How To Be Successful by Sam Altman

13 thoughts about how to achieve outlier success for founders.

Table of Contents

Compound yourself

If your business grows 50% in value every year, it can become huge in a very short amount of time, thanks to compounding.

You also want to take advantage of compounding magic and apply it on your life. Your rate of learning should always be high. As your career progresses, the work you do should generate more impact and leverage, either via capital, technology, brand, network effects and so on.

Take a truly long-term view, be patient and trust the exponential rewards.

Have almost too much self-belief

Trust yourself like how Elon Musk was absolutely certain about sending rockets to Mars. However, this must always be balanced with-self awareness to avoid self-delusion.

Learn to think independently

There are 2 steps to cultivate it your own:

Get good at “sales”

You want to be able to convince others of what you believe. This requires:

Make it easy to take risks

It’s easier to take risks early in your career as you don’t have much to lose and potentially a lot to gain.


It’s more important to work on the right thing than it’s to work many hours. Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t matter.

Work hard

Extreme people get extreme results though it comes with huge life trade-offs. To work hard without burning out:

Work hard at the beginning of your career as it compounds. The earlier you do it, the more time you have for the benefits to pay off.

Be bold

Follow your curiosity, work on hard and important problem, let yourself grow more ambitious.

Be willful

Try a lot, be persistent, keep going until this works no matter what.

Be hard to compete with

If what you do can be done by someone else, it eventually will be, and for less money.

Build up leverage by building a strong personal brand, getting good at a niche, and so on.

Build a network

Develop a network of talented people to work with. There are several ways to do so:

You get rich by owning things

No one in the history of the Forbes list has gotten there with a salary but owning things that increase rapidly in value, such as business, real estate, and intellectual property.

The best way to make things that increase rapidly in value is by making things people want at scale.

Be internally driven

Don’t do what you do because you want to impress others even though you’ll realize that you care about their opinions a lot.

Do what you do because you want to challenge yourself and because you feel compelled to make something happen in the world.


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