In reading all the coverage about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, I went back to a 2004 profile that a former colleague of mine, Charles Fishman, wrote when we worked together at Fast Company. The story, “The Anarchist’s Cookbook,” is a great profile of Mackey and includes a discussion of what he calls his “no-secrets” management style. For instance, Whole Foods will share each employee’s pay with all of his or her colleagues.
Given the recent revelations of Mackey’s fondness for aliases—Mackey was found to be making anonymous posts to a Yahoo! investor message board under the pseudonym “rahodeb,” a scramble of the letters in his wife’s name—Mackey’s “no secrets” management style seems particularly ironic. But as it turns out, Mackey has called himself other names, too. Mackey, who took off four months in 2002 to hike the Appalachian Trail, gave himself a “trail name,” a common practice of Appalachian Trail hikers. His was “Strider,” a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”
But even “Strider,” it turns out, has an alter ego. (An alter ego for an alter ego? This is getting weird.) As Fishman closes his story:
But as with much about Mackey, that nickname is not quite what it seems. “Strider isn’t his real name; it’s his nickname on the trail. He is really Aragorn, the king. But he wasn’t a king on the trail. In 2002, when I was hiking, I was certainly the richest guy hiking the Appalachian Trail. I was a kind of secret king. But that wasn’t my identity, or my role, on the trail.”
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