How To Be Successful (According to Sam Altman)


Sam Altman is a tech pioneer.

He founded and raised more than $30 million in his first entrepreneurial venture for Loopt, a location-sharing service. Next, he moved to Y Combinator as a part-time partner. A few years later, he was named president of the startup accelerator. Over the next eight years, he would spearhead new arms of Y Combinator that would earn him numerous accolades. He is now the CEO of OpenAI, striving to advance digital intelligence in service of humanity, and chairman of the board for two nuclear energy companies, which he believes to be a critical area of tech development. It’s safe to say he’s thought a lot about how to be successful.

Altman authors a blog where he posts insights into his professional endeavors and thoughtful advice on success. One post in particular, published January 24th, 2019, titled “How to be Successful,” has garnered over 1 million views.

This insightful blog boasts 13 golden nuggets of wisdom. I highly recommend taking the time to peruse Altman’s post for yourself. I enjoyed this piece and its perspective. In the spirit of the new year, and because I am a reading/writing learner, you can find some of my favorite thoughts (summarized) below.

How to be successful…according to Sam Altman.

Compound yourself. Choose a career that has compounding potential. Each unit of work you do should generate more results as your career progresses. Value opportunities with upward growth over linear. He also gives great advice on the long-term value of compound growth and thinking about “how different systems in the world are going to come together, ” which is a genius-level approach.

Have almost too much self-belief. Remembering that you can use consistent positive results to earn your trust is always helpful.

Get good at “sales.” I have long believed that everything in life boils down to sales, and success depends on how good you are at selling yourself. Altman backs that point by saying that self-belief is not enough; you need other people to believe in you too. And it’s your job to convince them. Some people loathe sales (it’s me, hi). To others, it comes naturally! The good news is sales is a skill you can cultivate and practice to improve.

Focus. But focus on finding your focus.

Work hard. The best way to work hard without burning out is to work at something you love with people you love. And “hard work compounds like interest.” Start investing early.

Be bold and be willful. Work on what matters to you, and there will be people who care about it too. You can make things happen. “A combination of self-doubt, giving up too early, and not pushing hard enough prevents most people from ever reaching anywhere near their potential.” I love this line. If you don’t let yourself succumb to those three obstacles, you will prevail.

Be hard to compete with. Coco Chanel is credited with the quote, “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different,” which is what Altman describes here.

Build a network [of talented people]…by purposefully helping others.

Be internally driven. Do the work for the right reasons. Reasons that matter to you internally are your passion, obsession, and personal mission to change the world. Your WHY is one of the (not so) secrets to success.

Thanks for reading. I hope you liked this post and that you check out Sam Altman’s original post. At Gobii One, we’re always up for talking about success…or your next project. Find out more by clicking here.


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