05 6 / 2012
Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup - Class 9 Notes Essay
Here is an essay version of my class notes from Class 9 of CS183: Startup. Errors and omissions are my own. Credit for good stuff is Peter’s entirely.
Class 9 Notes Essay—If You Build It, Will They Come?
Distribution is something of a catchall term. It essentially refers to how you get a product out to consumers. More generally, it can refer to how you spread the message about your company. Compared to other components that people generally recognize are important, distribution gets the short shift. People understand that team, structure, and culture are important. Much energy is spent thinking about how to improve these pieces. Even things that are less widely understood—such as the idea that avoiding competition is usually better than competing—are discoverable and are often implemented in practice.
But for whatever reason, people do not get distribution. They tend to overlook it. It is the single topic whose importance people understand least. Even if you have an incredibly fantastic product, you still have to get it out to people. The engineering bias blinds people to this simple fact. The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. But nothing is further from the truth.
There are two closely related questions that are worth drilling down on. First is the simple question: how does one actually distribute a product? Second is the meta-level question: why is distribution so poorly understood? When you unpack these, you’ll find that the first question is underestimated or overlooked for the same reason that people fail to understand distribution itself.
The first thing to do is to dispel the belief that the best product always wins. There is a rich history of instances where the best product did not, in fact, win. Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current electrical supply system. It was, for a variety of reasons, technologically better than the direct current system that Thomas Edison developed. Tesla was the better scientist. But Edison was the better businessman, and he went on to start GE. Interestingly, Tesla later developed the idea of radio transmission. But Marconi took it from him and then won the Nobel Prize. Inspiration isn’t all that counts. The best product may not win.
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01 6 / 2012
Help Bring Clean Water to the Billion Without It!
This might be the most meaningful birthday of my life. Sorry, it’s not an actual party this time, though. BUT, it’s for a really great cause I hope some of us can get behind.
With your help, we can change 100 people’s lives. I’m not sure I’ve ever made this much of a positive impact in even 1 life. But if we each contribute a little, we can drastically improve 100 people’s lives in a sustainable manner.
We’re so lucky to be living here, and sometimes forget that there are almost a billion people living without clean water. A BILLION! And often times, the water they’re using is contaminated with many deadly diseases that could easily be prevented. 30,000 people will die this week alone. The lucky ones won’t, but still have to walk for hours every day to get a little dirty water for their families to use.
If you give $23, it will change a person’s life. I know some of us are pretty broke right now, and possibly deep in student debt. If you can’t give $23, I understand but really hope you’d consider giving something. Anything helps.
Unlike other non-profits, 100% of all these donations go directly toward water projects. People in the community help build it, and a local committee is elected to maintain it in the future. And about 18 months after this campaign ends, charity: water will show us where and how every dollar we raised ended up helping in the field. We’ll see GPS coordinates, photos and more details about the communities we’ve impacted.
Please help, and we can change the world for some less fortunate friends.
Link to my fundraiser:
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01 6 / 2012
20 5 / 2012
20 5 / 2012
Jimmy Carter Called It Back in ‘79
“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns.”
01 5 / 2012
01 5 / 2012
I Want to Know How To Help My Friends Find Purpose
It’s hard to figure out what we want to do with our lives, the things we’re really passionate about and believe will lead to a lifetime of fulfillment. I’m seeing more friends having trouble with this, and I wish I knew how to help. I can tell them to find a purpose, but even that can be difficult to do.
I want to figure out a way to help my friends, the ones still trying to find their path, their purpose. It doesn’t need to be super specific, even some broad life direction would be so valuable. If they just knew what they wanted to do in their lifetime, then they could easily assess their current situation and know if it needs changing. They could find jobs that truly fulfill them, and make decisions based on maximizing long-term happiness. They could have a purpose-driven life.
I think it takes self-awareness, through moments of self-reflection. I think it takes new experiences, personal growth, trying things out, and thinking about how those experiences make you feel.
It can’t be a life dictated, but a life discovered.
I wish I could just give these friends enough direction to discover themselves. I wish I could give them the opportunities needed for self-discovery. I just don’t know how…or if the way I’d try to do it is right.
If you have any suggestions, please do share.
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18 4 / 2012
How To Find An Endless Source Of Motivation & Lasting Fulfillment
What do you want to do with your life?
Our society trains us to think that the traditional educational path will lead us to happiness, and keeps us too career-oriented from the get-go. Instead, we should be purpose-driven, or problem-oriented. We should be taught to focus on our life’s purpose and ambitions, or the problem in the world we’d like to solve, not what highest-paying job our degrees will get us. Even Salman Khan (creator of the Khan Academy) writes that “high school and college degrees are not ends by themselves. They are supposed to be means to an end and that end is a happy and productive life.”
We’re taught to think short-term. We’re taught to just get a job and then hopefully find fulfillment in it. We’re encouraged to find happiness in material objects and to maximize the number of short-term highs we can get from buying cars and other crap. This, in my opinion, has led many of us to try to find happiness in all the wrong places. Instead of looking for motivation and fulfillment in our external gains, we need to look internally and find happiness through personal awareness. The Dalai Lama writes, “Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”
Motivation & Personal Happiness
Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of Zappos) “Happiness Framework” is something that has always stuck with me since I first read it. I’ve found that it really helps me explain the way people approach their path to personal fulfillment.
In this model, he describes 3 types of happiness: Rockstar, Flow, & Purpose.
“Rockstar” happiness are short-lived highs. It’s the feeling you get from buying something new, or from drug use. It lasts the shortest and leads to least amount of actual fulfillment.
“Flow” happiness is when you’re so into your work that the world passes by without you noticing. It’s when time flies because you’re fully engaged with the task at hand. Simply put, it’s when all your attention is focused on an enjoyable, productive challenge. This type of happiness leads to much more fulfillment and lasts longer periods of time than “rockstar” happiness.
“Purpose” happiness is the reason for your existence. It’s the larger goal that creates meaning in everyday life. It’s what you ultimately want to do with your life. This type of happiness can last a lifetime, and leads to the most amount of fulfillment.
Unfortunately, most people take the wrong approach to happiness: they look for a well-paying job, buy something nice and shiny, and hopefully find happiness in the work they do and stuff they possess. They go for “rockstar” happiness first, and look for “flow” and “purpose” second. It’s why you hear people say, “I’ll just get this job so I can buy this, and that’ll make me happy”.
The better approach is to look for “purpose” first. If you find your purpose in life, everything else falls right into place. All the challenges and obstacles you face become stepping stones to your larger goal. You will naturally “flow” in your work, because there is meaning to your current tasks at hand. And whatever challenges you do encounter, while they may be difficult and daunting, are only temporary obstacles in a purpose-driven life. Then, any “rockstar” happiness you do receive is just icing on the cake.
With a purpose-driven life, anything is achievable. It’s powerful because it allows internal harmony and focus of mind. Motivation comes easy, because it’s what you truly care about. You’re working to make your dreams come true. It’s the juice behind many great artists, “enlightened” entrepreneurs and movement leaders. And fortunately, it’s available to everyone. Anyone can have purpose, and can lead a fulfilling life. It just takes a little self-awareness and a willingness to have direction. And it doesn’t have to be something very specific. It can be something broad, as long as it’s true to your core desires. Forget what society tells you how to live your life, or what you should do with it. What matters is your own personal happiness.
People aren’t born special. Chris Martin (lead singer of Coldplay) says, “It’s just not true. [I’m special] only in a certain field. But what about a special dentist and a special bus driver…” People make themselves “special” in specific areas through years of dedication to a life purpose. Find your purpose, and go from there.
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14 4 / 2012
13 4 / 2012
"Almost all creativity involves purposeful play."