Equity makes me complicit.

Money is what really matters they say. Sprint for five to ten years and you’ll make it. That bank account will be big enough so that you can finally stop being unhappy, and transition to the nirvana state of happiness.

Negotiating on an equity package is subtle self propaganda. You are signaling that you buy into the idea of working like crazy right now for a pay off later into the future. In some ways it’s silicon valley’s version of Stockholm syndrome.

I refuse to negotiate on equity.

At a functional level, the chances of employee equity making you rich enough to never work again rounds to zero. If I was optimizing for a chance at being rich I would be a founder, where the finances and tax system work in my favor. Or in reality, I would move up the ladder and be an investor.

But I’m not optimizing for being a billionaire. I’m optimizing for being happy in the present, and positioning myself to maintain that happiness indefinitely.

I want to be home to cook dinner with my girlfriend every night. I want to have entire weekends unplugged. I want to golf with my Dad on a weekday. I want to travel three to six weeks a year. I want to make a big impact at a small organization. I want time to tinker with my own creativity and projects. I want my future children to have parents that are present.

I refuse to negotiate on equity.

Instead, I negotiate on terms that help me practice happiness every day. Working part time. Being paid enough cash to live and save for the future. Making sure I have health insurance. Being part of a team that I believe makes solid, moral choices.

Providing happiness for your employees is what being an employer should be about. Being a startup does not obviate you from that requirement because you are ‘scrappy’, or because you’ve bought into the idea that you should defer happiness now for a shot at riches later. That way madness lies.

The next time you receive a job offer, think hard. How you negotiate it will resonant in your life for years to come.