What Black People Can Learn From the Facebook Movie…

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(ThyBlackMan.com) I went to see the film, “The Social Network” during my visit to New York City this week. I was in town filming my project with MSN called ‘The Invested Life‘ and interviewing some Obama Administration officials during pre-election coverage with Rev. Al Sharpton, so I was ready for a break. I knew the Facebook movie was going to be good, since the reviews were quite solid. I also knew that the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, seemed to have problems with the way he was portrayed in the movie.

I have to admit that the film was outstanding. Also, in spite of the fact that Zuckerberg appeared a bit nerdy, incredibly arrogant and a wee bit insensitive, the film makes him into just the kind of young genius who could create a multi-billion dollar product that ultimately changes the world. Today, Facebook has over half a billion users, with a market valuation of roughly $25 billion. I’d say the good outweighs the bad.

I remember when my students at Syracuse University didn’t know what Facebook was. Then, overnight, it seemed that everyone was using it. After a couple of years, old people like me were invited onto the network. I know quite a few people who check their Facebook pages every single day, which  communicates the vast impact that the company has had on the entire world. In fact, I checked my own Facebook page right before writing this article and I believe a recent speaking request from the black students at Yale University came right through my Facebook account.

I thought of a few things that my students could learn from Zuckerberg and Facebook. Some of the lessons come from good choices Mark made, some from the bad. I’ll lay them out one by one:

1) Get your grind on: Good ideas don’t mean a thing without the hustle behind them. A brilliant idea that goes without consistent execution is like a multi-million dollar race car that never leaves the garage. When the other students were partying, Zuckerberg was grinding away at his dream. It is that kind of passionate, obsessive mega-hustle that separates the winners from the wannabes.

2) Never forget what’s important: In the midst of his quest for money, Zuckerberg ran into the Diddy lyric, “More money, more problems.” After finding massive success with Facebook, Mark was being sued by his best friend, and had alienated a lot of people. Money can make our lives both exciting and confusing, so as you go out and conquer the world, make sure you remember where your true wealth really lies.

3) Always think big: I’ve always said that I’d rather be a dumb person who thinks big than a smart person who thinks small. I know some of the most brilliant doctors, lawyers and professors who will never see their dreams come true, primarily because they allow their ambitions to be enslaved by fear and small-thinking. Obviously, Facebook was one of the biggest things to happen in the world this decade, but you probably have your own Facebook-like dream that you’ve found reasons to put on hold. A well-respected black leader told me in private that you should always aim farther than your target in order to hit your target. I never forgot that.

4) Study business: I can’t tell you how many super talented rappers, actors and ballers I’ve seen who lost everything because they never took the time to educate themselves. If black America were to suddenly commit itself to the relentless pursuit of education, at least half of our problems would be solved. That day is coming, it’s just a matter of how soon we want it to come. By understanding business and putting people in place to take his idea to the next level, Mark was able to take a really cool local idea and turn it into a global phenomenon.

5) Ignore ignorant haters: One of my favorite scenes in the movie was the one that featured former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. In the scene, Summers writes off Facebook as a tiny little idea that’s not going to have any significant impact on the world. This scene was fitting with Summers’ personality, with him being the man who once treated the great Cornel West as just another scholarly hack. While Summers is certainly bright enough to be a reasonably good scholar, he certainly lacks vision. You will have quite a few friends like this as you pursue your own quest to greatness, and one of your most grueling tests is whether you can check the haters at the door. Never let anyone kill your love affair with your greatest ambitions. If you let your dreams die, then it’s your own damn fault. Actually, on my Facebook page, I have the words, “The hustler’s dream is the hater’s nightmare.” So, if you are successful at anything, someone is probably going to get mad at you for it.

6) Do something good for the world: In spite of the negative publicity Mark Zuckerberg might get from his portrayal in the film, he’s trying to make things right. He recently gave $100 million to the public school system in Newark, which is a virtually unprecedented effort to help millions of school children. Like a few other billionaires, Zuckerberg understands that having massive wealth gives you a massive social responsibility. Sure, you could spend your money by hanging out at Martha’s Vineyard and buying expensive, yet meaningless toys. But you could also go out of your way to change the lives of countless numbers of people. Your greatness is worth more than few gold chains and fancy cars, so don’t let the rappers convince you to be ignorant.

Overall, I loved the movie, and found it to possess a long list of teachable moments. The bottom line is that life is too short for you to not pursue the greatness in your blood. Find your dream, put your eye on the prize and go out and make it happen. Your friends (including myself) will be cheering you on via Facebook.

Written By Dr. Boyce Watkins