Mark Zuckerberg is much more than the world’s youngest billionaire.
At age 27, the founder and CEO of Facebook has forever changed the way we share ideas, interact with friends, and present ourselves to the world.
This didn’t happen by accident. Mark has been able to accomplish extraordinary feats because he’s lived his life in an extraordinary way.
Keep reading for nine ways that you can be more like Mark Zuckerberg.
#1 Combine Ideas
The best new ideas are often just new combinations of old ideas.
In October 2003, while a sophomore at Harvard University, Mark created a website called Facemash. Facemash would place the images of two Harvard students opposite one another and ask users to pick which was more attractive.
The website was a hit on campus, but there was one big problem: Zuckerberg had hacked into Harvard’s computer network to get the images of the students and was therefore violating people’s privacy. The university shut Facemash down.
Later that semester, Zuckerberg made a website to help his classmates study for their art history final. Like Facemash, it was hit at Harvard. Unlike Facemash, it allowed users to post comments underneath images.
Around the same time, Zuckerberg began working as a programmer for a group of Harvard students who were developing a dating and networking site called HarvardConnection.com.
All three of those ideas were good (if flawed) on their own, but when Zuckerberg put them all together they became Facebook.
#2 Start Exclusively
On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook.com, a social network exclusively for Harvard students. The next month, he introduced it to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale.
Soon Facebook opened to more Ivy League schools, eventually spreading to all universities across the United States.
Only after expanding from colleges to high schools and companies did Facebook go public in September of 2006. That’s over two-and-a-half years after it first launched.
Why start exclusive?
If you want to attract as many people as possible to your website or business, it seems like you would want it available to everybody right away.
But these things take time to grow – and it’s often better to incubate your business in a smaller community before going global with the big boys.
Furthermore, people are more likely to visit sites that are catered specifically to their needs, partly because we enjoy being part of a ‘select few’ who are able to participate.
This isn’t just good advice for websites. If you’re providing a service, try starting by working exclusively for one very small niche. Contact the people and businesses in that group and let them know that your work is tailored specifically for their needs. Expand from there.
#3 Work Backwards from the Customer
The customer is always right.
So why do so many entrepreneurs come up with a product or service and then ask, “How can we convince people that they need this?”
As Mark Zuckerberg will tell you, it’s better to first get inside the head of your customer and find out what they want, and then provide it:
“The question [guiding our decisions at Facebook] isn’t ‘What do we want to know about people.’ It’s ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?’”
While sites like MySpace and Friendster fell to the wayside, Facebook grew into the 800-million-member behemoth it is today because it has a knack for understanding how people want to share and connect socially.
#4 Make Your own Rules
Mark may be a bit on the shy side, but he’s not afraid to shake things up.
He once had a business card that read, “I’m CEO… B***H” and he sometimes wears rubber sandals to board meetings.
Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is that you don’t have to follow a business code of conduct. It can signal to clients and customers that you’re an innovator who will excel in the ever-changing world of 21st century business.
#5 Have a Mission
Already worth $17.5 billion (and having pledged half of his wealth to charity), it’s hard to believe that Zuckerberg is motivated by the desire for more money.
“Yeah, we can make a bunch of money – [but] that’s not the goal.”
He continues to work hard for Facebook’s success largely because he has a vision for how his company can shape the world:
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
If you haven’t already, take the time to consider the overarching mission of your enterprise. When you’re aware of the positive impact that your business can make, you’ll be more motivated to work hard and make it happen.
#6 Think Worldwide
In 2010, Zuckerberg began blocking out an hour every day to learn Mandarin Chinese. That December, he traveled to Beijing and toured the offices of Baidu (the Chinese equivalent of Google).
With a population of 1.3 billion, Zuckerberg clearly sees the potential in tapping the Chinese market.
In the Internet age, barriers of distance have become almost irrelevant. So take a page from Mark and think of your business as a global endeavor.
#7 Get “Wired-In”
“I keep programmer time sometimes…programmers tend to stay up really late and work when everyone else is asleep. So it’s not really uncommon for me to stay up until 6 or 8 in the morning.”
If Mark hadn’t been willing to work way past his bedtime, he never would have been able to launch Facebook while enrolled full time at Harvard University.
This work ethic remains in Facebook’s company culture to this day.
Facebook regularly holds “Hackathons,” in which their engineers stay up all night, coding from 8 pm until dawn. Past Hackathons have yielded Facebook Chat and the friend suggester.
Sometimes our best work comes when we immerse ourselves completely in a project, late at night for hours on end.
#8 Learn How to Program
What do the founders of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook all have in common?
They were all programmers.
“My number one piece of advice is: you should learn how to program.”
Computer programmers create digital systems – and digital systems have never been more important to the way we live and do business. Zuckerberg’s advice above stems from his understanding that skilled programmers will be in very high demand for decades to come.
Of course, some of us have ambitions that don’t require lines of code.
So the real lesson here is to develop the skillset necessary to accomplish your goals. That way, when you have a billion-dollar-idea, you’ll actually have the ability to bring it into existence (like Mark did).
#9 Challenge Yourself to Be Better
Mark Zuckerberg takes self-improvement very seriously.
He lists “eliminating desire” as one of his interests on his Facebook profile and he takes on a new “personal challenge” every year.
In 2005, when some Facebook investors and employees began criticizing Zuckerberg’s performance as CEO of the company, Zuckerberg didn’t get defensive. Instead, he took “CEO Lessons” from a retired former CEO.
Businesses are a reflection of their owners and part of the reason that Facebook keeps getting better is because Mark keeps getting better.
If you liked this article, share it on Facebook. Mark would want it that way.