“Every year, I take on a personal challenge to learn new things and grow outside my work at Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post last year. From picking up a new language to writing a thank-you note every day for a year, each of Zuckerberg’s challenges has served a purpose bigger than himself.
After what Zuckerberg calls a “tumultuous” 2016, the Facebook founder has made it his 2017 resolution to visit and meet people in every state in the U.S. by the end of the year. It’s his goal to learn how people around the country are “living, working and thinking about the future.” Facebook has been a social vehicle that has connected the world and given many people a voice. However in some cases it has also created division. Zuckerberg wants to hear different opinions and voices, figure out how he can empower people and help create a better future.
Personal, social and business challenges inspire Zuckerberg’s yearly resolutions. The challenges never apply to just one area in his life, either -- he makes sure that he will benefit from them in a number of ways. Studying Mandarin Chinese in 2010 helped him communicate for business, learn about a different culture and tackle his lifelong struggles with mastering a new language. When he created an AI system, “Jarvis,” to control his home in 2016, he found a way to apply his technical skills and today’s technology to make his life easier.
Check out some of Zuckerberg’s most legendary New Year’s resolutions and discover the larger lessons behind them.
1. Use technology to make your life easier.
Zuckerberg’s 2016 resolution theme was “invention,” which is why he challenged himself to create an AI system to run his home. By the end of December 2016, Zuckerberg had successfully built “Jarvis” -- inspired by Iron Man -- that can control appliances, plays music, recognize faces and even entertain his two-year-old daughter. By utilizing today’s technology -- which doesn’t necessarily mean building a robot for your house -- and challenging yourself to be more inventive, you can find ways to make your life easier and daily routines more efficient.
2. Educate yourself.
You don’t need to travel to become cultured. Instead, use the resources around you to educate yourself. In 2015, Zuckerberg challenged himself to read a new book every other week in order to learn about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
3. Practice humility.
In a world where we email or chat a quick “thanks!” to someone, Zuckerberg challenged himself to handwrite or email a thought-out thank-you note to someone every day of the year in 2014. “It’s important to me because I’m a very critical person,” Zuckerberg told Bloomberg. Making a simple expression of gratitude like this a daily habit will help you develop humility and authenticity.
4. Meet one person a day outside of work.
Don’t let the walls of your office confine and shape those you interact with. Use your time outside of your 9-to-5 to connect with your local community and meet new people. For his 2013 New Year’s resolution, Zuckerberg committed to meeting one person a day outside of Facebook. A few months in, Zuckerberg told Fortune, “It’s going well -- I’ve done a bunch of things in the community and just tried to get broader exposure.”
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5. Pay attention to the details.
As a CEO and founder, Zuckerberg isn’t always responsible for micro-level details, although these smaller aspects are fundamental to Facebook’s existence. That’s why he made it his 2012 challenge to code every day in order to better connect with his employees and better understand Facebook at its most granular level, according to Business Insider.
6. Make a sacrifice.
Zuckerberg’s 2011 challenge was to become a vegetarian and only eat meat that he killed himself. “In order 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,” he posted on Facebook. Practice thankfulness by giving up something that you take for granted every day to realize its importance in your life.
7. Take up something intellectually challenging.
In 2010, Zuckerberg challenged himself to learn Mandarin Chinese. He did this not only to better communicate in the business world, but also because this is a language many of his wife’s family members speak. He demonstrated his command of the language in a Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2015. As a result, Zuckerberg began to erase communication barriers and learn about a different culture, as well as overcome his struggle to learn languages in the past, he said in a Facebook post.
8. Find unique ways to motivate your employees or co-workers.
In 2009, Zuckerberg decided that he would swap his sweatshirts and T-shirts for a tie. During tough times when most industries in the U.S. -- and the world -- were cutting back after the 2008 recession, Zuckerberg used his tie as a symbol. “Great companies thrive by investing more heavily while everyone else is cutting back during a recession. But great companies also make sure they're financially strong and sustainable. My tie was the symbol of how serious and important a year this was,” he said.