5 questions that changed my life (Part 3)

Opinions are often the catalysts for success.

5 questions that changed my life (Part 3)

#3 What do you believe to be true that most people don't?

I grew up a people-pleaser: a straight-A, chubby little do-gooder. The context I was raised in told me that’s who I needed to be.

The strictly literalist context, mixed with an abusive father, shaped me into a malleable actor. I became who people wanted me to be. I adjusted my desires and needs according to what was happening around me.

Maybe you’re the same way.

People become people-pleasers for a host of reasons. Ones that are often less heavy (and heavier) than the ones stated above.

But I tell you all that in order to tell you this: having honest opinions as a people-pleaser is hard. It rocks the boat.

Every time I have voiced my opinion in a serious situation, it cost me. It’s cost me relationships, money, and job opportunities. But I’ve never regretted a single instance. The losses have always made room for greater gains.

Peter Thiel and the billion-dollar question

In this post, you’re going to learn how to use another life-changing question. If you haven’t read them yet, here are the questions I’ve covered:

This question comes from the multi-talented and controversial Peter Thiel. Regardless of your opinions about the man, he knows what he’s doing when it comes to building value in the world. From PayPal to Facebook to Palantir, his record of billion-dollar wins is staggering.

And yet, he doesn't owe his success to a genius IQ or impressive networking skills or even an above-average technical aptitude.

Instead, his advantage is his perspective. And his perspective is a product of the types of questions he has learned to ask.

In his book, Zero To One (Buy on Amazon), Thiel breaks down his approach to assessing opportunities in the market and life. He specifically looks for openings where he can create something, where a business can make a new something out of nothing (i.e., go from zero to one).

These cases offer the most significant upsides. When you are the one, you own that market. In the beginning, it's like you've built your own little monopoly because, until you’ve created your new thing, no one was even thinking about competing in the space you now control.

“A zero to one moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.” ― Peter Thiel

The trick, then, is to develop your ability to discover these types of openings. It's a skill that can be developed. Trained. And the way to start is by asking today's question:

“What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” — Peter Thiel

Or, as I like to reword it: What do you believe to be true that most people don't?

The goal isn’t to be contrarian merely for the sake of it. Instead, the goal is to find the opportunities only you can understand because of your experiences, contexts, beliefs, challenges, resources, and desires.

Can you see the challenge present for people-pleasers?

If we’re always at the mercy of others, trying to shape who we are and what we think so that we fit in – we handicap our ability to create and change and discover.

Progress, whether in our lives or the world at large, will always move in the opposite direction of an established norm. The better will always come at the expense of the good.

Opinions make decisions easier

One of the most opinionated companies on the internet is Basecamp, and I absolutely love them for it.

They argued for the benefits of remote work for decades before the pandemic made it a necessity. They hire "managers of one" or self-motivated employees so that they don't have to waste resources on middle managers. They've chosen, for over 15 years, to stay small. They'd rather serve their core audience with depth than grow big and shallowly serve more.

One idea they preach time and time again on their blog, Signal v. Noise, is that all of their positions actually make their lives, and business, easier.

“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.” ― Jason Fried

Strong opinions make decisions simple because beliefs act as a filter.

It’s not a coincidence that Peter Thiel and Jason Fried have both had major success in the software industry. And yet, they are diametrically opposed in terms of business opinions and beliefs. The two men couldn't be more different, and this is precisely their advantage.

Creation requires bravery

If you want to create something of distinct value in the world…

If you want to change your life…

If you want to stop endlessly measuring yourself against the standards your peers and feeds have given you…

Then you need to stand for something. You need to own and voice your opinions. You need to not shy away from believing differently.

Your creations need you to be brave.

One truth I believe that most people don’t is that doubt sets us free. It’s the engine of innovation. The only way to find an alternate path is by questioning the existing ones.

What about you? Here are some questions to stoke your unique viewpoints and beliefs:

  • What makes you incredibly angry that most people overlook?
  • What would you change if you had unlimited resources?
  • Who should be more famous than they are? Why?
  • What part of yourself do you tend to hide from others?

These questions are an excellent start to helping you answer the question: What do you believe to be true that most people don't?

Make new rules

Not every answer to this question will lead to a business opportunity. But, at the very least, the answers will help you understand yourself better.

I’ve written before that each of these life-changing questions helps us make our own rules in some way.

Whether it's finding an answer that’s right for us (because there is no ultimate right answer in every situation), or redefining how we tackle problems (only lazy people choose the hard way), or carving out our own little hill to die on – our lives are what we make them.

The experiences, contexts, and resources we’ve been handed by life are simply the ingredients. We get to choose how they come together. We get to decide who we become in this life. No one else has that power, so stop giving it away.

Hold to your beliefs. Value your opinions. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.

Because where you differ is where you dominate.