Lessons from the tech elite: eat carrots, shower more and tape up your webcam

Mark Zuckerberg has taped up his webcam. A photo he posted online yesterday, ostensibly to demonstrate his happiness at Instagram’s user growth, shows that he has placed a small square of masking tape over his laptop’s camera. This presumably shows that he is nervous about hackers gaining control of the webcam and exposing all his secrets. And since Zuckerberg is smarter than you, it probably means that you should tape up yours as well.

But Zuckerberg is not the only tech CEO with odd habits that you should replicate in the pursuit of unstoppable success. Here’s what else you should do if you really want to make it.


Once a year, Bill Gates embarks on something called a ThinkWeek, where he disconnects from the internet and moves into a cabin in the woods. Free of distraction, he can read a year’s worth of books and strategise for the months to come in a state of ultimate productivity. Anyone hoping to cheaply ape Gates’s method of being stranded in the middle of nowhere for extended periods of time without any form of internet connection is advised to buy a Virgin train ticket to Manchester.

Reduce your choices

Anna Akbari, who calls herself an “innovation strategist”, eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, so that she can focus all her decision-making energy on the most important subjects. Zuckerberg (grey T-shirts) and Barack Obama (blue suits) adopt a similar strategy by paring down their wardrobes to the absolute basics. The message is clear: the way ahead is to only own one pair of pants and eat chips three times a day.

Really reduce your choices

Steve Jobs was a notoriously picky eater, throwing himself into fad after fad that saw him eat only one type of food for weeks on end. At one point, Jobs reportedly ate so many carrots – and only carrots – in such a short space of time that his skin turned orange. This might sound like extreme behaviour, but Jobs was Jobs and you’re a loser reading a listicle on the internet. Go to a greengrocer immediately and rectify this.

Only buy two pizzas

Amazon CEO and notorious skinflint Jeff Bezos tries to make meetings as productive as possible by employing a “two-pizza rule”. This rule states that the ideal team size is one that can be fed with two pizzas. This is extremely woolly – it doesn’t say how big the pizza should be, or whether sides are included – but the message seems to be that you should either make friends with one hungry genius or several hundred lactose-intolerant coeliacs of average intelligence.


This gold nugget came from Elon Musk in a Reddit AMA last year. When asked “What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?” he replied: “Showering.” This could be because the time he spends alone in the shower each day makes him more receptive to inspiration. Or it could be because he naturally emits such a hideous stench that nobody would work with him otherwise. Either way, if you want to be as successful as Musk, wash sometimes.

Make an entire room out of gold

Yoshiro Nakamatsu invented the floppy disk. Why? Because he spends all his downtime relaxing in a room tiled with 24-carat gold. The gold, he says, “blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to imagination”. This sounds like the ravings of a lunatic, but remember he invented the floppy disk. What have you ever invented? Nothing. And you never will until you start living like Donald Trump’s wet dream.

Have a two-pizza rule like Jeff Bezos and go offline for a week like Bill Gates. Illustration: Guardian

Set personal goals

As well as taping up his laptop, Zuckerberg has achieved success by setting himself a new personal challenge every year. Whether it’s learning Mandarin or eating only meat that he has killed himself, Zuckerberg’s challenges keep his mind in a state of constant pliancy, which ensures that he will never lapse into complacency. Still, it is important to remember that his goal for 2009 was just to wear ties a lot, because even billionaire tech geniuses are allowed to half-arse it sometimes.

Keep a weird notebook

Your brain has two sides; one that favours logic and systems, and one that favours creativity. How best to keep these sides in a state of equilibrium? Be as literal as you possibly can. Nike CEO Mark Parker always has a notebook with him. One side of the page is used for important brainstorming, the other for mindless doodles. Treat 50% of all the stationery you own as if you were a child, and enormous success will find you in the end.

Learn from unhappy customers

Gates again. He attributes much of his success to his willingness to listen to negative feedback. Stating that “Success is a lousy teacher”, Gates prides himself on the motto: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” As the man who brought us the Zune, the Microsoft Kin, Windows Me, Windows Vista, Microsoft Bob and that bloody talking paperclip thing, Gates must be one of the most learned men in human history.

Be literal

Really, when you think about it, the tech industry is like a jousting match. You have to face down your competitors in the most violent way imaginable if you are to survive. Co-founder of Cisco Systems Sandy Lerner knows this only too well, to the extent that she has bred her own horses and bought her own Elizabethan costumes so she can literally joust people whenever she wants.

Own a terrible phone

Another of Zuckerberg’s tics is to force the worst phones imaginable on his engineers. He hands them old flip phones, low-end Android devices and junk that won’t connect to the internet, and makes them trial new Facebook apps on them. This is to help them understand what the Facebook user experience will be like for users such as those in rural India, or the ones who can’t afford cutting-edge technology, or anyone who has ever been on a Virgin train to Manchester.

Sit in a gold-tiled room like Yoshiro Nakamatsu and have rubbish phones like Mark Zuckerberg. Illustration: Guardian

Sleep less than everyone else

In the same AMA that revealed his important love of showering, Musk also disclosed that he sleeps an average of six hours a night. Since the medical recommendation for adults is between seven and eight hours, it is clear that Musk’s self-administered sleep deprivation is a key component of his ability to design and build self-landing rocketships. It also explains why all new parents are insanely productive idea-machines, often favourably compared to Tony Stark.

Stay underwater

Nakamatsu again. When he isn’t resting in the most garish room on Earth, Nakamatsu likes to stimulate his creative-inventive process by forcing himself underwater until he’s half a second away from drowning. He even has his own plexiglass board so that he can brainstorm ideas underwater. Don’t have a swimming pool? No matter! Ram your head down the toilet instead and, right on the brink of death, you too might invent something as cutting edge as a floppy disk.

Be Felicity Cloake

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer once revealed that her go-to method of making cupcakes was to buy as many cookbooks as possible, recording all the various cupcake ingredients on to a spreadsheet, testing them all meticulously and then creating her own cupcake using the best aspects of each recipe. The same approach catapulted her to success whenever she launched a new product for Google. Since it’s how she compiles her recipes for the Guardian, it’s safe to assume that Felicity Cloake will also be a tech billionaire by Christmas.

Shoot elephants

Go out to Africa with a gun, kill a bunch of elephants and then photograph yourself feeding bits of dead elephant to Zimbabweans who are dressed from head to toe in your corporate logo. That’s what Bob Parsons of GoDaddy did in 2011, and he’s worth $2bn. Are you worth $2bn? Of course you’re not, because you lack the cold black heart of Parsons.

Be unhappy and a bit of a douche

When a Quora user last year asked how they could become as successful as Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife Justine wrote an answer. “Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things,” she wrote. “If you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point.” Success always comes at a cost. You might be worth billions of dollars but, in a way, aren’t you richer for being a decent person? No, you’re right, you’re probably not.

Indulge your hobbies

Videogame designer Shigeru Miyamoto has made millions by turning his hobbies into art. His love of exploring caves as a child helped him create The Legend of Zelda. Gardening helped him create Pikmin. Exercise helped him create Wii Fit, and his new pet helped him create Nintendogs. This is proof that you can easily exploit your personal interests for professional gain, and also why you can soon expect a videogame about a Mandarin-speaking animal murderer who wears a tie and tapes up his webcam from Mark Zuckerberg any day now.

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