Just 1 job

Hear me out: July 5, 1991 was a really big day, and we could use another one like it. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Quote of the Day

“We live in a country that thrives off of capitalism. That’s what we do. That’s kind of our thing.”

— Chloe V. Mitchell, a freshman volleyball player at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She’s one of the first U.S. college athletes taking advantage of new rules allowing them to be compensated for use of their “name, image or likeness.” (The details are very interesting.)


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Overrated?

On July 5, 1991, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett met for the first time. It was a lunch, and Gates’s mother had to beg him to attend. Right from the start, Buffett got Gates thinking about things he later said he hadn’t thought about much before — like charity, legacy, and responsibility.

A hundred years from now, I think people will remember Gates far more for this kind of work than for his technology and entrepreneurship. Without his relationship with Buffett, though, I’m not sure he ever would have had this second act.

Now, let’s very quickly think about Gates’s station in life in 1991: He was 35 years old, and a billionaire (back when that was real money 😉). He’d really only had one job in his life since leaving Harvard at age 19: CEO of Microsoft.

He answered to nobody, and there were few people on the planet that he would have taken advice and even mentorship from. However, Buffett fit the bill. (Sorry, bad pun, but I only caught it on my third edit so I’m leaving it.)

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about another tech billionaire who dropped out of Harvard at 19 and who has only ever had one job — CEO of what’s now the fifth-most-valuable company on the planet: Mark Zuckerberg.

On Monday, Fortune magazine released its list of the most admired companies in the world. Apple was number 1; Microsoft came in at number 3. Facebook didn’t make the top 500.

But Fortune also had a companion article, ranking the most underrated and overrated CEOs, according to a survey of more than 5,000 other executives. The underrateds: Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Mary Barra of General Motors, Tim Cook of Apple, and Doug McMillon of Walmart.

But the most overrated CEO on the planet, according to Fortune? You guessed it, Zuckerberg. Here’s their rationale:

Facebook is hardly the only online platform to have struggled to curb the spread of misinformation. But over the past year, with COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd, and the presidential election each spurring waves of algorithmically amplified falsehoods and hate speech, Zuckerberg’s company came under unprecedented scrutiny—and an expanding circle of critics faulted the CEO and cofounder for doing far too little, years too late.

Advertisers began voting with their dollars in meaningful ways, pulling back and even pulling out, as revenue growth slowed. An antitrust suit by the Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, seeks to undo Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp—taking aim at some of Zuckerberg’s signature accomplishments.

In a way, Zuckerberg has no reason to care whether anyone thinks he’s overrated. He can’t be fired, because he controls a majority of the voting shares of Facebook’s stock. And even if he could—the share price is still doing quite well.

But for what it’s worth, I think a little bit of mentorship and humility might go a long way—to say nothing of a healthy fear of being fired. Think back to whatever you were doing when you were 19.

Imagine that it made you ungodly rich, and that a decade and a half later you were still doing it, only much more so.

No matter what kind of mistakes you made, no matter how off the rails things threatened to get, who would you listen to? Who could tell you, if it were true, that the emperor had no clothes?

I think Zuckerberg needs a Buffett. And not for the first time, in part because of the parallels in their lives, and in part because I don’t know who else could play the part, I kind of hope it might be Gates.


7 other things worth your time

  • GameStop? That was so last week. Now Reddit message boards are triggering a rally in silver. (CNBC, WSJ, $)

  • Thanks to Covid, there is now more vacant office space in Manhattan than at any time dating back to 1999. (Bloomberg)

  • The U.S. will pay $230 million to ramp up production of an over-the-counter Covid test. Also, I should have mentioned this yesterday: a 51-year-old Rutgers University researcher named Andrew Brooks, who created the less-invasive, “saliva” test for Covid last year and was hailed as a hero, died of a heart attack. (NBC News, NYT)

  • Actor Dustin Diamond, best known for playing Samuel "Screech" Powers on the original Saved by the Bell TV show, died at age 44 of lung cancer, only three weeks after his diagnosis. (People)

  • Ford and Google announced a six-year partnership that will make the tech giant responsible for much of the automaker's growing in-vehicle connectivity. (CNBC)

  • Santa Maria, California, a small town known barbecue and wineries, is so hard up for tourists that it’s now paying people in the form of a $100 Visa gift card to visit. (SF Gate)

  • A new study suggests Americans are so sleep-deprived and stressed out that as many as one-third of us might be walking around with the equivalent symptoms of a concussion. (Ohio State University)

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