Entrepreneurship is a lonely and arduous journey. It’s full of ups and downs. The best thing you can do is to prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, so both you, and your company can be built to last.
April 7 was World Health Day. It is a great time to take stock of yourself. Are you taking care of your own physical and mental health? Are you taking care of your family and your relationships? How about your colleagues and fellow employees? Are they "built to last"?
The problem is even more challenging if you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner. The purpose of a company or a business is to solve a customer problem in an innovative manner and to do it fast. To build a great company, you need to build a sustainable company, which requires a strong mindset and involves long-term thinking.
"Built to Last" starts with you.
By the way, no one is denying that you need to make a lot of sacrifices to build a company or run a business.
Entrepreneurship has never been nor is it ever going to be a 9 to 5 job! However, I think it has become a false bravado that unless you are putting in 80+ hours a week and "killing" yourself, you are not going to succeed. Honestly,, this is just not true. In fact, it might be the contrary.
While speed is of the utmost essence, entrepreneurship, like life, is a marathon and not a sprint.
One of the best HBR articles I read a long time ago asserted that one needs to focus on managing one's energy and not one's time. I strongly recommend that everyone read this article.
We have limitless mental energy and possibly even physical energy, if we train and channelise it properly. That said, both mental and physical energy definitely form a virtuous cycle; the more physical energy you have the more mental energy you will have and vice versa.
To manage your energy, you need to understand and invest in yourself. I had the benefit of visiting the South Asian Heart Institute, a volunteer-led not-for-profit organisation based in the SF Bay Area. They have a wonderful framework for managing your overall health called MEDS, which is an acronym for meditation, exercise, diet and Sleep.
For greater well being, you need to pay equal attention to all of these pillars. Over the last two years, I have consciously cultivated all four practices quite religiously and have seen tremendous results. My body and mind feel 10 years younger as a result of cultivating these.
So even if you are doing all the exercise and nutrition but only sleeping five hours a day on average, you are probably missing the boat. Let's go through each of these in detail.
Meditation may seem a bit esoteric and for the "evolved". I thought that for years and hence didn't even attempt to do this. While I've still only been doing this for six months, the biggest benefit I see is that I'm much more present in the moment and there's a distinct awareness between "action" and "reaction". That's the first step to emotional intelligence.
Even 20 minutes of meditation every day can have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing. Most successful people around the world from investors like Ray Dalio, entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld, self-help gurus like Tony Robbins, to top athletes like Roger Federer do this on a regular basis, often twice a day!
There are many different styles of meditation - concentration based, awareness based and transcendental. There are different schools and paradigms with different styles of meditation. You can try a variety of them and see what works for you. One big myth about meditation is that you need to become a Zen master or Buddha and have "thoughtlessness".
To me, meditation is not about thoughtlessness. It is about being in the moment, about being fully present and not being "reactive" no matter what the stimulus. Trust me, that comes in very handy in all aspects of life and most certainly in Entrepreneurship or other Leadership positions.
Quickstart plan for meditation:
- Find an "Introduction to meditation" class with a trained practitioner.
- Download apps like Insight Timer (my favourite "Freemium" app), Calm and Headscape.
- Start with a guided meditation for 10 minutes every day and gradually increase it to 20 mins a day after a few weeks or a month.
One just needs to do vigorous exercise for 150 minutes per week and be sufficient. That's it. You don't need to hit the gym every day or run a marathon per week. That's less than three hours (or less than three meetings per week). There's absolutely no reason to not do it. You will start seeing results in a couple of weeks! Enough said.
Quickstart plan for exercise:
Formally, calendarise 60 minutes for three days a week just like you would for any business meeting. Use that for any (or all) of the following activities:
- Join a group class for three days a week (Zumba, Yoga, Pilates, etc.)
- Pick up a sport that's "accessible" and can give you a great cardio workout (badminton, tennis, swimming come to mind)
- Hire a personal trainer.
- Or, at the least, walk briskly (you should NOT be able to hold a normal conversation for it to be brisk) for 45 mins a day.
The entrepreneurial lifestyle has long days (and nights!), travel, lots of eating outside and an irregular schedule for nutrition. Now, there are a lot of services available to help you get access to good healthy food, including on the go.
Quickstart plan for diet (nutrition):
- Become mindful and deliberate about food; eat at regular and predictable times.
- Consider work with a nutritionist.
- Have a few go-to health food options that are accessible for snacks and your meals.
If there's one hack that can have a tremendous impact on your well being and is often understated, it is sleep.
There are so many advantages of continuous seven hours of sleep that its surreal that most of us ignore this. It is good for restorative health, for building muscles (go figure) and believe it or not, even weight loss. In fact, lack of sleep has also shown to have a direct correlation to obesity.
The reason you need to have continuous sleep is because sleep happens in three or more REM/NREM cycles and the third cycle which is post five-six hours is the "deepest sleep". So, no, you can't doze off on the way to the airport or a meeting and count for that in your seven hours a day. Those power naps are showing that you are exhausted and possibly sleep deprived.
Quickstart plan for sleep:
- Figure out if you are getting enough sleep (7-8 hours is prescribed)
- Resist the temptation to be near any gadget such as a smartphone or TV for at least 30 minutes before bedtime and 30 minutes after getting up.
- Fix a predictable time to go to sleep (even if it is 12 midnight, so be it); assuming you are deficient, add 30 minutes every day for the next 15 days. Even if you can't sleep, stay in bed!
To sum it up, entrepreneurship is a lonely and arduous journey. It’s full of ups and downs. The best thing you can do is to prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually, so both you, and your company can be built to last. One of my entrepreneurial friends, Tarun Goyal, recently mentioned this quote that nicely summarises this philosophy:
“Be kind to yourself” - Anonymous
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)