If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.
The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we're too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.
Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. Tomorrow's champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today's marketplace. They will escape competition altogether because their businesses will be unique.
Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.
I also recommend you Peter Thiel's class at Stanford. You can read the notes here.
My 10 favorite quotes from the book:
“Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.”
“Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.”
“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”
“Customers won’t care about any particular technology unless it solves a particular problem in a superior way. And if you can’t monopolize a unique solution for a small market, you’ll be stuck with vicious competition.”
“Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”
“In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable.”
“First, only invest in companies that have the potential to return the value of the entire fund.”
“If your product requires advertising or salespeople to sell it, it’s not good enough: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution.”
“Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina by observing: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Business is the opposite. All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”
“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”