After reading a thoughtful book, I find it tough to remember what I actually read a couple of weeks later. So after reading Zero to One by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, I decided to write down three nuggets for entrepreneurs worthy to chew over. If you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, take advice from Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn: we are all entrepreneurs of not only our businesses, but also our personal and professional lives.
Are We Making Vertical or Horizontal Progress?
I tend to think about progress as generally making something faster and better – faster computers or higher buildings. However, Thiel splits it into two:
Horizontal progress (traditional idea of progress) is replication or globalization. China built railroads and cities in 20 years that took the United States 100 years by copying. But is there anything new here?
Vertical progress (technological progress) are new inventions that change the way we live: the wheel, horse-drawn carriages, automobiles, planes, rockets, and computers.
Entrepreneurs make vertical progress. Most large corporations make horizontal progress.
Is the Future Definite or Indefinite? Optimistic or Pessimistic?
The view in China is definite and pessimistic. Its economy has been growing in leaps and bounds, but by following the footsteps of American growth the past century. Rapid growth is unsustainable, so what is next?
American baby boomers saw the world as definite and optimistic. Job security is guaranteed as long as you worked hard and moved up the ranks.
Europe is currently in an indefinite and pessimistic mood. The population is aging and growth is slowing, but unsure of what will happen.
Americans are indefinitely optimistic. College graduates are taught to diversify their skill sets and wear many hats. Who knows where the bright future will take them next?
These views lead us to the power law, which advises you to make as few investments as possible because 20% of investments reap you 80% of the benefits (Pareto). So should we invest our money and time in a few successful endeavors or in many to hedge our bets? Which view is best to navigate today’s world?
How Do We Uncover the World’s Secrets to Find Success? There are three different types of goals:
“Goals that can be satisfied with minimal effort”
“Goals that can be satisfied with serious effort”
“Goals that cannot be satisfied, no matter how much effort one makes”
Entrepreneurs who find goals that can be satisfied with serious effort are the Facebooks and Googles of today.
Do you agree with Thiel’s interpretation of the entrepreneurial world? Are there other concepts you found helpful in starting and managing your business or career?
SURPRISING COINCIDENCES: We tend to fail to understand how the basic laws of probability work and our selective attention, which lead to great surprise at many coincidences. Stunning coincidences are only natural — like stumbling into a close friend halfway around the world or meeting someone with the same birthday can be explained by simple mathematics.
In a group of 366 people, there’s 100 percent probability that two people will have the same birthday — since there are only 365 days in a year, excluding leap year. In a group of 23 people, there’s >50% two people in the room have the same birthday
We also have selective attention — we notice and remember coincidences, but we hardly ever heed their absence.
Credits: Guillaume Jacquenot (Wikimedia Commons)
FAT TEMPTATION: Drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head next to the ice cream or beer section. The more “virtuous” products you have in your basket, the stronger your temptation to succumb to vice. When shown a burger, their average guess was 734 calories; when shown the same burger alongside three celery sticks, the average guess dropped to 619. These are not rational calculations; they betray the shortcuts your brain takes in its running tally of vice and virtue.
LIFE EXPECTANCY OF MUSICIANS BY GENRE: Musicians from the older genres – blues, jazz (including bebop and dixieland), country (including country and western, boogie woogie, honky tonk and bluegrass), and gospel (including spiritual and Christian rock) – enjoyed, on average, similar lifespans as those from the U.S. population with the same year of birth and gender.
The next group – R&B (including doo wop and soul), pop, folk (including ballad and polka) and world music – had lower life expectancies compared with the U.S. population.
Thereafter, the gap between population lifespans and average age of death for the more recent genres – rock (including rockabilly), electronic (including experimental, techno, disco, and funk), punk, metal, rap and hip hop – widens.
You have the highest stress levels 25-34 years, with a steep drop after 55.
Women experience greater levels of stress.
Stress levels decrease with greater education and higher income.
WEALTHIEST ZIP CODES: The top five zip codes in America with the highest average income probably won’t surprise you: three of the five are in New York City, while one is in Miami Beach.
Washington, D.C. 20510 ranks as the wealthiest zip code in the District, with an average income of $191,818.
Maryland, Gibson Island, 21056 has an average income of $450,012.
Virginia, Roanoke 24005 has an average income of $394,400
Florida, Miami Beach 33109 with a stunning $2,180,105 in average income.
New York City has the wealthiest zip code (10104), with an average income of $2,976,929.
HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE? Nearly 73% of full-time workers aren’t comfortable with the idea of discussing their pay with anyone at work other than their boss or the HR department. Only 13% said they’d be “completely comfortable” with sharing such information more broadly, recognizing that it might offer workers better leverage in negotiations. The remaining 14% or so said they would be comfortable discussing their salaries with close colleagues, but not their wider team.
Women were slightly more uncomfortable than men with the idea of sharing what they make, despite what they might stand to gain from doing so. About 74.5% of the women in the sample said they were uncomfortable talking about it with anyone other than a supervisor or HR, compared with 70% of the men.
There was a little more variation, meanwhile, among age groups. Respondents aged 25 to 34 were most likely to welcome the idea of talking openly about their pay. 34% said they were either completely comfortable with it or would do so with close colleagues, compared to 27% of all ages surveyed.
7 LANGUAGE MAPS: Chinese has more native speakers than any other language, followed by Hindi and Urdu, which have the same linguistic origins in northern India. English comes next with 527 million native speakers. Arabic is used by nearly 100 million more native speakers than Spanish.
If you randomly select two people in Cameroon, there is a 97% likelihood that they will have different mother tongues. In the United States, there is only a 33 percent likelihood that this is going to happen.
Most languages are spoken only by a handful of people. That’s why about half of the world’s languages will disappear by the end of the century. About 3% of the world’s population accounts for 96% of all languages spoken today. Out of all languages in the world, 2,000 have fewer than 1,000 native speakers.
VERTICAL VIDEOS: We live in a horizontal world, and most action happens from left to right. Vertical videos feel claustrophobic, because often they feature one or two people occupying the full frame, and not much of the landscape to show what lies beyond. Our eyes are horizontal: the human field of vision is wider than it is tall, so it is only natural that our videos match that shape.
Our eyes may be horizontal, but our hands are best suited to holding objects vertically, which is why phones, tablets and, in the predigital age, our books and other documents were usually oriented in portrait mode. Watching horizontal video on a phone’s vertical screen is a minor annoyance. With a horizontal video, you have to awkwardly flip your phone sideways so the entire image fills the screen, or you can keep your phone vertical and tolerate the huge black bars displayed above and below the picture.
Many people didn’t reorient their phones to watch horizontal videos in full-screen mode. They found it so uncomfortable to hold the phone the other way, and they didn’t want to keep switching their phones back and forth.
We live in the era of personal video. Shouldn’t we celebrate videos that match the shape of our bodies?
1) Draw a Venn Diagram
2) Translate percentages into fractions
3) Encourage everyone to “take a step back”
4) Nod continuously while taking notes
5) Repeat the last thing the engineer said very very slowly
6) Ask “will this scale?” no matter what it is
7) Pace around the room
8) As the presenter go back a slide
9) Step out for a very important phone call
10) Make fun of yourself