Ben Feder is author of Take Off Your Shoes, President of International Partnerships for the U.S. at Tencent, the Chinese Internet titan, and formerly was CEO of Take Two interactive, the publisher of the smash video game hits, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, and NBA 2K. He serves on the boards of directors of public and private companies in the media and entertainment industries and is a director of Save a Child’s Heart, a nonprofit that works globally to rescue children with congenital heart defects. A Harvard Business School graduate, Ben lives in New York City with his wife, Victoria, and their four children.
What do I do best?
I’m told I’m a great listener. Whether it’s business or personal, I have a genuine interest in other people, their opinions, goals, and emotions. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I hear, but I do like to invite other voices. I try to avoid believing that I’m the smartest person in the room.
I’m also a big believer in focus, which is odd considering I definitely have an attention deficit. There is so much competing for our attention that I think it’s important to stay true to mission and core values and to make deliberate choices not only about how to live life generally but, more particularly, how to spend time, day-to-day and hour-to-hour. That’s true both in pursuing business opportunities as well as in conducting a personal life.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I think there are three things. First, I tend to be analytical when it comes to assessing opportunities and making decisions, which results in judgments that are intellectually honest. Second, I emphasize positive relationships because they make the difference in successful business and personal lives. Third, I encourage creativity. I have been drawn to creative businesses in my career and have always had personal creative outlets. At one time that was limited to cooking and now it has extended to writing and painting, two expressive forms that go well together.
What are my aspirations?
In business, I’m pretty content with where I am. I love to build and grow businesses. I enjoy informally coaching entrepreneurs and young professionals. I’d like to continue that. And I’m studying Mandarin. I’d like to get good enough to conduct business fluently in the language.
My Biggest Success?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had business and career success. I’ve been an investor, operator, and entrepreneur. But without question my greatest success has been raising, with my wife, four children who are now entering adulthood. Also, in midlife, I taught myself to draw and later learned to paint. I’ve come a long way from a cold start and still believe I have a long way to go. But even now it has vastly improved my life and my ability to perceive the world and express myself.
My Most Challenging Moment?
A number of years ago, at a time that I was at pinnacle of my career, or so it seemed, I made a bold choice to temporarily take myself out of the game. I voluntarily stepped down from being the CEO of Take Two Interactive to make a deliberate choice about the kind of life I wanted to live. My wife and I pulled our four kids out of school in New York and decamped to Bali, Indonesia for a sabbatical. It was a transformational experience for my family and me. I have a lot to say about that time. But the months leading up to and following my resignation was a challenging time for me because of the tradeoffs that decision required.
When faced with a business crisis, I apply what I call the 24 hour rule: Don’t respond immediately. Give the situation 24 hours to marinate and find a distraction. Invariably, creative solutions emerge.
There’s another that I like, apparently attributable to the Dalai Lama: If you’re unhappy with your situation, change your mind. I’ve come to appreciate the enormous power of changing our lives by changing our minds and I’ve often repeated that quote to others whom I thought could benefit from it.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
I’m deeply grateful to have worked with, for, and alongside some amazingly talented people from whom I learned a great deal about leadership, business, emotional intelligence, and more. In terms of leading a life well-lived, my father was my greatest role model. I know a lot of sons say that, but in terms of what really, really sticks: He’s the man.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Bali, Indonesia. Considering the time I’ve spent there with my family, and the relationships I developed there (both expat and locals), it’s a very special place for me.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My meditation cushion, yoga mat, and paintbrushes.
My Current Passions?
I’m passionate about media and technology businesses and the intersection of the two, especially interactive entertainment. I think they are sound business sectors and I particular enjoy the creative people that those businesses attract. At the same time, I’m committed to staying fit in mind and body and carve out time each day to that effort.