The Thrive Questionnaire with William Etherington

The former CEO of the IBM World Trade Corporation and current chair of Celestica, Inc. spoke to Thrive Global about his daily routine, electronic habits, and what he learned from being the first email user at IBM.

Photo courtesy of William Etherington

What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

I am a morning person going back to my farm upbringing when there were cows to be milked and animals to be fed before school each day. The first thing I now do is quickly jump into the shower, dress and start to work.


What gives you energy?

I get energy from accomplishing tasks that I set for myself each day


What’s a daily habit or practice that helps you thrive?

I like to make work lists and then look back at the end of the day to see all that I have accomplished


Name a book that changed your life.

Not sure it really “changed my life”, but the bio of Steve Jobs really opened my eyes to having a maniacal focus on users wants and needs in designing products


Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

I do NOT sleep with my phone … I shut it off after the work day and re-open the next morning


How do you deal with email?

I was the first IBM executive to use e-mail back in 1980 (a test system) and learned the importance of staying on top of my e-mails. I try to answer everything within a few hours of receiving and delete the rest and keep my open list of e-mails less then one page. 


You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

If I have 15 minutes available, I will quickly check my v-mails, texts and e-mails.


When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

I can’t remember being “burned out.” I am often tired, especially a traveling, but never burned out.


When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?

As a career sales executive, I had to learn early to deal with failure on a regular basis (e.g. losing an order). I am an optimist my nature so I seldom reflect long on past failures and focus my energy on future opportunities


Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

I was taught the importance of humility by my parents which I tried to exhibit during my whole life which I feel contributed to my career success … and my favorite quote was in a movie – The Devil’s Advocate, I think – in which the actor said his secret to success in business was that “they never saw me coming!”.

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