50 Experts on Parties, Management, Zombies, Self-Improvement, and More

April 11, 2013

Run Your Company Like An Improv Group

Dick Costolo

When I first got to Chicago and was doing improvisational comedy, there was a group of folks from Ivy League schools, like Rachel Dratch, who graduated from Dartmouth. There was another group from Midwestern universities, the Chris Farley types, who were like, “We are going to swear onstage and take our shirts off.” There was a fascinating balance there. It created a great blend of intellectual comedy and slapstick. That’s exactly the mix you want to foster in a company.

Eat Crow

Melissa Perfit

So you’re just going to give me a crow? I’d probably slit its throat, hang it by its feet to get the blood out. Then chop off the head and feet, they’re probably really poky and talony. I suppose you’d pluck it. You don’t want to eat its feathers.

Get People To Listen

Cory Booker

My mom told me very early in life, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.” What she meant was you’ve really got to embody what you’re trying to communicate. Ultimately, that’s more important than mere words. You also have to have passion and belief. My dad worked for IBM. He said, “Look, I can’t sell products I don’t believe in. People will see right through me. But if I’m passionate and have a deep conviction about what I’m doing, I’m the greatest salesman there is.” I’ve found it to be the same way for me.

Motivate Yourself

Mark Cuban

When I first came to Dallas, I had a hole in the floorboard of my ’77 Fiat X1/9. I’d drive around and look at the big houses for motivation, trying to get fired up, knowing that if I worked hard enough, I could get there. My self-motivation is (a) fear of failure and (b) desire to win. No matter what business you’re in, you’re always at risk—­particularly in technology, where it changes so rapidly you’ve got to put in the effort to keep up. There’s always the ­opportunity for some 18-year-old to come out of ­nowhere and crush you—that motivates the hell out of me. Every one of my companies, whether something I started or something I invested in, is a scoreboard. How am I doing? A lot of investors or advisers play it as a numbers game. If they invest in 20 companies, as long as one success covers 19 losses, they did OK. I look at every loss as a huge failure. I had an investment go bad recently. I lost $1.5 million on it. It pisses me off to no end. But you can also use it as motivation. What did I do wrong? Who did I trust that I shouldn’t trust? What can I learn from this situation so I can avoid it next time? Another motivation is what you might call the concept of always. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always trying to win. You’re always trying to improve. You’re always trying to compete for customers. You’re always trying to stay ahead. You’re always cognizant of people trying to kick your ass. You’re always trying to kick your own ass before someone else does. It’s really no different from a sport.

Get Rich With Tattoos

Don Ed Hardy

They opened 50 Ed Hardy stores in China last year. It all started to go mainstream in the 1980s. People learned of me through word of mouth and would fly in from all over the globe to get tattoos at my shop. It was crazy. I didn’t know it would ever get this big. And certainly this whole brand thing, the Ed Hardy thing, that completely … it’s like The Twilight Zone. It just fell in my lap.

Break The Ice

Sam Yagan

The first time you meet someone, the conversation is sort of on life support. You’re just trying to live another moment in the life of the conversation. I’m an off-the-charts introvert. To me, being around groups of strangers is exhausting. I’ve had to sort of train myself to think about two tactics: finding common ground and invoking humor. With the first part, the No. 1 tip is specificity. If you go up to somebody and say, “Do you like to travel?”—that’s actually a terrible conversation starter. The answer is yes, but it’s so boring. It’s almost like asking, “How do you breathe?” I try to listen carefully for any specific cultural crumb that people drop, and I will leap on it.

Save Privacy

Jill Kelley

When my name was leaked after I reported a stalking incident last year, leading to numerous false headlines and articles, I learned the scope of the government’s authority to view e-mail. Until new legislation is passed, our legal protections online are minimal. For example, the Electronic Communications ­Privacy Act was written with a loophole that allows government to read e-mail over 180 days old without a warrant. Public e-mail servers receive thousands of government requests a month for e-mail. Your e-mail may be read as you are reading this; the government may be surveilling your business, taxes, and personal conversations. Other forms of communication (U.S. mail and telephone calls) are protected and require a search warrant for surveillance. Another provision in our privacy laws that needs change is the protection of those who report a crime. Otherwise, law-abiding citizens will fear the unexpected consequences of a leak by the authorities. Until our privacy laws give us both privacy and protection, I’ll continue to be an ­advocate for reform, so others don’t have to go through the challenges my friends and family endured.

Follow Your Instincts

Natalie Massenet

Before I launched Net-A-Porter I came up with a number of different ideas that business associates deemed ridiculous, and I ignored my instinct and lost opportunities. When it came to starting Net-A-Porter, I found strength in being a loner, initially, and then even more strength in finding and hiring people who shared my vision. At the beginning it’s better to have fewer people who are on your side than many people who want to change what you feel is right. In our early days, instinct was everything. Slowly experience took over, and I’ve had to work hard to ensure that I value experience but allow it to coexist with gut reaction. My instinct has told me to hire people I trust—those who have strong belief in their own convictions and the experience to back it up, but not necessarily the relevant résumé. Sometimes I make mistakes, and with hindsight I can say those decisions were made when I didn’t listen to the voice inside. The priority is creating time for silence so we can process ideas, react instinctively to them, give them strong business foundations, and ensure they are in line with the idea that launched us in the first place.

Make a Salt Shaker Disappear

Adam Grant

The setup: You’re sitting at a cafe table facing the audience. Say: “I have a magic dime that can melt through any surface, but it needs help from a few objects. So I’m going to cover the dime with a salt shaker, and then I’m going to cover the salt shaker with a napkin. Will a volunteer come tap the shaker with my magic wand? Thank you. Now get ready—I’ll lift the shaker and you’ll see the dime fall through the table and into my hand. One … two … three!” The audience will shout that the dime remains on the table. “Argh!” you say. “Let’s try this again.” But this time, you smash your hand down on the napkin, and the salt shaker magically appears in your hand beneath the table.


Paul Krugman

Part of the answer is paying attention to events, looking for the illustration, looking for the dramatic motivating example. It kind of helps to use various people as foils. If someone has said something that’s demonstrably at odds with experience or just demonstrably stupid, I use it. Jean-Claude Trichet [former president of the European Central Bank] delivered some wonderful quotes. Olli Rehn [vice president of the Euro­pean Commission] has been doing beautifully helpful quotations. I’m not being unfair to him. The austerity thing has been helped on a great deal as an argument by unfolding events in Europe. In 2010 it was based mostly on the logic of the case, not the evidence. Now I can say, “Look, you’ve done this thing. Look what’s happened. Look at Britain. Look at Portugal.”

Manipulate Creative People

Matt Selman

Always phrase your own ideas as if someone else has said them. “It’s like John was saying … (YOUR IDEA)” or “Building on Brian’s thought … (YOUR IDEA)” or “Carolyn was on to something with … (YOUR IDEA).” Phrase your rejection of other people’s ideas in the form of baffling rhetorical questions: “Do you think if we did that it would fight the theme we’ve set up, or does that initiate a new paradigm?” Remember that compliments cost you nothing. They’re like a wad of bills that never runs out. “Here’s a compliment for you, and one for you, and one for you. Why, my wallet is just full of these things!” Similarly, when something material and free comes along—passes to a movie premiere, a box of video games, assorted cupcakes—let the staff have first crack. If your team is still irri­tated with you, badmouth anyone not in the room. Dumping on an unseen third party or revealing tantalizing office gossip always takes the heat off for a few minutes. Though if you’re going to make fun of people who work for you, be prepared to be made fun of by them. No matter how mean it gets, have the thickest skin in the room. Reward the completion of assignments with YouTube clips: Key and Peele, octopus vs. shark, bank robbery fails. If nothing else works, stall till lunch. It’s hard to be full and angry.

Negotiate With a Democratic President

Newt Gingrich

You have to establish a position of strength. Before Bill Clinton and I negotiated a ­balanced-budget agreement in 1996, we closed the government twice. By the time we were done with the second shutdown, there was a grudging sense of respect. At the same time, we realized that if you don’t get Clinton’s signature, you’re not getting anything done. We negotiated face to face for 35 days. We learned how to do a dance that involved hitting each other pretty hard but then backing off and finding a way to work together.


Jesse Ball

To lie effectively, it’s crucial that you remove all feelings of discomfort and moral quandary so you can control your demeanor. If you do not, they will hang from your tail like a tin can, and you’ll be found out.

Drive a Supercar

Richard Antinucci

These cars are low to the ground, so sit low. Put the seat forward and lean back. You will get better field of vision. Remember that because you’re low, bigger, higher cars may not see you. You are in the exotic car, and you are the ­minority. The majority are tall, bulky cars; they’ll only hear you. It’s supposed to be loud—that’s what you pay for. There is no manual clutch; ­supercars are automatics now. What’s the point?

Get Your Perk Into a Bill

Jack Abramoff

Whether you’re a company, a union, or an individual, to get your bennie—your perk—into a bill, the first thing you need to do is find a bill that’s going to get signed by the president. Ninety-nine percent of what’s proposed in Congress doesn’t make it to the White House, so you’re looking for one of the few bills that’s going to make it all the way through the House, the Senate, the conference committees, and wind up on the president’s desk. We call that a moving train. If you’re a lobbyist pushing something like this, you want your moving train to be a 2,000-plus-page bill. You want to find a way to sneak your bennie into a teeny boxcar in the back that nobody’s going to notice.

Reinvent A Brand

Lew Frankfort

Coach was a $550 million business in 2000 when it went public and a $5 billion one a decade or so later. Now we’re transforming it again into a lifestyle brand for women, with shoes, outerwear, and capsule collections of tops and bottoms. A transformation has to be careful, nurtured. You have to understand what’s distinctive about your brand and build on who you are. Consumers are smart—if you try to be something you’re not, they’ll see you as an impostor.

Read a Financial Statement

Mark Hurd

There are two sets of financial statements, the income statement and the balance sheet, and they work in concert. If you want to get to the health of a company, you have to look at both. What we have here is an income statement. It’s going to take you through things like revenue and expenses and tell you about the profitability of the company. That profitability generally turns into cash flow and brings you to the balance sheet.

Get on a Board

Maggie Wilderotter

I’ve been on 23 public-company boards in the last 28 years. If you want to be on boards, you have to fish where the fish are. That means getting to know CEOs and others who are board members. I was 28 and vice president of sales at a small vendor to cable companies when I decided to try to get elected to the board of the National Cable Television Association. I called all 2,000 industry vendors and promised to represent them if they sent in proxy votes for me. I won on my second try in 1987. There was only one other female director, and I was at least three management levels below everyone else.

Make Complicated Things Simple (With Kittens)

Hilary Mason

When I give a talk about something technical, I explain the same ­concept three ­different times. The first time is the technical explanation, with all the code and math, for the people in the audience who operate on a higher level of expertise and can understand it. I’ll tell them about this program that looks at clustered data online to see what generated the most sustained attention across a certain period of time. Then I’ll explain it a second time, walking people through what that means. Of all the cat pictures viewed online last year, this program can tell you which one people looked at the most. How did we do that? We ran all cat pictures posted last year through the program, then manually weeded out everything that wasn’t actually cat—say, a picture of ­Catwoman the algorithm had accidentally picked up—and then checked to see which one was the most popular. And then the third time I explain the concept, I give a succinct, easily tweetable sound bite. I’ll show a picture of a kitten and say, “This is the cutest kitten of 2012.” There’s another trick in there, too: When you show people a picture of a kitten, they’ll get happy, and then they’ll think they liked your talk.

Navigate the Internet at Work

Katie Notopoulos

The Internet can be gross. With the rules of what constitutes NSFW (not safe for work) varying from workplace to workplace, the Web can be a minefield for the clueless. Here’s a handy chart to help you avoid its weirder corners in the office.

Think Big

Clive Palmer

Ideas are the most powerful thing in the world, far more powerful than money. Best of all, there are no barriers to having great ideas and thinking big. Whether rich or poor, privileged or disadvantaged, everybody is capable of changing their lives and the lives of others by thinking big. It takes imagination, courage, and the will to work hard. Don’t listen to the knockers and the critics, the naysayers and the negativity. To my knowledge, nobody ever built a monument to a critic. They come and go, but big ideas last forever. The great John F. ­Kennedy said words to this effect: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”

Look Like You Know What You’re Talking About

Craig Ferguson

Pretending to know something you don’t is born from insecurity. When I was younger and single, it was an attempt to impress potential sexual partners. I nodded my head and did a lot of, “Oh yes, mmm hmm, I agree,” when I wasn’t even listening. But there’s a point where you have to come clean and say, “I’ve been nodding this whole time, but I have no idea what you’ve been talking about.” If you say that, you’ll quickly find out the type of person you’re dealing with. If you’re supposed to know something and you don’t, try listening. I don’t mean fake listening but real listening. When I talk to an actor who’s on the show to promote a movie, I usually don’t watch it ahead of time. Why? He can just explain it to me. But I have to pay attention to what he says. If you do that, you’ll appear really invested in the person and what they’re doing. But you don’t have to fake it if you don’t want to. Ignorance is a perfectly reasonable position to take in a conversation. I don’t know everything you do. If I did, why would I bother talking to you?


Girl Talk

When people arrive, let them have a few drinks, then play Mary J. Blige’s Family Affair. With that song the transitional process from arrival to party will be complete. People want to hear hit songs, but it’s fun to jump around with genres, styles, and eras. If a song’s not working, turn it off in the middle. Who cares? It’s not a club. You can do anything. Play the Jurassic Park theme song. Play Shawty Lo’s Dey Know three times in a row. Keep ramping it up as the night goes on even as people start leaving. The last couple people should be having more fun than anyone.

Argue Like a Pundit

Rich Masters

There are two schools of thought on how to win an argument on television. You can memorize the talking points that the DNC or the RNC sends you and spit ‘em out at whoever you’re up against. We call that “rip and read,” which gets a little stale. The other school is the Joe Biden school of extemporaneous blather. It has the virtue of appearing more genuine and helps you connect with your audience. Face it, Biden is everybody’s favorite D.C. interview. But message discipline and Joe? Oxymoronic. So how do you combine the message discipline of school No. 1 with the spontaneity of school No. 2? By using something I call the “message diamond.”

Read Lips

Larry Wenig

Say your employee is in a conference room out of earshot, and you want to know what he’s saying. You need to know the basics and do your homework—which means practice. I’m a self-taught lip reader; I’ve been hard of hearing since birth. A person who hears normally needs to know how the sounds are made as well as how the lips are shaped to produce the sound. For example, the “th” sound: If the tongue comes out of your boss’s mouth and the lips are ­rounded, you can assume the “th” sound is coming out. Then you sound out the word in your mind.

Overcome Fear

Felix Baumgartner

Fear isn’t something to be eliminated. It’s something to be managed. In my line of work, skydiving, fear is what keeps you from getting careless. A healthy amount of apprehension has helped me to stay safe over a 20-year career. I am cautious enough to plan each one of my jumps carefully and to reject ideas when the risks were unacceptably high. Fear gets proble­matic when it becomes your focal point, dominating your thoughts and distracting you from the task at hand.


Greg Nicotero

Everyone wants to drag one leg or walk like Frankenstein. We try to dispel those characteristics. We say, “Imagine that you walked out of a bar at 2:00 in the morning.” I tell people to relax their shoulders. Zombies don’t have the muscle tone to raise their arms as often as they’d want. As soon as actors get that sloped-shoulder attitude, it changes their body language. Eyes are critical. When someone’s looking around the room, you see their eyes landing on certain things. That shows an intelligence. Let your eyes wander instead. I’ll tell the walker extras to keep their chins down. There’s something a little more malevolent about having a chin down with eyes forward.


Patrick Doyle

I learned to juggle because I thought it was cool. I mostly juggle balls, of any sort. The key to juggling is learning how to toss whatever you’re working with—in this case ­oranges—the same height every time. If you can toss consis­tently, then you learn how to toss one orange at a time in each hand, and then finally you start figuring out how to change hands. A lot of practice and a lot of dropped oranges is the only way you get better at it. The maximum number of objects I can juggle is three—well, four for a short time until they fall. I can juggle upside down, too, which is tough!

Take a Picture

Pete Souza

Pay attention to what’s in the background. The subject is most important, but surroundings can make or break a good photograph. If there’s clutter behind the president or it looks like a street sign is sticking out of his head, I step to the left or right until it’s no longer in the way. And if you take all your pictures at eye level, they can start to look the same. Bending down or getting up a bit higher can make a big difference. Don’t just rely on posed pictures. Candid moments are more memorable than people smiling stiffly into the camera. Patience is everything; I spend most of my time watching and waiting. Get in close. People think standing back to see as much as possible will make for a better picture, but photos are usually more interesting when the subject—your wife or kid or cat—fills a good part of the frame. If your camera has a zoom lens, zero in. If you’re using an iPhone, zoom with your feet. I take a lot of pictures with my phone—never in the Oval Office but all the time to grab shots of Bo or Air Force One. Early morning and late afternoon light is usually the best time to take pictures. Sometimes bad weather equals good photos. Rain, snow, and fog can lead to moody, memorable shots. Beautiful sunny days at high noon can produce the worst pictures of people, because the bright light makes for harsh shadows on faces. It sounds counterintuitive, but when the sun is high, turn on your camera’s flash. That small burst of light will fill in shadows and add a twinkle of light in the subject’s eyes, as long as you’re close enough. The most important tip, learned the hard way: fresh batteries. If your camera’s out of juice—or the memory card is full—you’ve missed the moment.

Prepare for Armageddon in the Office

Hugh Vail

You’ll probably need to walk home. It may sound obvious, but you need good shoes. You’ll also want a CamelBak hydro pack, one of the ­smaller, sleeker ones with two medium-size pockets. Keep water bottles under your desk, at least a gallon and a half. They’ll keep for months and months, and you can fill the Camel­Bak bladder when you need to. Everything else fits inside the pack. There’s a small solar panel made by Goal Zero. You can strap it on the back of your CamelBak or tape it on a window. It will power your phone and laptop.

Secure Your Online Identity

Christopher Soghoian

The websites you use get hacked a lot. That’s why it’s so important to never reuse passwords. It matters less to have a long password than to use a different one for every site. Outsource your passwords to a manager like LastPass or 1Password. They generate unique passwords for every site you need to log into. And turn on two-factor authentication if you have a Google mail account. Use a browser that updates automatically, like Chrome or Firefox. Then remove Java from your computer. It has too many security flaws, and you probably won’t notice it’s gone. Secure files by enabling disk encryption and passwords on your laptop and phone. Also be aware that any file you store on online backup services like Dropbox and iCloud are not encrypted. Dropbox had a problem a few years ago—anyone could log into someone else’s account and view their files. Rivals offer the same functionality but prevent incidents like that by encrypting your data and giving you the only key. I use Spider­Oak. It costs $100 a year, and I like it a lot.

Own a Vineyard

Richard Parsons

The first thing to consider is where you want to be. I bought Il Palazzone because I love Brunello di Montal­cino. But I also love Tuscany. I love the people. I love the food. I love the natural beauty of Montalcino. If I just wanted to make wine, I could have bought a vineyard in Long Island. I happen to really like spending time here. Find a place you’re passionate about.

Make a Vine Video

Adam Goldberg

Vine is a mobile app that lets you shoot six-second videos, or Vines, to share on social networking sites. The in-app camera records only when you’re holding your finger to the screen of the phone, so there’s an inherent stop-motion element that provides a paranoid or anxious quality, which seems to jibe with my aesthetic.

Exercise In Four Minutes

Jamie Timmons

Toned muscles and good cardiovascular fitness are achievable even if you have only a few minutes to spare. The secret? High-­intensity training, which consists of two or three brief (20-second) bursts of maximal cycling exercise, sepa­rated by two minutes of gentle pedaling for recovery. Eight years of laboratory research has proven that HIT enhances aerobic fitness and reduces diabetes risk factors. You don’t burn many calories doing HIT, but keeping your appetite in check and generating a kick to your metabolic hormones will help you lose that unwanted weight.


T. Boone Pickens

It starts with getting into the transportation sector. When I started the Pickens Plan in 2008, there were about 200,000 vehicles on natural gas in the world; now there’s about 16 million. That growth’s coming from everywhere but the U.S. Places like Iran and Argen­tina. China’s already got 40,000 trucks on LNG [liquefied natural gas], and they import the stuff. And here we are in the U.S., with more natural gas than any other country in the world, and we aren’t doing a thing about it. It’s just amazing to me that these dumb f—s in D.C. don’t see this opportunity and try to capitalize on it.

Sail Upwind

Brad Webb

On the open ocean, the quickest way from A to B isn’t always a straight line. America’s Cup winner Brad Webb and the experts from Oracle Racing explain the most efficient way to sail against the wind.

Resist Temptation

Nigel Travis

I am around coffee, doughnuts, and ice cream all day long. You need a little bit of restraint. I also work out. I went to my doctor for my physical, and my weight has gone down in my last two visits even though I am 63. He actually said, ‘This is unusual at your age.’ I am 6’2″, 198 pounds, and my body fat composition is 16.7. I am very goal focused. I have a plan where I work out three hours-plus a week. This morning I did 35 minutes on an elliptical machine at home. Sometimes when you’re on the road, 10 minutes is all you can squeeze in, but it still goes toward your three hours. I am focused on those three hours; I am focused on my weight. My doctor says I could lose yet another 5 pounds, and I take that as a goal. Actually, I am eating a glazed doughnut with a coffee while I am talking to you, but I have a view that you need to have a balanced lifestyle.

Ask Difficult Questions

Carl Levin

In the workplace, you’ve got to consider your relationships and impacts on your career. A lot of people can’t afford to lose their job by being too harsh or unsubtle with questioning. Regardless of the environment, it’s best to be direct and clear. Don’t be arrogant or domineering; be firm. I put an awful lot of time into preparing questions. We’ll spend days before a major hearing, like for JPMorgan or Enron or any of the other dozen hearings we’ve had in recent years. The point of the hearing is to gather information. I master the material, to know as much as the witness. Then I listen very carefully. You’ve got to focus on what someone is saying to determine ­whether they’re being responsive. That’s part of listening, but that’s also part of being determined to not allow a witness to avoid answering. I focus on words. I believe that words matter. It’s important that you have time. Being chairman on a subcommittee is a big advantage: I can keep a hearing going as long as necessary—we can go hours. Time becomes the essence.


Lodro Rinzler

One meditation technique you can employ at work is to set a timer on your phone to go off every hour. When you hear the ring of your timer, raise your gaze to the horizon and place your attention on your breath. Be present with both the physical sensation of your ­in-breath and your ­out-breath. After what feels like 30 seconds to one minute, reset your timer and return to work. Taking little moments like this throughout your day cuts through habitual patterns and brings you back into your body. Through this simple exercise you can learn to ­appreciate what is going on right now, as opposed to being lost in the past or future.

Humiliate the Opposition

Mike Novogratz

A wrestling match is a war of attrition, your whole goal is to humiliate the guy, to break his spirit. Conan said, “What’s the purpose of life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, to hear the lamentations of their women.” That’s the ethos of the wrestler. When you put your hands on your opponent, you want to use what they call “heavy hands.” You want to keep all your weight on him, stick your elbows in the back of his neck, do whatever you can to put him in physical pain. If you lift him up and slam him to the mat, make sure all your weight lands on him. If he’s going out of bounds, take the chance to shove him. It’s a constant mental and physical abuse. Trash talk is not allowed. If you watch a wrestler before a match starts, you might see him staring the other guy down, trying to intimidate his opponent. The purpose of the thing is to beat the heck out of a guy. You have to have the psyche that you’re going to go out and break his spirit both physically and mentally.

Turn Your Office Into a Musical Paradise

Jake Friedman

You need good headphones. You can spend upwards of $300 on a pair of Bowers & Wilkins P5s. Be forewarned: These are the kind of headphones that will ruin your life. You won’t go out as much. You’ll just want to listen to music all the time. Then get a headphone amp. Yup, your headphones need extra power. It does wonders for the audio quality. I like the $60 JDS Labs cMoyBB. It’s actually built into an ­Altoids tin to disguise your obsession. There’s also the Intruder, made by Ray Samuels Audio, for $700. You might want to consider a headphone amp that comes with a digital-to-audio converter. Sure, your computer does that for you when you listen to music. But then your computer does a lot of things. Trust me, you don’t want it to convert your digital music into an analog signal. I would go with the $75 FiiO E10 or the $140 FiiO E17. Even if you sit around all day listening to Pitbull, it can’t hurt. Then there are the people who go to the nth degree. They won’t even use iTunes. They don’t listen to MP3s. They only use totally uncompressed FLAC [free lossless audio code] files. If you listen to a FLAC audio version of a record you’ve listened to all your life through a great digital-to-audio converter combined with a nice amp boosting your headphones, I guarantee you’ll hear it a new way. I don’t know if that’s particularly conducive to good work. My problem when I listen to a record on that level of detail is, all I want to do is keep listening. So there is something to be said for crappy earbuds.

Talk to a Dictator

Bill Richardson

Remember, when you’re dealing with a dictator, you can get a quicker, more favorable ­decision than you can in a ­democracy. It’s important when you negotiate with a dictator that you connect personally. You don’t negotiate by sending e-mails or letters. It’s person-to-person diplomacy. Often the key is to find out what they really need rather than what they say they want. You have to learn what their current moods are, who they’re having an affair with, who they are threatened by, and what you think they want out of the negotiation with you. Don’t get emotional.

Modify Your Sleep Schedule for Maximum Efficienczzzzzz

Caterina Fake

Some people get up at 5 a.m. and work for three hours before they go into the office. That’s been shown to be a constructive way of operating. I can’t—my IQ drops 30 percent to 40 percent in the early morning. But I had to adapt five years ago when my daughter was born. She’s a lark, like most children, waking up at 6 or 7 a.m. So I worked it out like this: I go to bed really early, around 9 or 10 p.m. I wake in the middle of the night and work for two or three hours. Then I go back to bed and sleep until my ­daughter wakes up. So I get two or three hours of sleep late at night that are completely ­uninterrupted. It’s ­important to sleep. There’s a lot of bravura in business about how little people sleep. I don’t subscribe to that. I’m a big ­believer in getting eight hours every night, if I can. I just do it in shifts.

Ask for Money

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

Be prepared to address the ­concerns of today’s donors, who conduct the same type of due diligence on their nonprofit investments as they do on their for-profit ones. Donors want to know whether you serve a critical need and if you do so better than other groups working on the same problem. Donors want to support groups that involve beneficiaries in designing programs, demonstrate evidence of progress, and have budgets that make sense given their program­matic scope. So gather your data, analyze it, understand what does and doesn’t work, and be transparent and accountable

Work From Your Man Cave

Bill Lee

In 2008, when the real estate market collapsed, I bought a 3,000-square-foot apartment near the SoMa neighborhood in San Fran­cisco. My plan was to create a big, open space where people could come and hang out and think up great ideas. It worked. People get their best ideas in a more relaxed environment. It took me about two years to get this place just right. It has a gourmet kitchen, a wine cellar, some great artwork, guitars to strum, and a ton of places to sit and talk. There’s the first home installation of an elec­tronic casino table anywhere in the world and a living wall with ferns and some other plants. On average, I’ll take about 200 meetings a year here.


Brett Marks

Your engines have failed and the ground is rising fast. You need a plan. Now. Flight instructor Spencer Kinne explains how to save your bacon.

Hang Out With Uncontacted Tribes

Napoleon Chagnon

The first time I met the Yanomamö, one of the last undisturbed tribes in the Amazon, it was 1964 and I had just made a three-day boat trip up the Orinoco River. We walked apprehensively up to the village to find a half-dozen sweaty, burly men staring at us down the shafts of six-foot-long arrows. I wanted to get out of that village so fast. We slept that night on the other side of the river, but I came back the next day and ended up living with them, off and on, for the next five years. After a few months, the Yanomamö and I got used to each other. Once people start ignoring you and going on with their lives, you know you fit in. We had misunderstandings, as do any people who come from different cultures: They assumed that since I couldn’t understand what they were saying that I was hard of hearing; they’d shout louder and louder until they were screaming at me. I had to learn their language.

Live on Snacks

Sean Kelly

I started snacking at 6:30 a.m. today. My employees know I can sustain myself on nothing but snacks. We need to accept snacking and make sure we’re eating the right snacks rather than this absolute crap that has been stacking the grocery aisles for decades. A lot of people say, “If you’re not having a whole meal, that’s not a good thing.” That’s a misconception. Never snack on simple carbohydrates such as potato chips. Simple carbohydrates are high-glycemic, so they convert immediately to energy, and that spikes blood sugar. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or run a marathon, it’s important to maintain a constant blood-sugar level. Let’s say you love to eat Popchips at 5 p.m. every day. First ask, Is there a healthier alternative with the same taste profile? If not, what can you add to it that will lower the overall glycemic load? Snacks such as almonds, nuts, or other lean proteins and healthy fats are a perfect combo. You need something to slow down that carbohydrate impact on your body. Otherwise it could start turning to fat in as little as 30 minutes. That’s why trail mix is so fantastic. You have these high-glycemic raisins, but you mix them with nuts. Even if you put chocolate in there, you’re taking this high-glycemic food and making it a sustained-­energy food. The worst thing you can do is shove perfection down people’s throats, because then you don’t even change a habit. We’ve ruined our eating over the last generation or two. We’re not going to fix it right away.

Create a Workplace People Never Want to Leave

Christopher Coleman

The No. 1 thing is to listen to what employees need. We found that they need a lot of diversity. There are so many ways to work—as a team, solo—and so many kinds of workers, from introverts to extroverts and so on. We create many different places so people can be as productive as possible—from formal and informal conference rooms to open spaces to stretching and yoga areas and gyms. One trick is to design spaces with a diversity of scale, light, and mood. It’s really hard to do, and it looks like we’re just making up these crazy spaces, but it’s very scientific.

Live Like An Artist

Mason Currey

You’d do well to find a supportive spouse. While there are people who had day jobs—Anthony Trollope worked at the post office for 35 years—most were either independently wealthy or had a spouse (a wife, usually) who took care of day-to-day operations so they could go about writing or painting or composing. Sigmund Freud’s wife even put toothpaste on his toothbrush.