Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Mark Zuckerberg (FB/IG), the founder, chairman, and CEO of Meta, which he originally founded as Facebook in 2004. Mark is responsible for setting the overall direction and product strategy for the company. In October 2021, Facebook rebranded to Meta to reflect all of its products and services across its family of apps and a focus on developing social experiences for the metaverse—moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.
Mark is also the co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with his wife Priscilla, which is leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges—including supporting the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the twenty-first century.
Mark studied computer science at Harvard University before moving to Palo Alto, California, in 2004.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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This interview was transcribed by Rev.com.
Tim Ferriss: Mark, nice to see you. Welcome to the show. Thanks for making the time.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah, thanks for having me on. I’m looking forward to this.
Tim Ferriss: You’ve had a very, very busy week and I imagine most weeks are very busy. Perhaps this week, busier than some. But before we get to, perhaps, current day, I wanted to flash back just a little bit. In the course of doing research for this conversation, I chanced upon fencing. Now, fencing, I had seen in connection with your name, but I had no idea that you had been as competitive as you had been. I was hoping you could just describe a little bit your involvement with fencing. And for people who don’t know, what makes fencing interesting or what made it interesting to you? I have follow-up questions, but I have taken two fencing instructional lessons. This is maybe 10 years ago and was inspired to do so because of the writing of Bruce Lee, of all things. But could you just describe your background with fencing and how you ended up competing?
Mark Zuckerberg: This is probably one of the more interesting places to start an interview that I’ve ever done. I fenced competitively when I was in high school. It’s not something I did since I was like a little kid or something like that. But I’ve always loved sports and just being active. I like problems that you can solve intellectually, but I also just think managing your energy and being out there and being physical, it’s just always been a really important part of my life. So I was looking for a sport that would do this in the winter in high school.
I did a bunch of running. So I did cross country, and I did tennis as well. So I started doing fencing. And I didn’t do it competitively for a super long period of time, but the thing that I loved about it is it’s obviously very physical and cardio taxing, just being on your feet and bouncing around. But it’s also very, very mental. I have these memories when I was in my high school chemistry classes of writing out sequences of moves that I wanted to try when I was doing bouts later after school that day and different things that you can do to win in multiple ways.
Basically, try to catch people off guard in one position. It’s like, “Okay, if they do power you, then you’re still in a better position. You can get them on the left or something.” Or if they don’t, then you get the touch. I found it to be a very intellectual, but a good sport. I was never that good at it. I did it competitively. Went to some state competitions and stuff like that. But I don’t think I would’ve been good enough to do it at college, for example. But mostly, it’s a fun thing to do.
Tim Ferriss: So the closest experience that I have is with kendo. I lived in Japan for a period of time, and I did some kendo. I think it shares quite a bit in common with fencing. Of course, the techniques are quite different. The slashing movements predominate in kendo. Although you are allowed to stab to the throat if you’re past a certain age, which is all a separate matter. But the idea of, as they might say in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, this sort of position before submission is an interesting one, right? So even if your first attempt fails, you’re in a superior position to execute on your next move.
It’s always struck me that as much as people think of you as someone who studies or even predicts or looks at trend lines into the future, it seems like you have quite a background in studying the past. And that’s where I wanted to go next, which was classics. It seems like you’ve spent quite a bit of time studying classics. I was wondering if there are any books or any figures who stick out to you from that chapter in your life? Maybe that chapter continues to this day, but if you could speak to that. I figured we’ll use that as a segue to other things.
Mark Zuckerberg: I loved classics. I picked it up in high school as well. I started studying Latin because I was so bad at speaking French and Spanish. I’m very interested in languages overall, but the whole kind of thinking on your feet and understanding really quickly. I process things more methodically. Latin was more my style because you don’t have to speak it. You can just read it at whatever kind of pace makes sense. And then from there I got into Greek. I actually thought that when I went to college, my plan was to be a classics major.
It turned out I took no classics courses at Harvard. I ended up doing psychology and computer science were the two areas that I focused on, but I just loved the discipline of classics so much and the history. I mean, philosophically, it is sort of the underpinning of, kind of, Western thought. I think it’s super interesting. But I’ve also just been very interested in basically people who shape the way we live.
So the historical figures who I like learning about—I’d say there’s like a set of people like inventors—you know, people who just create things and change the world through that. But I’m also very interested in historical figures who try to invent or usher in new ways for people to live. So I always thought Augustus was a very interesting historical figure. And I mean, one of the things—I mean, he’s controversial for a lot of reasons, and you can debate all the good and bad, but one of the things I thought was just really always stuck with me about what he did was when he basically stopped the wars, at the time in history, there wasn’t really a concept of perpetual peace.
The concept of peace that they had at the time was like this is just the temporary period during which your enemies are too weak to fight you, but they’re going to come back. And he basically ushered in this notion of actually trying to convert a lot of the military towards other trades, because he’s like, “All right. No, we’re trying to be more peaceful. We want to build a more positive sum economy. Let’s do this in a way where we can get people doing more productive things.” I always thought that was just a really interesting historical thing.
And in some ways has parallels today to some of the work that I think is going on in the tech industry around the whole creator economy. If you just think about how many people today basically do jobs that they have to that they might not actually like that much, but they’re supporting themselves compared to where I think and hope that the world is going, which is just a much more robust creative economy where way more people can do things that are intellectually or physically interesting to them. And in doing so build up communities around that and have enough monetization and economy around that to support that.
That to me is the modern version of how do you upgrade the way that people live and work to fulfill human potential? I think there are a lot of interesting lessons from the past. I think you can also read into it too much, but I really enjoyed it when I studied it.
Tim Ferriss: Where I’m going here across a broad spectrum is trying to—and we are going to talk about the creator economy and the potential of that, and also questions around it. Right now, what I’m hoping to learn more about are some of the influences, and the influences can take many forms. One would be books. I want to ask, this is from a profile in The New Yorker from 2010. And I remember this because I noticed it before I read it in The New Yorker at the time, which was for a period of time, I think the only book that was on your profile on Facebook was Ender’s Game.
Mark Zuckerberg: It’s a great book.
Tim Ferriss: It is a great book. It was one of my favorites. And I was hoping you could explain why Ender’s Game, and then if there are any other books that you have, in particular, that come to mind, or you’ve reread or, say, gifted to other people, what those might be? But if we could start with Ender’s Game, since it is also a personal favorite of mine, I’d love to know: why Ender’s Game?
Mark Zuckerberg: I actually don’t think it has any unique significance. So I’m surprised to hear that it was the only thing on my profile, but I do love it. It’s a great book. I think that kind of science fiction, not just exploring certain technologies, but it’s also a very compelling story and has good moral lessons. There are parts of the technology and things in it like the Ansible for faster than light communication across the galaxy that we had a project at our company that we had codenamed that. We’re all focused on communication. I can’t really speak to it. I’m not actually sure why it was the only thing on my profile.
Tim Ferriss: Just the only book. Not the only thing.
Mark Zuckerberg: I don’t think it has some kind of unique significance in my life, but I love science fiction. I mean, I have spent a lot of time reading that. I think it’s often a good way to understand what’s possible. In recent years, the last decade as I’ve gotten more into virtual and augmented reality, and actually starting to build some of these things more, I’ve certainly spent a lot of time reading the science fiction, going back and revisiting a bunch of the books around that. It’s really fascinating to me to see what people predict and what the sociological phenomena that people predict around this stuff as well.
Tim Ferriss: Are there any books in particular, writers in particular? I mean, one who comes to mind for me would be Ted Chiang, who’s written a number of short story collections like Exhalation, which seem to include a lot of potentials right around the corner, near future speculative fiction. Any books come to mind that you’ve done just in the course of reading in the last few years, whether related to VR/AR or otherwise?
Mark Zuckerberg: There’s some that are just classics around this, right? I mean, I think at this point, anyone who’s interested in this space would read Ready Player One and Snow Crash. I think Rainbow’s End is one that is maybe not as commonly cited, but I think is maybe the augmented reality sort of equivalent of some of the seminal works that talk about virtual reality.
One of the things that I think is pretty interesting about all of these is that they sort of posit that the world is in some sort of dystopian state. And that I think is very different from how I think about this. I think that there are all these reasons why it is very valuable for people to be able to be present in another place no matter what their situation is.
I laugh about this sometimes when— My family, we love going down to Kauai and it’s beautiful there, and we’ll be out there and I’ll— I love surfing. I love doing a lot of stuff, but I also love being in VR when I’m there too. So it’s obviously, that’s not some kind of dystopian thing. But I think that just if you look at equalizing opportunity across the world, you don’t have to be in some kind of dystopian situation to want to be present with another person who you care about or an opportunity that’s better in another place.
That to me always struck me as a very interesting theme of that science fiction. But in terms of exploring sociologically and technologically what’s going to happen, I’ve always found it pretty fascinating.
Tim Ferriss: Let’s talk about long-term planning and long-term bets for a second. I find you particularly interesting in this respect because you’re a founder/CEO with a lot of founder-driven control. You’re, in a sense, one of the last of a generation, and you can make long-term bets. I know when we were chatting, I guess last week a bit, you mentioned having a—correct me if I’m wrong—but like a 15-year roadmap for metaverse. Right? What I’d love to ask you is how you manage, say, the short term or the intermediate term within the company with employees, right? Because if you look at, say, Instagram, WhatsApp, the bets paid off. But at the time there’s a lot of scrutiny.
The media sort of had a field day and by and large were wrong. But I’m wondering since those types of bets are not necessarily obvious in the moment to everyone involved, how do you think about managing internally when you are making these long term bets?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah, it’s hard. I don’t think that there’s just one way to do it. People are psychologically much more interested and capable of focusing on a long-term outcome when they feel secure in the near term. So when there’s a lot of near-term thrash or prospects don’t look good or the market is down overall, even if that’s not specific to your company, even if it’s a kind of broader thing, I think that definitely strains people’s time horizons.
But good leadership is you try to get people excited about where you’re going. You obviously can’t just ignore the short term. There’s a lot of stuff that we need to get done there. At this point, it’s a pretty big company. I mean, as one of our board members says, “We need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” which is probably a simplification.
But one of the things that I’ve personally learned over the last 18 years of running the company is—I remember when I was getting started, feeling like you weren’t understood kind of feels bad. I think that there’s a normal human impulse, which is you want to be understood. I think that’s partially why people want to express themselves and why communication is so important—people at some level have this intrinsic desire to be understood and belong and feel like they belong with the people around them.
Obviously, being in a state where something that you’re trying to do is fundamentally misunderstood or that people don’t believe in it, can be tough. But after going through a bunch of these cycles, I actually feel like I’ve trained myself to see it the opposite way, which is if I’m doing something that feels too well understood for too long, then I feel like I’m just being complacent. After I’ve gone through a bunch of these different cycles, whether it’s—you know, a lot of things that are just not controversial today, but at the time people thought were crazy. Taking the service initially from being a college website to not, buying Instagram or WhatsApp, which were billions of dollars for the acquisitions, but at the time people were like, “What?” I remember, I think it was—I don’t know if it was Jon Stewart or Colbert—but they did a segment that was making fun of the Instagram acquisition. It was like, “What? You bought Instagram for a billion dollars? Of money? Are you kidding?”
So I think some of these things, it’s like, you just— you kind of go through a bunch of these and you have the conviction to kind of push back on the world a little bit and say, “Okay. We’re going to get through this and come out 18 months, 24 months, with something that we believe in.” And after that happens a few times, you understand that could happen. Most people still will get more of these bets wrong than right.
I think it’s obviously very important to not get too overconfident with this. But at this point, I kind of feel like if people fully feel like they understand what we are as a company and what we’re doing, then I’m not pushing it hard enough. Now I’m at the point where, like, that feels bad to me.
So I want to push us into the zone, which is, “Okay, let’s constantly be doing something that can be doubted.” Because if we’re not, then what are we doing? We have this huge opportunity to be able to do exciting things and help invent things and create things for the world. If it’s obvious to everyone that we’re going to be able to do each of the things that we’re working on, then I don’t feel like we’re making the most of what we need to do. So I’m not sure that answers the original question around internally how do you get people through it, but I actually think a lot of this how do you get an organization of a hundred thousand people through something is about managing your own psychology and about managing your team’s psychology.
Tim Ferriss: For sure.
Mark Zuckerberg: One of the things that I’ve always found is you can pretty much, I think, get an organization and a team through almost any challenge as long as you can maintain good cohesion.
It’s the external stuff that doesn’t bother me that much. People can criticize us. If they’re people I respect, I care a lot about that and want to make sure we do better, but it doesn’t make me not sleep at night. When our stock price goes down, that doesn’t make me not sleep at night. When there’s a new competitor, that doesn’t make me not sleep at night. If there’s an issue on my team and there isn’t good cohesion, then I’m not sleeping well until I resolve that.
It goes back to the very first thing we were talking about with fencing. It’s intellectual, and you’re managing your energy. But I think in order to get through these things and build big, long-term things, you need to take care of yourself and you need to take care of your core team. And basically in doing so, you can, I think, lead a pretty large organization through some pretty difficult times to do some pretty awesome stuff. But I think that it’s intellectual, it’s energy, and it’s about kind of training yourself to be uncomfortable.
Tim Ferriss: So let’s talk about the training yourself to be uncomfortable, or to become more comfortable with discomfort. Does anything come to mind just in terms of managing your psychology?
Mark Zuckerberg: For my own psychology, the way that I try to manage this stuff is I wake up in the morning, and you get whatever emails you have of stuff that’s going on in the world.
So it’s world events, it’s team events, whatever trends we’re seeing across our products. And often in there, there’s a fair amount of bad news. And new things that I need to absorb. One of the things I’ve found just for kind of managing myself is that if I try to just go straight into the day, almost every morning when I wake up and read through my emails and get the news, it’s almost like getting punched with sort of like a ton of new context. And it’s like, “Okay, I need to internalize this.”
So I found that doing something physical and something that’s meditative to take my mind off of it for an hour, so then I can reset and go do work is really important. So that’s why things like foiling or surfing have been really important to me because when you’re out there in the water, it’s pretty hard to focus on anything else. When you’re on the board, you’re focused on making sure you stay on the board and don’t mess something up. Especially if you’re kind of towing or something like that, there’s not a whole lot of downtime.
So I’ve found that for my own performance is significantly better when I have something like that that’s meditative and physical and allows me to output some energy, and then I can come back in, and it’s almost like I’ll have subconsciously settled all of the news that have happened in the world, and it’s like, “Okay. Now, let’s go deal with it.” Now, obviously, if there’s something that’s really an emergency, I’m not going to go do a sport or something, I’ll go deal with it. And obviously part of life is you don’t always get to control your schedule. And that’s kind of how that goes, but when I compare how I do on the days when I get to have some time to soak that in, or to have an outlet versus just like jumping right in, I find I’m often stewing in bad news or something. And then I’m not as productive.
So that’s sort of my own personal way that I try to manage situations like this. But obviously, a key part of this is like having an awesome team, and it’s not primarily about me at this point. It’s a big company, and we have awesome people who are running all these different groups. So I get that what I’m saying kind of how I’ve worked out the system for myself isn’t necessarily something that would work for a lot of other people.
Tim Ferriss: I think that the meditative palate cleanser makes sense though. Especially, if you’re talking about things like foiling, where the consequence of a lapse of attention on what you’re doing has immediate penalties. So it’s regulating, in a sense.
Mark Zuckerberg: Maybe I’m not strong-willed enough or calm enough to just do straight up meditation. I actually need to put myself in a situation where it’s difficult to not focus on that thing.
Part of this too—I mean, I do think managing energy is an interesting thing. I mean, some of the folks who I work with at the company, I think they say lovingly, but I think that they sometimes refer to my attention as the Eye of Sauron, in that basically, they’re like, “You have this unending amount of energy to go work on something. And if you point that at any given team, you will just burn them.” But at the same time, it’s just kind of managing that. So that way I can manage my own energy and diffuse it well enough, so that way it’s like, okay, I have the thing that I’m focused on that day, and it’s really important to me that I can as often as possible manage my schedule so I can actually focus on the things that I’m naturally thinking about.
I just think the engagement that you get of having, like, an immediate feedback loop around thinking about something and then getting to go talk to the people who are working on this is so much better than going and scheduling a meeting that you’ll have three weeks later when— I mean, maybe the topic will still be important, but it’s not like what’s going on at that time. Getting that balance right, I think, is an important thing for sustainability for the organization as well.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure. We may come back to energy management. We’re going to touch a lot of subjects. We’re going to bounce from the professional to the personal and everything in between. Let’s touch on some things that are kind of top of mind or might be top of mind right now, because I certainly have a lot of questions related to, say, the metaverse and a longer term roadmap. We chatted briefly prior to this about engineering versus science problems.
I’d love to unpack that at some point, but let me ask a really specific question first, and that’s related to kinesthetic feedback and engagement, right? So one thing that struck me about Ready Player One, especially in the cinematic version, so the movie itself is that you have this incredible tactile environment where they’re grabbing objects and interacting with objects, feeling impact, and so on. But then you see them cut to an external shot of someone in a, say, trailer where they wouldn’t actually have that kind of feedback even though they have haptic suits in Ready Player One. What do you see as sort of the roadmap for that type of interactivity?
The more I thought about this, the more I realized, “Well, surface level stimulation may not be quite as immersive as people would hope for.” Do we need to wait for some type of Neuralink type of computer brain interface, where we’re actually stimulating the brain and not simulating, but actually producing, sort of, the perception of kinesthetic engagement? How do you think about the future of that type of hardware and interaction?
Mark Zuckerberg: I think that there’s a pretty long arc there. And it’s also just pretty amazing how good of a sense of presence you can get, even with certain things being pretty raw or out of place, right? The original devices that we had for virtual reality didn’t even have hand presence. They just had basically the headset, and it had this wire. So you kind of had this wire wrapped around your neck because it had to go to a computer to power the thing. And every year, we basically knocked down one or two more barriers. So then we got Quest, which you got rid of the wire, you got it so that now you could run virtual reality at one fiftieth or one one-hundredth of the compute power than what you have in a powerful desktop with a mobile chip on your headset.
Then we got hands. And the first set of hands were basically controllers, but now you’re actually getting actual hand tracking with all 10 fingers being able to be tracked in real time. In the next version that’s coming out, we have sensors for your eyes, so you can make realistic eye contact with someone in virtual reality. And just thinking about to what extent you can do without some of this stuff. I mean, think about all the Zoom calls that you’ve been on over the last couple of years during COVID, there’s no real eye contact over a video conference. Because your cameras are in different places.
Tim Ferriss: It’s simulated.
Mark Zuckerberg: And even without that it still gets you pretty far. So in VR today, adding realistic eye contact, each of these things, it’s like, you kind of almost don’t realize that you’re missing them. And then when you have them, you’re like, whoa, that’s a really core part of the human experience is being able to make eye contact and hold eye contact with someone and have that gaze.
So I think you’ll just add more things over time. More realistic expressions, more realistic avatars going from kind of cartoon and stylistic and fun to photo realistic and having that work. And then at some point, I think you will get haptics. And the way that we kind of think about haptic glove, for example, screens have resolutions, right? You think about how many pixels are on the screen. And you can actually think about haptics in your hand or anywhere else as basically also having a resolution. It’s like, how many pinpoints can it make across your hand, and your hand is super sensitive. So it can actually, your actual physical hand can have a very high amount of resolution for haptics. But when we first start getting haptics, they’re not going to have that high of resolution, but it’s still going to be amazing. And then every year they’re going to get better and better and better.
So I think that there’s quite a far roadmap on this, which is partially what makes it super exciting, right? It’s like, you can have a realistically, a 15-year roadmap of what is it going to take to deliver the kind of virtual reality presence that you want to be, you know, feel like you’re physically there with another person. At the same time, augmented reality is a whole separate set of problems because now you’re putting a hologram in the real world. So that’s kind of a similar thing there. But being able to just work on a project that’s a 15-year project, where there’s—a lot of it is an engineering problem that you just need to go build, but a lot of it is also unknown, right?
So there’s six or seven key unknowns that we just have multiple teams going out and trying to attack different approaches at that. I just think it’s a fascinating and fun way to make progress. And of course each year you’re intercepting and launching a new product. So I find this to be some of the most exciting work that I’ve ever gotten to be a part of. And I hope that for the rest of my career that I get to engage in more projects that are sort of longer term oriented with this mix of engineering and science and in, kind of, continual milestones. I think it’s just a great way to make progress in the world.
Tim Ferriss: I’d love to ask some more questions about metaverse and also the recent announcement related to Instagram and NFTs. Just to touch on that. And then we’re going to go back and fill in with some backstory and some family questions, if you’re open to that. As I’m looking at the metaverse and have been observing fairly closely Web3 developments and NFTs, and so on in the last handful of years, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about your long-term planning and then how you must think about sort of secondary effects, tertiary effects of these technological advances. And then I’ve also thought about, I think it was Andy Grove who had paired metrics. So he would have sort of a primary outcome metric that they were tracking. And then they would look for kind of correlated impacts that they could track that were undesirable or should be addressed in advance.
And I’ll give you an example. So playing with Oculus, I was very impressed with the technology because I used a very early, I don’t want to say prototype, but version years ago, and the advances are really tremendous. And I had an opportunity to chat with a friend of mine who, unbeknownst to me, at some point, and I’m blanking on the exact game title, but he was something like second in the world or third in the world in mini golf. And that was, I want to say a year, year and a half ago. Now, he’s not even in the top 500. So there’s clearly a large demand for this. The number of users is increasing rapidly and it’s still early. Right?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: It’s really, really early. Now when I used the technology most recently—and I had several ligaments torn on my knee, so I had the experience of actually engaging with it, sitting on a couch, which was fascinating because it was my first time not mapping out sort of the playing area and walking around, so I actually had the ability to test it as somebody who’s sort of mobility restricted, which was amazing—when I came out of the experience, it took a while for my eyes and brain to readjust to sort of the depth perception of objects around me. And I was chatting with this friend, John, he said, “Oh, yeah, it takes about two to three months. And then you adjust completely to that.” And I’m wondering what types of societal changes, maybe physical adaptations, you are tracking as more and more people come online and begin to spend more and more time using, say, VR.
Mark Zuckerberg: The framework that you’re talking about, about having goals and metrics to track those goals and then countermetrics is a really important one that we basically encode into all of our teams across the company. They’re basically things that we think are good if we can enable more connection or more different things across the company, but then there are kind of countermetrics in all these areas that we’re tracking to make sure that we don’t exceed or don’t increase negative effects.
For VR specifically, the biggest issue that people report is still this feeling of motion sickness. And the basic issue, just to kind of break it down, is your eye— Now eyes are not computers, but you can kind of think about it as a refresh rate. If something changes in the world, it’ll kind of take 5 to 10 milliseconds for different people, for you to sort of recognize that. And if you think about what’s technically happening with VR, basically, you have to render this whole world continuously. And if a person changes their head position or eye position, it expects the image to be different. But then by the time that their saccade is done, which is what it’s called, basically your kind of eye refocusing.
If we haven’t rendered correctly, what you would kind of expect to be in that space, then it creates this real feeling of discomfort over time. It’s not like you miss one frame, and you feel terrible, for most people. But it’s over time, if you’re not doing that efficiently, then that creates this feeling that, it creates like a—it’s a real physical feeling of discomfort. And this is partially why the early versions of the VR headsets needed to be plugged into a computer because in order to be able to render a world that quickly, you needed a lot of computing power. So it’s this tremendous engineering challenge to now be able to do that so much more efficiently that you’re doing that on a mobile chip, which is 1/50th or 1/100th as powerful as the desktop things, but get that to work really well.
I would say that that problem is not fully solved yet, but it’s getting better in every generation, and people aren’t computers and not everyone is the same and people have different sensitivity to this stuff. So some people, if a headset is running at 60 frames per second, that won’t bother them. But other people, at the other end of the spectrum, if a headset is running at 120 frames per second, they may still perceive some glitchiness. And for most people, if you can get to 72 or 90, you’re in pretty good shape. But there are outliers and people are not all the same. And at the end of the day, making this a technology that can be comfortable for basically everyone is going to be a really critical part of making this happen.
So that’s probably the biggest effect that we see. Some of the other stuff, like you mentioned, I think you just need some more kind of a longitudinal study.
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Mark Zuckerberg: It’s tough to exactly understand all the effects of anything right up front, but you want to be mindful of that and be open to the fact that what you’re doing could have issues and that you want to improve those issues. And we try to research that stuff and try to continuously improve it. But that’s the biggest thing that we’re tracking right now.
Tim Ferriss: And on looking at societal changes, we could look at that for a second and then we’ll come back to Instagram. I’ve been very engaged in watching, say, Axie Infinity as an example, and play to earn in different forms. And it’s been pretty mind boggling to see, for instance, that there are so many players in the Philippines who are earning income, that they can now impact large elections, as a constituent. And I’m wondering how you see this developing, and this is—certainly, Meta is going to be a primary player; there are going to be other players—but if we get to the point where—and please poke holes in this if you have a different view of things—but if we get to a point where there’s almost a universal basic income provided by the broad spectrum of jobs that you can have in the metaverse or online, what do you think some of the societal effects will be of that? It seems to be certainly growing faster than I ever could have imagined, even though a lot of it is maybe not right in my backyard. But it’s certainly on a global level, seems to be expanding really quickly. I’d love to hear you speak to that in any capacity.
Mark Zuckerberg: I don’t interpret this as a universal basic income. I think what we’re actually going to see is just the creation of a lot of different worlds that have different rules. So I think we’ll kind of explore and people will get to spend more time in worlds that there are very different rule sets around. Everything from different physics, literally, to how you can move through the space to different modes of governance. One thing that I think is pretty important and that I hope that we can build into the Horizon platform, it’s the social platform that we’re building, is the idea that anyone can create a space, but then spaces can be nested in other spaces. So you can basically create a building or a store, and then that can be inside a city that someone else creates.
And then there’s the question there of, okay, well, how do you govern that? Who gets to say, and what policies, who can enter it, how do taxes work, what’s the basic business model of that space, what are the design codes around what are you allowed to build there? All these different dimensions. And the physical world is, there’s a lot of it, but it is at the end of the day more finite than what we’re going to have with the virtual world. So not everyone can kind of get to be the mayor of their own virtual space and see how that evolves. But I think part of what we’re going to get to see is you’re going to have, you know, they could be young people in the Philippines or anywhere else around the world, experimenting with basically creating worlds that are not just a single space or an experience but actually like an environment or a polity in a way that other people can kind of be a part of.
And I think that there will be sort of pretty interesting innovation, social—and economic, and governance innovation—as long as this gets designed in a good way. So I guess more than any specific policy idea, I think this could end up being a way to basically explore a lot of different ideas and kind of see which of these different environments that evolve are going to be appealing to people in different ways. I think that’s going to be wild to watch play out. And it’s one of the things that I’m really looking forward to.
Tim Ferriss: Are there any societal shifts or changes, not necessarily catalyzed by Meta, but just that you see coming or plausibly coming that you guys are trying to get ahead of or think about, just in terms of mitigating problems later. Is there anything that comes to mind?
Mark Zuckerberg: I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re getting at, but one big shift that I think is happening is the rise of distributed work. I don’t view that as a problem, I think it’s good. There’s just a lot of research that shows that people’s opportunities—social, economic, and otherwise—are generally pretty anchored to physically where they are. And I think sometimes people draw this juxtaposition of say, okay, there’s the digital world and the real world. That’s not actually how I think about it. I think that there’s a physical world and a digital world. And the real world is actually both. And increasingly I think people will use these technologies to be able to be present in places that they physically can’t be. And I think that that’s really powerful.
It’s like, we’re doing this podcast and we’re not sitting next to each other physically, but it feels like we’re here, and we’re kind of having a live conversation. And in the future, maybe five years from now, if we were doing this, we’ll have AR glasses and a hologram version of me will be on the couch next to you. And I think that will be even better than what we’re doing right now. So I think that through video chat, you can have moments where you feel present, but I think through things like virtual and augmented reality, when you can have an office and someone can be walking through it as a hologram, even though they’re physically in a different place. I think that you’ll just be able to much more naturally unlock more of the opportunities, both social and economic, and I guess other others as well, of being able to be around people and be present no matter where you actually are.
So people will be free to kind of live where they want, maybe where their family physically is, a country that they grew up in. But they’ll have all the opportunities that will be available around the world. So that I think is awesome. I think it’s one of the most promising things about the future. And one of the things that I’m trying to do is, sort of taking the conversation in a different direction, is we actually recently did this exercise at our company where we were thinking about, okay, we’re coming up on almost a hundred thousand people soon in our company. And we kind of think about our values as a company, as our cultural operating system. How do we get work done well and continue to build the things that we need to build. And a big part of the values, and I’d love to talk through them here—this is actually the first podcast or any public thing that I’ve done where I’ve discussed any of the values. I think it’ll probably be pretty interesting to go through it—but one of them is we rolled out this value called Live in the Future, which is basically about the world is moving towards being distributed first. And both because we think that’s a good trend for how we work, and because we aspire to play a role in building all the technology to enable that through virtual reality, augmented reality, metaverse, software, and infrastructure, and avatars to express yourself, we have the saying that we want people inside the company to eat your own dog food, that use the things that we are building internally as part of how we work, because that’s also, it gets us in a faster feedback loop to make those tools better for everyone else around the world. But that’s one of the six values that we just rolled out. I actually think it might be interesting to go through the others too, but up to you.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, please. Please, let’s go through them, and then I’ll have some questions about them. I’m sure.
Mark Zuckerberg: So some of them we kept, but we’re just changing how we execute them. So one thing that I think our company is pretty well known for is having the value of Move Fast. And I’ve always basically believed that values are only useful if you can legitimately disagree with them. I’ve always thought values like “be honest,” are not that helpful, because of course you have to be honest. I feel bad even needing to write that down. If you have to write that down, then something kind of went wrong. I don’t know any good company that doesn’t focus on honesty or demand that of their employees. So from my perspective, that’s not a useful, if you only get to write down five or six concepts to program into your culture, you want them to be things that good companies can reasonably do differently.
And I think part of this is that good values, you need to be able to give something up in order to get them. So around Move Fast, we’ve always had this question, you can’t just tell people to move fast. The question is: what’s the deal? What are you willing to give up? And famously, it used to be Move Fast and Break Things. And the idea was that we tolerated some amount of bugs in the software in order to encourage people to move quickly. Because moving fast, I think, is the key to learning. You want to increase the iteration cycle so that way you can get feedback from the people you serve quickly, and then incorporate that into the product. So we would literally get into situations where competitors of us would ship once a year, once every six months, and we’d ship code every day. Of course we’re going to learn faster, and we’re going to build something better if you’re shipping something every day. So the question is: what are you willing to give up?
And so it used to be we would tolerate some amount of defects in the product. It got to the point as the company grew that we were producing so many bugs that going back and fixing them was actually slowing us down more than we were speeding up. So I still thought, okay, moving fast, this is still a really important thing. We’ve got to change how we do it. So we kind of evolved to building a somewhat less sexy phrase: Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure. And basically the new bet was we were going to invest disproportionately in building up good infrastructure and abstractions inside our companies. So that way the average engineer who comes here is going to be much faster and more productive at getting things done than in other places. And at a scale of almost a hundred thousand people, what this really means now, companies just add process over time. And it’s all good intention, right?
It’s like people are trying to make sure that we don’t repeat mistakes that we’ve made. So you just add this checklist of things that everyone needs to do before they can ship anything. But most companies don’t have a counter process to that to basically garbage collect and remove processes that are no longer that useful. What I’m really focused on now is just methodically going through and making sure all of the different processes that we’ve built up as a company still serve us well and kind of empowering an effort to go do that. So now that’s kind of what Move Fast is focused on. Should we keep going?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, let’s keep going. Let’s do it. Yeah.
Mark Zuckerberg: The second one is Focus on Long-Term Impact, where on the one hand you want a very fast cycle time to learn quickly. But on the other hand, you want to always keep people focused on the prize and long term. And one thing that’s sort of unfortunate, we had a version of this before that we just said Focus on Impact. But a lot of people, especially as the company grew, interpreted that to mean, do something that would make an impact in this six-month cycle. So that way, when you have your performance review, your manager can point to something good that you did. And you get promoted. And it’s like, oh, God, that’s definitely not what we’re trying to do. Obviously it’s good if you can have an impact in the near term, but you want to be able to have a faster iteration speed to learn quickly, but it’s not always important to kind deliver something every six months.
You want to make sure that you’re focusing and improving things for the long term. So we’ve actually made a bunch of changes to our culture. We changed performance management and the performance cycle that people have from every six months to now it’s just once a year to make it set the timeframes that people have or longer.
The next one is a new one that we added that we call Build Awesome Things. And the idea here is that— I actually think that there’s a pretty big difference between things that are valuable and things that are awe inspiring and amazing. And I kind of think that our company has been pretty good at building things that a lot of people use and like.
But for a combination of reasons, we just haven’t focused quite as much until the last few years, especially as we’ve worked on a lot of this metaverse work and virtual reality and things like that, we haven’t focused as much on things that are just awe-inspiring. And I actually think that there’s this balance where you need to do both. You can’t do things that are just all inspiration and no substance. But I also think you can go too far in the other direction of just doing things that are useful, but I think a lot of what the world needs right now is inspiration. There are a lot of things in our lives in modern day that work pretty well, but a lot of what we sort of lack is a positive vision for the future.
A lot of the metaverse work to me has that level of inspiration and that’s partially why I find it super exciting. We talked about Live in the Future. That’s mostly focused on being a great distributed workforce. From the early days of COVID, I sort of tried to put a flag in the ground that we were going to, even after COVID is done, I think by the end of this decade, hopefully have 50 percent or more of the company working distributed and working remotely. And I still think that that will be awesome and just unlock opportunity, get access to more talent. And then the last two, Be Direct and Respect Your Colleagues, which I find as the company grows— one of my colleagues, Boz, has this saying that we’re in danger of nicing ourselves to death.
I think as organizations grow, there’s a sort of politeness that comes in, where, when you’re just working with a small set of people and you’re comfortable with them, you can actually be a lot more blunt and direct. And Sheryl always says that the amount of progress that we make is directly proportional to the number of hard conversations that we’re willing to have. But as companies grow, I think it’s tougher to give hard feedback. So trying to build that into the cultural operating system, which is, we’re just going to really reward and focus on being direct with each other, I think is a really important thing.
And then the last one—I realize I’ve been talking for, like, 10 minutes straight at this point, but I think this is the first time I’ve talked about this stuff publicly, so I have a lot of things to say.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s good.
Mark Zuckerberg: When we rebranded the company to Meta, we had this internal question of, what should we call our employees? And someone actually emailed Douglas Hofstadter, the renowned author and thinker. And he wrote back and was like, it should be Metamates. And so internally I felt like if Douglas Hofstadter thinks we should be Metamates, then who am I to disagree with that? So our last value is Meta, Metamates, Me, which is, it’s sort of this adaptation from this old naval saying, “Ship, shipmates, self.” As the company grows, you want to make sure that the people stay focused on the long term and the whole enterprise, and then their teams but also take care of themselves, but I think that sort of having that as a framework is pretty important. I’m happy to go into more detail on any of these, but I also want to be aware that this is quite a long answer and monologue as it is. So wherever you want to go with this.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Let’s pick up on it and then I have up a whole bunch of other things I’d love to get into, but with respect to the values, I’ve seen and looked very closely at the values of, say, Amazon, which have iterated, that Bezos put together, and others. And I think the degree to which values end up the, for lack of a better term, sort of operating system of people at a company varies widely, company to company. And I’d love to know how or if you are—and you mentioned one example of the longer performance review timeframes, right?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Incentivizing these behaviors. You have a team that is determining how to facilitate supporting these values throughout the organization so that they do have more saturation, so to speak.
Mark Zuckerberg: Each of these is basically coupled with an operational effort. So we have a set of work that we do. It’s like Move Fast is the work. Actually, it’s something that I’m pretty engaged in where I will just routinely go and sit down with, largely, engineering leaders, but also folks across the company and ask them, “Okay, well, what is slowing you down?” So in addition to the product reviews they’ll do where we’ll talk about, “What are the decisions we should be making or what should we be investing in?” I think it’s useful to often just sit down with people and have a whole conversation that are like, “All right, what are the things that are basically causing you to move more slowly?”
And then I view a bunch of my job as CEO, but then also we have other people who just work on this, to try to go remove those obstacles. And obviously, we have to do it in a way that helps fit the other goals of the company. So if people are saying, “Hey, it would make me be able to go faster if I just didn’t have to care about this issue,” if that’s an important issue, then obviously we’re not going to just say no. Right? It’s like, “Let’s figure out how we can care about that issue and do this as efficiently as possible.” But you can apply energy, methodically, over a long period of time towards oiling or greasing the wheels in the organization in the direction that you want. And I think you can get it done over time.
I remember, when I was first learning about running an organization, I had this conversation with this guy, Dan Rosensweig, who was the COO of Yahoo at the time. And he’s great. He’s a great person. And he told me this thing that will always stick with me, which is that, “Every organization sucks, but you get to choose the ways in which your organization sucks,” which is maybe the most negative possible way of putting it, but I think it’s basically, if you want to move fast on certain dimensions, you can, but you only get a few things like that.
If you want to optimize moving fast, we can do that. If we want to optimize being distributed first, we can do that, but maybe you get five of these. And we are very focused on operationalizing them and making sure that each of these values is backed up by real work streams that we have or decisions that we make or processes that we make, and when I mentioned changing the performance management tool, for Live in the Future, one of the big things that we’re doing is— and I don’t just want teams to be working distributed and working over video conference. I also want them to be using Workrooms and using their VR headsets to— Workrooms is this product. It’s the VR product that we built for collaboration, and it’s great. It’s early still, but it’s fascinating. It’s like you can— you’re in a meeting and you’re sitting around a table and, even though the fidelity isn’t quite as photorealistic on the avatars yet as, say, the conversation that we’re having now, the fact that you can sit around a table and you can see people’s gestures and you can have a side conversation if there’s 10 people around the table, you can turn to the person next to them and ask them a question, and there could be multiple conversations going on in the room, like a normal room, but obviously you can’t do anything like that over videoconference.
There are a bunch of things like that that actually make it, in some ways, feel more real already than videoconferences, even though the avatars are still very stylized and cartoony. But we just have a rule that everyone who’s in leadership or management should be, basically, doing at least one standing meeting a week in Workrooms. We want to get the feedback loop going that that team now is overwhelmed with feedback on how to get it to be even better, but I think one of the outcomes of this is I think Workrooms is going to probably learn what they need to do to be a great product and a lot faster than a lot of others in the space.
So I think that that’s one way to operationalize these, but you’ve got to operationalize them if you want them to be real. Otherwise, they’re just words that you put on a website somewhere.
Tim Ferriss: I want to say that one thing that came up repeatedly in the course of doing homework for this conversation was how relentlessly product-focused you are. And I heard multiple anecdotes. I don’t know if they’re apocryphal. I can imagine them happening, though, where if you’d be walking down the street and some kid would be like, “Facebook sucks,” and you’d walk over and be like, “Oh, yeah? Well, show me why it sucks. Show me,” and then you’d take 25 notes and the next day, team would get a long list of things from having actually sat down with someone for a half hour, 45 minutes, and having them walk you through their experience. And I do think that—
Mark Zuckerberg: That’s generally true.
Tim Ferriss: So I’d love to ask a few more questions about just Web3, in general, and then maybe back step for a second to ask you about a number of other facets in your life. With Instagram and NFTs, so I know that Web3 is getting a lot of airtime right now. And I just came from a separate conference where every conversation involved Web3. And it strikes me that Web2, Web3, decentralized, centralized are going to coexist. I mean, I’m no expert, but it seems that people want curation. In many cases, they want trusted third parties. I don’t want to always be my own bank. There are good reasons why I use banks instead of not taking on all those responsibilities myself.
And I’m wondering how, let’s just say in the case of Instagram, some challenges that, perhaps, you foresee. And I can imagine, for instance, if people can turn, hypothetically, posts into NFTs, how that might affect, let’s just say, content moderation and safety precautions and so on if they actually have ownership of their posts. This is a hypothetical that I’m throwing out there, but what type of challenges do you foresee coming up in the near term or in the long term?
Mark Zuckerberg: The one that you just mentioned is, I think, a really fundamental one. At some level, you can make things censorship-resistant, which has a bunch of equities. And there are certainly a lot of people who feel like their expression is restricted online more than they would like, but that also prevents, if you really can’t stop people from expressing things, then how are you going to fight against terrorism or child exploitation or things that people think are really awful, even the people who generally want more stuff to be allowed online?
So really removing the ability for anyone to do any kind of moderation at all, in a broader platform, I think is problematic. I think in something like messaging, we don’t expect the people who run our messaging platforms, whether it’s us or Apple or whoever, to go moderate a message that you send in private, but it’s this distinction between the living room and the town square. If you’re in a space that’s a broader space, then I think that there is a little more need to make sure that things conform to the values that society wants and reducing things that are just really, that I think everyone agrees are bad, like terrorism and child exploitation and bullying and things like that.
Taking a step back on your question around Web3 and NFTs, I come at a lot of this from the perspective of thinking about the metaverse and how to make it more interoperable and a better environment for creators. I do think that there’s an interesting conversation to have around Instagram and Facebook and what to do there, but I tend to think about that as, how can you help bootstrap a creative economy in these 2D social apps that will be much, much bigger once you get to this metaverse vision over time?
I think the reason why operability is so important is because— Imagine this case. We get to a point where, instead of spending three hours a day on video conference calls, you are now spending that same time in, basically, feeling like you’re actually present with someone, either because they’re a hologram on your couch with augmented reality or you’re in virtual reality in something like Workrooms, but a future version of it where you’re actually, you feel like you’re physically there with them, around a table. Okay. So now, in a world where you’re spending a few hours a day doing that, you’re going to care about how you express yourself. Both the avatar—do you show up as a photorealistic version of yourself? Are you a dragon? Are you a stylized version? But a lot of this is going to be like, okay, how do we choose to express ourselves is through the clothing and what we wear and what we put on.
But now, imagine that every app that you go to, anything that you do to express yourself—so you get a sweatshirt, it’s in an app—you can’t actually bring that to another app. That would just be massively stifling for the whole creative economy because now, as a consumer, you’re not going to want to buy a lot of sweatshirts because they’re not going to be that useful, because you can’t bring them between places. And because you’re not going to want to buy that much, it’s going to be less useful for creators, and fewer people are going to be able to make a living, basically, designing these kind of experiences or virtual architecture, virtual clothes, or different things like that.
So the ability to be able to take how you want to express yourself and take your stuff with you between these different experiences, I think, is just a really key technical principle and standards thing to hopefully achieve with the metaverse. So I hope we can get there. And in order to push in that direction, I think it’s helpful to start sooner in things like Instagram and Facebook by supporting the communities that are doing things like NFTs so, that way, you can get to minting, you can get to bringing your stuff around between these different places.
But I do think that the challenges that you’re mentioning where all systems, I think, end up being some combination of some element of decentralized and centralized, I think, actually a lot of new systems just basically create value by decentralizing and creating more opportunity in some area by creating a new tool that a lot of people use. But I think we’ll need to get the balance right and that’s something that— I’m probably more optimistic about the Web3 stuff than most other people who are running these big companies. So I’m trying to push us to be more forward-leaning on that.
Our fundamental belief is that, if we create more use cases where creators can start to do this stuff, then you’ll get more experimentation and you’ll also just get a bigger creative economy over time, which I think is a huge part of the goal.
Tim Ferriss: It’s going to be exciting to watch. I have to say also that doing a bit of biographical research, looking at your trajectory, having known quite a bit already. It’s incredible to me how much complexity you have learned to grapple with in the sense that, now on a global stage, if there are conflicts or state actors who want to engage or need to engage, Meta is almost always, it would seem, going to be on the playing field in some capacity. It’s just very impressive to me that you have, from the very beginning, reached this point where you’re grappling with so many different layers of complexity. So I just wanted to say that, first and foremost.
Mark Zuckerberg: Well, I appreciate that.
Tim Ferriss: I can’t even imagine. I honestly can’t even imagine. I have enough trouble dealing with the complexity of a tiny team of fewer than 10 people, much less 100,000 and then the global stage. One thing I did want to ask about, I had Noah Feldman on this podcast a long time ago. You put a lot of time and thought into the oversight board. What is your assessment of how that’s going?
Mark Zuckerberg: Well, I think it’s early. One of the things that I think has been really promising is that society needs a network of different institutions that it feels like are legitimate or have some legitimacy for making decisions in order to, basically, accept the decisions and feel like they’re fair. And I think one basic issue that we found ourselves in is that there’s just no way that any single private company should be responsible for arbitrating so many questions of social values between free expression and safety or locking things down to ensure privacy versus making sure that the marketplace can be open and competitive. It’s like these are real issues and there’s equities on all sides and there’s no single decision that any company can make on any of them that, I think, is going to be universally accepted.
So I think, therefore, you really want to not set up a situation where one company has to make a lot of these decisions by themselves. That’s why I wanted to create this oversight board. I recognized that we’re always going to have to be the first line and we’re going to be responsible for making the moderation decisions on our platform, but I thought it was important that we shouldn’t have the final say in the most important decisions and that there was a different body—the judicial analogy is something like a supreme court, although obviously there are all these differences here—but something that people can appeal to and that we can also refer some of the most complicated cases to and that they could make the final and binding judgment on that.
And one of the things that we’ve seen that I think has been interesting is that it does seem like there’s a little bit more acceptance when the oversight board weighs in on something complicated than when we just do it, ourselves. And I think part of that was we put a lot of thought into making sure that the people who are on the oversight board are world renowned, in terms of a focus on human rights, really focused on free expression, as well, because, at the end of the day, these platforms are about giving people a voice, diverse, spanning a large portion of the globe.
Legitimacy isn’t a binary thing. It’s not like either it’s completely rejected or it’s completely accepted by everyone. We were mindful in setting this up and I think the oversight board has also done a good job, itself, in managing its independence. It is a completely independent organization from us and it has to be. And its independence is super important for its continued legitimacy.
Overall, I’d say I’m sort of optimistic about how it’s going, but I think building that sort of trust and legitimacy also takes time. It’s not a thing that you can just turn on in a year and then, all of a sudden, people are like, “Okay, this thing exists. Great.” It’s going to be making decisions, it often overruling us or rebuking us on things and people seeing that we respect its independence and its authority and going and implementing that. That’s, I think, how it basically builds legitimacy over time, but I think, as an institution, I think it’s really important that we have this kind of independent function.
Of course, over time, having clear rules set and democratically elected congress would be, I think, the most useful thing. And we’re getting that, more or less, in different parts of the world. Obviously, it’s a little harder in the United States because— I think the First Amendment is great, so I’m obviously hugely supportive of the First Amendment, but I think that makes it harder for anyone in the United States to basically create or craft different regulations that weigh in on some of these trade-offs. But I do think, over time, there will be a balance that is struck across all of this, and I think that this is all part of that, moving towards that equilibrium.
Tim Ferriss: You mentioned Sheryl earlier. I’d like to come back to Sheryl. So this is a question from a female friend of mine. I’ll just read it as it’s written, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. So, “Mark’s business partnership with Sheryl is legendary. I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another partnership like this—male, female, lasted 15 or so years, 15 plus, still going. Why does it work? How does it work? Why does he think so very few others have such a partnership?” I’ll just add one more. “What has shifted in his life and business, as a result?” I would just love to hear any thoughts on that because it does strike me also as a very unusual partnership that has proven itself with tremendous longevity.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah. I think, in a lot of ways, that partnership has defined the growth of the company. First of all, I would give a huge amount of credit for this working to Sheryl. I think she is an amazing person. And if you think about, when she joined the company, I was, like, a kid. She was actually as old as I am now, almost 15 years ago. I was in my early 20s and didn’t know anything about business or running a company or anything like this. And I just think the extraordinary amount of patience that she had, and in a way, is— as a manager of an organization, it’s almost like she raised me like a child, and not just me. I think, like, a lot of the people we have on the team now. So I think she’s exceptional in that way.
One thing that’s interesting about our company is that the business is oddly divorced from the actual product. Most things, it’s like, okay, you build a product and you sell the product. And in our case, I think one of the things that created enough space for someone who has as much energy and is as senior as Sheryl to join is that fact that, in the type of business that we have, the consumer part of what we do is actually somewhat distinct from the advertising and the business part of what we do. There was enough space, I think, in the company to have two people—
Tim Ferriss: That’s a good point.
Mark Zuckerberg: —who, basically, were primary principals for the company. I’ve debated this with a bunch of other peers and people who’ve created companies. You had a great podcast with Daniel Ek a while ago, towards the beginning of COVID. I’ve had this discussion with him a bunch of times. I was like, “Well…” He’s like, “I just couldn’t do that,” because he says, literally, for Spotify, it’s like they build the business and the content and all that stuff is like one kind of package; whereas, I think we’re sort of uniquely set up where I can focus on the consumer part of what we do and she can focus on all the advertising and building the business. And that just has worked incredibly well over a long period of time and I think will for a long time to come.
I just have a huge amount to learn from her, and I think she probably feels— I guess she feels the same way, but you’d have to ask her.
Tim Ferriss: That’ll be round two. So I do think that the separation of church and state, I mean, that’s probably an overstatement, but the clearly delineated halves of the company, so to speak, lend themselves to that. That’s a really good point. What are her superpowers? I know that may be a strange word to use, but I think of, say, Warren Buffett referring to Charlie Munger, saying he has the best 60-second mind on the planet. They have very complementary skillsets, slightly different views of the world, although highly compatible values. What are Sheryl’s superpowers that come to mind, if any?
Mark Zuckerberg: Well, I think she has a very good combination of IQ and EQ. People either, I think, tend to be more manager or more strategic. And I think she is very unique in being both. I just think that that’s pretty rare. Obviously, if you get someone who’s great at strategy or great at product and they’re not a great manager, that’s great. If you can have someone who’s excellent at one of those things, you hire them every day. I think it’s just exceptionally rare to find people who spike in both of those areas.
But she actually uses a lot of dating analogies. I don’t, but in terms of this one—I was talking to a friend who is single recently, and we were talking about why she was single. And I do just think some people want to go through life with partnerships more than others. I think that there are some people who, they want a co-founder or they want a partner who they can run the thing with and who they can have that experience with on a day-to-day basis, and then there are other people who are like, “Okay. No, I’ll just have a team of five or six people around me and I’ll be the leader, the founder, but I don’t need another person.” I just think that that’s different.
Partnership has always meant a lot to me, both in my personal life and in work. I want people to be on the voyage with me. This isn’t a solo story. That’s, like, a lot of how I derive meaning in life. Again, you’d have to ask her whether she, maybe she’s oriented in a similar way, but I think, to some degree, I think whether partnerships work over time, probably the number one factor in that is whether you want the partnership to work.
Tim Ferriss: Yes, for sure. Or if out of the box, in a sense, you are predisposed to partnership.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: But let’s actually use this as a way to move to a question or just—I mean, observation and then a question that I’d love to ask. And we can take it any direction you’d like to. So this is from a mutual friend who said, “One thing that most people don’t know is that his mom is an MD, but she stayed home and never practiced medicine. She worked at the front desk of his dad’s orthodontic business, which was under their home.” And she was wondering how these family dynamics have shaped who you are today and how you parent your own children. So that’s a big question that could go a lot of directions, I recognize, but I’d love to hear you, to speak to that in any way that makes sense.
Mark Zuckerberg: That story is partially true. My mom and dad are both doctors, and my mom did practice for a bit, but it is true that when Randi, my older sister, was born, I guess my mom was having a hard time finding childcare and people who she trusted enough to raise the kids. So she decided that she wanted to spend more time with us, but my dad’s dental office was attached to the house, like you said. So it’s just this magical thing where my parents both worked super hard growing up and were great role models in that way, but also, when I got home from school, I could just throw my backpack on the couch and run downstairs and go see them. And my dad would always be drilling someone’s tooth, and that person was probably not that happy that I came in and was like, “Hey, Dad,” but plenty of stories there.
But they were great parents for us, growing up. They really prioritized family, which is something that I definitely took from them. And I think, not only did I take it from them for myself, but it was really meaningful for me in, basically, who I look for as a partner. And Priscilla, I think, is really focused on this and she obviously has an amazing career and has way more jobs than I do, in addition to being a parent, but the family orientation is a really big deal.
My parents always pushed for— they cared that we achieved and did great in school, but beyond that, they didn’t really care what specific thing we were interested in. They just wanted to expose us to a bunch of things and then, if we were interested in something, then they would try to push us to become excellent at that thing. My mom was never like, “You should go fence.” She was just like, “Sports are good. Go find some sport.” It’s like, “Oh, you like fencing?” It’s like, “All right. Well, let’s get good at that.”
I have three sisters, and they’re all excellent at very different things. Our family is, I think, quite musical, but that’s most expressed through Randi, who is just an excellent musician. And you can kind of go through the different siblings. I guess I got computers.
Tim Ferriss: That seems to have worked out for you.
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah. I think so. I’d say Donna is the intellectual one, and Elle has always been the most well-rounded and social and athletic of us, which is— As I’ve grown up and I’ve gotten even more into sports, just it’s been really fun just getting to see how much better she is than me at skiing and all these things that we grew up together doing. But no, I think that’s how I hope to raise our kids, is— I care a lot that they’re going to be good at school, but I also care that they can get exposed to a lot of different things and choose the things that they want to do. It’s a fun adventure. One of the things in terms of my parenting is no matter what is going on in the day, I always do bedtime with them. I mean, I guess every once in a while I have to travel. Although with COVID it’s been nice, I haven’t had to travel that much. That’s maybe one silver lining of the pandemic for the last couple of years. But I just take an hour every day, and we read, we sing. I’m reading this book with them now, The Way of the Warrior Kid, which is good. I recommend it.
Tim Ferriss: Wait a second. Is this Jocko?
Mark Zuckerberg: It is.
Tim Ferriss: Jocko Willink, look at that. That’s great.
Mark Zuckerberg: It was recommended to me. Do you know him too?
Tim Ferriss: Jocko’s first ever long-form public interview is on this podcast.
Mark Zuckerberg: There you go.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, so I know Jocko very well.
Mark Zuckerberg: This book was recommended to me by Tobi Lütke, the founder and CEO of Shopify. The girls love it, and now they’ve started training jiu-jitsu. This is this stuff, takes on a life its own. It’s super fun having stuff that we do together every day. Then, I always wrap up the day with them. We have this routine that Max calls the goodnight things. Which is basically every night we go through, I’m like, “All right, what are the things that are most important in life?” They’re health, loving family and friends, and something you’re excited about. What did you do to help someone today? We basically go through each of these things, and it’s like, all right, so health. What did you do to like, make yourself stronger, more fit today? If you get hurt, Max broke her leg skiing once. Let’s go through the parts of your body that still work and that you’re going to be able to use while you’re recovering.
Then, it’s like, okay, loving family and friends. Let’s go through something that you did today with a person who is meaningful to you. And then, I think something you’re excited about, and this is my philosophy on life. I’m just trying to like boil it down for them. I guess the adult version of this is, I think, you have to have something that you’re looking forward to for the future. I think that’s just a really important part of keeping people going with the weight of life. For kids, it tends to be something that they’re excited about tomorrow. More often than not it’s just I’m excited to see mom in the morning or I get to eat Cheerios at breakfast. It’s like, okay, it’s not super inspiring but the right basic idea. Then, every once in a while, it’s something like, Max is like, “I’m going to get ski poles next week.” It’s like, “Okay, that’s like a big milestone.” Or it’s like, “I’m going to lose my first tooth,” or “I can’t wait until I can do jiu-jitsu again.”
Then, the last one I think is probably the most important. Which is, I think especially for our family, especially for these girls who are obviously growing up in a very wealthy family, it’s like, you’re going to do something nice to help someone every day. This is just like an important service orientation, that I think that I just want our family to have, and we just all go around. I tell them something nice that I tried to do to help someone, and they have to tell me something nice that they did to help someone. It could just be like another kid at school or it could be mom or a cousin or something like that. Probably much to their chagrin, I don’t let them go to sleep until they can tell me something nice that they did to help someone that day. That’s probably the best encapsulation of how I think about parenting and the values that I want to try to impart to them.
Tim Ferriss: Thank you for sharing all of that. I want to say a few things. Number one, Tobi, one of my favorite people. I’ve known Tobi—
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah, he’s great.
Tim Ferriss: —since 2008 or so, and people might be wondering, why am I asking about family? Why am I asking about parenting? Part of the reason I’m asking is because many people who listen to this podcast listen to model, they listen to model people. I think it’s very important to get a holistic picture of how people think about and prioritize things in their lives and manage things in their lives. Because you can end up, if you’re not careful, say, in the realm of business, modeling someone who is from an external perspective, very financially successful, but their family lives, their relationships are in shambles. I do think that the micro can be a reflection of the macro, which is why I like to explore these things. On the point of things that are important in life, man, I love that you’re reading Jocko’s book to your kids. It’s fantastic. Do not—well, actually, no, someday you should roll with Jocko. He is a black belt in jiu-jitsu and is an absolute killer. Probably above your weight class, but worth rolling with nonetheless.
Speaking of things that are important in life, I would love to ask you about—and this is going to be an interesting transition—the sacred and then the secular. For the secular, I have a very specific kind of technical question, but on the sacred, I’d love to ask you what role religion plays in your life, if any, how do you think about that?
Mark Zuckerberg: It’s actually, I think playing an increasing role in recent years. I mean, I was raised Jewish, and I think from the time I went to college or so maybe I wasn’t as focused on it. But I think a few things in the last five or six years have made me a little more focused on it. One is of course family and having kids. You want to have traditions for the kids. A lot of the time it’s like, “Okay, well, here are the things that I did when I was growing up, and that I thought were meaningful.” The ones that are good, you want to do, and the ones that aren’t, you don’t. I just found having that community and values grounding was really valuable. So we are raising our girls to be Jewish, and that’s become a more important part of our lives. Every Friday, pretty much no matter what’s going on, we do Shabbat dinner. Priscilla actually loves this. I mean, she’s basically, it’s sort of a meditative thing for her, but from I think about Tuesday or Wednesday, she starts carving out like an hour or so of the two day to like start cooking the Shabbat dinner. Basically, we have a bunch of friends over. It’s just a real center point to the week. That element, I think, is more cultural.
Then there’s, I’d say for me personally and our company, probably for a lot of people around the world, I mean the last five or six years have been pretty tough. If you just look at how people felt about our company before 2016, if you look at like average sentiment around the company, it’s like, there was almost like never a month when the sentiment was negative. Since 2016, there’s almost never been a month where the net sentiment has been positive. There have been so many social issues that have been kind of brought to the forefront— you know, we talked about this a little bit, in terms of the oversight board and how it’s important that it’s not just like one person or one company making all these decisions, trying to balance these complex social equities. But there just need to be things that are bigger than you in your life. Even though our country has a lot of struggles, I probably believe more in democracy now than I would’ve. I probably didn’t think about it that deeply before, but I just think believing in kind of democracy in our institutions is sort of a bigger force than any individual, I think is sort of a grounding thing.
I think similarly believing that there are things that are bigger than that, like God, I think is also sort of a really grounding thing for me. The more you sort of study the Bible or the Torah or whatever, I mean, there is like just a lot of wisdom in it. In terms of how to live your life, how to think about creation and building. I mean, no matter what you’re doing, no matter how kind of modern or technological it is, I just think that there are interesting lessons. It’s like, at the beginning of the Torah in Genesis, most of, like, the Bible’s basically rules for how to live your life. But it starts with, why does it start in this place of talking about the creation? It starts off with God created people in God’s image. It’s like, well, what does that mean? What does that mean you’re supposed to go do? It starts off talking about creation. It’s how God created all the stuff, it’s like, yeah, I think that there’s like a real interpretation in that, that is kind of personal to me, which is a lot of what we are here to do is create good things in the world.
I think that’s very intrinsic to when I’m having a bad day or a bad month, I just think like there’s something that’s sort of grounded in, it’s like, no, this is like what I think a big part of what we are here to do—build things that make the world better. And I think that is like a fundamental thing that is sort of ancient wisdom. As people face challenges in their lives, and as you think about the next generation, I think that these are both things that tend to ground you and tie you to much longer arcs and traditions. That’s certainly been the case in my life.
Tim Ferriss: You know, I’ve actually gone to a number of Shabbat dinners here in Austin with friends of mine, and it’s made me feel like I have perhaps a ritual deficiency. It’s such an incredibly grounding, nourishing tradition. I mean, outside of the religious context. Also, what you’re saying reminds me, I’m blanking on the book. I think it’s Four Thousand Weeks, but that’s by Oliver Burkeman. There’s a chapter called “Cosmic Insignificance Therapy.” Just the relief that one can feel when their time horizon and what they’re considering sort of spans outside of themselves.
Mark Zuckerberg: That’s the balance, is to understand that there are things that are bigger than you, but what you do still matters.
Tim Ferriss: So I’m going to get to the secular question, and I know we’re running up on time shortly, but in the 2010 New Yorker profile, which, can’t believe everything you read, so we’ll see where we go. Among interests that were cited here, one was eliminating desire. Do you recall having this in your interests? I’m curious about this.
Mark Zuckerberg: Very emo.
Tim Ferriss: It’s very emo.
Mark Zuckerberg: That might have been more of a phase of life.
Tim Ferriss: That was the Mark emo phase. All right. We could—
Mark Zuckerberg: Paint my room black. Yeah, no.
Tim Ferriss: All right. We can chalk that up to emo. Emo, period, check, explained. I’m going to get to the technical question. Before I get to that though, you did personal challenges annually for about 10 years. Which challenge ended up being much easier than expected, and which one ended up being much harder than expected. Either, or. Just be curious to know.
Mark Zuckerberg: I still do stuff like this. I don’t make as big of a deal of it anymore, but I think just kind of throwing yourself into different situations to learn new things. I think that’s just a big part of life. But which ones were hard? One, I tried to meet a new person every day for the year. That was hard for me. I’m pretty introverted. I built some amazing relationships out of it. I started teaching this class at the local boys and girls club with a friend and mentored the kids. I just talked to them a couple weeks ago, they were all, none of their families had gone to college before, and now they’re all graduating college. It’s pretty cool.
Tim Ferriss: That’s amazing.
Mark Zuckerberg: But I’m super introverted. I think that’s probably been another silver lining of the whole distributed work thing for me, is having space to kind of think and kind of control my time and like not get interrupted by other people so much. But it was an interesting balance being introverted but also being pretty sensitive and caring a lot about other people. I think that people kind of think that introverts don’t like other people or something. That’s not true. I just, just get overwhelmed easily.
The interesting thing is they all went in weird directions. One year I did this year of running. I did all kinds of different running. I did sprints, I did long distance running, and then my knees started hurting. Then, I broadened out and did triathlons, and we were training for this Iron Man, but then I broke my arm biking, so that ended up not quite happening. So they all kind of go in different directions. I learned Mandarin one year. Learned Mandarin, you can’t learn Mandarin in a year. I ended up studying it for—
Tim Ferriss: A challenging one.
Mark Zuckerberg: I mean, maybe someone can, I cannot. We talked about my language deficiency earlier on. That was partially, I like kind of throwing myself into things that are hard. Like I said before, I mean, I’ve studied a lot of languages in my life. A little Spanish, a little French, a little Hebrew, a lot of Latin, a bunch of Greek, but it’s actually hard for me. So I kind of like doing things that are hard for me. Obviously, Mandarin is important because Priscilla’s family is Chinese. Priscilla and I, after dating for almost 10 years, we decided we didn’t want to have like a big wedding that a lot of people, we didn’t want a lot of people asking us about it for a while, so we did it as a surprise wedding. Basically didn’t tell anyone, and in the morning of the wedding, we’re kind of telling everyone. I told Priscilla’s mother in Mandarin and I never knew before that, if she understood anything I was saying. And I just told her, and a single tear went down her face, and I was like, “Okay, my Mandarin is at least good enough for that.”
Tim Ferriss: Wow.
Mark Zuckerberg: A lot of them have a physical element just because I tend to think people focus so much on thought process, decision making, like, how can I be as smart as possible? I just think like energy level and— There hasn’t been that much that’s been written about historical figures and energy level as opposed to how they thought. But I actually would be very fascinated about, to kind of understand that. But I think just, I mean learning how to foil surf and things like that. It’s super humbling. I mean, these are like really hard skills. It takes like, before you can even get going—
Tim Ferriss: Foiling’s really hard—
Mark Zuckerberg: I’m such a beginner. It’s just wild and it’s so much fun. You start off doing this like down-winding thing. I mean, the awesome thing about the foil is there’s almost no friction, compared to a surfboard. A surfboard, you need to be in a big wave or you just stop. But a foil, you’re kind of standing on the board, and you’re actually riding this little wing, and it has no friction or very little friction. You can basically just ride it on open ocean swells. It’s this great workout you can pump in between swells, and your heart rate gets up to like 160. But you can go for like a mile or more, and it’s just, it’s wild, and it’s a great workout. You can’t think about anything else while you are doing it because you will fall immediately. Learning new things is a big part of what brings meaning and joy to life.
Tim Ferriss: We’ll link to some of your annual challenges in the show notes, because you’ve tackled some very hard things, including Mandarin, which is certainly not one of the easier options out there, having been an East Asian studies major back in the day. All right. So I’ll ask the technical question, and it may be boring, but then, we’ll start to wrap up right after that. This is a question from a friend who’s a technologist, and he’s very curious how you’re thinking about computing for smart glasses. His question was, and this is a bit of a left turn yet again, but with respect to the metaverse, if the phone is one of the best places to do the computing, how do you think about navigating, say, phones that operate on OSs that you don’t control? How are you foreseeing the future of that unfolding?
Mark Zuckerberg: One of the wildest technical challenges for augmented reality, is that basically, you need to fit all this stuff into essentially a normal pair of glasses. VR will always— It’s supposed to be immersive. I mean, maybe it’ll eventually be more like ski goggles, it’ll be kind of thinner, but it’s not meant to just look like normal glasses. Whereas, augmented reality, if you’re going to wear that throughout the day, it really, it needs to be socially acceptable. You’re basically talking about the normal frames of glasses, maybe called thick rim frames, maybe five millimeters thick. Within that, you’re talking about fitting, what would’ve been called a super computer five or 10 years ago, basically like a laser projector, then, the tools to basically have that display, kind of, holograms with wave guides.
Because in order to make sure that the image in the holograms stays synced in the right place, it needs to know where your eye position is. You need, like, lasers that understand where your eyes are, and then it needs to have speakers because of course you’re going to want sound. It probably needs microphones because you’re going to want to have an assistant and talk to it, has sort of positional tracking so that way, if I’m sitting on your couch as a hologram and you move your head, I’m not moving off the couch. It needs to know exactly where you’re looking at. Okay. All that stuff to do all that computation instantly in glasses that are five millimeters thick. So I think this is one of the wildest technical challenges of the next 10 or 15 years, which is why I’m so excited about it. There’s this odd thing, where I think sometimes people get really inspired by physically big things. I actually think miniaturizing things to be tiny, is in a lot of ways, even a harder challenge. This is a lot of the work that’s going to happen.
Will it be valuable to have another phone or something like that? I don’t know, maybe. On the one hand, you can offload computing so that’s good. One of the biggest things that basically is a limiting factor is actually heat dissipation. If you have a processor that’s running on your glasses and it’s getting hot, you are making your face kind of warm and that’s uncomfortable. So if you can have that in your pocket, that’s better. On the flip side, you need to find a way to get all that stuff to the glasses and back and wireless chips are actually pretty energy intensive too. At some point, you’re going to always have some computation on the glasses. The kind of equilibrium I don’t think is to have all of the computation somewhere else. Then, you start getting into this interesting trade off, which is okay, well, if you’re Apple and you have the iPhone, is that an advantage? I think that there are a bunch of different questions in that. One is to what extent are they just going to advantage their own devices or they’re going to make it so that some of the APIs are open? And I think that this is somewhat of a regulatory question, right?
Tim Ferriss: For sure.
Mark Zuckerberg: It’s like, are they going to be allowed to just make something that has— They have a billion iPhones out there. Are the regulatory agencies around the world going to allow them to just only make it so that their glasses work with their thing? It seems to me like that there would be an issue with that. Then, there’s this other issue, which is if you were designing a secondary device for, say, input or something like that, it probably wouldn’t look like a phone exactly. There’s also some ways in which, I think when new computing platforms come around, people tend to assume that that model is sort of going to work, and that whatever the new thing is just sort of a peripheral to that existing platform. I think it kind of depends. It’s like maybe the watch is more of a peripheral to your phone, but I would guess that augmented and virtual reality are so fundamentally different, that whatever you want in your constellation of devices, you probably want it to be designed specifically for that and not just, okay, you happen to have a phone, now let’s shoehorn it into doing augmented reality too. I think there’s a lot of interesting questions in this, but I don’t know, at the end of the day, I think that there’s just a ton to be invented, and there are a lot of different ways that this could go.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Thank you, Mark. I appreciate you taking so much time in what is an incredibly busy week. I can only imagine. Is there anything else that you would like to touch on, any requests of the audience, anything at all that you’d like to chat about or mention before we bring this to a close?
Mark Zuckerberg: I mean, this was a pretty wide ranging conversation. It’s fun. I mean, I’ve never had someone start by asking me about fencing, and I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview or a podcast where we’ve talked so much about sports. I don’t know. I feel like we could do a whole ’nother one of these. I mean, we didn’t go into—
Tim Ferriss: I feel like we could.
Mark Zuckerberg: —into science at all or curing diseases.
Tim Ferriss: I know, I know. A lot of notes left.
Mark Zuckerberg: Maybe there’s a whole ’nother session on that. Maybe like another couple of hours at some point.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure.
Mark Zuckerberg: But this has been a lot of fun, so thank you for having me on.
Tim Ferriss: Of course, I really appreciate you being on and making the time for it. To everybody listening, we’ll also link to everything in the show notes, certainly. If there are any additional resources, Mark, that you or your team would like to put in the show notes, we can add those in the show notes at tim.blog/podcast. Certainly, people can find you online rather easily, I would say—Facebook, Zuck; Instagram, slash-Zuck; and of course, people can find Meta at meta.com. It’s been fun to have a wide-ranging conversation and as expected, I have many, many pages of topics left that we could cover. Certainly the science and research side is something that, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to get into at some point. But I really appreciate you taking time to have this conversation, Mark.
Mark Zuckerberg: This has been fun. Thanks for having me.
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