Chip Bergh: “There Are No Real Failures — Only Opportunities to Learn”
The CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. on optimism and the books that changed his life.
When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Chip Bergh: Drink a tall glass of water; scan the news and then go workout. Every day.
TG: What gives you energy?
CB: (1) Exercising/working out. (2) Spending time with my family. (3) Coaching/mentoring people at work.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
CB: Early to bed (before 10 p.m. for me), early to rise (5 a.m. M-F, 6 a.m. S-Su for me), makes a man/woman healthy, wealthy and wise.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
CB: The Power of Full Engagement by Dr. Jim Loehr; he set out a program that is focused on managing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy. It’s a holistic way of thinking about wellness that I try to model and encourage all our employees to follow. And, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, which convinced me to become a vegan, cold turkey, seven years ago.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? CB: No, it charges in the closet. I try to keep it in my back pocket when I’m with family or in meetings. I’m not always successful.
TG: How do you deal with email?
CB: I check regularly, but I am purposely not on email all day. If I have an urgent question, I’ll call or text. And when I’m in meetings — and that’s most of my work day — I make an effort to be present and not multi-task. Instead, I run through email in the morning first thing; again late morning; and again end of the workday in the office. Occasionally I check in the evening at home. I’m also very conscious of the “signal” the time of my emails sends to people — so I try not to send emails late at night or extremely early in the morning.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? CB: Walk the halls and drop in on someone on my team informally. Or send a handwritten note to someone I appreciate.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
CB: I cannot remember ever feeling totally burned out. I often find that my enthusiasm will start to wane if I spend too much time in the office. I get a lot of energy from getting out in to the market, visiting our stores and the employees who work for Levi Strauss & Co. around the world; and meeting consumers around the world who love our brands — those conversations always renew me.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
CB: I’m an optimist at heart, so for me, there are no real failures — only opportunities to learn. I’ve had plenty of these kind of “opportunities” in life; but they all ultimately make me stronger (“that which doesn’t kill you will just make you stronger”). I set a high bar for almost everything that I do and sometimes come up short against my own expectations. But as my 8-year-old daughter says, “If you shoot for the stars and come up short, at least you hit the moon.” :)
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
CB: “Nobody will ever remember me for what I did for the business. They will only remember me for what I did for THEM and their career.”
Chip Bergh is the president & chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.). He is also on the Company’s Board of Directors. In 2015, he was named to the board of directors of HP Inc., the market-leading printing and personal systems company.