Maybe FTX was the real poster child for 2021’s startup excess

If someone offers you a seat on a rocket, you don’t ask which seat. So goes one of Silicon Valley’s favorite platitudes, one that you can trace back (at a minimum) to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

The idea is that if you are given a shot at working on something new and big, you just say yes and sort out where you fit in the organization later.

The chestnut can apply in other circumstances. For example, if I was building a Very Cool Company that was perhaps set to break out and become the Next Big Thing, you might be more concerned about getting some of your capital into the business (a seat on my business rocket ship) than precisely how the business is run (asking which seat you are buying).

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Making a big bet on the future without knowing all the details can, per the Sandberg example, work out well. It can also … not. As with many business cliches, the rocket-seat philosophy is frequently over-applied. Instead of being reasonable advice to be bold in the face of uncertainty, it can also be used to make witless choices appear reasonable.