Thanks to Christopher Lam, for this article
I think the way that you respond to rejections, obstacles and failure says a lot about an individual. Do you persevere and fight back? Or do you alter the course?
Peter Thiel found himself in a similar scenario after being outed as being gay by Gawker in 2007.
Thiel was told to suck it up, and grow thicker skin. But it wasn’t the violation of privacy that just irked him. It was the disappointing responses from his friends, family and even lawyers. Its a common response to tough problems by 90% of people; they assumed that nothing could be done. Its just the way things are,we say, this is how the world is.
He would internalise the attitude until a few years later, a 26 year old sitting across him would call him on his bullshit: “Peter, if everyone thought that way, what would the world look like?”
This conversation would form the first steps towards one of the most improbable conspiracies in recent times: Thiel’s takedown of Gawker.
If there are many lessons that we can take away, its the attitude behind Thiel’s response. Its an attitude that solves impossible problems, that does the things other people don’t see coming because they don’t think its possible. This attitude is something the world needs more of.
All of us have to work toward a definite future… that can motivate and inspire people to change the world.
Eric Weinstein defined a category of individuals as a ‘high agency person’; “When you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind, how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something? So, how am I going to get past this bouncer who told me that I can’t come into this nightclub? How am I going to start a business when my credit is terrible and I have no experience?”
Questions like these put us at crossroads. How do we respond when we are told something is impossible? Is that the end of the conversation or a start of one? One can accept it and do nothing. A high agency person questions it, fights it and rejects it.
This idea of agency, a subjective awareness of initialing, executing and controlling one’s actions, is controversial today. Much of discussion these days are about environmental factors; that one group is more privileged or biased over another. People talk about problems as if they are intractable, malevolently created. Even in the political right, there’s a focus on whether one gender is naturally better at this or that. But this doesn’t really matter at all when this is simply the averages of a group and not about the individuals.
Once you realise everyone around is no smarter than you, you alone can decide to change and influence things. Life isn’t a random walk; outcomes aren’t pre-written in the stars but come about as a result of hard work, grit and (to a small extent) luck. Case in point: Thiel struck back, devoting $10 million and 5 years in the background to support the Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker — eventually leading to $140 million in damages and dealing a mortal financial blow to Gawker. If you want a different world, it is on you to make it so. It may not be easy. But if you are called to this higher task, then it’s your obligation to carry it through.
“We live in a world where people don’t think conspiracies are possible. We tend to denounce ‘conspiracy theories’ because we are skeptical of privileged claims to knowledge and of strong claims of human agency. Many people think they are not possible, [and] that they can’t be pulled off.” says Thiel. If people believe that nature alone (ie. upbringing, past experiences) dictates the present/future, therefore don’t believe in their agency, then they will naturally find themselves with little of it. Believing you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you can do it (you need evidence & vision), but its unlikely you will get far if you don’t believe it.
Maybe the world would be a better place if more people exercised their agency and took up more plotting and planning. What if they conspired to eliminate what they believe are unjust, unfair and immoral, and tried to wield power in an attempt to change the world? I think the world would be a better place. We need fewer people who are resigned to the status quo. We need more people to take risks. We need less signalling of intentions and more secrecy, patience and planning. We need a world where people are capable of making changes (even those I disagree with) over a world where no one is capable of anything.
This is what high agency individuals like Thiel do. And its what we all should be doing.
Meet the Author
I'm William Chow, 24 year old kid from Sydney, Australia. One of my many passion is all things tech, startups & entrepreneurship. I work in a marketing tech startup and always keen to learn more. I'm also currently doing a grade cert in computing at UNSW. I regularly attend tech meetups & read a lot of books on startups. This blog will not only talk about startups, but also the latest tech gadgets, trendy tech news and basically anything related to tech!
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