Though a man of brash opinions and scary companies (Palintir), Peter Thiel is full of wisdom. Find a way to think differently from everyone else, only then can you make something great. Incremental gains get you no where. Unclear whether Thiel has an ounce of modesty, but he writes well. This book will inspire you to think bigger and act.
Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.
All companies must be “lean,” which is code for “unplanned.” You should not know what your business will do; planning is arrogant and inflexible. Instead you should try things out, “iterate,” and treat entrepreneurship as agnostic experimentation.
If your product requires advertising or salespeople to sell it, it’s not good enough: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution. Bubble-era advertising was obviously wasteful, so the only sustainable growth is viral growth.
Economists copied their mathematics from the work of 19th-century physicists: they see individuals and businesses as interchangeable atoms, not as unique creators. Their theories describe an equilibrium state of perfect competition because that’s what’s easy to model, not because it represents the best of business.
If you can recognize competition as a destructive force instead of a sign of value, you’re already more sane than most.
If you focus on near-term growth above all else, you miss the most important question you should be asking: will this business still be around a decade from now? Numbers alone won’t tell you the answer; instead you must think critically about the qualitative characteristics of your business.
Any big market is a bad choice, and a big market already served by competing companies is even worse. This is why it’s always a red flag when entrepreneurs talk about getting 1% of a $100 billion market. In practice, a large market will either lack a good starting point or it will be open to competition, so it’s hard to ever reach that 1%.
Finance epitomizes indefinite thinking because it’s the only way to make money when you have no idea how to create wealth.
Just as Newtonian physics can’t explain black holes or the Big Bang, it’s not clear that Darwinian biology should explain how to build a better society or how to create a new business out of nothing. Yet in recent years Darwinian (or pseudo-Darwinian) metaphors have become common in business.
A business with a good definite plan will always be underrated in a world where people see the future as random.
What’s left to do is either easy or impossible, and pursuing those tasks is deeply unsatisfying. What you can do, even a child can do; what you can’t do, even Einstein couldn’t have done. So Kaczynski’s idea was to destroy existing institutions, get rid of all technology, and let people start over and work on hard problems anew.
If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.
Very few people take unorthodox ideas seriously today, and the mainstream sees that as a sign of progress. We can be glad that there are fewer crazy cults now, yet that gain has come at great cost: we have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.
If you’ve invented something new but you haven’t invented an effective way to sell it, you have a bad business—no matter how good the product.
Nerds might wish that distribution could be ignored and salesmen banished to another planet. All of us want to believe that we make up our own minds, that sales doesn’t work on us. But it’s not true. Everybody has a product to sell—no matter whether you’re an employee, a founder, or an investor.
Social entrepreneurs aim to combine the best of both worlds and “do well by doing good.” Usually they end up doing neither.
Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better—to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.
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Body photo © amazon.com