How I Did It: Alexis Ohanian, Reddit - Don’t Treat Your Life as a Project


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 29, 2023

4 min read


How I Did It: Alexis Ohanian, Reddit - Don’t Treat Your Life as a Project

Finding Success and Fulfillment: Lessons from Alexis Ohanian and the Fallacy of Life as a Narrative

In the world of entrepreneurship, success stories often captivate and inspire. One such story is that of Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. Ohanian's journey to success was not without its challenges, but his determination and unique perspective allowed him to overcome obstacles and build one of the most influential platforms on the internet.

Ohanian's story begins with a chance encounter with Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, a startup accelerator. After a serendipitous meeting, Graham invited Ohanian and his co-founder to interview for Y Combinator. However, their hopes were quickly dashed when they were told they were not accepted. Disheartened, Ohanian and his co-founder drowned their sorrows in alcohol, but it was during this drunken conversation that the idea for Reddit was born. In just three weeks, they built the front page of the Internet, a platform that allowed users to submit links and text and vote on their interest level.

The success of Reddit eventually led to its acquisition by Condé Nast, a media company. This acquisition was made possible through a chance encounter at a Halloween party, where Ohanian met a reporter who introduced him to a freelancer for Wired. This freelancer, in turn, shared the story of Reddit with her boss, and the rest is history. Ohanian's ability to seize opportunities, even in unexpected settings, played a key role in Reddit's success.

But for Ohanian, success was not the ultimate goal. He believed that wealth was a means to an end, a tool to help projects that make the world a better place. This mindset led him to take a trip to Washington D.C., where he met with senators and representatives to share his story and advocate for causes he believed in. Ohanian's desire to use his resources for the greater good is a testament to his character and values.

While Ohanian's story is inspiring, it is important to challenge the notion that life must be seen as a narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end. In an article titled "Don't Treat Your Life as a Project," the philosopher Galen Strawson criticizes the idea that we are bound to narrate our lives and present them as coherent wholes.

Strawson argues that a good life does not necessarily need to have a narrative structure. Instead, he suggests that a good life is one that is filled with meaningful experiences, both successes and failures. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the abundance of incidents and the digressive amplitude of being alive.

It is easy to fall into the trap of defining our lives by a single enterprise or narrative arc. This can lead to a sense of failure or success that defines our identity. However, by embracing the multitude of experiences and appreciating the small successes and failures, we can find fulfillment in the journey itself.

So, how can we apply these lessons to our own lives? Here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace serendipity: Be open to unexpected opportunities and chance encounters. Some of the most significant moments in our lives may come from the most unlikely sources. Take risks and explore new paths.
  • 2. Define success on your own terms: Resist the pressure to conform to society's expectations of what a successful life should look like. Focus on what truly brings you joy and fulfillment, rather than chasing external validation.
  • 3. Embrace the abundance of life: Recognize that life is not a linear narrative with a definitive outcome. Embrace the digressive amplitude of being alive and appreciate the small successes and failures along the way. Find meaning in the journey itself, rather than fixating on a predetermined destination.

In conclusion, the story of Alexis Ohanian and the fallacy of life as a narrative teach us valuable lessons about success and fulfillment. By embracing serendipity, defining success on our own terms, and embracing the abundance of life, we can find meaning and joy in our own journeys. Let us not treat our lives as projects to be meticulously planned and executed but rather as vibrant and unpredictable stories waiting to unfold.

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