Facebook’s initial public offering has focused yet another spotlight on the social networking site and on Mark Zuckerberg, its iconic leader. But beyond the hoopla surrounding the IPO, there’s another, quieter story to be found in the wunderkind CEO: The lessons about life, personal finance and career that can be gleaned from his choices.
David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World — the only book about the site written with Zuckerberg’s full cooperation — offers an insider’s view of what we can learn from the 27-year-old billionaire, while challenging some of the conventional wisdom on the inscrutable entrepreneur.
Here, according to Kirkpatrick, are the key ingredients in Zuckerberg’s recipe for success.
1. Believe in Yourself
It may sound trite, but it’s old-fashioned positive thinking that propelled an idea hatched in a college dorm room into arguably the most influential business of the 21st century.
“Zuckerberg had an extraordinary conviction that he could make his dreams become a reality,” Kirkpatrick says. “It is impossible to underestimate the degree to which that is central to his success. He always knew he’d make a massive [impact] on society.”
And contrary to public perceptions heavily influenced by the movie The Social Network, Zuckerberg isn’t arrogant, Kirkpatrick says — he’s just “incredibly confident.”
2. Just Get It Done — Even If It Isn’t Perfect
The goal of perfection “is the kiss of death for so many projects,” Kirkpatrick says.
By contrast, Zuckerberg operates by the conviction that it’s better to be decisive than right. “He doesn’t let failure get him down.”
Mistakes are bound to get made, and that’s OK with Zuckerberg. He figures he can always tweak things later.
Zuckerberg himself discussed this philosophy — what he calls “The Hacker Way” — in a letter to prospective investors that was part of Facebook’s IPO filing. “Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once,” he wrote. He is so committed to this philosophy that he had it painted on Facebook’s walls: “Done is better than perfect.”
3. Stick to Your Vision and Tune Out the Naysayers
Time and time again, “Zuckerberg has been in positions when everyone around him was saying he would fail and that he was overreaching,” Kirkpatrick says.
He always had a vision that the site would be more than just a social network for college students, even when “the adults” in the company poo-poohed his ambitions.
That conviction was tested in 2006 when Yahoo offered $1 billion for the site. “Zuckerberg turned it down so that Facebook could achieve its ultimate purpose,” Kirkpatrick says.
Today the site, which ended up reshaping social interaction worldwide, boasts more than 800 million active users, and its IPO values the company somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion.
4. Loyalty Breeds Success
Mark Zuckerberg is fiercely loyal, according to Kirkpatrick. If that idea raises eyebrows, it shouldn’t, he says, reiterating that the cold and socially-insensitive characterization of Zuckerberg in The Social Network is pure fiction.
“He puts a high priority on the quality of the relationships he has with people. He believes in human relationships, which is what led him to create Facebook in the first place.”
Zuckerberg also gets that “helping other people actualize their desires and hopes is central to how the world turns” — and is integral to a successful venture, Kirkpatrick said.
5. Live Below Your Means
Zuckerberg does not live large. It was only last year that the billionaire moved out of a small, rented apartment into a home he bought near Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
“He’s never been extravagant,” Kirkpatrick says. “He’s not extravagant in his consumption, and he’ll end up giving away all of his money. He’s not a consumer.”
6. Follow Your Passion — Not the Money
It’s not coincidental that some of the most successful people in life, from Warren Buffet to Steve Jobs, were never motivated by the prospect of riches, and Zuckerberg is no exception, Kirkpatrick says.
passion”Follow your happiness,” he says. Even if you don’t end up making a fortune, you’ll be doing what you love.
Zuckerberg is happiest when he’s writing code and finding new ways to help people connect with each other. Facebook was built to “accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote in the letter to potential investors.
Financial success may flow from following your bliss. But for Zuckerberg, Kirkpatrick insists, “it’s not about the money. If he had done it for the money, he would have sold it years ago.”