I recently returned from a trip to New York City. My kids were on spring break, so we decided to go on some college tours. My oldest son, Jaxson, is a junior in high school and it’s time for him to start exploring his higher education options. We’ve toured four schools so far and his favorite is New York University. While we were there, I learned the story of one of their former students named Jack. Although Jack ultimately decided not to finish college, we can still learn from his story…
Jack was something of an unusual kid. Instead of posters of athletes, bands, or comic book characters, the walls of his room were covered with maps. He was shy, suffered from a speech impediment, and was not always comfortable interacting in person. He was also often alone at home. As a result, he’d learned his way around his first computer by the age of eight, and before he was a teenager had taught himself how to write his own programs. He was also fascinated by trains, and would spend hours down at the St. Louis train yards watching the flow of trains coming and going. He was entranced by the way it all seemed to operate as one huge, perfectly functioning system.
Studying trains was the beginning of Jack’s lifelong interest in understanding how things work. When he was a teenager, he began using a radio that scanned police and emergency frequencies. Listening to the dispatchers, he became engrossed in their concise language as they constantly transmitted the locations and activities of officers and emergency vehicles. It also gave him ideas.
After writing his own software to track the movements and locations of emergency vehicles, Jack felt he was ready to work in that field. Still in his teens, he sought out a large dispatch company in New York. He looked up their website, but it had no contact information. However, he also found a hole in the site’s security. Using this as a way in, he was able to contact the company and alert them to the security risk. He also mentioned that he was a computer programmer who wrote dispatch software. A week later, they offered him a job.
Jack attended New York University while working as a dispatch programmer. During his time there, he was part of a brainstorming session about the implications of instant messaging. Jack made a gutsy decision to leave college and pursue dispatch work in California. Soon after, he started his own company to dispatch couriers, taxis, and emergency services from the Web. But it wasn’t long before the dots began to connect.
Thinking back to his youth and remembering how the voices on the police scanner would constantly update their positions from wherever they were, Jack came up with a new idea. He approached a company who was exploring instant messaging and described a new form of virtual communication that would be as immediate as texting, but among a much larger number of people at once. The idea was to take the short bursts of communication of the dispatch world and create a web-based network that anyone with a cell phone, wherever they were, could use to send messages.
The story of how Jack found success with his idea is a great example of how things are connected. And there’s no denying that by following his passions, a young man who was never comfortable in simple, face-to-face conversations was able to create Twitter, one of the largest communication networks the world has ever seen. By 2012, Twitter had over 500 million registered users, generating over 340 million messages, called "tweets," per day. Since its launch, Twitter has become one of the ten most visited websites on the Internet, and its founder, Jack Dorsey, was named 2012's Innovator of The Year.
One reporter recently referred to Jack as an idea man, and I found Jack’s response very interesting: “Everyone has an idea. But it’s really about executing the idea and attracting other people to help you work on the idea that really makes the difference.” The We Are Connected mindset is about seeking out the synergies in all relationships and empowering one another to live your dreams.