Sam Altman — Leading with Crippling Anxiety, Discovering Meditation, and Building Intelligence with Self-Awareness

In this episode, Brett and Joe interview Sam Altman on how self-awareness gained through meditation can be combined with intelligence in business. Sam is an entrepreneur, investor and programmer. He is the CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator.

Sam discusses his experiences with meditation and how it has transformed his decision making and resulted in a much calmer, more joyous default state of being. He explains some of the most profound realizations that he has had about himself and humanity in general through his work with AI. Join us to hear more about how Sam arrived at a place of calm detachment that allowed him to respond to challenging and stressful situations with ease.

“Intelligence and awareness, to me, seem like that have to go together.”

What we discuss in Episode 39:

1:30  A realization that completely changed the way that Sam operates in business, the way he thinks about AI, and his life.

5:04  The moment Sam realized his old way of operating, from a place of stress and anxiety, needed to change.

8:00  How to really care about something while remaining detached from the outcome at the same time.

11:03  The most transformative aspect of meditation according to Sam.

14:40  The experience of non-duality — how it shifts perspective and provides clarity on self, passions and priorities.

22:22  Whether human emotions are possible for artificial intelligence to experience.

29:38  How intelligence needs self-awareness to reach its full capacity.

32:50  How meditation shifted Sam’s relationship to anger and joy.

35:55  How the work that Sam has done on himself has evolved his work culture.

Follow us on Instagram at @artofaccomplishment to learn more about our guests and share your own experiences.

Transcript

Episode intro:

If you are going to get as smart as possible, you want to be able to make the best predictions about what will happen. One of the things that will act is you. Yeah, I think there is something there, which is intelligence and self-awareness to me seem like they have to go together.

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment, where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves, and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease. I am Brett Kistler, here today with my co-host, Joe Hudson.

Brett: All right, everybody. I am really excited about our guest today. Today we are speaking with Sam Altman. Sam is the CEO of Open AI, and he is the former president of Y Combinator. How are you doing today, Sam?

Sam: Doing really well. Thanks for having me.

Brett: I am really excited to talk to you just because it seems like what you are doing and what we are doing is somewhat parallel in that you are working to make sure the AI we create and make self-aware is aligned with human values, and what we are doing is just making sure humans are aligned with human values and discovering how to discover what those even are. I am really excited for this conversation.

Sam: Awesome. Me, too.

Brett: Sam, I would love to dive into something you learned about yourself over the course of your life that really just changed your world, and the changed the way you operate in business, and the way you think about AI and about your life.

Sam: I think there are a bunch of interesting things I could pick here. It is a fun question, but the one that resonates with me the most and it wasn’t intentional at the time, but what became intentional during the process was becoming a calm person. I think I started off my career in life as a very anxious, high-strung person, much more than I realized. I think it was a negative in many ways, the obvious ones being sort of just generally unhappy and somewhat miserable and also just work-wise, tremendously less effective and a much worse leader.

Then through a conscious effort, eventually what started off as just mostly exploring meditation and introspection about why I was the way I was and why I was so sort of high strung and just wound up in an unproductive way, it started, I guess, as trying to explore why this was in the way of productivity and then it became why it was in the way of my happiness. That process, I think, made me much better at my job in addition to much happier in my life. I think one of the things anyone learns running a company is there are a lot of crises all of the time. You can get through them. You do get through them, but to the degree, you kind of believe you are going to get through them even if you don’t see exactly how, you get through them much more effectively. Also, you really have an effect on how other people that work with you when they look to you for guidance and culture setting and how they should react, it really changes how they should react.

Basically, the situations that don’t benefit from calmness and sort of thought and appropriate perspective before action are very few and far between. I think the steadiness that brings to work leads to the ability to get to much better answers on much harder problems. It is also just a much more pleasant way to live.

Brett: How did you recognize this was a blocker for you both in business and also just in your personal, subjective experience?

Sam: As I experienced, it started off with this thing I can tell this is in the way of my productivity, which I think says something about my mindset at the time. It then very quickly became this inner exploration and realized that it was something obviously better to me, seemed cultivable, and the thing I obviously wanted.

Joe: The idea that it was messing with your productivity, the anxiety or anxiousness was messing with your productivity, how did you see that? What were exactly the things you saw you were doing that you said oh wow, this is not productive? For people who might not know this is getting in the way of their productivity, how could they recognize it?

Sam: A common thing I did myself is every day I would come to work in some sort of a panic. I would think we were doing the wrong things. I would have totally new priorities I thought we needed to go after. I would get really convinced if we just go do this one thing, everything will be much better. We have got to totally reorient the whole thing now. I have this big, new strategy and this big, new thing. Everything I thought yesterday was bad. We have got to do this immediately. That was one way in which it happened. I ‘ve heard a lot of other people tell similar stories where you just feel very reactive and all over the place.

This was like 15 years ago now, but I still remember it, like watching a movie. I had been negotiating this deal. It was not going that well. It was pretty important, and it was under extreme time pressure and down to the wire. I remember at one point just like feeling like I was going to explode from the stress about it. I lived in this little studio house in Mountain View at the time. It was a summer day. There is no air conditioning. It was probably 95 degrees inside. I was just in gym shorts. It was on a weekend. I was so stressed I was laying on the ground with my arms out to the side and trying to breathe and feeling like I was just like going to explode. It was this terrible feeling.

I realized that I just didn’t want to be doing this, and also, me feeling this way was not helping in any way. It was not making the deal anymore likely to happen, clearly only less. It was making me want to quit and not do this anymore. I was subjecting myself to this thing because it’s how I thought I was supposed to be feeling when it was just strictly bad. There was no benefit at all. That was a moment for me when I was like there has got to be a better way. This doesn’t feel to me like the right way to be doing things.

Brett: I heard you say there that the feelings you had there were strictly bad. I am curious. What were they trying to tell you, if anything, that you needed to hear to approach the deal in a way that was healthy for you?

Sam: The thing I would say now is people say you need to be detached. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you do whatever you can, you control what you can control, and then beyond, the outcome is going to be what the outcome is. You realize there are some things out of your control, but also in the long arc of a company, if you get the inputs right, the dice rolls don’t always go your way, but the outputs eventually come. If you really focus on doing what you can do and be detached from the outcome in any specific case, eventually you get to the right outputs. But if you don’t focus on what you can do, you end up. In the moment, the way I was acting, responding and feeling, that did not help me clearly figure out what to do. That did not help me think about better ideas. That certainly did not instill any confidence in our counterparty.

Brett: I heard you mention just there that piece about detachment to the outcome. Something we talk a lot about in this work is impartiality. I am curious what the difference there is between being detached from the outcome and somewhat disassociated from it, but then on the other side of that, actually really caring about the outcome but also accepting whichever way it might go and also trusting yourself to navigate however that might flow.

Sam: I don’t think I have a magic answer there other than it sort of came to me over time, and now I both really care and feel quite detached. I also trust that it will all somehow eventually work out even though the luck multiple in any given moment is big. I think there is a lot of introspection work that comes there, but I also think that just seeing that work enough times over the course of a career is the best place to really internalize it and learn it. These things that just seem like company ending crises don’t end the company.

Even if they do, you get to go start another thing. Eventually you realize I went through all of that pain and suffering, and I didn’t need to. Here we are. It probably only hurt the eventual progress.

Brett: In my experience, the things I have considered to be a company ending crisis tend to become more likely to end the company the more I believe that.

Sam: There is something there, for sure.

Brett: After this moment, you had this moment where you are lying on the ground, and you could barely breathe. You had all of this sensation, all of this emotion. You were clearly not operating in a way that was effective. You recognized that something needed to shift and there was a change of strategy that was called for. How did you then approach and find your way towards this introspection and deeper self-awareness, the path you are on now?

Sam: There was an awareness that something needed to change, but for anything to start changing unfortunately took quite a long time after that. That was a moment where I was. There are many moments where you realize something needs to change, but that was a moment where it was very clear something really needed to change because that was just sort of no way to live and also to be productive.

I was a very dismissive person of anything that had any. I have done a total 180 on this. If someone was like you just need to go meditate more, I would basically be like fuck you, I’m really busy. That’s a dumb thing. You don’t get it. I would say that about lots of other things as well. But then I think at some point I was like okay, I will give this a try. I think it was years later from that moment, but then man, it really changed things quickly.

Then this thing I had done because I thought it would make me more productive, I realized I just wanted to be happier. There were a number of things. Meditation was probably the most valuable to me, but particular forms of it. A lot of other work also helped, and then I realized that just in the spirit of wanting to be happier, it also had come full circle and made me, maybe not more productive in terms of volume of work I do but certainly on better inputs and thus better outputs.

Joe: You were talking about different modalities and meditation there, and that there's an arc of meditation. You have been meditating for something like 10 years now. How can you describe the difference in your approach to meditation when you started, in the middle and the end? How has your attitude towards and your approach changed, if at all?

Sam: It started with more guided meditations or meditations that were focused on awareness or calmness. The transformational part for me was getting to unstructured meditation, sitting for an hour with your eyes closed and making no effort towards anything. The arc on that for most people starts as some version of self-therapy with your eyes shut for a while, and then you work through that backlog, and it changes to something else. I certainly changed a lot out of that.

Joe: It sounds like to some degree that that same impartiality or detachment of business results also happened internally, meaning that now you can just be with yourself with whatever showed up instead of trying to manage yourself into a state.

Sam: For sure. Eventually the stuff stops showing up or at least shows up much less. I think this is, at least for me, a long path of meditation. It was not the shortcut path. The shortcut path, at least in most of Silicon Valley, is plant medicine, which I think is great, too, but I think there is really something to taking the long path and letting this process play out over years that I encourage people to give consideration to.

Brett: Absolutely. In my experience with plant medicine, you can often get to places with it that are hard to then re-access when you are not on any kind of medicine. To be in a process where you learn to let your system process information straight from the source, straight from your sensory experience without any alternants, then it is available to you all the time and not just on weekends.

Sam: I think this is all worth exploring. It is all great, but the long path or the hard path is also I think really worth consideration.

Brett: Along those lines, then, how has your relationship to meditation changed? What are some of the points you experienced along the path where you recognized a different and more effective way to be meditating? How does that relate to the way you relate to it now?

Sam: I definitely didn’t go into meditation saying what I want is calmness. I maybe would have said what I want is to figure out if there is anything here or if there are all these people saying it is a good thing to try and I just don’t get it. Probably even more, I would have said I would like to be less unhappy. That probably would have resonated. It was very strange how much stuff started changing and how little I could predict where it would go.

I think the first moments anyone gets through a meditation where you really, deeply feel. You have read about people’s descriptions of non-duality. It always sounded vague or bullshit, and you really deeply feel it. That’s always, for everyone I have talked to, a pretty profound moment of interchange. I think when you get there, then at least for me a lot of external things changed pretty quickly. For me, it was a slow build and then a lot of stuff changed pretty quickly.

To be honest, I don’t meditate as much anymore. I used to do it a lot, and I still do it now just out of enjoyment or nostalgia or something. It is definitely in a different phase now.

Joe: What are the things that changed when that threshold got hit? What are the things you saw that shifted in the external world?

Sam: I guess there is just this sense that none of this really matters that much, and so I am going to have a very different relationship to how I interact with all of it. Also, there is this clarity. That’s one factor, and then there is also this clarity of here are all of the things I am doing that are actually causing all the things I don’t want. I sort of now can see those as a very detached observer. Actually, if I want to stop that stuff, I am now able to do so.

Brett: It sounds like what you are describing there is that through the practice of meditation you have made it so that you can, in real time, process your inputs. You have cleaned up the inputs of your sensory system, and you are letting all that information in in more real time without having to go sit on a cushion and meditate because it just happens throughout the day. Meditation is now something you do for enjoyment and not necessarily something you need to do because you are just more emotionally fluid in general. Does that sound accurate?

Sam: Yeah, roughly.

Joe: What’s inaccurate about it? What’s the piece that’s missing or is a bad description?

Sam: I mean there are people who need to say I don’t need to meditate anymore because now I feel like I am meditating all the time. I certainly haven’t had that experience. There is something about sitting for a long period of time that is still really different and not something I experience in day-to-day life. But the ability to observe the world and myself in a more detached way, that’s definitely stuck.

Joe: One of the things I hear people talk about when they get to that place is that they start worrying that they don’t care or that they feel like it is listless. They feel like they don’t have the passion anymore because they are associating with the non-personal nature. What would you say to those people?

Sam: I definitely worried about that happening to me. I didn’t want that to happen. In the spirit of full transparency, I know some people to whom that has happened. It certainly didn’t happen to me. It made me care more about work. It made me more productive. It sort of took on a different valence, what I wanted to work on and what I cared about. There is a bunch of stuff I didn’t even realize how much I cared about that I really stopped caring about and there were some new things I really started caring about. There were changes, for sure.

One of the things I realized actually early on during meditation was just how much I cared what other people thought about me, which was a hugely limiting thing for me work-wise. Of course, I still care somewhat but that was a relatively quick thing to drop. That was a very freeing thing in terms of going to work on things that weren’t going to seem cool or at least weren’t going to seem cool for a long time. It changed what I cared about, but in ways that I have felt happy about.

There is definitely shit that happens to you during intense and prolonged meditation. There are probably moments when I was just like wow, I shouldn’t be working at all or whatever, but none of that stuck.

Joe: That’s what I often see in people. Their listlessness or the lack of passion is when they are looking at the parts of themselves that no longer want to exist. Then when they find the parts of themselves that are ready to emerge and evolve, the passion is always right there. But obviously the longer they stay in that fear, the harder it is to find the thing that does move them now.

Sam: Obviously, when you are on the front side of it, this idea that your sense of self is going to diminish, maybe diminish a lot is a scary thought. People are like, what is that going to do to my motivation. Almost everyone I know who meditates a lot does have some degree of sense of self diminishing, often a lot, and yet they still do whatever they were doing. They still often do whatever they were doing before, or some adapted and maybe better version of it.

Joe: When you look back at your resistance to meditation, what it is that you think you were actually resisting?

Sam: I think it was that I felt like it was a waste of time, and this sort of hippy feelings bullshit I just didn’t want to entertain.

Joe: When you look back at it, the resistance was the same as what you thought it was at that time.

Sam: Yeah.

Brett: How do you relate your experience in meditation and feelings in general and the way that that processes through to create your experience and drive your decision making? How do you relate that to the work you are doing at Open AI and the way you understand intelligence in general?

Sam: I think for most kinds of work, but certainly very uncertain scientific work that often feels high stakes and that brings up a lot of emotions for people, the ability to stay calm and centered during hard and stressful moments and to make decisions where you are not too reactive, sticking to long term principles, I think that’s really important.

I think in this field in particular unfortunately some of the communities that have been most involved in AI safety I think are the people that are the least calm. I think that’s a dangerous situation if you have some of the people who have historically been most active thinking and talking about AI safety actually build AI and be responsible for its safety, I think that would be quite bad. It is an extremely high-strung community with some peculiarities. I remember observing one thing I could bring to this is the opposite of whatever that community has.

Joe: There is a principle I see a lot, which is the thing we are scared of is the thing we attract. It sounds like that’s at least in part of the way you are seeing this. These very high strung, very scared people are the ones to protect us from it. They also might be attracting the thing they are trying to avoid.

Sam: Yeah, I think that would be quite bad.

Brett: I can see fear justifying a lot of the arms race-y type things that occur in the field.

Sam: That could happen for sure, but I think there are a bunch of other worse things that could happen, too. There is this great short story about AGI called the Gentle Seduction. There is a line in there that I am going to misquote, but it is something like, only the worlds or only the people who knew prudence without fear made it through. That’s not the sentence, but it is something like that. Maybe it was like caution without fear.

That’s basically what I think it is going to take to get through this very wild and complex transition we are going through. If you create the existence of humanity from a place of deep fear, panic and anxiety, that seems to me like you are likely to make some very bad choices or certainly not reflect the best of humanity in that.

Joe: Neurologically speaking, we make decisions emotionally, meaning if we take the emotional center out of our brain, we cease to be able to make decisions even if our IQ and IQ would stay the same. Also, I always pronounce his name wrong, Gödel. He talks about the limitations of logic through the mathematical incompleteness theorem.

As you are building artificial intelligence and you see that the postulants we are working on and the way our intelligence works is through emotions, how does that translate into AI? How do emotions translate into AGI, if at all, as the thruster?

Sam: First of all, I think it is important to stay quite humble here and realize that although it does appear now that we know how to build intelligence, we may be building a very alien intelligence. We don’t quite know how it is going to work or how it works. It is possible that we build something that still can solve problems and can still understand and learn but just does so in such a different way than we do that if we try to project our own experience of deeply emotional decision making, that’s just wrong or that just won’t work.

But I think it is also possible that a lot of those things that we experience as emotions, depending on how we train the system, a lot of those ideas of things like emotions are going to appear in artificial neural networks as well. There is certainly no reason why it couldn’t. People say we aren’t going to have that because hormones can’t act on artificial neural networks. Of course, you can model that. This is clearly possible. We just haven’t done it yet.

It also could just emerge entirely in the neural network without us ever doing anything active there. There could be something very deeply inherent about creativity or social dynamics or whatever where that is unavoidable. I think the honest answer is we don’t know, and we need to be open to it doesn’t happen at all or it happens in a very deep way.

Joe: The follow up question is a weird one. If you could push a button and the button was basically fear is something that AI gets to experience, would you push the button?

Sam: Of course.

Joe: What makes that so? I say that because obviously moving out of anxiety has been incredibly important to you. You see some wisdom in the fear. What creates that?

Sam: I think fear is an important emotion. I think fear underlies not all emotions but quite a lot of them. I think there is often a very important signal there. I think it evolved for a reason. I don’t think we would have made it through to where we are without that. I think it is an important part of the full experience of life, and it is also a useful signal for learning and staying alive, all of that.

Brett: There is something really interesting about often the framing around AI is that emotions are a human thing and AI is a logical thing. That piece about fear and the endocrine system, the distribution of cortisol receptors in your body is trained by your experience and determines your bodily response to a fearful stimulus. How could that not be part of a learned system that may not be neuro in nature but is part of your overall system?

I am curious what you think about that, and how emotions do actually play into creating the context in which decisions are even made and proposals for actions are even thought of.

Sam: As Joe said, we clearly make decisions emotionally and then justify them with intellect later. Again, just to repeat it, I think we need to be very open minded to the fact that the digital intelligence we build is just going to be super alien and maybe it won’t be. Maybe there is something so fundamental about the relationship between fear and intelligence, which I could totally believe, that building any sort of AGI like system necessarily has the ability to experience fear, but also maybe not. One thing I think we will find is that biological intelligence is just incredibly limited relative to what we are capable of producing.

Joe: What’s the biggest example of something you have learned about yourself by understanding AI? As you have built this thing, what I mean to say is if I write something on fear, I am going to learn something about fear by writing on it. You are building AI, attempting to build AGI. What is it teaching you about yourself or about humanity?

Sam: We talked a little bit earlier about this idea of when you meditate, your sense of self recedes, but one of the things I and I have heard a lot of other people describe it this in different ways or sometimes the same way, that working on AI really makes you think about all of the old, deep, philosophical questions, not all but many of them come up a lot in this context of: What’s going to happen when I get uploaded? What’s going to happen when there are copies made of me? Do I want to merge? Do I want to go off exploring the universe? Will that still be me? How much of me will that be?

One of the things I think of as an interesting continuation of meditation was this very deep-felt sense that there is no self that I can still find to identify with in any way at all. I’ve heard a lot of other people who have spent a lot of time thinking about AGI get to that in a different way too.

Joe: It reminds me of the moon. There is a phenomenon that happens with people who go up into space, astronauts. I don’t know if it is still happening, but when they go and look at the Earth from a distance and look at the Moon from the new perspective, they have the same thing happen. The sense of self changes. One of the, I think. I am trying to remember the name of it, but there is this whole institute in Petaluma, California that was all built around this man’s experience, this astronaut’s experience of seeing that and then building a center to promote it in the world. It seems like it has got a similar phenomenon.

Sam: I think really having to contemplate these questions of what it means to get uploaded or merged or whatever leads people down an interesting path. Certainly, the more you work on AI, the more you think about that, at least for me.

Brett: Something I mentioned early on in the podcast, there seems to be this parallelism between AI and self-awareness and meditation. It seems like the sense of self itself is a specialized form of intelligence that is trained on a certain subset of our history. This is particularly visible in something like a trauma, where you recognize a couple of features in your environment. Then you collapse your entire world to what your environment was like at the time that trauma was programmed.

The process of feeling through and healing our traumas and integrating those experiences as well as the process of meditating and just feeling past our sense of identity into the rest of what we are actually is a way of increasing our general intelligence by allowing us to move through a wider range of experiences in the world and be able to act on those experiences as they distinctly are and not just as our history was.

I am curious how that lands with you in your experience with both AI and with meditation and your own self-awareness.

Sam: The part about relating this to traumas didn’t connect for me. I probably just didn’t understand it, but the part about how intelligence past a certain level should necessarily have some model of self-awareness, that deeply resonated with me because I do think you have to be able to understand your place in the world, yourself as an agent and an actor in the world. If you are trying to get as smart as possible, you want to be able to make the best predictions about what will happen. One of the things that will act is you or your whatever. You also want to think about hypotheticals. I think there is something there, which is in the limit. Intelligence and self-awareness to me seem like they have to go together.

Joe: The other thing I see happen in people. You called it non duality, but when the sense of self opens up to a more universal sense of self, that cognitive thing has moved. What I noticed is there is a movement. Eventually the person starts moving then more and more into joy. Sometimes it takes them ten years for them to just hang out in that space. The peace is fine, and they don’t think there is anything besides peace that’s available. Then they move into joy. How has that experience been for you? The movement, this is a depersonalized life that I am not taking personally. I still have my passion. How has that movement into joy been for you?

Sam: This is sort of amusing to me because I think on the outside I probably seem much less joyous than I used to. I am not a loud, boisterous, laughing person. I used to prioritize more doing things that at least match with my image of what a joyful thing looked like. I now am pretty happy to sit around and not do much, go hiking or whatever, but I feel incredibly joyful all of the time, not all of the time. It is rare that I don’t, yet I feel no need to express it. I don’t think it comes through talking to me. It wouldn’t have fit in my model of how a joyful person acted, but there is a quiet version of it that’s really strong and I am really grateful for almost all of the time.

Brett: I definitely sense a lot of calm just talking to you. Wrapping this back around to your personal experience, having gone through this journey and being wherever you are in the journey yourself now, what happens when you are in a meeting, and something happens that is some kind of crisis? Everyone else gets elevated and alert, and something happens in your system. You find yourself that you might be reactive. What do you do then?

Sam: Once in a while, I do react. I don’t sit there and try to make myself not react. Someone I work with just said that was the one time you get really heated per year. It happened a few days ago in a meeting. I wouldn’t claim to have and certainly not want perfect control, nor would I say I try to pretend to be calm when I don’t feel it. I will happily get mad if I feel like the situation calls for it. It just doesn’t seem to call for it very often, but it is not like I am sitting there making this effort to be really calm.

Brett: How do you experience anger when it arises in you differently than you used to?

Sam: I don’t think differently, just less often. The physiological response in me is heat and energy.

Joe: I don’t find it appropriate to have the response of anger. How does it feel appropriate? What’s the moment where you are like this is appropriate? Or just it happens?

Sam: Just when it happens. I don’t fight it when it happens. It just doesn’t happen that often. I don’t sit there thinking is this worth getting angry about. I just almost always feel like it is not, and then if for whatever reason something is, I don’t try to stop it, but it is rare. You know how most people are somewhat, not most, many people are somewhat conflict avoidant but there are these rare people that love conflict. It seems like an awful way to live, to me, but they love conflict. They go searching for it. Those are the people that seem to trigger the anger in me the most.

Joe: I would make the distinction there between loving conflict and wanting conflict.

Sam: They want it. Yes, I agree.

Joe: I love conflict because I always find a better solution at the end of it, but I am definitely not interested in creating it.

Sam: People who want to create it, that’s a better phrase for it.

Brett: I love when people want to recognize where there is some conflict and bring it to the surface before it becomes a bigger, festering conflict, definitely.

Sam: I am happy with that. What I don’t like is when people want to make fights because it entertains them or whatever.

Brett: Because they feel safe in drama somehow.

Joe: Which is interesting because I notice that people who have that tendency, they don’t feel calm unless they are contained. It is their anxiety. When you meet them with anger, that is the containment that actually calms them down. Interestingly appropriate even though it is not a conscious thing that’s occurring.

If you were talking to either yourself when you were hippy bullshit meditation or if you were talking to a young, brilliant kid who is like hippy bullshit meditation, and for whatever reason, because you probably wouldn’t want to convince them, you were making the argument for meditation, what would you say?

Sam: I was going to say what you just caveated, which is I can’t ever imagine trying to convince someone this is what they should go do. I think if I had tried to convince myself or if someone had tried to convince me before I was really desperately ready, it wouldn’t have worked. I don’t think I would try to convince anyone, but if I had to, I would just be like just come try this once with me. It probably won’t be your thing. You will probably think of it as a wasted hour, but we will hang out and do something fun afterwards. I would have done it in some very easy to dismiss lightweight way.

Joe: It is funny. When we are talking about introducing other people to the work we do or on one of the courses we talk about the same thing, and it is like if you are trying to convince them to get there, it is no good for anybody, you or them.

Brett: From that perspective then, how do you approach your company? When you have found something that’s working really well for you and you may be aware that the consciousness that you have is projected throughout your company as its leader, how do you see your company evolving either on the self-awareness front on the individual level or organizationally due to the work you have been doing yourself?

Sam: I think one of the things that’s remarkable about Open AI is we have a very high, highest I have ever seen density of talent and ability, but people that bring extremely different approaches to work and have very different styles, much more so than I would say most companies have. Most companies tend to have a culture and people can fit into that and get promoted or not and get fired or not hired. You end up with people who all feel pretty similar. I think a thing that I love about Open AI is just how different people are. There are some very non calm people. They are very effective, and they sort themselves into the right places in the organization. That’s probably a good complement.

One thing I think I have gotten good at is figuring out how to sort people, figuring out what people’s inherent strengths and abilities and styles are, and figuring out how to sort them into the right roles. I can’t articulate exactly how, but objectively I think I have been much better at this than most people running companies. It has been a great asset for us.

Brett: It sounds like the more you understand yourself, the more you can see the parts of yourself in others they might not see.

Sam: Maybe, or maybe you can just observe other people in a really detached way because you are not trying to do it in relation to yourself. You are not looking for yourself. I think most people do end up just promoting people that look like themselves. Instead, when you have got that out of the way, you can really focus on what makes this person them, what are they going to excel at, and not have to relate it to yourself and make a better decision.

Joe: One of the things particularly I notice around people who are in any kind of search for non-duality is they think non duality is some sort of end. There is some sort of place they are going to end up and there is nothing left to be done. Since we have been talking about it, whenever I speak about it, I always point to the fact that evolution doesn’t stop at any particular time internally or externally.

I was just wondering what’s the thing now inside of yourself that you are exploring or working with or seeing through. Where is your journey now?

Sam: I just want to see what happens. I think we are in the midst of this most exciting time yet in human history. I am sure there will be more exciting ones in the future. I just feel tremendous curiosity about how all of this is going to play out. Because I identify with all of it, I am deeply interested and curious about all of it. It is pretty exciting.

Brett: I am deeply curious as well and I am really excited to see where you and Open AI and all the rest of us take this existence during our lifetimes. Thank you, Sam.

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