My Daughters and Peter Thiel Teach Me About Secrets (Weekly Review 23)

I often marvel at the serendipity that pairs of events can have in life. Where ketchup meets french fry or when Bob Dylan plugged in his electric guitar. Confluences of moments can lead us to experience the same things in new ways. That was true  for my daughter’s birthday party and reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. At the party my daughters demonstrated a pair of principles that Thiel writes about in the book.

  1. Be on the lookout for secrets. My daughters knew they had a party coming and besides the decorations, they were on a constant lookout for any gifts we had hidden in plain sight. When it was time to open them, they took great care to inspect each box’s nooks and under each layer of tissue paper to make sure there wasn’t something else hiding there.

In Zero to One Thiel writes, “The best place to look for secrets is where no one else is looking” and “every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside.” My daughters did this by making certain there weren’t any additional gifts to find.

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson writes about the discovery of radio waves by Guglielmo Marconi and writes, “Many years later scientists would share Marconi’s wonder at why it was that he of all people should come to see something that the most august minds of his day had missed. Over the next century, of course, his idea would seem elementary and routine, but at the time it was startling, so much so that the sheer surprise of it would cause some to brand him a fraud and charlatan—worse, a foreign charlatan—and make his future path immeasurably more difficult.”

Stephen Dubner says that we can often solve hard problems if we think like children, they are just better at finding secrets.

  1. Look at the who behind the what. Each gift my daughter’s received was a proxy of the giver. Aunts gave clothes, grandmothers toys, mom and dad the more practical alarm clock (What? It’s what she asked for.) But even without a tag saying to and from, which were often discarded, my daughters could probably figure out what was from who.

Thiel used this mindset when he was evaluating Facebook, reasoning that because it was something the investor class didn’t use, they probably discounted it. The same could be said for AirBnB, but probably not for Uber. Nassim Taleb says it’s a charlatan who only has good things to say about his product.

It was an interesting experience to see the ideas from Silicon Valley at a birthday party.

What I’ve been reading.

I’m nearly finished with An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (and nearly included an opening story from there above). It’s great and Chris Hadfield even reached out to me on Twitter. : )

Oddly enough, that’s the only thing I’ve been reading this week. It’s that part of the year in Ohio where the weather is nice enough to be outside, and our yard needs work.  

What I’ve been writing.

At The Waiter’s Pad I published posts about Rich Roll and Jon Acuff. Both guys had interesting stories to tell and some good tips. One link between them was the number of free speaking gigs they did before even sniffing speaking for money. I’ve read this other places too (Laura Vanderkam, Mike Vardy) and I’ve filed it away for more thinking.

A book review of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One went up at Productivityist. In many ways it was similar to Hadfield’s book about being in space – two really smart guys sharing stories and lessons they learned from them. 

If you’ve run across something good to read, please let me know @mikedariano

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