Why are Silicon Valley billionaires starving themselves?

THE WEEK:

Twitter founder and CEO and billionaire Jack Dorsey has more money than he could ever need — but he’s not acting like it. Unlike the self-made wealthy folk of years gone by, Dorsey and a growing number of top-earning tech entrepreneurs aren’t swilling vintage champagne and banqueting in their free time. Instead, they’re practicing an extreme form of self-denial that has me both troubled and puzzled.

Dorsey recently appeared on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast to explain his monkish lifestyle in more detail than the 240 character blasts he’s known for sending out to the less biologically enlightened universe. He says he eats only one meal a day in the week and doesn’t let any foodstuff pass his lips at the weekend. He also starts every day with an ice bath. “Nothing has given me more mental confidence than being able to go straight from room temperature into the cold,” he says. And, rain or shine, he walks the five miles from his home to his office. It’s all part of his ever-evolving quest to keep his brain functioning at maverick CEO level. And, I suppose, outlive anyone silly enough to think that eating regular, balanced meals is sensible.

Dorsey’s wellness-hacking habits are extrapolated from the ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of Stoicism, which says, essentially, that you should be happy with your lot (arguably not hard if you have a lot) and deny yourself nice things — like warm baths and calories on days that start with the letter “s.” Stoicism sounds like unscientific celebrity fad nonsense, yet it has a cult-like appeal to a demonstrably smart crew: Silicon Valley’s elite.

Stoicism’s aficionados include Kevin Rose, co-founder of the website Digg, who embraces the philosophy by taking cold showers, not putting on a winter coat, and saying things like, “I try to surrender to the Earth as everything unfolds around me, not judging it, but accepting things as they are.” Which sounds like a lukewarm blend of meditation and shrugging.

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