Mark Zuckerberg Gave Me a Tour of Facebook, and Here's What It Taught Me About Success
Updated: Nov 28, 2018
It’s true! And here’s the picture to prove it. The summer before my Freshman year of high school, I was fortunate enough to be taken around the Facebook headquarters by none other than Mark Zuckerberg himself. It’s still one of the most mind-boggling things that has ever happened to me, and it taught me a great deal about what I want to do, and who I want to be in the world. Most importantly, I learned a great lesson about success. Here’s the full story.
My cousins lived down in Palo Alto, California. Knowing how invested I was into technology, they invited my brother and I to come visit them. They had set up tours of various companies through connections they had. We were able to explore E-Trade, Dreamworks, and even the Google campus.
Our tour of Google was earlier in the morning, and was absolutely incredible. I couldn’t even fathom the creative genius I was surrounded by at every turn. Everyone seemed so happy to be working on such incredible projects. It was clear each of them knew they were making a difference in the world, and that it was all a team effort.
Google was the last tour we had lined up, but we thought it would be fun to stop by the Facebook building to see if they offered any type of tour, even though we had no connections there. After driving to what we thought was the Facebook headquarters, we learned they had just switched buildings- and that I had posted “I’m updating my status outside of the actual Facebook building!” while in the parking lot of a vacant building. Oops.
Once we made it to the new building, my cousin stayed in the car with her 6-month old, while Dallas and I went inside. A kind man and who appeared to be his friend held the door for us at the entrance. We thought that was a kind gesture. Once inside we inquired of the secretary if they offered any sort of tours of the facilities. She told us, “No, but here’s someone you might want to meet.” She then gestured to the gentleman who had held the door for us, Mark Zuckerberg.
I had no idea who he was.
Keep in mind that this was before The Social Network had released (the trailer had just aired not even a full week prior to this day), and while “Mark Zuckerberg” was still a big name, it wasn’t commonly spoken in most households yet.
He walked over to Dallas and I and said, “Hey guys. My name is Mark. How are you?” We spoke for a minute or two while I continued to bite my tongue in order to stop myself from asking, “So what do you do here?” Thankfully I never said such words.
“I’m running late for a meeting, but I could show you around for a bit.”
We then did the unthinkable and asked the world’s youngest billionaire to wait while we got our cousin and nephew from the car. We jolted out of the building to get them, and Mark was still waiting patiently in the lobby when we returned.
For the next ten minutes, Mark took us behind the closed security doors of the Facebook headquarters. We saw the open spaces where they worked, the conference rooms, even where they’d get their snacks. Everything was out in the open, and I just soaked it all in. We talked of our trip, what we had done so far, things they were working on, questions I had about Facebook, and then we even spoke for a few minutes about programming and what languages I was most comfortable in.
He walked us back to the lobby, and told me to keep at it. Saying that it would always be hard to continue forward, but to always keep creating. We posed for a picture, and then he, along with his friend from earlier, scanned their security badges and continued on to the meeting they were now extremely late for.
That meeting was with ABC News. They were interviewing him because that day they had reached 500 million users.
After Mark left, the secretary who originally introduced us told us we needed to go buy a lottery ticket. We were still shocked and puzzled by what had happened. She followed that up by saying, “I’ve never seen him take someone from the public behind those doors before.” At this point we were all kicking ourselves. Surely he must’ve been incredibly important. And there was no doubt in our minds… he knew we didn’t know who he was!
But I’m fairly certain that’s the only reason he took the time out of his day to interact with us.
What This Taught Me About Success
Mark Zuckerberg is not a flashy person. He wears a grey shirt almost every day, would oftentimes walk to work, is very shy in front of a camera, and is nervous around most people. But he is incredibly proud of what he, and so many others have created.
In fact, he’ll be the first to tell you that Facebook was a combined effort. If you read the interview I referenced earlier, there is almost no mention of “I”. He works next to everyone else, with no separation of stature, attends normal meetings, and listens to ideas from his employees. He’s proud of what they have created.
Mark Zuckerberg has always been a creator. Now this is opinion, but given his shyness, I don’t think that Mark has ever done something for the sole purpose of becoming famous. He’s always wanted to create something that’s going to spark change, something that’s going to be new and reinvent how we think about things. Facebook is no different. And through the work of his team, Facebook has grown into something that has become its own identifiable figure.
Like the proud parent who doesn't want to barge in on their children's success, he’s proud of how Facebook has “grown up”. I’m sure he’s aware of how the existence of Facebook as its own entity can be lost when his name is paired alongside it.
I think when Mark Zuckerberg saw us, two teenagers hungry to learn and admire the end result, he was excited to separate himself from the final product. He was able to show off Facebook for what it had become, and not what he had made it. I think the ability to separate oneself from the process and let the end result stand on its own can be a very humbling thing.
When you are passionate about a project, it doesn’t matter who created it. Only that it exists, and that it performs the ultimate purpose it was set out to fulfil.
He knew we wouldn’t ask him a million questions about how he started it, or mention frequent rumors that he was the subject of. He was able to take a step back with us, and view Facebook as the big picture, and how his entire team was able to beautifully paint it.
Reflecting Back With That In Mind
I’ve worked behind the scenes on a lot of theatrical and musical projects. I’ve created technological techniques that I’m incredibly proud of, and arranged music for large projects. It used to be hard for me to not receive the recognition I thought I deserved. I have to remember what my purpose as a designer and storyteller is; to tell a story. If I get wrapped up in the me of a project, then that stands in the way of the overall effectiveness of a piece.
Most projects are a collaborative effort. Moving forward, I will always strive to remember that. I’m grateful to constantly be surrounded by such talented individuals with the same passion for storytelling as me. We want to create art together, and it is a very collaborative process. I will always focus on the we.
And the most important lesson Mark taught me, whether he knew it or not, was that you’re never too big to give a little guy what you wish you’d had at their age. I’ve been blessed with a lot of mentors who I’m surprised they’ve ever taken the time of day to speak with me. There is always time to help another individual.
Thank you, Mark, for such a wonderful experience, story, and valuable array of lessons learned.
PS. I promise I know who you are now.