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Mark Zuckerberg Is a Genuine Geek? Quite the Opposite!

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, May. 27 2011 – 9:42 am

Mark Zuckerberg tells Fortune that he has taken on a new “personal challenge”: “The only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself.” That doesn’t mean actually biting the heads off of chickens, but it does mean he has killed chickens, pigs, and goats. The billionaire founder of Facebook told Fortune:

I started thinking about this last year when I had a pig roast at my house. A bunch of people told me that even though they loved eating pork, they really didn’t want to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. That just seemed irresponsible to me. I don’t have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.

He started with a lobster before moving on to chicken, and he has sought expert advice in how to kill as efficiently and painlessly as possible. One result: “This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I’m eating a lot healthier foods and I’ve learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.”

Zuckerberg says he has taken on a new big challenge every year. Last year it was learning Chinese, which he says “has been a very humbling experience.”

He does has a reputation as a geek, in the more conventional sense. The movie The Social Network wrongly portrayed him as having founded Facebook because he couldn’t get a girlfriend, and one’s initial reaction to the news that he has made a habit of killing animals is one of revulsion or grim humor. itself has joked, “He’s mentioned that he’s interested in hunting, and we’re okay with that as long as it doesn’t turn into another GoDaddy CEO/elephant-killer situation.”

But Zuckerberg must be admired for what he has done. First, he has looked squarely in the face of a morally unsettling situation that we all (except vegeterians) find ourselves in but look away from. We all eat animals that are raised and slaughtered in arguably indefensible ways, and almost every one of us simply refuses to think about that fact. But there’s a more important lesson here too.

The news of Zuckerberg’s annual “personal challenge” confirms that he is not someone who believes in taking on a challenge. Rather, he is someone who lives to take on challenges, who thrives on it, who exults in it. It is part of his nature. And that is bad news for most of the rest of us. Because it reminds us that all the leadership training and executive coaching in the world can help us rise better to challenges, and understand the virtue and power of rising to them, and deal with them more confidently and fearlessly, but it can not make it our nature to charge toward them and grasp at them and work with almost superhuman resolve to overcome them and keep looking for new even tougher ones to replace them.

Most people don’t have that and never will. A few seem to be born with it. Mark Zuckerberg is unquestionably one of the latter.

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