Lessons Learned in Sunday School:  The 64-Year-Old Choir Boy

Lessons Learned in Sunday School:  The 64-Year-Old Choir Boy

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I’ve been watching Halt and Catch Fire, a really good show, showing the evolution of the computer industry, from the birth of PC clones in the early 1980s into the Internet era. I lived that life, and watching it is painfully nostalgic.”Painfully” because the show reminds me how clueless I was back then, in so many ways. (Remind me to tell you how I got injured in ballet class.)

In particular, it's painful to relive the experiences of those years, since I'm a tech culture guy, and never fit into a marketing culture.

Fast forward 30 years to another really good show — HBO's Silicon Valley, which I think is a fairly accurate summary of the Bay Area’s tech industry. In the space of those three decades, there was increasingly tremendous pressure on tech developers and start-ups to scale and monetize. There still is.

So both shows remind me what I lived through and the circumstances that surrounded the business decisions I made.

It took me 42 years to put to the test the lessons I learned back in Sunday school — especially the lesson about knowing when enough is enough. It was never a thing for me until I had to decide how much I'd monetize craigslist, when I changed it from a hobby into a business. Silicon Valley type bankers and venture capitalists were telling me I should monetize the usual way, and they'd make me a multi-billionaire. I'd thought about what that would do for me and to me, and like, I finally came to the conclusion: What's the point? When is enough, enough?

Craig Newmark in Choir

Peter Vidor

 

During my Sunday School years (we’re talking late fifties into 1960s), the guy in the choir robe lived in Morristown, NJ, in far from a prosperous part of town.  It had been a neighborhood of recent immigrants from Europe – families who were working their way up to the middle class. There was a junk yard right across the street from home, but I preferred to play in the junk yard owned by family friends up the street. Many years later, my old house became a crack house. Recently, they tore it down to build affordable housing.

With the hindsight of 21 years of direct customer service at craigslist, I’ve come to realize that pretty much all I do, I learned back in Sunday School:

– Know when enough is enough.

– Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

– Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.

Lessons learned by 64?  My business model is about doing well by doing good.

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6 Comments

Deb Coats

You have a big heart. My second grade students greatly benefitted from your generosity. I will be forever grateful.
Due to drastic changes made by our governor in Wisconsin, I am no longer teaching. I guess in a different way, I also learned when enough is enough.

Diana Greer

Craig, I am proud to say that I have known you since the 90's. From the very first encounter with you it was obvious to me and the others on your list that your mission was to help people and to bring us together. Craigslist helped everyone who encountered it. It soon became obvious that you were sitting on a potential goldmine. Those of us watching were astounded when you chose to continue "giving it away for free". You were firm in your decision. Thank you, thank you, thank you for Craigslist. You have enriched my family's life. You have made the world a better place. You are an example on how to be a successful entrepreneur without compromising yourself and the people who use your service.

Andy

Inspirational. I keep seeing the pattern of longevity leading to the focus on simplicity. I wonder sometimes though, is this survivor bias? Or, if you can manage your projects simply, and somehow survive, then that's success unto itself? I don't know.

Ted France

Craig, I recall the very early days. As I was one block away. Thank you for staying on track with your values.
We can all be glad that a person we knew stands and has stood up for something other then " more and more!"
Keep going!
Ted France, from Motwn NJ

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