My Zero To One Review is based on The Rubric.

I began reading Zero To One by Peter Thiel on December 5, 2019, and finished December 16, 2019.

Check out my Zero To One Notes for my thoughts, including my favorite quotations, associations, and takeaways.

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Rubric Table

Zero To One Review – Arguments


Thiel delivered on arguments as I expected.

First, he asked great questions, and matched them with equally strong hypotheses.

His evidence tended toward the anecdotal, but it wasn’t controversial, and he did his own reasoning (didn’t outsource it to citations), so his arguments held water on their own.

His logic was mostly solid, but his answers tended to be on the shallow side.

While his answers were normative (full of shoulds and calls to action), he fell short of prescriptive (how-to’s) – which is disappointing in any book with the words “how to” found in its subtitle.

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored mostly “Excellent” for argumentation.

Zero To One Review – Practicality


This book is excellent for thinking, not for doing.

Thiel prefaces the book as an exercise in thinking; which begs the question, again, as to why the words “how to” should show up in Zero To One’s sub-subtitle, which is “How To Build The Future.”

It should read, “How To Think About The Future.”

There are allusions to practicality, but if you’re looking for a startup handbook this book will disappoint.

Anything that is a start to being practical in this book is also hindered by the necessity of prerequisites.

Unless a reader comes to this text with a foundation in startup theory, they will be at a great disadvantage navigating the nuanced thinking Thiel presents…

And it’s the nuanced thinking that makes this book worthwhile to read.

(For recommendations of pre-reading materials, see the Notes here.)

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored mostly “It’s a Start” for practicality.

Zero To One Review – Readability


Zero To One has two issues with readability:

  • It’s written at an elevated reading level.
  • The first half of the book is too dense.

The chapters are generally too short, leaving the reader wanting more.

This is likely because the book is based on the notes Blake Masters took in Thiel’s class at Stanford.

While expanded for the book, and for a broader audience as stated in the Preface, Thiel’s ideas deserve more time and space than these pages allow.

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored “Excellent” on average for readability.

Zero To One Review – Enjoyability


There was an up and down ride for the enjoyability of Zero To One, peaking in Chapter 6 and dipping lowest in Chapter 9.

To be fair, Thiel was doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Chapters 1 – 5, so the peak in Chapter 6 makes sense.

But the stride hit in Chapter 6 didn’t last.

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored “Decent” on average for enjoyability.

Zero To One Review – External Resources


Like the lack of citations, there were zero external resources referenced in this book.

It is self-contained (with the exception of prerequisites, mentioned in the Practicality section above, and recommended in the Notes here).

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored 100% for external resources.

Zero To One Review – Rhetoric


There is persuasive work being done in this text.

In addition to selling his ideas, Thiel is calling his readers to action. To create the future by inventing the kind of zero-to-one technology that will define it.

He is not, however, selling any services or products to the reader.

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored “Excellent” for rhetoric.

Zero To One Review – In Total


This is a philosophical text, which scratches the itch for thinking material as Thiel promised, but as a business text misses the mark on practicality.

This book is advanced.

Do not read this book without first being versed in startups and startup theory.

Do read this book for nuanced thoughts from a prominent founder and investor in startups (Thiel co-founded PayPal and Palantir and has invested in hundreds of startups since, including Facebook and Tesla).

By The Rubric, Zero To One scored on the cusp between “Decent” and “Excellent” in total.