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Mark Zuckerberg’s Success Secret

Dollars? He’s got billions. Facebook friends? He’s got millions. His name is Mark Zuckerberg. And he lost 100 times more money on his company’s second day as a publicly traded company than you will earn in your lifetime. That’s $2 billion down the drain. And you know what? He didn’t even notice. Why? Because he’s got about $18 billion more to burn before he falls on hard times.

They say money can’t buy you friends, but one guy proved that virtual friends can win you lots of money. Being a good computer programmer helps, too. But you know what really earned Zuckerberg all that money? Patience.

Aside from becoming fabulously wealthy, Zuckerberg’s legendary rise presents us with one very valuable lesson — the importance of learning to delay gratification. Zuckerberg is one of the wealthiest fellows in the world today for one reason: He was able to defer his big payday for years as he built his company into the astonishing success it is today.

As early as four months after he founded Facebook, people started waving big wads of cash in front of him, trying to get him to sell. In 2004, when Zuckerberg was a mere college sophomore, a New York financier offered him $10 million for the company. How many college sophomores would have the vision and determination necessary to turn down 10 big ones for a four-month old company? None that you know, it’s safe to assume.

Friendster (remember them?) tried to buy Facebook. So did Google. In 2005, Viacom offered $75 million. Zuckerberg alone would have pocketed nearly half that amount. He told Sumner Redstone no, gracias.

That same year MySpace came calling. MySpace — you haven’t heard that name in a while have you? Later on, News Corp tried, but no dice. Viacom came back for round two and came away just as empty handed the second time. By this time, seemingly every big media company out there had the desire to acquire. NBC reportedly made an appeal. And Viacom came back for round three, this time waving serious money around — $1.5 billion. Zuckerberg calmly explained that Facebook was worth $2 billion. No deal.

In 2006, another billion-dollar offer came from Yahoo!, which was still viewed as a Silicon Valley powerhouse at the time. These days, when you mention them, people stare blankly, wrinkle their brows and say, Ya-who?

The long line of rejected Facebook suitors reads like an obituary of former media and tech titans. AOL came and tried to “Like” Facebook with a billion dollar offer of its own. By now, Zuckerberg was so busy rejecting 10 figure fortunes that he should have set up an email auto reply for just that purpose.

Yahoo! came back again and made another failed attempt. By this time, Facebook was adding 50,000 new registrants per day. By 2007, interested parties began offering huge chunks of money just for a piece of Facebook. Google came with a fractional investment offer that tagged Facebook with a valuation of $15 billion. Microsoft offered a full buyout for that amount before settling for a 1.6 percent stake at a price of nearly $250 million.

By now, Zuckerberg was on course to take his company public. Characteristically, he delayed his Wall Street debut for much longer than most experts expected. All the while, Facebook kept growing. And what was the end result? A historic IPO worth about $100 billion.

Whether Facebook is actually worth such an astronomical figure is debatable. Many market experts have their doubts. But the experts have been wrong about Zuckerberg and his company’s worth many times before. The point is this: Zuckerberg got where he is because he was profoundly patient.

The movie The Social Network portrayed Zuckerberg as brash and, at times, insensitive in his personal life. He famously shows up to business meetings in hoodies rather than business suits. Could it be that this seemingly immature individual is actually, by measure of his patience at least, more mature than most of us? Apparently so.

I don’t know about you, but I think I would have taken the first $10 million dollar offer.

You want a good definition of maturity? Maturity is having the will to say no to something you want today in order to hold out for something better in the future. That’s a character trait we should all strive for.

Your biggest goal may or may not be to build a billion-dollar company. But, whatever your goals are, taking the long view and putting off short-term gratification in order to work toward something bigger will likely be essential if you hope to achieve great things.

This article originally appeared in the International Business Times and is reprinted here with permission. Follow Nathan on Twitter @nathanharden

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