19-Year-Old Student Postponed a Meeting and Became a Billionaire
Sometimes all you need to do to become a billionaire is to postpone a meeting (and take the lawsuit).
“I think it’s probably best to postpone meeting until we have more to discuss” — Mark — December 2003
Is it true? Yes. Is it an oversimplification? Absolutely not!
Postponing a meeting (with the guys that -maybe- handed you the idea of the century on a plate) is an important step on your way to become a billionaire, but it’s also just a step. The same way a single individual doesn’t make a soon to be $1 trillion company, one step doesn’t make a path.
“The success of Facebook is really all about the team that we’ve built.” — Mark — March 2011
Granted there’s this one step that puts you at the top of the mountain, but there are also all the steps that came before, tracing the trail to this moment and all the ones that come after, bringing you back down to be able to tell your story to your Mom and everybody else.
Let us take a few of these steps back and have a look at young Mark. According to the legend (read Wikipedia), Mark started his computer science curriculum in middle-school, say at age 12. By the time he postponed this famous meeting, he had under his belt not too far from the world-class master threshold of 10,000 hours of programming. That’s about 3.5 hours per day, seems high, but maybe not so high given how kids can be passionate (obsessive) about things. And Mark isn’t just passionate. Being passionate doesn’t cut it anymore in a close to 8 billion people world. You have to be super passionate!
“Find that thing you are super passionate about.” — Mark -March 2011
And then, once you’ve got the vision, you don’t just sit there (and wait for a guy in another dorm to write the code for you); you devise a strategy and start as soon as possible executing it ruthlessly. Maybe you drop out of college in your sophomore year, maybe you move from one side of the country to the other, but one thing is for sure, you have to break some stuff (and take the lawsuit that comes after).
“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough” — Mark — October 2009
And if it means diluting a co-founder, then you do it (and take the lawsuit). If you want your company to be successful, you must be extremely picky when it comes to hiring, and you must be ready to acknowledge mistakes and fire people with the wrong mindset. Some will even argue that it’s the most important process in any business. And, of course, Mark never wanted to work with anyone but the best of the best.
“You make sure that every person you add to your company is really great.” — Mark — March 2011
Because if you don’t do all that and don’t keep the company on a tight leash (read have voting control), you get sold to Yahoo…
And like Yahoo came in with this big offer for a billion dollars, which is, like, was going to, like, fulfill everyone’s financial dreams for the company. And I was like, “I don’t really think we should do this.” And everyone was like “What?” — Mark — July 2019
… and you don’t get to build the largest and most influential (social) media ever and be one of the five richest people in the world. Although Mark claims he’s not in this for the money, he’s doing it for the good …
“A lot of the founding principles of Facebook are that if people have access to more information and are more connected it will make the world better; people will have more understanding; more empathy. That’s the guiding principle for me.” — Mark — March 2011
… and 15 years after starting thefacebook.com, he still is a believer, albeit a more experienced one:
“ I’m a very idealistic person, right? I built this because I believe that giving everyone a voice is going to be a positive thing. And I still believe that. But I think now I have a little more awareness that when you give everyone a voice, […] you’re also going to see people try to abuse those systems on every way.” — Mark — April 2019
Now, if you go to the comment section of any youtube video featuring Mark, your ears will be ringing for days at the shouts of “LIAR”. Too much concentration of power they say. Too much for one company and way too much for one individual. Why should Mark be the one to decide what’s to be banned or not from Facebook? That’s a legitimate question.
On the other hand, he’s the one who built so efficiently the site from scratch, and we’re the ones who decide to use it… Maybe governments will kick in and regulate some of it? The future will tell. In the meantime, let us hope for Mark’s clarity of mind when he asks himself his morning question:
“Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?” — Mark — this morning
and let us hope next time someone comes up with a big idea how to make the world a better place, Mark will postpone some meetings and implement the idea as ruthlessly and successfully as he did with Facebook (and take the lawsuit if necessary!).