Athletes and Nerds, Creators and Fighters

When it comes down to it, I just want to build cool stuff. I’m a Nerd.

Peter Thiel characterizes two dichotomous personality types: Nerds and Athletes. Nerds are motivated by the act of creation, Athletes by competition. Competition is inherently destructive because a competitor only wins if someone else loses.

The definitions have nothing to do with technical or physical ability, but personal tendency. Nerds avoid fighting (probably because they got their asses pummeled a lot as kids), and athletes seek out competition because they have a history of being good at it.

A fighter says, Let’s disrupt the mousetrap industry by building a better mousetrap. A nerd says, Let’s build a cat. Well, not a cat, because cats are lame, but maybe a mouser, or a flying spaghetti monster.

Truly disruptive technology is created by nerds. Because nerds go out of their way to avoid fighting, they build things where competition hasn’t begun to look.

But organizations need both nerds and athletes. A company full of fighters would self-implode. In a world with only creators, socialism might be a fine institution. But when the competitive athletes come along, companies full of nerds get steamrolled.

See Also:
1. Blake Masters’ Notes Essays—Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup—Stanford, Spring 2012
2. peter thiel

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