Thiel on power law

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This reference is used to annotate "I would never send my kids to school" by Piotr Wozniak

When you choose a career, you act on your belief that the kind of work you do will be valuable decades from now.

The most common answer to the question of future value is a diversified portfolio. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”, everyone has been told. Even the best venture investors have a portfolio, but investors who understand the power law make as few investments as possible. The more you dabble, the more you are supposed to have hedged against the uncertainty of the future.

But life is not a portfolio. An entrepreneur cannot diversify herself. You cannot run dozens of companies at the same time and then hope one of them works out well. An individual cannot diversify his own life by keeping dozens of equally possible careers in ready reserve.

Our schools teach the opposite. Institutionalized education traffics in homogenized generic knowledge. Everybody who passes through the American school system learns not to think in power law terms. Every high school course period lasts 45 minutes whatever the subject. Every student proceeds at a similar pace. At college, model students obsessively hedge their futures by assembling a suite of exotic and minor skills. Every university believes in excellence, and hundred-page course catalogs arranged alphabetically according to arbitrary departments of knowledge seem designed to reassure you that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it well. That is completely false. It does matter what you do. You should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future.

Author: Peter Thiel

Tile: Zero to One (page 91)(slightly shortened, added emphasis)