Every year for at least the past 10 years, Mark Zuckerberg has had a habit of announcing a personal challenge that he hopes to tackle over the following 12 months.

One year, he promised to wear a tie every day; another, he announced he was learning Mandarin Chinese; another, he announced he planned to read a new book every two weeks.

Last year was the first time that his challenge focused squarely on Facebook: things like "preventing election interference" and "ensuring [Facebook's] services improve people's well-being."

But this year, Zuckerberg announced recently, he's doing something different: no annual personal challenge at all.

Instead, he's taking a longer view. I think it's smart, and ultimately very good for Facebook.

(My colleague Jason Aten has a different take.) 

Life in 2030

"Rather than having year-to-year challenges," Zuckerberg wrote on Twitter (only kidding, he wrote it on Facebook), "I've tried to think about what I hope the world and my life will look [like] in 2030 so I can make sure I'm focusing on those things." 

His specific areas include thinking about: 

  • Generational change
  • Launching a new private social platform
  • Decentralizing opportunity (focusing on small business)
  • Augmented reality glasses
  • New forms of governance

I've included his entire post at the bottom of this article. But this is a welcome change.

Whether he set out to be or not, and whether we like it or not, Zuckerberg is the steward of one of the most important organizations on the planet -- one with its tentacles in almost every facet of our lives.

Crazy, right? But here's where we are. And since Zuckerberg is in charge, it's nice to have his full attention.

Focus and responsibility

There is no shortage of things that have gone wrong at Facebook, to put it lightly.

The platform and the very brand have taken a massive affinity hit, and have deserved every bit of it. But none of that changes its reach (beyond a certain level), or the person running it, since Zuckerberg basically cannot be replaced.

This meant that hearing every year that Zuckerberg was spending time, say ... learning Mandarin Chinese ... or eating only meat that he slaughtered himself ... or (my personal favorite) taking time to code an A.I. assistant in the middle of the 2016 presidential election cycle ... has always been disconcerting.

It would be like hearing your airline pilot announce during bad turbulence that she's just learned how to play the opening to Stairway to Heaven on the guitar.

Or waiting for a business partner to finish a project for an important deadline, only to learn that he's spent the time finally finishing reading Infinite Jest.

In other words, it's about focus and responsibility.

Going on 36

Not that Zuckerberg needs my sympathy, but he has it on one count.

It's that he's in a very small group of entrepreneurs: Not only did he launch a company in a dorm room that has grown into a juggernaut worth $621 billion as of this writing, but it's really the only thing he's ever done.

It's a heck of a one thing, but it's one thing. His résumé would basically have one line on it:

Facebook, CEO    2004 to present
Grew company from dorm room idea to 1.7 billion users.

(I know there's the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and a few other things, but none of them would exist without Facebook.)

I've thought this before, but he's the tech and corporate version of a child actor who grew up in front of our eyes -- but who is nevertheless still acting.

He's turning 36 this year. That wasn't that long ago for me; I remember thinking I had finally reached real adulthood. 

Maybe it's the same for him. Maybe it's because of exterior forces. Maybe he just has really good advisers now.

But, if this is the moment when he's put away his childish things, we should welcome it. And that can only be good for Facebook.

Here's the full post:

Published on: Jan 10, 2020
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