How To Be Successful – Sam Altman (#11 Build a network)

Wrote about some other points here ::

I bolded the section I really try to adhere to the most. The paragraph right after that about taking care of people is also a good one.

You have to somehow outsize your own daily impact with network effects.

Took me too many years to learn this but in the VC trade it has been a good spot to apply the “helping” model.

For this I mean that I can only do so many transactions a year. Once I invest in a company I have to apply some level of priority to that company.

However I am always looking out for new startups, ways to help my current startups, and for people that also might be able to work for or help one of my current startups. I know though that this is not a one way street. There may be ways for me to help other startups or people I come across.

A sort of constantly paying it forward model where I try to be of value outside of any transaction.

It could be advice, a connection or introduction or even just seeing if I can in some small way make a positive impact on that person or their startup.

I am not expecting to get anything or even expecting that I made a difference. I just want to be helpful.

My goal is to be helpful knowing that it will always be a positive in their life and it will make mine better but probably over a long arc. But this long arc will create a long term network effect that is bigger than my everyday activities or day to day impact.

Time will tell but I like the model. If more humans did this the world would simply be more pleasant for everyone.

How To Be Successful – Sam Altman:

11. Build a network

Great work requires teams. Developing a network of talented people to work with—sometimes closely, sometimes loosely—is an essential part of a great career. The size of the network of really talented people you know often becomes the limiter for what you can accomplish.

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.

One of the best ways to build a network is to develop a reputation for really taking care of the people who work with you. Be overly generous with sharing the upside; it will come back to you 10x. Also, learn how to evaluate what people are great at, and put them in those roles. (This is the most important thing I have learned about management, and I haven’t read much about it.) You want to have a reputation for pushing people hard enough that they accomplish more than they thought they could, but not so hard they burn out.

Everyone is better at some things than others. Define yourself by your strengths, not your weaknesses. Acknowledge your weaknesses and figure out how to work around them, but don’t let them stop you from doing what you want to do. “I can’t do X because I’m not good at Y” is something I hear from entrepreneurs surprisingly often, and almost always reflects a lack of creativity. The best way to make up for your weaknesses is to hire complementary team members instead of just hiring people who are good at the same things you are.

A particularly valuable part of building a network is to get good at discovering undiscovered talent. Quickly spotting intelligence, drive, and creativity gets much easier with practice. The easiest way to learn is just to meet a lot of people, and keep track of who goes on to impress you and who doesn’t. Remember that you are mostly looking for rate of improvement, and don’t overvalue experience or current accomplishment.

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.

A special case of developing a network is finding someone eminent to take a bet on you, ideally early in your career. The best way to do this, no surprise, is to go out of your way to be helpful. (And remember that you have to pay this forward at some point later!)

Finally, remember to spend your time with positive people who support your ambitions.

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