from great civil intelligent debate weighing the costs and benefits.

  28. Mike Geer (MG)

    Hear hear! A great reminder to start the week.

  29. David C. Baker

    One of the reasons I hang out here is because of the quality of the discourse. I’d love to learn about other hangouts where the discourse is equally useful. I find that Ars Technica is one. Some thoughtful articles at the NYT site are great. A few discussion boards where I imbibe my hobbies (fine woodworking, photography, flying airplanes/helicopters). But what other sites do you find useful? I’d love to discover them.But back to the point. I appreciate Fred’s thoughtful discourse, surfacing contrary arguments about some of their investments (Coinbase, Kickstarter, Twitter to name a recent few), but that leads to thoughtful commenters, too.

  30. Jess Bachman

    Great point about civility, not just among participants, but watchers as well. Watching the GOP debate, there were so many times where candidates were flirting with saying something…. calm and collected, and slightly rational… but the audience would start booing, so the tone from the candidates quickly became vitriolic and the subject matter, meaningless.

    1. Salt Shaker

      Big diff in tone and civility between GOP and Dem debates. Quite revealing.

  31. Donna Brewington White

    Reading a couple of pieces on Scalia this weekend, discovering his friendship with Ginsburg both surprised and touched me. They are a breed that I hope continues.Speaking of breed, the relationship between Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf made a lasting impact on me as a kid.

  32. Mariah Lichtenstern

    Fred, your advice is wise and represents a welcome ideal, particularly after engaging in the discussion around your latest video of the week (which could just have easily have been this one:… ).Sadly, in this day and age of such rampant crass commentary, persuading proponents of the status quo often requires giving them a taste of their own medicine. To do so without being brought to their level is likely the art of dissent – an art that undoubtedly takes practice or an exceptionally graceful predisposition to master.

    1. JLM

      .Nobody ever said sainthood was going to be easy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Mariah Lichtenstern

        Keep working on it, Jeff.

        1. JLM

          .Not a chance for me, Mariah. Neither in reality nor fantasy.Though I have always admired St Augustine’s approach.JLM

          1. Mariah Lichtenstern

            Ah…those demons. Never too late until it’s too late.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I’m glad you’re here.

      1. Mariah Lichtenstern

        Likewise Kirsten…Thank you for seeing purpose beyond persona. 😉

  33. JLM

    .I have waited until late in the day when the edges are smoothed a bit.I have a good friend and he often tells me that debate is like a sport. There are some sportspersons who favor badminton and there are some sportspersons who favor boxing.Badminton is a non-contact sport based on the savaging of an innocent shuttlecock back and forth across a net. Where is the victimhood for the defenseless shuttlecocks, you ask?Boxing, on the other hand, is a contact sport. Having boxed in college, I can tell you with some certainty that there is no period of time longer than three three minutes rounds made all the more lengthy by the presumption of your opponent following you around with the promise of a pummeling when he corners you.And, yet games have rules that apply to their conduct. The rules are, surprisingly, quite different. But there very strict rules for both.Debates, as in the confrontation between badminton v boxing, require a good understanding of the rules up front. In addition, sports like boxing are further segregated by weight and experience.In an infantry division, there is often a division wide boxing competition. It is good for the troops. In my company was a staff sergeant who had a shot at being the light heavy weight champ. He had been the champ once before.He needed a sparring partner and since he was in my unit and I was also a natural lightheavy weight, I volunteered to help him train.It was not the worst decision I ever made but it holds a top ten position by acclimation.At about 7:00 PM in a cold Quonset hut gym, we would pull on our gloves, head gear, and cups and spend the next hour with his trainer putting us in positions to model what he would encounter from an opponent.It was grueling work particularly when I was required to strike him and he was to respond with a 5-punch combo of counterpunches in retaliation. Just the trade — 1 for 5 was troubling.In debate, it is often useful to know if there are any rules, the weight class/expertise/skill of the participants, and if folks think they are playing badminton or boxing. Also, whether they can administer or receive a punch.The worst possible debates are when someone signals they are a heavyweight when they are, in reality, a featherweight. Still capable of a fight but outmatched by class.The worst possible things may simply be the result of a misunderstanding on such basic matters. That staff sergeant never set out to knock the shit out of me but it happened more regularly than I am willing to confide.BTW, he won the division championship and I was there to watch him do it. He later told me that he could never have done it without the ability to beat me up each evening.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  34. Pete Griffiths

    The Socratic method.

  35. jason wright

    if we’re taking the Bader Scalia relationship as the model for harmony in discourse then we will all have to go on vacation together once a year.i suggest a kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to buy this place to become an AVC island retreat outside Berlin;…Think Davos, but with diversity, and it’s not going to be run like those places in Oregon i’ve read about either.I’ll start the ball rolling. one bitcoin.

  36. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    A simple idea – that I all to frequently fail to achieve – is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – before I dismiss their feelings or opinionsOn a related point I was at a trade show today and feel I have walked a hundred miles and climbed a hundred hills (debating, understanding, urging, listening, explaining etc) – but back at hotel room now and i look back on “the journey” today – every once of shoe leather lost talking to clients, competitors and thought leaders is another ounce of gold !

  37. Tim Schigel

    I recently came across this article which I think amplify’s your point and provides great tips for having honest, depolarizing debate. particularly like this part “The playwright and political leader Václav Havel famously said that he would rather have a beer with someone who’s searching for the truth than with someone who’s found it.”

  38. JLM

    .Obama can’t rap. The guy is half black and half white. It’s the white half driving his feet — have you ever seen him dance?It is obvious that the Obama administration thought and continued to think the people were stupid.”Y’all dumbasses actually think you can keep your insurance plan, your doctor, your premiums are going DOWN $2,500 under Obamacare? OMG, you believed me?”Check with Prof Gruber to get the exact detail.The other day he says publicly that a person can buy a gun on the Internet directly with no background investigation. Huh?You can only buy a gun by having it shipped to an FFL (Fed Firearms Licensee) and then undergoing a background investigation in the state in which you reside.That’s been the law forever and the President of the US gets up in front of a camera and emotes, cries, and lies.Then, he thanks the ATF for all of their hard work on background investigations. The ATF doesn’t do background investigations, the FBI does using a proprietary database that has been in existence for decades.This is some very basic shit. If you don’t know how the system actually works, how can you effectively change it?The only other explanation is that HE is the stupid one.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  39. JLM

    .Not to go thermo on you but I am betting if we compared my tax bill and yours I probably handled a bit more of the burden than you.I hope you get your chance to handle the load but so far I’ve been getting pushed to the front of the line.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  40. JLM

    .Don’t really get it but love your style.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  41. JLM

    .Now THIS is why I come to!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  42. JLM

    .Wait until you finish. Entropy and enthalpy are the greatest babe magnets since Labradors.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…