Lessons from the world’s youngest self-made billionaire

YES, that’s right! I’m finally writing about Mark Zuckerberg. I had the privilege of lecturing at Harvard last February and was fascinated enough when a colleague brought me to Mark’s dorm inside the campus.

How a bunch of college students became game changers in an industry where practically every product is a commodity can be awe-inspiring.

The Facebook co-founder and CEO is the world’s richest Jew and the youngest self-made billionaire in history at age 23, thanks to Facebook’s IPO.

He is the biggest gainer in Forbes’ 2016 Billionaire’s List, moving up 10 spots last year to claim the ranking as the world’s sixth richest person. This tech executive and social media leader achieved the feat with a total net worth that Forbes estimated at $44.6 billion, up from $33.4 billion in the 2015 ranking. Since 2010, Time magazine has named Zuckerberg among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world as a part of its “Person of the Year” distinction.

According to Wikipedia, Zuckerberg was born in 1984 in White Plains, New York, the son of dentist Edward Zuckerberg and psychiatrist Karen Kempner. He and his three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a small Westchester County village about 21 miles (34 km) north of Midtown Manhattan.

Together with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, Mark launched Facebook from Harvard’s dormitory rooms. The group then introduced Facebook to other campuses. Facebook expanded rapidly, with one billion users by 2012. Zuckerberg was involved in various legal disputes that were initiated by others in the group, who claimed a share of the company based upon their involvement during the development phase of Facebook.

In the process of building the world’s largest social network, Zuckerberg has had a lot of supporters, as well as critics. Whether you love him or hate him, the fact remains that this college dropout has built something that only a few on the planet had the privilege to build.

But what’s most fascinating is how he did it. In a http://www.inc. article, there are profound and fundamental lessons (5 Ps) that Zuckerberg can teach us about building and growing a strong and vibrant business. Those contemplating and starting the path towards entrepreneurship and even Family businesses can learn reflect on the following values:

  1. Passion

The most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do. Zuckerberg has always been fascinated by building systems that connect people. His passion was always to make the world more open, sometimes radically so.

If you look at Facebook’s mission statement, its core hasn’t changed since inception. It states: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”

But first, let’s define what passion is. According to Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” I couldn’t agree with Oprah more.

Yes, Zuckerberg has always been passionate about using technology to connect people, but he has also put in the hard work to achieve it. Having passion for something means that you don’t give up. It gives you energy to work through difficulties. Where some people see failure, a passionate entrepreneur sees only a learning experience, a stepping stone to keep moving forward.

Mark says, “Passion is what turns a successful entrepreneur into a successful business leader: If you are driven by passion you won’t give up, no matter how long the journey, and you keep learning constantly.”

“Find that thing you are super passionate about. A lot of the founding principle 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. On hard days, I really just step back, and that’s the thing that keeps me going,” says Zuckerberg.

Lesson: Passion fuels perseverance, one of the key ingredients of success.

  1. Purpose

The really great companies have a sense of purpose at the root of all that they do, from hiring employees, to attracting the right investors, to their marketing and their customer service. That sense of purpose breeds the sense of belonging, it sparks intense employee and customer loyalty. Great leaders (and great companies) create movements, not just products. Facebook isn’t just a social networking site, it is a way of staying in touch with people around the world, a place to bring people together and build communities, and a tool for sharing information.

By always keeping his purpose in mind, Zuckerberg has been able to focus on creating the best product for achieving this.

“At Facebook, we’re inspired by technologies that have revolutionized how people spread and consume information. We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television; by simply making communication more efficient, they led to a complete transformation of many important parts of society. They gave more people a voice. They encouraged progress. They changed the way society was organized. They brought us closer together,” Zuckerberg says.

Lesson: Great companies don’t just create great products, they create movements.

To be continued.


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