Sam Altman

Best quotes by Sam Altman

American entrepreneur, investor, programmer, and blogger. Former president of Y Combinator.

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If you are successful, it’s almost always because some people went out of their way to help you. You have a moral obligation to pay it forward.


Having the self-belief that you will be able to figure things out as you go along is critical to success at anything hard. Get started and trust yourself. No one has all the answers at the beginning.


If you notice something at your company below standards and don't fix it or make sure someone else does, you have set a new standard. Complaining about it does not count as fixing it. If someone gets upset/tells you to stay in your lane, they've set an even worse new standard.


Most careers turn into sales jobs when you get senior enough.


The home run theory of careers: What matters is eventually hitting a home run, and the way to do that is training hard and a lot of at-bats. You only have to be right once, and it's ok to be wrong a lot of times. Be bold. Move fast. Work hard. Ignore haters. Keep swinging.


don't let jerks live rent-free in your head


Let yourself occasionally get a little screwed in exchange for not having to live with your guard up all the time. It’s worth it.


Hiring: values first, aptitude second, specific skills third


How things get done in the world: Relentless focus Self-confidence Personal connections Effective leadership (communication, management, vision, and evangelism)


Generally the highest ROI comes from getting even better in areas where you're already strong, not improving in areas where you're weak. There are important exceptions, but most people focus on their weaknesses too much.


It’s common to have vision; it’s rare to have plans.


Learning to identify super talented people before everyone else does is one of the most valuable skills to develop.


Somewhere in the world, an unknown young person is probably starting a company now that will eventually be as big as today's tech giants.


The number one predictor of success for a very young startup: rate of iteration.


You have a problem, so you decide to raise some money. Now you have two problems. So you hire some people. Now you have three problems.


Annual goals are hard. Try monthly ones! Not so daunting and 12x the feeling of accomplishment. Amazing what you can get done in 12 small pieces.


A thing I learned advising startups that generalizes: people get the most upset when you tell them true things they wish were false.


Make the email shorter, get to the point faster, and don't be shy about followup.


"What's you number one piece of hiring advice?" "Hire for slope, not Y-intercept. This is actually my number one piece of life advice."


from a founder i really respect: "the hardest thing for me to learn was that the market does not care about effort or struggle, only output"


The right answer to many problems faced by a startup is "do less things". Very rarely the option the CEO chooses.


long-term thinking is a competitive advantage because almost no one does it


Learn to say yes when an amazing opportunity presents itself, even if you're not 100% sure how to do it. You can learn along the way.


The most impressive people I know spent their time with their head down getting shit done for a long, long time.


Treat everyone you work with like a peer, and you’ll usually be surprised on the upside.


If you consistently do something today instead of scheduling a meeting for next week, your career is likely to be far more impactful than most.


Bad investors ask about the founders' school. Good investors ask why they picked this idea. Great investors ask about their childhoods.


There's always a technology frontier somewhere, and one of the best reasons to go work there is that it's where the smartest and most interesting people congregate.


A lot of great ideas look easy and obvious in retrospect, but it's still somehow enormously difficult to figure out the first time someone does it. It's an easy way to trivialize important contributions. If it was so obviously good, why did no one else do it?


Practice doing what you need to do even when you don't want to. Get it done first so you don't have to keep thinking about it.


If someone's assessment of their own ability is wildly higher than their actual ability, aggressively avoid working with them.


You can skip all the parties, all the conferences, all the press, all the tweets. Build a great product and get users and win.


Next time an investor tells you your market is too small, ask them for the size of the market 10 years ago for Airbnb, Uber, or Snapchat.


Low burn rate, rapid progress: excellent! High burn rate, rapid progress: ok Low burn rate, slow progress: ok High burn rate, slow progress: disaster, and now common because "we can always just raise more money"...


Choose your colleagues carefully; you will end up caring what they care about.


Make your identity about your strengths, not your weaknesses.


everyone who has done something impressive remembers someone telling them "that will never work"


One of the worst lies the world tells you: "You have to be patient and pay your dues". Not true. Always strive for better now.


The road to startup failure is paved with excuses for moving slowly.


Even fewer people are willing/able to actually execute on plans. People who have a bold vision, specific plans, and execution ability can make magic happen.


Making it clear to a founder that someone believes in him/her, and the idea, is one of the most valuable things a startup investor does.


Very hard to learn to say no to the pretty good ideas to save focus for the great ones.


You should be more willing to believe strategies are good if they can be explained briefly.


Hiring people with a strong sense of entitlement very rarely works out, no matter how good they are on other axes


Best career advice I have: learn BOTH how to build things and how to understand people (to create products for them, manage them, etc.)


productivity tips: work hard on stuff that matters. don't work on stuff that doesn't matter. (most people screw up the second part.)


The real risk in life is regret.


Hiring chronically negative people as early startup employees is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the biggest non-obvious hiring mistake.


Another key to success: learn to ignore haters. This is hard.


If you start an important company, lots and lots of people are going to say it's never going to work. It never stops stinging a little.

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