Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pulling many all-nighters these days.
The CEO of Facebook parent Meta—who once embodied the hoodie-clad, hackathon, boy wonder startup founder—has grown up after running the social networking giant for almost two decades.
For years, Zuckerberg had been cast as one of Silicon Valley’s most notorious leaders, as Facebook faced ire from lawmakers and the public for allegedly crippling democracy, being used as a tool to fuel genocide and harming users as the company chased relentless growth. Zuckerberg, who turns 40 next year, has since begun a transformation into one of tech’s elder statesmen—especially as he plays foil to Elon Musk and his chaos at Facebook rival X, formerly known as Twitter.
So who is this new grown-up Zuck, and how does that translate into everyday life for the famous billionaire? For starters, he gets roughly eight hours of sleep. (He measures it using an Oura sleep tracker). He also shuns back-to-back meetings, allocating at least an hour to process and follow up with folks afterward.
In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes’ Kerry Dolan, Zuckerberg opened up about several other topics, including his new obsession with mixed martial arts, singing Taylor Swift songs with his young daughters, and flying (well, co-piloting) a helicopter to work.
Here are a few of the most interesting details from their conversation.
On company growth:
“One philosophy that I’ve always had is … the thing that determines your destiny is not a competitor, it’s how you execute. And I think most companies probably focus too much on competitors, and maybe even focus too much on ideas. And I think at the end of the day, a lot of what makes great companies great is the ability to just relentlessly execute, and efficiently execute and do that rigorously and just get better and better at it all the time.”
Zuckerberg has a special routine he follows every night to put his daughters–ages 7, 6 and 6 months old–to bed, says Zuckerberg’s pediatrician wife, Priscilla Chan. First, he does something with them that they really like. “Recently it’s been learning every lyric of the Taylor Swift songs,” says Chan. (They went as a family to see Swift in concert in late July, which-natch– Zuckerberg.) His two older girls read to themselves. “Right now Max is reading Harry Potter, which is a little bit scary … so sometimes I’ll read it to her,” says Zuckerberg. And, then, says Chan, “He goes through everyone that loves them, he tells them the three most important things in life are health, family and friends, and something to look forward to. And then he sings to them, I think it’s Debbie Freidman’s version of Mi Shebeirach,” a Hebrew prayer for healing. The only time Chan puts the girls to bed, she says, is if there’s a board meeting or if he’s traveling. Work dinners for her husband happen after the girls’ bedtime.
On jiujitsu and mixed martial arts:
His latest passion, picked up during the pandemic, is jiujitsu and mixed martial arts (MMA). On his Instagram account in July, Zuckerberg sharedof himself and his MMA sparring partners at Lake Tahoe, and another set from when his coach awarded him in jiujitsu. And in early September, he of him and his friends having an MMA battle on a floating dojo on Lake Tahoe. He lights up when talking about the sport, and pulls out his phone to share more photos from a recent MMA session.
“My physical routine in the morning has been really helpful for me to reset. I try to do something where I don’t or actually can’t think too much,” he says, explaining that’s why he switched from running to jiujitsu and MMA. “The thing that those have in common is you really need to focus on what you’re doing, or else you’re going to … get punched in the face.” And as he told hisabout jiujitsu: “I just love this sport. It’s so primal and lets me be my true competitive self.”
For years, Zuckerberg has publicly set himself annual challenges: learn Chinese, visit cities all over the U.S., only eat meat that he killed himself. His new challenge: “I want to do an MMA competition, or do a kind of formal fight sometime in the next year.” Who would his opponent be? “I’m probably going to do it with somebody that takes the sport really seriously and does it competitively or as a professional.”
On his daily schedule:
“I don’t stay up super late at night. … I’ll wake up and there will be a bunch of emails. Usually, people aren’t emailing me about things that are going well. It’s a very diverse set of things that are breaking across the company.”
“I’ll respond to a bunch of emails in the morning and have a bunch of time to do that. But then I want to be able to show up to work and be able to push forward.” So he takes a break to exercise (often jiujitsu or MMA —see above). “I try to work out six or seven days a week.”
Zuckerberg says he gets eight hours of sleep a night, which he describes as “very instrumented.” He uses an Oura ring, which “tells you [your] level of deep sleep, and what your heart rate is when you’re sleeping.”
“I actually like trying to have a rule… for every hour of meeting that I have, the team sends out the pre-reads in advance. I want to have at least an hour to read the materials and think about it. And then I want to have at least an hour to follow up with different people after the meeting.”
On what he’s learned after being CEO of Facebook and Meta for almost 20 years:
“I knew so little when I was getting started… I’d say there’s a lot about management and leadership that I’ve learned. I think probably the most important thing is I feel like I’ve learned how to express the things that are important to me in a way that is that can translate to an organization.”
Zuckerberg flew in from his home in Lake Tahoe to the Meta offices in Menlo Park to speak with Forbes. “Normally I’d fly a helicopter. I like flying,” he says. But 100 mile an hour winds in the mountains near Tahoe derailed that plan. “You can actually do it,” Zuckerberg says of flying in winds that high. “It’s just uncomfortable.”
He says he started learning to fly a helicopter a couple years ago, and flies with a co-pilot now. The F.A.A. lists him as having a student license.
On turning down a $1 billion buyout from Yahoo in 2006:
“When I didn’t want to sell the company early on, I think the investors were like, oh, maybe we should get like, should we get a different team? And it’s like, oh, well, you can’t.”
“If someone offers you a billion dollars, you’re like, oh, well, we’re not really making much money today. So what does it mean to be worth a billion dollars, and what does that mean over time? And we haven’t really spent a lot of time, to that point, talking about the long term vision. I think most people are at the company because they just love the product and thought it was awesome and just want to make things better every day. So that was probably the hardest moment in running a company. I mean, it’s just because I didn’t know what I was doing.”
On taking big swings:
“I think over time, what matters is just taking a bunch of big swings, and being able to connect on enough of them. And I think there just aren’t that many places in the world where you can make the kind of long term bets that we have.”
“I actually think that when you’re running something, you should be as involved in the details as you can be. Obviously, there’s way more stuff that I just don’t have time to be involved with. …Anything that I’m kind of focused on or interested in or want to be in the details on, I will be. I try to be in the details of as many things as possible.”
“I’m optimistic about our trajectory. We saw unprecedented growth out of the gate and more importantly we’re seeing more people coming back daily than I’d expected. Now, we’re focused on retention and improving the basics. After that, we’ll focus on growing the community to the scale we think is possible. We’ve run this playbook many times before — with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Stories, Reels, and more — and this is as good of a start as we could have hoped for, so I’m really happy with the path we’re on here.”
On AI and Facebook products:
AI “will go across everything. The characters will have Instagram and Facebook profiles. And you’ll be able to talk to them in WhatsApp and Messenger and Instagram, and they’ll be embodied as avatars and virtual reality.”
On that possible fight with Elon Musk:
“I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
“I think I’m going to be running Meta for a long time.”
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