Zero to One

Peter Thiel is one of the most successful and forward thinking entrepreneurs in the world.  He is most recognized for being the founder of Pay Pal and the first outside investor in Facebook.  Here are a few takeaways from his book Zero to One:

  • He always asks people a contrarian question, “What important truth do most people disagree with you on?”  It must be framed as, “Most people believe in X, but the truth is the opposite of X.”  Good answers to this question will determine the opportunities of the future.  
  • He believes that brilliant thinkers are rare, but courage is even more rare.
  • It’s not wrong to imagine a better future, but it is a mistake to just expect it.  Creating a better future won’t just happen, it is up to those with the foresight to see what needs to be done and the courage to actually do it.
  • What does everyone agree on?  If you can find a delusionary popular belief, there is a huge opportunity in identifying what’s hidden behind it. 
  • The most contrarian thing you can do is not go against the crowd but to simply think.  What great company is nobody building?

Horizontal progress is taking things that work somewhere and rolling it out everywhere.  Vertical Progress is doing something no one else has done, this is known as Zero to One.  His answer to the contrarian question is, “Most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization.  But the truth is that technology matters more.  Without technological change, if developing nations around the world lived like Americans the environmental impact would be catastrophic.  Therefore, globalization without technological advances is not sustainable.”  My big takeaway is that if you want to do something that will truly make an impact in the future, the opportunity lies behind a delusionary popular belief, behind a truth that the rest of the world does not see.  If you can find that truth, you can go from Zero to One.

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