In early 2016, I was traveling to Amsterdam with Marilyn. She was off working, and I was wandering around the town. Early one morning, I woke up and walked over to Albert Cuyp Market, a street market filled with food, stroopwafels, flowers and many other vendors.
Like usual when I’m alone, I had my headphones in listening to an audiobook. On this day, I had just started Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel.
Even though my opinion of Thiel has dramatically changed since reading this book (due to political involvement I won’t go into), there was a single question posed in the book that left a mark on me:
Thiel asks this as an interview question to better understand leaders of companies he’s looking to invest in. When I heard this question, I realized I started tuning out and trying to come up with my own answer. My interpretation of this is that the vast majority of people would disagree with, not just “most” people. In other words, something that at least 75% of the population would have an issue with.
What Makes a Bad Answer?
Thinking about my own opinions, the first ones that came to mind for me were all very bad answers to this question. Just because there might not be a majority opinion in the news about something, doesn’t mean it’s something “many” people would disagree with. I expect that for all of the following, there’s a strong group that would agree with you:
- Political leanings & Views
- Views on health care
- Views on any political figure
- Work/Life Balance – either for more work, or more life
- Personal Growth
- An opinion on a controversial topic
How many people are going to disagree that growing as a person is a bad thing? There’s a line between “many people would disagree with” and “many people actually do”. Most of my personal opinions that came to mind are opinions I hold strongly, not ones that people disagree with. Controversial topics aren’t a great answer either.
What Makes a Good Answer?
So a bad answer is obvious, agreeable and describes the current state of things. That makes a good answer unagreeable, unobvious and describes a future that isn’t perfect. Some ideas on this would be that it does some of the following:
- Makes people think
- Explores an unusual concept
- Unrelated to your day to day
- Even when people understand your point of view, they still disagree
After pausing the audiobook and thinking about this for well over half an hour, I finally landed on an answer that was a core belief of mine that I do think many people disagree with. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer to this question, and I’m going to keep thinking about it try to come up with other answers, but here’s the one I thought of.
Even reading this now makes me shudder a bit – which makes me think it’s actually a good answer. It’s not about the atrocities he committed, but more about my belief that I have things to learn from everyone on the planet. I’m not afraid that learning something from a poisoned well will poison my mind. Instead, I’m confident in my ability to determine right from wrong, and not worried.
On the topic of ill-gotten knowledge, I’m of the camp of knowledge is knowledge. Although nothing can be changed about the past, takeaways in science, propaganda, economics and more were happening in Germany during this time. I trust myself to learn about these, and not feel that I am doing a disservice to those who lost their lives by building on these takeaways.
What’s Your Opinion?
What opinion do you hold that many people disagree with? I’d love to hear other peoples answers to this in the comments.