Why Secrets Matter
“The best entrepreneurs know this; every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.” – Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)
The best business are based on secrets. In other words, they start out to work on problems that no one else is working on or talking about. Think about Google; they saw there was a lack of efficiency in searching the internet. Their “secret” was that internet searches could be extremely relevant, even to the point Google could predict what you were searching for. Google is now essentially a monopoly for internet search. With electricity it was Benjamin Franklin and then Edison and Tesla who sought to uncover the secret force of electricity. Ford’s secret was to make automobiles available and affordable for every family. Alexander Fleming’s secret was to uncover and defeat deadly bacteria that claimed so many lives. His discovery was Penicillin and many millions of lives have been saved through this and similar drugs.
The uncovering of these secrets led to giant industries that have transformed life as we know it today. The people behind these giant companies would not have succeeded if they had simply tried to do what others were already doing. Most people and companies set out to do something slightly better than those around them. This is essentially copying what others are doing with the intention of doing it just a little bit better or faster, or less expensive. The problem with competing like this is that it’s very hard to build a truly great and lasting business if so many others are able to do what you are doing. The opposite of this would be to set out building a monopoly company- one that is working on solving the problems that no one else is. The uncovering of secrets will lead to incredible value for mankind. Focussing on secrets will also lead to a lasting company because no one else is really working to uncover what you are.
Two Types of Secrets
In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel suggests there are two types of secrets to uncover: those about people and those about nature. Many believe that most secrets in nature have been discovered, but that’s not true at all. For instance, why does all matter vibrate? Why do people develop auto-immune disease? Why do we our cells have to age and deteriorate? There are many secrets in nature that need to be uncovered. There are perhaps even more secrets about people that need to be examined. For example, why are some people prone to violence? Why do a majority of marriages end in divorce? Why do people get married in the first place? Why do we find it necessary to lie in order to avoid discomfort? Why do some people succeed in their goals while others give up and quit? I’m sure that you can come up with come secrets as well. The main takeaway here is that secrets matter a great deal because working on them will lead to new technologies and innovations that will improve life for all mankind.
A secret by definition is keeping something hidden or unexplained. We can find secrets by asking, “what is nature not telling us?” Or, “what are people not telling us?” So what secrets are you working to uncover? You may just change the world for the better by solving a major problem for humanity. There are secrets all around us and they are possible to solve, we just have to know where to look for them and truly believe they are possible to solve. Sometimes we assume that others must be working on a problem because it seems so obvious or important. To that I would say that if you don’t believe you will discover the answer to a secret in nature or in people, you won’t! You will fulfill your own prophecy that you can’t solve it, or you shouldn’t bother because someone else “must” be working on it already. Maybe someone else is working on the problem, but it could be that you have the very insight needed to solve the problem. Do you want to change the world? Look for secrets. They are everywhere. If you are working on secrets you might just create something new for mankind to use. If you are working on what everyone else is, you will end up competing for the same slice of the pie…