Series: Economic Principles, Part 3
Friday, 03 June 2016
Peter Thiel talks about secrets in Zero to One. Zero to One focuses on “macro” secrets: the contrarian insight(s) at the core of a company and its defensibility.
But there are such things as “meta” secrets: superior philosophical insights at the core of an individual or company and its defensibility. And there are such things as “micro” secrets: superior technical or implementation insights at the core of what makes a product actually great.
You might think of “secrets” as “truths”, or as “rare truths”. Truth has economic value. The more rare, the more valuable.
And secrets are not easily come by. You might even have the meta and the macro figured out, but if you don’t have the micro, you can’t implement it. If you have the micro, but not the macro, you can’t implement it. Etc. You need all three.
Startups require incredible perseverance. But perseverance is not enough. You have to be perseverant in your pursuit of these secrets. It is a kind of “quest for the Holy Grail”. And this requires a kind of belief that such a thing as a Holy Grail exists. A Faith.
Lewis defines faith as reminding yourself of what you already know, in a moment of doubt. We know there is an opportunity — but day by day, it requires faith to keep pursuing it.
And it also requires an incredible attention to the secrets that we are passing over. The problem is an intricate, tangled, puzzle or knot. There’s a poem from Tolkien:
“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
Just because we have tried something before, does not mean we should not try it again. Many insights are nuanced. And so repeating something twice is not stupid, if you bring much nuance to it. Edison attempted the light bulb 1000 times — each time there was more nuance.
If we had not been perseverant, had faith, and pursued hidden paths in April 2016 — we would have quit along with the other 60% of the team .
In reviewing the team’s past work… it was just sloppy, but they were on to something. They didn’t have the perseverance, faith, and attention to detail necessary to find the hidden paths.