**** I am denying rumors Mark Z read this post before getting married today :). I applaud his brave, human and loving ceremony today marrying longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan. Marty
I write knowing the intended audience for this post will never read, hear or act on it, but still important to share. How can I be so sure the Facebookers can’t hear my message? I used to be in the same headspace, chasing the same hollow things, filled with a larger than life sense of self-importance. Hearing the word “cancer” and your name in the same sentence brings life’s most humbling lessons fast.
Mortality is humbling and not something to DWELL on as much as appreciate. Life not being an infinite journey, there being no redo or reboot at the end, is what makes time so special, so meaningful and rewarding. Are my Facebook “life lessons” patronizing and a tad un-humble? Yep, but there are good things about having the Big C. One of those “good cancer” things is ACTING more than THINKING about acting (lol).
Life Lessons For Mark Zuckerberg and Other Facebook Millionaires
- Time Is More Valuable Than Money & Money Is A Form Of Time
Seeing those paper zeroes can easily trick our minds that money is an end to itself. Not so much as it turns out. Money is a conduit, a tool whose only very shallow purpose is to create more of it. Surviving cancer taught me another important money idea. Money buys time. When you can jump in the G5 and get to Europe in comfort and in about half the time the ratio of spending your most valuable asset, your time, in rewarding ways goes up (not that I've ever jumped in a G5 LOL).
- Beware Money Pirates
My first company, FoundObjects.com (RIP), helped the inventor of Magnetic Poetry Kit become a multimillionaire and that was way more than it ever did financial for my ex and me (but life is like that). The suckerfish that swam to the party when the money got large was a rogue’s gallery of pirates. Money Pirates are people whose skill is stealing OPM (other people’s money). Don’t trust how pretty girls (or guys) laugh at your jokes and beware the money pirates.
- Take Five Then Rinse and Repeat
There is nothing more depressing than climbing Mt. Everest. When you achieve a major life goal the let down can kill you. I rode a bicycle across America and almost didn’t know what to do with myself when I got home (right back into chemo made the decision for me :). Riding a bicycle everyday helped develop a set of very specific skills. By the end of Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer no computer was needed to predict distance or grade.
Look at 3,000 miles of road and you know a 12% grade well before you are on it. The Facebook team has been “in flow” for a long time. They live inside of their heads and on their computers and so have developed deep skills. Don’t lose that connection. Take five minutes, celebrate your work and start pedaling again.
- Black Swans Exist And Visit Every Life
At Some Point
I hate “bummer people”. People who see life as tragedy and not its corresponding magic and beauty are depressing. Bummer people live by transference and recruitment.
Like vampires, their job is to recruit people into their depression. Your only value, to such bloodsuckers, is joining. Once you are bitten they move on. Recruitment not fellowship is their never-ending goal. Large caveat stated it is important to recognize life’s randomness. Tricky thing about random is you never know when it will visit or for how long (lol), once visiting, this sometimes cruel guest will stay and stay and stay.
This moment, this exaltation, this party, is special NO MATTER WHAT. Never devalue the breath you take by assuming you have any right to the next one. Love the one you are with because empathy is best practiced deeply and daily.
- Save The World
At Choate I learned about Nobelesse Oblige. I failed French (read my funny story of a Texan trying to speak French in high school), but going to school with some serious RICH kids teaches an important lesson or two or three. Money amplifies character or lack of it. Rich kids fell into two groups. One group was nihilistic, unhappy and trying to kill themselves as fast as possible. Let’s call this group the “Values Not” group.
Another group was caring, kind and humble or as close to those things a teenager ever becomes. This “Values” group wasn’t showy or talkative about their good fortune. They didn't act like “I DID THIS” about something, their family's wealth, they lucked into. The Values group viewed money as a tool, were willing to share but expected quid pro quo and were smart enough or raised well enough to know that money doesn’t buy love, trust, respect or allegiance.
Most importantly the VALUES group understood life’s meaning comes FROM something earned not the lottery of birth. Those who receive much inherit the expectations of such a station. Save the world because saving the world is your job now. You may wrongly think creation of Facebook, a powerful save the world tool, is sufficient, that you have saved the world. Sorry, saving the world is one of those “journey” not “destination” jobs. Use those big brilliant brains to help save the world and to save yourself.
- Don’t Be An Ass
I can be an unfeeling, mean and an ass. I hope those moments are becoming less and less instead of more and more because my life’s mission is empathy, assistance and service. I’m here because strangers I don’t know have consistently put their lives on hold long enough to save mine.
I am not alone. Angels, and I mean that in the secular sense so don’t stop reading, regularly visit every life. Mostly we are unaware; we walk by often unappreciative of their magic, light and golden touch.
Just a few weeks ago a coworker saved my life by insisting I buckle a floatation device (will share that story soon). When I thanked him for saving my life, and Keith if you are reading this thanks again my friend, he didn’t see the magnitude of his gift. Another Big C benefit is you see the gifts; you experience the life giving force around us all the time more immediately and directly (wish it didn't take chemo to keep me on that path :).
This long story has a simple point – don’t be an ass. Don’t show off. Don’t buy million dollar cars and homes because such things are temporary and insignificant and confirmations of being an ass. Focus your mind on what got you here in the first place – passion, love and a desire to help others. Hug your family, smack your friends, walk the dog and laugh at the cat and try not to be an ass. If you fail don’t worry. We all do. Sell the car, rent the house and ride a bicycle or give your money away (I know a cancer survivor who could use some LOL) to recover yourself.
- Don’t Judge
Appropriate reaction to all things in life is bemused open curiosity. My art professor Alton Pickens taught me to hold opposing ideas, to be neutral about what I felt and saw. Alton’s life lessons were as magical as his arthritic hands were gruesome. I remember how awkward and guilty I felt meeting Alton for the first time in my early twenties not typically an empathetic age.
Alton wouldn’t allow such an emotion. He didn’t judge me for falling into a trap he’d seen before, the reaction to his hands, but he smiled and insisted we focus on the objective – how to express and connect, how to create art. Alton never judged me or the many messy horrible things I shared attempting to become the next Jackson Pollack. He did listen intently, put me first, coach, prod and challenge.
Judgment, Alton taught with his actions and life, is the enemy of art and every life should be about the one (art) and not the other (judgment). One thing about having a bunch of money in the bank is you think such a big account balance grants some superhuman right to pass judgment. It doesn’t.
- Who You Were Is Who You Are
Money amplifies character it doesn’t create or destroy character. The “you” that is in your head, the you your mother loves and your father respects, hasn’t changed. The hidden lesson here is money should be dead net neutral to your life.
Now you can see why buying things hurts more than helps. Buying things you couldn’t afford before reinforces a falsehood. Expensive toys seem to say, “Wow I am different, special and better than before.” Yeah, not so much as it turns out (lol). No external thing ever can or will create internal change. The YOU inside your head is only changed by experience, love and the magic of connection.
The problem with being an uber-smart geek is you think your ability to close out the world is why you’ve been successful. Facebook had a programming marathon in celebration of their good fortune. Everything we create is about connection. Connection is why Mark Z is part of the B club.
Connection is why average Facebook employees are now millionaires. The Facebook team built the largest connection machine we've ever seen or imagined. Connection, connection and connection are the keys to your and every life’s achievements no matter what they are.
I rode a bicycle across America. Connection was one of Martin’s Ride’s chief lessons. The difference between you and me or you and us is spiritually nothing. I don’t assert connection as prime mover in order to make a claim on anyone. You don’t owe me anything material and I owe you what you owe me – love, respect, trust and understanding how I treat you is how I care for myself. How we act on and in the world is what comes back, is the life we create. Connect and care and people will connect and care back.
- All Of Life Is In Every Moment
Time is a physical construct. Your past, present and future all only ever exist NOW. Eckhart Tolle explains the importance of NOW while warning against the dangers of never living in this moment. Worry about the future or remain depressed about the past robs your most valuable thing – THIS MOMENT otherwise known as your life.
I like to dream about ideas, people, places and things. I like to think about friends from Central Junior High in Greenwich. Friends like the best quarterback I ever played with, Matt Morano, a crazy smart inspirational guy in a clinch (Jeff Hor), beautiful girls (Lori Chapman, Cessy Borchetta (who married my friend Ronnie Harding), Dot Stites, and many others LOL) the best roommate I ever had (Ted Nevins), my best LOST friend now that I’ve found George Mandes (Ray Galvin) and my favorite friends to party with (Mike Israel, Greg Arnold).
These memories and friends make up ME. I don’t want to leave out my new brothers and sisters at Atlantic BT (Mark, Jon, Eileen, Mike, Keith, Daryl, Teresa, Matt, Aaron, Keith, Andrew, Chris, Jamie, John, Colin, Brandon, Patrick, Peter, Jonk, Nancy, Doug, Addie, Sam, Helen, Stephanie (both of them), Tonia, Erik, Bill, Andrew, Corey and well the entire Atlantic BT Team) and not to forget friends from NutraSweet including best boss I ever had (Mary Kay O'Connor) and my Director of Ecommerce days such as Phil, Molly, Susan, John, Eric, Peggy, Heather, Maureen, Cynthia, Erica, James, John, George and Mark and my Choate and Vassar tribe too numerous to mention here.
I still think about my ex frequently (we were married for 22 years after all) and almost NEVER do so with acrimony or pain (now that ego isn’t driving the car of my life). This moment, NOW, is what we have. Inside of this moment is everything we are or will be and every special moment and friend. Try to worry less, feel and love more and appreciate always.
My wish for the Facebook fortunate is find the love they (and we all) deserve, to appreciate and live in this very special moment and to continue to help save the world. You guys ROCK and thanks for creating such a magical thing.
Take five and then rinse and repeat.
written on a Saturday the day after Facebook’s IPO sitting at Saladelia in Durham, NC
Martin W. Smith
Director Marketing, Atlantic BT
Founder FoundObjects.com, Dada Box, Story Glasses, Alien Questionnaire, Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer and MobRiff (so I keep failing forward LOL)
Greatest Accomplishment – surviving the Big C thanks to the love and care of family, friends and strangers
2nd Greatest Accomplishment – riding a bicycle across America (Martin's Ride To Cure Cancer)
Next Greatest Accomplishment - unknown :)