Growing up, my sister and I took great delight in some of the inane comments our parents used to make. One of these was their mantra of "21 again" whenever they or their friends celebrated a birthday. Part of the reason was 21 was like, so old to us, that even reaching it, not to mention repeating it, seemed extremely far off.
Of course, these days I'm further away on the opposite side than I was when as siblings we made fun of it… I recently saw a video of a Mark Zuckerberg interview from 2005, when Mark was 21, and it started me thinking about how our thoughts and beliefs change as we age, but core parts of us remain consistent. Fortunately not many of us have such public records as a business-celebrity like Mark, so our reflection is far more personal and memory-based.
For example, at 21, I was completing my university business degree, starting work with the company who sponsored my tertiary education, and in the throes of my marathon session to complete my actuarial exams. Looking back on it, it was for me one of the periods in my life of intense focus, incredibly hard work, and great personal satisfaction.
I know too that my belief systems and world view have shifted as I've matured, and I reference some examples in other stories on the site, including my journey. It is natural that our personalities moderate to some extent as we age too. Priorities evolve, relationships in their broadest sense come and go, and we achieve more milestones as we progress. Think back on who you were at 21 – the first time – and how you've changed as time has passed. Are life and your career evolving as you'd hoped? And, how do you feel when you picture your 21-year-old self? Proud of his ambition? Shocked at how innocent he was? Inspired by her desire to make a difference? Surprised by her single-minded focus? Reinvigorated by her accomplish-anything energy?
The roughly 6 minute video can be seen here:
In it, Mark recognises his success until then was a combination of luck and great strategic decisions (e.g. localising the network for each college, which encouraged users to share personal information). He also talks about the ultimate business model evolving, giving a strong sense of the learning-by-doing that was taking place in the background.
The video describes how "TheFacebook" launched as a student directory in February 2004, and by the time of the interview had 5 million users. Bambi (the host) and Mark discuss comparison to MySpace, and Facebook's metric of "almost 70% of users come back every day". His business had raised $13m by that stage from venture capitalists (including Peter Thiel) without doing any formal pitches. And, the philosophies of data collection and targeting (including advertising) were already evident at this stage. These are particularly topical now (2018) too, with Mark and Facebook in the news currently, responding to challenges around privacy and responsibility for personal data.
Mark's attire for the Market Watch interview is also amusing, including the "My Mom Thinks I'm Cool" slogan on his T-shirt.