“I think about the future, the environment, and social issues. I also think about my role as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist and how I’m going to invest my time, attention, capital, and wisdom in the technologies, leaders, and companies that are going to build the future. Suddenly, I'm not just investing capital for capital returns but for something that will transform millions of lives. I hope my children will live better lives because of the technology we’re building together.” - Jeremy Au
"My children gave a deeper meaning to my life and it's on a different axis from happiness. Happiness comes and goes, but meaning doesn’t. This calls back to the philosophy I read that life may not necessarily be happy. It can be full of bad things, fear, tears, and anger, yet it’s meaningful. We also see this in different jobs. Pastors, soldiers, doctors, and the police often have tough lives and they’re not necessarily happy every day, but there’s a deeper meaning in what they do that’s not just qualitative but also quantitatively proven across behavioral economics." - Jeremy Au
1. Becoming a father has introduced a new dimension of emotion in Jeremy’s life, which he likens to painting with a new color. While children may not necessarily make life happier, they have added a deeper meaning to Jeremy's life, making even difficult moments more meaningful.
2. The unplanned nature of his first daughter has continued to be a serendipity engine of unexpected experiences. Hugging his children allows Jeremy to appreciate the universality of this experience stitching together the present, past, and future simultaneously.
3. Jeremy discusses the Iroquois concept of seven-generation stewardship, where leaders should have “skin as thick as the bark of a pine tree” to weigh the benefits and costs for the next seven generations. Current cutting-edge technologies will become the norm for the next generation, shaping their everyday lives. Jeremy reflects on his role as a consumer, citizen and VC in voting for society’s future with his spending, votes and capital investments.
Watch, listen or read the full insight including becoming a weird person compared to his younger self, happiness vs. meaning, and Arthur C. Clarke predictions in 1974 at https://www.bravesea.com/blog/fatherhood-changed-me
Jeremy Au: (01:48)
This is awkward to say, but I love my kids. I love my two-year-old daughter and 10-month-old daughter. My friends often ask me whether becoming a dad has changed me as a person. I tend to deflect that with humor, and joke about having a dad bod and all these other things.
It's a good question and I spent some time thinking through the three most significant lessons I've learned since becoming a dad. The first thing that I discovered was, feeling a new dimension of life. It’s really weird to say that, even for me to say that out loud, but it was really orthogonal. My life was very much about work and my personal life in terms of my hobbies and my friends, and also dating my now wife. So, I was very much like work or play. They say work hard, play hard, work smart, play smart. It's always that binariness and I think having a child was weird because suddenly, you have this person that depended on you and whom you love very much.
So you really created this new domain of time and space and emotion in my life. The closest that I've come to it, describing it as painting with a new color in my life. What I mean by that is that I was painting with black and white and blue, and suddenly, I'm painting with orange, and orange goes with blue. It can be mixed. It makes different colors. You can make different patterns, but it's kind of weird to explain a new color to a new person. How do you even describe orange to a person who's never seen orange before? So it's very hard for me to describe what's it like to have a new kid because I wouldn't even be able to travel back in time and explain to my old self what it’s like.
It's just that now, I get to do things differently. An orange used to be something that I would eat myself, and suddenly now, I am peeling an orange for her and enjoying it. Suddenly, I'm teaching her how to peel an orange. Suddenly, I'm celebrating the fact that she now knows how to peel the orange on her own, and she now splits the orange with me. It's kind of weird because you're like injecting new color, new meaning into these very boring things like fruits and walks and just hanging out at home suddenly has that new color.
So, to be frank, there have been joyous times, and simple moments. Being in the moment has been amazing. There have been tough times obviously, in terms of the arguments and the logistics and I mean the difficult decisions you have to make from time to time for children. And so I don't necessarily think that children have made my life happier, although I feel like I've worked very hard to be very present and therefore be happier in those moments.
That being said, I do feel that children have made my life have a deeper meaning, which is a different axis from happiness. I think happiness comes and it goes, but meaning, it doesn't come and go. It's very meaningful to have time with my child, even though I may be unhappy because of that moment, it's still meaningful. I think this calls back to some of the philosophies I read that life may not necessarily be happy. It can be full of bad things and fear and tears and anger, yet the meaning is something that's much more meaningful, and I think we saw that with many jobs like pastors, soldiers, the police, and doctors. They often have tough lives that are not necessarily happy from the day-to-day moments, but there’s actually a deeper meaning. This is something that is not just qualitative but also quantitatively proven across behavioral economics and frankly, personally.
The third part about this new dimension of life was really serendipity. I really got to appreciate the fact that although my first child was unplanned, we decided to roll the punches, swing for the fences, and just roll with it, and it worked out. I mean, life is easier to have kids these days. We have Google to explain stuff to us. We have books like “What to Expect When You're Expecting” to explain every stage of it. There's, next-day shipping so whatever you forget, you can order and get it pretty much the next day. Things are a lot easier, obviously on the logistics side and informational side, but I think there's a very nice part of that serendipity engine that happens because serendipity is when you run into something when you weren't expecting it. I think the child is definitely part of it, but I think being with her has also let me appreciate the serendipity of, even though I did not plan for her the same way I plan for my career or projects or all these other things, I'm very blessed and privileged to have her in my life now.
The second thing that I really enjoy is a changed relationship with time. It's weird to experience the present, past, and future simultaneously. So what I mean by that is when I hold my child, I'm very much in a moment. I'm not thinking about work, I'm just, singing to her or hanging out with her. I remember just last night, we were doing Superman. Superman is when you put your kid on your knees and you are on your back. Then, the kid is pretending to be Superman. You hold the arms and then, you're just like letting her fly through the air, and I was so much in the moment.
I wasn't thinking about work, I wasn't thinking about anything else. I was seeing myself, wow, what a great moment it is. Also, I could feel a little bit of flavor, knowing that this is a moment, and it's not going to come again easily. So, I was just really enjoying that moment for what it was.
That being said, while I was holding my child, I also was thinking to myself, wow, I must be holding the child the same way that my mom helped me when I was a child over 30 years ago. Then my grandmother held my mom a generation ago and my great-grandma for my grandma. So there’s this weird sensation of appreciating how many generations of humanity have basically said to themselves like, well, life is tough, but we got a kid, so let's just roll with it and let's try to keep them alive. Guess what, a hundred or a thousand generations of humans basically said, screw it. Let's do it and figure out how to keep this family together, and the success of those thousand generations whom, I don't know, 997 of them, basically landed in a situation where I'm here today. So weirdly, shout out to my great grandparents for leaving the country during a famine in the civil war. If they didn't do that, then I wouldn't be having the life I am now.
I mean, not even be around. So I think there's that sense of appreciation for the decisions that my ancestors, have made, individually and as parents. What's also interesting is that I really feel the future now when I'm holding my kid, I suddenly thought to myself like, my gosh, I know what's going to happen in one year. She's going to walk, and I know that in six or seven years they're going to go to school.
I know that in 21 years, I would have to be at her graduation ceremony, hopefully at university, and I would be celebrating with her. So I'm like, wow, I'm the kind of person who lives year to year, and suddenly I'm like, whoa, I'm living 20 years. I know what I'm going to be doing in 20 years. I'll be somewhere, on a college campus. In 18 years, I would be, I don't know, packing stuff and helping set up a dorm room. Who knows? So, it's just kind of weird to have that thing where you suddenly have that, snap together, where now your life timeline is met to the child's age. Very weird. What I realized is that when I was holding my child, I realized that one day she may become a mother too, and she'll hold her own child the same way I'm holding her and maybe she'll think of me.
And then maybe that child of my daughter may then become a mother of her own, and then, it just kind of keeps going. It just has that very weird sense where you're like, wow, I know the next 20 years of my life, but this can keep going. This brings me to, I think, the third part, which is about that multi-generational mindset.
I remember in college I had a Native American housemate, and she shared with me the concept of seven-generation stewardship. What that meant was that anybody who was a leader had to make a decision on behalf, of not just the economic and social benefits of the current generation or themselves, but also not just the next generation, but for the next seven generations. That's kind of bonkers! So you're just thinking for yourself. You're thinking about your kids, your grandkids, your grandkids’ kids, your great, great grandkids, your great-great, great, your grandkids are probably going to run out and get the wrong number, but, that's kind of a crazy lifetime.
That's at least 200 years that you're thinking of, 300 years.s So the concept was that, you have to make decisions for the next seven generations and that you should have a skin that is as thick as the bark of a pine tree, that you should have a thick skin to be able to make those tough decisions that don't just benefit yourself, but benefit the next seven generations. Very cool. That was how I thought about it on an intellectual level until what just happened, I just shared that suddenly by having a child, I suddenly have an emotional, genetic blood stake in that because my children may have children of their own, and so, so forth. So the next seven generations are not theoretical, the whole world of seven generations is not a theoretical community, seven generations. It's for me the next seven generations. So suddenly the things that honestly were just tangential to my life, like heritage conservation, environmental sustainability, and societal improvements, all these things obviously are adjacent to my life, and some of them are obviously more impactful to me, and some of them are less impactful to me.
That being said, suddenly, over the next generation, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh generation, and now I kind of get why parents go bonkers talking about legacy and talking about the importance of storybooks and culture and so, so forth, because you want to preserve that importance, and you care about it. The truth is, for example, climate change. I mean, sure global warming is going to be bad for 1, 2, 3 Celsius, but for most people, for our generation, we're not going to see the impact of that on our lives, on our animal species, on our homes, on our weather climate systems. We'll say bye-bye in a hundred years, in about 80 years' time, and good luck to the next generation. Well, guess what? You're like, even if it’s your generation or the next generation, then you're like, ah, snap, I don't want my kids to suffer from my BS and my ignorance about the whole situation.
So then, the future becomes very close and what that means is that the future is coming where there's artificial intelligence, there's nuclear fusion, there's gene therapy, there's the modernization of the financial system. All these technologies are like a bleeding edge at the forefront of the future where a few people kind of play with them. People are excited, but it's not really in reality and everybody's like, boo, it's not going to going to happen. It's going to be the norm. My futurism of today is the present of my children.
I love seeing videos of sci-fi writers like Arthur C. Clarke, and the journalist is interviewing him and saying like, what do you believe is going to happen in the future? And he's like, one day the computer that is currently filling this entire room will fit in your hand and everybody will have this computer in your hand. They'll be able to communicate with anybody in the world and have a library in their hand. Then obviously, the journalist is like, what do you mean my kid is going to have this, and they show a picture of the kid, and then he is like, yeah, your kid is going to have this. The journalist is like, yeah, is my kid going to be okay? Is his brain going to explode or not? He's like, no, don't worry. Your kid's going to be totally fine and normal, and they're never going to be able to remember a world where the computer was, the size of a whole room. And guess what? Arthur Clarke, he's dead and he predicted the future, which is the norm.
For me, it's normal to have a computer, two computers, or three computers at home. We have multiple computers, on my mobile phone, everything's a computer. So, my printer has more microchip power than the computers that were used to power the polar mission to go to the moon. So it's bonkers.
It makes me think, obviously, as an individual citizen, to think about the future and these environmental and social issues. It also makes me think about my role as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. How am I going to invest my time, my attention, my capital, my advice, and my wisdom in the technologies, and the leaders, and the companies that are going to build this future? And so I'm voting with my every moment for the future that I hope my children will get to grow up in and enjoy. So, it's weird because, suddenly, I'm not just like investing capital for capital returns, which is frankly a lot more straightforward, but something you're liking yourself like millions of lives be transformed by this experience. I also hope that my children's lives experience will be better because of the technology that we're building together.
I was sitting down with a B2B Software As A Service company and they're looking to modernize a certain aspect of employee management across Southeast Asia. I hate the software stack in my personal experience employee, and if I do what I'm supposed to do, which is partner, counsel, and make decisions, then my children will have a wonderful time in their company because they can use this B2B SaaS, our equivalent of it, and they don't have to deal with the friction and the bad news experience, the errors and the misses and the liabilities commonplace today.
So overall, children are weird and it's made me a weird person. If I was younger, like 10 years ago, I'll be like, man, Jeremy, you are such a weird guy now, but yeah, I'm happy to be weird, to have discovered that I love my children, my two daughters. I love this new dimension of life with a deeper meaning and serendipity and this weird orthogonal dimension with painting a new color in my life.
I appreciate having this changed relationship with time, with the present, with feeling the legacy of the past and also about the future generations, and all of us sharing this universal moment of having children and taking that long-term perspective.
Lastly, I think very much about the next few generations, the next seven generations, not just from an intellectual basis, but also from a personal basis. So thinking through, adding the importance of so many issues that are unfair to my advantage in this generation, but I would love to be fair to future generations.
I get to recognize my own role to vote for this future with my consumer dollar, with my personal time intention, and with my professional career, because the future of today is the present of tomorrow. I mean, heck, maybe the technologies I invest in today and help support build, will just become legacy products for my great-grandkids. They're like, oh my gosh, VR man, that's so like old school. Now I'm like, oh, everyone's like, boo VR is not going to work. Anyway, so that's how I'm thinking about life these days. Overall, I love being a dad and I look forward to updating and thinking about this more in the years to come.