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7 lessons from The Social Network you haven’t heard yet


I first heard about The Social Network earlier this year. The initial rumblings mentioned Sorkin and Fincher had teamed up as writer/director–OK, now you have my full attention.

As a huge Sorkin fan (I was glued to West Wing and Studio 60) and an admirer of Fincher (Seven still among my all-time favorite movies), I’m apt to see anything these two are involved with. Strip away all the hype surrounding this movie, and those two guys are the real reason I went to the theater last weekend.

Much has been written, obviously, about this flick over the last few weeks. Review posts, insights gleaned and lessons learned.

But, I’m here today to share with you a few lessons that haven’t been as widely shared or promoted:

* Ego is necessary to win. Think about the most successful people in business and sports. Gates. Trump. Stewart. Now, think about Zuckerberg. What do they all have in common? Massive egos. And, it’s not a rip–it’s actually a requirement in business. To win at the level these folks are winning at, you need to know each and every day that you are the absolute best at what you do. It’s just that simple. Think about it.

* It’s always about the girl. Money. Fame. Winter (and summer) homes. None of it matters. Why? Because when you strip it all away, what was at the heart of everything Zuckerberg wanted to do in the movie? A girl. Now, I don’t know if the story within the story was true (Zuckerberg chasing his first college love), but I do know that generally the more successful you become, the fewer people you can trust (also a theme in the movie). So, loved ones you can trust become even more critical. Especially that one partner you hope will be with you your entire life.

* Don’t mess with twins who row crew with old money from Connecticut. ‘Nuff said.

* Today’s digital action is on the Left Coast. In the movie, things didn’t start happening until Zuckerberg moved out west to Palo Alto. Suddenly, he has an angel investor and $500,000. He opens his first office. The pieces start falling into place. Folks from New York, Boston, Austin and even my home here in Minneapolis may not want to hear it, but is the digital action in this country continues to reside in the area surrounding Silicon Valley. Google. Twitter. Facebook. All hold offices with San Francisco-area addresses. That’s not a coincidence.

* Flip flops are the new penny loafer. Brooks Bros. should be worried–people like Mark Zuckerberg are re-defining style and what’s appropriate for tomorrow’s businessman. Throughout the movie, he could be found wearing his trademark flip flops. And, with that style statement he’s certainly not alone. Not in specifically wearing flip flops, but in adopting a more casual style for today’s workplace. More and more, we’re seeing dress matter less and less. It’s a hot debate, but at the end of the day, big ideas win in business. What do Brooks Bros. suits do?

* It’s all about “crashing the server.” Early in the flick, Zuckerberg and his roommates crash the Harvard server after developing the beginnings of Facebook. Big deal, right? Servers crash every day, right? Only in this case, it was a big deal. It was Harvard’s servers. It was symbolic. It put Zuckerberg on the map. It gave him the credibility and notoreity he needed to get people’s attention.

* There’s a difference between arrogance and confidence. This point is summed up nicely between 2:10 and 2:19 in The Social Network trailer below. One of my favorite scenes of the movie. Is Zuckerberg being crass? No. Is he being arrogant? Yeah, a little. Confident? Surely. As it’s portrayed in the movie, Zuckerberg crosses the line from out-and-out confidence over to arrogance a little too much. In the end, it costs him money, and more importantly, friends. Make sure you stay on the right side of that line. To have confidence in your abilities is critical. To be arrogant? That’s something altogether different.

* Make sure you’re “wired in”–daily. Throughout the movie, you hear the phrase “wired in” thrown around. It’s a term they use to explain when a programmer is concentrating on creating lines and lines of code. What they’re really saying: “Stay the hell away from him. He’s in the freaking zone!” In even more simple terms: He’s focused. Don’t interrupt him. At what point during the day are you “wired in?” Are you “wired in” at all? In today’s climate where different tools, media, people, demands and deadlines compete for our attention on an hour-by-hour basis, it’s more important than ever to get “wired in” Make it happen.

What about you? Did you see the movie? Any other lessons you learned that haven’t been talked about yet?

Note: Photo courtesy of k-ideas via FlickR Creative Commons.



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