John McAfee is best known for founding McAfee Associates in 1987, a global computer security software company which he initially operated out of his house in Santa Clara, California. His company was the first to distribute anti-virus software using the shareware business model. He resigned from his company in 1994, and sold his remaining stake two years after the company went public to go on to other business ventures, including founding Tribal Voice, which developed one of the first instant messaging programs, Pow Wow. He also invested in and joined the board of directors of Zone Labs, makers of firewall software, prior to its acquisition by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. in 2003. Even after his departure from McAfee Associates (now McAfee, Inc.), the company he originally founded remains one of the world’s largest antivirus companies today.
1. How do you define success?
Making it through life with the fewest number of enemies. Most problems with any business venture come from competition and the arguments it generates. I try to make it through without pissing a lot of people off.
2. What is the key to success?
Doing what you love with a full heart and mind.
3. Did you always know you would be successful?
Absolutely not. I didn’t even think I’d make it to see the age of 30 because of alcohol. Life is full of ups and downs. The person who works hard with a full heart and mind will be successful.
4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I’m not sure; it’s something from within me. The higher the pressure, the more focused I become. There are two types of people: those who thrive under pressure, and those who don’t.
5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Love is a very rare thing. It’s very difficult to attain and it’s the easiest to lose.
6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I have not had any spare time. I always have 10 times as many projects as I could anticipate. I just recently got cable television. For the most part, I haven’t had any spare time for the past 30 years.
7. What makes a great leader?
Someone who understands that they work for everyone in the organizational structure. Someone who knows to value all of their employees, because they work for them.
8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Make your own path. There’s the 9-5 existence, working for an organization five days out of the week until retirement, which I’ve never valued. Or, you can look around you and ask, “What can I do?” and then do it.
This interview is an excerpt from Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs & Executives by Jason Navallo.