Book Review | Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

One of the most fascinating books I have read in recent months is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. I am not a tech entrepreneur or even starting a new business. But I found Zero to One so thought provoking and interesting, that I bought it after reading a library copy.

I found myself frequently recommending the book (consider this your recommendation. Go read it. Now), and any book hat Good should be on my shelf for easy access, referral, and lending.

Short and succinct, Peter Thiel’s tact seems to take any conventional thinking and toss it on its head, reexamine paradigms, and, at its heart, inspire the reader to create, to make something new. As one of the founders of PayPal and Palantir, one of the first outside investors into Facebook, a funder to SpaceX and LinkedIn, Thiel has a track record of finding and funding industry and society changing companies.

Perhaps what I liked most about Thiel, though, is his emphasis on putting learning before university. As a high school drop-out, I’ve long believed in the importance of not allowing your schooling to get in the way of your education. While he doesn’t spend much time talking about this in Zero to One, his focus on out of the box thinking runs throughout the book. It’s hard in today’s culture to swim against the current. It’s one thing to take an idea that someone else has created and to perfect it, or market it, or to improve on it, but it is an entirely different thing to create something totally new. Hence, to go from 0 to 1 is Thiel’s focus. As he puts it, 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 Steve Jobs won’t invent an iPod. And Thiel’s book is about that most difficult of steps, the creation, rather than adding or modifying something familiar.

The book is short, punchy, and far more anecdotal than quantitative, but Thiel’s style–and resume–make it a compelling and thought-provoking read, even for non-entrepreneurs. In a sense, we are all entrepreneurs in that it is when we get outside of our paradigms that we begin to truly create our better selves. Perhaps that is why I found it interesting and in a sense inspiring. I’m coming up on my 40th year, and still find myself looking to the future and what I will someday become. But the closer I get to that future the more I realize that it is already here. I’m living in it. Today is as good a day as any to make that future reality.

Zero to One Book Cover Zero to One
Peter Thiel
Crown Business
September 16, 2014

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.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.