Our San Francisco office has very clean white walls. One day I asked why no one dared to paint them. We never told people they couldn’t. Everyone just assumed they weren’t supposed to mess with the white walls. It was at this moment that I realized that I needed to give permission to everyone to change things, whether it be the white walls, the product, or something else.

Now when I meet with new hires, here is what I say:

“Everything around you was designed by people no more experienced than you. Only four and a half years ago, we were operating out of a 3 bedroom apartment, and we had fewer resources than you have now. Back then, we dreamed of being able to hire the best people in the world. We have now hired you. …

“When times are tough it’s easy to convince ourselves that something isn’t possible.”

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When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: Share a quote that gives you strength when times are tough.
Brian Chesky: I remember the first day at RISD I had a teacher who said, “You’re a designer. You live in other people’s worlds because they designed that world for you, but those people were no smarter than you. It is your time to design the world you live in.” This had a huge effect on me because it allowed me to stop editing my imagination. I think we go through our lives limiting our potential, and when times are tough it’s easy to convince ourselves that something isn’t possible, but if you start there then you limit yourself and the possibilities of what you can create. …

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At the beginning of each year, I like to write an email to our company about what I think is important for the year ahead. This year, I shared this story about two of our hosts and their treehouse.

I want to tell you a story about two of our hosts, Doug and Linda.

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Doug and Linda share a popular treehouse in Burlingame, California. They originally built it for two of their kids, Chloe and Brett. They used to play in the treehouse, but then they grew up and moved out of the house, and Doug and Linda were left with an unused treehouse in their yard. …


Brian Chesky

Co-founder, CEO of Airbnb

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