Monday, December 24, 2012

The End of the Semester and World

("thing" i wrote in the 30 minutes leading up to my economics final, after which i stayed up all night and took a plane to cleveland at 7:30 am)

December 20, 3:50 pm ET, T-minus 8 hours & 10 minutes until "the end of the world"

the end of the semester is coinciding with the end of the world

a sense of peacefulness is descending like snow upon the columbia campus, the students are dragging their suitcases and belongings back to homes in ohio, california, taiwan, germany, switzerland & south africa, wherever they are from across the world

the entire campus is going into hibernation, winding down like clockwork, into the fetal position, deflating

feeling "serene"


this semester was interesting


in the beginning i was so happy, then i wanted to transfer, but it is ultimately me who defines my 
happiness and not the college or place i'm at and once i realized that

things got much, much better

*

i met a girl


"i met a girl" is a good way of saying a lot without saying a lot

she has a similar sense of humor


and thus

a similar "outlook" on life

i think one's "sense of humor" correlates with someone's "outlook on life," i think that if two people share the same "sense of humor" they probably share the same "outlook on life," ignorant or innocent or nihilistic or whatever that may be

*

this semester i didn't go to a single "party"


i'm not a "party/people person" 

i witnessed a lot of kids doing drugs/drinking for the first time, i saw an asian girl have a stress-induced nervous breakdown in public, i heard some friends say things like "i wanna get fucked up tonight because this has been such a stressful week," seemed troubling

there are a lot of dumb smart kids here


there are a lot of kids here who've had really limited "life experiences," meaning they were pretty much confined within their socioeconomic class/private high school and/or only experienced things their parents wanted them to experience

there are a lot of kids here who feel trapped by their parents wanting them to be doctors or engineers, or who feel trapped by their "ivy league" pedigree so now they have to make a lot of money or gain a lot of prestige but they don't know how but now look wall street is offering them a six-figure internship so why don't they just take that for a while while they figure out what they want to do with their life and before they know it they're investment bankers for good

they are also some mad cool people here as well, like there would be anywhere

*

when people ask how college is i think most kids say, "i love it," even if they don't, because college is supposed to be this amazing american transitive experience and if you don't like it there's something wrong with you

kind of like how when people say "how are you" most people say "good," even if they're not

i don't think most people are "good," i think most people are depressed, even if they don't know it

or like

they should be,

i would be

given the circumstances

*

i "don't give a fuck" about certain things more & more


and "give a fuck" about certain things more & more

"certain things" being grades, my parents' expectations, society's expectations, my personal expectations, how much money i want to make, my interpersonal relationships with friends/family, etc etc

my "ultimate goal" being long-term happiness of course

currently trying to balance what i "don't give a fuck about" and what i "do give a fuck about" in the combination that maximizes my long-term happiness

*

the world could end or not end, i don't care

death just seems like another step

i've met more kids at columbia that have said they are "afraid of death" than kids in ohio

seemed troubling/interesting

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why I Love Money

“Me and money go together / I love her like my favorite sweater.” 
-Gucci Mane, “Me and My Money"

I love money because, as a human, I want. I want pleasure, experiences, possessions, I want more, I want to be able to point at something I want and get it. I want to live a lifestyle unhindered by price tags. I want to wear a tailored suit and a gold rolex. I want to drive a black Lamborghini and have a personal chef. I want to eat at expensive restaurants. I want to have a penthouse with a pool, pool table, and cigar cupboard, and invite all of my friends over and have a big party. I want a brand new Macbook Pro. I want Bathing Ape sneakers. I want to buy my girlfriend gold. I want to take a taxi instead of the subway whenever I want. I want to go to a sushi restaurant and order the most decadent platter on the menu.

I want influence. Money is influence. People listen to money. In capitalism, the most powerful people are the people with the most money. Politicians—who we’re told are the ones in charge—need money for their campaigns, and so their policies cater to rich people. Rich people are, and always have been, the real ones in charge.

So it’s a shame that most rich people are assholes. Me, I’m not an asshole, so if I make it to the top, I’ll be able to fight them on their own terms. I believe in fair wages, civil liberties, fighting climate change, peace, etc etc. I want to show powerful people those ideas in their own language, the language of money.


Money is love. Yes, love. Money can be a way to demonstrate affection. Time is money, and when you give somebody something that you bought with your money, it’s like saying “Here, I’m dedicating the time I spent making this money to you.” Granted, that doesn’t replace actually spending time with someone, but it’s a nice gesture. It’s satisfying to financially take care of your parents in their old age. It’s satisfying to take a girl you like to a store and for her to know’s what’s up, that whatever she wants, you’ll buy it for her. It’s satisfying to be in a position where you can give your friends financial support. It’s like how Lupe Fiasco said, “if you are my homeboy, you never have to pay me.” I want to be in a position where all my homeboys don’t have to worry about money or anything like that, ever.

Let me make a distinction here: there’s a difference between wanting money to spend it and wanting money to have it. There are rich people who do the latter, who just like having money, but I don’t get with that at all. Hoarding money like that seems selfish, greedy, and absurd. It also precludes other people from enjoying their lives with that money when one stockpiles it like that.

Money can motivate people to do some pretty evil stuff. It’s easy to make money by exploiting other people and harder to make money by helping other people. I don’t respect money made by taking advantage of innocent people. I consider that kind of money dirty money, blood money. I could probably try to get a job on Wall Street and make six-figures out of college, but I’d prefer to make six figures doing something I like, or make nothing at all.


I love money because I love life. In capitalism, if you want something, you need money to get it. As a human, I am driven by hunger. Hunger for pleasure, experiences, and possessions. In this society, having money is the way to fulfill that hunger.

I’ll come clean—it’s really not about the money at all. It’s about the lifestyle you want to live and the costs associated with it, and as for the lifestyle I want to live—if you want to know the lifestyle that I crave, well, just know that I’m chasing millions.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why I Love College but Hate School

I missed over 50% of my classes this past week and I feel fine. School is increasingly feeling more and more like a chore to me. I know Columbia is technically a “great” school. I know society expects me to study hard or else I shouldn't be there. But I don't have to like it. Although I’m still trying to figure out the means to achieve my goals, I do know that the scripted system—the set of rules that high school and college and the corporate world abide by—isn’t for me, at least if I want to be happy in life.

Maybe it’s a distrust of authority. I view teachers as a form of authority. An authority figure is someone who tells you what you can’t do. A cop will see a graffiti artist or weed smoker and tell them that they’re not allowed to do those things. A teacher will look at a paper and tell their student that they’re not allowed to write a certain word or sentence. Authority is criticism you are forced to comply with. For cops, the punishment for not doing so is jail. For teachers, it is whether or not you pass their class.

More on criticism: a critic is someone who tells you what you shouldn’t do. Academia, specifically in the humanities, is all about criticism. In class, we read texts/textbooks and debate them, mock them, praise them, criticize them. Hardly ever do we attempt to write original works of our own. Instead, we pull godly ideas down to Earth and dissect them until they’re unrecognizable. Like, artists build things up, critics tear things down. Writers write and academics analyze. Criticism is giving an opinion on someone else's opinion. I don't want to devote my opinions to being about other people.

Don't get me wrong: college is awesome. I still plan on graduating. Columbia has given me so many opportunities that I'm grateful for. I love the education I’m getting. It’s like getting force-fed your favorite food—I’m learning a bunch of shit I would never otherwise take the time to learn, from Hellenic Greek society to quantum physics. Living in New York City is tight, the food good, the times chaotic. Being a young person in a community full of friends and peers yields some memorable—and impulsive—experiences. Plus, a college degree is an incredibly useful resource, and would mean a lot to my family. 

So this is not a knock against anyone’s views—I completely understand why some people buy into the whole school mentality. I still recommend working hard in school if there’s no clear-cut alternative for you to pursue. But as for me, the idea of "school" bugs me more and more every day. I love college, but I hate school. I hate the grading and homework and tests. I hate the authority imposed on me. I hate the pretension, the useless criticism. If I want to get a good grade, I have to write and act a certain way. I have to turn in assignments and go to tests on teachers' time. Although I respect all my teachers a lot (many of them are accomplished and brilliant),  I resent the system that we and them must participate in together.

"School" never ends for some people. Homework eventually turns into corporate work, tests turn into “performance assessments.” People just get told (and maybe need to be told) what to do over and over again. It’s the system. It’s the whole scripted path we’re all taught to believe is salvation: work hard in school, get a job, get married, die. But it’s like how Lil Wayne said: “I know that there’s a better way cause I’ve seen it.” I have seen it, I’ve seen it in the way that successful entrepreneurs and artists live. So I guess I’ll chase that lifestyle, and if it doesn’t work out, well, at least I was off the script for a while.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lee Baron 50th Anniversary Promotional Video



I, along with Vibhu Krishna, directed and edited a promotional 50th year anniversary video for "Lee Baron Fashion Ltd," an international men's tailoring firm based in Hong Kong. Vibhu was actually the one commissioned to do this piece. She brought me along, and it ended up being a really great opportunity for the both of us.

We tried a rather creative approach for my compensation for making this video. Lee Baron is famous for outfitting high-profile CEOs, NBA head coaches, politicians, and the like. Instead of paying me in cash, I am getting 5-6 shirts and a tailored suit from them. The value of this apparel extends way beyond cash—as a believer in always looking your best, I'll be able to look fly as hell in my future business relations. Check out Lee Baron's official website here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Account of my Trip to Cleveland 11/11-11/12

I went home to Cleveland, OH this past weekend. I came in to host an event for my incubator, LightHouse Ohio. You can read an "official recap" of the event here. More on that in a little bit.

An interesting thing happened to me before I had even left New York City. I was at the Greyhound station waiting for my bus and I decided to get food. I went to the main food stand, essentially just a take-out line, and I started to try and get the server’s attention when a huge dude posts up next to me. He’s muttering stuff, he’s real close, but I decide to pay him no attention. No sooner have I started to tell the server my order than I hear an aggressive "Do you want to fight me?" coming from my side, from the man. The tone of his voice sounds unstable. I am surprised and a little afraid. “Did I cut him?” I wonder. The server answers my question. She calmly says to the man, "Sir before I serve you I have to serve him, he was here first." I look at the man too and mutter something like “no, just chill,” and I attempt to continue my order. The man launches into a string of incomprehensible crazy-sounding gibberish and moves closer to me. I finally look at him again and make unbroken eye contact. Okay, this guy is very clearly crazy. You can see it in his eyes. His pupils don’t line up, there’s white showing in them like foam. He looks away sheepishly, but as soon as I look back at the server he starts talking again. The server takes it all in good stride (she’s probably really used to crazy people) and helps me out, making recommendations for my order as to expedite the process. I got my food and left. I was pretty stunned. The man didn’t follow me.

I made it to Cleveland, and I worked all day on Friday for LightHouse, attending business meetings, public relations meetings, setting up the event for that night. The event, by the way, was great. We packed the house, with about 60 people. LaunchHouse really put us on with this one. They bought so much great food, they had their staff and interns helping me out to set it up. I honestly love LaunchHouse. I feel like they’re one of the most awesome places in Cleveland to be. The space gets cooler and cooler every time I go there. This time, after only a month of being away, I went to the back garage area and saw they were adding a recording studio for rappers and musicians, plus a second floor. You should go visit their site and like them on Facebook, they are doing it for Cleveland in a big way and I’m super glad that my team and I are along for the ride.

Later that Friday night, I went and hung out with my my two best friends from my hometown, Jordan and Ziggy. Jordan is a really talented writer/musician you should check out here. I feel like I've learned "significant amounts" of what I know about working hard/being successful from him. We had a really typical night for our group of friends. After watching the newest Gucci Mane videos together, Jordan and I got so turnt up that we wanted to record a rap song, but Ziggy was tired and just wanted to go to bed. So, Ziggy just went to bed and we stayed in his basement and recorded a chorus and part of a verse for a song over the “Fucking Problem” beat by A$AP Rocky. Then, Jordan and I stepped outside so he could smoke a cigarette and we chopped it up. Meaning, we talked business, we talked about possible ways we could work with each other and help out our friends out as well.

On Saturday, I hung out with my Dad and uncle, then boarded the Greyhound back to New York City later that night. I slept all night on the Greyhound, got to New York City and boarded the subway for Columbia University. I got to Columbia at around 11 am, took a shower, then went to straight to the library to work on this blog post and other things as well. The grind never stops. Below are two pictures from the event. Peace out (for now). 

A Picture of the Crowd
Me Speaking at the Event

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Conversation w/ Anthony Frasier, Co-Founder of "The Phat Startup"




I skyped with Anthony Frasier yesterday. I'm a huge fan of the man, and for those of you who have never heard of him, here's a short bio: Anthony co-founded mobile startup Playd and the award winning gaming site TheKoalition.com. He was profiled on CNN's Black in America: The New Promised LandSilicon Valley. Wayne Sutton has called him, along with Tiffani Bell, "the new face of black startups" in America. He currently runs The Phat Startup, a website about hip-hop, entrepreneurship, and how both industries have much in common.

Anthony and I talked about a lot of different subjects, including our favorite rappers and how startup founders are similar to aspiring hip-hop artists in terms of the struggle they face every day. We also discussed an idea of his, that mixtapes are similar to minimum viable products (for those of you who don't know, a minimum viable product is the leanest possible version of your product that is often used to garner customer feedback). Think about it—both test the market before the actual product (i..e. album) officially drops. 50 Cent, a great entrepreneur and businessman, hasn't released his upcoming album, "Street King Immortal" yet. His last album, "Before I Self-Destruct," posted dismal numbers, and ever since then he's been working the mixtape circuit, gauging the market response and building hype so that "Street King Immortal" will sell well. Gucci Mane released literally dozens of mixtapes before his major label debut album, building his fan base up so that when "The State vs. Radric Davis" finally dropped, it was #1. 

LightHouse Ohio, the incubator I am running for students in Cleveland, is largely based on teaching "lean startup" principles. However, we are always looking for innovative approaches to entrepreneurship, and Anthony's "phat startup" principles embody that. LightHouse Ohio is going to interview Anthony soon about his thoughts/recommendations on being a successful entrepreneur, so keep watching www.lighthouseohio.com for that to drop.

Much thanks to the homie Anthony for our conversation today. I highly recommend checking out The Phat Startup as well as his own personal website. Peace out (for now).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Introduction

My name is Zach Schwartz. I was born and raised in Solon, OH, a suburb of Cleveland, OH. I attended Solon High School, and I currently attend Columbia University. I founded and currently run an incubator/accelerator called LightHouse Ohio (www.lighthouseohio.com) that aims to invest in and foster the success of Northeastern Ohio’s best student entrepreneurs. We are partnered with hands-down one of the coolest places in Cleveland, investment firm LaunchHouse (www.launchhouse.com).

The goal of this blog is to unify and promote my web presence. It is also designed to promote my interests, writings, thoughts, and work. A topic I will be talking about frequently will be the lessons about business/life one can draw from rap music. 

I encourage y’all to follow me on Twitter at @zach_two_times. I encourage y’all to visit the website of my incubator at www.lighthouseohio.com. I encourage y’all to like my incubator's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lighthouseohio. I encourage y’all to e-mail me at zachmschwartz@gmail.com.

If you live in the New York City or Cleveland area, hit me up. I’m always interested in meeting cool people. Peace out (for now).