How do we build the future? What will it look like? How do we make sure it's one we would look forward to? What mindsets will get us there?
Originally derived from lectures given by billionaire Peter Theil at Stanford University, these are some questions explored in the book Zero to One. I finished reading it several weeks ago but am trying to ensure I capture some of the learnings as soon as possible so it doesn't completely fade into oblivion. I guess you could say these book reflections are my silly attempts at permanence in this impermanent world.
Okay, back to what I learned in the book. Primarily the biggest takeaway for me from this book was that it offered a unique lens to view the present world and its connection to the future. The author does so with contrarian truths, offers ways to find secrets that most successful businesses are based on and notes on leveraging technology as a tool for change.
I also felt like there was a big emphasis on questions. What I mean by this is the author hints at a proposition that we are often defined by the questions we ask and our pursuits of answering them. An example of this is when the book begins with a thought-provoking question: "What is one important truth about the world that you believe is true that very few others agree with you on?" This was a very interesting question and one that made me think long and hard about.
My personal answer? That will be for another time :)
Although I knew this book is probably primarily attractive to young entrepreneurs, I could see several utilities for my own personal life. It might be because the author did his undergrad in philosophy or just that the responsibility of building the future should fall on the shoulders of each individual, nonetheless I was able to derive applications to build my own future. May it be about how to think big, how to think about competition, or just not being afraid to think differently, I do believe it has instilled a sense of greater confidence in me and I suspect many decisions I will be making in my life.
I do not know if I will ever end up as an entrepreneur but I do know that we can have an entrepreneurial spirit in everything we do. A spirit that is based on observation, bridging gaps, and scaled impact across time. This brings me to the title of the book Zero to One. It refers to the fact that most things are simply copying or iterating on something that's already been done (1 to n). An example is increasing globalization in today's world. However, it takes something entirely else to invent transformative new technology that creates abundance and prosperity (0 to 1). This would be what Peter refers to as "vertical" progress and argues that this is what the world needs more of.
To conclude, I want to mention a slightly vulnerable story about myself as I was going through this book. I think at times reading it filled me with absolute dread as realized my own insufficiencies in thinking. How small I saw the world, how my "big ambitions" weren't that big after all and how truly "changing the world" took a level of rigor that I couldn't identify myself with. However, above all, I believe that it importantly left me with a sense of possibility that if I can indulge myself in these difficult ideas for long enough and just see it through, what might await on the other side may well be the answer to how to build the future and having a shot at making sure it's one we would look forward to.
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