Marissa Mayer says the secret of success is working 130 hours a week

Technically Incorrect: Apparently, you have to schedule your trips to the loo. At least that's what happened at Google. How progressive.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Is it really about the hours spent working?


You're desperate to be a success, aren't you?

What else is there in life?

If you can't waft into a fancy restaurant and turn heads with your sense of net worth, who are you?

How do you get there, though?

Malcolm Gladwell would have you believe that you must spend 10,000 hours working at something before you can be truly world class. Though some think this might be truly nonsense.

We now have a new definition from Marissa Mayer.

The current and soon-perhaps-not-to-be CEO of Yahoo raised an exclamation point in my mind when she told Bloomberg Businessweek that Google's success wasn't about working hard. It was about sacrificing your self -- yes, even your body -- wholesale to the company.

"When reporters write about Google, they write about it as if it was inevitable," she said. "The actual experience was more like, 'Could you work 130 hours in a week?' The answer is yes, if you're strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom."

Do you tend to be strategic about how often you go to the bathroom? Or are you more in the camp of those who go to the bathroom when they need to go to the bathroom?

The notion that pulling all-nighters and sacrificing your all to the concern is much championed in Silicon Valley.

Scientists tend to think you're more productive when you take a break or two to unwind. Tim Ferris seems to believe you just need to work four hours a week.

Mayer, though, thinks she can measure success by numbers. She told Bloomberg that her husband, Zachary Bogue, runs a co-working office in San Francisco.

"If you go in on a Saturday afternoon, I can tell you which startups will succeed, without even knowing what they do," she claimed. "Being there on the weekend is a huge indicator of success, mostly because these companies don't just happen. They happen because of really hard work."

I worry.

Does this mean that Mayer chose all the startups she bought on the basis of whether the founders worked weekends? If so, this may not have been an ideal indicator of success, given Yahoo's recent fire sale to Verizon.

Personally, I know quite a few companies where the staff worked very, very hard for a long time and simply didn't find success. For all sorts of reasons -- some just pure bad luck.

I also know one or two startups that succeeded despite the employees not being hard-workers at all. They knew the right VCs and talked them into something dubious at the perfect time. Ching followed Cha.

If success had a formula, everyone would follow it. If, indeed, work could be defined in some specific manner, everyone would know what it was.

Look at Google. This is a company whose founders weren't exactly admirers of advertising. Yet they did, indeed, stumble into becoming a vast advertising company. Was that hard work? Surely some.

But did they work hard to make the vast majority of their profits from advertising? It depends on how you define "work hard." They built something formidable. I fear that the opportunity to make barrels of money from it through advertising rather presented itself.

Ultimately, isn't the proof that the number of hours spent working doesn't equate to success symbolized by Yahoo itself?

No matter how hard Mayer or anyone else there worked, there was always the sense that the enterprise was drooping.

Perhaps too much hard work got in the way of enlightened strategic thinking.