Billionaire LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman reveals 2 Buddhist principles that shape his worldview and help him navigate failure

Billionaire LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman reveals 2 Buddhist principles that shape his worldview and help him navigate failure
Veteran Silicon Valley technologist said his thinking has been impacted by the teachings of Buddha in a recent interview.Insider/GETTY IMAGES/ anuchit kamsongmueang
  • In an interview with The Generalist, Hoffman said he's been most influenced by Buddha.
  • Hoffman also said in the interview that Aristotle initially inspired him to study philosophy.

Reid Hoffman may be best known in Silicon Valley as a cofounder of LinkedIn, a partner at the venture firm Greylock, a member of the PayPal Mafia, and, until last month, a board member of OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.

But behind his various tech accolades is a philosophy student.

Hoffman holds a master's degree in philosophy from Oxford and planned to go into academia at one point. He previously told Insider that some of his favorite philosophers are Aristotle, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

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In a recent interview with The Generalist, a Substack newsletter focused on tech and venture capital, Hoffman said that while Aristotle initially kindled his interest in philosophy, the teachings of Buddha have impacted his thinking the most.

"It's two concepts from Buddha that form a big part of my perspective," he said. "'The world is what you make it' and 'This too shall pass.'"


Hoffman told The Generalist that the first concept gives him the "quixotic sense of the possible that you need if you aspire to make positive change at scale."

The second concept, he said, "provides a sense of detachment that helps me effectively navigate not just adversity and failure, but also success."

Hoffman, who calls himself an "accidental technologist," credits his philosophical instincts as the reason he is in the industry.

"I didn't become a Silicon Valley entrepreneur because I was deeply immersed in technology," he said. "I was a humanist who wanted to elevate the human condition."

Now, after decades in the tech sector, that perspective has shifted. When he thinks about a problem of any scale, his "working theory" is that the solution is between 30% and 80% a "technology solution," he said. He believes that theory applies to issues like climate change, social justice, and equitable education.

With new and powerful technologies like AI, he said, that principle will only become more true.

In a LinkedIn post last month, Hoffman said he was stepping down from the board of OpenAI, citing the potential conflicts of interest as Greylock invests in the next wave of AI companies. He also noted that he has a broader interest in ensuring that AI benefits humankind.

"As an investor, but also as a humanist, I want my participation in anything AI to support that goal of elevating humanity," he wrote.

Hoffman did not immediately respond to Insider's request for a comment.