A Few Things....

April 26 2019

1. Blaise Pascal is rumored to have said: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time". Simplifying things is hard.

This great Sam Altman article on How To Be Successful is Exhibit A on a beautifully written article that could easily have been a book, it's similar in some ways to Byron Wien's Lessons Learned.

Here are the parts that resonated with me:

Compound Yourself.....You don't want to be in a career where people who have been doing it for two years can be as effective as people who have been doing it for twenty—your rate of learning should always be high. As your career progresses, each unit of work you do should generate more and more results. There are many ways to get this leverage, such as capital, technology, brand, network effects, and managing people....Trust the exponential, be patient, and be pleasantly surprised.

Make it easy to take risks.....Look for small bets you can make where you lose 1x if you’re wrong but make 100x if it works. Then make a bigger bet in that direction.

Focus......Almost everyone I’ve ever met would be well-served by spending more time thinking about what to focus on. It is much more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. Most people waste most of their time on stuff that doesn’t matter.

Work Hard......I think people who pretend you can be super successful professionally without working most of the time (for some period of your life) are doing a disservice. In fact, work stamina seems to be one of the biggest predictors of long-term success.

Be Willful......A big secret is that you can bend the world to your will a surprising percentage of the time—most people don’t even try, and just accept that things are the way that they are. People have an enormous capacity to 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. Ask for what you want. You usually won’t get it, and often the rejection will be painful. But when this works, it works surprisingly well.

Be hard to compete with....The best way to become difficult to compete with is to build up leverage. For example, you can do it with personal relationships, by building a strong personal brand, or by getting good at the intersection of multiple different fields. There are many other strategies, but you have to figure out some way to do it.

Build a Network.....An effective way to build a network is to help people as much as you can. Doing this, over a long period of time, is what lead to most of my best career opportunities and three of my four best investments. I’m continually surprised how often something good happens to me because of something I did to help a founder ten years ago. I try to always ask myself when I meet someone new “is this person a force of nature?” It’s a pretty good heuristic for finding people who are likely to accomplish great things.

Be Internally Driven.....The most successful people I know are primarily internally driven; they do what they do to impress themselves and because they feel compelled to make something happen in the world. After you’ve made enough money to buy whatever you want and gotten enough social status that it stops being fun to get more, this is the only force I know of that will continue to drive you to higher levels of performance.

2. On the recommendation of many friends and my wife, I am reading some fiction - Sally Rooney's "Normal People" and Zia Haider Rahman's "In the Light of What We Know". Recommendations welcome.

3. Three things worth watching or listening to:

A. How do we get lucky or how do we catalyze success ? Daniel Gross, former Y Combinator partner and current founder of Pioneer, discusses how we can make our success less about luck, the powerful role we play in the lives of others, and the valuable lessons he learned about leadership.

B. Lux Capital backed Auris Health got acquired by J&J for $5.75bn. If you are interested in understanding what comes next, then you should check out Josh Wolfe and this podcast on Invest with the Best

C. This is scary, impressive, and pure awe inspiring. Imagine climbing a 2,000 meter vertical granite wall without a rope. FREE SOLO. WOW.

A request: Have any of you invested in Melvin Capital or Candlestick Capital ? I'm looking to learn more.

Quotes I am thinking about:

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

- Carl Sandburg

Intelligent individuals learn from every thing and every one; average people, from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers." 

- Socrates