Paypal founder Peter Thiel discusses how to think beyond professional tracks to find success. Watch the first video in our nine-week Summer School for the Real World series here:
What's the Big Idea?
In the 50’s if your dad worked on the docks, you worked on the docks. If your mom was a teacher, you became a teacher. If there were six kids in a family and one parent was a lawyer, there’s a good chance most of those kids were encouraged to become lawyers, too -- or at least to pass the bar so they’d have “something to fall back on” should their chosen path as a recording artist not turn out the way they had imagined.
Our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and neighbors don’t sit us down when we’re children and say, “We have come together as a community of your elders and decided you are to become a cardiac surgeon.” But aren’t our career pathways, at least in some way, carved out for us by the experiences and expectations of those around us? Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, argues that these (sometimes invisible) life “tracks” are stunting our innate entrepreneurial potential.
After years of working in the banking and finance industries, Thiel bootstrapped his way to success by founding PayPal, which today has more than 100 million active financial accounts. His ability to anticipate opportunities led him to sell PayPal in 2002 and make the first outside investment in Facebook, where he currently serves as a board member. He is a venture capitalist who continues to support the innovative spirit by investing in the projects of the next generation of tech companies, journalists, medical researchers and human rights activists.
What's the Significance?
Heading off to college at eighteen and spending four years obtaining a liberal arts degree no longer guarantees you an entry-level position at a company where you’ll be on the safe track to financial stability for the next twenty years, says Thiel. These days, more and more college grads are tossing their caps in the air in May only to find themselves staring out at the dismal employment landscape and drowning in student loan debt in June.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Thiel told Morley Safer, “We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing...everybody believed you had to have a house, they'd pay whatever it took. Today, everybody believes that we need to go to college, and people will pay-- whatever it takes." That's way too much, he argues, when people without a degree can make as much as those with an advanced one. So why not venture off the professional track and explore the entrepreneurial spirit within you? Let your talent and interests lead you to the career you truly desire.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Stocklite.