Becoming a Founder, the Most Important Skill, and How to Write a Great Tweet with Sahil Lavingia on The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

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Key Takeaways

  • As a founder, know what your investors expect from you
  • “I spent a lot of time hanging out with founders, hanging out with early employees, working at an early-stage startup. I think that’s the best thing that you could do.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • You are the average of your five friends
  • The most important skill is the ability to save other people time
  • Skills that Sahil looks for when hiring:
    • 1. Great communicators
    • 2. Strong writers
    • 3. Transactional people who know what they want and aren’t looking for a “packaged relationship”
  • To write a great tweet, learn to be an observer – pay attention
  • Focus on the moment – tell your brain, this is important!
  • Find your writing voice in pithy observations

Intro

Sahil Lavingia (t:@shl) is the founder and CEO of Gumroad, an online marketplace for creators.

 You Are the Company You Keep

  • Don’t underrate your peer group
  • “I think there’s so much emphasis on the system that you’re a part of, your set of teachers, etc. But honestly, I think the biggest thing is just you’re the average of your five friends.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • You are what you eat – Sahil is also mindful of the books he reads and the tweets he follows
  • “When you go on your phone, you’re seeing the way that a certain group of people sees certain things. So, you end up just absorbing all of this content. Your perception is your reality.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • If you admire someone, figure out how to become closer to the kind of person that person is

Becoming a Founder

  • Before I even wanted to fundraise or thought about it as an idea, I felt like I wanted to be a founder. So, I spent a lot of time hanging out with founders, hanging out with early employees, working at an early-stage startup. I think that’s the best thing that you could do.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • It never occurred to Sahil to follow his passion full time until one investor suggested it to him
  • Know what your investors expect from you
  • “I wish I knew earlier that my company was still my responsibility. No one was going to fix my problems. They were investing because they believe in me but it wasn’t a handout. It wasn’t like you’re going to get these people to come into your office and help you solve problems day in, day out.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • VCs often expect “crazy returns” or they’re disappointed which can leave even a successful founder feeling like he or she failed

The Most Important Skill

  • The most important skill is the ability to save other people time
  • Operate in a way that requires less of everybody for the equivalent amount of success – lower stress levels
  • “What I look for are people who will do what needs to be done regardless. The people who want something so badly that they just figure out how to do it. They’re okay with not maybe having their first thing be just the dream project. They just get started, and then they figure things out as they go.” Sahil Lavingia
  • Ask: how can I streamline your life?
    • i.e. It shouldn’t take 35 emails just to go for coffee

What Other Skills to Look For When Hiring?

  • 1. Great communicators – Sahil looks for people who are thinking about tomorrow and talking about what they need so he can solve problems
  • 2. Strong writers
  • 3. Transactional people – Sahil values people who know what they want and don’t want a “packaged relationship” – they don’t tangle up what they want with friendship – they are open about what they need
  • He admires the story described in the movie, Rebel Without a Crew : Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player – a movie about people who want something so badly they just go do it

Sahil’s Pet Peeve about Reading

  • Sahil says it’s rare to meet someone who reads just to explore their interests. The social signaling benefits of reading also motivate many.
  • The reason I think people don’t often read a lot of these old books is because the social incentive goes away. You read this book and then you’re smarter, but that’s it.” – Sahil Lavingia
  • He does more reading exploration than deep dives on subjects due to time constraints

Influential Reads

Shahil’s Insecurities

  • How much he works and how much he enjoys it
  • Wanting stuff – like a nice house
  • Wanting a family

Being Present

  • Focus on the present moment and notice as many things as possible
  • “What does that mean? You’re obviously looking out through your eyes. You’re smelling things through your nose. But if I said, “Okay, how many times did you blink in the last three seconds?”, you wouldn’t even remember the last time you blinked.” – Sahil Lavingia

How to Write a Great Tweet

  • Listen to yourself when you speak, see if you hear a tweet, and save the sentence in your mind
  • Find something that applies to other things = universal truth
  • Be an observer! Spend the time to pay attention
  • Focus on the moment – be present, tell your brain this is important!
  • Find your writing voice in pithy observations
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Notes By EWerbitsky

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