Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) Co-Founder John Mackey’s Career Advice to Entrepreneurs

Last month, I interviewed Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey in front of a live studio audience at Motley Fool headquarters. Mackey just published Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business with co-author Raj Sisodia, and stopped by our Alexandria, Va., offices on his book tour.

Mackey and Sisodia make a compelling case for moving away from so-called shareholder capitalism, which posits that the one and only aim of a business is to create value for its investors, toward a multi-stakeholder model in which a business should serve customers, employees, suppliers, local communities, the world, and, yes, shareholders.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM)Toward the end of our talk, Fool co-founder Tom Gardner asked Mackey to share some career advice. See his answer in the clip below. (The run time is 3:00; there’s also a lightly edited transcript below.)

Tom Gardner: What career advice would you have here in terms of the journey of self-discovery, finding your strengths, your unique strengths, your weaknesses? You said you feel that you’ve been pretty self-aware in your life and your professional life — just provide any guidance for us in how to find that, and deploy our unique talents to the greatest effect in the organization that we work.

John Mackey: What I usually tell people — particularly young people — I really think that this is the secret to life, so I’m gonna let you in on it. You should follow your heart in life. It sounds very simple, but it’s very difficult to do, because most people are too afraid to do so. Most people want to play it safe in life, and I’ll tell you an anecdotal story. When I began to follow my own heart, I was 19 years old, and I was at the University of Texas, and I was studying philosophy, and I was reading Being and Nothingness by John-Paul Sartre, the French existential philosopher.

That was a very boring book to read, and I will just say it outright for the record. I’m trying to make heads or tails of what this guy’s talking about, and I just didn’t like it. And I remember, I threw the book down on the ground, and I said I’m never ever, going to read another book in my life that I don’t want to read. That was the first step.