Sam Altman Profile picture
6 Jan 20, 30 tweets, 4 min read
How To Be Successful
(At Your Career, Twitter Edition)
The most successful people (judged by history, not money) continually look for the most important thing they are able to work on, and that’s what they do. They do not get trapped in local maxima, and they do not deceive themselves if they find something more important.
However, they are willing to work on something for a long time even if other people don’t get it. "Important" does not mean "popular".
The best work you ever do is what matters, not the time you worked on alchemy. Optimize for being spectacularly right some of the time, and low-stakes wrong a lot of the time.
You can almost always scale things up more than you think, and the benefits to doing so are almost always bigger and more surprising than you think. This goes from everything from technical systems to companies.
Scale benefits, network effects, and the power law are so powerful that people usually delude themselves into thinking otherwise. They are often the best way to make it hard for others to compete with you.
If there is a single key to success, it is the trait of being able to make things happen in the world—willfulness, determination, execution focus, not giving up when you hit a roadblock, the ability to solve any problem that comes your way, and self-belief.
Almost everyone underestimates the value of fast movers, in almost every context. Work with them. Be one yourself.
Spend a lot of time with the kind of people who are constantly producing new ideas.
Low-stakes things should be low-drama, and high-stakes things can be high-drama if they have to be. It’s important to get both of these right. Use your stress budget to really focus on the few things that matter.
Getting caught up in the parts of a job that don’t matter is a dangerous trap and for some reason one that a lot of people fall into. Let other people play political games and avoid them as much as you can.
Authentic, high-conviction vision is rare and valuable. Double down when you find it or find people who have it.
It’s really helpful to get someone to take a bet on you (hire you, promote you, invest in your company, whatever) early in your career. The best way to do this is to first do whatever you can to help them.
The most value comes from doing something no one else can do, or no one else has thought of, in a way that is hard for other people to copy. If you try to be just like everyone else, and do just what they’re doing, you will maybe do ok but certainly not great.
Follow your own curiosity, and start looking internally instead of externally for the answers. Be honest with yourself about the intersection of your skills, your passions, and what the world values.
The best way to have valuable ideas is to understand the entire landscape of a field and figure out what can emerge now that couldn’t before.
If you want to get rich, remember that the way to do it is via equity, not salary.
Compounding, in all ways, is a very powerful force. Long-term outlooks and long-term commitments are the easiest way to outperform other people.
The sooner you can learn to ignore the haters, the better. Avoid the temptation to become one or surround yourself with them—it’s fun in the short term, but they are almost never successful at anything other than social media.
It is very hard to do good work without being optimistic, exceptionally determined, and intellectually curious.
Ideal goals are ones that you hit, but just barely. Setting goals that are always a bit too much of a stretch is demoralizing—people want to be on the winning team, and you want to be winning at life. Write your goals down, professionally and personally.
Set and maintain high standards. If you have to be hard on people, do it with love and a genuine wish for them to improve. Praise people when they hit the standard.
The strongest teams have a lot of diversity of thought but do not have much diversity of values or goals.
There are exceptions, but the people at the top of almost any field worked very hard to get there. Be skeptical of people who tell you that you don’t have to work hard if you want to have an exceptional career unless they have exceptional careers.
The best way to get people to help you is to first help them. The second-best way is to be working on something interesting.
Have long staff meetings and short 1:1s. It’s much better for information flow and alignment.
Don’t overschedule yourself. Don’t have long meetings except for really important topics, and then have very long ones. Try not to have large meetings, but if you have to, try having large meetings be partially in writing.
Compounding success (which means “growth” in the case of an early-stage start-up) solves almost all internal problems, particularly hard ones.
Try committing to one day per week (for me it only works on a weekend, but some people do it on Fridays) where you work in a long uninterrupted block to catch up on the previous week and prepare for the next.
Focus on what matters. Cut all the BS.

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More from @sama

3 Mar
Almost everyone starts off extrinsically motivated to some degree.
Basic version: for most people the levels of the video game go money, power (little power as in managing other people, etc), status (and proving yourself), impact (real power), and finally ‘self-actualization’, eg seeing how good you can be and expressing your curiosity.
All the levels always overlap (most people who do great work were never entirely driven by money, at least not for long, and people on the last level still want more status/ impact), but the mix changes a lot over time. The last level is like infinite Tetris, it never stops.
Read 6 tweets
23 Dec 20
If you want to have the biggest possible impact in tech, I think you should still move to the Bay Area.

The people here, and the network effects caused by that, are worth it.

It's hard to overstate the magic of lots of competent, optimistic people in one place.
The future will certainly be more distributed, but I think that a large fraction of the most important US companies started in the next decade will continue to be within 50 miles of SF.
It's easy to not be in the Bay Area right now, because there's not much to miss out on. As soon as stuff restarts, and the most interesting meetings, dinners, events, and parties are here, I predict FOMO brings a lot of people back fast :)
Read 8 tweets
22 Sep 20
Specific ambition and non-specific ambition look pretty similar on the surface, and it's easy to emulate the wrong one.
Specific ambition, combined with relentless execution, is extremely powerful.

Non-specific ambition leads to a lot of energy and random movement but no forward progress.
Specific ambition means having a very clear vision for where you plan to go, and perfect clarity about the next few steps.
Read 4 tweets
24 Aug 20
Vector theory of impact:
The expected value of your impact on the world is like a vector.

It is defined by two things: direction and magnitude. That’s it.
Direction is what you choose to work on. Almost no one spends enough time thinking about this. A useful framework for this is to think on a long-but-not-too-long timescale (10-20 years seems to work),
Read 9 tweets
1 Aug 20
Giving capital to promising people “too early” in their career is a great idea with much further to go, and the power law provides an interesting way to finance it.
YC is a great example. You can imagine taking that further—giving $25k to the smartest and most determined 100,000 people you can find each year to work on whatever they want, in exchange for the right to invest in their next startup. A country could make the economics work.
Giving 10 years of “tenure” to a group of 20 super promising 22 year old researchers finishing up undergrad is not that expensive relative to the value it would likely create, and there seem like a bunch of ways to capture a part of it.
Read 6 tweets
22 Jul 20
Hi Jerome! It's great to get feedback from someone with so much experience deploying AI at scale.

We share your concern about bias and safety in language models, and it's a big part of why we're starting off with a beta and have safety review before apps can go live.
We think it's important that we can do things like turn off applications that are misusing the API, experiment with new toxicity filters (we just introduced a new one that is on by default), etc.

We don't think we could do this if we just open-sourced the model.
We do not (yet) have a service in production for billions of users, and we want to learn from our own and others' experiences before we do. We totally agree with you on the need to be very thoughtful about the potential negative impact companies like ours can have on the world.
Read 4 tweets

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