Do You Share Any Bad Habits with These Leaders?
Bad habits are, at best, inconvenient, and at worst, downright harmful. They’re also universal. People can spend a lot of time and money trying to change them. The smoking cessation market alone hit $7 billion worldwide in 2015.
Bad habits are created because they reward us in the moment, even if they’re harmful over the long run. Once a behavior loop is established, it gets assigned to a part of the brain that processes behavior automatically, making habits challenging to change. However, it’s entirely possible to replace a bad habit with a good one by interrupting the behavior loop and having another behavior in place.
While you may know your bad habits -- for me, nail biting -- do you know the bad habits of leaders, such as Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Jeff Bezos?
Check out the bad habits of these 12 luminaries, and see if you share any in common with them.
"I have OCD on product-related issues," he told The Wall Street Journal. "When I see a car or a rocket or spacecraft, I only see what's wrong."
This revelation shouldn’t come as a shock. Musk has a reputation for high standards and a heavy-handed management style with every aspect of his companies. WSJ wrote that Musk has “a hands-on obsession with the tiniest operational and car-design details at Tesla.”
Another bad habit? Poor work-life balance. Musk has claimed to keep exhausting work hours (80 to 100 hours per week). The Tesla and SpaceX CEO used to keep up his energy by consuming up to eight cans of Diet Cokes a day, plus coffee. However, he kicked the habit after he began to lose his peripheral vision due to the effects of overstimulation. Now, he’s a caffeine-free Diet Coke drinker.
It’s easy to imagine someone who started his tech company during sophomore year of college having a ton of bad habits, such as eating junk food and smoking pot. However, the bad habit that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called out during a Facebook Live Q&A in 2015 was something more cerebral: his tendency to give employees feedback about improvement -- sometimes known as criticism.
Zuckerberg admitted he struggles with thanking his management team for a job well done. According to CNBC, he went on to explain “that there are two types of people in the world: those who see the beauty in things and those who want to make those things better. ‘I'm from the latter,’ he said.”
However, the tech titan was, like the rest of us, trying to change. His 2014 New Year’s resolution was to write a note of thanks every day, which he found trying.
The multi-billionaire also has an appetite for fast food. Some of his favorite picks have been McDonald’s Big Macs and KFC fried chicken. However, the unapologetically meat-and-potatoes president has been known to eat, during a single sitting, “two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted,” according to a book written by Trump’s former campaign manager, Cory Lewandowki.
The book reveals that the president also has a special place in his heart for Vienna Fingers, Oreos, potato chips and pretzels. Trump’s fondness for Oreos reveals another habit of his: The 71-year-old commander-in-chief is a self-proclaimed “germaphobe” and won’t eat from Oreo packages that have already been opened. According to Newsweek, Trump has said he washes his hands frequently throughout the day and drinks through a straw to avoid contamination.
The late Steve Jobs was a reputed micromanager, obsessing over details from the design of the employee shuttle buses to the aesthetic of the glass stairs in Apple stores. However, one of Jobs’s other habits was related to food: his curious and overly restrictive eating habits.
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, the former Apple CEO was not only a vegetarian, but at times, he would eat only one kind of food -- such as carrots -- for weeks on end. Apparently so much so that his skin turned orange. He also flirted with fruitarianism, a diet that consists entirely of fruits.
Jobs also had the remarkable habit of washing his feet in the toilet at work as a form of relaxation.
The former CEO of Yahoo! formed a reputation for her indecisive micromanaging style, among other transgressions. But can you fault her for sleeping on the job? Marissa Mayer has spoken of how she doesn’t require very much sleep, clocking in just four hours a night. During her days as an engineer at Google, she spoke of putting in 130-hour work weeks.
However, her sleep habits caught up with her in 2014. The story goes, she was in Cannes, France, for its annual advertising festival, and she had been invited to a private dinner with the chief executives of potential Yahoo! advertisers as fellow guests. However, Mayer arrived to the dinner two hours late. Not surprisingly, some of the advertisers had left.
Her explanation? She had been awake for 20 hours, fell asleep and slept through the dinner. The dinner guests were not impressed. One guest told The Wall Street Journal, “It is another instance where she demonstrated that she doesn’t understand the value of clients, ad revenue or agencies.”
The lesson here? Sleep more in order to function better -- but not during meetings with potential advertisers.
It’s hard to make the argument that Warren Buffett should change his bad eating habits when he’s made it to age 87 without much health drama, minus his 2012 diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. But, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO and chairman has said, “I eat like a six year old.”
He regularly hits up McDonald’s for breakfast, ordering according to how the market is doing. Buffett has also reportedly eaten chocolate-chip ice-cream for breakfast and likes to snack on a ready supply of shoestring French fries and potato sticks.
The man who had invested in shares of Coca Cola in 1988, which has resulted in huge dividends, enjoys the product and consumes five Coca-Colas a day. In fact, he considers himself "one quarter Coca-Cola,” although it’s not clear if he’s talking about his company’s investment portfolio, himself or both.
The CEO of OWN has said she eats her feelings, a habit she’s made a business: In 2015, Oprah Winfrey purchased a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers International. Winfrey is a self-confessed carbohydrate addict: potato chips, bread, macaroni and cheese and bread pudding. (This seriously sounds like one of the more fun bad habits.)
However, it is the potato that the former-talk show queen stated has been her Achilles heel. During a private Q&A with Weight Watchers members, she revealed, “I have been controlled by potatoes for 40 years. Any kind of fried potato, baked potato, scalloped potato -- oh my God.”
She credits the Weight Watchers points program with helping her indulge in a controlled portion of chips while losing weight. “I actually was traveling the other day and opened a 5 oz. bag of crinkle cut, black pepper potato chips and I counted out 10 chips … And I ate the 10 and I savored every one. And I put the bag away.” Winfrey said.
The co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft admitted to once practicing the bad habit of spying on his employees. More specifically, while Bill Gates was building Microsoft, he kept tabs on employees’ work hours.
"I knew everyone's license plates,” he said, “so I could look out in the parking lot and see when did people come in, when they were leaving.”
During those early days at Microsoft, Gates explains that he "didn't really believe in vacations” and had to be wary of judging others using his own work standards. “Eventually I had to loosen up, as the company got to a reasonable size."
The former president has had his struggles with cigarettes. During the peak of his habit, he smoked seven to eight cigarettes a day -- his brand of choice was Marlboro Reds. However, in 2008, Barack Obama promised his wife Michelle that he would give up smoking in exchange for her support for his presidential bid.
He said at a news conference in 2009, "As a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No."
However, in 2011, his wife Michelle, a strong advocate of health and exercise, announced that her husband had kicked cigarettes for almost a year. It appears he’s been, more or less, smoke-free ever since -- with the help of nicotine gum. However, it’s been reported his daughter Malia, a student at Harvard, has picked up smoking.
Like with many busy CEOs, Jack Dorsey’s bad habit is likely sleep deprivation. It has been reported that the CEO of two public companies, Twitter and Square, worked 18 hour days, leaving less than six hours for sleep.
The Wall Street Journal wrote about Dorsey’s work life in 2015: “Mr. Dorsey is disciplined about his schedule and habits … According to Twitter and Square, on Monday morning, Mr. Dorsey arrives at Twitter for five-hour meetings with his eight senior executives and [Executive Chairman Omid] Kordestani to review the business operations and projects. At 1:30 p.m., he rushes over to Square to repeat the same exercise.”
While his commitment to discipline and routine are laudable, sleep deprivation can lead to issues, which include difficulty in decision-making, memory loss and an inability to regulate emotions. While an average of 2 percent of the population belong to the “Sleepless Elite,” a lucky portion of people who only need a few hours of sleep a night to remain highly functional, the statistics are stacked against the likelihood of Dorsey being one of them.
Media giant Arianna Huffington has publicly battled two bad habits: sleep deprivation and smartphone addiction. In turn, she’s stepped into the role of advocate for sleep health and smartphone detox. Her book that advocates healthy sleep habits, The Sleep Revolution, was born from an experience in 2007, when the former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post was slogging through 18 hour days. One day, she collapsed, breaking a cheekbone and cutting her eye. The moment served as a wake-up call, and she’s been on a crusade ever since to make sleep a priority.
In her crusade, Huffington noticed the link between sleeplessness and smartphone addiction. She literally puts her smartphones to bed at 8 p.m. in an adorable charger that looks like a bed. The bed charger is, of course, sold on her Thrive Global website. She said that putting her phone to bed “allows her to unplug, forces her to focus on her well-being and makes her much more productive when she wakes up.”
Huffington has also created a Thrive focus app that mutes your phone’s notifications and, if you wish, locks you out of your phone for a set period of time.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was in the habit of cruel outbursts or what Amazon employees called “nutters,” wrote biographer Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. According to Stone, “He was capable of hyperbole and cruelty in these moments, and over the years delivered some devastating rebukes to employees.” Ones, such as "Are you lazy or just incompetent?" And "This document was clearly written by the B team. Can someone get me the A team document? I don't want to waste my time with the B team document."
Chances are, Bezos was merely demanding from his employees the same sort of excellence he asked of himself, but that hardly makes his behavior any more palatable for those on the receiving end.
Bezos has definitely changed, although it’s unclear whether his habit of “nutters” have. We have witnessed a more philanthropy-minded Bezos, who established the Bezos Family Foundation, run by his parents. While he appears to still be finding his sea legs as a philanthropist, he has donated space and funds to the homeless shelter Mary’s Place in Seattle, and, more recently, donated $33 million to a college scholarship program for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).