What’s Peter Thiel’s Secrets?

欧阳琦玮

晨山资本 合伙人

这一期我们来谈谈创业中那些开放却未知的「秘密」。

Peter Thiel指出,你无法完全基于众所周知的事实创建一家伟大的公司。那么,在他眼中,成功企业的秘密究竟是什么呢?

本文编译自亿万富翁Peter Thiel的《从0到1》(Zero to One,有删节),原著基于其斯坦福大学创业课程的授课笔记整理而来。Peter是极为成功的创业者(PayPal与Palantir)、投资人(Facebook)、政治活动家(Trump竞选早期在硅谷的重要支持者)、慈善家和作者。

Every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. 
A great company is a conspiracy to change the world. 
你无法完全基于众所周知的事实
创建一家伟大的公司
 

SECRETS / 秘 密

Every One of today’s most famous and familiar ideas was once unknown and unsuspected. mathematical relationship between a triangle’s sides, for example, was secret for millennia. Pythagoras had to think hard to discover it. If you wanted in on Pythagoras’s new discovery, joining his strange vegetarian cult was the best way to learn about it.

当今很多家喻户晓、众人皆知的想法,都曾经是未知的或未经审视过的。例如,三角形三边之间的关系(毕达哥拉斯定理或曰勾股定理)就曾是千古之谜,毕达哥拉斯费劲艰辛才发现其中奥秘。
 
Today, his geometry has become a convention—a simple truth we teach to grade schoolers. A conventional truth can be important—it’s essential to learn elementary mathematics, for example—but it won’t give you an edge. It’s not a secret.
如今,勾股定理已然成为小学生都知道的常识。这个定理虽然简单,但非常重要,以至于成为小学生的必修课。但今天,掌握这一定理却不再让你成为举世闻名的数学家,也不能给你带来任何优势,因为它已不是秘密。
 
Remember our contrarian question: what important truth do very few people agree with you on? If we already understand as much of the natural world as we ever will—if all of today’s conventional ideas are already enlightened, and if everything has already been done—then there are no good answers.
让我们回忆一下我们在讨论逆向思维的时候提出的问题:你有哪些“特别”的观点,是多数人不了解/不认可/不同意,而你自己满怀信心的?假如我们今天已经发现了这个世界的所有规律,发明了所有应该发明的东西,那么我们恐怕很难对这个问题找到一个好的答案。
 
Contrarian thinking doesn’t make any sense unless the world still has secrets left to give up. Of course, there are many things we don’t yet understand, but some of those things may be impossible to figure out—mysteries rather than secrets. For example, string theory describes the physics of the universe in terms of vibrating one-dimensional objects called “strings.” Is string theory true? You can’t really design experiments to test it.
如果这个世界已经没有了尚未解开的谜题,那么我们之前讨论的逆向思维也就没有用武之地了。当然,这个世界还有很多未知和未被解释和理解的现象,但其中的一部分是无法被证实或被证伪。比如,物理学中的弦理论——某种将宇宙中的物理活动归结为一种一维的、振动的,被称作“弦”的物体——就是一个很好的例子。你无法设计一种实验来证实或者证伪弦的存在。
 
Very few people, if any, could ever understand all its implications. But is that just because it’s difficult? Or is it an impossible mystery? The difference matters. You can achieve difficult things, but you can’t achieve the impossible.
极少数人能够理解弦理论以及其全部意义。但这仅仅是因为弦理论很难理解吗?或者是因为这是一个无法验证的理论?“困难”和“无法实现”可不是一回事。困难的事情可以通过努力去实现,然而“无法实现”的事情让人无从下手。
 
Recall the business version of our contrarian question: what valuable company is nobody building? Every correct answer is necessarily a secret: something important and unknown, something hard to do but doable. If there are many secrets left in the world, there are probably many world changing companies yet to be started. This chapter will help you think about secrets and how to find them.
回忆一下商业版的逆向思维问题:有哪些拥有巨大价值的公司还还没有被创建?每个正确回答背后都有一个秘密:有哪些很重要但尚未被充分挖掘的领域?有哪些事虽然困难但却可为?既然世界上还有很多秘密未被发掘,那就还可能出现很多有望改变世界的企业。这部分将帮助你思考秘密的含义,以及如何发现秘密。

Why aren’t people looking for secrets? / 人们为什么不致力于发掘问题和秘密?

Most people act as if there were no secrets left to find. An extreme representative of this view is Ted Kaczynski, infamously known as the Unabomber. Kaczynski was a child prodigy who enrolled at Harvard at 16. He went on to get a PhD in math and become a professor at UC Berkeley. But you’ve only ever heard of him because of the 17-year terror campaign he waged with pipe bombs against professors, technologists, and businesspeople.

大部分人表现得像是这世上已没有秘密可发现。这一观点的极端代表是泰德·卡辛斯基,因“大学炸弹客”而臭名昭著。卡辛斯基其实是个神童,16岁就考入哈佛大学。此后又获得了数学博士学位,并成为加州大学伯克利分校的一名教授。但你听说过他却只是因为他用土制铁管炸弹对教授、技术专家和商业人士进行了17年的恐怖活动。
 
In late 1995, the authorities didn’t know who or where the Unabomber was. The biggest clue was a 35,000-word manifesto that Kaczynski had written and anonymously mailed to the press. The FBI asked some prominent newspapers to publish it, hoping for a break in the case. It worked: Kaczynski’s brother recognized his writing style and turned him in.
1995年底,当局对“大学炸弹客”的身份及住所还一无所知。最大的线索是一篇出自卡辛斯基之手、匿名寄到报社的35000字的声明。联邦调查局要求一些报纸刊发此声明,希望从中找到突破。这个方法奏效了:卡辛斯基的兄弟认出了其写作风格并举报了他。
 
You might expect that writing style to have shown obvious signs of insanity, but the manifesto is eerily cogent. Kaczynski claimed that in order to be happy, every individual “needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.” He divided human goals into three groups:
1. Goals that can be satisfied with minimal effort;
2. Goals that can be satisfied with serious effort; and
3. Goals that cannot be satisfied, no matter how much effort one makes.

你可能认为那篇声明的写作风格明显带有精神错乱的迹象,可是它却出奇的条理清晰。卡辛斯基指出:为了幸福,每个人都“需要制定目标,并付诸努力,而且至少要实现几个这样的目标”。他将人们的目标分为三类:

1. 稍作努力即可达到的目标。
2. 持续努力才能达到的目标。
3. 如何努力都不可能达到的目标。
 
This is the classic trichotomy of the easy, the hard, and the impossible. Kaczynski argued that modern people are depressed because all the world’s hard problems have already been solved. What’s left to do is either easy or impossible, and pursuing those tasks is deeply unsatisfying. What you can do, even a child can do; what you can’t do, even Einstein couldn’t have done. So Kaczynski’s idea was to destroy existing institutions, get rid of all technology, and let people start over and work on hard problems anew.
这是经典的三分法,将事情分为简单、困难和不可为三种。卡辛斯基认为现代人之所以抑郁寡欢是因为世界上所有的难题都已经解决,剩下的不是简单的就是不可能做到的,而努力寻求这些剩下问题的答案并不能带来满足感。你能做到的,一个小孩子同样可以做到,而你不能做到的,即使是爱因斯坦也办不到。因此卡辛斯基的观点是毁灭现有的一切,远离所有的科技,让人们重新开始,将那些能带来幸福感的难题再度攻克一遍。
 
Kaczynski’s methods were crazy, but his loss of faith in the technological frontier is all around us. Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.
卡辛斯基的方法虽疯狂,但我们周遭有很多人都跟他一样对科技的进展失去信心。想想看文艺青年的标志性爱好:复古摄影技术、八字胡和黑胶唱片电唱机。都是些让人怀念过去的东西——因为过去的人们对未来仍充满乐观与希望。如果所有值得做的事情已经完成,你不妨假装对成功过敏,放弃做哪些有挑战的事情,而转而做一个咖啡师吧。

The world according to convention / 依据「传统与常规」运转的世界

How must you see the world if you don’t believe in secrets? You’d have to believe we’ve already solved all great questions. If today’s conventions are correct, we can afford to be smug and complacent: “God’s in His heaven, All’s right with the world.”
如果不相信还有秘密存在,你该如何看待这个世界呢?你不得不相信人类已经解决了所有重大问题。如若现今的常规性知识都是正确的,那我们完全可以自鸣得意、沾沾自喜地说:“大家各得其所,世界一切正常。”
 
In economics, disbelief in secrets leads to faith in efficient markets. But the existence of financial bubbles shows that markets can have extraordinary inefficiencies. (And the more people believe in efficiency, the bigger the bubbles get.) In 1999, nobody wanted to believe that the internet was irrationally overvalued. The same was true of housing in 2005: Fed chairman Alan Greenspan had to acknowledge some “signs of froth in local markets” but stated that “a bubble in home prices for the nation as a whole does not appear likely.” The market reflected all knowable information and couldn’t be questioned. Then home prices fell across the country, and the financial crisis of 2008 wiped out trillions. The future turned out to hold many secrets that economists could not make vanish simply by ignoring them.
在经济学方面,不相信秘密的存在,导致人们盲目相信市场的有效性。但是金融泡沫的存在表明市场有时根本不起作用。(相信市场有效性的人越多,金融泡沫就越大。)1999年,没人愿意相信人们对网络经济估值过高。无独有偶,2005年,房地产业遭遇相同问题。美联储主席艾伦· 格林斯潘不得不承认“当地市场出现了金融泡沫的迹象”,但声称“就整个国家而言,房产价格泡沫不会出现”。市场反映所有可知信息,而且不容置疑。然而随后全美房价下跌,并导致了2008年的金融危机,造成数万亿美元的损失。这一事实表明,仍存在很多未被完全理解的机制(“秘密”),经济学家不能继续掩耳盗铃,假装视而不见了。
 
What happens when a company stops believing in secrets? The sad decline of Hewlett-Packard provides a cautionary tale. In 1990, the company was worth $9 billion. Then came a decade of invention. In 1991, HP released the DeskJet 500C, the world’s first affordable color printer. In 1993, it launched the OmniBook, one of the first “superportable” laptops. The next year, HP released the OfficeJet, the world’s first all-in-one printer/fax/copier. This relentless product expansion paid off: by mid-2000, HP was worth $135 billion.
当一个公司不再通过挖掘新的秘密或者“秘方”来保持竞争力,又会怎么样呢?惠普的悲惨下滑就是个警告。1990年,这家公司价值90亿美元。接下来的10年是发明创造的10年。1991年,惠普发明了喷墨打印机(DeskJet 500c)——世界第一款价格亲民的彩色打印机。1993年,它推出了OminiBook 笔记本电脑——早期“超便利”的便携式电脑之一。1994年,它推出了印表机(OfficeJet)——世界第一台集打印、传真、复印于一体的机器。不停的产品拓展,最终得到丰厚回报:到2000年年中,惠普价值达到1350亿美元。
 
But starting in late 1999, when HP introduced a new branding campaign around the imperative to “invent,” it stopped inventing things. In 2001, the company launched HP Services, a glorified consulting and support shop. In 2002, HP merged with Compaq, presumably because it didn’t know what else to do. By 2005, the company’s market cap had plunged to $70 billion—roughly half of what it had been just five years earlier……As a result, by late 2012 HP was worth just $23 billion—not much more than it was worth in 1990, adjusting for inflation.
1999年末,惠普发起了一项新的品牌营销活动,强调自己是重视“发明”的公司,但从那时开始,惠普却没再发明过新东西。2001年,惠普成立了惠普专业与支持服务集团,辉煌的咨询服务业从此开启。2002年,惠普与康柏电脑公司合并,想必是它已经不知道还能做什么。到2005年,惠普的市值跌落至700亿美元,大约是五年前的一半。……到2012年末,惠普公司的市值仅为230亿美元,还不及1990年的市值(通货膨胀率调整后)。

The case for secrets / 探索秘密

You can’t find secrets without looking for them. Andrew Wiles demonstrated this when he proved Fermat’s Last Theorem after 358 years of fruitless inquiry by other mathematicians—the kind of sustained failure that might have suggested an inherently impossible task……He needed brilliance to succeed, but he also needed a faith in secrets. If you think something hard is impossible, you’ll never even start trying to achieve it. Belief in secrets is an effective truth.
不探索是发现不了秘密的。数学家安德鲁· 怀尔斯的经历说明了这一点。在经过358年许多数学家求证无果后(持续的失败可能意味着问题本身可能无解),怀尔斯终于证明了费马大定理(又称费马最后定理,Fermat’s Last Theorem)……他的成功需要智慧,更需要坚信秘密的存在。如果你认为某些困难的事情是无解的,就不会持续努力地做出尝试。只有相信秘密可被发掘、可被解释,才是探索有效进行的关键所在。
 
The same is true of business. Great companies can be built on open but unsuspected secrets about how the world works. Consider the Silicon Valley startups that have harnessed the spare capacity that is all around us but often ignored. Before Airbnb, travelers had little choice but to pay high prices for a hotel room, and property owners couldn’t easily and reliably rent out their unoccupied space. Airbnb saw untapped supply and unaddressed demand where others saw nothing at all. The same is true of private car services Lyft and Uber. Few people imagined that it was possible to build a billion-dollar business by simply connecting people who want to go places with people willing to drive them there. We already had state-licensed taxicabs and private limousines; only by believing in and looking for secrets could you see beyond the convention to an opportunity hidden in plain sight. The same reason that so many internet companies, including Facebook, are often underestimated—their very simplicity—is itself an argument for secrets. If insights that look so elementary in retrospect can support important and valuable businesses, there must remain many great companies still to start.
商业也是一样。总有一些关于“世界究竟如何运转”的重要真相是人人皆可探求但未经认真审视的,伟大的公司就建立在这些秘密之上。想想硅谷的那些新创公司,正是利用我们周围常被忽略的闲置生产能力。Airbnb成立之前,游客别无选择,只能高价住旅店,而业主也不能轻易且放心地出租自己空闲的房间。Airbnb看到了这个未被开发的服务和未被解决的需求,而其他人则没有看到。租车服务公司Lyft和Uber也是如此。几乎无人能够想象仅靠联系出行的人和愿意载人的司机能创立价值10亿美元的公司。况且,美国已有州际出租车和私人豪华轿车。只有相信并探索秘密才能发现常规之外的,近在眼前却不为常人所见的商机。包括Facebook 在内的众多互联网公司(它们的商业想法都极为简单)常常被低估,这本身就是秘密存在的理由。回头想想:如果看起来如此简单的想法都能支撑起重要而有价值的企业,那么一定还有许多好公司等待我们去创办。

How to find secrets / 如何找到秘密并揭开谜底

The best place to look for secrets is where no one else is looking. Most people think only in terms of what they’ve been taught; schooling itself aims to impart conventional wisdom. So you might ask: are there any fields that matter but haven’t been standardized and institutionalized? Physics, for example, is a real major at all major universities, and it’s set in its ways…… What about something like nutrition? Nutrition matters for everybody, but you can’t major in it at Harvard. Most top scientists go into other fields. Most of the big studies were done 30 or 40 years ago, and most are seriously flawed. The food pyramid that told us to eat low fat and enormous amounts of grains was probably more a product of lobbying by Big Food than real science; its chief impact has been to aggravate our obesity epidemic.
从无人关注的领域入手,是挖掘秘密的最佳切入点。大多数人只以学校传授的方式思考,而学校教育本身的目标在于传授常规知识(而不是挖掘秘密)。所以你可能会问:还有哪些重要领域没被系统化地研究和挖掘过?例如,物理学知识已经在几乎所有重点高校被研究被教授,这个领域的研究已经相对比较充分了……那么营养学呢?营养学对我们每个人都很重要,但哈佛大学还没有开设这个专业,多数顶尖的营养科学家转向了其他领域。多数营养学的重要理论诞生于三四十年之前,而且其中很大一部分理论存在严重的瑕疵和缺陷。指导我们日常营养摄入“少脂肪、多谷物”的所谓“食物金字塔”理论,很有可能并不是完全科学的结论,而在很大程度上是以大型食品公司为代表的利益集团游说的产物。今天看来,这些饮食指导并未让人们饮食更加健康,反而加剧了肥胖的现象。
 
There’s plenty more to learn: we know more about the physics of faraway stars than we know about human nutrition. It won’t be easy, but it’s not obviously impossible: exactly the kind of field that could yield secrets.
需要学习的地方还有很多:我们对遥远星球的了解都比对人类营养了解得多。研究营养学并非易事,但正向我们之前提到的,困难并不等于不可能或者“无法实现”:这恰恰是能够产生秘密的领域。

What to do with secrets / 当你发现秘密,下一步如何做

If you find a secret, you face a choice: Do you tell anyone? Or do you keep it to yourself? It depends on the secret: some are more dangerous than others. As Faust tells Wagner:

发现秘密时,你将面临选择:告诉别人?还是保守秘密?这取决于秘密本身:有些秘密可以讲出来,有些则最好守口如瓶。正如浮士德对瓦格纳所说:
 
The few who knew what might be learned 
掌握秘密的极少数人 
Foolish enough to put their whole heart on show 
愚蠢地将心扉全然洞开 
And reveal their feelings to the crowd below 
将自己的满腔热情示人 
Mankind has always crucified and burned 
总是惨遭迫害与火刑 
 
Unless you have perfectly conventional beliefs, it’s rarely a good idea to tell everybody everything that you know. So who do you tell? Whoever you need to, and no more. In practice, there’s always a golden mean between telling nobody and telling everybody—and that’s a company.
除非你的理念完全符合习俗,多数情况下将你所知道的一切告诉每个人并不是什么好主意。那么将秘密告诉给谁?只告诉少数几个你认为必须要讲的人。实际上,选择谁也不告诉和选择人人都告诉之间有一个黄金平衡——那就是公司存在的秘密。
 
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.
最好的企业家深谙此理:所有成功的企业都是基于不为外人所知的秘密创建的。一个伟大的公司,其本身是一场试图改变世界的密谋。当你与人分享秘密时,听众就成为了你的创业伙伴,成为你的共谋者。
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