How much success is enough?

Sam Altman’s new blog post titled “How to be successful” pinged a few times on my Twitter feed this morning, so I took a look.

It’s a typical Silicon Valley sermon: outwork, outskill, outscale. The path to the good life, sponsored by your friendly neighbourhood VC.

Before you put a laminated copy of Sam’s words on your mirror, first ask yourself: how much success is **enough**?

If you define success as becoming the next Elon Musk, then sure, go do what Altman says. You’re shooting for the moon (Mars?) and it’ll take everything you can muster just to get near the launchpad.

But what if you have less lofty aims for yourself?
What if success means paying off your house, getting a nice car, advancing social justice, taking care of your family, being independent, having enough to be comfortable?

Then Altman’s “compound yourself” advice will likely disappoint. His words set you up for a jackpot scenario, where you have to continually empty yourself into the dream, risking total failure for that low percentage chance of a golden exit.

Success should also not be equated with happiness. If anything, Altman’s advice is a recipe for becoming desperately unhappy with yourself and your lot in life. A “moon or bust” attitude to your life carries a high likelihood of you ending up busted.

In the startup space, there’s so much emphasis on “changing the world”.
There’ll always be a need for splash innovations that instantly alter daily life, but the world is also changed by iteration and refinement of existing activities.

Adding your own improvements to the world through a self-funded, sustainable business can be lucrative, rewarding, and carries a higher chance of being - dare I say it - successful. You don’t need that magical exit when your business generates profits.

You just need to decide how much is enough.


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