By Shane Parrish
March 11, 2015
IDEAS
Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded PayPal and Palantir. He also made the first outside investment in Facebook and was an early investor in companies like SpaceX and LinkedIn. And now he’s written a book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, with the goal of helping us “see beyond the tracks laid down” to the “broader future that there is to create.”

Zero To One is an exercise in thinking. It’s about questioning and rethinking received wisdom in order to create the future.

Here are eight lessons I took away from the book.

1. Like Heraclitus, who said that you can only step into the same river once, Thiel believes that each moment in business happens only once.

2. There is no formula for innovation.

3. The best interview question you can ask.

What does this have to do with the future?

4. A new company’s most important strength

5. The first step to thinking clearly

“Madness is rare in individuals
—but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.”
— Nietzche (before he went mad)

Here is an example Thiel gives to help illuminate this idea.

6. Progress comes from monopoly, not competition.

7. Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.

Marx and Shakespeare provide two models that we can use to understand almost every kind of conflict.

8. Last can be first

Grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca put it well: to succeed, “you must study the endgame before everything else.”

Zero to One is full of counterintuitive insights that will help your thinking and ignite possibility.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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