…The startup founders who end up richest are not the ones driven by money. The ones driven by money take the big acquisition offer that nearly every successful startup gets en route. The ones who keep going are driven by something else. They may not say so explicitly, but they're usually trying to improve the world. Which means people with a desire to improve the world have a natural advantage.Mean People Fail
In fact, one of the things the internet has shown us is how mean people can be. A few decades ago, only famous people and professional writers got to publish their opinions. Now everyone can, and we can all see the
long tail of meanness that had previously been hidden.
…how consistently successful startup founders turn out to be good people, and how consistently bad people fail as startup founders.
…being mean makes you stupid. That's why I hate fights. You never do your best work in a fight, because fights are not sufficiently general. Winning is always a function of the situation and the people involved. You don't win fights by thinking of big ideas but by thinking of tricks that work in one particular case. And yet fighting is just as much work as thinking about real problems.
Startups don't win by attacking. They win by transcending. There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.
…A mean person can't convince the best people to work for him unless he is super convincing. And while having the best people helps any organization, it's critical for startups.
…startups are not just one random type of work in which meanness and success are inversely correlated. This kind of work is the future.
… For most of history, success meant success at zero-sum games. And in most of them meanness was not a handicap but probably an advantage.
That is changing. Increasingly the games that matter are not zero-sum. Increasingly you win not by fighting to get control of a scarce resource, but by having new ideas and building new things.
…In the third century BC Archimedes won by doing that. At least until an invading Roman army killed him. Which illustrates why this change is happening: for new ideas to matter, you need a certain degree of civil order. And not just not being at war. You also need to prevent the sort of economic violence that nineteenth century magnates practiced against one another and communist countries practiced against their citizens. People need to feel that what they create can't be stolen.
That has always been the case for thinkers, which is why this trend began with them. When you think of successful people from history who weren't ruthless, you get mathematicians and writers and artists. The exciting thing is that their m.o. seems to be spreading. The games played by intellectuals are leaking into the real world, and this is reversing the historical polarity of the relationship between meanness and success.