Sam Altman on Choosing Projects, Creating Value, and Finding Purpose

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 –

The YC podcast is hosted by Craig Cannon –



:55 – 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.

3:20 – Stepping back and evaluating your work

5:00 – Creating metrics for your projects

6:00 – Taking a year off

9:00 – Figuring out when to commit

11:00 – Poker

12:00 – 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.

14:30 – 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?’

16:00 – 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.

17:00 – Perspective shifts

19:45 – 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”.

22:00 – What Happened to Innovation

24:20 – 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.

26:20 – The deferred life plan doesn’t work

31:20 – 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.

33:40 – Weight training

35:00 – The Way to Love by Anthony de Mello

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