Top Lessons of Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal, Palentir (data-analysis company) and Founders Fund (venture capital firm). He was also ranked #4 on Forbes Midas List of 2014 and a #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zero to One. After listening to a few of his talks and reading a few articles about him I realized how knowledgeable and thoughtful he is. He are some of my thoughts and takeaways about what Peter Thiel had to say.

Substance over Status

Okay. So the plan is, get good grades, go to a good school and get a good job maybe in some nice New York City office or as a doctor. If my mom were to ever come across someone who works in New York City at a large bank or a doctor she would flood them with compliments and praises and tell me to be more like them. But do people who work in New York City at large banks or are doctors actually enjoy their lives? Are they actually doing something they care about? Are they doing something meaningful?

Peter Theil is best known for saying:

“I went to Stanford then Stanford Law School. I worked at a large law firm in New York City. It’s this weird thing where everybody on the inside wants to get out and everybody on the outside wants to get in. I lasted 7 months and 3 days and somebody down the hall from me said ‘its so reassuring to see you leave, I had no idea it was possible to escape from Alcatraz.’”

So if I ended up studying law with my goal being to work in a New York City firm and realized that the job was not what I wanted, was all of that worth it? Now, I’m not saying that you should not tell pursue to be a lawyer so you can work in a New York City firm but I am saying that you should think more deeply about why you want something. Try to see past the prestige and status so you can think about the substance.

Competition and Entrepreneurship/Investing

“Get rid of competition, competition is for losers.”

When you’re in competition, your focus narrows down to only your competition and you lose focus of what’s meaningful. The best example of this concept is school. You want to get great marks and be the best among your peers. Your focus is so narrowed down, all you think about is beating your competition and you lose sight of what is meaningful- What do I really want to do? How do I add value to the world?

When thinking about entrepreneurship, many people right now want to build an equivalent of Snapchat or an AI company but are you solving a problem? When starting a company, Thiel advises you to solve a problem and incorporate innovation.

My point is, the temptation toward mediocrity is far greater than being exceptional because we imitate what others around us are doing and find comfort and validation through them.


Taken from Peter Thiel’s talk at Stanford

The new movie is just a combination of other successful movies there’s actually no innovation.

Competitive companies market themselves in a way that makes them seem as though they are in a competitive market so governments do not go after them. For example, Google portrays themselves as competitive because they are in competition with smartphone companies. They are also in competition with transportation companies because they are developing autonomous vehicles.

Two other quotes that I love:

“In entrepreneurship its often 0 to 1. Every good idea only comes once.”

“Don’t go through the small door everybody is going through and go around the corner through the big gate.” — Peter Thiel

From now on, I will try to be aware of my actions and question myself. Am I doing this for status and prestige? Am I doing this to seek validation from the people around me? Is what I’m doing meaningful?

Main Takeaways:

  • Think about why you are doing something so you don’t just do it because everyone else around you is also doing it.
  • When starting a company, set out to solve a problem and incorporate innovation.
  • Non-competitive companies will portray themselves as more competitive than they are and competitive companies will try to portray themselves as less competitive than they are.

Hey! I am a 17 year old who is very passionate about solving problems. I hope you liked tihs article. I’m still trying to grow so if you have any feedback please don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments :)



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Rosa Li

Passionate about solving problems. Currently diving into space tech