Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

In his book, Zero to One, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel shares his thoughts on business, education, and the future. Thiel encourages us to think outside the norm. He is philosophical in the extreme. It is a joy to listen to and read Thiel because he is willing to share his unconventional thoughts.

He believes we need more weirdness. He supported Trump, he’s a Christian in Silicon Valley, and he’s a fan of philosopher René Girard.


Theil despises schools because they train students in conformity of thought.

According to Thiel, schools teach the opposite of success — homogenized generic knowledge. Students are encouraged to collect and display a wide array of exotic talents. Schools train kids for rabid competition amongst the best conformists. Model students hedge their futures with exotic and minor skills.

Thiel puts his money where his mouth is and has a fellowship where he pays college students $100K to drop out of college.

In Praise of Monopolies

Don’t disrupt, create something new.

Thiel says that competition is bad. If you want to create something new, don’t mimic the competition, invent a new category. He encourages the reader to build something that has never been done before. Look for small-scale opportunities to let your unique ideas shine.

Start small and focus on the secret that is invisible to most people. Thiel says MBAs will never create something great because they focus on optimizing existing business models. School has trained them to put on blinders rather than looking for something new.

Below is an interview with Peter Thiel and Eric Weinstein on Thiel’s ideas.

Be Weird

Thiel bemoans the lack of cults in our world. That’s right, he thinks we need more weirdos with crazy ideas. It was people like Pythagoras with his vegetarian cult who made discoveries in math, science, and philosophy. Even Isaac Newton was into the weird ideas of the Occult. Newton was fascinated with the Alchemists trying to find a way to turn base metals into gold or discover the Elixir of Life.

Thiel thinks we need more strange ideas to move society and business in a positive direction. He tells us to focus on the one thing that we believe that no one else does.

What is an important truth that you know, that few people agree with you on?

Thiel thinks that the reason so many autistic people are in Silicon Valley tech startups is because they are predisposed to not care about what other people think. He says we need more people with the courage to not care about other people’s opinions.

Below is a clip of a weird 13-year-old girl who dropped out of school to paint what she believed God told her to. An outlier that I think Thiel would celebrate.

Challenge Pessimism

Thiel thinks we live in an age of pessimism. Every new idea encounters extreme resistance. It’s cool to be a cynic, to be sarcastic, and to be skeptical about the future. Instead of solving problems, we come up with a new government insurance policy. We use careful planning, instead of dreaming big.

Consider the idea of universal basic income. Rather than encouraging people to create, to work, some politicians are considering just handing people cash. In the US, the State did this with Covid payments. For Thiel, this is a type of pessimism about the future that needs to be challenged.


The main takeaway I got from Thiel is to consider the possibility of allowing yourself to entertain ideas before immediately jumping into skeptic mode. Consider ideas that you believe that no one else believes. Embrace your weirdness a little bit. Maybe the world would be a better place if we encouraged more people to follow their weirdness instead of insisting on homogenized conformity.

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