If you would have asked Mark [Zuckerberg] what he thought Facebook would be he would have gotten it totally wrong. There’s an honesty here, that there’s a lot of luck that was between literally finding a version of a Facebook which was a product in US colleges, to now this global force that unites the world.
This idea that all of a sudden at a super young age you have a sense of all this stuff is bullshit. It’s hindsight, and it’s romanticizing something that was frankly a lot of serendipity.
Why that’s important is that right now I think the culture, particularly in Silicon Valley is so mercenary around talent and people. People hopscotch from job to job, they try to get every single little checkbox they can. It’s a very dangerous time in many ways because you’re much better off gaining some sort of perspective. That’s not a function of time, but it’s a function of experience. I look back at the years that I spent at AOL which were quite frustrating if you thought about it because here I am languishing at a place like AOL while my friends are working at Google and this and that, and it’s all working and nothing that we were doing was working. And they had equity and we were worthless.
But I got real experience. And I refined a point of view. And I really think, why can I do what I do? It’s because I have a extremely precise and very specific and unique world view. I got that through those experiences. The idea of being a founder is not the goal. It’s the byproduct of a point of view. And then the question is, how do you get to a unique point of view? And you get it through experience. And you can have them in totally different ways.
There’s the superficial manifestation, the notion of being a founder today is like what, yesterday, you would have said the notion of going and getting an MBA. It’s just bullshit. It doesn’t mean anything.
You either have really invented a really unique nanomaterial, or you’re bullshitting. Do you know what I’m saying? You either are really capable of designing something really clever, or you’re bullshitting.
You’re either really gaining a perspective because you’re doing something super interesting at a smaller company, but you care about what they’re doing, or you just go back to Facebook, or you’re bullshitting. You know?
Your entire life is going to be based on this idea of introspection, self-actualization, and blocking out the outside and noise. Everybody is trying to put you in a box. Every single person is trying to figure out a little way of just attaching a little label to you, so that you become incrementally more predictable to them.
You have to find a set of experiences that allow you to push back against that. And so you should focus on those. That’ll come through your friends, which is why you need to have an eclectic group of friends, by the time you spent [at school], where you go to work, having the courage to do things that are a little uncomfortable for you, force you to push back on the societal infrastructure that’s telling you to do the opposite. That’s what you need to be doing. That’s the roadmap.
And then the output of that will be all the other stuff that is superficial around it. Maybe you do start a company. Maybe you join a company, and then you start a company. Who cares? Those are, again, byproducts of a path. You’ve gotta find your own path, and have the confidence to stick to it.