I've been following Mark Zuckerberg's personal self-improvement goals for a bit now and always enjoy his commitment to push himself beyond his comfort zone. The 29-year-old Facebook CEO says he picks a new challenge every year to gain perspective and inspiration for new ideas and products.
"Doing something for a year, you have all these interesting unintended consequences," he said on stage Wednesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. "And the other theme for me is willpower. The other thing about building things is seeing things through. So I try to pick things that are hard for me," he said.
Some past challenges have included wearing a tie to work every day (famously out-of-character for the hoodie-wearing CEO), learning Mandarin, and only eating food he personally kills or grows himself. That last one, which encompassed all of 2011, transformed the way Zuckerberg approached diet and sustainable living.
"I'm eating a lot healthier foods," Zuckerberg told Fortune. "And I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals. It's easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day."
While Zuckerberg's 2012 goal wasn't necessarily much of a challenge (he told the NY Times he intended to "spend more time coding"), his 2013 commitment has definitely been a rewarding one.
"This year, my challenge is to meet a new person outside of Facebook every day," he told the TechCrunch crowd. To better facilitate the process, Zuckerberg joined community organizations and even started teaching a class at a local middle school. These new interactions led him to form a new lobbying group, Fwd.us, which advocates for immigration reform in the United States.
Zuckerberg says that this year's challenge has actually "turned out to be really easy" because he meets more new people than he realized. And hey — it also likely helps that he's a famous billionaire. "I thought, because I'm so introverted, that I wasn't talking to a lot of people externally," he said. Instead, the opposite was true.
"I sandbagged this one," he added.
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