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Blessing in disguise

March 04, 2014

If people who lived and died over a century ago were to resurrect today, am sure they’d suffer some major culture shock regardless of which part of the world they were in when the exited from it in the first place. One of the things that would shock them most is the realization that people no longer talk to each other but to gadgets. Of course I know most of you reading this might disagree with me but if you are somewhere in public right now, just look around you and tell me how many people you can see talking to each other vis-à-vis those who are busy having “conversations” with (or is it on) their phones.  The truth is, we spend more time on our smart gadgets than we do with each other. In fact it is so bad, that you will find people in one office chatting with each other over Facebook chat or skype or whatsapp, all in the name of "optimizing" their time, instead of someone walking to the other’s table to have a face to face conversation. Well, it may save time but it eliminates the human “touch” or “feel”.

Speaking of Facebook and Whatsapp, have you heard of their on going relationship? Actually I think the relationship has progressed to another level now because as of 20th February 2014, the world woke up to the news that Facebook proposed to Whatsapp and pretty soon, they will be getting married. In other words, on their relationship status, I guess it has now changed from “it’s complicated” to “Engaged”. What is most incredible is the fact that the "bride price" to be paid by Facebook in order to acquire Whatsapp is a staggering 19 Billion US Dollars! Now that's a lot of money to say the least. For those still using dumb-phones and probably don’t know what Whatsapp is, WhatsApp Messenger is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages as well as their location using integrated mapping features... (Ok. I just copied and pasted this from the net).

To give you a background of WhatsApp, it was founded in 2009 by two Americans, Brian Acton and Jan Koum (also the CEO), both former employees of Yahoo!, and is based in Mountain View, California. In January 2009, Jan Koum bought an iPhone and realized that the then seven-month old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited his friend to discuss creating a new app. I guess that meeting was fruitful because almost immediately, Koum chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up,” and a week later on his birthday, Feb. 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. Early WhatsApp, installed only by a handful of Koum's friends, kept crashing or getting stuck. The following month Koum admitted to Acton that he should start looking for a job but Acton persuaded him to continue with the app and not give up.

In June 2009, Apple launched push notifications, letting developers ping users when they were not using an app. Koum updated WhatsApp so that each time you changed your status it would ping everyone in the user's network. WhatsApp 2.0 was released with a messaging component and the active users suddenly swelled to 250,000. Koum visited Acton, who was still unemployed while managing the unsuccessful start up, and decided to join the company. In October Acton persuaded five ex-Yahoo friends to invest $250,000 in seed funding, and as a result was granted co-founder status and a stake. He officially joined on November 1 2009. By Feb. 2013, WhatsApp's user base had swelled to about 200 million active users and its staff to 50. The rest like they say is history.

What you probably didn’t know about Brian Acton is the fact that in August 2009, he was turned down by Facebook when he was looking for a job. Prior to going to Facebook, in May of that same year, he had approached Twitter and they too denied him a job there. Looking at the streak of bad luck he encountered that year, one would have thought Brian Acton would give up. Instead, he took to Twitter to share his thoughts about the job refusals…

In May 2009 when Twitter said no to him this is what he posted on Twitter:

Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) August 3, 2009

 

 

In August 2009 when Facebook said not to him this is what he posted on Twitter:

Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) August 3, 2009

That was in 2009. Today, nearly 5 years later, who is having the last laugh? He not only has his name attached to one of the most powerful social media platforms in the world, but he is now laughing and dancing all the way to the bank! After reading about this mega-deal, there was no way I was going to let it slide without adding my thoughts to it and so I started playing a "what-if" game as I was thinking about it.

For instance, what if he had succeeded in being hired by either of the two giants? Would there be a whatsApp today? Would he be 19bn dollars richer? Would you and I even know there is a human being half the world away known as Brian Acton? I don’t know but I think he would have been so tied up working on either Twitter or Facebook to even think of an App you can use to quickly find out “what’s up” with your friend.

Another thing I realized from his tweets above is that it is quite obvious he is a very optimistic person. Even though he was jobless at the time, he chose to look at the positive side of each job rejection. Question is, what if he had opted to just sit on his behind and sulk because he wasn't having much luck getting a job? Worse still, what if he had gone to Twitter or Facebook to rant about his bad luck, and probably even saying bad things about either of the two giants, like many people would? How would this have affected his relationship with Facebook today? The way he reacted to these refusals was very mature and clearly shows he has an attitude worth emulating. Like a message someone very dear and close to me has on his whatsapp, status “a negative mind will never give you a positive life”. Clearly, Brian Acton knows this and lives by this.

Fast forward to today; the same company that said no to him as an employee almost 5 years ago is back in his life in a monumental way. Now, what if he had kept grudges after being said "NO" to? If there is anything I have learnt from this story besides the fact that some two guys are about to be filthy rich, it is the fact that not every negative experience you encounter in life is meant to keep you down. In fact, nothing should keep you down. Sometimes, those experiences are a blessing in disguise. This story clearly shows that a setback is a step back to a (Major) come back. I put the word "major" in brackets because what really determines whether you come back majorly is your attitude and perspective of the negative experience you went through.

There are many ways we could look at this story but like I’ve already said above, today I just want to stress on the point that sometimes, when someone says NO to you, they simply mean move to the Next Opportunity. Unfortunately most of us are so negative to realize this and so as a result we bury ourselves in pity parties and self-grief, unfortunately burying our talents and creativity in the process.

So, before you throw in the towel because of being rejected (whether its a job rejection or a relationship rejection) consider the fact that some bigger power might be directing you to greater things than what you are thinking of. Yes, you may be looking for a job but none is forthcoming, don’t just sit there doing nothing or sulking and spreading a negative (smelly) attitude around you like a skunk does. Get up and go volunteer somewhere and maybe while you are busy doing something positive that is where your luck will find you.

May God grant us all the ability to be optimistic in all situations, even when it is hard to see anything positive about those situations.

Wishing you all  a positive and optimistic week.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 2nd March, 2014, under my weekly column  "Thoughts in Words".

 

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