I had the great fortune to meet some of the world’s social marketing thought leaders at IMS ’11 Boston. One of those was Ben Mezrich, a true raconteur and author of the book The Accidental Billionaires which formed the basis for the movie, The Social Network. Mezrich, unlike the other presenters who used all kinds of glitzy power point presentations, simply stood on the stage and told stories. The audience was mesmerized.
He said that he was not an “overnight sensation” as some would portray him, rather he has been writing since 1995. He shared with us how the fact that he did not know how to drive limited him to certain neighborhood pubs in Boston. With his writer’s powers of observation he watched at one pub as numerous M.I.T. students handed over $100 bills to the bartender. “I don’t know about where you live, and in Las Vegas they come out of the ATM machine, but in Boston people don’t use $100 bills. So I asked the guys where they were getting them.” Thus began the story of Bringing Down the House a tale of MIT students who game the Vegas blackjack tables. “Blackjack is beatable,” asserted Mezrich who even traveled to Vegas with the hard-working (but now banned-from-casinos) students who practiced up to three hours a day to beat the odds.
Because of the fame he gained from that book (he accidentally hung up on Kevin Spacey thinking he was an MIT student playing a prank) people began approaching him with story ideas. One such person was Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg’s now famous Harvard room-mate and business partner. “Why should I write fiction when non-fiction is this good?” asked Mezrich who had almost completed his book when a court ordered Saverin to never speak with him again. “For five percent of Facebook I wouldn’t speak to me again either,” Mezrich noted.
With tales as colorful as his book and the movies that follow, I can’t wait to read Mezrich’s next book, Sex on the Moon, a story of astronauts who, let’s just say do some interesting things with moon rocks. Since fact is stranger than fiction, guess we’ll all have to read the book won’t we?
I really appreciate hearing this story and especially the part about not being an “overnight sensation.” So many people think that business success happens quickly, but more than likely the stage has been “being set” for years.
Yes Sue. Reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. He determined that “overnight sensations” in fact had practiced for years! Certainly Ben Mezrich was honing his trade before he became so successful. What a nice man too!
Yes, many times life is more interesting than fiction. Great example of how it pays to be observant and seize the opportunities that come your way.
Excellent point Tiffany. Ben Mezrich’s powers of observation served him well!
Ben had the BEST sense of humor which surely helped to get him through the lean times! This was a thrill for me, although Mel seemed to stretch my photo the wrong way, LOL
Ha! Thanks Cathy. Yes, Ben is very self-effacing which is actually a most endearing quality!
Thank you Mel for linking ‘spellbinding’ with good storytelling! Naturally that is on my mind in a big way just now. But I believe I would appreciate that in another time as well. Thanks again.
Jeff, I know how much you love storytelling. You would enjoy meeting Ben.
What a cool guy and amazing storyteller. Thanks so much for introducing me to Ben.
My pleasure Kristina. You have described Ben perfectly!