Learning about the habits of the famous entrepreneurs discussed in this article will not bring you business success. In fact, the habits themselves have nothing to do with success. That said, this is more than just a celebration of everything that’s great and unique in the weird and wonderful world of entrepreneurship. This is also about the link between eccentricity and creativity, and how they can work together to result in some pretty amazing business results.
There’s no doubt about it, you have to be a special type of person to make it big as an entrepreneur, and while there is no cookie cutter mould for success, there are plenty of traits that those who achieve success have in common. And aside from the headliners – self-motivation, drive, tenacity, intelligence, determination, and so on – there is one that really stands out among many: eccentricity. Indeed, from Henry Ford to Elon Musk, possessing a great mind almost guarantees you are the possessor of an eccentric one as well.
We can certainly lay some of the blame for the eccentricity on that intelligence – which for many phenomenally successful entrepreneurs borders on the genius or clearly puts them in the genius category. These individuals see the world very differently, and this fosters that eccentricity. They tend also to be exceptionally creative individuals, which gives them a strong desire to create in the first place, the ability to come up with better ideas in general, and the vision to properly execute on those ideas.
The more creative you are, the less of a filter you have, which will help you experiment more and push through with concepts and ideas that others would not.
In fact these traits are all bundled up, playing off one another to drive success. According to Harvard University psychologist Shelley Carson, those with idiosyncrasies and eccentricities tend to be more creative due to what’s known as “cognitive disinhibition”. To put it another way, the more creative you are, the less of a filter you have, which will help you experiment more and push through with concepts and ideas that others would not.
And I don’t have to tell you what a much-needed skill that is for any entrepreneur looking to change the world.
So off we go to examine our chosen entrepreneurs. As you read, do ask yourself what level on the “eccentrometre” you land, and whether you think that has helped you with your business success over the years.
1. Yoshiro Nakamatsu
You may not immediately recognise the name of one of Japan’s most famous inventors, but I’m willing to bet you’ll recognise many of his inventions. Nakamatsu has more than 3,300 patents to his name, having created the floppy disc, the taxi meter, and the karaoke machine – not to mention his more delightful inventions, which include spring-loaded shoes, a self-defence wig, and the world’s smallest air conditioner.
The full list of Nakamatsu’s creations goes on and on, and the number of inventions on it only slightly outnumbers the amount of interesting habits that the prolific inventor credits with helping him come up with his ideas.
Let’s start with an example from the less-eccentric end of the scale. Namely, Nakamatsu’s “Calm Room”, a bathroom tiled in 24-carat gold in which this colourful character contemplates things. According to the man himself, being in the room helps him come up with his ideas because the gold blocks out radio waves and television signals that are “harmful” to his imagination.
And now onto the more extreme side of things, which takes the form of oxygen-deprivation. You read that right; Nakamatsu often visits the local pool and holds himself underwater until just before the point of passing out – all in a bid to kick-start the creative process. Apparently, this build-up of pressure and lack of oxygen leads to more creative ideas, which he quickly scribbles down on an underwater notebook before rising to the surface.
Kind of cool, actually.
2. Mark Zuckerberg
A list of entrepreneurs would feel rather bare without the person responsible for us checking our smartphones every three minutes – all day every day. We all know the story by now: What began as “The Facebook”, a social networking tool for college students in the US, quickly exploded into an international online platform that, as at last count, keeps approximately 1.65 billion people connected and in constant communication through status updates and the sharing of just about anything.
Now you might think that building one of the largest tech empires of the last few decades would leave little time for anything else. But this is not the case. Zuckerberg always finds the time to achieve a personal challenge each and every year, with his yearly resolution now a part of business folklore. So far, these personal challenges have been as impressive as they have been diverse – from learning Mandarin to only eating meat that he’d killed himself (yup, he did that for an entire year).
Beyond the challenges, there are also those quirky things that Zuck just does. He’s known for wearing the same type of clothes almost daily (jeans and a grey t-shirt), rumour has it he does not own a television, and apparently he regularly sleeps very very little, often staying up through the night chatting with Facebook employees.
3. Steve Jobs
The late great founder of Apple was a man with as many quirks as he had millions (or should we say billions?). And because there are simply too many to choose from, in our focus on Jobs today we will cover his rather unusual eating habits. One such pattern that very often repeated itself was his sticking to only one or two types of food for extended periods.
In one phase it was carrots, which he ate so many of that his skin turned orange. And another time it was adopting a “fruitarian diet” that would see him eating only those fruits, nuts, seeds and grains which could be consumed without harming the plant (so convinced was he of the purity of the fruitarian diet that he believed it eliminated body odour, which led him to eliminate deodorant from his life – something that didn’t sit all that well with coworkers).
There was even fasting to induce “feelings of euphoria”. Jobs’ realised that after periods of what can best be described as “self starvation”, he experienced an almost ecstatic level of pleasure. Before you try it, though, note that what Jobs was likely experiencing was a dangerous condition called ketosis, where the body creates chemicals called ketones to act as a substitute for glucose.
Find your eccentricity
So what’s the takeaway here? Well how about the fact that being silly or quirky or off in some way is good for the mind, body, and soul. And if we are going to talk business, which is what we talk about at Virtuzone, then it is all about being different. Follow the path of the millions of others doing it the conventional way and that path will take you to mediocrity.
It’s indeed good to be different. To be eccentric. To not just think outside of the box, but to live outside of the box. It’s what leads to a more creative mind, and as I hinted at the outset, creativity is an offshoot of eccentricity – and they are what drive entrepreneurs to want to create and build and change the world.
I’ll leave you with a saying a good friend of mine drops often enough: “You don’t get rich by chasing money, you get rich by building.” And this is important, because great entrepreneurs get rich, sure, but I doubt getting rich was even on the minds of many of the entrepreneurial legends when they started out. What was on their minds was that “creating and building”. And to even have the desire for that – to even arrive at the thought of needing to create and build something – one has to perhaps be spurred on by a considerable degree of eccentricity.
Neil Petch; Chairman at Virtugroup
With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.