Peter Thiel Shares His 9 Most Essential Pieces Of Advice For Generation-Y
Trying to establish Peter Thiel's credentials is no hard task at all; his resume quite simply speaks for itself.
The Stanford graduate is a former CEO and cofounder of PayPal, the president of Clarium Capital, a managing partner at the Founders Fund, and he was the first outside investor for Facebook. It's safe to say that Peter Thiel knows a little something about not only business, but also success and leadership.
That knowledge has always been spread throughout his many lectures, classes, speeches and appearances at high profile conferences. Of all his many lessons, this list features nine of the best that can be learned by Generation-Y:
What Do You Know Is True That No One Else Agrees Upon?
If there's a common theme in many of Peter Thiel's interviews, it's the one interview question he says he always asks young people: What is a great business that no one has conquered?
His logic for pushing young entrepreneurs to think about such a question is straightforward, which he explained in January during a tech conference in Germany:
"You're going to start a business you might as well try to start one where, if it works, it will be really successful, rather than one where you're competing like crazy with thousands of people who are doing something just like you all the time."
Why Will Your 20th Employee Join?
There's an obvious incentive for someone to join your company as the second or third employee, Thiel says. Equity, fancy titles and a sense of status are givens for those who jump onboard of a startup early.
What's more important, the venture capitalist says, are the reasons your 20th and 30th employees down the road will join your company, because that defines your story.
In order to make potential employees turn down a job at a bigger company that is likely to offer better pay, more comfortable hours and benefits, you'd better have "a damn good story."
What Are You Better At Than Everyone Else?
When asked about the most important factor for a startup to have a good grasp of, the tech mastermind was frank:
"The most critical thing for every startup is to be doing one thing uniquely well, better than anybody else in the world," Thiel told CNN Money. "Technology is a fundamentally global business and the really great technology companies are doing something significantly better than anybody else in the world. You want to be in that sort of a business."
Think About The Cost Of Your Tuition. Is It Worth It?
With college tuition increasing at a higher rate than health care and inflation, Peter Thiel has a right to question the cost of tuition around the world.
The entrepreneur says he is pro-learning but anti-establishment when it comes to the system that universities have been allowed to put in place in regards to the cost of education.
"Learning is good. Credentialing and debt is very bad," he told ABC. "College gives people learning and also takes away future opportunities by loading the next generation down with debt."
It's part of the reason, when it comes to aspiring entrepreneurs, Thiel advises that young people think twice.
"If all the people [from Facebook] had finished their college education and waited till 2006, it would have been too late."
What Will Your Culture Be Like?
The key for setting the standard in any relationship, organization or business is in doing so as early as possible. Expectations must be set at the start of any cycle in order to avoid all the messy quarrels later on.
"There is, of course, a limit to how much you can do with rules. Things can and will break down even with perfect rules. There is no real chance of setting things up correctly such that the rest unfold easily," Thiel conceded to Inc., before adding, "You should still get the early stuff as right as possible."
What's Your Plan?
In a contributing article for Forbes, Blake Masters shared his notes from a class he took one semester at Stanford, taught by a special instructor; it was, of course, Thiel himself.
One of the lessons Thiel taught was the idea of having a plan. The bad plan is better than no plan, Masters learned, and a good plan is even better.
"To be great, you must take a swing at something," Masters said. "You must have a plan. Not planning for the future is, quite literally, resigning your fate to chance."
Are You Thinking Ahead Of Time?
When Facebook turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo, Thiel remembered how much criticism he and other investors were getting.
In an article for Inc.com, Thiel recalled his naysayers' words: "How could you have a CEO who didn't know you should sell the company? This is what you get when you have a CEO who is only 22 years old."
The implication was that Mark Zuckerberg was a young, foolish kid who didn't know anything about business. Yet, Facebook has turned into a brain that one could easily argue is bigger than Yahoo!.
Thiel hints that most people didn't understand the deal because they were thinking about the deal with a present-based mindset. Those who are most successful, though, think beyond that.
"The most successful businesses have an idea for the future that's very different from the present -- and that's not fully valued."
How Much Will You Rely On Luck?
According to Thiel, luck is overrated. Sure, a lot of people might have their fortunes changed by it. In fact, a lot of businesses may thrive on it.
Overall, though, the venture capitalist isn't too fond of the idea of luck being romanticized. Instead, he says that building towards a "definitive future," one that is determined by hard work, thorough thought and great planning, is the way to go; a way of getting rid of the need for luck in the first place.
As he puts it, "Luck is something for us to overcome as we go along the way..."
What Great Idea Will You Discover?
In another look into Thiel's class, Masters shared a bit of advice that came during the final lecture. Quoted directly from his notes, and in his article for Forbes, on the lessons he'd taken from the PayPal legend that day:
"There are still many large white spaces on the map of human knowledge. You can go discover them. So do it. Get out there and fill in the blank spaces. Every single moment is a possibility to go to these new places and explore them."
Which space will you fill?
Top Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images