Mark Zuckerberg’s Personal Challenge for 2019, and a Look Back at His Previous Ones

For the past several years, Mark Zuckerberg has set a personal challenge for himself.

He just announced his challenge for 2019 on Facebook (of course) – host a series of discussions on the future of technology

“My challenge for 2019 is to host a series of public discussions about the future of technology in society — the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes, and the anxieties. Every few weeks I’ll talk with leaders, experts, and people in our community from different fields and I’ll try different formats to keep it interesting. These will all be public, either on my Facebook or Instagram pages or on other media. This will be intellectually interesting, but there’s a personal challenge for me here too. I’m an engineer, and I used to just build out my ideas and hope they’d mostly speak for themselves. But given the importance of what we do, that doesn’t cut it anymore. So I’m going to put myself out there more than I’ve been comfortable with and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the tradeoffs we face, and where we want to go.”

I like that Zuckerberg does this, setting challenging goals for himself each year.

Here’s a look back at his previous challenges, which started in 2009.

2018 – fix problems at Facebook

“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent. My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory. This may not seem like a personal challenge on its face, but I think I’ll learn more by focusing intensely on these issues than I would by doing something completely separate. These issues touch on questions of history, civics, political philosophy, media, government, and of course technology. I’m looking forward to bringing groups of experts together to discuss and help work through these topics.”

2017 – meet and visit people from every U.S. state

“My personal challenge for 2017 is to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year. I’ve spent significant time in many states already, so I’ll need to travel to about 30 states this year to complete this challenge. After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future. My trips this year will take different forms — road trips with Priscilla, stops in small towns and universities, visits to our offices across the country, meetings with teachers and scientists, and trips to fun places you recommend along the way.”

2016 – build a simple AI to run his home

My personal challenge for 2016 is to build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work. You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man. I’m going to start by exploring what technology is already out there. Then I’ll start teaching it to understand my voice to control everything in our home — music, lights, temperature and so on. I’ll teach it to let friends in by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell. I’ll teach it to let me know if anything is going on in Max’s room that I need to check on when I’m not with her. On the work side, it’ll help me visualize data in VR to help me build better services and lead my organizations more effectively.

2015 – read a new book every other week

My challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week — with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. I’m excited for my reading challenge. I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling. Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books. If you want to follow along on my challenge and read the same books I do, I’ve created a page, A Year of Books, where I’ll post what I’m reading. Please only participate in the discussions if you’ve actually read the books and have relevant points to add. The group will be moderated to keep it focused.

2014 – write a thank you note every day

Zuckerberg set out to write a well-considered thank-you note every day, via e-mail or handwritten letter. He notes that “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person. I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built. But if you look at this objectively, we’re doing so well on so many of these things. I think it’s important to have gratitude for that.”

2013 – meet a new person outside of Facebook every day

“I’m meeting one new person outside of Facebook every day. Who doesn’t work at Facebook,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s going well—I’ve done a bunch of things in the community and just tried to get broader exposure.

2012 – program each day
Zuckerberg this year “pledged to return to his roots and spend time programming each day.”
2011 – only eat meat from animals he killed
Zuckerberg’s new goal was to “only eat meat from animals I’ve killed myself.”
2010 – learn Mandarin

In 2010, my personal challenge was to learn Mandarin. I have always been interested in Chinese culture and learning a language is a great way to learn about a culture. Learning a language is also a good intellectual challenge and Mandarin is a particularly difficult language for English-speakers. I have had a hard time learning languages in the past, so this seemed like a particularly good challenge. Finally, some members of my girlfriend’s family only speak Chinese and I wanted to be able to talk to them.

 2009 – wear a tie every day
My 2009 challenge was to wear a tie for a whole year. After the start of the recession in 2008, I wanted to signal to everyone at Facebook that this was a serious year for us. Great companies thrive by investing more heavily while everyone else is cutting back during a recession. But great companies also make sure they’re financially strong and sustainable. My tie was the symbol of how serious and important a year this was, and I wore it every day to show this.
*image from the Pitcher