The Fast Track is a column focused on leadership and healthy living by Strauss Zelnick, the co-founder of ZMC, a leading media-focused investment firm; and the chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, one of the world’s largest video game companies. Zelnick is also an avid participant in #TheProgram, a New York-based fitness group. If you have any questions for him, Tweet them at @BestLifeOnline—or send us a message on Facebook—using the hashtag #AskStrauss.
Do you ever “unplug?”
Definitely. I’m not a workaholic and I don’t believe in being on the job around the clock. I feel most relaxed after a solid workout or when I’m at the beach. That said, with ubiquitous electronic devices, it’s hard truly to unplug—and everyone expects you to be responsive at all times. Even while I’m technically on vacation, I tend to stay in touch by checking in for a few hours in the morning and late afternoon. Since I really love what I do, it doesn’t stress me out.
Everyone always complains about Millennials being bratty and disrespectful and reluctant employees. Do you see this to be the case? And what are your thoughts on “Millennials” and Millennial behavior, in general?
Wow. By “everyone,” you must mean “cranky old people.” I don’t think age is a particularly interesting distinction; bratty, disrespectful, and reluctant may properly describe some employees—just not mine.
What are the apps you can’t live without, and why?
Waze. I have a horrible sense of direction, and so does my wife. Once when we left a friend’s house after dinner we were given a very specific route home by our hosts. As we reached the first intersection, we agreed that while we’d been told to turn left, we didn’t think it looked right. So naturally, we went in the other direction. You know how that turned out. Waze gets me where I’m going, helps me avoid traffic—and even improves the quality of my marriage.
A lot of research suggests that a massive amount of workers will be going freelance—or will slowly move towards working remotely—in the near future. What are your thoughts on the growing “gig economy”?
It depends on the company and the person. From a company perspective, keeping fixed overhead low is always a good idea; with growth and scale, however, freelancers may be vastly less cost-effective than full-timers. From a worker’s perspective, it all depends on what you want. Some people, like my sister Laurie, really enjoy the flexibility of a freelance occupation. Others want the security of a job.
How much money is “enough”?
Once you have a roof over your head and the ability to feed and clothe your family and educate your kids, you have pretty much everything that makes life comfortable and provides an opportunity for happiness and satisfaction. More money definitely can buy more toys, but it’s highly unlikely to purchase a sweet life. Peace of mind, love, and fulfillment are usually inside jobs.
What are the best things a boss can do to run a healthy company?
Work hard and set an example. Agree on a mission and a plan and communicate both clearly. Align stated culture with actions. Be honest. Listen with empathy. Answer questions directly. Delegate with information. Insist on excellence. Be transparent. Be kind.
What’s the smartest thing you ever spent money on? The dumbest?
The smartest: my education. I put myself through graduate school. The dumbest: my first car, an old Triumph Spitfire, which I bought when I was 19. Incredibly sexy but, as my mechanic told me as he begged me to not to get it, one of the worst cars ever made. It drained all of my savings in about 9 months. One of the happiest memories of my life is the day the guy I sold it to drove it away.
If you could live your 20s again, what would you do more—and less—of?
More: being myself. It took me way too long to be comfortable enough in my own skin to present myself as who I really am. And it was really a relief when I let go of trying to be all things to all people and instead started to accept my flaws and limitations. Less: worrying about the future. Things have worked out pretty well, as it turns out.
Would you buy a self-driving car? What are your thoughts on them?
I think we will inevitably reach a time when cars are self-driving most of the time. I’m not sure we’ll ever have cars which don’t require a designated driver with a steering wheel and pedals to take over in a pinch; for example, when the grid goes down or bad weather occludes electronic communications. Will I buy one? Yes, if I’m still vertical and above ground.
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