ceo hobbies

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

From Warren Buffett’s underrated ukulele skills to Bill Gates’ passion for card games, these are the peculiar pastimes of the world’s most successful men

It’s a wonder multi-millionaire CEOs have time for hobbies. Between the odd gym session, catching up with friends and binging the best new shows on Netflix, we’ve hardly got time to pause ourselves. But money brings freedom, and some of the best-known businessmen in the world are using their spare time in very, very odd ways…

Bill Gates sharpens his mind playing bridge

ceo hobbies

Do you remember Solitatire on Microsoft 95? Of course you do. That, along with Minesweeper, was a godsend for procrastinators. But Microsoft boss Bill Gates has another card-game passion; Bridge. The billionaire even shares a coach with fellow CEO Warren Buffett. “I’m always hoping more people understand how much fun bridge is and hopefully more people try and play because it’s such an amazing game,” said Gates at the 2016 Online Bridge World Cup.

And the entrepreneur doesn’t just play for fun. The tactics and techniques used in the game are key to focusing the mind and planning ahead, and his coach has revealed that Gates approaches the game in a very similar way to how he approaches business. “There is a big difference between Bill’s and Warren’s approach to learning the game,” says coach Sharon Osberg. “Bill is very scientific. He reads and studies on his own. He’s got a pretty big brain capacity.”

Google’s Sergey Brin dabbles in extreme sports

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

With some of Google’s more eyebrow-raising business ideas (here’s looking at you Glass…) you’d think that brand co-founder Sergey Brin would have had enough drama, gambling and adrenaline for a lifetime. But no. Since creating the global juggernaut in 1998, Brin has brought his sense of fun and love for activities to the Googleplex; incorporating many of his own hobbies into campus life to improve worker satisfaction.

These adrenaline-fuelled pastimes include skydiving, roller-hockey and circus stunts such as high trapeze. And, despite stepping down from his leading role at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, last year, the active work culture will continue at the tech giant — ensuring the programmers are as brawny as they are brainy.

Warren Buffett’s ukulele skills are a great stress reliever

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

Warren Buffett. Where does this man especially find the time?! In addition to his bridge games with Bill Gates, and some outlets reporting that the billionaire spends up to 80% of every day reading, the 89-year-old is also a keen ukulele player. In 1949, Buffett was home from college for the summer and bought his first uke in a bid to charm a local girl, Betty Gallagher. While that didn’t work out, it did start a new lifelong musical sideline for the businessman.

And the instrument has followed him throughout his life — both personal and professional. Whether entertaining fellow businessmen at dinner parties or earning Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meetings the nickname ‘Woodstock for Capitalists’, Buffett’s skills have kept a lightweight, fun energy around his business dealings — and are a great stress reliever, too.

Richard Branson learnt business lessons through chess

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

“I think chess is the best game in the world,” says Richard Branson. “I love the fact that I can combine the thrill of risk-taking and strategy planning with a cup of tea and a nice chat with a friend.” We couldn’t agree more. And, while chess is one of the less-surprising hobbies of famous CEOs, Branson still draws parallels between his hobby and professional life, explaining, “Business is like a giant game of chess: you have to make strategic moves, and learn quickly from your mistakes.”

The entrepreneur has several favourite sports, with tennis and kitesurfing also taking up his time, but Branson still holds a special place in his heart for this board-based pastime. “I must have competed in thousands of games in my lifetime,” he says. “Every game is different, and every player has their own strategies that make for a unique contest. I’ve found lots of entrepreneurs, in particular, are always keen for a game.”

David Solomon, of Goldman Sachs, is a secret DJ

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

‘David Michael Solomon (born c. 1962),’ reads the Wikipedia entry for the Goldman Sachs CEO, ‘is an American investment banker, record producer and DJ’. It’s true. He holds one of the most coveted, respected positions in finance — but also the moniker of ‘DJ D-Sol’ when he takes to the decks. Why the ardent interest in EDM? In Solomon’s own words, it’s “a great way to connect with younger co-workers”.

“The ability to see the music influence people and see people respond to it -it’s cool,” continues Solomon, revealing that working on his music gives him the chance to take his mind off his gruelling corporate schedules.

Mark Zuckerberg shoots wild boars with a bow and arrow

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

What, you thought Mark Zuckerberg was a meek, hoody-wearing Silicon Valley type? Wrong. He may have the curly hair and scared eyes of a coddled Millennial, but Zuck has a strangely hands-on hobby; he hunts wild boars with a bow and arrow to let off some steam. We’re serious.

For a while, the Facebook CEO even challenged himself to only eat meat that he had personally killed — but he’s since abandoned that aim. Today, the tech entrepreneur simply goes out and follows the advice of the USDA — the agricultural governing body who have urged hunters to target the invasive species. Why does he love hunting so much? It not only gets him out of the office, but also builds patience and focus.

Steve Wozniak is secretly brilliant at Segway Polo

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

If Steve Wozniak enjoyed regular polo, we’d have been surprised. But we’re downright flabbergasted at the Apple co-founder’s actual passion: Segway Polo. That’s right, it takes the Sport of Kings and plays it on Segways — and it looks about as cool as you imagine.

But maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to knock it. As a key member of the Silicon Valley Aftershocks team (we promise we’re not making this up) Wozniak’s hobby helps immeasurably with team-building and working together towards a common goal. It’s a skill sorely missed in many sectors of business, and allows the businessman to bond with fellow professionals during down time. He’s a good player, too — and the Woz Cup, played at Segwayfest, is named after him. Again, totally serious…

Evan Spiegel is an enthusiastic pistonhead

Are these strange CEO hobbies the secret to their success?

Evan Spiegel’s got quite the life. Billions in the bank. Married to a supermodel. A mansion in Brentwood. And perhaps the least surprising — but most expensive — hobby on this list; a supercar collection. This is a man whose parents gifted him a Cadillac Escalade on his 16th birthday, so pricey cars soon became part of his lifestyle. “Cars bring me sheer joy,” he wrote to his parents when trying to wheedle a BMW 550i out of them. “So I would really appreciate you validating me and all of my hard work by leasing a BMW.”

His most expensive set of wheels to date came back in 2017, after Snapchat won another round of investment funding. It was a black Ferrari 458 Spider, valued at almost half a million dollars. “I’ve been obsessed with Ferrari since before I can remember,” Spiegel said at the time. Oh, to have his money.

Looking to join this list yourself? Here’s what to do if you have an incredible business idea…

Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.

Further Reading