You might sing in the shower, hop over cracks in the sidewalk, or play a little air guitar in the car – all things we do away from the prying eyes of others, for fear of being judged. They’re merely little habits, and though they might not serve any practical purpose, they help us get through the day, and hopefully excel. Still, through the eyes of others, it might be weird.
But there is significant power and value in developing habits. Even if they’re strange or unorthodox, habits serve us in a number of ways, and some of the world’s most successful people – be it in the world of sports, business, or even government – have had their own habits made known to the public.
And some of them are pretty strange.
In some cases, these strange behaviors translated into success. In other cases, they were just rituals – rituals that may not have necessarily done anything, but gave the individual peace of mind. Either way, it scratched an itch of some kind, and allowed them to focus on what was in front of them.
Let’s take a look at seven examples.
1. General Stanley McChrystal’s diet
General Stanley McChrystal is one of America’s most decorated military members. He was the United States’ commander in Afghanistan during the mid-2000s, and also commanded JSOC, under which several clandestine special forces groups operate, including Delta Force. He reached the rank of four-star general, and now teaches at Yale.
But he has one weird habit: he only eats one meal per day. He has discussed this habit with Tim Ferriss, saying that with the exception of the occasional handful of pretzels, he typically doesn’t eat until dinner.
2. Bill Gates’s vehicular memorization
Bill Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest people, spends his days running The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, helping solve health and economic issues worldwide. Before that, he was a rather cutthroat businessman, propelling his company Microsoft to the top of its industry, while revolutionizing the way we think about and interact with computers.
But during those early days, working for him may not have been such a picnic. Gates would reportedly memorize the license plates of his employees, so he could track how many hours they were putting in. Even he admits that this was a bit “fanatical,” but it helped get him and his company to the top.
3. NHL legend Patrick Roy’s conversations with goalposts
Few men have conquered a sport like former NHL goaltender, and current NHL head coach Patrick Roy. Roy, who won four Stanley Cups and is arguably considered the greatest goalie of all time, played several years for the Montreal Canadiens and then Colorado Avalanche. He now serves as head coach to the Avalanche – he even won the coach of the year award during his first season behind the bench.
He partially attributes his success to a bunch of weird, superstitious habits. For example, he never skated over the lines on his way to and from the bench or locker room. But even weirder is that he used to talk to his goalposts – they were his allies in the goal, after all.
4. Warren Buffett’s non-stop reading
You can’t argue that Warren Buffett’s a one-in-a-billion type of guy. From his home base in Nebraska, he’s somewhat quietly amassed a huge fortune, while maintaining a relatively low profile, living in a modest house, and playing the stock market. He’s talked about his habits at length, but one thing stands out: he reads. A lot.
Buffett reportedly reads as much as eight hours per day. Some people like to read, but that’s a full-time job. It’s a good habit to have, to be sure, but it’s definitely unorthodox.
5. Mark Cuban’s information overload
Mark Cuban is perhaps most well-known for being one of the ‘sharks’ on the TV show Shark Tank, and for being the mega-rich owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. He built his fortune through the software industry, and one habit gave him a leg up on the competition.
Cuban had an obsession with information. Though he may have abandoned this habit, he used to memorize everything he could about a given subject to give himself an advantage. That may have meant staying up until 4 a.m. reading about stamps, for example. Not many people would do that – and that’s what gave him an advantage.
6. Ben Franklin’s “air baths”
There’s a lot to be learned from America’s founding fathers, from philosophy to governance, and even some practical personal finance advice. Ben Franklin is one of the most talked about founding fathers, and despite never serving as president, is enshrined on the $100 bill as a reminder of his efforts during the Revolutionary era.
He had a pretty strange habit, as well: air baths. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. He would open all the windows and doors, and strip down. The idea was to get airflow going, and, you know, “refresh” everything.
7. Steve Jobs’ diet and hygiene
Steve Jobs is quite the polarizing figure. You may love your iPhone, and you have him to thank. But he had a checkered past, ranging from rough relationships with his own children and employees, to famously rejecting cancer treatment, which may have prolonged is life. He was a bit of an odd duck, and one of the more visible examples of that was in his habits related to diet and hygiene.
Jobs would eat only carrots and apples for stretches of time, and adhered to subsets of veganism. He also didn’t like to shower, much to the dismay of coworkers and employees. How many other CEOs can you think of who eschew bathing? Jobs was a talented, brilliant man, and he had some definite quirks that make him all the more memorable.