How to be successful, distribution, and solo projects

Jun 10, 2024
Z Fellows

1: Sam Altman on How to Be Successful

“Compounding is magic. Look for it everywhere. Exponential curves are the key to wealth generation.

You also want to be an exponential curve yourself–you should aim for your life to follow an ever-increasing and up-and-to-the-right trajectory. It’s important to move towards a career that has a compounding effect–most careers progress fairly linearly.

Self-belief is immensely powerful. The most successful people I know believe in themselves almost to the point of delusion.

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.

You can get to the 90th percentile in your field by working either smart or hard, which is still a great accomplishment. But getting to the 99th percentile requires both - you will be competing with other very talented people who will have great ideas and be willing to work a lot.

Extreme people get extreme results. Working a lot comes with huge life trade-offs, and it’s perfectly rational to decide not to do it. But it has a lot of advantages. As in most cases, momentum compounds, and success begets success.

If you are making progress on an important problem, you will have a constant tailwind of people wanting to help you. Let yourself grow more ambitious, and don’t be afraid to work on what you really want to work on.

Source: How To Be Successful

2: Peter Thiel on Distribution

“Nerds might wish that distribution could be ignored and salesmen banished to another planet. All of us want to believe that we can make up our own minds and that sales don’t work on us. But it’s not true.

Everybody has a product to sell—no matter whether you’re an employee, a founder, or an investor. It’s true even if your company consists of just you and your computer. Look around. If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.”

Source: Zero to One

3: Paul Graham on Working on Your Own Project

There is something special about working on a project of your own. I wouldn’t say exactly that you’re happier. A better word would be excited, or engaged. You’re happy when things are going well, but often they aren’t. When I’m writing an essay, most of the time I’m worried and puzzled: worried that the essay will turn out badly, and puzzled because I’m groping for some idea that I can’t see clearly enough. Will I be able to pin it down with words? In the end I usually can, If I take long enough, but I’m never sure; the first few attempts often fail.

You have moments of happiness when things work out, but they don’t last long. Because then you’re on to the next problem. So why do it at all? Because to the kind of people who like working this way, nothing else feels right. You feel as if you’re an animal in its natural habitat, doing what you’re meant to do – not always happy, maybe, but awake and alive.

Source: A Project of One’s Own