Peter Thiel on Undervalued Personality Traits | Conversations with Tyler

Peter Thiel on Undervalued Personality Traits | Conversations with Tyler

TYLER COWEN: In your view, perhaps the contemporary
world is becoming, I don’t know what the word would be, stranger, or weirder, or more
shaped by individuals who are different, precisely because conformity is being piled on other
places. So if the movers and shakers would be people
who are in some way neuro diverse, then overall, the world is becoming more surprising in a
way, right? That’s what we expect at different margins,
at different corners. This will accumulate. It may not ever feel like we’re getting
out of the great stagnation, but each bit of change we get is in a way a more different
change than we would get, say, in 1957, where everything was done with guys with white shirts
and starched white collars, hoping they would be able to buy a little pocket calculator
someday. PETER THIEL: I think the innovation that we
are getting is driven in strange ways. I worry that the conformity problem is actually
more acute than it was in the ’50s or ’60s, so that the category of the eccentric scientist,
or even the eccentric professor, is a species that is steadily going extinct because there
is less space for that in our research universities than there used to be.I worry that perhaps,
if anything, it’s a little bit the other way. It’s very hard to measure these things or
calibrate them, but I think that in politics, the conventional approach is to simply look
at pollsters. What are your positions going to be? You just look at the polls, you figure this
out, and it works fairly well. At the end of the day, that’s probably not
how the system really changes. It probably will be changed by some idiosyncratic
people who have really strong convictions, and are over time, able to convince more people
of them. But whether this means that we have more or
less change is hard to evaluate. It always comes from these somewhat nonconventional
channels. TYLER COWEN: Let’s say you’re trying to
select people for your Thiel fellowships, or maybe to work for one of your companies,
or to start a new company with. Just you, Peter Thiel, as a judge of talent,
what trait do you look for in that person that is being undervalued by others? The rest of the world out there is way too
conformist, so there must then be unexploited profit opportunities in finding people. If you’re less conformist, which I’m very
willing to believe, indeed would insist on that being the case, what is it you look for? PETER THIEL: It’s very difficult to reduce
it to any single traits, because a lot of what you’re looking for, are these almost
Zen-like opposites. You want people who are both really stubborn
and really open-minded. That’s a little bit contradictory. You want people who are idiosyncratic and
really different, but then who can work well together in teams. And so, this is again, maybe not 180 degrees
opposite, but like 175 degrees. TYLER COWEN: This is why you like Hegel? PETER THIEL: I don’t like Hegel that much. [laughter]
PETER THIEL: I think if you focus too much on one or the other end of it, you would tend
to get it completely wrong. I like to get things where you get these combinations
of unusual traits, so if you have people with some really interesting, very different ideas,
that suggests we’re in the idiosyncratic category. Then the important question becomes, OK, would
they actually be able to function socially and execute? Then maybe the teamwork question you’d ask
would be, what’s the prehistory of this company? How did you meet, how long have you been working
together, and if there’s a long prehistory, that would be good on the other side. I think it’s always getting these combinations

34 thoughts on “Peter Thiel on Undervalued Personality Traits | Conversations with Tyler

  1. Zen-like opposites – diversity
    but work-well together – interdependence
    always work in a team environment – not smell
    How long have you worked together – enduring, maturing

  2. The trait of telling your employee what they've implicitly outlawed as an opinion and therefore sending the entire company into a spiral of choas

  3. This is what Thiel looks for in founders to invest in (and note his models are far from perfect) but if you're watching things like this looking to acclimate yourself to these traits – and I've been that person – I think it's really putting the cart before the horse. If you're willing to redefine your feelings (basically turning unconscious emotion into a conscious process of ideation) and build from first principles using the scientific method then I'm positive this would result in you becoming the kind of unique individual they're talking about, where the defining traits of this uniqueness are derived from what you think take precedence in this order of operations. I'm going to write a post about this at

  4. Peter Thiel, is not only really smart but more importantly, wise, in a world where we are long on brains and short on wisdom.

  5. Find people who are high in IQ, but low in conscientiousness and figure out how to stimulate their creative side. These are the most underrated (undervalued) neurons just lying dormant, waiting to be recruited. But you’re going to have to look for them, because they’re not as proactive job searchers.

  6. The reason why some of you will never be half as smart and successfull as this guy is because you are distracted with his hair and shirt butons instead of paying attention to his ideas and content. If you find an oyster with a pearl inside you would mock the oyster because of its external texture and ignore the pearl.

  7. Seen hundreds of start-ups succeed and fail. The traits that I see most frequently in success: intelligence and logical thinking, keen observation, understanding other peoples motivation, questioning status quo, creativity, focus, persistence….failure traits would be the antonyms of the above.

  8. Stubborn but open minded is simply not appreciated in the zombie like environment of the pc worlds of both corporate and public sectors which resist genuine diversity of thought and perspective and will bully it out of you….

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