We have featured pieces of and by Peter Thiel (‘Zero to One’ being one of the key reasons to start Marcellus) in 3L&3S. This piece of prose by David Perell (who runs an online writing course), focuses on one key aspect of why Peter Thiel is such an inspirational thinker – the need to question consensus and look for undiscovered truths or what Perell refers to as ‘Secrets’.
“Thiel defines secrets as important truths about the world that other people don’t yet realize. They are keys into hidden chambers of knowledge, free from the distortions of lies and propaganda.
His obsession with secrets is evident in his famous interview question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
…Thiel’s interest in secrets was inspired by one of his Stanford professors, a social theorist named Rene Girard who believed the world is filled with important but undiscovered truths.
Like Thiel, Girard was a Christian. Both of their fascination with secrets thus originates with the New Testament. Jesus Christ famously spoke in parables to undermine the orthodoxy of the time. In scripture, Proverbs 25:2 says: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.””
Perell then talks about how Nokia thanks to Mckinsey’s advice underappreciated the smartphone boom and disappeared just as Apple took the market under their nose.
“Just as Apple capitalized on the smartphone secret, Thiel capitalizes on secrets by investing in startups. Praising those elusive secrets, he writes: “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.”
Finding those secrets begins with a skepticism of consensus.
In the Bible, every time people unanimously agree on something, they are wrong. For example, the Tower of Babel story from the Book of Genesis outlines a united humanity where everybody speaks the same language. When they aim to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven, God confounds their speech so they can no longer comprehend one another. Then, he scatters them around the world. 
Ancient Jewish law heeded a similar lesson. If a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systematic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error was yet to be discovered. Intuitively, they reasoned that unanimous agreement signaled a mistake in the decision-making process.
With a skepticism towards consensus, Thiel says: “We always think that democracy is a good thing, and in a Democracy, the majority is more right than wrong. 51% is more right than 49%. 70% is even more right. But if you get to 99.9%, maybe that’s totally right — or maybe you’re in North Korea.”
Of course, consensus is often right. You shouldn’t disagree with something just because the majority of people believe it. That’s not contrarianism. That’s stupidity.
But do interrogate the dogmas of the day. Question authority. Read outside the mainstream. Surround yourself with independent thinkers. Observe which patterns cause humanity’s sense-making apparatus to malfunction and live in the persistent search of truth — especially when it’s unpopular.”

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Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.

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