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“Airbnb CEO Reveals the Top Misconception About Success: Believing It Fixes Everything in Life”

September 8, 2023









In a candid conversation on Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky revealed that achieving career success, including taking his company public through an IPO, did not bring the lifelong happiness he had expected. Chesky’s story challenges the common belief that reaching career goals automatically leads to fulfillment.

The Elusive Pursuit of Happiness:

Chesky’s aspiration was to take Airbnb public, a dream that came true with an IPO in December 2020. However, the opening valuation of $47 billion, which skyrocketed to $86.5 billion in less than a day, left him feeling anything but content. In his own words, this period marked “one of the saddest” phases of his life.

Chesky admitted that he had believed success would solve all his problems, but the reality was different. Instead of finding happiness, he experienced a sense of isolation, exacerbated by the remote nature of the IPO announcement over Zoom.

The Journey to Success:

Chesky co-founded Airbnb in 2008 in Silicon Valley alongside Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. During the early days of the company, they were inseparable. However, as the company grew, so did the families of his co-founders, and Chesky found himself with more solitude.

In response, Chesky poured his energy into making Airbnb more successful, hoping that it would bring him the contentment he sought. “I had this image that if I got successful, I’d have all these people around me, have all these friends…everything in my life would be fixed,” he shared.

The Harvard Study on Happiness:

Chesky’s experience aligns with the findings of a decades-long Harvard University study that began in 1938. The study discovered that career and financial success don’t necessarily lead to increased contentment. Instead, the happiest individuals prioritize “social fitness” by nurturing relationships.

According to Marc Schulz, one of the project’s researchers, “life is really about our connections with others. It’s our relationships that keep us happy.” The study showed that positive connections can bring ease, safety, learning opportunities, and even longevity.

Chesky’s Journey to Rediscovery:

Acknowledging his own loneliness, Chesky decided to reinvest in his social fitness. He listed his San Francisco home on Airbnb, allowing guests to stay in his spare room.

These guests are treated to home-baked chocolate chip cookies and personal tours of Airbnb’s headquarters.

Additionally, six months later, Airbnb launched Airbnb Rooms, enabling hosts to rent out individual bedrooms in their homes. This move coincided with a rise in Airbnb’s stock price, demonstrating that prioritizing social connections can also be profitable.


Brian Chesky’s journey from aspiring to IPO success to realizing that it didn’t automatically bring happiness serves as a reminder that success in one’s career doesn’t guarantee contentment. It underscores the significance of nurturing relationships and the findings of the Harvard study that emphasize the role of social fitness in leading a fulfilling life. Chesky’s story serves as a valuable lesson for anyone on a similar quest for success.

Credit: CNBC

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