Airbnb’s Brilliant Life-Test Question


(I’m writing something every day for #100days. This is post 34/100.)


“Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, used to ask people if they would still take [a job at Airbnb] if they got a medical diagnosis that they had one year left to live.”

— Sam Altman, Lecture 2: How to Start a Startup: Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II

That’s an insane question to ask new hires, especially since you probably want to work with someone who has their values and priorities aligned such that they would always answer ‘no’.

Which is why Chesky supposedly later decided to relax the question to ten years. On the ten year view, it’s a brillant question to test commitment.

But it’s even better question to test your own life.

Would you still do what you are doing today if you got a medical diagnosis that you had ten years left to live?”

It’s actually not a hypothetical in this case.

It’s a threshold for everything you do, all the decisions you make about where to allocate your time.

This is potentially a terrifying question.

What if the answer is no?

What if you’re not in the right place right now and you have to move to answer the question in the affirmative?

Asked another way:

If tomorrow you got a medical diagnosis that you had ten years left to live, what would you do differently right now?”

That’s a valuable lens for life, for your priorities and for your chance at living an excellent life.

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