I’ve seen “The Social Network” twice and plan on seeing it again at least two more times. I am taken by this movie. It took me about a week to understand consciously why. There is so much jammed into this film that it’s hard to take it all in in one sitting. Ever since I walked out of the movie on opening night, I have been more inspired than ever to continue my entrepreneurial path in technology, media and textiles.
As an entrepreneur watching this film, here are the lessons I see from watching “The Social Network”:
1. Sometimes there are more important things in life than school.
As a college dropout myself (I dropped out during my junior year at USC), there has always been a little voice telling me I did the wrong thing. I’m not bashing education; I’m just saying that the system as is isn’t for everyone. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both left college to pursue their dreams and went on to establish Microsoft and Facebook, respectively. Here are some other surprising billionaire college dropouts: Steve Jobs (Apple), Paul Allen (Microsoft), Ralph Lauren (designer), Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Kirk Kerkorian (Vegas entrepreneur), Barry Diller (IAC) and many more. People like Richard Branson (Virgin), Walt Disney, Milton Hershey (Hershey Chocolate), Coco Chanel and Henry Ford didn’t even go to college.
The lesson here is that being pulled by the inspiration of a big idea within you is more important than doing what the “system” tells you to do. My advice is to follow your dreams, and as you go along, surround yourself with the smartest and most talented people you can find.
I personally chose my education to be the act of having a business instead of learning about it in school and then having no real-life experience at graduation. I wanted a head start at the experience of having a business instead of just knowledge about business.
Obviously this isn’t true for all professions. If you want to be a doctor, for example, school is a must, but for budding entrepreneurs with big ideas, school can be a dead-end choice.
Dropping out of school is a big risk. You have to to have a major belief in yourself and the determination and persistence of a warrior. It’s not an easy path, but for people like me, it’s the only path.
You can always go back to college later in life after having gained so much from your life experience in the real world.
2. It’s not about who has an idea but who can execute it.
There’s a phrase that says, “There are no original ideas.” Also, a lot of mystics, saints and sages believe that all human beings are tapped into the “Universal Mind” and that we all have access to the same ideas and inspiration. It’s all about who is listening and who has the chops to pull it off.
Aaron Sorkin, the writer of “The Social Network,” has said that no one knows the exact truth of what happened between Zuckerberg, the Winklevai and Saverin. But the truth is in the outcome. Facebook happened because Mark Zuckerberg had the chops, the confidence, the vision and the discipline to make it happen. So if you have a big idea, you should know that you probably aren’t the only one. Your job is to get busy making it happen. Look how fast Zuckerberg created and put Facebook online. It wasn’t years of slaving away; it was weeks of hard work to create the first version — the most important weeks of his life.
3. Change can happen fast.
The phase “from idea to execution” doesn’t have to be forever. Zuckerberg is living proof that with enough vision, talent and hard work, you can change your life in the blink of an eye. If you have an idea, don’t wait on it. Throw yourself into it. Ideas, once executed, have a way of pulling you up out of your current circumstances and elevating you to a whole new level of living that you were never aware of before. Enough lollygagging; start now.
Half of me understands why Eduardo Saverin’s stake in the company was reduced when others’ weren’t. The other half feels that Mark betrayed him as depicted in the film. That being said, the guy did move to New York and stay in school as Facebook was blowing up. Mark took action. He moved to Silicon Valley, dropped out and dove into his passion. If I were Mark, I’d feel like my partner had abandoned me and that although he had contributed to the beginnings, he wasn’t showing up when I needed him most. The lesson here is that in any relationship, business or personal, if you want it to blossom, show up. Your time, presence and attention are valuable commodities.
5. Figure out how to be of service.
Facebook’s popularity and quick rise has nothing to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s programming chops. He could have easily programmed a million different sites. But the site he chose to program provided so much value to the users that the product sold itself through the strongest way possible: word of mouth.
Facebook unites us. Facebook allows us to express ourselves. It helps us keep in touch with the world and our loved ones. Sometimes, Facebook even helps us get laid.
That’s being of service. If you want to rise in your business endeavor, figure out how your product can solve problems and be of service. This is the key to your success. Everything else is just details.
6. Content and community first, revenue second.
I am totally inspired by Zuckerberg’s decision to not go for ads in the beginning. One of the best lessons in the movie is that if you have something cool, don’t sell out too quickly. Yes, we are all entrepreneurs and we want to make a buck, but Sean Parker’s analogy of having all the little fish versus the big fish is correct. Keep the bigger vision and shoot for the big fish. Keep your product cool. Put out the best content, build a large community of trusted consumers and users. If you focus on that, the numbers will organically grow. And then, as my partner Malcolm CasSelle says, “where traffic grows, revenues will follow.” Put content and community first. Revenue will come.
7. Visualize success as your final result.
One of the great things about “The Social Network” is that from the beginning, you know that success is on the other end of Zuckerberg’s efforts.
That gives a wonderful perspective for the viewer, because we know that no matter what struggles he went through, the end result was success. This is a great view to take on your life. No matter what struggles you have in your life, see it all working out and that success will be your end result. It might work on idea one or idea 10,000, but the important thing is to keep success in mind and know that is how your story will end if you choose it to be.
8. When you have a great product, money finds you.
When you’ve created a great product that gives great value and is of service to your consumers, they will tell their friends. If you keep delivering the same high level of value and also constantly improve the value you are giving, money will find you. Money will find you from your consumers as well as your investors. Investors want to invest in companies with momentum and a story. Because of the Internet and relatively low costs and barriers to enter into many businesses these days, investors want more than an idea. Consumers can’t buy an idea; they can only buy hard goods and services. Focus on making the product as amazing as possible and it will begin to sell itself. Let money chase you; don’t chase the money.
9. Sex is fun but can hold you back.
In “Think and Grow Rich,” one of Napoleon Hill’s main reasons why men are successful later in life is because they spend their early years chasing tail. Your creative energy can be used up with too much sex and dating. Entrepreneurs should cherish their creative energy the same way they would cherish an angel investment. Focus on your business and love will follow.
10. Not getting what you want can be a blessing.
Along the same lines as number nine above, sometimes we are meant for greater things. Imagine what would have happened that fateful night if Mark Zuckerberg had gotten the girl. It’s quite possible that Facebook wouldn’t exist. Many times, creativity is born in the anger of rejection. See the events of your life as playing out perfectly, and if you aren’t getting what you want, try to detach and see the bigger picture.
From now on, see not getting what you want as a gift from the universe that leaves room for something much greater to enter. And don’t sit around and mope; get creative! Make something happen. Use that “poor me” energy and dive into your creative mind. Who knows, that one person rejecting you could be the start to your own multi-billion-dollar, world-revolutionizing venture.
11. Focus, young Jedi.
I love how after getting an inspiration for Facebook, Zuckerberg totally dove into the creation of it. He was so focused and dedicated that he changed his life forever in less than a month. How many of us can say that? If you have a great idea that lights you up, don’t fear what will happen if you focus all your energy on that. What we think about expands; what we focus upon expands — focus on your idea! Give yourself over to it and let the journey of following your idea take you into a wonderful and brand new land. You can be sure that on the other side you will be a stronger and wiser person.
Don’t take your ideas lightly. Cultivate a burning desire to make it happen, yesterday. Time waits for no one. Get busy getting busy. The universe respects focused and bold action. You’ll be surprised how much progress you can make when you focus on one thing at a time.
12. Not everyone is going to be happy with you.
You are going to ruffle some feathers if you want to fly. Since no one knows what really went down, it’s hard to draw a real conclusion about the morals of everyone involved. But the fact remains that to be successful, you need to develop an energy shield that reflects the negativity that you will certainly encounter as you rise.
When you stand up and begin to shine, you become a target. Shine on anyways. Who gives a damn about the negative opinion of others. Get used to critics and haters. Sometimes they have really good things to say and can help you grow. Remember that your haters are still watching you and are most likely your number-one fan. I heard a statistic that over 50 percent of Howard Stern’s audience back in the day hated him but tuned in to hear what he would say next. They might hate him, but who’s laughing all the way to the bank?
13. Don’t screw over your friends.
Money changes people. Don’t be that person. Make your friendships way more important than money. Money comes and goes but friendships are priceless. You don’t want to be the person who is sitting on top of the money pile all alone. Put the top value on building strong relationships and less value on money. Amazing people and love are priceless. Don’t take these very precious resources for granted. They make life worth living.