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Fat Chance

From the Slope of Hope: A couple of days ago, I stopped at the supercharger on the Google campus, and I walked over to Zareen's, a popular place for Indian/Pakistani food to get a couple of mango lassis and samosas.

While waiting there, I noticed an unusually fat Indian kid. I would guess him to be about 15-16 years old, and well north of 200 pounds. I noticed him not just because of his size, but also because he was in a dress shirt, slacks, tie, and had a name tag dangling from a lanyard. Nearby was his also-very-fat father, who was dressed more casually. I noticed on the name tag was printed Camp BizSmart.

I had never heard of it in my life, but I instantly surmised it was some kind of summer camp for striving, aspirant parents to send their offspring in the hopes that they would be the next Sundar Pichai (if they were Indian), Jack Ma (if they were Chinese), or Mark Zuckerberg (if they were white). It just broke my heart to see this. I really did.

I've got a couple of extreme biases which inform my opinion on this matter. First of all, I think it's important for a person to recognize how much of their life is at the mercy of chance. Where on the planet you are born. What gender you are. The time period you were born into. The nature of your parents. The nature of the education available to you. Your family's financial condition. Everything.

Change Bill Gates' birth year by one, and you get a very different result. Have someone else adopt Steve Jobs when he was a baby, and there would never be an Apple. Have Mark Zuckerberg's parents insist that he stay at Harvard to complete his education, and you don't get a Facebook.

And this isn't just about the Silicon Valley. Go back to the John Adams series I was talking about earlier this month - - there's a scene (based on actual events) in which John Adams and his son were crossing the Atlantic, and their ship was attacked by the British. They could have just as easily been killed or captured (instead of surviving, as they did). Just think if their boat was sunk - - there were TWO future U.S. Presidents on board. Don't you think that might have altered U.S. history a little, based on one meaningless skirmish?

So a lot of life......90%.......95%..........maybe 99%.....is just pure chance and luck. We like to deceive ourselves into thinking we are the masters of our destiny, but that's deluded madness. We have some measure of control (10%.........5%............1%?) but it's definitely in the minority.

What troubled me about this "BizSmart" camp is, frankly, how exploitative it must be to the ambitions of parents with respect to their children. I would say the most 'smart" thing about BizSmart is the tuition bucks the firm is able to suck out of these poor parents:

But you went to a real summer camp before, right? I sure did. Do you remember it? Think back - - - canoes. Campfires. S'mores. Leather crafts that are fun to make, even though they'll never get used. Woodworking. Hiking. Swimming. Free time. Exploring the woods. Camping under the stars. Being a kid and having fun with other kids.

Check out BizSmart:

These poor kids. Poor. Fucking. Kids. Their parents have gussied them up in these miniature adult get-ups and foisted stuff like this on them:

"Curious how your son or daughter can prepare to compete and succeed in the global economy?" Err, no, not really, asswipe.

Listen, if the majority of true entrepreneurs had emerged, decade after decade, from one of these goddamned camps, I could understand the appeal. But the Silicon Valley is just like Hollywood, New York, or any other place that's crammed with millions of ambitious people that are dying for a chance at the fifty golden opportunities that are actually there: 99.99% of people are going to be disappointed, and it ain't gonna be because they didn't go to a certain camp.

So as far as the morbidly obese kid who prompted this post, I only say this: his summer would be infinitely better spent swimming, riding a bicycle, or hanging out with friends. He'd get some exercise, some time in the outdoors, and who knows - - maybe acquire few good memories of a summer spent as a child before he spends the next forty dressed up like one of the poor youngsters picture above. Thinking back to a moonless night gently gliding along a lake in a canoe beats the holy hell out of learning how to write a business plan. Jesus.