Thirteen questions with Josh Green, Trae Stephens
Two top technologists want to take you out from behind your screens and into the wild.
The friends and cofounders of membership-driven outdoor sports startup Pursuit Outside, selected by Y Combinator for this year’s W22 batch, ground themselves in the simple things: you know – death, God, duty, valor, unconditional love …
I. What are you working on?
JG More faith, hope, and love. Fostering a family and relationships I can be proud of. Building a business that is attractive and improves the world. Professionally, I’m growing Pursuit, which is a marketplace for urban professionals to find lodging and authentic outdoor activities (like hunting and fishing) in amazing natural locations. We make
it easy for busy people to learn skills that make them more independent and to become a part of the wild, rather than just “experiencing” it. We do that by partnering with private landowners to build mini economies around their properties that are based on outdoor adventure travel. Our trips help people understand the paradoxes that death begets life and suffering can lead to joy.
TS: Quite a few things! I’ve spent my entire career working in tech, and yet I have become more and more convinced that technology is impacting our humanity in unintended, and oftentimes negative, ways. We get sucked into doom-scrolling behaviors, we obsess over things that don’t matter, and we lose touch with the things that ground and connect us with our purpose. As the Apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom 7:15). So I’ve been spending a bunch of my time (ex-Anduril and Founders Fund) figuring out how to fix this tendency in myself and help others do the same.
What’s your favorite habit?
JG: Driving my kids to school. We have our prayer routine and we chat, all while I enjoy a cup of coffee.
TS: I love establishing rhythms in life. I do daily Bible reading and prayer as soon as I wake up in the morning, get the kids (two boys, eight and six) ready for the day and off to school, and then start cranking. My wife actually blasted out a tweetstorm about this recently!
III. What are you reading?
JG: Daily Read: Thomas Keating’s Daily Reader for Contemplative Living. Last Book: David Hawkins’s The Map of Consciousness Explained. Current Book: Andrew Chen’s The Cold Start Problem.
TS: Right now, I’m working through The Founders by Jimmy Soni and The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby. I tend to flip back and forth between non-fiction (like these two) and fiction (usually sci-fi).
IV. When do you feel most alive?
JG: When discussing big ideas and connecting those to my own life.
TS: Fly fishing. There’s just something about standing in a river working on mastering the presentation of a fly line in complete silence. It’s meditative for me.
V. How’d we get here? Where are we headed?
JG: The human desire to find comfort. We’re headed to the grave.
VI. What’s our worst misconception?
JG: That there is no hierarchy in the world.
TS: This seems like a version of my friend Peter Thiel’s famous interview question: “what important truth do very few people agree with you on?” I have a lot of answers to this one! The misconception that I feel the most strongly about right now is that I believe modern culture has popularized contempt for the concepts of duty and responsibility. This is folly. We need heroes. We need valor. Just because something doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean it is not good. I actually wrote a blog post about this back in January.
VII. What do people need to remember right now?
JG: They are going to die.
VIII. Who is worth imitating?
JG: No person is worth imitating. Only virtues are worth imitating … or Jesus (pure virtue).
TS: As imitative beings, we are all drawn into mimetic rivalry with other people. René Girard would point out that this is the root of all violence. He would also say that the only way to avoid imitative violence would be to imitate Jesus Christ. So I’m pretty sure that’s the only right answer to this question [smiles].
IX. Who – if anyone – is in charge?
JG: The power of death and destruction, and God. TS: Easy. My wife.
X. What’s the biggest advantage we can give our kids?
JG: Teach them grit, model unconditional love, help them become comfortable with paradoxes, root them in an absolute.
TS: A belief in truth.
XI. You’re in a time machine. Where do you go?
JG: Five minutes before the Resurrection… with a camera and Richard Dawkins. So much of history has hinged upon the outcome of that moment.
TS: I guess it depends if it’s a one-way trip or not! If round trip, I’d say to the Sermon on the Mount. If one-way, I’d say to July 2010, when Bitcoin began trading at $0.0008.
XII. What technology makes you nervous?
JG: Nuclear war. Anything controlled by bad people.
TS: There are a lot of things at a societal level that are concerning, but I think most of those concerns are more about the developer/owner of the technology rather than the technology itself (for example, I’m much more concerned with the application of tech controlled by the Chinese Communist Party than I am about those same technologies being developed by a private company in the United States). On a personal level, I could viscerally feel what image-driven social media was doing to my mental health, which
is why I deleted the apps in January of 2021. This gut instinct is pretty mainstream at this point, but I think the addiction is more difficult to break than most people are willing to admit.
XIII. What technology reassures you?
JG: None. Things can so easily be twisted.
TS: There are a lot of great hard-tech opportunities out there in categories that matter a lot for human flourishing (biotech, nuclear energy, autonomous systems, et cetera). We have a great future to look forward to if we can just steward our brains and resources well.