An honest discussion regarding the health of startup founders, and how your company may slowly be killing you.
“ People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. ”
— MARCUS AURELIUS
Read that above for a second…
Ask yourself, how often as a startup founder do you wreck yourself mentally trying to find new ways to grow?
And how often do you sacrifice your own mental and physical health for the well being of your company?
We all do it, and we have to stop it. (within reason, because I know you won’t )
“But Bryan, if i don’t stop my company will crumble like Ancient Rome. “And sleep? LOL, I need to code 22 hours a day to raise this seed round so I can buy my Lambo and live the life of a Silicon Valley Unicorn.”
Hell, I own an employee performance platform and I still deprive myself of sleep, ingest way too much caffeine and skip workouts!
So the big question here is; how do you grind, scale your business, but not burn every physical and emotional bridge you have in your life?
To do that, let’s take a look into the world of Sports Science and see how top athletes manage stress, and perform on a world stage:
In athletics, managing total allostatic or stress load is the goal for any sport. Ultimately, making sure an athlete is emotionally and physically prepared to perform at a high level is the focus of not only the Coach, but also the Performance Manager, Physio and the Medical Team.
Millions of dollars are spent every year to build recovery centers, to implement blood testing, to hire Sports Psychologists, and to utilize physiological monitoring technology.
Teaching athletes how to handle stress at home, how to recover at work and how to manage psycho-social pressures, is necessary to maintain top tier performance.
All because: a stressed out, broken down athlete does not win gold medals or world titles….
So why do you think that putting yourself into the ground will get you that Series A???
Let me ask you:
- Do you feel tired, beat up and just unable to keep pushing?
- What about mentally fatigued, but still motivated?
- How is your health? Do you keep getting upper respiratory infections?
- And your sleep, sleeping too much or too little?
- Relying on supplements or caffeine to get you through your day?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, we might need to fix some things!
So what are the signs and symptoms that might indicate that I’m over doing it?
Utilizing Carl Valle’s (a high level performance coach, and an innovator in the world of Tech/Sports Science) thought process, you need to look at 4 primary checkpoints to assess possible general fatigue:
- Concentration and Alertness. Your ability to concentrate and be alert during your work day is one clue. An alert and motivated founder is usually a productive founder.
- Mood Change. A change in mood usually includes an increase in both impatience and irritability.
- Willingness to Work and Continually Iterate. A drop in either the willingness to work or make the necessary changes that accompanies long periods of work and building your business is another sign. A loss in wanting to put the work in, even with focused and driven founders, is a timeless clue something is going wrong.
- Happiness. Nothing beats laughing and smiling as a metric of growth. A happy and improving founder is a great biomarker for success.
How do you fix these issues, and what are some modalities I can implement right away?
- Build work capacity: Think of fitness as a buffer. The fitter you are, the more your body is able to handle high loads of stress. Create that physiological buffer for yourself and start working out!
- Change your environment: This can be a challenging one, but toxic family and friends as well as financial stress can be a major issue when attempting to reduce strain.
- Unplug:Back away from the company for 24–48 hours. I know this is hard, but just like athletes, you can’t play your sport all day, everyday. DELOAD
- Use periodization: Periodization is the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. Are you about to make a drive for funding? Pushing out a new release? Plan these things ahead of time, and schedule deloads either before or after. Your body and mind will thank you!
- Utilize interventions: Feeling mentally drained and running on fumes? Try a passive modality like a float tank or sit in a hot tub to destress and help your body bounce back. What about tired, but focused and motivated? A pool workout, a Sauna recovery day (like the one found here) can help you down regulate, but still keep you mentally engaged.
This role of a startup founder is to PERFORM! You sitting on the sidelines, beat up and injured, does no one good. Allow yourself to recover, and watch how your mental, physical and company performance GROW.