Mark Zuckerberg's famous resolutions can inspire all of us

Inc. Magazine

Each year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg commits to a New Year’s resolution. Though some may seem bizarre and others ridiculously lofty, he has reportedly conquered every one of them. He wins again!

Here are his last nine resolutions and what us mere mortals might learn from them:

2009: Wear a tie every day

Zuckerberg is famous for his classic T-shirt and hoodie look. He took a different approach in 2009.

In 2009, Facebook was not yet cash-flow positive. Many feared it wouldn’t survive. In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg explains, “My tie was the symbol of how serious and important a year this was, and I wore it every day to show this.”

Putting on a suit can help you feel more confident and ready to take on the world.

2010: Learn Mandarin

Zuckerberg vowed he’d learn Mandarin in 2010. Zuckerberg’s motivation was, no doubt, driven by his desire to improve communication with then-girlfriend, now wife, Priscilla Chan’s family. It was also likely spurred by a desire to gain a foothold in China, a lucrative market for Facebook.

In 2013, he gained widespread praise for his ability to carry out a Q&A session at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Learning a second language has been shown to improve cognitive skills and overall brain function.

2011: Become a vegetarian

In 2011, Zuckerberg opted to become a vegetarian (the only deviation he allowed himself was meat that he’d slaughtered himself).

As outlined in a Facebook post, Zuckerberg wanted to practice thankfulness. “I want to be more connected to the food I eat and the animals that give their lives so I can eat them.”

Resolutions that incorporate gratitude can be enormously fulfilling. According to research, incorporating gratitude, via dietary practices or otherwise, positively impacts our mental and emotional states.

2012: Return to programming

In 2012, Zuckerberg vowed to brush up on his programming skills. While many assume Zuckerberg is a coding prodigy, this is not the case, according to a Quora thread.

All leaders should make it a habit to brush up on their coding skills. The more well-versed leaders are in programming, the more adept they are in communicating with engineers and informing product development.

2013: Meet new people

In 2013, Zuckerberg resolved to meet someone new (outside of Facebook) every day. This was empowering. By meeting new people, Zuckerberg was exposed to many different perspectives. He gained a newfound appreciation for the value of diversity.

I reckon it’s no coincidence that Zuckerberg hired Maxine Williams as Facebook’s global director of diversity in 2013.

When we are exposed to diverse perspectives, not only do we expand our knowledge base, but we also fuel the potential for creativity and innovation.

2014: Write a thank-you note each day

In 2014, Zuckerberg opted to practice compassion by writing a thank you note to someone each day. In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover story, Zuckerberg explained: “It’s important for me because I’m a really critical person. I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are.”

Resolutions that incorporate acts of generosity have far-reaching applications. Research has found that acts of generosity and kindness are contagious and trigger a chain reaction of goodness.

2015: Read a book every

other week

In 2015, Zuckerberg challenged himself by committing to read a new book every other week. He prioritized books pertaining to different cultures, beliefs, histories and/or technologies.

The benefits of reading are manifold. According to research, the act of reading not only helps us acquire a larger vocabulary, it also improves our abstract reasoning skills.

2016: Build a simple artificial intelligence system

In 2016, Zuckerberg opted to become Jarvis in “Iron Man.” He committed to building a simple AI system to power his home.

In a Facebook post, he revealed: “I’m going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I’ll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home — music, lights, temperature and so on.”

All leaders should strive to keep abreast of new technologies. Zuckerberg’s resolution empowered him to strategize about ways he can leverage new technologies to improve Facebook’s offerings.

Shortly after Zuckerberg conquered his 2016 resolution, it was announced that Facebook was designing technology with mind-reading capabilities. Coincidence? I think not.

2017: Visit every U.S. state

Last year, Zuckerberg made a commitment to travel to the roughly 30 U.S. states that he had yet to visit.

Resolutions tied to travel tend to give rise to far-reaching rewards. According to Transamerica Center, 86 percent of people believe that travel improves their mood and outlook toward life.

Perhaps this resolution came from a desire to improve his outlook toward life, but I suspect Zuckerberg is readying himself for a 2020 presidential campaign.

As we ready ourselves to partake in the time-honored New Year’s resolution ritual, take a page out of Zuckerberg’s resolution playbook. Reading, learning new things and traveling are much more fun and more interesting than losing 20 pounds.

Rebecca Hinds is the manager of enterprise insights at Dropbox.

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