A few months back, we posted “10 Messy Desks of Successful People.” Admittedly we missed the boat a little bit there, and we’ll own it: it was too male-heavy. But it did get us thinking along some new lines, and that inspired this post. (Learning is a good thing, right?)
We tend to think of “success” in narrowly-defined terms often. That’s where the messy desk post came from. In kindergarten, what do your teachers constantly tell you? Keep your workspace clean. Keep your area clean. Keep your cubby clean. It’s crucial from our first moments of education — and yet, some of the most visionary, world-crafting people in human history? Well, they couldn’t find their car keys on their desk if need be.
What other eccentric habits do successful leaders and builders have? Here are a couple of cool examples.
Founder of Sociology of Style
Anna eats the same breakfast and lunch every day, noting that “more choices require time and energy and shift our focus away from other things that matter.” She also adds — and this is hard to argue with, i.e. “analysis paralysis” problems at many jobs — that “more choices also breed a sense of anxiety about making the right choice.” This might be a little boring in terms of food choices, then, but the logic is sound.
Famed Nintendo games designer
Miyamoto carries measuring tape around with him wherever he goes because he’s “always enjoyed guessing at the length of objects.”
German Chancellor // One of the most powerful women in the world
This one is mostly logical, as Merkel did spend 35 years of her life in communist East Germany. As a result, she still hoards food and household cleaners. As noted here:
In an interview with the magazine SUPERillu, she also admitted to impulsive shopping. “I still buy something as soon as I see it, even when I don’t really need it,” she said. “It’s a deep-seated habit stemming from the fact that in an economy where things were scarce, you just used to get what you could when you could.”
Franklin went for daily cold-water swims in the Thames when he lived in London. He’s not the only lauded genius to do something like that — Theodore Roosevelt skinny-dipped in the Potomac every winter during his Presidency. (If you’ve ever dipped your toe into the Potomac or Thames in non-summer, you know it’s very cold.)
COO, Facebook // Author, Lean In
In this era of insane growth for productivity and digital collaboration tools, Sandberg moves from meeting to meeting using a spiral-bound notebook. Each page is a list of discussion points and action items, which are crossed off one-by-one. When the entire page of points and items is crossed off, the page can be torn out of the book. When the page is torn out, that meeting can end. If it happens at 10 minutes on a 60-minute schedule, so be it. In our humble opinion, this is actually a fantastic way to run meetings, which tend to drag with already-known information.
Franzen is famous for boycotting social media overall as he writes more dramatic, serious fiction about weird family dynamics and beyond. But more than simply not tweeting, Franzen sometimes writes with earplugs in, earmuffs on, and a blindfold to block out all sensory stimuli.
Famous poet and author
Angelou, who has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the U.S.), used to keep a tiny hotel room near her house. She’d go there from 7am to 2pm daily to write, with the following:
- A dictionary
- A Bible
- A deck of playing cards
- A bottle of sherry
She told Tim Ferriss that she’ll stay “as long as it’s going well,” noting that it’s “lonely and marvelous.”
Founder of Ford motors // The original entrepreneur
Ford used to eat daily sandwiches made from the plants along his roadside. This sounds a bit gross and potentially unsafe, but to be clear on one thing — if Ford was alive today, he’d be worth north of $200 billion. That’s three times more than Bill Gates is currently worth. It’s not as simple as grabbing bread and some plants from alongside the highway, but as this list shows, eccentricity often goes hand-in-hand with greatness.