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16 Life and Work Principles from LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman

16 Life and Work Principles from LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman

For many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Reid Hoffman is a legendary figure. He’s often called the “Network King of Silicon Valley” and is one of the most well-known angel investors in the tech world. He co-founded LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking platform, and was a key member of the PayPal Mafia. He’s also the author of several best-selling books on entrepreneurship and investing.

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With a multitude of impressive titles, Reid’s diverse roles may seem disconnected, but they all work in harmony, reflecting his creative thinking and life values: doing everything possible to create greater value for the world. So, what allows Reid to effortlessly transition between these roles, and what drives his choice of life values?

This article, shared in this post, is from Ben Casnocha, who served as Reid’s Chief of Staff (COS) for over four years, collaborating on two widely-read books: “The Alliance” and “The Start-Up of You.”

To a significant extent, Ben is one of the people on this planet who knows Reid best due to their close working relationship. He distilled Reid’s principles of life and work from their four years together into 16 “Rules of Life.” Let’s explore each of them one by one.

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman’s 16 “Rules of Life”:

  1. Plan to Adapt.
  2. Start Small.
  3. Be Original.
  4. Lead with Strengths.
  5. Network and Ally.
  6. Launch Early.
  7. Seek Extensive Feedback.
  8. Learn Continuously.
  9. Iterate Your Plan.
  10. Lean Into Risks.
  11. Challenge Conventions.
  12. Pivot When Necessary.
  13. Manage Your Energy.
  14. Maximize Your Luck.
  15. Maintain Flexibility.
  16. Find Meaning and Happiness.

People are complex and flawed, and it’s important to appreciate their more angelic qualities.

Many people tend to assess others’ abilities or personalities in a binary way: he’s either very smart or a complete idiot. She’s kind-hearted or an absolute jerk. He’s a moral crusader or an unscrupulous fraudster. This way of thinking is highly unreasonable. Everyone’s expertise is relative.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Human nature is complex.

Reid is known as the “Network King,” and he has a gift for understanding the complexity of the people he knows. He appreciates both the strengths and weaknesses of a person. He might critique a friend’s character flaws, such as being self-centered, but in the next moment, he’ll focus on their unique strengths.

Through this approach, Reid forgives his friends for their mistakes. If you make a mistake (or three), or if you reveal a flaw – your relationship isn’t over. It’s just a small ripple in a long-lasting relationship.

Once, one of Reid’s good friends persuaded him to go to a special event in New York. Later, when I asked him how the trip went, he said, “It was a stupid waste of time.” However, in the following week, he called that friend and began planning their next collaboration. He rarely lets a single mistake or flaw erase the successes or contributions of a person. He always supports the more angelic side of people. No wonder his friends are so loyal to him.

This philosophy reminds me of my late friend Seth Roberts, who advocated for an “appreciative” approach to life: “When evaluating a person, don’t start with their flaws; first, look at what unique qualities they have. When assessing a study, don’t criticize its shortcomings right away; first, ask what we can learn from it.”

Let this attitude of appreciation permeate everything you do.

The best way to get the attention of important individuals is to proactively offer assistance.

As a COS (Chief of Staff, essentially Reid’s assistant), I’ve reviewed thousands of requests, most of which require Reid to invest his time, energy, or money. They either hope to get his attention or seek investment from him. Surprisingly, almost no one proactively suggests what they can do to help Reid. Many request letters are written as if they did Reid a huge favor by giving him an opportunity to help: “I’d be thrilled if you could provide feedback on my project.” Reid is incredibly generous and curious, which is why he helps. But why not understand his work, send a relevant article, or share a valuable perspective?

Many people believe that individuals like Reid and Bill Gates, who are both famous and wealthy, can’t be helped. Let’s think about this. How can you help Bill Gates?

Donating to his charitable endeavors won’t be impactful, you don’t have connections he doesn’t already know, and purchasing Microsoft products won’t make a significant difference to him. However, what Gates craves and you might have is information. Your unique perspective and insights into what’s happening around you are things he can’t buy. If you can connect the information you know with what Gates needs, for example, if your 10-year-old cousin is passionate about an app that could potentially shape the future of computing, he would find value in it, and you’re more likely to establish a relationship with Gates. At the very least, this is a gesture that goes against the grain of pure solicitation.

It can’t be emphasized enough: Help comes first, help comes first, help comes first.

Proactively offering assistance is the key to building all relationships.

When conceptualizing strategies and making decisions, ensure simplicity, clarity, and rapid execution.

Reid is a strategist, but he isn’t someone who can recite theories from Clayton Christensen or Michael Porter word for word. In fact, Reid has never formally studied strategy and rarely quotes famous gurus. Instead, his strategy comes from experience and the challenging entrepreneurial environment where the future is uncertain and changes happen rapidly. Making a wrong step in this environment can lead to disastrous consequences. However, as Reid pointed out in the book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (his favorite book), all companies struggle in such an environment, not just startups.

1.Speed

His first principle is “speed.”

His most famous quote is, “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”

He’s also known for saying, “In founding a startup, you throw yourself off a cliff and build an airplane on the way down.”

In reality, he hired decision experts to enhance speed and make optimal choices—simultaneously accelerating the decision-making process. When faced with a set of choices, he often instinctively makes a quick decision based on the current information. Then, he notices what additional information he lacks to counter his decision. Most people, however, make decisions in the opposite way. When faced with limited information, many wait, gathering more data before making a decision. But during this time, the world has already changed.

If you act quickly, there will be mistakes due to hasty decisions. If you’re a manager who highly values speed, you need to tell your team that you’re willing to accept a 10%-20% error rate as long as they make decisions faster. Reid did just that; he gave me the freedom to make decisions on certain matters without needing his approval. He told me, “If you can improve the speed of handling issues, I’m even okay with a 10%-20% error rate, as long as you’re faster.” This ratio gave me incredible freedom.

Speed is crucial for startups, but it’s different for large companies. Reid once told me that big companies like LinkedIn don’t focus on speed as a strategy. Instead, they need strategies that make slowness a strength.

2.Simplicity

Reid’s second decision-making principle is “simplicity.”

Simplicity begets speed.

When there are many potential scenarios, he often categorizes them as “light, medium, and heavy” or “simple, moderate, difficult.” For example, when discussing the LinkedIn Series B funding pitch, we could have simply published and shared it on LinkedIn and Twitter to see how it performed. Alternatively, we could have proactively reached out to reporters and revealed some content in advance. We could have written a series of articles and released them concurrently. Or we could have recorded his comments on the slides. Ultimately, Reid categorized the options into three groups: basic, intermediate, and advanced. “What do we really want to achieve with this?” Based on this, we decided the level of effort we should put into execution.

When the consequences of taking action are extremely complex, Reid looks for the most decisive factor to consider instead of evaluating multiple mixed factors. For instance, when discussing a trip to China, there were many compelling reasons: LinkedIn’s expansion in China, interesting changes in the Chinese tech industry, and the launch of the Chinese version of “The Alliance.” However, Reid felt that “one decisive reason” was needed to justify the trip. All other arrangements would only be worth it if that single reason held. “If I go for a mishmash of reasons, I’ll probably come back thinking the trip was a complete waste of time.” In the end, Reid didn’t go.

Nassim Taleb once said, “you are trying to convince yourself—if there isn’t one clear reason, don’t do it.” This mindset applies to consumer internet business models in investment as well. A company must have a dominant business model; having too many potential sources of revenue can make investors skeptical.

Let simplicity permeate everything you do.

3.Empower

Empower people at the execution level to make strategic decisions.

Many strategists (and CEOs) believe that their job is to devise a strategy and let their subordinates execute it. They may acknowledge the importance of granting decision-making power, but they often view it as an execution issue rather than a strategic one.

Reid disagreed with this approach. He said, “Everyone who’s truly devising a strategy has to figure out how to make the strategy better.” This is also a litmus test for talent: How do you know if someone on your project team is a top performer? You will know by how they take initiatives to challenge the plan. Depending on their understanding of the details, they should be making suggestions to modify the plan. When they execute, they should continue adjusting the strategy. During execution, they can continually monitor the effectiveness of the plan, and you (the boss) should avoid micromanaging.

In a rapidly changing environment like entrepreneurship, it’s crucial to adapt and modify your strategy. Encouraging those at the execution level to participate actively in decision-making and adjust the strategy as needed can lead to better outcomes.

To summarize, Reid’s approach to strategy and decision-making emphasizes speed, simplicity, and empowering those executing the strategy. Speed allows you to respond quickly to changes, simplicity enables clear decision-making, and empowerment ensures that decisions are made with full understanding and adaptability. These principles have been crucial in Reid’s success as an entrepreneur and investor.

Every flaw has a corresponding strength.

One day, I sat down with Reid and shared my self-assessment regarding my work, goals, strengths, and weaknesses. When discussing how to address weaknesses, Reid offered the advice: “Most strengths have corresponding weaknesses. If you try to correct someone’s weaknesses, you might inadvertently suppress their strengths.”

He shared an example about himself. He isn’t particularly organized, but it’s this chaos that likely fuels his creativity and connects numerous different ideas. He’s someone who constantly generates new ideas, and perhaps his unstructured pace in life is a positive force. The more meticulous and strictly planned your life is, the weaker your creativity might be – it’s a two-sided coin.

Another example pertains to his loyalty and generosity towards friends, which are his strengths. Friends are essential to him, and he values his friendships deeply. The outstanding results achieved through collaboration with friends are evident. However, at times, he gives too much, and friends ask for too much, to the point where he neglects himself.

These two contrasting perspectives reflect Reid’s classic jiu-jitsu strategy: turning weaknesses into strengths. For instance, if you’re running a startup and are concerned about the lack of a track record, instead of hoping it would disappear, consider how to leverage your freshness when marketing to clients.

At a personal level, this requires individuals to excel at turning weaknesses into strengths. Think you’re not good at writing? Perhaps focus on improving your photography skills. If your thinking isn’t fast-paced, then emphasize thoughtful consideration and become a detail-oriented person.

Reid and Mark Zuckerberg spent a lot of time focusing on immigration reform in 2013-2014. There were ups and downs, and the struggle for real reform continued, but one bright spot was when LinkedIn hosted a hackathon for “DREAMer” immigrants. This was very inspiring.

The values that truly shape a company’s culture have both advantages and disadvantages.

Many companies have a long list of positive values like integrity, excellence, diligence, and more. Reid suggests that these values can be put on posters, hung in the company’s cafeteria, but they don’t truly define a culture. Critical values provide clear pros and cons.

Just as there are no opportunities without risks, any defining values also come with negative effects.

For example, in the early days of LinkedIn, there wasn’t a culture of sugar-coating things. The internal discussions weren’t about “we’re destined for greatness.” When things didn’t go well, Reid would discuss it with executives and employees. The benefit of this candid approach is that it can lead to constructive reflection. The entire company can work together to address key challenges. The downside to this approach is related to morale. In fact, some very talented people sold their stocks and left the company early because they believed there was no future. A defining cultural trait is that the good and the bad of the entire company are fully transparent.

One cultural trait at PayPal was “let the best idea win.” Not just any answer or idea from PayPal could be taken at face value. Instead, the person proposing the idea had to endure intense debate and criticism from colleagues. The benefit of this open culture is that rigorous analysis can lead to better ideas rather than “this is how it’s always been done” or “the CEO agrees.” The downside is that a confrontational interpersonal culture can strengthen working relationships and disrupt potential collaboration. Moreover, this kind of culture is actually “anti-experience”: it’s challenging for experienced individuals because they must prove themselves all over again.

Another more common example is whether a company’s decision-making process is autocratic or democratic. This is often a defining cultural trait, even if you’ve never seen it mentioned on any company’s “About Us” webpage.

Reid doesn’t believe there are “good” company values or “bad” company values, except for the obvious ones. Many different types of cultures create successful companies. What’s important is understanding the actual values that impact a company’s behavior and recognizing their pros and cons. So, when you’re looking for a job, don’t blindly trust the stated values; you need to genuinely feel and understand what the real culture of the new work environment is like.

Understanding that people possess different “Alpha” personalities and comprehending how these personalities drive them is essential in interpersonal dynamics.

Reid often analyzes people based on the degree of their Alpha personality – in other words, the aspects they focus on and the pleasure they derive from traditional status/power. Are they a complete Alpha personality? Do they have Alpha tendencies? Are they a suppressed Alpha?

Reid categorizes people into three types: Complete Alpha, Alpha-leaning, and Suppressed Alpha. Understanding which type of Alpha personality someone falls into can be very useful when working with them effectively in a business context.

A “Complete Alpha” personality refers to those who want to be the alpha of alphas, exhibiting all the typical behaviors of male or female leaders. They don’t settle for anything less than being a CEO, even if those positions are not well-suited for them. When pitching opportunities to such individuals, you need to emphasize their power roles. Sometimes, their primal desire for status can influence their thinking, causing them to overlook paths that would be more beneficial for their long-term interests.

“Alpha-leaning” personalities have Alpha traits but can control their dominant tendencies. Reid places me in this category, and I believe he would categorize himself similarly. The ability to manage their own Alpha traits to some extent explains why he was able to collaborate so effectively with Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn. Similarly, Jeff was able to accept influential founders serving as board chairs, which not every CEO would tolerate. Both individuals are highly talented and manage their Alpha tendencies in a cooperative manner, which has allowed their epic partnership to thrive.

“Suppressed Alphas” are those who desire status but don’t consciously acknowledge that desire. Typical people-pleasers sometimes fall into this category. With such individuals, you need to accommodate their unconscious power needs. If they feel they’re not getting the respect they deserve, they may sometimes take unexpected and seemingly unwarranted actions to assert power or status. They might act unexpectedly and directly to maintain power or status in situations where there’s no apparent need for it – surprising others with brief and chaotic displays of their suppressed Alpha tendencies.

The Innate Nature of Self-Deception: Even Those Who Claim They Don’t Need Flattery Crave It Deep Down

In other discussions, I’ve written about why it’s important to be cautious of how people describe your motivations and abilities. This caution stems from the fact that self-deception is a part of human nature. We are the heroes of our own life stories, always believing our strengths are more prominent than they might actually be. We tend to exaggerate our own abilities.

Reid Hoffman has studied self-deception behavior, and he has even built psychological models for specific individuals who have a gap between their self-perception and reality. One classic example of “saying one thing but meaning another” is flattery.

Reid once shared a story about Robert, who was eager to connect with Paul, a highly influential figure in today’s software industry and a mutual friend of Reid’s. When Robert and Paul worked on a project together, they found themselves at odds, and their collaboration was strained. Robert couldn’t understand why.

Many successful individuals claim they don’t need praise or admiration from others. Reid said that Paul, who is now a legend in the industry, was one of those people. He genuinely believed that compliments had no effect on him, stating, “Praise doesn’t work on me anymore; I’ve heard so much about my intelligence in my lifetime.” If you tried to compliment him, he would stop you and say, “No need to say nice things about me; we’re all peers!” However, according to Reid, Paul was actually deceiving himself; deep down, he still desired recognition. When preparing to collaborate with someone of lower status, Paul always expected acknowledgment of his superior position.

Reid told me, “Robert stopped praising Paul. Robert saw through Paul’s self-deprecating facade and stopped flattering him. Many male leaders say they don’t need flattery or compliance, but in reality, they do.”

It’s worth noting that many people view flattery as a form of manipulation, but that’s not always the case. Flattery isn’t necessarily driven by ulterior motives; as David Foster Wallace once said, there is something raw, genuine, and spontaneous about it. Reid can be this way, offering kind gestures, including praise, without expecting anything in return. At times, sweet words are necessary to accomplish certain tasks, as it’s part of human nature. Other times, it’s a selfless act of kindness stemming from pure goodwill.

Distinguishing the Degree of Your Involvement in Everything You Do

To distinguish the degree of your involvement in each aspect of your life, you can think of them as projects and categorize your level of engagement:

  1. Leader: You are the one leading and driving the entire process. You have control and are the driving force behind making things happen.
  2. Board Member: You may be an investor. You frequently engage with the person leading the project. Even if not asked, you proactively think about the project and continually stay informed with the latest and best information.
  3. Investor: You support the project, either financially or with your time, but you are not actively involved in day-to-day operations. You occasionally meet with the leader. If asked to do something, you can contribute, but you don’t need to be involved all the time.
  4. Friend: You can occasionally chat with the person leading the project, but once you leave, you don’t need to think about it further.
  5. Unrelated: This project has no connection to you whatsoever.

The next time you engage in a project, consider how closely it relates to you. Understanding this can be helpful for both yourself and others involved in the project.

Imagine Three Outcomes for Every Project: Best, Normal, and Worst, and Prepare Accordingly

Reid approaches every aspect of life as a project. He takes the time to understand what role he plays in each “project” and envisions the best, normal, and worst possible outcomes for that project. Then, he decides how much time and effort to invest based on these scenarios.

Best Case Scenario: If everything goes perfectly, and luck is on your side, what are the potential outcomes for this “project”? Will you dominate the world, create a successful product, or write a best-selling book? If even the best-case scenario doesn’t excite you, perhaps this project shouldn’t be your top priority, or you can adjust your investment. What you’re doing must offer genuinely exciting benefits.

Normal Case Scenario: If things go well but not exceptionally, what does the “normal” situation look like? Using a golf analogy, if you aim to hit the fairway, not the green or the rough, what will happen?

Worst Case Scenario: In case your project stalls or deviates significantly from the intended course, what is the worst possible outcome? Is it something catastrophic, like reputational or financial ruin? Or is it something manageable, something you can bounce back from?

When Reid, Chris, and I brainstormed “The Alliance,” we considered various scenarios:

  1. Writing this book would require a significant investment. What would be the best-case scenario, and how do we feel about it?
  2. This management framework could be adopted by businesses; what would be the normal outcome, and how do we feel about it?
  3. Some people might read the book, but it might not be widely adopted. What would be the worst-case scenario, and how do we feel about it?

By laying out these three scenarios, you can adjust your expectations and level of investment accordingly.

The key to building great partnerships is to discover and value the differences in motivations.

The first negotiation experience that Reid and I went through was with our publisher for “The Alliance.” Reid reminded me to think about where our thinking aligns and where it diverges from the other party’s.

Even in a mutually beneficial deal, each party has divergent motivations.

For example, in our partnership with Random House, their motivation was to sell books, while our interest was more profound: to propagate an idea to the world, no matter the form or cost, which made us more interested in giving away e-books for free. However, this misalignment didn’t break the deal. But being aware of it helped us better navigate our ongoing relationship. Making it clear to yourself and the other party where you differ will ensure that neither side is surprised when disagreements arise.

Rationality is the steering wheel, and emotions are the throttle. Think clearly about your direction before hitting the gas.

Before formally working with Reid, I attended a knowledge retreat with him in the Utah countryside. It was a silent meditation, and we happened to sit at the same table. According to the instructions for the evening, we went around the table sharing our perspectives on the world. After Reid spoke, a high-ranking executive from the advertising industry turned to Reid and said, “This view isn’t bold at all,” mockingly adding, “What an incredibly boring prediction.” He then got up from the table and started typing on his BlackBerry. Unfortunately, people weren’t surprised by his rudeness – he had been acting like a jerk all evening. Reid calmly replied, “I’m completely fine with that,” and we continued to the next part of the event. Not everyone can remain composed when insulted to their face.

Of course, testing isn’t always about how you respond to being insulted in person, as such situations are rare in polite business interactions. Typically, anger festers through a series of annoying emails or tedious meetings. One day, the camel’s back is broken, and you send an unwise email or make sarcastic remarks during a group phone call that silences the room.

Reid is naturally not an impulsive person. This could be intentional control, thoughtful consideration, or restraint in the face of volatility. Many people let their emotions seep into the reasoning process, while Reid integrates his emotional responses into his reasoning process. For Reid, passion is a servant to rationality. (It’s worth noting that this personality is the opposite of Steve Jobs’, illustrating the multiple paths to success.)

I would like to say that when making decisions, use rationality as your steering wheel and emotions as the throttle to propel you forward. As various studies suggest, you need emotions to make a decisive and correct decision, but emotions also need the right guidance from rational judgment. Like others who excel at turning the steering wheel in the right direction, Reid puts the right amount of emotional energy in the right direction through rationality. I’m not sure if learning to guide and press the emotional throttle is a skill acquired later in life or something innate. Perhaps it’s both.

Trust is more important than competence when compared.

Should you start a company with a friend? Reid suggests that it’s possible, and under otherwise equal conditions, working with a trusted friend can lead to faster progress. This is because you already understand each other’s thinking and communication styles. Acting swiftly is crucial, especially in the early stages of entrepreneurship.

But what if the other conditions are not the same? If you had to choose between working with a friend you trust but whose competence is rated 7 out of 10 or a stranger who has a competence rating of 9 out of 10, who would you choose? The answer is: if your trusted friend has a strong learning ability, choose your trusted friend.

Using trust as a bargaining chip, even if it means temporarily compromising on competence.

In other words, choose a friend you trust but has a strong learning ability over a more competent stranger. Assume that your trusted friend is in a permanent beta-testing mode, and they can quickly make up for their deficiencies in skills or experience.

I personally have benefited from this approach as well. For some tasks, I’m clearly not the most qualified person in the world, or even the most qualified person in Reid’s network. But given that:

  • We trust each other completely;
  • I understand his preferences and values, and he understands mine;
  • I’m also a fast learner. We can complete projects at lightning speed together.

With so many lessons learned, I have to constantly review this practice. The first time I learned this lesson was at a company I worked for early in my career when we hired someone who seemed great in industry achievements but whom we didn’t truly know or trust. The lack of trust among us destroyed any hope of the team effectively solving problems when we stumbled upon some landmines.

The second time was in another company I co-founded, and I learned this lesson the hard way. At that time, I compromised too much on the competence requirements for a team member because of the trust we had for each other. This person was a quick learner, but the sacrifice on necessary expertise wasn’t worth it, and the project got into trouble.

Telling the truth, don’t instinctively flatter.

Shortly after I began serving as COS, Reid and I hosted a dinner for a friend in Palo Alto. Afterward, I drove one of the guests, Charlie Songhurst, back to his hotel. I had known and admired Charlie for many years. At the time, he had recently wrapped up his role as Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft and advisor to Steve Ballmer. When I told Charlie about how I was working hard to help Reid, he gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten: “My job was basically telling Steve the truth. You should do the same for Reid.” I took that to heart. Reid confirmed, “He very much endorses that approach.”

There’s no doubt that there’s a direct correlation between how much power you have and how much people flatter you.

Intellectuals like Reid are in pursuit of truth and wisdom, not flattery. Those who continually seek professional growth and personal development also know that they only make progress when they receive constructive feedback. However, most people only offer meaningless praise (like saying “You’re amazing!”). Mindless flattery doesn’t help.

Telling the truth to people like Reid requires a very close relationship.

If you have the courage to give constructive feedback to people in positions of power, you can earn their respect and attention.

Once, a consultant sent an email to Reid and one of his Greylock partners, telling them that he thought their joint performance in a meeting was “C-level.” This got their attention—they hadn’t seen a C-level in a long time! I think they respected him more for it.

On the other hand, it’s important to note that, regardless of what they say, everyone secretly likes a bit of flattery. So, providing constructive feedback is one thing, and doing it in a reasonable way is another.

Respect the behind-the-scenes power of successful individuals.

Reid and Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer once attended an informal speech hosted by the Churchill Club. Before the speech started, we went over the process and content. When I accompanied Reid into the prep room to discuss, Steve immediately stood up, shook my hand, and introduced himself, saying, “Hello Ben, I’m Steve Ballmer, nice to meet you.” He behaved very professionally, and I was quite impressed.

A year later, when Reid hosted a fireside chat with a Silicon Valley mogul, he was accompanied by a PR person. While the Silicon Valley mogul greeted me warmly and chatted with me, the PR person acted as if I didn’t exist. After the event, she just said goodbye to Reid and quickly left the building with her boss. In comparison, her boss had much better manners.

I mention this not because of me, because:

  • I wouldn’t lose sleep over how a PR person treated me, but what I want to emphasize is that the key to working with big shots is never underestimating the influence of the “behind-the-scenes power” at any time;
  • For example, their advisors, assistants, consultants, or even spouses. Being rude to them is sure to lose opportunities to progress within this social circle. The more powerful a person is, the wider their network, and similarly, their “shadow power” becomes stronger.

Building genuine and collaborative partnerships makes people work harder.

In “The Alliance,” we liken life to a team sport, where all great things are accomplished through interacting with others. Reid is a master at leveraging interpersonal resources, and one of his greatest strengths is his willingness to share projects with others. Although he often plays unique key roles – whether as the primary convener, investor, or visionary dreamer, or even taking on some execution work – he generously shares the credit.

This goes beyond just thanking everyone symbolically after the project ends, but rather, during project execution, allowing team members to earn full trust. When people realize what he has done, they naturally appreciate his generosity. They will also praise him because he ensures that everyone who works hard is rewarded.

But his true genius lies in wisdom. He is inclusive because he knows that when people link personal achievement to job success, they will work harder, pay more attention to the project, and the final product will benefit (while also enhancing his reputation). This is how Reid and Greylock partners, LinkedIn executives, and I approached our collaborations in the two books we co-authored. As a co-author, not just a ghostwriter, I felt that my commitment to the project far exceeded what I should have done, and the quality improved accordingly.

Therefore, whenever I see entrepreneurs unwilling to share the fruits of victory, early founding team members who helped build the company from the ground up, and even co-founders who can’t get the title they deserve, I am often very surprised. Their self-centeredness hinders them, and they forget what being a true founder is all about. By sharing the credit and making others your true partners, you will enhance team members’ sense of initiative and responsibility, enabling you to move faster and farther.

Your surroundings shape you in countless imperceptible ways.

The lessons I’ve shared are indeed inspiring, but they are all specific and somewhat disconnected. They are limited.

However, when I reflect on the past four and a half years of my experience, what I’ve learned from Reid is much more encompassing and goes far beyond these lessons. Learning is everywhere when you’re around exceptional people. When you immerse yourself completely in someone else’s way of life, when your job, in a sense, is to stand in their shoes and see the world from their perspective every day, that person’s influence on you becomes incredibly pivotal, and this influence continues to ripple.

This reminds me of the professional athletes I’ve interviewed. When they talk about their most important coaches, they say they didn’t just learn how to hit, throw, or catch the ball better, but they learned how to play the game better in every aspect.

So, the most important lesson is this: the people you spend the most time with will change you in ways you can’t predict, and sometimes, you might not even notice.

The most crucial decision in life is choosing who surrounds you.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have learned so much from someone as unique as Reid.

May you and I both be so lucky to have the opportunity to partner with and learn from such exceptional individuals in our lives. And may we also have the wisdom to savor this magical world and have the insight to change it, even just a little bit.

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