Recently, ex-Groupon CEO Andrew Mason announced his next move: He is moving to The Bubble of Self-Absorption (aka Silicon Valley).
I never met Andrew Mason, but I never really liked him. I never really saw the point of Groupon. They are one of the inspirations for this site’s “Technology Is Useless” theme. I talked to a few employees who also thought what Groupon did was stupid.
I kept hearing people in the media go on about how smart he was. We were supposed to believe he was “quirky”, or “charming”, or something. In every picture I saw of him he looked like he was not all there. He never seemed to take his job seriously. Maybe he really was a smart, serious guy. But if that is the case, then he was intentionally presenting a goofball image. I have no qualms criticizing someone for something they do intentionally. Since he got fired from the company he founded, I guess that “happy-go-lucky” routine did not do him much good.
In the post about his plans, he said something that really bugged me: he said he was reading, travelling, and “embarking on other cliched pursuits of the unemployed”. I guess in a narrow technical sense, he is unemployed. The way Mitt Romney was unemployed. Most unemployed people don’t engage in accounting fraud, cash out, and walk away with millions.
I was unemployed for a while. A couple of times, actually. For me, it was the same as it was for most unemployed people: Applying for jobs, applying for benefits, trying to stretch them out, try to keep my skills sharp, etc, etc.
Maybe I just don’t get that quirky sense of humor he has. But let me go over a few real unemployment cliches:
Keeping your skills up to date takes a lot of time.
You also have to research companies that you are applying to.
Preparing for interviews, going through the interviews, thanking who you talked to and keeping track of all that is a huge task.
You might get a call from Company B, and the job sounds good, but you would REALLY like to work at Company A, so you stall B because A is taking its time, and in the end they both say no.
You go to meetups at friends’ places, and hope nobody comments too loudly that you are eating a little bit more free food than everybody else.
You wonder if you will ever work in your field again.
You wish you could go back in time and pick a different major in college.
You might wonder if you will ever get married (unemployed 40-somethings are not exactly a prime commodity on the dating market). Dying alone looks like a possibility. Dying alone after a few decades of poverty looks like a serious possibility.
You wonder if that mole you just saw is just a mole, or cancer. So you make an appointment to see a doctor, after taking a few days to check if the crappy insurance that you can barely afford (because COBRA expired) will cover the visit. Then after a couple hours of Googling, you realize that if it is not a mole, you have three options. The first is chemo (if it’s covered). The other two are amputation or suicide. So you go to sleep every night for the next seven nights trying to figure out whether you would choose amputation or suicide if you cannot get chemo.
And if the general practitioner refers you to a dermatologist, you go through the “Door Number Two or Door Number Three?” cycle for another seven or so days.
If you can keep up your job search with that going through your head, your powers of concentration are better than mine.
The typical unemployed person does not start a company that some of its own employees think is kind of dumb, submit SEC filings with bogus accounting metrics and cash out with millions and act like a lobotomized stoner the entire time.
Now, you might be asking how is it that someone as dumb as Andrew Mason still manages to cash out with millions while I struggle.
I have come to realize that if you are willing to lie, cheat and steal, then it’s like having several IQ points tacked on.
If Mr Mason thinks unemployment is fun or something to be joked about, then he really is an ass.