I am not a particularly good person

It’s even the answer to questions that seem unrelated, like how to convince investors to give you money. If you’re a good salesman, you could try to just talk them into it. But the more reliable route is to convince them through your users: if you make something users love enough to tell their friends, you grow exponentially, and that will convince any investor.

Being good is a particularly useful strategy for making decisions in complex situations because it’s stateless. It’s like telling the truth. The trouble with lying is that you have to remember everything you’ve said in the past to make sure you don’t contradict yourself. If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything, and that’s a really useful property in domains where things happen fast.

For example, Y Combinator has now invested in 80 startups, 57 of which are still alive. (The rest have died or merged or been acquired.) When you’re trying to advise 57 startups, it turns out you have to have a stateless algorithm. You can’t have ulterior motives when you have 57 things going on at once, because you can’t remember them. So our rule is just to do whatever’s best for the founders. Not because we’re particularly benevolent, but because it’s the only algorithm that works on that scale.

When you write something telling people to be good, you seem to be claiming to be good yourself. So I want to say explicitly that I am not a particularly good person. When I was a kid I was firmly in the camp of bad. The way adults used the word good, it seemed to be synonymous with quiet, so I grew up very suspicious of it.

You know how there are some people whose names come up in conversation and everyone says “He’s such a great guy?” People never say that about me. The best I get is “he means well.” I am not claiming to be good. At best I speak good as a second language.

So I’m not suggesting you be good in the usual sanctimonious way. I’m suggesting it because it works. It will work not just as a statement of “values,” but as a guide to strategy, and even a design spec for software. Don’t just not be evil. Be good.



A pretty interesting read. If you’re interested in ideas and starts.

This, is exactly the reason why Facebook is so boring. There’s a lot of more interesting reads out there.

Anyway I shared it coz I thought how particularly cool it is to reach a certain maturity and stage in life where you can say out loud “I am not claiming to be good. At best I speak good as a second language.” Many people are very defensive, wary, afraid, of appearing to be slacking, resting, not productive. Or to have flaws.


c.f. the thing about the fates? it’s like the good salesman conundrum. why do you need a good salesman if your product sells itself, if it is something the users want. can i say that a good salesman isnt good? perhaps it is right to say that it a good salesman is a good salesman but salesmen aren’t good. if you get what i mean. it’s abit tricky there. i am ruminating on it.

I am not a particularly good person