Adam Singer: The Kids Aren’t So Alright

Adam Singer is extremely observant. That’s what’s made him an expert on Google’s tools for marketers, but also what makes him an interesting follow on Twitter. He’s been outspoken on the challenge the young face in booming places like San Fransisco.

Read more about Adam Singer on FutureBuzz and hear his tracks here. Good stuff. There are two Adams in this episode but I have faith in you all to keep up.

Listen here:


[00:00:22] Adam Pierno: Up and running. Cool. All right. Welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. This is a very, very big episode for me. We’ve been trying to make this work. We actually got on the recording but we weren’t quite prepared, but we’re ready now. We’re doing it. Today, I have former Googler Adam Singer, who is taking a little time in between gigs and ramping up the next thing. Adam, how are you today?

[00:00:51] Adam Singer: I’m well, how are you, Adam?

[00:00:53] Adam Pierno: I’m doing great. I’m really glad we were able to get these kinks all worked out and we’re ready to rumble.

[00:01:00] Adam: Yes, this is great. I’m always happy to talk to another Adam.

[00:01:02] Adam Pierno: [laughs] From now on the show is going pure Adams. I don’t know if you were made aware of that. Luckily, there’s a lot of us out there. Tell people who are not familiar with you– You and I know each other from Twitter, as do a lot of our guests, but tell people who aren’t familiar with you just the trajectory of your career, what you did getting you up to Google and to where you are now.

[00:01:27] Adam: Yes. I’ll give you the short, short version. I’ve been building online things since the late ’90s. I grew up and I was a total forum geek. Some of you are probably too young, but back before the current wave of social media we all used to socialize on forums, IRC, AOL and all these precursor products to the current social web. Yes, I went into college and I had a part-time job. I had always worked in restaurants. One of my forums started to get a lot of traffic, I put ads on the forum because I’d seen other people were doing this who are running forums and sites.

One day, I was making more money from my forums than I was making from my job in the restaurant. So it clicked for me that this internet thing is a great way to make some extra money, and also, “Hey, this is maybe going to be important for a lot of different things.” Unfortunately, I grew up in South Florida, which is not a technology hub. It’s a great place for tourism, fishing and law because there’s a lot of people in Florida doing a lot of really strange things, I guess. A little Florida Man meme. Really, I was always a technology geek, and I always regretted that I– My parents are from Boston, and I feel like if I had grown up there, I would have maybe been pushed in a more entrepreneurial direction.

I had to find that myself a little bit later on. What happened is in college, I was an internet entrepreneur as one might be when their only exposure to this was CS101 class in high school, had been a gamer geek, had built forums and taught myself basics on how to code. I got into the business world, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I studied marketing because I did like crafting stories, I had been writing music forever, I felt like it was a good creative place for me.

At the first marketing agency I worked at, this is actually a good story. This was I think 2008, 2009 maybe. No, a few years before that. 2006, I think. We’re old now. I walked in on the first day, and one of the things that the junior account managers were doing was sending a fax, one by one via a manual fax machine to a thousand TV news stations to get the news for one of our national clients out there for one of their huge events of the year.

[00:04:09] Adam Pierno: Did you say it was in 2008?

[00:04:11] Adam: Yes, it was a whenever I was working at Pearson, I’d have to look at when that was. That was a long time ago, over 10 years ago. What I figured, I walked in, I’m like, “Why are they doing this manually? There has to be an IP-based solution for this.” Of course, I look it up, I found an IP-based solution and I upload the media alert that was going to get sent out. It was actually for Dairy Queen International, they were my client. The day was miracle treat day. If you go into Dairy Queen and buy a blizzard, all of those proceeds go to Chidren’s Miracle Network Hospital. So, it’s a great cause.

Dairy Queen was one of my most fun first clients. I basically did their job that usually took them about a day and a half in about 30 minutes. I just got one of the company credit cards and sent it. It dawned on the agency, which is a very traditional marketing and PR agency, doing things like mailing every media person for specific beat, like a piece of swag in the physical snail mail and hoping they would talk about it. People used to do that on Twitter a lot, too, and for bloggers. So, they realized pretty quickly, “Wow, Adam understands this internet thing.”

I started as a junior marketer. I had only really taking classes and I knew how to write just from having forums and blogs over the years to, “Hey, we’re going to make this kid,” I was 25 then, “director of our digital practice,” which was created basically for me to run. The founders of the agency were both pretty senior at Edelman, they had enough of the large agency lifestyle. They took me under their wing and taught me really the traditional and the hard marketing skills, the hard comm skills and soup to nuts how to actually tell a company story narrative, how to do public relations, analyst relations, investor relations.

[00:06:10] Adam Pierno: That’s fantastic.

[00:06:11] Adam: Yes, so I married that with my digital skills and helps grow their practice. Somewhere along that point, a lot of what I was doing I would find from blogs online that I would query and see, “Oh, here’s how someone’s doing SEO. Here’s how someone’s doing email marketing. Here’s how someone’s doing blast faxing,” like I mentioned. I’m like, “But wait, they’re not doing these all these other things.” So, I’m like, “This is fun. I should contribute and give back.” I started my own blog, The Future Buzz, which I guess was 11 years ago now, midway into my career at my first employer.

From that, a CEO in Minneapolis, Lee Odden at TopRank Marketing, started chatting with me through my blog and through Twitter. He was an early Twitter user, we’ve all been on Twitter over a decade now. He actually worked pretty hard to recruit me from South Florida to Minneapolis. That was great because he would like really early on understood the value of social for recruitment. Instead of looking through piles of resumes, having people sell themselves, hiring someone after you’ve read hundreds of their blog posts is a lot easier because now you’ve seen how they think about things, right? It’s not as simple as– Anyone can make a pretty resume with nice bullet points, accomplishments and talk a good game, but I think it’s a new way to get to know people, especially if we’re going to recruit from across the country, 1,500 miles away.

Then I got to go from working on clients like Dairy Queen, Olive Garden, and Jamba Juice, very consumer-oriented clients to– At Lee’s firm, he was working on McKesson, which is a Fortune 15 med tech company. They worked on Marketo, which is a market automation company which actually helped them grow from about 200 to over 1,000 customers at about 3,000 a month in recurring revenue. Worked on PR Web, their media distribution service. It was working on much more sophisticated clients, and being a nerd my whole life, I liked this more.

I always regretted that I wasn’t also pushed into a CS degree, because I was coding for fun and at no point did anyone say, “Hey, Adam, going into the internet would be a good thing.” I had to figure out all of this on my own. I think that’s a good thing. I think a lot of times now that I’m in Silicon Valley and I talk to people who’ve only had the very sheltered Palo Alto followed by Stanford education, they really suffer from a lot of bubble thinking. We can get into this in a minute more when we talk about millennials and young cohorts versus old.

Ultimately, from TopRank, I got recruited to a firm in San Francisco. Louis, a friend of mine, we had a back channel on Gchat, email and Twitter, I had met her at a conference. Just about how I wanted to work out what I was doing for even more clients at a bigger firm. She made a case to bring me on as digital director of a 300-person firm, which was more exciting for me at the time than was at a 30-person firm. Sure, I was-

[00:09:22] Adam Pierno: Wow, a big change.

[00:09:23] Adam: -account manager at some of their best clients, but getting to actually multiple offices and getting to create the practice instead of just being the one doing everything. So, I was at Louis for about two years before a friend of mine’s startup got sold for parts. He ultimately ended up at Google, Lewis Gray, and one of the first things he did was refer me in. The reason it was compelling was not just for the RS use and not just because Google is a cool company and culture, but the product, Google Analytics was a product I was using all day for all of my clients, and I saw how poorly a lot of people were using the product.

So, getting to come into Google and ultimately be in the product advocate role actually started marketing for the product, but I made a case to Google, I’m probably better suited to be an advocate of the product and actually help people use the product, not just acquire users, which– Google Analytics was acquired [unintelligible 00:10:23] anyway. That wasn’t my highest value for them. That’s the genesis of the role I was in for seven years was basically doing everything from give talks at conferences, to write blog posts, to work on online videos and tutorials, to help the product team with certain feature launches.

I think I worked on about 40 different launches from when I started at Google till I left, including entirely new products such as Data Studio where Google’s trying to do the same thing for analytics, which is give free enterprise level analytics to a data visualization tool and do the same things to democratize that product category which is something Google is great at. It’s interesting how, since you asked how everything got started, I think– My parents got me a computer when I was 11 or 12, and one of the first things I did was take it apart, got yelled at, and then I put it back together, and they were like, “Wow, it still works.”

I used to build computers in college, I just always had a passion for technology, things I could tinker with and not so much into the woodworking. Computers was like a natural nerdy thing for that. I used to watch Star Trek going up. I think that’s the genesis of how that happened. Sorry for the long-winded story, I just think it’s interesting.

[00:11:46] Adam Pierno: No, it’s good.

[00:11:48] Adam: I talk to other people about our paths and how we got to either of these companies or these consultancies, and is a good story. Especially when people have a weird role like I have now. Now that I left the company as a product advocate, no one knows what that means, so I have to tell the story, I have to explain what those things are.

[00:12:08] Adam Pierno: That’s pretty funny. I think a lot of the people that have been on the show have had some weird crossover, jumped the tracks at some point and they were doing one career and now they’re doing something different. I think that speaks to the way culture’s changing, the way the job market has been changing, the way the economy is changing. We all know there’s no more gold watch, 50-year retirement party, but more and more frequent of people that are saying, “Oh, yeah, a guy I know, he’s been a policeman, a firefighter, now he works in IT security.” Those are just like three different lives.

[00:12:43] Adam: Yes. It’s a good thing. It’s interesting you say that because Google probably would have kept me on forever, indefinitely. I left on my own rendition, but that is a company I absolutely could have had another 10, 20 years at. I don’t think there’s a doubt in my mind, and a lot of people would be very happy with that. The pay is great, the perks are great, but you know what, Adam, I got to a point with them where– These big companies after a certain level are political, and so, basically, I would have to switch teams or my manager would have to leave for me to move up further. There was just nowhere for me to go. For me, I’m miserable if I’m at a point where they’re just having me do the same things I always did.

[00:13:36] Adam Pierno: Yes, the same way.

[00:13:37] Adam: Some people would have been happy to just have that predictability. I wanted something new, I felt like every day of my life there I was standing still, I was basically being paid to not grow, to not learn. It’s interesting because I always loved what I did and being at the big company I got to a point where I started to dread work. My bank account was never larger and my happiness level was never lower. I gained 20 pounds in the role and I’m working on it now, I’m not like six-foot tall, 192, so I’m not too fat, I don’t think, but I’ve got to work on that now. I was thinner as a consultant. The physical manifestation of my health wasn’t good at the end of it. I think, yes, like you said, a lot of people would be happy with the same thing, but I think some of us thrive on that– not chaotic change, but being in a place where it’s like here’s an entire new set of problems.

[00:14:41] Adam Pierno: I would say dynamic change.

[00:14:44] Adam: Yes, absolutely.

[00:14:45] Adam Pierno: Let’s talk about the chaos or dynamism that’s in the market. The topic that you and I were kicking around is this idea, you sent an article that I’ll put in the show notes. I think I saw a tweet from you where you were saying, “This young generation is going to get absolutely tossed away. The models that we’ve been working on as a country and as a global economy now don’t support the size on the scale that we’ve grown to.” We started talking about that, what’s your initial thought on that?

[00:15:26] Adam: I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think that a lot of new technologies and technology companies and ways of doing things have taken away some previous opportunities, but I think they’ve also– I’ve been thinking about this since we started talking about that article. I think they’ve also created new opportunities. So, ultimately, where that gets us is the job market tomorrow will look really different from today and the people that have hopped on that now, I think, have really started to benefit and do well and thrive in some areas and in other areas they haven’t caught up.

Let’s give some examples. I think that YouTube, for example, is this amazing place where if you have creative storytelling ideas, if you have a certain skill, for example, if you even just have a business idea, it’s such a great place to develop a community, to monetize it either via ads or not at all, just via consulting and via building your profile and then selling services. I just adopted a dog, I’ve always been a dog fan. Now that I’m funemployed and taking some time, I’ve wanted to rescue a dog so I rescued an Australian Cattle Dog. It’s a very specific breed of dog.

But yet, I went to YouTube for guides on this dog. There’s one woman who’s fantastic, who has an entire series on them. Some of these videos have 3 million plus views of her just talking about, “Here is how you train an Australian Cattle Dog. Here is how you get an Australian Cattle Dog to start to do tricks. Here’s how you get them to stop nipping at your feet.” They’re also called Blue Heelers because they’re regulars, because they nip at the legs of cows and get them to move on.

[00:17:23] Adam Pierno: Yes, they’re trying to shepherd you.

[00:17:25] Adam: Exactly. She had three million views for her video and it’s not like she’s some digital marketing guru, she’s just someone with awesome thoughts on a subject and she had ads on the video. For those 3 million views, I know that that’s not the same monetization as perhaps Hollywood was making previously, but for that one person– She doesn’t care, she’s probably making a couple thousand dollars off that video, she’ll make more. I think Hollywood, on the other hand, has done some things to not keep up with technology and to do things like fight progress.

For example, I’m a remix artist, I create work and I just want to share it free online, but because I used a sample, even though my art is online for free under Creative Commons, I’ve had DMCA notices sent for my art and had overly aggressive media companies take down something that I created because of their very aggressive stance on copyright not embracing the internet. Now, because of that, YouTube thrives, Vimeo is doing well too, all these online video platform sites, but the existing media companies could have had them too. It’s not like those companies had to be separate.

That creative destruction creates this opportunity. By the way, I do think if you look at Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime, I think we’re coming to a point that these companies are realizing it’s more profitable to give people a great experience and they will pay and they will not pirate. I think people have said this for a while, but we have a lot of very legacy thinkers in a lot of media and they’ve held companies back. I think a lot of media are starting to get it.

I was pessimistic for a while and I’ve gotten shit on twitter about this too, where I’m slightly optimistic about media when I talk about, for example, the New York Times. The New York Times has done such a great job building a user base, having subscription fees instead of being totally reliant on ads, which I think could be a way better model for media. Someone was tweeting to me, saying, “Oh, not everyone is in New York Times, you’re heartless about other media companies.” I’m like, “Why? Because they do it at scale, why can’t you do that at a smaller scale and have a great business?” There are companies that are doing that. There are people like– I forget the guy’s name, he runs Stratechery.

[00:19:55] Adam Pierno: Ben.

[00:19:56] Adam: Yes, Ben Thompson. He’s able to make good recurring revenue from a singular person scale. If people are doing it at the enterprise scale and the small scale, I think there can be a middle. To circle back to what this means for young people, this is the media industry, it’s just one example. You see these entrepreneurial people at the edges of media that are building their own brands.

Felix Salmon is a reporter who’s able to command– I think his salary, as reported by Gizmodo, he was making like a half million a year from a media salary and other people were upset. I’m like, “Whoa, but that guy worked to build a personal brand. You can be upset at that or you could do the same thing yourself and leverage that and realize that media companies will pay for these people who are able to be brands and able to maybe be a little bit more entrepreneurial.” The media companies need that to attract attention, page views–

[00:20:53] Adam Pierno: They always have, that’s not a new phenomena. They’ve always had columnists and star reporters, but it seems now that there’s a different take on it.

[00:21:03] Adam: Exactly. For young people, we can use the media sector as an example. Yes, it is hurting and being restructured, but anytime that happens, that means there’s probably new opportunity there. Either one that a few people are doing or ones that haven’t even been done yet. If you’re the one who does it, then you can be the one to maybe set your price.

I think that that’s applicable for marketers as well, I think that that’s applicable for a lot of the e-commerce startups, for companies like Etsy that have really taken a chunk from Amazon in a lot of different ways, in the craft and the niche spaces where, “Hey, you can get something made by hand, by a person who’s really passionate about creating handbags or really passionate about earrings and there’s nothing like it on Amazon.” The internet is opening up all this opportunity. It’s there for the people who want to take it.

[00:22:05] Adam Pierno: 100%, but what does that mean for– Yes, the internet has created a lot of value and the internet has created a lot of opportunity. Even you hit that tipping point where you’re making more money from the forum than you were from your day job. What does that mean for your traditional– Going back two generations, somebody that would get a job in a factory or a mill or people that would get jobs, blue collar, traditional jobs that would pay mortgages and pay for families to put kids through school. We’re seeing an impact there too, it’s not the same impact.

[00:22:45] Adam: Yes, we are. That’s a hard thing. I’m certainly not an economist or certainly not someone who is pulling levers on trade from a macro perspective. Trump likes to make a big scene about bringing coal jobs back. Really, how many of those jobs are left and how many people really want those jobs? Are those the jobs that we want in America? Anytime there is any industrial revolution or technological revolution, there by very definition will be displacement and pain. I think how that shifts is a lot of those jobs should go to the service sector.

The service sector is one where you could probably open a bed and breakfast, have an awesome experience for people, market that well and have a great company. There’s now all these cool niche brands that I see that are doing things like making artisanal honey. That’s a craft. That’s not something you need to have to sit at your computer all day and code for. If you tell that story to people, especially locally– I think that there’s going to be a big shift. Everyone’s’ beating up Amazon, they’re going to take over everything.

If you go into local communities and you talk to people, they’re very interested in supporting their local community. If you were going to do that on an entrepreneurial perspective, play that up and do things that Amazon can never do from a marketing perspective– We’ll see a more return to form of business being something that you think of from your community as much as online because there’s eventually going to be a backlash. This has happened in some communities already. The manufacturing jobs thing or the coal mining jobs, those are hard questions. Other than retraining those people or maybe thinking through what they could in the service economy or could we train them up to be in the intellectual economy somehow as well.

In a lot of ways, a software engineering job is the new work, support the family, collect your paycheck kind of job, especially if you’re not in product management and you’re just doing code. A lot of that, especially at certain companies, are just keeping the lights on. They can be fulfilling jobs too for people. We need people on those roles as well, not everyone is going to be coming up with new product features or being an entrepreneur. That’s a perfectly great to make a living as well.

[00:25:29] Adam Pierno: That’s a reliable paycheck. Those jobs are not going to go away for a while until the AI [laughs] weighs in and just starts coding itself.

[00:25:40] Adam: A friend of mine, Austen, created a startup called Lambda School where basically you get a free CS education and you only pay them when they place you at a job after, and they take like 15% for like two years or whatever it is. They’re pacing people who previously have no computer since background in six-figure jobs. That’s a very cool thing.

If you’re not that type, MIT has open source all of there classes. You could go back and take everything from the CS101 stuff all the way through to advanced coding, or you could just take some analysis and analytics courses like our team at Google used to make and learn how to become Google Analytics certified. Most companies need analytics help. That’s a huge area of unmet need. Data scientist is one of the fastest growing jobs in the country. Those are good jobs and you’re not breaking your back in a coal mine all day. Those [unintelligible 00:26:40] jobs for me.

[00:26:43] Adam Pierno: I’m just making some notes, this is really interesting to me. You are in Silicon Valley, so what does it look like there, because it’s always depicted as there’s a lot of tech there, there’s a lot of VC there, there’s a lot of entrepreneurs there. Then, when I read about San Francisco and housing, I see the disparity and becoming a flashpoint for this issue of technology changing the country. There’s a really visible example there with housing prices and scarcity of affordable housing.

[00:27:17] Adam: Yes. The city has been a very poor steward of managing growth here. You see it walking down the streets where you see millionaire, 20-something tech kids going down on their scooters, going right past homeless people shooting up heroin. The city has basically failed to even plan for the most modicum amount of growth in a place in the country that has had the most growth. It’s compounded by the fact that tech companies are allowed to add– Each tech company [unintelligible 00:27:52] able to have tens of thousands of new office seats a year, maybe just hundreds or maybe just thousands at some of the small and mid-cap tech companies. At most, San Francisco adds a tiny fraction of that in housing. Areas like Palo Alto and some of the more affluent suburbs add almost no new housing.

So, we’ve created a situation where there are great jobs here, they pay really well, and even though they pay really well, you could still basically be lower middle class. I know that sounds insane, but it’s really what’s happened here. A modest one to two-bedroom can go for over two million. At the same time, VCs– That’s not something that most venture capitalists think of, that’s not something that a lot of the very well to do people in tech here think about. Certainly not something that people who have had their housing here and they’ve owned for decades and they paid $100,000 for their house that’s now worth three million, they’re just thinking about their property taxes.

A lot of people who actually own property here leave and just leave their house completely uninhabited. I was talking to a guy at a real estate shop in San Francisco and he was like, “I’m trying to get these people to at least list their house for rent and I can’t get them to even do it.” There is an apathy here on many fronts in terms of letting this area grow and it’s very [unintelligible 00:29:30] out of my backyard attitude.

The counter of that, a lot of young people in tech are [unintelligible 00:29:35], they want the growth here, they want their families to be able to live here, they want people to be able to afford housing. All people, not just people in tech. You’re going to have a pretty dystopian city very quickly if it’s just tech workers, it’s just VCs, it’s just biochemists. The biotech sector in San Francisco must love that the tech sector completely overshadows them beacuse they’re also growing.

[00:30:01] Adam Pierno: Right. They’re not getting named in all the articles and the press coverage.

[00:30:05] Adam: Just google on [unintelligible 00:30:06] all of these companies.

[00:30:08] Adam Pierno: I don’t put the blame on those companies the way sometimes the press does. It’s not their fault they’re growing and I understand they’re trying to manage it the best they can. I wonder, symptomatically, if I look at the entire country with San Francisco being way out in front, the early 2.0 web revolution and all the tech that’s come out since mid-2000s and seeing that problem, to me, that speaks to the symptoms I’m seeing in other parts of the country where technology is just starting to displace workers that are in the middle class. We’re starting to see people that are coming out of college trying to figure out, it’s almost you have to get into tech or you’re left behind in a way.

[00:31:01] Adam: Yes. I think that’s true and not. I know that some of the ex Sequoia guys have started a VC fund specifically focused on tech and not tech startups in the Midwest because, again, as I said, I think proximity will start to play a role in a lot of things and how people do business instead of just giving your business, for example, if you were an insurance start-up here in Bay Area, you might be able to do better if you had proximity to, perhaps, some of the agriculture in the Midwest. They would want to do business with you. You could understand their business scenes a lot more. I think for a lot of the B2B and niche applications there’s going to be good economic growth, really good jobs. Again, not just tech, different areas to help the whole country modernize all different parts of our economy, and that’s a good thing.

[00:31:57] Adam Pierno: Yes. Where do you see the pressure comes to– On one side there’s companies that are growing and there’s new technologies, there’s new industries and it could be even something like a local trade, a company that does make artisanal honey or something and starts to grow faster than expected. I guess nobody’s wrong, but you mentioned that in San Francisco the municipality is not doing a great job of stewarding the growth. It’s not doing a great job of serving the local population by adding affordable housing or really taking steps to work with the businesses. Do you think that’s something we’re going to see nationally?

[00:32:41] Adam: I think it’s a uniquely Bay Area problem because of the very physical size limitations of the Bay itself and the fact that people here refuse to build up. We’re seeing it in Seattle as well, but I think Seattle has still been a better steward of growth. You can still find something that won’t completely eat your paycheck in Seattle even if you’re not senior leadership at a company. Whereas, I can’t recommend San Francisco for many young people. What’s happened here because of that is– There was just a really interesting story recently about someone did a survey of specifically people in tech, about 6,000 people. More than half had delayed having a kid because of the high cost here.

That’s real. I think San Francisco already culturally suffered from a state of arrested development to a lot of young people. I’m 35 years old and don’t have kids. Now, I’m different because I really never wanted to have kids. As I get older, I might adopt one day, but I’m still not super thrilled about the whole having kids thing. I do notice that there are more dogs than kids in San Francisco. I think a symptom of that is how can you justify having a kid when you are paying 50% of your monthly income in housing? That’s a typical thing for a 20-something or 30-something in San Francisco who have moved here.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have rent control or you were lucky enough to buy in 2008 and hold your property. For young people, in 2008, they didn’t have money to invest. Interesting thing is, now, in 2018, we’re at a point where millennials are approaching 40. I hate the buzzword and I think it’s a stupid way to break down humans, but let’s just go with it. Let’s put it this way, the people who at the last financial crisis weren’t really old enough to invest, they’re at a point now where some of them do actually have extra dollars to invest. With markets at all-time highs, with even all the the technology companies–

[00:34:57] Adam Pierno: Right. You can’t even buy in in a meaningful way.

[00:34:59] Adam: Yes. You can buy real estate at the top, you can buy housing at the top, I guess. That, to me, also explains a little bit of Bitcoin. People have been sold the narrative that it’s going to be this global currency and blah, blah, blah. I think it’s digital gold and there’s a limit to what that will be, but I think that they’re at a point now where they’re cautious. I think that also compounds with the not having kids thing. A lot of us have witnessed quite a few economic disasters, a few different geopolitical issues, banking crisis, and so now we have this economic anxiety that we’re tinged with. I think for a lot of us, we probably might not get out of that. Maybe in 10 years, who knows. I think that does change people’s perspectives and life choices.

[00:35:50] Adam Pierno: Well, I’m a few years older than you. I was a victim of the narrative around Gen X, which, by the way, was identical. Everybody forgets, but it was like, “Oh, Gen X, they’re emotional, they’re slackers and they wear their shirts untucked.” You just can change out some of the keyowrds, but it’s the same narrative as millennials get shellacked with today. I was still pre-bust, pre-recession, I was still of the belief that I could work hard and save my money, maybe I would get a side job or freelance or something to make a little extra cash and I could buy a house and I could do all those things.

Nationally, I see young people getting out of school or entering the job force, whatever age they are, and the cost of life just seems like it’s out of pace with starting salaries. I wonder, do those kids feel like, “Oh, yes, I just got to keep my head down and work hard and I’m going to get there.” Do they feel hopeless? Do they feel like it’s not attainable?

[00:36:58] Adam: Yes. I think it’s a great point. One of my best friends from high school basically still lives at home with his parents, just plays video games all day, feels disenfranchised for a lot of the reasons you listed. I was thinking about this. I thought about this for a while, actually. What we’ve done is we’ve elevated the cost of housing, health care, education, all of these really important things, and then we’ve lowered the cost of flat screen TVs, of video games, of alcohol, other experiences that are consumables and entertainment and the non-essentials. It’s a sad thing. I think it’s backwards. I think that’s not how you have a successful, thriving, happy population.

You do that at the cost of a lot of things. One of them, I think, ultimately, would be fertility. I think another one of those would be the opiate crisis, it’s certainly one that is born out of– Like you said, if you feel like the game is unfair, are you really going to want to wake up everyday and play it? I think if we get too far down that road and it becomes so apparent, it will be at the detriment of the entire economy of our country and there will have to be a corrective mechanism. Historically, the corrective mechanism would be the left, would be liberals, whereas the conservatives are the ones who push things in the opposite direction. They’re okay with the wealth accumulation.

I think if you look at a chart of, for example, just one example, CEO pay versus the average worker pay, it basically says, “Hey, you have to be a CEO to really get ahead economically.” That’s the story that people are told. There’s only so many CEO jobs and a lot of people are like, “Well, I’m never going to be a CEO,” so they opt out. I think that it’s not entitlement, it’s a fair assessment of what they’ve seen of the world and their internalization of it.

What we need to do, all of us, is make people see that it is worthwhile to play the game, because if not, we’re going to have more of these national crises whether they manifest with mental health, whether they manifest with opiate addiction, whether they manifest with the school shootings, whatever awful, awful thing that is a by-product of that. I think that’s all by-products of how our collective consciousness feels of how we work together, how we live our lives together. I think we need to be more conscious of it.

I don’t think our current leadership– I don’t think that’s something Trump wakes up and thinks about every day. I’m cautiously optimistic that the pendulum swings back the other way soon, people feel better about things and we can see some change on that front. I think it might take younger people being in power, making legislation, having different programs in place for that to happen, but I think ultimately, the pendulum does swing.

[00:40:19] Adam Pierno: What you said about the essentials going up in price dramatically and the non-essentials coming down in price, really, those are two facts that I’ve known but I never put them together in that way. That’s really interesting.

[00:40:34] Adam: Thanks. Yes. I think you’ve seen parts of the economy where the prices go down, and that’s capitalism at work, that’s actually what capitalism should do. The problem is, the other areas such as health care, for instance, that’s a situation where perhaps the incentives need to be different and perhaps that does– Every other country in the world works with socialized medicine. I don’t see why we can’t have that here.

[00:41:08] Adam Pierno: Yes, I’m a supporter of it. I don’t know why we can’t have it, but I have a feeling, I have some guesses they’re all located in Washington D.C. They’re hanging out in the lobbies of the [laughs] House and the Senate.

[00:41:23] Adam: Right, socialism is a dirty word now. I’m not a socialist. What we should have is capitalism with social programs. We need better social programs, but we need capitalism too because without capitalism, no one’s going to have risk-on money to develop new cancer cures, and most of the new cancer cures come from America. There’s a company in L.A. called Kite Pharmaceuticals, they were bought by Gilead Sciences for 12 billion dollars. They’re getting complete remission with patients who had been treated with three to four other types of chemo for blood cancers, leukemias, lymphomas. Now they’re able to cure those people whose cancers were so aggressive, it wouldn’t respond to any treatment. That’s amazing, right?

That company wouldn’t exist without capitalism, and they’re in a place where not everyone can afford health care. I think we need to think about how do we incentivize all of those amazing next generation drug platform companies to stay incentivized to create, but at the same time, a lot of the bills are from hospitals and are from the actual practitioner work or a lot of it actually is from admin work as well, which is another area for schools. A lot of the billing is for admin work. Are those things that we should be fitting the bill for more? I think however we can shift that investment to the things that are advancing education or health care are where our funds should go and not for bloated added costs.

[00:42:59] Adam Pierno: Yes. That’s the tension, because I want capitalized medicine if it means the money goes back in and that means companies can innovate and find new drugs, new treatments, better trained staff, better trained doctors, nurses, care, do all those things, but I don’t want that at the expense of a homeless person who gets hit by a car and not being able to be treated. It’s super messed up, and the same thing with housing. I think if you are an engineer, and you live in the city and you live near a place or work in a company that will pay you a quarter million dollars a year, God bless you. Go get that money.

That doesn’t mean nobody else should be able to live in that city. There has to be a break to the tension and the divide just keeps on getting more and more pronounced. I don’t know if it’s getting worse or if we’re just able to focus on it and see it more clearly every day or talk about it more. I just haven’t had a–