Hey! Justin here, and welcome to Just Go Grind, a newsletter sharing the lessons, tactics, and stories of world-class founders! Today is a free edition available for everyone, but premium newsletter subscribers get access to every edition, including audio versions, as well as our founder community and weekly office hours.
While I’ve unfortunately been battling a cold the past few days, it’s been mild enough that I’ve still been working on a few updates to Just Go Grind, updates I teased in my 2023 review.
One of the updates is this new series, 5 Lessons, sharing insights from world-class founders every Tuesday in a short email. These are meant to give you ideas you can implement in your business and provide a little spark of inspiration. Some will serve as reminders all founders need while others will apply to a smaller subset.
With the 20-30 hours of research and writing that goes into each founder deep dive that I publish every Sunday, there are numerous lessons to be learned and this series will highlight some of those.
This series will also give you a taste of the Insights by Just Go Grind product I’m working on that is currently available for preorder at a heavy discount. This product includes insights from every founder I research (45 so far), updated on an ongoing basis. More on that soon, but thank you to those who have already purchased the preorder!
Today’s 5 Lessons are from Sam Altman, the person I wrote my first deep dive on back in February 2023.
Be More Ambitious
The idea of becoming more ambitious came up repeatedly in my research of Sam, not only from him but from those who know him.
It’s useful to focus on adding another zero to whatever you define as your success metric—money, status, impact on the world, or whatever. I am willing to take as much time as needed between projects to find my next thing. But I always want it to be a project that, if successful, will make the rest of my career look like a footnote.
A classic example from the founder of Airbnb:
We had limited our projected revenue to thirty million dollars. Sam said, “Take all the “M”s and make them “B”s. Either you don’t believe everything you said in the rest of the deck, or you’re ashamed, or I can’t do math.”
Understand the Power Law
Angel investing, in particular.
Everyone claims that they understand the power law in angel investing, but very few people practice it. I think this is because it’s hard to conceptualize the difference between a 3x and a 300x (or 3000x) return.
It’s common to make more money from your single best angel investment than all the rest put together. The consequence of this is that the real risk is missing out on that outstanding investment, and not failing to get your money back (or, as some people ask for, a guaranteed 2x) on all of your other companies.
Especially when it comes to sales.
I learned this great lesson of my life. The way to get things done is to just be really fucking persistent… I had this philosophy of going to every door and every window.
Make time for what is important.
I have a fixed budget of cognitive output per day. And I can spend that on whatever. But if I let it go on unimportant stuff, then I never time to get to the really important stuff.
Ruthlessly cut distractions.
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. Get rid of distractions in your life. Develop very strong ways to avoid letting crap you don’t like doing pile up and take your mental cycles, especially in your work life.
Find the right thing to work on.
Focus is a force multiplier on work.
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.
Once you have figured out what to do, be unstoppable about getting your small handful of priorities accomplished quickly. I have yet to meet a slow-moving person who is very successful.
Calculate Risk Appropriately
Forget what people will say about you.
The missing circuit in my brain, the circuit that would make me care what people think about me, is a real gift. Most people want to be accepted, so they won’t take risks that could make them look crazy—which actually makes them wildly miscalculate risk.
Understand the real risks.
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.
Thanks for reading! This was the first edition of this series and I’m still figuring out the format. I’d greatly appreciate you letting me know what you thought in the poll below or by replying to this email. Thank you!