Strauss Zelnick: Multidimensional Success, Winning Investments, and Leaving Fear Behind

Strauss Zelnick (@strausszelnick) is an endlessly inspiring human being who truly embodies the concept of no limits.

The founder of Zelnick Media Capital, a private equity investment firm in the media and communications industry. he’s also the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Take-Two Interactive, a leading developer and publisher of interactive software and games franchises including Grand Theft Auto, Bio Shock, NBA2K, and many more.

To give you a sense of the sheer magnitude of his accomplishments, Strauss’s roles leading up to his founding of Zelnick Media Capital in 2001 include serving as Chairman and CEO of Columbia Music, President and CEO of BMG Entertainment, and President and COO of 20th Century Fox.

And those are just a few of the highlights. He also holds degrees from both Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School.

I first learned of Strauss back in 2008, when I saw him on the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine, where I interned in my free time while studying journalism at NYU. I remember reading about this accomplished businessman who used fitness to fuel his success.

Fast-forward five years to 2013. I’m the Deputy Editor of Men’s Fitness, and my boss tells me we’re doing a feature on this mega successful entrepreneur in his mid-50s who hits the gym harder than most guys in their 20s. I didn’t write the piece, but when the photos rolled in I saw a familiar face. And when it came time to edit the story, I remember being incredibly impressed that this guy—a family man, to boot—had not only grown his business exponentially but somehow found the time to get even fitter.

After that, it was another couple of years before I heard Strauss’s name again. The weird thing about it was that four years had gone by, and then in the space of one week two different people, totally independently, told me about this guy that I just had to meet—of course, that guy was Strauss.

I ended up meeting Strauss for a 6 a.m. workout, where we chatted between sets of high-intensity intervals, and it didn’t take long to see that this guy was the real deal.

To record this interview, I met Strauss at his home in New York City, where we sat in his library and talked honestly about success, failure, integrity, and prioritization in the grand scheme of life. It was a weeklong seminar on leadership and philosophy condensed into less than an hour, and our brief but profound conversation has stuck with me ever since. Enjoy!

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