How to Get From ‘Zero to One’

Create and Nurture Original Business Ideas


“What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

That’s entrepreneur and author Peter Thiel’s favorite interview question. To Thiel, a person’s answer to that question provides insight into whether they’ll be able to find success as an entrepreneur. Ideally, if you can answer with something like “Most people believe in X, but the truth is the opposite of X,” then you’re well on your way from zero to one and creating an original business idea. That’s what Thiel explores in his book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

Zero to One is all about coming up with and nurturing unique ideas, which are the foundation of game-changing businesses. As a co-founder and investor in a number of companies that have changed the business landscape, Thiel has some authority on this subject. He co-founded Cofinity (which later became PayPal) and invested in startups like Facebook, SpaceX, Lyft, and Airbnb whose ideas were so novel at the start that they were perceived as risky by many.

Throughout the book, Thiel shares his wealth of knowledge garnered from a long, successful career of recognizing and acting on original ideas. According to him, and anyone else who has ever tried creating something wholly unique, developing an original idea is no easy task. The difficulty of originality even led Mark Twain to once say “There is no such thing as a new idea. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope.”

But in Zero to One, Thiel proves that coming up with original ideas is possible, and he provides readers with helpful tips and lessons for how to get there. One such lesson: Stop trying to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg because “if you’re copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”

Thiel uses his favorite interview question to try to identify original thinkers. These are the people who take their businesses from zero to one because they looked at past successes and thought, “I can do it differently, and I can do it better.” If you want to be in that group, then reading Thiel’s advice in Zero to One is a great place to start.

-Randy Sklar


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