Book Review, Books

Zero to One

I believe this quarantine has given us all an opportunity to practice the best of healthy habits, be more aware of the things around us, slow down and appreciate things we have always taken for granted, be motivated by compassion and innovation and take time to do things we have been putting away. On My Bookshelf is something I have been meaning to do for a long time. But always got caught up in work or other social commitments.

I aim to bring to you the books that have been keeping me company through a review of what I learned from each book. I will try to share my two cents about a book every week. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Genre: Business, Philosophy, Economy

Barely 200 pages long, and well lit by clear prose and pithy aphorisms, Thiel’s has written a perfectly tweetable treatise and a relentlessly thought-provoking handbook. — The Atlantic

“Every moment in business happens only once.”

Peter Theil acknowledges, embraces, and propagates the idea that the best paths in business are new and untried.

In Zero to One, Peter Thiel draws on his experience at PayPal and Palantir to offer ideas and suggestions for technology startups. He wants entrepreneurs to unlock the power of innovation, question conventional wisdom, embrace monopoly, and capture value for their enterprise. Buried within a book on business and startups is a deep thesis about the relationship between technology, society, and history. Peter Theil is a businessman with a major in philosophy and it shows in his style of writing. There are subtlety and thoughtfulness that is rare in the business book sludge. It is a well-written, thought-provoking read. For the most part, this book offers solid advice for the entrepreneur and an intriguing peek into the mind of a truly unique thinker.

The Good

Zero to One presents some unconventional ideas. Even if you don’t agree with all of them, it gives you a new perspective to look at things. It sparks the readers’ curiosity which I believe in the first step to acknowledge, appreciate, and even design ideas for change. Here is a list of things, I liked most about this book:

  • Zero to One presents an optimistic view of the future and urges its readers to believe in secrets and that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create.
  • Theil does not hesitate to put forth provocative theses. One example is his enthusiastic embrace of monopoly. This is in complete contrast to the fact taught is Economics 101 that competition is for the social good.
  • Theil is an independent thinker and goes on to asseverate some audacious ideas, like his doubts about formal education. He is willing to say that education is arguably a barrier to success. His skepticism towards formal education is expressed in the very second page of the book where he writes, “The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative.”

The Bad & Ugly

I personally enjoyed reading this book a lot. I can’t think of any negatives except that PayPal started in 1998 and the startup environment today is vastly different than in ‘98.

Favorite Quotes

  • The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.
  • 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.
  • All salesmen are actors: their priority is persuasion, not sincerity.

Fun Fact

On a completely unrelated note, let me present a fun fact I came across while googling about Peter Theil.

Thiel, best known for his idiosyncrasies, helped inspire the character of Peter Gregory in the HBO series Silicon Valley.


Thank you for reading. Hope to see you in the next one. Till then, don’t forget that you’re amazing.

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