Life is a Game of Skill: In Zero to One is Peter Thiel is Half Right

Zero to OneIn Zero to One Peter Thiel states that your life isn’t a lottery ticket and goes on to make the case that skill and not luck is behind great achievements. And while I agree with a lot of what he says, I don’t believe that luck and skill are mutually exclusive. A game of luck is one in which you can’t lose on purpose; an example is a lottery, once you’ve bought the ticket there is no way for you to lose on purpose. Contrast that with a game like poker where one can lose on purpose if one wishes.

By that definition, your life is a game of skill.

So in this I agree with Thiel, but it is the next step where I believe we part ways. In his book he argues that skill is the dominant factor and he stories about people like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs to back up this claim. He also mentions people who believe luck is dominant; after mentioning folks like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet he decides to ignore their opinions that luck plays a large factor. Without taking anything away from the brilliance of the people who believe skill is dominant, I think it also behooves us to recognize that good timing and luck also play huge roles in their stories. Skill and hard work can make you a millionaire, to become a billionaire you have to get a bit lucky.

I see two benefits to this worldview, the first is that it says that hard work is rewarded and we can take credit for some of our success, but it also tells us to be humble around our greatest achievements since there are probably external factors that have helped us along.

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