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Monday, January 13, 2020

Zero To One: Notes On Startups, Or How To Build The Future

Title: Zero To One: Notes On Startups, Or How To Build The Future
Author: Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Flip open the book and it starts with a bang for an opening, that'll leave you nodding your head, agreeing with the author. 

"EVERY MOMENT IN business happens only once. 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 Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them." 

And, this is literally what the whole book is about. There are two tones to the book. One, where he is actually talking about the subject. And two, where he is giving his own opinions about a variety of things and projecting a contrarian philosophy. The book starts off with a very rhetorical tone of why we should start thinking new and not keep "copying", which is the "the challenge of the future" as he puts it. Then it moves on to insightful details on the economics of building a monopoly, dealing with sales, markets,  lean methodologies and also the culture of the companies. The examples ranging from all the top companies we know in the world give us a good understanding, especially on how to think and not what to think. 

The book mostly is of the tone and content of something that you would agree with. If you are a person who generally has a sound understanding and good logic, most of what is said feels like a good and much needed recap of something you already know, with some addition of jargon and methods. 

As brilliant as the book was to read, I felt myself not in sync with what the author was saying in a few parts. When he talks about "copying", it is not possible to dismiss as something he is projecting to make you think new. It almost feels like he is dismissing the events that are not just copying but comes with a lot of development as copying. And, though it is important to understand how we need to go from "Zero to One", I think it is equally important to acknowledge that development happens after the initial push of the guy who did the "Zero to One".

Another thing I felt myself dissenting about is how the author feels about focusing on just one subject and dismissing a "broad curriculum". While this may work for some, and that population of people is pretty less, I think studying over a broad spectra is what that pushes you to be innovative. I, for one, prefer a wide range because I find more scope in terms of how you can contribute. Life and our needs are not restricted to a particular field. In fact, all the good innovations have happened over an inter-disciplinary field, or even a multi-disciplinary one. So, though it's important for us to dig deeper into a subject, it's not up to everyone to do it. People versatile with multiple subjects are equally important. And, I find the author himself deriving inspiration in his book from a wide area of subjects!

The book is a brilliant collection of thoughts, and huge doses of truth that you may know on the sidelines of your brain that will push you to think. Here is one of my favourite lines from the book, especially relevant to a student:

"By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular."

In today's world of competition to grab that dream job, or a lustrous career, it is important to know and understand that the resume is not everything, or at least should not be. 

The book also covers various aspects, optimistically suggesting a better future where we do go from zero to one, instead of hitting a stagnation. It talks about the fundamentals of a startup organization that is important to ensure that it doesn't crumble, and also how to look at success and failure. It's a thought provoking book that I enjoyed reading. 

My takeaway from the book: Think, think, think. But, not necessarily like others. 

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