The Ideology of Competition – Excerpt from Zero to One: Notes on Startups

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Creative monopoly means new products that benefit everybody and sustainable profits for the creator.

Competition means no profits for anybody, no meaningful differentiation, and a struggle for survival.

So why do people believe that competition is healthy? The answer is that competition is not just an economic concept or a simple inconvenience that individuals and companies must deal with the marketplace.

More than anything else, competition is an ideology, the ideology that pervades our society and distorts our thinking. We preach competition, internalize its necessity, and enact its commandments, and as a result, we trap ourselves within it. Even though the more we compete, the less we gain.

This is a simple truth, but we have all been trained to ignore it. Our educational system both drives and reflects our obsession with competition. Grades themselves allow precise measurement of each student’s competitiveness; pupils with the highest marks receive status and credentials.

We teach every young person the same subjects in mostly the same ways, irrespective of individual talents and preferences.

Students who don’t learn best by sitting still at a desk are made to feel somehow inferior, while children who excel on conventional measures like tests and assignments end up defining their identities in terms of this weirdly contrived academic parallel reality.

And it gets worse as students ascend to higher levels of the tournament. “Elite students climb confidently until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them. Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking.

For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?”

― Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

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About Roche Mamabolo

Entrepreneur, Author, Dad. Passionate about Innovation and Creativity, Books, Poetry, Traveling, Theatre, Art, Music.
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