Lifestyle articles about the rich and famous inevitably feature opulent mansions, outlandish purchases, and daredevil antics. And while Oracle chairman Larry Ellison does race yachts, live in a $100 million home, and buy the occasional Hawaiian island, that’s not exactly the norm among executives and business leaders.
In my experience – and I’ve known hundreds of successful CEOs, VCs and founders – the vast majority get off on far more normal things, for lack of a better term.
Why is that important? Because we live in a culture that somehow manages to both admire and loathe successful business people when the truth is that they’re made of flesh and blood, just like you and me. Not to stereotype, but the ones I know enjoy doing things that just might surprise you.
Helping those who need and deserve it.
It’s popular to talk about causes these days but, in my experience, few actually walk the talk. Successful business people are generally quite generous with their time and money when it comes to those who are both in need and deserving – the latter being a key distinction.
Sleeping in their own beds.
The glamour of a high-powered executive jetting all over the world is a complete myth. It’s fun at first, but after a few million air miles, you get pretty sick and tired of all the redeye flights and waking up in hotel rooms with no idea what city or country you’re in. Glinda was right. There’s no place like home.
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Some build models or play musical instruments while others like to bake cupcakes or play poker. I love to garden and cut up huge trees for firewood. I also cook Asian cuisine and collect wine. Yes, I drink it, too. Go figure.
Working their tails off.
This is about what successful people like to do, not what they like to do for fun. And what most of them like to do is work their butts off. They’re mostly workaholics who love their work.
Limelight usually follows success. It just comes with the territory. But being in the public spotlight is not all it’s cracked up to be. When they’re not working, most of these people enjoy quiet time alone or with friends and family. It’s almost a necessity to decompress and keep things in perspective.
Not all CEOs are control freaks but it’s a common enough trait, especially among founders of tech companies. I’m similarly afflicted, I’m afraid. C’est la vie.
Most successful business leaders are surprisingly generous about sharing their knowledge and experience. Even after making gobs of money, they usually enjoy speaking, writing books or articles, or just giving a little advice to someone who needs it. They’re generally very approachable, willing to mentor, and not pretentious about it, either.
Since competitive spirit is being bred out of our society by an educational system that promotes mediocrity instead of meritocracy, it bears mentioning that every successful executive or business leader I’ve ever known loves to win. They don’t spout off about it like Charlie Sheen, but it’s true, nevertheless.
It’s uncanny but an overwhelming majority of these people stay in shape in one way or another. They run, hike, do yoga, swim, cycle, ski, do ironman triathlons, lift weights, practice marshal arts, whatever works.
Being good to their employees.
While the populist view of the one percent is that they’re ruthless, selfish, and greedy, that’s far more the exception than the rule. Nearly every corporate executive I’ve ever known has known that human capital is hands down their most critical asset.
It’s sort of bizarre the way our society alternately hoists CEOs up on pedestals like their gods or something and denigrates them as being privileged. I really don’t get it. If you met one on the street, you’d think he’s just a regular guy. That’s because he is just a regular guy. That’s the beauty of free market capitalism.