Investing in Yourself

I gave a brief talk at Slush 2013 on “Taking Care of Yourself”, (slides here). Slush is just around the corner, so I’ve stopped to reflect on which of these habits I’ve kept, lost or added to. This post is an extension of that talk, and focuses on the same fundamental building blocks: Mind, Body and Spirit.

The most important asset in any business is you: the Founder (or co-founder). Without you, the company loses it’s spirit and character. As an investor, I’d kind of like to keep the spirit and character of the companies I’m investing into in tact… Running a start-up is not the lowest stress job on the planet. Long hours, late nights, travel, etc. so, I always encourage the entrepreneurs I work with to take care of themselves – both for themselves and the people around them (friends, family, employees and investors)

Mind

You probably read a lot of stuff. You’re short on time, so quantity over quality is going to be optimal. I’ve spent the last few years trying to refine where I get my information. I discovered AI driven RSS readers ages ago, and never looked back. Zite was my go-to app for getting a personalized news feed. That’s now been bought by Flipboard, which I’m using daily now. I’m not sure the recommendations are as tech-centric, but I still get interesting articles that are relevant to me. Another great source of news is Wired UK’s AWAKE, with 10 recommended articles for the day.

Body

Fuel: A clean diet is the best diet, but not always the simplest. This site, the Whole Life Challenge, is a great place to start if you’re serious about overhauling yourself. I started eating (mostly) paleo about 2 years ago and managed to shed 15lbs over a 9 month period. If you don’t want to do that, try to focus on eating more vegetables and more fish, and cutting booze. Especially if you travel.

Exercise: If you’re working in a start-up, it’s likely that you’re not getting regular exercise. At a minimum, get some type of fitness tracker (or just use your phone) and make sure you’re walking those 10k steps per day. An Apple Watch is a nice one to use since it also tells you when to stand if you’ve been sitting too long. Once your past that, I would recommend bodyweight exercises because you can do them anywhere (home or work). Beyond that, I’m sure you can break the internet looking at training options. The key is to do something active, and track it.

Sleep: We spend 30% of our lives sleeping. How you treat this major component of your life impacts everything else. I started using a sleep tracker to better understand how I was sleeping (Jawbone UP is my favorite – I think it tracks deep sleep the best, and I like their app). Again, you can use your phone to get started with sleep tracking, but there are a few tips that will really help improve your sleep: 1) Get to bed early. Like you’re a kid. I targeted 9:30pm initially. This meant I woke up with no buzzing alarm clock. That alone makes you feel amazing. 2) Turn off your phone and laptop at least 1hr before bed. The blue light is wrecking your circadian rhythms. You can cheat if you use flux – but still, try to turn screens off and read a book on happiness or call your mom instead.

Spirit

This one can take a few different forms: religion/prayer, meditation/yoga, charity work, etc – anything to develop your inner self. Meditation 2.0 became a buzz word in the valley a few years back, but industry legend Steve Jobs was a long time practitioner of meditation. If it’s good enough for Uncle Stevie, it’s good enough for me. I started with meditation actively a few years ago to try to settle down my hyperactive, information overloaded mind and attempt to improve my ability to concentrate, focus and genuinely listen when I’m in a conversation (not just waiting to speak). As a result, it’s improved my social skills, my relationships and helps me with my day job. I try to have some form of meditation daily – I find Headspace to be easy (it’s guided), quick (20 min) and progressive – so it doesn’t get boring, and you can see you’re making progress. There a many options on this front – the point is that you find what works for you.

That’s it – Mind, Body, Spirit. I really encourage you to make these three parts of your life a top priority, and everything else will fall into place. These are essential ingredients to a happy and productive life – if you neglect them, your performance (and happiness) will suffer. We all skip the gym, eat badly, cut sleep etc – but that needs to be a short term exception. Life (and startups) is a marathon – not a sprint. Sustainable, healthy habits form the foundation of success – take the time to invest in yourself – it will pay dividends several times over…

Good luck!

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