The Great Seattle Gold Rush

Seattle is the fastest growing major city in the US, with hard census data showing 1,100 people moving into the area every week, and more recent estimates claiming over 2,000 people moving to King County weekly. According to my barber last week, 700 people are moving to the greater Seattle Area every day. I bump into people all of the time who just moved here from all over the world. The Demmas have been here 4 whole months now. We’re practically natives.

Amazon is driving the mass migration. It occupies 19% of the city’s office space, which is by far the most dominant city office space occupation rate in the country. There are 30,000 Amazon employees here and as many as 10,000 open Seattle area Amazon jobs.

But it’s not just Amazon. Our other big employers in the area include Boeing (80,000 employees) and Microsoft (45,000), and then there are a few thousand Googlers in the area, with a huge Google campus slated to open in 2019. There’s also a ton of tech start-ups with big dreams, and a bunch of small satellite-like tech companies that contract to the big companies. And then there is the less obvious jobs growth like the need for more Uber drivers, restaurants and hotels, medical providers, childcare workers, teachers, police, etc.

Jobs aren’t the only source of wealth here. The price of the median home in King County has doubled in the past 5 years, and increased by $100,000 in the past year alone. There are people who have owned relatively modest homes for 5-10 years who have meaningful wealth in the form of home equity. I met a guy at the grocery store the other day who is buying a house in Rochester, NY using just the profits from his house in Issaquah, and he’s still going to have $100,000 in profit left over, not counting the principle.

It’s a gold rush. And we’re all prospectors. Trying to strike it rich. But gold, like wisdom, never comes easy, and if it does, it’s dangerous. You need a wild adventure to earn your gold.

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A good gold rush adventure has to have a few key elements. First, the prospector has to have a dream. He wants something more, but he just can’t bring himself to chase down that dream yet. Next, something bad has to happen, like the guy’s house burns down, or there’s a horrible drought or something. It seems you need both a carrot and a stick to get off your behind and chase down your dreams. And that’s the first step. Moving forward into the great unknown.

Now the adventure is on. And a good adventure needs to have danger and hardship, otherwise its not really an adventure, is it? How much danger and hardship? Not so much that everyone on the adventure dies, but enough that they find themselves in a real tough spot. A spot so tough that they have to make a major sacrifice to get out of it. What kind of a sacrifice? The kind where a big chunk of the old hero dies, and a new hero emerges, transformed and reborn, ready to save the future for everyone. Then you get the gold, in some form or another.

So it’s not the gold we should be praying for.

I love this quote I just heard from a book about a great Samurai warrior called Musashi. Jocko Willink covered the book on his most recent podcast. In this quote, Musashi comes across a group of well known temples. He stops in front of each one, bows, and says two prayers:

One was: ‘Please protect my sister from harm.’ The other was: ‘Please test the lowly Musashi with hardship. Let him become the greatest swordsman in the land or let him die.’

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