For Some Men, Mark Zuckerberg Is a Lifestyle Guru


Anyone who has ever taken to social media to announce a self-improvement project knows that your “friends” cannot be relied upon to hold you accountable. Almost as soon as you proclaim your intention to learn French or cut out carbs, the world moves on, leaving you with only your empty promises and scone crumbs on your shirt.

It’s not so easy to slack if you’re Mark Zuckerberg. Each year, Mr. Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder and C.E.O., who is now 31, has made public pledges to improve himself. His efforts have been closely tracked by the press and by users of his globe-spanning social network who seem never to forget his promises despite the Internet’s ability to reset itself every morning in the manner of “Groundhog Day.”

In 2009, Mr. Zuckerberg decided to wear a tie every day. In 2010, he set himself the task of learning to speak Mandarin. In 2011, he vowed that when he ate meat, it would be only from animals he had slaughtered himself, a pledge seemingly confirmed by a leaked photo of him grinning while holding a chicken by its feet.

In 2013 he aimed to meet someone new every day. In 2014, he promised to write a daily handwritten (or emailed) thank-you note. Last year, he started his own book club, reading a new title every two weeks.

This year is no different. Even though Mr. Zuckerberg probably has his hands full with his company and a new baby, he has said he will run 365 miles over the course of the year and build an artificial intelligence butler for his home.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts have made him the object of fascination and emulation among a subset of millennials in and around the tech industry. More than seeing Mr. Zuckerberg as merely an avatar of tech success and unfathomable wealth, they consider him a role model.

“I run three experiments each year inspired by Zuckerberg,” said Dave Fontenot, 22, a San Francisco resident who used to be an agent for engineers, but who said he is currently “focusing on myself.”

This year, Mr. Fontenot aims to improve his posture, meditate and spend more time alone. He also trained himself to send thank-you notes, either handwritten or as voice recordings via text, inspired by Mr. Zuckerberg. “For a period of time, I wasn’t thanking people at all, but then, for one of the most powerful person in the world to do it, I was like, wow,” Mr. Fontenot said.

In 2012, Mr. Fontenot was invited to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., after winning a hackathon at the University of Michigan. There, he had a chance to see Mr. Zuckerberg up close.

Mr. Fontenot remembered a moment when Mr. Zuckerberg spotted someone juggling and expressed a desire to try it. “In 20 minutes, he kind of learned it,” Mr. Fontenot said.

Lukas Biewald, a co-founder and the C.E.O. of CrowdFlower, a crowdsourcing company in San Francisco, sees Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts at self-betterment, maybe even including juggling, as emblematic of the tech industry as a whole. “I think taking on self-improvement projects outside of work is part of the zeitgeist of Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Biewald, 34. “People expect you to have things that you care about outside of work.”


Source New York Times


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