How Mark Zuckerberg Uses Hawaii Surfing To Cope With ‘Getting Punched’ In The Face By News Everyday

How Mark Zuckerberg Manages His Psychology In A World Of Bad News And Uses Surfing To Be A Better Person

Getty Image / Drew Angerer

  • Meta CEO and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sits down with entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss to discuss everything under the sun including the Metaverse, news, psychology, and surfing
  • Zuckerberg goes into detail about the challenges of working on something like the Metaverse, how he’s affected by a world filled with bad news, and how he uses surfing to manage his psychology
  • Read more Mark Zuckerberg stories here

Regardless of your opinion of him, Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most fascinating people on the planet. This is a fact. He has been one of the wealthiest people on planet earth since founding Facebook while a student at Harvard and these days Meta touches most of the global population every single day.

Mark Zuckerberg recently sat down with author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss to discuss pretty much everything under the sun. Among the topics they went over is how Mark Zuckerberg manages his personal psychology in a world filled with bad news. By the very nature of his job he starts every day with a barrage of emails full of bad news (world news) and it’s interesting to hear how he mentally copes with that every day.

I recently published an article about how the surfing community questioned Mark Zuckerberg’s surfing prowess after he said he surfs 15-footers in Hawaii. Spoiler alert; he does, even if some surfers don’t believe him. But surfing provides a meditative outlet for Mark Zuckerberg. And that allows him to be much more effective at his job.

I’ve transcribed about 10 minutes of the 90 minute discussion between Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Ferriss. If you want to just jump ahead to the portion about surfing it’s down the page, just scroll down and you’ll find it. But even if you’re not a fan of Zuckerberg’s for one reason or another, or billionaires in general, I suggest reading through the full interview below because it’s both enlightening with regards to current Meta or Facebook initiatives and fascinating to see the curtains peeled back a bit.

Mark Zuckerberg discussing books about VR / AR and misperceptions of them…

Mark Zuckerberg: “One of the things I think is interesting about all of these is they sort of posit that the world is in some sort of dystopian state. And that I think is very different from how I think about this (VR). I think that there are all these reasons why it is very valuable for people to be able to be present in another place no matter what their situation is.

I kind of laugh about this sometimes. My family has a house and we love going down to Kauai (Hawaii) and it’s beautiful there and I love surfing and I love doing a lot of stuff but I also love being in VR when I’m there too so obviously that’s (Kauai) not some kind of dystopian. But I think if you look at equalizing opportunity across the world you don’t have to be in some kind of dystopian situation to want to be present with another person who you care about or an opportunity that’s better in another place.”

Tim Ferriss Asks Mark About Long-Term Bets (In The Company)

Tim Ferriss: “Let’s talk about long-term planning and long-term bets for a second. I find you particularly interesting in this respect because you’re a Founder-CEO with sort of a lot of founder-driven control. In a sense, you’re sort of one of the last of a generation. And you can make long-term bets and I know when we were chatting last week a bit you mentioned having a ’15 year roadmap for Metaverse’. And what I’d love to ask you is how you manage the short-term or the intermedia term within the company with employees.

Because if you look at say Instagram and WhatsApp, the bets paid off but at the time there was a lot of scrutiny. The media had sort of a field day and by and large were wrong. But I’m wondering since those types of bets are not necessarily obvious in the moment to everyone involved, how do you think about managing internal when you are making these long-term bets?”

Mark Zuckerberg: “It’s hard and I don’t think that there’s just one day to do it. People are psychologically much more interested and capable of focusing on a long-term outcome when they feel secure in the near term. So when there’s a lot of near-term thrash or you know prospects don’t look good or the market is down overall. Even if that’s not specific to your company, even if it’s kind of a broader thing that definitely strains people’s time horizons.

But I think that good leadership is you try to get people excited about where people are going. You can’t just ignore the short term, there’s obviously a lot that we need to get done there. At this point, it’s a pretty big company so as one of our board members says “we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time” which is probably a simplification.

One of the things that I’ve sort of personally learned over the past 18 years of running the company is I remember when I was getting started, feeling like you weren’t understood kind of feels bad. There’s a normal human impulse which is you want to be understood. I think that’s partially why people want to express themselves and why communication is so important is like people at some level have this intrinsic desire to kind of be understood and belong and feel like they belong with the people around them.”

Mark Zuckerberg:: “And obviously being in a state where something you’re trying to do is kind of fundamentally misunderstood or that people don’t believe in it can be tough. But after going through a bunch of these cycles I actually feel like I’ve trained myself to see it the opposite way. Which is if I’m doing something that feels too well understood for too long then I feel like I’m being complacent.

After going through a bunch of these cycles… A lot of things that are just not controversial today but at the time people thought were crazy (like) taking the service initially from being a college website to not, buying Instagram or WhatsApp which were billions of dollars for the acquisitions. At the time people were like ‘what?!’

I remember Jon Stewart or (Stephen) Colbert did a statement that was making fun of the Instagram acquisition and it was like ‘what? you bought Instagram for a billion dollars of money?! With some of these things you kind of go through a bunch of these and you have the conviction to kind of push back on the world a little bit and say ‘we’re gonna get through this and come out in 18-24 months with something we believe in’.

And after that happens a few times, you kind of understand that could happen. I think most people will still get more of these bets wrong than right. So it’s obviously very important to not get too overconfident with this but at this point, I kind of feel like if people fully feel like they understand what we are as a company and what we’re doing then I’m not pushing it hard enough.

Now I’m at the point where I’m like that feels bad to me. So I kind of want to push us into the zone which is like okay, let’s kind of constantly be doing something that can be doubted. Because if we’re not then what are we doing? Because we have this huge opportunity to be able to do exciting things and help invent things and create things for the world and if it’s obvious to everyone that we’re kind of going to be able to do each of the things that we’re working on then I don’t feel like we’re kind of making the most of what we need to do.

I’m not sure if that answers the original question around how do you get people through it but I actually think a lot of this about how do you get an organization of 100,000 people through something is about managing your own psychology. And about managing your team’s psychology.”

Mark Zuckerberg Discusses Using Surfing And Physical Activity To Manage His Psychology

Mark Zuckerberg: “One of the things that I’ve always found is you can pretty much I think get an organization and a team through almost any challenge as long as you can maintain good cohesion. So, it’s the external stuff. That doesn’t bother me that much. People can criticize us and obviously if they’re people I respect, I care a lot about that and want to make sure we do better. But it doesn’t make me not sleep at night.

When our stock price goes down that doesn’t make me not sleep at night. When there’s a new competitor that doesn’t make me not sleep at night. If there’s an issue on my team and there isn’t good cohesion, then I’m not sleeping well until I resolve that.

It goes back to the very first thing we were talking about with you know, Fencing (sport). It’s intellectual and you’re managing your energy. But I think in order to get through these things and build big long-term things you kind of just need to take care of yourself and you need to take care of your core team and basically in doing so I think you can lead a pretty large organization through some pretty difficult times to do some pretty awesome stuff.

I think that it’s intellectual, it’s energy, it’s about kind of training yourself to be uncomfortable.”

Tim Ferriss: “Let’s talk about the training yourself to be uncomfortable or to become more comfortable with discomfort. Does anything come to mind just in terms of managing your psychology?”

Mark Zuckerberg: “For my own psychology, the way that I try to manage this stuff is I wake up in the morning and you get like whatever remains you have of like stuff that’s going on in the world. It’s world events, it’s team events, whatever trends we’re seeing across our products. And often in there there’s a fair amount of bad news and new things that I need to absorb.

One of the things I found that just for kind of managing myself is that if I try to just go straight into the day it’s almost like every morning that I wake up and read through my emails and get the news it’s almost like getting punched with a ton of new context and I need to internalize this.

So I found that basically doing physical and something that’s meditative to take my mind off of it for like an hour so that I can reset and go do work is really important. So that’s why you know things like Foiling or Surfing have been really important to me because when you’re out there in the water it’s pretty hard to focus on anything else.

Right? When you’re on the board you’re focused on making sure you stay on the board and don’t mess something up and especially if you’re kind of towing (tow surfing) or something like that there’s not a whole lot of downtime. I found that my own performance is significantly better when I have something like that that’s meditative and physical and allows me to kind of output some energy and then I can come back in. It’s almost like I have subconsciously settled all of the things and all of the news that have happened in the world. Now it’s like okay, let’s go deal with it.”

Mark Zuckerberg: “Obviously, if there’s something that’s really an emergency I’m not gonna go do a sport or something I’ll go deal with it. And part of life is you don’t always get to control your schedule and that’s kind of how that goes but when I compare kind of how I do on the days when I kind of get to have some time to soak that in or to kind of have an outlet versus just like jumping right in I find I’m often stewing in bad news or something and I’m not as productive.

So that’s sort of my own personal way that I try to manage like this but obviously, a key part of this is having an awesome team. And it’s not primarily about me at this point. It’s a big company and we have awesome people who are running all of these different groups. So I get that what I’m saying kind of how I’ve worked out the system for myself isn’t necessarily something that would work for a lot of other people.”

At this point, Tim agrees that the “meditative palate cleanser” like foiling or surfing makes sense for managing one’s own psychology. And at this point I’ve officially transcribed waaayyyyyy too much of this interview between Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Ferriss.

So just hit that ‘play’ button above. And for more context on Mark Zuckerberg’s surfing in Hawaii, you can check out my recent article (from a few weeks ago) where Zuck discusses surfing 15-footers, something that was corroborated by Hawaiian surfers.