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Max Levchin Quotes

Maksymilian Rafailovych

Max Levchin quotes: best quotes by the billionaire PayPal cofounder.

“Being an entrepreneur is not about being in love with an idea, it’s about being in love with running a company.”

“I think the hallmark of a really good entrepreneur is that you’re not really going to build one specific company. The goal—at least the way I think about entrepreneurship—is you realize one day that you can’t really work for anyone else. You have to start your own thing. It almost doesn’t matter what that thing is.”

“Work really, really hard. Be really, really smart.”

“My grandmother once told me that the only difference between somebody with a failed life versus somebody with two PhDs is perseverance. There’s nothing else. And she really stressed that point. You just have to have enough grit to go through the parts where you want to quit and don’t. So I think perseverance, grit, tenacity—you fill in your favorite word for that. I think that is the number one success factor for entrepreneurs. And my number one internal ‘Hey, get going already’ motivational line to myself is, ‘Don’t be lazy. Just go do it.'”

“And the other one I think I should have thought of 20 years ago, but I think I’m better at now—just take more risks. The younger you are, the easier it is to take risks. And I think once you get in the habit of taking risks, it becomes easier, then you just sort of know that it’s okay. Failure isn’t really that big a deal, and it’s helpful to fail a few times early on in your career, because you know exactly how the bottom feels. But you get in the habit of not always failing, and that becomes the good default.”

“My advice is to take risks, now. The advantages that college students and new grads have are their youth, drive, lack of significant responsibilities and, importantly, lack of the creature comforts one acquires with time. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Barnacles of the good life tend to slow you down, if you don’t get used to risk-taking early in your career.”

“I believe that the risks are worthwhile and can be appropriately managed. Data is a beautiful thing, after all—the key to unlocking mysteries of the world and to maximizing human potential. I would no sooner abandon quantification than I would burn down a library full of books. I ultimately don’t think the blind fear of data collection is justified.”

“Avoid becoming too rigid—you don’t want the discipline of data collection to throttle creativity. If you do things exactly the same way all the time you miss opportunities.”

“A productive day for me is when I’m falling asleep, thinking, ‘Today, I had full control of my work; it didn’t control me.'”

“My biggest mantra is ‘stay focused.'”

“If you are your sole responsibility, this is the time to step outside of your comfort zone, to start or join an exciting, risky project; to drop everything else at the chance to be part of something really great. So what if it fails? You can always go back to school, take that job at an investment bank or a consulting company, move into a nicer apartment.”

“The advice to ignore (in certain situations) is to strive to become ‘well-rounded’—to move from company to company, looking to pick up different types of experience every year or two, when starting out. That’s useful in the abstract, but if you find that strength of yours (as an individual contributor or a team leader) at a company whose mission you are truly passionate about, take a risk—commit and double down, and rise through the ranks. Maybe you’ll be running the place before you know it!”

“Ignore your mistakes. The number one thing to worry about is: ‘Am I doing what I’m good at?'”

“I have this massive notebook called Ideas and another one called Personal Ideas and another one called Crazy Ideas.”

“The only predictable thing about startups is their unpredictability. Building a startup is very much an endurance sport.”

“‘The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.’ This famous line from Walt Disney on willpower cannot be more true when it comes to entrepreneurship. The only predictable thing about startups is their unpredictability, and powering through the lows of the startup roller coaster ultimately just takes grit—yours and your team’s.”

“For a long time, it was one of these things where—I was really much younger than now—my whole ‘brand’ both to the investors and to our board members was this crazy Russian boy-genius who comes out and sprinkles magic dust on technology and things just work.”

“Even with all the passion and education, and a good idea, your small business still might fail. There are so many parts of running a successful business, that it takes time to learn them all. Many need to be learned through experience, through failure. If an idea doesn’t work out, don’t get discouraged. Almost every successful entrepreneur has failed several times.”

“I started numerous companies in my early 20s only to see them all fail, but I never thought twice about starting the next one. I knew after the first one that I loved the feeling of starting something, and I had almost no other responsibilities. Eventually, one of the startups did work out, but I was prepared to try as many times as it would take to win.”

“The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.”

“I failed a lot before I hit it big.”

“You can’t get married to any one particular plan. That is the biggest lesson I learned at PayPal.”

“A classic engineering mistake and one I’ve made is confusing what is hard and what is valuable.”

“I am not much given to regret.”

“I love difficult, serious problems.”

“You can have successful teams where people hate but deeply respect each other; the opposite (love but not respect among team members) is a recipe for disaster.”

“Having a highly homogeneous background, education, values, preferences, etc., in the very early team is better than not, cuts down on time-wasting arguments.”

“The notion that diversity in an early team is important or good is completely wrong. You should try to make the early team as non-diverse as possible.”

“Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. A laconic reminder to always be decisive in battle and in business, and at a most basic level, to trust your gut. In my line of work, this often enough translates to ‘fire early,’ too. When you aren’t sure about a key employee or a cofounder, odds are exceedingly low your mind will be changed for the better.”

“Look for a partner you’ll try to impress daily, and one who will try to impress you. Over the last couple decades, I’ve noticed that the best, most enduring partnerships in business (and in life) are among people who are constantly growing together. If the person you choose to depend on is constantly striving to learn and improve, you too will push yourself to new levels of achievement, and neither of you will feel like you have settled for someone you eventually outgrow.”

“I certainly evolved my approach to building teams over the years. I try to learn from people whose company’s culture I admire.”

“A CEO’s job is to continually find ways of getting other people to do their best work in service of a shared goal. To accomplish that, you must be available. The additional distraction of people asking me questions isn’t going to be that costly to me. And it’s going to be valuable to them.”

“The single most important top-level trend is the shift to mobile.”

“I’ve been developing mobile for years before anybody else really thought it was that important.”

“Mobile is the perfect example of what is enabling economic growth in the technology sector.”

“Technology has come a long way since PayPal.”

“You are not designing for yourself, and shouldn’t be. Most people using the Web don’t understand most of what makes it work and don’t want to. Design for those people. There are many more of them than you.”

“We’re becoming slaves to our social networks, and that’s not a bad thing. You like your favorite networks, so do your friends, and pretty soon you have market winners.”

“Facebook and Myspace are the U.S. audience, which is tried and true when it comes to being susceptible to ads.”

“If you’re building a social product, you’re still living in the last century if your product doesn’t work on Facebook.”

“Media is very different from financial services. People are very fickle and very vocal. They believe that things should be one way and not the other. It’s still very rewarding to build products for huge audiences. It feels like you’re making an impact.”

“If you can work a brand successfully into the narrative of your product, then it’s really cool. Then people actually take the brand up and say, ‘My positive experience in your product is directly connected and influenced by this brand and that worked great.'”

“The world is now awash in data and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.”

“One of the things we did at PayPal was collaborative filtering and machine learning: looking at patterns of human behavior. We used it there to predict when people would try to cheat the system to get money. But you can predict pretty much any behavior with a certain amount of accuracy.”

“While travel and ticketing and fashion are all down and we know they’re all down, the super-massive shift from offline to online is powerful. People are changing their habits very, very rapidly and the most powerful trend is figuring out what can be purchased online instead of having to go outside.”

“A new belief, behavior and habit that has most improved my life is focusing on my strengths. After PayPal, my most important career goal was to diversify. I really wanted to diversify my skills and experiences. I am once again working in my sweet spot and loving every minute of it.”

“These days, having fairly demanding start-up career as a CEO, a family with two little kids, and a few other obligations in life, I do less experimenting, but I try to ride my bike every day. I try to be pretty healthy as an eater. But I basically find a routine that I like, and I just stick to it obsessively. If I skip a day, it’s extremely uncomfortable.”

“If you improve by one percent every day, you will grow amazingly.”

“The number one power in any behavior is in turning it into a default. So long as you make those defaults healthy, it’s very easy. You can just exist in a fairly healthy universe.”

“The niceties of the 21st century—living longer and healthier and happier—are ultimately going to be worth it.”

“We’re all put on earth for a limited amount of time. Am I using it in a way that is great, or good enough, or wasteful?”

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