by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Note to all of the people out there who are having trouble finding the right job. This guy, Brian Acton, applied for a job at Facebook and got turned down. He was also told that he wasn’t good enough for Twitter. Rejected, but not defeated, Brian was then forced to start his own business, founding What’s App, a messaging company. Years later, he sold that company to Facebook for an astounding $16 billion dollars.
Now, Brian’s not black, but his money is green like the rest of us. Also, there are stories all around us that can serve as inspiration for entrepeneurship in the African American community. In fact, if the black community could produce just one or two Brian Actons or Mark Zuckerbergs, this would generate enough wealth to create tens of thousands of jobs, assuming the money is invested in a consciencious (read: Non Jay-Z) sort of way.
I love Brian’s story because it reminds me of my own (although I’ve never had $16 billion dollars): He was rejected and pushed away, only to come back to the same place stronger than ever before. I remember trying to get media outlets to hire me to write for their websites. When I was rejected, it forced me to start Your Black World, which earns far more money for me than I could ever earn writing for somebody else (even CNN or the New York Times). So, when I look back over the last few years, I want to say “thank you” to the outlets that didn’t offer me a job. Had I been able to be comfortable, I never would have been forced to hustle on my own two feet.
Brian’s story also reminds me of Wendy Williams, who was kicked out of New York media years ago, only to come back as the #1 radio host in the entire city. The point here is that your setbacks are God’s opportunity for you to rise to become a person that even you thought you’d never be. Also, since necessity is the mother of invention, we must fully consider the idea that sometimes, having a cushy corporate job can make us weak, lazy and disconnected from our potential. How much would this guy be earning if he’d gotten that job at Facebook and created this company under Mark Zuckerberg’s watch? It wouldn’t be much, since Facebook would likely own his invention. In fact, he’d be like many members of the black community, who do our best work making money for somebody else.
Here is the tweet that Brian sent out after losing his chance to work for Facebook just five years ago. It’s actually quite optimistic:
What are some of the Financial Juneteenth lessons here?
1) Sometimes not getting what you want right now can position you to get something 100 times better in the long-run: Whether you’re talking about a being dumped by someone you love or not getting the job you want, I’ve found that most of the time, being pushed out of one thing leads you to enter something far better later on. It might be due to the wisdom you gain by knowing more about what you want and how to avoid landmines. It might be the added determination you gain from a fear of failure, or it could be something else. Either way, I can rarely think of any time when I wasn’t made better off by having to do things the hard way.
2) Attitude is everything: How you respond to disappointments can be the difference between greatness and self-destruction. If you allow setbacks to serve as an excuse to give up on yourself, you’re then creating a downward trajectory for your life, where each setback compounds itself into another. But if you allow disappointments to motivate you to go back to the drawing board and try harder, then you’ll find that your mistakes and professional tragedies will define your greatness in the long-term. Brian now has a great story to tell for the rest of his life. Some people will see this story and be inspired. Others might see his story and say, “Oh, he was only able to do it because he’s white.” How you interpret the story is up to you and will determine whether this information serves to broaden your possibilities or shrink the size of your psychological cage.
3) You are usually better off having your own business anyway: Sure, this guy could have made a few million working for Mark Zuckerberg. But after being rejected by Facebook, Brian proceeded to earn the right to work WITH Zuckerberg, not for him. Brian now has a seat on the Facebook board of directors, and earns more money in a month than LeBron James earns in an entire season. That’s what I call trading up.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.