How Randi Zuckerberg Stepped Out Of Her Brother's Shadow And Onto A Broadway Stage

Randi Zuckerberg is stepping out of her brother's shadow by setting big goals and attacking them with gusto. Here's how she gets past fear of failure to make things happen on her own terms.

In 2011, Randi Zuckerberg left Facebook after deciding to launch her own company. A New York Times reporter asked her what she wanted to do next. Zuckerberg, who performs in a band called Feedbomb with current and former Facebook employees, said she wanted to sing on Broadway. Others laughed at the time.

But on March 14, 2014, Zuckerberg—now CEO of Zuckerberg Media and editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, a digital lifestyle website, stepped on stage as Regina, a hippie activist protester in the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages."

She says the producers saw a TED talk she gave about Broadway and digital media. They planned to contact her to do some consulting for the show, but an online search turned up video of her singing. They called and asked her to be in the show. Could she be in New York the next week to begin rehearsals?

Randi ZuckerbergPhoto by Delbarr Moradi

It wouldn’t be easy. She had a husband, a two-year-old son and a business that needed her. But this opportunity was bucket-list material. She and her husband, Brent Tworetzky, decided to make it work. She hired new people and put systems in place in her business, often working during the day before performing at night through the end of her run on April 6, 2014.

Overcoming a Fear of Failure

But the thought of not doing it because it would be too hard or because she was afraid of the challenge never really crossed her mind. She says she’s come a long way from her high school days where she was terrified of public speaking and wouldn’t get up on a stage in front of people.

But when she threw caution to the wind and left her advertising job to join her brother’s fledgling startup in 2005, she saw the possibilities within letting go of fear to pursue opportunities. While at Facebook, she says she changed. She saw the potential of what can happen when you let go of making safe choices.

At Facebook, she spearheaded some important initiatives including live streaming and media partnerships. Then, came her decision to launch her own venture. Since then, in addition to singing on the Great White Way, she’s produced a reality television show, written the New York Times bestseller Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives, and penned a children’s book which may lead to an animated television show.

The Mixed Blessing of a Famous Last Name

While the famous last name opens doors, she says she has to work "three or four times as hard to show I’m not just riding on the coattails of the name." The book, television, and theater credits were landed on her own, she adds.

Zuckerberg says the wild success of Facebook helped her be open to opportunities she might not have considered otherwise, and adopt "a more kind of a ‘Yes, ma’am’ philosophy on life." But saying "yes" also has its risks.

Her involvement with the 2012 Bravo reality show Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, about young tech entrepreneurs, was widely criticized and the show was cancelled after one season. While some might wince at the memory of such a high-profile flop, Zuckerberg says there’s learning in every failure and what seems like a failure to the outside world can be an important accomplishment for an individual. The Bravo show gave her an executive producer credit which has opened more doors in Hollywood, she says.

She also recognizes that our connected world gives most everyone has a platform to criticize—even if it’s just a social media profile—it’s easy to get caught up in what other people think. It’s important to develop a thick skin to move past fear of failure. A quote a mentor shared with her helps keep her on an even keel: "Don’t let praise go to your head and don’t let criticism go to your heart."

In addition, most people have short memories. In technology, there’s not too much you can do, short of criminal activity, that is going to stop you from moving on to the next opportunity, she says.

Bottom Line: "We’re going to fail. We’re going to get rejected by people. So you know what? You know that’s done with now—you know that’s going to happen. You don’t have to let that paralyze you anymore because it’s a certain that’s going to happen," she says.

Randi Zuckerberg will be speaking at the Thrive Third Metric Event in New York City on April 24th & 25th.

[Image: Flickr user Broadway Tour]

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