Mission, Caring Deeply, Looking Ahead

Or otherwise known as the Chinese speech Mark Zuckerberg gave at Tsinghua University. His speech recounted three stories, one for each of his main themes of believing in a mission, caring more deeply than anyone else and looking ahead.

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Mark’s first theme was mission. In this theme, Mark shared the story of why he started Facebook. He believed in the mission of connecting people. He said that when he started Facebook, he did not want to build a business, but to solve a problem he felt was important. He wanted to connect people. Having a mission helped him focus.

In Chinese the phrase for mission is 使命. It is made up of two words: 使, as in 使用 (to use), and 命, as in 生命 (life). The Chinese phrase for mission imply that a mission is something that we are willing to use our lives to accomplish. How many of us feel so strongly for something that we consider it a mission that we are willing to use our lives to accomplish? Do you?

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The second theme was about caring. Mark recounted Facebook’s early days. He recalled his days as a college student wondering why none of the big companies built something like Facebook to connect people. His conclusion was that they did not care about this problem enough. But he did. And he and his team ploughed on. They refused to listen to the naysayers. They cared enough to keep going on. And that was how Facebook grew to become a social network that connects billions of people.

I particularly love the point he made about once you have a mission, you do not need the entire plan. You do not need to have all the answers at the beginning. You just need to care more.

The Chinese phrase Mark used for care is “用心”, which literally translates to “use heart”. That is something that I am starting to realise too. To build something great, more than rational analysis, it is important to use the heart. To empathise. Then, steel the heart to meet the challenges that you will meet along the way. And with a firm heart, take one small step at a time.
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Mark’s last theme was about looking ahead. He started this theme by quoting another giant of the tech world – Jack Ma. Jack Ma said, “Compared to 15 years ago we are big. But compared to 15 years from now, we are only a baby.”

Mark then spoke about his goal for Facebook to connect everyone. That would require the expansion of the reach of the Internet. A lot of money would be needed for that. He recounted being asked by the board how will the project make money. Mark replied, “I don’t know”.

But he was convinced that connecting people is Facebook’s mission. He was determined to look ahead. He is convinced that this is important. While he doesn’t have the entire plan now, he is certain that if they can pull this off, it will help many people and somehow, they will benefit too.

He explained that that is what it means to be looking ahead. With each new step, you are able to do new things. Things which seemed impossible in the past are now achievable.

Mark’s speech resonated with me. Care enough to have a meaningful mission. Don’t focus on making money. Focus on solving an important problem. Do it well. With each step taken, with each milestone accomplished, keep looking ahead. The money part will take care of itself.

Another thing that struck me was how much Mark’s Mandarin improved. He is not a native speaker. He did not grow up in an environment where a lot of people spoke Mandarin. Notwithstanding the fact that his wife is Chinese, I doubt he lives in an environment now where many people speak mandarin. Yet his Mandarin is already quite passable. Yes. His pronunciation is a bit off. But I dare say that his standard of Mandarin is far better than a lot of the ethnically Chinese people in Singapore.

Sure. His improvement is probably because he put in a lot of time into practising the language. Now consider this. Mark must be extremely busy. Yet he takes the effort to improve his Mandarin. Doesn’t that show that there is great value in learning Mandarin? I hope this inspires ethnically Chinese Singaporeans to put in some effort in learning Mandarin!

Here’s Mark’s Chinese speech in full:

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