My Week Living as Mark Zuckerberg, or Giving Up Everything That Makes Life Worth Living

It's all about avoiding non-essential decisions, people.

Mark Zuckerburg
(Image credit: Kathryn Wirsing, Getty)

Mark Zuckerberg and I are already kind of the same person. Mark Zuckerberg drives an Acura; I drove an Acura into a mailbox once. Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind; I've worn yellow and blue together and liked it. Mark Zuckerberg thinks he's important enough to not care about clothes; I'm that kind of asshole except, you know, in reverse.

He might be the Messiah of Tech come to save us all from ever having to do uninterrupted work again, but you have to admit he totally came off like a wimp (or worse) when, asked why he wears that same damn outfit all the time, he said, "I'd feel I'm not doing my job if I spent any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous." If you missed it, see here:

Well, Zuckerberg, let's put that to the test, shall we? I, as MZ-like a human as it gets without actually being a baby-faced entrepreneur who refuses to give the people the Dislike button they so deserve, have solemnly pledged to live a life free of non-essential decisions for seven days.

I won't waste my time deciding what I want for breakfast or lunch or dinner or snacks or elevenses. I, too, will wear sad gray crew-neck T-shirts, a black hoodie, and sneakers every day. (I draw the line at Brooks, though, so it's Steve Jobs's New Balances for me.)

I will only live to serve my huge brain the community.

Along this joyless journey—until all that free mental space unlocks my powers of telekinesis à la Lucy—I'll be updating you, my community, here. Will I have better ideas? Will my unbalanced diet give me scurvy? Will I develop the ability to move objects with my mind? Maybe if I dedicate my energy hard enough, it'll all come true.

Day 1

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Can't will stuff to move by thinking yet.

I was up later than usual last night to cover the SAG Awards, and Mark's patented uniform-dressing plan does not save me any time in the morning because I have to cut off tags. This is the first hoodie I've owned since middle school, and it makes me feel sporty and schlumpy at the same time.

Nothing really happens until 12 p.m., when I, under the Oath of No Variety, must ask my coworker to pick my lunch for me. (Yesterday, I started to write a list of pre-made decisions such as "I decide to go to Shake Shack any time I want," but even I consider this too much of a cop-out.) This must be how Mark does it—I bet his wife Priscilla (Chan, a totally cool pediatrician who gave $25 million to fight Ebola) has had it up to here choosing his socks for him. 

would think about drawing sandwiches out of a hat, but sorry—that's not worthy of my brainpower right now.

Day 2

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

If Palo Alto were ever to get more than zero inches of snowfall annually, Mark Zuckerberg might use his snow day to reread The Aeneid without attaching any personal significance to the story. He might check on his dog Beast's progress with sheepherding. Or perhaps he would do some light coding and revolutionize the music industry. Again.  

As I contemplate Bruce Jennerlizards, and One Direction during my day today, I wonder who lives on a higher plane of existence: Mark or me? Because working from my apartment (thanks, #snowmageddon2015!)—and thus being around the non-essential-decision equivalent of uncut crack—makes me realize that, in my day-to-day life, I don't really have to think about what I want to do. I can just do it without factoring in how one impulse-cookie might affect "more than a billion people." (At most, it's like seven.) My kindred spirit Mark, on the other hand, is so deliberate that he doesn't give in to weird urges, such as rearranging his closet from lightest to darkest gray or swiping on some blue eyeliner because it makes late-night research more exciting. So which is better? Having less fun and being more productive/helpful to mankind? Or being able to fool around but maybe not ever reaching your full potential? (Somebody get back to me on this immediately because I just reasoned myself into an existential crisis.)

P.S. On a scale of 1 to 10 Mark Zuckerbergs, I would give my creativity and innovativeness today a 4.

P.P.S. One thing you learn about Mark from the New Yorker profile I keep referring to is that he looks taller than 5 feet 8 inches because he stands up very straight and sticks his chest out.

P.P.P.S. This is crucial when you wear T-shirts as tight as Mark's. I learned the hard way.

P.P.P.P.S. Proof that yes, in fact, I am wearing the same outfit again today as promised, despite the snow storm and the really alluring pull of my pajamas:

Day 3

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

A 5.2 Mark Zuckerberg day.

Overnight, a new idea wakes me up every 10 minutes for half an hour, and today at our pitch meeting, I'm told they don't suck too badly. Hooray! Maybe this Mark Zuckerberg thing isn't just some form of elaborate public self-flagellation after all!

But wait! You're wondering what it's like to walk amongst well-heeled fashion-magazine types looking like a Silicon Valley troll doll. Do I get bullied in the elevator? Do Gisele and Emily Blunt make snide remarks about my mismatched socks? (I just stick my hand in because I can't choose, remember?)

Nah, it's NBD. (And stop believing everything you saw in The Devil Wears Prada, for Pete's sake.) To paraphrase one of the many awesome things Mindy Kaling said at Sundance, my parents raised me with the entitlement of a tall, blond man, except it backfired and now I'm a megalomaniac.

So I guess one of the other side effects of Being Mark Zuckerberg—in addition to dependency on others, nausea, vomiting, pain at the injection site, and fever induced by searching for the meaning of life—is increased self-esteem. (Or delusions of grandeur, if you want to put it that way.)

I think this might actually be working.

Day 4

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Correction: It's working but not well enough.

I suspect Mark operates on creative autopilot 24/7—that's a new name I just made up for "in the zone"—and I want to get there too. It turns out he was right about small choices weighing you down, because ever since I started this fun non-essential decision cleanse, I've had the energy to stay up past 11 p.m—to do work. I feel like a real, whiskey-guzzling, cigar-smoking journalist again! And not the kind that only writes about Fifty Shades on the Internet!

But I want more. What if every story could come easily? What if writer's/thinker's block wasn't even a thing? I trust that my brain will never let me down, but what if it could operate at full capacity all the time? (With some Limitless stock-market-playing abilities thrown in, of course. I wouldn't mind.)

And another thing: Mark, at 30, is only eight years older than me. And when he was two years younger than me, he'd already invented "the Facebook." Everybody's who's been present at one of my existential freak-outs—that honored group includes you now, by the way—has given me the usual "take your time," "soon, my precious, soon," blah blah advice.

When will it actually be my turn, though? All I've got to say is hurry up because I am so ready.

Day 5

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Somewhere in the tab that has been open on my browser since Monday, there is a quote from Mark Zuckerberg that goes, "If you're going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?" This is how I feel today, except I didn't need to have my super embarrassing, rather mean IMs published—just some melodramatic diary entries, which you're reading now.

I fling myself out of bed like a person who has more to look forward to than another gray crew-neck T-shirt and chug along for the duration of Jamie Dornan Disrobes Day, Jay Z Buys His Own Music Streaming Company Because He Can, and Lady Mary Might Be Unemployed Soon. I have cooked kale in my fridge! I am a grownup.

Everything is awesome, but…while I had enough foresight to pre-decide my clementines and nail color (Jin Soon's sparkly-unicorn-like Pastiche), there's one loophole I forgot to exploit.

So do me a small favor, would you? Tell me what to do this weekend. Or else I'm going to be stuck staring at a wall until it's time for another snack.

Day 6

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Because I will rejoin society in 40 hours, I am ordered to go shopping today. Unlike Mark, who would probably rather be learning Mandarin, racing rowboats picturesquely with Priscilla, or playing Settlers of Catan, I am delighted by the prospect of wasting my intellectual gifts on wide-leg jeans and being able to take off my Zuck suit.

I go a little crazy and actually buy stuff for once, because frankly, I deserve a break. It is exhausting having to be so smart all the time.

As this all mercifully draws to a close, I'm thinking about how to extract the good stuff from this experiment and incorporate into my civilian life. What to keep: the efficiency, the creative go-go juice quality, the crowd-sourcing function because it's rather restful having others decide what you're going to have for lunch. (I'm looking to hire a food-picker/all-purpose minion, by the way.) What to throw out like my guac-stained hoodie as soon as the bell tolls 12:01 a.m. Monday: the repetitiveness, having to debate whether plucking a stray eyebrow counts as non-essential.

Come back tomorrow—that's when I'll have my final paper, titled The Mark Zuckerberg Lifestyle Adapted for Less Disciplined Life Forms, ready for you to review. And Mark, if you're reading this, tell me: How would you classify tweezing your brows? 

Day 7

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Back when they were de rigueur, I wrote Mark Zuckerberg an open letter asking him not to look down on something he didn't understand. Oops. I didn't get his weird, economics-professor-y cost-reward argument—I only did slightly better than average in that class, OK?—so I dismissed it neatly as the ranting of a Non-Fashion Person—or even meaner, a Non-Fashion Person Who Had Once Been Betrayed By Fashion. (Side note: I bet he'd get a kick out of the fact that those who think most deeply about clothes—the people who, in their own way, dedicate their lives to "building the best products and services"—dress like members of a religious order because their work is so much more important than their personal style.)

Mark wasn't wrong—simplifying can really take you to a place of mental clarity you can normally only reach by fasting, attending Burning Man, or ingesting some of those drugs they gave Bradley Cooper. It can shave, like, two minutes off your getting-ready routine. It can even help you maintain a level of self-confidence higher than any one person really ought to have.

But what you have to remember is that not even Mark Zuckerberg can keep up the Mark Zuckerberg Method all the time. (See: Adidas pool slides, that time he wore a tie to meet some prime minister, everything that has to do with his dog.) So here, as promised, I present to you the SparkNotes version of what I learned from the past seven days: Plan ahead. Get all of the non-essential decisions out of the way when you have time. Use your energy on what matters most to you.

After all, no one ever achieved self-actualization (or became a billionaire, or developed the ability to move people telekinetically with an iPhone swiping motion) by deciding what she wanted to have for breakfast. Plus, you never know what you can do with all that extra head space.

Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.