At the end of Lex Fridman’s epic, hours-long conversation with Chainlink Co-founder Sergey Nazarov, recorded in May, Fridman asked Nazarov what advice he would give to young people about how to pick a career and embark on a meaningful life.
“I think what they should do is what they won’t be able to do in the later stages of their life,” Nazarov said.
His framework for thinking about life stems from the idea that free, discretionary time for formative experiences like travel and education diminishes with increasing age and responsibility.
“This is something that young people don’t fully realize,” Nazarov explained, noting that most high school and college-aged people assume their free time will only decrease by about 10% as they get older.
“It won’t diminish by 10%. It will diminish by 90%. And the 10% that you have, you’ll be resting to get back to work to get things done.”
He proposed a strategy for maximizing time when you’re young:
Imagine that over the next decade – from the ages of 20 to 30, for example – your free time will be cut by 90%. What would you regret not having done when you look back on your life at age 80?
Thinking about all of the opportunities one might miss, Nazarov said, “Whatever they feel the worst about [missing] is what they should do.”
He recommended cherishing the time you have to explore a broad education when you’re young, because, “If you’re really smart, you’re going to make it anyway.” But don’t waste your time doing nothing just because you can. And if your friends are wasting their time, he advised, “Get smarter friends. Get people who are using the limited time they have better.”
Nazarov recalled one of the best pieces of advice he received from a mentor early in his career: the idea that it actually gets harder to start a company as you get older and acquire more responsibility.
“You should start a company when nobody depends on you, and you can sleep on the floor eating ramen noodles and still have a great time and show up with a lot of enthusiasm and be excited,” he said.
“Whatever you want to do, don’t put it off.”
Contrary to the opinion that you need to “get experience” before doing what you truly want to do in life, Nazarov said the only way to get experience for the thing you want to do is to do the thing, again and again, until you get it right.
Fridman asked, “Do you think about this kind of stuff as you’re creating all of the technology, as you’re thinking about this future; do you ever zoom out and think, why? Why are you, Sergey, striving; why are we, the human species, striving for the stars?”
Nazarov said this question comes down to whether someone chooses to live in a society and, if they do, what they’re going to contribute as part of that society. “In my opinion, the question is, ‘What is that body of work that you want to make?’”
His approach to answering this question is to think about the intersection between what you can realistically achieve and what is going to have an impact on society that you feel good about.
While Nazarov and Fridman agreed that there is likely no objective moral truth about what makes a “better” world, definitive truth is possible with decentralization and hybrid smart contracts.
Nazarov spoke to creating a “system of economic fairness and transparency” as his chosen body of work.
“I feel that I have a good chance of succeeding at that. And I think that the impact will be quite meaningful for a large number of people. And so I’m completely happy to look back once I’m 80 and see a body of work that achieved that and be very proud of that.”
Fridman agreed: “This whole idea that you’re working on has the potential to transform the world for the better, at a scale that I can’t even imagine.”
Listen to episode #181 of the Lex Fridman Podcast with Sergey Nazarov.