Important Advice for Starting a Business

My colleagues are downright GENIUSES.

At least that’s the impression I get from their conversations.

They’re all professional football commentators, corporate consultants, and foreign policy experts, not to mention expert stock market analysts:

“Market’s down today. Think I should sell?”

“The Dow is up 250 points today! I better buy more….”

God bless ’em.

This “buy it while it’s hot” mentality demonstrates the erratic behavior of the common speculator. But very few mortals have the mental discipline to weather the vicissitudes of the market. We’re too easily blinded by emotion and social influence.

Sometimes, it’s better to take a leaf out of George Costanza’s book and just do the opposite – or at least something different – from what others want to do.

The same is true for new ideas.

The book Zero to One, written by billionaire Peter Thiel, teaches us several key philosophies about start-ups, entrepreneurship, and new ideas.

Here are some key ideas that will help you sharpen your creativity and guard yourself against the neurosis of the masses.

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

Ask yourself: what valuable company is nobody building?

Alternatively, ask yourself “what simple idea is nobody seeing?”

Of course, it’s much easier to copy what is already working than to create something brand new.

But to find new ideas, we have to believe they exist, and we have to look where no one else is looking.

For example, Uber, a large scale transportation company, discovered a billion-dollar idea in an already thriving market. We already had taxis, limousines, and a million other forms of transportation, but the founders of Uber noticed an opportunity where no one else thought to look — IN PLAIN SIGHT.

The key is to not follow social trends.

I’m not saying that you should buy a pair of shutter shades, pink pants, and a vintage floral shirt and become a hipster; I’m saying that when everyone is rushing towards the newest hot idea, it may be time to head in another direction.

If everyone else has heard about it and thinks it’s a good idea, it’s probably too late.

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.

— Warren Buffett

Dominate; don’t compete.

That’s actually a quote by legendary sales trainer Grant Cardone.

To put it in Thiel’s words, competition causes us to hallucinate ideas where none exist and desperately cling to old and worn out ideas.

Competition distracts us and suffocates our ingenuity. It makes us stop looking for new ideas and instead focus entirely on our competitors.

But while all the competitors are skirmishing over small, incremental improvements, the lone contrarian comes along and redefines the market entirely (think of Apple, Tesla, Uber, GoPro, Google). The competitors are left to copy the new idea and fight for the scraps.

Set your sights on what you think is possible, not what others are doing.

Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

— Peter Thiel

Where can you find new ideas?

The first way to discover new ideas is to dream. Literally.

Many great ideas have been discovered during sleep such as “Yesterday,” by the Beatles, Frankenstein, the Terminator, famous paintings, Stephen King’s book ideas, the sewing machine, mathematical formulas, medicines, Google, and most importantly, Twilight.

Everyone dreams. To remember yours, follow these steps:

  1. Keep a pen/paper by your bedside
  2. Before sleeping, tell yourself in your head to remember your dreams
  3. Write down any snippet of information you recall upon awakening
  4. Practice every night

Back in my heyday, I wrote down over 530 dreams. Still waiting on that billion-dollar idea though….

Dreams are also a great way to peek into your subconscious mind, which is nearly inaccessible when you’re awake.

The most hardcore of you will practice lucid dreaming, which is where you can consciously influence your dreams. Just think of all the studying you could get done in your sleep….

The second way to discover new ideas is to imagine that you are in an alternate dimension where all earthly rules are malleable or irrelevant. What would be possible?

Maybe garbage would turn into water vapor, or iPhones could transfer scents, or airplanes would flap their wings (because it’s sooo practical, of course…).

Then ask yourself: how could you replicate this back on Earth?

Employers love fresh minds that will question the status quo and propose absurd ideas, even at the risk of being naive. But sometimes, the greatest naivety is to get so caught up in standards and convention that we lose sight of the great ideas lying right before our eyes.

Doing something different is what’s truly good for society. The best projects are likely to be overlooked, not trumpeted by a crowd; the best problems to work on are often the ones nobody else even tries to solve.

— Peter Thiel

Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Pushing the limits of human imagination. Photo Credit:

Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Pushing the limits of human imagination. Photo Credit:

***To learn more about starting a business and being an entrepreneur, check out Zero to One, by Peter Thiel.***

***Be sure to FOLLOW this blog for more posts on business, psychology, and personal development.***

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