Book Review: Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind by Biz Stone
by Biz Stone
Grand Central Publishing, 2014
Few people know what it is like to create something that reaches out to almost every part of the world. Few people know what it is like to go from being couch-cushion-scrapingly poor to stutteringly rich almost instantly. Few people know what it is like to devise and survive that kind of technological, psychological, and financial journey. Biz Stone is one of the few, and that is what makes this book a worthy read. (It’s also worth it just to read his account of a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook offices.)
“. . . if opportunity is just a set of circumstances, why are we waiting around for the stars to align? Rather than waiting and pouncing with a high degree of failure, you might as well go ahead and create the set of circumstances on your own.” —Biz Stone
The creative mind of Biz Stone sparked and expanded and imagined Twitter—the internet app that virtually every cognizant person in the developed world knows about, at the very least, if not uses. He and his partners took a chance with the fledgling app (What comes first, the Twitter or the egg?) and nurtured it so it transformed from an unpredictable conference communication tool into a worldwide phenomenon. Even Stone didn’t foresee the multitude of ways in which Twitter would affect us, and we would affect it. In a freakish kind of Darwinian computer natural selection, Twitter evolved according to the ways that users chose to use it, and Stone and his partners kept up with the demand (at least, most of the time).
I wasn’t surprised by Stone’s entrepreneurial bent, and I wasn’t surprised that he was a nerd in high school, but I was surprised that he spent a shocking amount of time begin poor, even when Twitter was already successful, and I was surprised by his warm, authentic humanity and his care for the future of our world.
New employees to Twitter receive a list of “Assumptions for Twitter Employees” of the kind that make me want to work there. New employees are encouraged: not to assume an outcome, to know there are plenty of smart people outside the organization ready and available to help, to do right for the users, to seek win-win deals, to expect and look for the good intentions of co-workers, and, finally, to believe that “We can build a business, change the world, and have fun.”
It is in Biz Stone’s nature to make things happen, and, luckily for us, it is in his nature to make good things happen. He dedicates a significant portion of this book outlining his efforts to keep Twitter neutral, his passion for charitable works, and his drive to inspire the rest of us to step up too.
“We all define financial success differently, but I can tell you that for almost anyone at any income, being rich exists only in the future. Waiting to give is a mistake.” —Biz Stone
I am not a computer whiz, so Stone’s references to hackathons and technological problems—or anything related to computers in just about any way, actually—were lost on me, but that didn’t matter. This is more than an internet app story; it’s a human story, and it’s a story that carries a hint of warning about the power one person can have to affect the world on a grand scale.
We had all better hope that, like Biz Stone, such people want to make good things happen.