Hollywood has always had a way of glamorizing and rewriting any reality into a two hour entertaining story that captivates us all. We’ve seen it with biographies and historical portrayals of sports figures, political leaders, musicians and more. There’s no reason it should be any different for technology leaders. While watching The Social Network, I couldn’t help but draw some similarities between the Mark Zuckerberg character and that of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from the late 90’s film, Pirates of Silicon Valley. Is Hollywood telling us entertaining stories or providing the characteristics of what it takes to be successful?
Four Characteristics of Our Tech Leaders (according to Hollywood):
Be young – One must be a massive success by late teens or early 20’s. I mean let’s face it, if you can’t be a billionaire before you can legally order your first beer, you might as well hang it up. I’d even suggest dropping out of college to focus on your first billion. That formal education will really just slow you down.
Have a superiority complex – It also helps to be better than everyone else. Our technology heroes, as portrayed in the movies, each had a chip on their shoulder. Mark clearly outclassed his girlfriend and partner and college classmates, Steve worked people to the edge of sanity and then called them worthless, and Bill was always one move ahead of Steve.
Steal Ideas – This is key. There is no way to be successful at the billionaire level without stealing the whole foundation of your business from someone else. It all starts with a good idea… someone else’s good idea. Mark got his idea from two former college classmates, Steve got his idea from Zerox, and Bill… well Bill took the idea from Steve. All is fair in love and technology.
Be Deceptive – Stealing the idea alone is not enough. After tricking your trusted friends or business partners into giving you their great ideas, you must then avoid contact with them as much as possible. It helps to lie, tell them you’re busy, or down play exactly what you are doing with the idea. This one comes naturally, it seems.
I have to admit, I love a good movie. With all that goes into writing a good script, convincing actors, award winning production and direction, it’s easy to see it as real. As the credits roll, remember that it’s a movie. Movies may be based in facts, but they are seldom the reality.