John Lilly: White Space is Everywhere [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

February 14, 2013
Stanford eCorner
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John Lilly: White Space is Everywhere [Entire Talk]

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In this video, the speaker discusses his journey from being an engineer to a venture capitalist. He shares his three rules for success and talks about the importance of making things, surrounding oneself with the right people, and doing what truly speaks to one's soul. He also highlights the significance of recruitment, collaboration, and finding a job that aligns with one's passion.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you share the story behind the title "How to Get a Job Like Mine"?

The speaker was inspired by his favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, who often gave talks with the same title. While Vonnegut never actually spoke about how to get a job like his, the speaker interprets it as a reminder to be true to oneself and not try to imitate or obtain someone else's job.

Q: Who influenced the speaker's perspective on finding the right people to work with?

Tom Kosnik, who was on the speaker's board, emphasized the importance of figuring out the people one wants to collaborate and work with. He encouraged the speaker to identify individuals from Stanford and Silicon Valley who he wanted to be on his team, as they would likely play significant roles in shaping the future of the industry.

Q: What does the speaker mean by "do what makes your soul sing"?

The speaker believes that it is crucial to engage in work that deeply resonates with one's values and passions. Changing the world or being an entrepreneur is challenging because it often goes against the status quo. Therefore, finding work that speaks to one's soul and brings personal growth is essential for navigating the difficulties and staying motivated.

Q: How did the speaker's experience as a section leader in Stanford impact his career?

Being a section leader in Stanford's CS198 class, where the speaker helped students learn how to teach others, proved to be a transformative experience. It fundamentally changed his perspective on leadership and the importance of creating future leaders. This experience also shaped his interactions with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn.

Q: How did the speaker's time at Apple influence his career trajectory?

During his time at Apple, the speaker worked on educational and playful aspects of technology, which taught him how to solve big problems with small solutions. The speaker also shared stories about Steve Jobs' leadership, including a memorable town hall meeting where Jobs expressed his determination to reinvent Apple, despite facing skepticism from others.


The speaker's three rules for success are to make things, surround oneself with the right people, and do what makes one's soul sing. He emphasizes the importance of being true to oneself, finding work that resonates with personal values, and actively seeking out the right team members and collaborators. Additionally, the speaker highlights the significance of recruiting, mentorship, and finding a job that aligns with one's passion. He also points out the necessity of timing in the venture capital industry and the idiosyncratic nature of different VC firms and individuals. Overall, the speaker's journey highlights the importance of purpose, growth, and collaboration in achieving professional success.

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