Onanism – it’s a no-no for success. On the other hand . . .

Discussing the sex drives of successful entrepreneurs seems a little, well, masturbatory

Flying ahead: A model of Uber’s urban flying taxi on display at the Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Do successful entrepreneurs masturbate? This question did not arise out of a tech networking event with a particularly boring group of start-up hopefuls.

It didn't come to me either while watching Mark Zuckerberg testify before a joint session of the Senate commerce and judiciary committees last month. His clearly rehearsed – yet poorly delivered – responses to four hours of questions about Facebook's data privacy policies may have revealed to us that the chief executive's spin doctors were underprepared for the extent of their master's beta test before the world's public, but told us precious little about what he does in private.

No, the 39 characters that make up this rather bizarre little question came in the form of a tweet from one of the many tech and entrepreneurial gurus I happen to follow. It turns out experts have been asking this question for decades. In 1938 self-help pioneer Napoleon Hill dedicated an entire chapter of his book Think and Grow Rich to the importance of repurposing one's sex drive into greater productivity at work.

Random commentator

Almost a century later a response on Quora. com to this question by a random commentator was: "Sexual energy is amazing and great; rather than putting it to a useless act of masturbating to a screen of pixels having sex, entrepreneurs actually use that extra boost of energy to do productive work!"


(I’m going to hazard a guess the majority of entrepreneurial minds consumed by the correlation between self-gratification and success in business are male.)

This is but one silly question among many discussed by the chancers – I mean experts – peddling get-rich-quick schemes. There are several other theories which highlight some other human idiosyncrasy as paramount for achieving success. Many serial entrepreneurs, for example, are said to have ADHD but don’t know it – the argument being they are adept at starting businesses but quickly lose interest, sell them once they succeed and move on to a new enterprise.

Aside from the obvious commercial demand for simple answers to complex questions like how to “succeed” or “be happy”, masturbation is a far sexier (pun intended) subject than the truth: that successful people usually work harder, are more ambitious and can adapt to market trends more easily than the rest of us schmucks.

Or get ahead of them. While the rest of the world is still asking if they’d even trust a driverless car, rideshare leaders Uber are claiming they’ll be ready to test flying taxis by 2020.

At the recent Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, the company brought together experts from industry, academia, government and the US military to accelerate innovation in the unmanned aerial vehicle space, a rapidly expanding sector with a plethora of commercial players interested in its opportunities. That's right. Uber wants its flying taxis to be unmanned. It's not the only tech company with this idea, but it wants to be the first, and claims it will be testing prototypes with real passengers in two cities (Dallas and Los Angeles) within two years.

Thinking ahead

Notwithstanding all the questions around the legality, safety or regulation of urban flying taxis, the successful entrepreneurs behind Uber are thinking ahead, which is difficult to do if your focus is elsewhere.

Entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, advocates NOBNOM (No Booze, No Masturbation).

And therein lies the inherent contradiction held within questions such as “do successful entrepreneurs masturbate?” They’re a distraction. And anything that distracts us from succeeding – be it alcohol, TV, masturbation, the joy of cooking, watching paint dry – is technically holding us back from achieving our goals. But relieving stress is also an important part of being successful and happy. At this point sparks are flying out of this reporter’s head. It’s all a lot of contradictory nonsense. Most self-help advice, particularly when it comes to succeeding in business, is in itself a form of masturbation.

So to answer the question: do successful entrepreneurs masturbate? Probably.