Have you seen The Social Network?
I watched it recently, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Now, I recognize that the movie is full of inaccuracies; it’s not a documentary about the history of Facebook, nor is it an accurate portrayal of Sean Parker, or Zuckerberg himself. Despite all that, it is a great movie, and if you haven’t seen it, then you should.
But this post isn’t a review of the movie.
No, this post is about a lesson that I learned and kick in the butt that I received from the Zuckerberg character depicted in the movie.
That, and the MASSIVE SENSE OF INADEQUACY that I felt about my work and career after watching it…
Am I Jealous of Mark Zuckerberg?
Hearing a statement like that, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that I’m jealous of Zuckerberg’s success.
Actually, even without hearing a statement like that, it’s easy to assume that I would be jealous of Zuckerberg’s success!
Facebook’s growth has been dizzying; they had their first million users in less than a year, now they’re up past 800 million users, and will soon pass the billion user mark.
Last I heard, Facebook was valued at about $100 billion, generates billions of dollars in revenues, and rumor has it that an IPO is in the works to raise $10 billion more. (Cash!)
And there’s also the tequila-shooting and code-writing job interviews, California parties, and groupies – all of which makes it look like an awful lot of fun to be the genius Harvard drop-out who founded Facebook!
Oh, and did I mention that Zuckerberg is one year younger than I am?
Yeah, that’s the part that really gets to me… but not for the reason that you might think…
It’s not about the Money or the Scale… It’s about the Impact
The truth is that I’m not jealous of Zuckerberg’s success.
I don’t want to create a multi-billion dollar company, and I don’t need thousands of employees. I’m not interested in that kind of money, or that kind of stress.
What I am jealous of is the impact that Zuckerberg and others have had on the way that our world functions:
- Mark Zuckerberg changed the way we interact with Facebook
- Tim Berners-Lee changed the way information is shared with the World Wide Web
- Jeff Bezos changed the face of online retailing with Amazon
- Sean Parker changed the music industry with Napster
- Steve Jobs changed the world of personal computing with Apple
- Zennström and Friis changed long-distance calling with Skype
I want to be on that list, and watching the Social Network, and the scale of Zuckerberg’s thinking, reminded me that for a short while, I had forgotten about changing the world.
Just like we all do from time to time…
Why We Forget About Changing the World
Not everybody cares about changing the world, but a lot of people do.
Most people drop out of the race because “it’s just not practical”, or “a few people can’t change the world” (although, as Margaret Mead said, “it’s the only thing that ever has”).
And the few of us who remain often get distracted by the steps along the way.
Because, unlike Zuckerberg, we can’t all change the world from our college dorm room; we can’t all get a million users in less than a year, and we can’t all create a net worth north of a billion dollars while still in our twenties.
Not because we aren’t smart, or talented, or capable, but just because our circumstances are different – Zuckerberg is no doubt a genius, but he was also in the right place at the right time, tackling one of the few ideas capable of sustaining itself so well and so quickly.
The rest of us have to follow a slightly longer path. We have to support ourselves and our vision, which means that we have to create both financial viability, and a platform from which to start making things happen.
And often, along the way, the process of building that platform and financial sustainability distracts us from changing the world, and we never get back to it.
That’s what happened to me. For a short while, I got distracted.
I was distracted by building Firepole Marketing and promoting our training program. I was distracted by launching Motiv808, and then re-launching it as the new-and-improved Bowl of Goals. I was distracted by getting married, and I was distracted by launching Engagement from Scratch!
These are all good distractions – they make me happy, and they better position me to change the world in the way that I want to change it.
The key is to keep at least some of your attention on that overarching goal…
“Do I Have Your Full Attention?”
There is a powerful scene in The Social Network in which Zuckerberg is being deposed, and is visibly uninterested in the proceedings. The opposing attorney asks him “Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?”
The scene is less than 90 seconds long – take that time to watch it before you keep reading:
If you look past the condescension and rudeness of the Zuckerberg character, there’s an important lesson here, which is to keep at least some of your attention on the big picture.
That doesn’t mean you won’t deal with the little things, but it does mean that the little things should all tie back to the big thing!
The little things are the day-to-day of living our lives and paying our bills. They’re the campaign that you’re running this month for your business, and the promotion that you’re running next month on your blog.
These should all be steps towards creating the ultimate impact that you want to have. They don’t have to take you far in that direction – after all, they’re just small, everyday steps – but they should be moving you in the right direction.
If they aren’t moving you towards your goals, or they’re moving you away from them, then something needs to change!
Connecting the Dots to Paint Your Ideal World
The Social Network reminded me to connect the dots of what I’m doing to the goal of what I want to create. Once I did that, the feeling of inadequacy was gone.
Changing the world is a long process, and you’ll pass through a lot of waypoints as you work your way towards it.
Start with your ultimate goal, and work backwards; what are the prerequisites for your goals to be met? What needs to be in place for you to be able to make it happen? And what do you need in order to put those things in place?
Keep on backtracking, until you arrive at something that you can do today.
The list may be long, but that’s okay – mine involves dozens of steps, and will take me over a decade!
Which is fine.
The key is to keep moving in the right direction.
Before you can do any of this, though, you need to get clear on what impact you want to have in the first place.
How will you change the world?
So I’ll ask you: what is it that you want to change?
It can be anything you want, big or small; the beauty of really big goals is that they don’t have to be met on a tight timeline.
It may take a long time, and it will definitely take a lot of work – but it’ll be worth the work, and worth the wait.
So what do you think? Are you ready to start changing the world?
We’re starting a new year, and this is when people commit to the really big things that they want to achieve.
Some of them even stick with it, and make it happen.
Will you be one of those people?
How are you going to change the world?
Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).