startups are the olympics of capitalism

These notes aggregate my philosophy on work, life, love, and the pursuit of big things

I consider it more of a manifesto codifying my values into behaviors rather than an essay arguing that YOU necessarily MUST live this way to reach similar goals

I believe if you’re trying to build a big company you need at least the same ambition, intensity, and consistency as if you’re pursuing gold in the olympics.

Both are ambitious

  • You’re trying be #1 against millions of people

Both are intense

  • You have to obsess over how to do more and be better because your competitors do
  • As you become more competitive and fail you’ll be mocked by more people
  • Family, friends, partners may not understand why it engulfs so much of your life

Both are long games

  • You may fail your first few attempts and it can take years to get skin in the game
  • Once in the big leagues it may be decades of maintaining a high bar to hold your place

Some secondary beliefs i have as a result of this

work-life balance

my philosophy on work-life balance is the same as if I was training for the olympics

  • your goal is at the central thesis of your life
  • all else in life is designed around reaching the goal
  • everything is part of training, including rest

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.

It means you set up your life in a way that enables you to best pursue your goals.

If all you do is work and it makes you chronically depressed, you won’t win.

Same with olympics, if all you do is live in the gym, you never see your friends or family, you’ll probably get depressed and suck in the olympics.

Do what you need to do to be the version of your self that becomes #1 in this thing.

The more aligned everything in your life is with a goal, the better odds you’ll achieve it.

So in a competitive game not following this strategy would be an intentional disadvantage.

You may still win by nature of luck or talent even with intentional disadvantages, but why risk it?


Healthy relationships improve my life a lot, but you must set clear expectations.

Big goals may mean big differences in work time, work volume, and hence availability.

Not setting clear expectations may hurt people you care a lot about.

If you promise a lifestyle & live a very different one, you may not meet your partners core needs.

If their core needs aren’t met but they stay because of “love”: that’s emotional manipulation.

You owe it to people you care about to choose what they want to sign up for.

If you don’t you’ll waste a lot of energy for everyone involved. So just be blunt about this.

Who do I best work with?

People who share this mindset, but allow freedom in how to demonstrate it

You can’t have a team where some people are all-in and some people aren’t or it’ll feel like a school project where 2 people are keeners wanting A+ and the rest of the team don’t care

If a team isn’t aligned on some core beliefs it will likely break apart into factions that align on disjoint beliefs, especially during difficult times that test conviction in those beliefs

This may explain why manifestos exist in politics, religion, and even programming languages. Humans rally together around shared beliefs to make big things happen.

But shared beliefs don’t mean identical behaviour

The best of the best olympians seem to develop techniques that didn’t make sense [1]

They redefined the norm in their sport

In startups I imagine a top performing team similarly has people who violate norms

So I expect an Olympic mindset, but it wouldn’t be effective to impose behaviour

  • for one person it may mean not dating. maybe they separate the two concepts
  • for another may mean video games when tired because it helps them chill
  • or maybe it means having 1-2 off-days during the week followed by a spontaneous all-nighter of deep-work, even if science says sleep is more important
  • or maybe its the opposite: having a rigid daily schedule, strictly 6hrs/day of focused work

I’ve seen high performing teams with each of these behaviours exist together

It’s tempting to impose behaviour on others especially if something works for you

I’ve been on teams where we got stuck in this — in what seems more like a military mindset.

The military touts following established protocol, conforming, unity, predictability

The military does care about being the best, but this is what the olympics cares about most

When being the best is what you care about most, it doesn’t matter what “best” looks like

addendum: There is nothing wrong with not pursuing an olympic goal

I feel people with more common goals often demonize those who work their ass off pursuing #1 in something as if its greedy, or neurotic, or a personality problem to want to win

on the other side I see hyper-ambitious people demonize others for not wanting to be the best implying it’s lazy to not dedicate the majority of your life to a thing.

I don’t see why it should matter either way.

I’m not trying to be #1 in the olympics.

Can I still respect people for pursuing this? Yes.

I am pursuing to be a #1 in building one of the most impactful companies in history.

Does that mean my life is going to be weird at times? Probably.

Do I need to shame others because they don’t have this goal? Of course not. Why would I? [2]

[1] an example of redefining the norm:

[2] What do I want in life? ties in with this. purpose of life imo is to define your goal, and pursue it. don’t judge people based on the goal they have. judge based on someone willing to define what they want and pursue it with what they can. if its not the same goal as you who cares