Bad Monkey: The reason why CEOs aren’t visible outside of their formal commitments

three assorted-color monkey plastic toys holding each other during daytime
Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash
BAD MONKEY(a thread! for real!) Ever wondered why CEOs aren’t more visible outside of their formal commitments? It’s because doing anything outside of the paths of corporate machinery like connecting authentically on social media, or developing a hobby that requires creativity,
or any similar activity requires a level of energy that senior people don’t have. That’s because of what running a company is like. It can be fun, and stressful, and many other things, but most of all it’s an incredible sink of emotional energy.
Moving between engagements with different people in very different emotional states, handling mostly emergencies and escalations, hearing (sometimes) bad news and having to work through the rest of your day.
Running a company is like having a monkey on your shoulder 24/7, screaming for attention. I’m using “monkey” and not a more colorful “vampire” because we enjoy the work most of the time, it’s just demanding.
I’m using “monkey” and not a more sinister and dramatic “black demon” because it doesn’t have to be (and in my case, isn’t) connected with depression or anxiety (well, beyond a CEO’s usual baseline which, if you ask Ben Horowitz, can be quite a lot).
If you think it’s a silly metaphor, share it with your favorite c-level exec and watch their 1000-mile stare and the slight nod of agreement.
There’s nothing to do with the monkey. It’s there, forever really, unless you give up the role (and as someone who’s quit senior roles before, the monkey does go away). The downside is unless you’re very deliberate about it, after a while, the screaming is all you hear.
So you stop doing anything not work-related, and you schedule less engagement, and you retreat into well-plowed paths of business management and maybe some investing because you never know on which day to monkey will wake up in a bad mood,
so why risk the exposure of standing on stage talking about something while you’d rather be anywhere else because all you can hear is the monkey.
I wake up every morning determined to deal with the monkey because I feel that otherwise, almost two decades into my tech journey, I risk being flattened by the weight of its presence into being a very boring person indeed.
So I read a lot of fiction and write some things and work out and run a few silly little side projects. They don’t shut the monkey up but they dim the noise for a bit so I can recharge, think better of myself, and also be a better CEO along the way.
I don’t know what it’ll be for you but at least you know now that thing that’s distracting you, it’s the monkey. It’s part of the job. It’s good to be mindful about dealing with it.
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