[This post was previously posted on Linkedin]
Two short stories.
The first one is about Mark Zuckerberg. I read about it in this great Forbes’ article.
When Facebook had yet to become the huge company it is today, Zuckerberg had another business, an application for point-to-point file transferring.
This app was called Wirehog, and the team behind it included Adam D’Angelo — one of Quora’s founders — and some other Facebook’s founders.
Wirehog ended up failing to get significant traction and being closed a year and a half after its launch. Its founders wanted to focus, and believed Facebook had a better chance.
But while Wirehog was still live, Mark went to Sequoia — a large venture capital firm in the United States — supposedly in a fund-raising mood, and he did his famous presentation in pajamas.
Michael Moritz, one its recognized investors, was among the selected audience, and he recalls Mark ending his presentation with the line “A Mark Zuckerberg Production”.
When reflecting on that, he is quoted in the article:
I remember privately admiring the bravado and self-confidence to insert that line. I would never have had the courage to do that at his age.
What I find amazing is that not only he was very young, but the fact that Facebook was at that time nothing compared to what it is today.
He believed in himself.
The second story is about Brian Acton, one of WhatsApp’s founders.
On May 23, 2009, Brian tweeted this:
72 days later, he goes on to tweet this:
1,661 days later, Facebook announces the acquisition of WhatsApp. The adventure he had created was a part of the everyday life of millions of people.
Two takeaways about this:
1. I admire his openness to expose himself and share his two rejections when one usually has exactly the opposite instinct: hide them at all cost; better if no one ever knows. Instead, this guy exposed himself twice.
2. The second thing is his inherently optimistic standpoint in life. Because that is what he shows precisely when at the very moment he is being turned down he reminds himself that life has an adventure waiting for him. An adventure that needs to be discovered, created, written, or however you want to think about it.
Reflecting on these two short anecdotes, I believe all of us can think about ourselves the same way: there is an adventure for us waiting to be uncovered, but we need to believe in ourselves.
Astro Teller, the head of Google’s research arm — Google X -, said in a talk to gifted students about to finish high school, that the 3 traits that would enable them to change the world didn’t include their IQ, but were instead:
- Being decisive
- Being passionate
- Being adaptable
Life can be seen as a never ending series of opportunities to exercise and learn these things. We only need to seize those opportunities. Decide, be passionate, and adapt.
This won’t prevent any obstacles from coming our way trying to make us go back or abandon, but every adventure comes with them. I’m sure Brian thinks those rejections were already part of his own adventure.
Unfortunately, it is nothing like a turn on/off button or a plug & play device.
Quite more demanding, it is the constant expanding of our limits, of coming up with a better question, coming up with a better answer, learning to team up, failing and standing back up.
A journey in its own, well worth this effort.
Even better if someone goes along with us: seeing someone choosing this path usually encourages us to do the same.
Over time, we will realize that what we thought we couldn’t achieve is indeed achievable.
We will then be shooting for the moon, and it will make for a wonderful adventure.