- Bernard Kim is the president of Zynga, known for creating hit games like Words With Friends and Zynga Poker.
- He's taken the company from a market cap of $2 billion to $10 billion since he joined in 2016, but used to travel a lot before the pandemic.
- He's loving being able to spend time with his family and sleep more regular hours.
- Here's a look at his daily routine, from waking up at 6 a.m. without an alarm to eating his first meal at noon to playing games with his family after work.
- "I don't smoke, I haven't had a drink in five years, and I cut out junk food, but I'm not giving up my phone," he said about sleeping with his cell by his bed. "I've tried, and it's just not happening."
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As president of Zynga, Bernard Kim has spent billions of dollars on acquisitions of hit games, brought beloved entertainment brands like Harry Potter and Star Wars to the company's pipeline, and embraced a growing fandom that includes celebrities Alec Baldwin and Kanye West.
As Kim continues to run one of the world's largest mobile game companies and maker of Words With Friends and Zynga Poker and earn acclaim in the hyper-casual games market amid record earnings, Business Insider talked with him about how he's been able to stay laser-focused during these pandemic times.
The secret to his success, he said, has been his attention to four pillars — sleep, nutrition, activity, and gaming. To relax, he plays games, and doesn't practice mindfulness like other tech executives.
"I think building a meditation practice is valuable, but personally I've had immense challenges with it," he said. "At this point, I'd rather run a marathon than sit for five minutes trying to clear my brain."
Kim began his gaming career in 2006 when he left Disney to help Electronics Arts launch its mobile games division. This began a 14-year commute from his Manhattan Beach home in Los Angeles to the EA Mobile office in San Francisco. In 2016, when EA boss Frank Gibeau became Zynga's CEO, he recruited Kim to join Zynga during a heated match in Words With Friends.
"We actually negotiated my compensation in chat," Kim said.
Since joining, Zynga's market cap grew five-fold from $2 billion to $10 billion, and along with it Kim's travel schedule, which intensified to five days a week, 50 weeks a year, with more than four intercontinental trips per quarter.
"Before COVID, I lived in a different city almost every single week and spent eight weeks in Istanbul working on a deal that had me flying 14 hours home for the weekend and 14 hours back on Monday," Kim said. "I always believed I could function on two to three hours of sleep a night and some nights I didn't even sleep. I've since learned that's just not the optimal way to get the most out of your body."
Now that the coronavirus crisis has grounded most business, he's not traveling — and has seen a dramatic improvement in his sleep patterns as a result. He said he no longer needs to wake at 5 a.m. to race off to the airport, and the consistency of sleeping in the same bed every night and eating the same way every day has helped him become a high performer in all aspects of life — at work, with family, and in his own body. Sleep is such a priority that Kim even altered his diet to ensure he gets the rest he needs. He now follows a strict Keto regimen along with intermittent fasting, where he eats only between 12 and 7 p.m. each day.
With Zynga's offices not reopening until summer 2021 and many industry events holding off until then, Kim is finding that he's not missing his high-flying life.
"You know when sometimes you have this self-image that you're one of these extroverts and if you're not with people there is this weird sense of FOMO?" he said. "What COVID has taught me is maybe I'm more of a homebody than I thought, and that, in this environment, it's pretty fun to hang out at home."
"My wife jokes that we've spent more time together these past six months than we did in the past six years," he added. "But it's been an incredible gift and I'm loving every moment. It's very special to be part of my kids' lives at this time."
Here's a day in the life of Bernard Kim.
6 a.m. to 7 a.m.: He wakes up and checks his phone
Like many tech executives, Kim said he tracks his sleep with an Oura ring and is currently getting around six and a half hours a night of sleep. He wakes without an alarm to avoid interrupting his morning REM sleep.
"I let my body tell me when it's time to wake up," he said. "When I wake, the first thing I do is reach for my phone to check my email, games, and sleep stats. Notifications are turned on, but I make a point of not checking social media in bed, as it can degrade my mood."
7 a.m. to 8 a.m.: He drinks coffee
"I follow a strict routine and try not to drink caffeine except for 7 a.m., and never more than two cups," he said. "Every day I have the same Keto coffee that I alter with coconut oil, butter, and a supplement mix that includes magnesium and Vitamin D." As is common with intermittent fasting, he skips breakfast.
8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.: He exercises
"Physical activity gets me mentally ready for the day," he said, adding that he'll hit the beach for a cardio class or bike ride unless he has an international call. If he doesn't have time to get out, he'll jump on his Peloton bike or his Peloton Tread.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: He works
"My work day is filled with back-to-back video calls for team meetings, one-on-ones, press interviews, earnings prep, and so on," he said. "Unfortunately, I don't often get to take breaks other than to stay hydrated. I try to drink a lot of water."
12 p.m.: He eats lunch
For lunch and snacks, he subscribes to a Keto meal service.
"I equip my house with a lot of ready-to-eat food within my diet parameters and keep them abundantly in stock," he said. "I found that if I can reduce decisions around food, it keeps my mind clear for making smart business decisions."
5 p.m.: He takes a break
"I know breaks are important and I try to get out for some form of physical activity," he said. Often he'll try to get in a game of tennis with family and friends or go for a walk.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: He eats dinner
"As we're not dining out these days, we've been enjoying grilling at home nearly every night," Kim said. "I've been experimenting with different techniques and recipes, and my son has been rating the meals based on everyone's feedback."
7 p.m.: He quickly preps for the next day and enjoys family time
Following dinner, he "shuts down" by taking a quick pass at his next day's schedule, then joins everyone for family time. But he admitted he is never really off the grid.
"I try to respond quickly and concisely to anyone who has taken the time to reach out to me, and so I never really disconnect," he said.
7:30 p.m.: He plays games with his family
The time of day he enjoys the most is when he gets to hang out with his wife and kids. Extremely competitive with each other, they play every type of game imaginable, including video games like Mario Kart and Fall Guys, board games like Go Nuts and Sorry, and table sports like ping pong.
10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.: He goes to bed
Kim's day ends decompressing with his wife. "We'll watch a show together for an hour like 'The Boys' on Amazon Prime and are usually out by 11:30 p.m.," he said.
He explained that he and his wife have put considerable effort into making the bedroom a sanctuary with special bedding, light, temperature, and humidity settings that they keep consistent night after night. He even uses a cooling pad called an Ooler to regulate his body temperature to help him stay asleep as he drifts in and out of cycles.
Despite striving for an optimal environment, Kim said he breaks one cardinal rule: sleeping with his phone. "I don't smoke, I haven't had a drink in five years, and I cut out junk food, but I'm not giving up my phone," he said. "I've tried, and it's just not happening."
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