Mark Zuckerberg is intensely private, and not much is known about him. The 2010 movie, The Social Network, attempts to fill in the blanks and follows the Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook as well as its meteoric success. However, the film portrays Zuckerberg as unlikable and callous. Whether or not this portrayal is accurate, Zuckerberg’s success can teach us much about going after what you want.

If you’re paying down debt, Zuckerberg’s story, as presented in The Social Network, can teach you several important debt lessons.

1. Be willing to do something different

While many of his Harvard peers are partying, drinking and doing drugs, Zuckerberg is hacking into sites and creating early prototypes of Facebook, such as Facemash, a site that allows people to rate the “hotness” of two girls.

If you’re committed to paying off debt, recognize that for awhile, your life may not be like your friends’ lives. You may no longer have money to go out with friends on Saturday night. Maybe instead you invite friends over to your house to save on money. Maybe you spend nights and weekends working on your side gig that lets you generate extra money to pay off your debt faster.

2. Don’t be afraid to make new connections that can help you

As portrayed in The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg had one friend at Harvard–Eduardo Saverin. Eduardo put up the money to fund Facebook in the beginning. He was along for the ride from the beginning. However, when Zuckerberg connects with Napster co-founder Sean Parker, Zuckerberg slowly squeezes out Saverin because his vision for the company is not the same as Zuckerberg’s and Parker’s.

While cutting out your founding business partner seems wrong, showing no loyalty to your creditors when you’re trying to kill your debt seems fair. Not that you should just walk away from what you owe but you might be able to find a better lender. For example, if you have a balance on one credit card that you’ve had for years and they’re not willing to work with you to reduce your interest rate, don’t be afraid to switch to a card that offers a 0% APR on balance transfers. Or if you can find a good debt consolidation loan, you might consider taking it (as long as you’re sure you won’t run up the credit card balances again).

You have your own vision of what is best for your finances. Leave those companies behind that don’t support your vision and embrace those that will work with you and allow you to pay off your debt more quickly.

3. Your hard work WILL pay off

Zuckerberg ate, slept, and breathed Facebook. It was seemingly all he thought about all day long, and he spent hours every day working on it. Facebook was his life.

If you are eager to be debt free, you’ll find that the harder you work, the faster you can pay it off. Focusing on debt to the exclusion of all other goals may seem depressing, but you’ll likely find as you start to pay off debts one by one, you’re excitement grows. It’s exciting to watch debt drop away and to feel the financial freedom that comes with it. The fastest way to reduce your debt is to focus intensely on being debt free and working as hard as you can toward that goal.

Obviously Mark Zuckerberg had no control over how he was portrayed in The Social Network. Since Hollywood was involved its likely not a fair reflection of who he really is as a person. Whether he’s a likeable person or not, millions of people use Facebook and he’s the world’s youngest billionaire. He certainly achieved his goal of creating a social sharing site.

If you’re paying down debt, take a look at Zuckerberg’s story, and be inspired by his meteoric rise to fame. You, too, can pay down your debt and be debt free maybe even as quickly as Zuckerberg became a household name.

To connect with 21 people who got into and out of large amounts of debt you can check out their profiles in the new book Debt Heroes – created in cooperation with the Debt Movement. You can actually hook up with these “Debt Heroes” on your social network by following them on Twitter or Facebook. There’s a link to their website for each person profiled in the book – collectively they paid off over $1.7 million in debt!

Ben Edwards blogs about personal finance at Money Smart Life and is a co-author of the Debt Heroes book.



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