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#100 - Sam Altman

Y Combinator

November 8, 2018

36 minutes

Sam Altman expands on ideas that have come up in several of his essays. Specifically: choosing projects, creating value, and finding purpose.

Sam’s the president of YC Group and co-chairman of OpenAI. You can find him on Twitter @sama.

The YC podcast is hosted by Craig Cannon.



1:25 - From The Days Are Long But The Decades Are Short - Minimize your own cognitive load from distracting things that don’t really matter. It’s hard to overstate how important this is, and how bad most people are at it.

3:50 - Stepping back and evaluating your work

5:30 - Creating metrics for your projects

6:30 - Taking a year off

9:30 - Figuring out when to commit

11:30 - Poker

12:30 - From Productivity - Sleep seems to be the most important physical factor in productivity for me. Exercise is probably the second most important physical factor. The third area is nutrition.

15:00 - From You and Your Research by Richard Hamming - "If what you are doing is not important, and if you don't think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at Bell Labs working on it?"

16:30 - From The Days Are Long But The Decades Are Short - Things in life are rarely as risky as they seem. Most people are too risk-averse, and so most advice is biased too much towards conservative paths.

17:30 - Perspective shifts

20:15 - From Productivity - My system has three key pillars: “Make sure to get the important shit done”, “Don’t waste time on stupid shit”, and “make a lot of lists”.

22:30 - What Happened to Innovation

24:50 - From You and Your Research by Richard Hamming - He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important.

26:50 - The deferred life plan doesn’t work

31:50 - From The Merge - Our self-worth is so based on our intelligence that we believe it must be singular and not slightly higher than all the other animals on a continuum. Perhaps the AI will feel the same way and note that differences between us and bonobos are barely worth discussing.

34:10 - Weight training

35:30 - The Way to Love by Anthony de Mello

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