Our brains are powerful. We force ourselves to get up each morning and be productive. We build multi-hundred thousand, to multi-hundred million dollar businesses. And sometimes more.
We work around the clock, never relenting. Never pausing. Never even taking a chance to reflect on the most important details of our lives or business.
And then eventually, after weeks, months, or years of this behavior, the wheels start to fall off the bus, and we’re left with the worst entrepreneurial burnout one can imagine.
Zero motivation. Zero drive to make money. Zero ability to execute. The zest, productivity, and ambition is all gone. Like it just left your body like a spirit does in movies where a person dies, and the clear, body shaped, translucent being floats into the abyss.
It’s quite the alarming situation. And it happens to the best of us. But – what I really want to talk about here is a kind of constant burnout. A looming influenza attacking your vitality and motivation, leaving you blocked from being your normal, awesome self.
This is not just burnout. This is a low to high level stress in your body that always exists. It results from you waking up everyday, and without question, being in GO gear all of the time. It’s highly dangerous, to your health and productivity, and it acts as a gatekeeper and barrier to your normal, powerful self.
So much of what we do, contributes to our stress. We do most of it ourselves, and most of us don’t realize it. We think we’re ok because we’re walking around, feeling energized, making decisions. When inside, we’re beaten down, in desperate need of peace, seemingly trapped.
But we’re not ok. We are in constant fight or flight mode. It is highly likely that most entrepreneurs in this walking state, have elevated levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), and other related hormones that fire off when fight or flight arrives (Epinephrine, etc). This is toxic to the body, and toxic to your brain. It leaves you blocked.
Blocked from meaning. Blocked from enjoyment. Blocked from motivation. Blocked from life. You’re blocked from that zest you once had. Blocked from happiness. Blocked from the desire to be ambitious. Sigh – It’s a terrible place to be.
When I am in this state, I don’t even have the desire to approach fixing problems I know are building in the background. I don’t even have the ambition to repair things in my business that are broken, and heading for disaster. There could be train wrecks in the making, and I will just let everything crash and burn.
This is how you know you’re blocked. Blocked from feeling good. Blocked from giving a shit. Blocked from unblocking yourself. This is the ultimate bottom. When you can’t even muster the motivation to unblock yourself. It’s the worst place to be. The lowest of the low. And the way out actually isn’t what you think.
The way out doesn’t involve taking action. You can’t aggressively unblock yourself from being blocked by entrepreneurial burnout. The only way out, is inaction. And maybe some supplements.
Inaction – When burnout strikes
If you want to cure a burnout, one of the best ways to do so, if you have the time is to do nothing. Nothing at all. No work. No emails. No phone calls. But most importantly, no worrying. I once recovered greatly from a burnout when I had the flu. It was such an insanely powerful strand of influenza (I presume), that I could not get out of my bed for about 4 days. The only times I did were to eat, go to the bathroom, and take freezing cold showers.
I sat in bed and essentially toggled between sleeping, and watching Louie CK’s show on Netflix, episode after episode. On day 5 or so, once the majority of the severe flu symptoms had passed, I realized something remarkable. I had an intense motivation to get back to work. I was revitalized about some of the areas in my iPad repair company I haven’t felt motivated about in months. I was anxious to get back to work, a notion that was a laughable impossibility in the weeks previous.
It could be a vacation (if you have the time, ability, and money), or it could literally be sitting in your bedroom, house, or apartment for 5-7 days. But this complete downtime and negative space, is necessary. Inaction is necessary. Ceasing of worry and anxiety is necessary. You have to kill your thoughts. You have to kill them dead.
This is the main point. Yes – it is the constant workload and never ending engagement that burns you out. But at the root of that is an excessive flood of thoughts. An overload of mental activity, most of which is WORRY.
Worry – and stress levels
Worry is your worst enemy. Worry is the reaper that creeps around your home at night, waiting to axe you to a bloody death. Worry has the capacity to fully shut you down. It is the ultimate precursor to stress.
But how do we define stress in an entrepreneurial context? Simple: A brain that won’t shut down. One that’s particularly focused on problems. This is hard to avoid, because your life as a mover and shaker will always be accompanied by problems. Continued problems. They will never go away. They’re always going to be there, right around the corner, ready to make you feel like the world is coming to an end.
This stress rots you to the core. It’s a toxic evil that should be dealt with like the highest priority fire needs to be dealt with in the operations of your business. It’s this overactivity of the brain, and constant worry that you need to target. It’s stress that you have to kill.
Supplements are a wonderful thing. Especially herbal ones. There are wise people on the planet that use a myriad of plants to solve some of the most common human ailments that plague not only business people, but people all around the world. They have discovered that the plant world holds solutions to many of our problems. And though we’ve adopted their ways here in America, we probably need to do so a bit more.
Ayurveda, and India
The Indians (from India, not the Cherokee tribe), have an acute awareness of stress related burnout, and have various herbal solutions to these problems. Some of these herbal solutions fall into the category of Ayurvedic medicines, and one of the most effective ones is called “Ashwagandha.”
I take this herb in 500MG quantities when I land myself in burnout. And it remarkably calms me down. It’s really something else. It starts to make me feel unblocked again. I can find my motivation. I can find that sense of peace that seems to elude me when I’m in the mix of things. It’s really something else.
But – the reason this herb really works for me, and many millions of other people, is because it tends to neutralize the very thing we keep coming back to, that blocks us in the first place: stress. And the anxiety that comes as a result of it.
It’s amazing to feel unblocked again. Open. Aware. Happy. Content. Even though we’re rarely happy with our progress in our businesses, and there’s always a next step up, and a thing we have to do, when you’re unblocked, open, aware and happy, you’re content. Confident in your abilities to win. Ok with whatever troubles you’re experiencing, and ultimately, at peace with everything.
Final takeaways. — Stress is a toxin. It ruins everything. When you’re feeling it coming on, or it’s hit you like a ton of bricks, it’s time to either take some time off the grid if you can manage it, or get yourself a good supplement to kill the stress. Sit in your room and eat ice cream for a few days. Be as lazy as you can be. Lie around and do nothing.
We are productive, creative, motivated, and happy, until we are not. And when we are not, we’re usually being blocked. Your mission as an entrepreneur, or productive person, is to identify when you’re blocked, and find a way to unblock yourself. Your cash, productivity, happiness, and future depend on it.
The pervasive behavior is to be arrogant. To walk into a pizza place, where there is 10 other people sitting down and having dinner, and not look at and acknowledge any of them. Rather, the pervasive behavior is to literally (and yes, this is completely preposterous) act like they aren’t there.
Since when do human beings walk into a place and not greet or acknowledge other human beings?
Since now, I guess.
I often find myself, a self proclaimed higher class, intelligent, and forward moving individual, completely appalled by how other humans interact with me, and anyone else around them in social situations. It’s as if they are putting on this act that they’re in fact the superior ones.
Not much is further from the truth
Dear arrogant normal person:
I can almost guarantee that the Hyundai Sonata you pulled up in was partially or fully paid for by your parents.
If not, you’re leasing it, and barely making the payments.
Dear arrogant normal person:
By the way, when you go to some of the really upscale, classy restaurants of America, you will find that all the people there driving Benzes, BMW’s, Audi’s, and Porsche’s, will greet you, make solid eye contact with you, and are the LEAST arrogant people you’ve ever met.
I enjoy going to these places, and the people there truly give you a great look into the difference between the run of the mill schmuck, and the highly intelligent, super evolved, emotionally and socially adept human.
Dear arrogant normal person:
You fight for social acceptance, and indeed have lots of friends. But what will become of your life in 20 years? What significant accomplishments will you have to show for yourself?
Or will you have partially or fully deteriorated your health and financial condition because you’ve failed to understand the game we’re all playing called capitalism and vitality?
Will you have ascended to higher echelons of life, liberty, and happiness? Or deeper levels of poverty, arrogance, and social ineptitude.
Dear arrogant normal person:
You put on a mask that you’re the coolest kid in town, definitely too cool for school, but yet, the humble, progressive, forward moving conscious young adults are far “cooler” than you, with much more to show for it, and a future that’s both bright and certain. You’re a schmuck at best. With no ability to impactfully maneuver around this construct we call American life (insert other country if this applies).
Dear arrogant normal person:
You continue to fail financially and otherwise in life, but yet recluse from asking the real successful people how they’re doing it, how the think, and what they’re take is on modern everyday life. Humbly speaking, you will be enlightened multi-fold by what a humble, successful young person can teach you about life in general. Why don’t you ask advice from people who are making it? If you’re entrepreneurial, I understand. You need to do it on your own. But if you’re not doing it on your own, actively and obviously, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?
And finally, dear arrogant person:
The 2% greet each other in restaurants. They smile, make solid, consistent eye contact, and have situational and conversational etiquette. They are not concerned in the slightest with being accepted into the cool crowd, or being popular. They all have individual drive, have social intelligence, and know that we’re all on a level playing field. They’re: humble, pleasant, intelligent, forward moving, empathetic, understanding, and evolved. They’ll smile at you for NO REASON, just because you’re in their presence. They will make you feel like the awesome human that YOU are, and they’re in tune with your emotions to such a degree, that you’ll inevitably feel a sense of humanity while being around them.
But they remain in the shadows, in their social engagement. They hang with each other, and avoid the rest. They are not very outspoken, while around people that care more about social status than intelligence, pleasantness and human evolution. They are on a higher level, a different echelon, and in a different, more evolved place.
That could be vitamin B-12, Cortex Generation 1, or Aniracetam (an actual “smart drug”).
I’ve experimented with a lot of nootropic stacks, defined in this post as simply: combinations of nootropic substances, and I’d like to report on some of them now.
- Cortex Gen 1. This is a nootropic stack that targets the repair of dopamine receptors, and the creation of cell membranes. Some have compared the effects to a cleaner version of Modafinil. I have a particular affinity for Cortex, as I discovered the power of the two main ingredients quite some time ago, Uridine Monophosphate and CDP Choline. Probably the best focus stack I’ve ever taken.
- 500 MG Choline Bitartrate, 500MG L-Tyrosine, 500MG Ashwagandha, 450MG mixed of Blue Vervain Herb, Gotu Kola Herb, Brigham Tea Herb, Ginko Leaf, and Blessed Thistle Herb. – This seems to be a great memory and focus blend. It’s easy to recall things from memory that you might otherwise be a bit fuzzy about. For me particularly, the mix between the calm subtle effects of Ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic herb that protects the body from stress), and the focus enhancing effects of Choline, with a bit of Tyrosine for alertness, is a great combo for solid brain function. Generally, I feel a lot better control over my brain’s reaction to stimulus with this stack. I thoroughly enjoy nutra or herbal supplements (and prefer them) over actual pharma (like the most well known class of nootropics, the “Racetams”).
- Alpha Brain. Alpha brain is quite the balanced nootropic. As a long time meditator, I know immediately when my brain is working differently, especially when it’s working better. And Alpha Brain creates quite the edge in language usage, memory functionality, and singular focus. With this stack, it’s basically easier to do these types of mental actions. This stack is 10MG of B-6, a flow blend with 650MG of the following: L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, Oatstraw Extract, and Phosphatidylserine.
In addition, it has 350MG of AC-11, a bioactive rainforest plant, and a focus blend with 240MG of the following: Alpha GPC, Bacopa Monniera Extract, and Huperzia Serrata Extract (also know as Huperzine A), an herb that acts on the cholinergic system of the brain, keeping the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine flowing in robust amounts. There’s a “fuel blend” to top it off, in the product, consisting of 65MG of L-Leucine, Vinpocetine, and Pterostibene.
I’ve also noticed that while fussing with Alpha Brain, I’m able to prevent a pretty common stress induced burnout that takes place on the days I’m fully engaged in operations at a company I started years ago that I’m working on training staff to run the company on their own. When I’m there running operations, I get hit with the stress of too much work. Alpha Brain halts that almost completely. I’d recommend it to anyone.
- 750MG of CDP Choline, a different form of the B vitamin Choline, 150MG of L-Theanine (an amino acid), and caffeine (preferably from black, green, or Pu-erh tea). Because of the way that the CDP choline acts on my ability to focus, and the L-Theanine acts on increasing the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, I normally feel a great balance between super focused, and pleasantly calm, with a touch of alertness from the caffeine. Quite the subtle, but powerful stack this is for me.
- Getting into actual smart drugs, though I like nutra and herbal before pharma, sometimes pharma has a lot to offer, particularly in the form of Racetams. There are many of these “racetam” smart drugs, ranging from Aniracetam, Piracetam, and Pramaracetam, to Oxiracetam, and others. I’ve tried Pram, regular Piracetam, and Aniracetam and it’s an easy win for Aniracetam between them all. So, every now and then, my stack will be: 750MG of Aniracetam, 500MG of CDP Choline, and 500MG of Ashwagandha. It’s short and sweet, but packs a powerful punch for me. The Aniracetam adds this extra sense of heightened perception awareness, both of visual stimuli, and situational perspective. It’s like waking up to things that you weren’t conscious of prior.
Generally, my brain functions really well as it is. I sleep well, meditate, exercise, and eat a nutrient dense diet. So, my brain is always on smart mode. When I’m in the grocery store walking around, I know which turn I’m going to make next. I see EVERYONE before they see me. I adjust my direction based on that. I move quickly and decisively, and I am generally really calm around large groups of people (completely the opposite of where I was years ago, from having a 7 + year PTSD stint from my time in the Iraq War). But with this stack, all of these functions are optimized more. I am more aware of where people are, how to maneuver around them quickly, where I want to go, what I want to do, how I need to do it, etc. This stack is one of the closest to the actual “limitless” state depicted on the popular movie Limitless (a movie about a guy who takes an extremely powerful smart drug, and has some interesting adventures with it). This is a solid stack for me.
- 500MG ALCAR, 500MG L-Tyrosine, 500MG CDP Choline, 500MG Rhodiola Rosea. This stack is quite interesting. The “4 5’s” as I call it. You’ve got 4 major supplements, all at 500MG doses. ALCAR, or Acetyl-L-Carnitine, has an Aniracetam like effect on me. I become way more aware of beautiful colors, and subtle scenery pleasantries, and it helps create a sense of brain clarity that I can only find in meditation and great nootropic stacks. The L-Tyrosine, for me, creates a steady state of alertness and good, fast cognition. Tyrosine is interesting, because it seems to help me profoundly in avoiding any of the cognitive deficits while drinking alcohol. I mean.. this is not trivial! The CDP Choline, helps me peak my motivation system and be able to maintain a solid level of focus if I need to, and the Rhodiola Rosea (herb) helps bring stress and over-processing to a controllable calm. This stack seems to work synergistically for me. You might want to experiment with the doses, especially if you’re making your own capsules (with bulk powder and a capsule making machine), but I suspect other people will find profound benefits from this stack.
- 1.5G of DHA (one of the omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements, Krill oil supplements, and in actual fatty fish), 500MG CDP Choline, and 2 “Memory Plus” supplements. Memory Plus is a formulation made by “Christopher’s Original Formulas” with the above mentioned: Blue Vervain Herb, Gotu Kola Herb, Brigham Tea Herb, Ginko Leaf, Blessed Thistle Herb, Cayenne Pepper, and a few more goodies. The total MG of those herbs per serving of 2 capsules is 950. This stack, while helping retrieve objects from the mind in short order, also really seems to facilitate Focus and Fluidity. Focus, is focus. But fluidity! That’s a different thing. I assume it’s the Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) that is really helping the fluidity take place. Thoughts come quicker and smoother. Decisions come with obviousness. From one thing to the next, the brain can transition with little turbulence. It’s just.. FLUID. That’s a great place to be in if you have a lot on your plate, as I’m sure a lot of you reading this do. Entrepreneurs and productive people can benefit a lot from a fluidly functioning brain. Note: I take the 1.5G of DHA literally in a DHA supplement. They are quite hard to find, and you might find supplements with primarily DHA, with a little bit of EPA (the other omega 3 fatty acid, and also awesome to take). Krill oil (which has DHA in it) may be hard to achieve the levels of 1.5G of DHA. I know (for you Krill oil advocates), the Phospholipids in Krill oil make the fatty acids absorb better, but I don’t seem to feel the same fluidity with Krill VS an actual DHA supplement. And I am not sure why. But this stack rocks.
I have many many many more combinations I’ve tried that either work really well, not that much, or not at all. It all really depends. It depends on a lot. Nutrient intake, what you did yesterday, whether you have rested appropriately or not, and the list goes on. Did you get crappy sleep last night, and drink the day before? Well, your brain is going to be pretty beat up regardless of what you give it. I theorize that sometimes, nutrients and pharma can’t even work correctly when systems of the body aren’t at their peak (think neurotransmitter replenishment during sleep (or lack thereof), and prefrontal cortex dysfunction from alcohol consumption). It’s all situationally dependent, it seems.
Overall, I think nootropics are one of the best inventions on the planet. Actual synthesized herbs, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals that enhance brain functionality. Most of the “regular” people out there in the world don’t understand and harness their brains. They don’t get that the difference between a successful company, money in the bank, the Benz, and a great outlook, and being broke, unable to motivate themselves, psychologically terrified to take action in life is Simply. The. Brain.
What are your stacks?? Hit me up in the comment section.
It seems like a scary notion. And before you get contracts with big companies, it is scary.
They all seem like big bad corporate people that would shoot the notion of doing business with your company down quickly. These suit wearing, insensitive executive types. “They just have no time for me.”
And guess what? That’s exactly right. They don’t have time for you, or your service, or your product. They don’t want your pitch emails, your voicemails, or your cold calls. They want none of it. Ever. Especially these days. Unless of course..
They need your thing
And this now becomes your main mission. What companies need your thing? How do you answer that question? The answer is, there is no answer. You have to be an entrepreneur about it, and find out.
Companies tend to list/publicize some of the things they’re doing, which divulges the details you might be looking for. The 8th company I started, iMobileRescue Inc, primarily does iPad touch technology replacement. 60% of our business these days is B2B. I actually found a list on the web that listed some of the major iPad rollouts within US corporations and educational organizations. This thing was a goldmine.
It told me who had iPads, how many they had, and linked directly to their website (which always has some type of contact information). Then, once you identify who needs your thing..
Then, suddenly they’ll listen to you
A huge lesson I learned from bootstrapping my first company (forcing me to focus on revenue immediately) was that you CAN actually cold email/cold send letters/cold contact organizations that might want your thing. They may not respond to you right now, but the person you email, might make a mental note of the fact that your company can help them in some way.
I’ve emailed educational organizations (school districts) that have 2K or more iPads, to inform them of our touch technology replacement service, and our contact information. I know, that schools and corps have an average break rate on iPads/iPhones of 5-15% per year. I KNOW THE NEED EXISTS (for my Co’s service). It is not a guess.
But the key is, keeping it extremely short. Here’s an actual email I’ve sent to an org:
This is Ryan Ballow from iMobileRescue. You don’t know me, but I did some research about XXXXXX school district and found your iPad count.
Not sure how you’re going about fixing cracked digitizers (glass) on iPads, but I can offer you a cheaper solution than Apple, and likely a quicker turnaround. My info is below.
Safe travels (it was snowing crazy at the time)
And that was it. I didn’t act like I was spitting verbatim out of a book called “cliche sales emails.” I didn’t act desperate. I conveyed the notion that I can help them, left my contact info, and that was it.
I didn’t hear from this particular school district for months. But low and behold, when the time came, they remembered. I got a call from one of their IT people, to talk business, and I explained to them that we work in 1 or 2 year increments (definable by contracts), wherein we give discounts per repair ticket (per broken device), if they sign a contract.
The contract doesn’t have any stupid terms on it (we will bill you XX dollars if you cancel.. ), which typically drive smart people away; it’s a simple, fair, service contract that essentially lays out procedures and protocols, with little legal BS.
Contract signed. Now a 2 year customer. And the relationship couldn’t be stronger.
Sometimes, just being findable, will get you contracts. How are you findable? Really, these days, it’s one word: Google.
Which means you have to be really good at another word, which is: SEO.
The search engines are your customers’ search portals to find you. Ranking for the terms you know they’re going to search for is important. Then, when they contact you, it’s a much warmer sale. They’re contacting you, not the other way around. I’d read Moz’s blog relentlessly to learn more about how to rank well for the terms you’re targeting.
But really, the point I want to get across (and what I’ve learned in an epiphany like manner), is that:
- Big corps are not that scary.
- They need services/products. They pay hundreds of thousands, to hundreds of millions of dollars out to vendors, for services/products, every year.
- Though the senior people you’ll be dealing with do have standards, and are looking for something specific, ultimately, THEY WANT TO HIRE YOU. An IT or telecom (or other applicable position) person is tasked with getting the enterprise a solution in X area (your company’s specialty), and they want to find a solution.
- They’re just people. Just like you. They are no different. They just play a role within a company, to get a job done. Do not be afraid of them. They have all the same insecurities and quirks that you do.
- If the price is right, and the product fits what they need or want, they’ll happily sign the contract, and pay you your money. It’s as if they’re a lego piece, and you’re a connecting lego piece. If it fits, it fits. Your job is to find fits. That takes relentlessness, and some fine intellectual horsepower. The type that if you call yourself an entrepreneur, you should develop, or you already have.
Ever built a business to build a business? I mean: building a company, that finances either your lifestyle, or a new business (or both)? I have. And it’s been an interesting ride that has its benefits, and its downfalls.
A lot of us (entrepreneurs) have had the notion of following your passion shoved down our throats. People think their inadequate, or “doing it wrong” if they aren’t working on “their best idea” and passion right now. And in someways, that’s true, but in others, it’s not. The whole situation is… complex.
If you don’t like taking money, from a venture firm or angel investor, your only other option is to bootstrap a company. If you bootstrap a company, chances are, for a few years, you will have no money. This happened to me. I bootstrapped a company that does B2B iOS device damage management to profitability, where after year 2, the company landed some lucrative deals and I ended up taking some good money off of the table, but before those deals, I was essentially broke.
I was willing to take that chance. I took a huge hit on my credit (defaulted on car loan + other things), and got evicted out of my upscale studio apartment at the time. That sucked. But I recovered, stayed with family in the meantime, and then ended up with a new Mercedes, a nice apartment, and money in the bank. And a relatively profitable business. The point is, if you don’t want investor money, and thus control taken away from your company, you have to bootstrap. And if you want to be financially comfortable, your company has to succeed. And if you have other ventures that you want to go on and build, you might have to build a facilitator company (a company that acts as a spring board financially, and otherwise) that helps you finance your lifestyle comfortably to build your passion business.
Get it? Rather than shooting for the passion business right away, especially if you need money, you build a facilitator business in the meantime. What else could be more entrepreneurial? You want to build a billion dollar company, but you don’t want to rely on salary from a 10M investment from a venture firm, and want to take a stab at bootstrapping.. so you build a business to build a business. Need money to sustain yourself while you’re working on your billion dollar passion business? Build a lifestyle business to do so.
On top of the benefits stated above, you can earn a reputation of being a good entrepreneur, to maybe attract investors down the line, should you change your mind and want to grab some VC funding for a subsequent company. You can learn the ins and outs of building a business from scratch, marketing a business, doing client bizdev, and landing deals. You get to understand tax structure, corporation structure, P&L statements, and most importantly (if you’re paying attention to what’s most important), SALES. That’s pretty awesome, and will in fact prepare you for your next company. Again, I did this. And I’m 100 times more adept because I built a multi-hundred thousand dollar company, before attempting to build a multi-hundred million/billion dollar company.
But this has its downfalls. It’s not all Mercedes’, great experience, and cash in the bank.
It takes years off of your life, that you could have been spending focusing on your passion project. It dulls you as an entrepreneur in many ways, if you’re not completely passionate about the facilitator business you’ve built. And it weighs on your mental energy, that you’re not actively building your billion dollar passion idea. You feel like you’re “doing it wrong.”
Everyone else in the startup world is shooting for the stars, and getting 50 million dollar valuations for their Bay Area startup. And you’re building a “lifestyle business” that isn’t sellable for over 500K. You feel left out. Not in the game. Like you’re wasting your time.
But – hear this. Most founders I know, that are grabbing angel money, and shooting for these multi-hundred million dollar software companies, still don’t have successful companies (while I do). They still don’t have a huge client base (which I do). They’re basically broke, still both living with mom, and driving around mom’s purple Volvo. And they don’t know what it’s like to bootstrap, fighting tooth and nail, to retain a profit from the revenue they’re generating. Most of them don’t even know how to generate revenue. They spend countless months and years in accelerators, and performing in contests like show dogs. I think that’s the wrong route. Especially for real entrepreneurs. Ones that understand that fundamentally, this is about money. Sure – it’s about product, and changing the world, but the bloodlife of your venture is still, and will always be, money.
So – is building a facilitator company, to learn how business is done, to prepare yourself for building your billion dollar passion company the best way to go? Probably not for everyone, but definitely for some people. And you have to decide, based on the circumstances in your life, which is right for you.
I’m happy I went this route, and built a small company first. I know how everything works now, and am in fact raising some money (changed my mind on VC) for a billion dollar + company. (Salience9) I understand how this company is going to work now, and how to ruthlessly pursue revenue and profit. I get hiring, employee psychology, true bizdev, and building an organization out of thin air. And that’s exactly the point.
Everything has its benefits and downfalls. And everything is a trade-off in some way. An entrepreneur has to know what he or she is willing to trade, for what they want.
Good entrepreneurs have a lot in common. Their ability to focus excessively is strong. Their level of abstraction, in situations where people would think more linearly is pronounced, and their belief in themselves to get the job done is almost irrationally high. All necessary to achieve things, in this world.
But there’s one other trait that I find seems to be critically important, in myself to have, and in others who accomplish great things. It’s the trait of being a loner.
Good entrepreneurs, and creative geniuses of many types, tend to isolate themselves from the rest of society. You won’t catch them at the local hangouts, the festive gatherings, or the popular parties. They might know everyone, and everyone might know them, but they don’t often hang out with many people. And this is an incredibly important facilitator to their success as humans.
Most of established society aren’t geniuses. They could be, but the idea that you’re born with it or not is engrained in their skulls, so they don’t pursue it. Non geniuses, or regular people, though exceptional in their own cool ways most of the time, have many “normal people” similarities.
They often tend to impose their own limitations on other people. They aren’t really thinking about progress and evolution, but rather reacting to or talking about what is, and what they may not like. Some are happy, positive people, with no interest in growth and evolution, which is totally cool.
But good entrepreneurs, the creative geniuses of our time, want to be talking about growth and evolution, all of the time. We want to talk about our ventures. The things we’re up to. How we surmounted something seemingly insurmountable. The next action, the next outcome, the abstraction of the various pieces of the puzzle of our adventures.
We want to philosophize about everything, but we do so more accurately than the rest.
And people just don’t want to hear that. People don’t want to talk about evolution, growth, psychology, and the world. And that’s where really smart people have to isolate themselves. Because being around people who aren’t growing, is toxic.
I run into this all of the time in my life. I frequently find myself much much happier when I’m in my home office, thinking about the future, whiteboarding my goals, and sitting down for 2 hour clips to work.
If I go out, I normally run into someone, or a group of people, that for whatever reason, vampirically suck my upward mobility energy right from my eyeballs (picture this).
While I’m by myself, and I’ll make the argument that other entrepreneurs and geniuses are like this too, I can, and they can, control happiness, creativity, and optimism. There is no opposition. No one is trying to stuff their imposed psychological limitations into your brain.
You’re not having to deal w/ the negative energy people are emitting like gaseous fumes. You have your own ora in which you only think happy thoughts, and you’re hard at work, focused on what’s important to you.
Does this get lonely? Yes. Are there tradeoffs? Yes. You aren’t at the local gatherings, popular parties, or festive hangouts. You’re not at the local bars, nearby restaurants, hanging with the cool kids. You’re normally alone, in an apartment or house, and sometimes in a room, working on something.
But the ability that you gain, mainly in being able to control your energy 100%, allowing you to functionally move toward your goals, is worth it.
You pay a price for being different. You are the odd kid out. The odd kid out, that’s probably driving a Porsche (or will be), and building some awesome technology.
In every entrepreneur’s toolbox, should be meditation. But not necessarily the zen seeking type. More, the neurological enhancement type.
One of the interesting effects meditation has on me, is that my brain feels a lot more gathered. It’s a residual effect that can last anywhere from 24-72 hours, to more in some cases. I renew it constantly, through meditating more.
When I “meditate,” I really don’t think of it as meditation. I go in, slow my thinking down (takes about 30 minutes), and then after about 25-30 minutes, I land in this place where my brain starts to kind of magically work better. I feel my brain being aware of itself, and I gain the ability to self optimize (those who do this daily, or weekly, know what I mean).
Picture a brain, that’s been drained of electrical activity, and neuron signaling. That is, the cells in the brain are not sending charges to one another very effectively. They’ve been bogged down by anxiety and worry, and negative people. The brain is in an extremely depleted state. No vigor. No optimism. Just fatigue, physically and emotionally.
Then, picture that same brain infused with some type of strong electrical current, and starts getting the cells (neurons) to talk to each other in a more streamlined way. They start to integrate, and while this is happening, all of the various worries, thoughts, and topics of rumination, start to compartmentalize in their own thought blocks, wherein you have complete control of how you feel about them, and what you’re going to do about them.
Optimism soars, your positive outlook on your ability to hash out the world grows, and suddenly you feel ready to literally take the world on.
That’s what meditation does. It “gathers” the mind, in a really cool way. It makes you a lot more clear about all of the details you’ve consciously or unconsciously stashed in your brain. It’s total compartmentalization, and organization, without conscious effort.
So, if you’re in need of some “integration,” a desire that I believe most entrepreneur’s are shooting for, whether they know it or not, meditation is a pretty awesome cure all.
My technique summarized:
For the first 20 minutes or so, I’m just sitting there, normally with this track in the background, working on turning my brain ON in an internal awareness way, and off in a situational thinking way. I’m trying to be awake and aware, without thinking any thoughts, or firing off any English (fill in w/ your native) language. I’m also trying to minimize any images too. They will send you in an uncontrolled mode of processing too, and you don’t want that.
The idea is “controlled processing,” which eventually leads to a mental gathering that’s end state is like no other. I could not imagine life without this type of mental exercise. I’d be all over the place, and my confidence would take a HUGE hit because of it. I know, too. It happens to me when I skimp on meditation. Bad idea.
After about 30 minutes of this, I completely enter a state of total control. My brain is mine again, and the world becomes mine as well. Mine to control, mine to understand, and mine to NOT get anxious and worried about. I’m gathered. My brain is working without interruption. I have a clear stream of mental functioning.
Hopefully this gives you some good validation/insight into the gathering effect of such mental exercises. Or the motivation to do them.
I recently started experimenting a bit with biphasic sleep. Essentially, biphasic sleep is any variation (and there are multiple) of breaking your sleep into 2 increments. Whether you choose to throw a nap in there additionally, is up to you. I’m sure you could still call it biphasic sleep.
The common narrative around this subject is that humans use to sleep this way before the 1700’s. We’d go to sleep, let’s say around 10PM, wake up at 2, stay up until 4, and then go back to sleep until 7-9AM. There is said to be some type of refreshed feeling that accompanies this kind of sleep, rather than a monophasic (one block) sleep. Some people report that with biphasic sleep (2 block), grogginess goes completely away, which may have to do with the lack of delta of theta brain wave functionality around the time you’re waking up. The theories are endless, and there is some good science to explain the process, but I’d like to talk about my experience with biphasic sleeping.
This is normally a hard one for people to grasp. Sleep changes your level of optimism? Of course it does. It’s the reset button for your brain. Everyone feels more optimistic, energized, and ready in the morning (mostly everyone). That’s because you’re rested. But imagine feeling that twice a day? Once when you wake up in the middle of the night, to get up and work/hang out for a bit, and then again in the morning. Then, throughout the day, increasingly.
I started getting into changing my sleep patterns when I realized that the best way for me to be working on two companies at once (which I don’t really suggest, but it may be necessary for some), is to sleep a lot. And particularly, initially for me, it was to take a nap at about 6PM, for about 1-2 hours. It recharged my brain enough to sit from 7PM or 8PM to 11PM and work on my second company. Other things will do this too (help you be productive late in the night, after expending massive cerebral energy during the day), like cardio in the morning, but taking a good 1-2 hour nap at 5 or 6, works.
I found that I was a lot more able to “do optimism,” in my brain, after a good evening nap. Then, when I took it a bit further, into full blown biphasic sleep, the feeling of easily induced optimism stayed with me for the entire time I was awake. (I’ll get to my exact schedule down below)
So this is actually true for me. When I wake up in the morning (8-9AM), I don’t feel groggy anymore. Even though, I was awake at 2AM, and went to sleep shortly thereafter, and only slept 6.5 or so hours. That’s because prior to that, from 7PM-10PM (my first sleep increment), I got some solid rest.
When I wake up now, from both increments of sleep, I just don’t feel groggy. I feel light and awake. Aware and ready. And this feels really really good, and is super convenient from a productivity standpoint.
Now – I’m not saying this is thee irrefutable way to go for all entrepreneurs, because it might not be. But it could be a great idea to see if it works for you. By all means, switch to monophasic sleep if it doesn’t.
- You might be able to lower your total sleep to 6-7 hours, or less, from 8-10. People speculate that this happens because you enter REM sleep faster, because you know you don’t have much time to sleep (because you’re doing it in increments, not 8 straight hours), and your brain needs to make up for not sleeping 8-9 straight hours. It does that by entering REM faster. I have not done this yet, but I will, and will report on it.
- Increased focused work output – When I wake up after the first cycle of sleep (which is 2 hours normally, between 5, or 6, and 7 or 8PM), my ability to get on task and stay focused on my work is increased. Of course, that’s because I just engaged in a biological reset via sleeping, and recharged my brain to work. It works. I find myself being able to stay on task a lot longer. It’s easier to muscle through the hard brain work we as entrepreneurs have to do to make progress in something.
- You get to have the night owl experience – Some people hate it. But lots of folks love being up at 1 in the morning. There’s no one to bother you. Most normal people are sleeping. It’s dark, quiet, and serene. You have far less input, demand, and social media interruption at 1 in the morning. And you also have that night owl feeling where you’re on your own agenda and schedule. No one is there to mess it up.
I personally love being up at 1 in the morning, and working for an hour or two. Lately, it’s been the most focused, productive time of my day. I’ve slept away a lot of the accumulated mental stressors from the day, it’s 100% quiet, and I get the alone time I need to just plug away at the things that are important to me. It also kind of gives me the feeling that I’m taking the day off. It’s really quite cool.
- Work urgency – There’s an urgency to get right to it, when you’ve divided your sleep into two phases. You know that you need to get the second part of your sleep in, here in two hours (if it’s midnight, and you go back to sleep for the second phase at 2AM), so it forces you to set priorities, and get going on them. I’m learning Ruby right now (programming language), and one of the ways I’m doing that is reading a 600 page Ruby book. I’m blowing through that book faster now, that I’m biphasically sleeping.
My exact schedule
- I wake up at 8AM.
- I am awake until 6PM (working on my first business).
- I sleep from 6PM-8 or 9PM. (2-3 hours)
- I wake up, shower, and start working on my second business (lots of programming). I stay up until 1 or 2AM, working, with a couple 15 minute breaks.
- I go to sleep at 2AM, and wake up at 8 (6 hours).
- In total, I am still getting 8-9 hours of sleep, but breaking it up makes me perform a lot better. The sleep provides the perfect intermittent recharge, for increased productivity.
Overall, the question of will I continue sleeping this way is still in the air. So far, it’s done me quite well, and I enjoy being up in the middle of the night, quietly working. I enjoy the creativity buzz I get from this type of sleep schedule, and I am benefitting from the extra productivity, because each time I sit down to work, I’m rested.
I just wanted to quick share this performance hack that’s been working really well for me. First, I’ve been doing cardio in the morning. It’s literally the difference between me being stressed out and overcome by cortisol at 5PM, and virtually being useless for work at night time, and me being able to ruthlessly plug through the whole day, running my company, and then working at night time to build my next.
There is something about the oxygenated blood flowing through the brain that early in the day, and the working of your cardiovascular system, that really primes the brain and body to be able to muscle through the day, performing quite well, and minimizing stress. I love it.
But lately, I’ve been adding 1 other hack to that ordeal that I feel like has given me even more of a sense of energy, creativity, and well being throughout the day. It’s been: taking a quick nap, directly after my run.
I go out and run about 1-2 miles, at a fast pace, in the morning. That’s it. That’s my cardio. It gets me primed like nothing else, and I love it. After the run, I go directly into my apartment, take a quick shower, and lay down for about 20 minutes. Again, not that much time. It’s all very minimal.
I lay there, probably awake for about 13 minutes, and then I drift into this peaceful sleep for about 5-7 minutes. My alarm wakes me up at the 20 minute mark, and boom, I feel like I just got shot with an adrenaline needle. My energy is something else, and more importantly, my brain resets in this really cool way.
If you’re really tuned into your brain, you’d know that in some moments, you are far more creative than in others, and your perspective on life changes. You’re happier about little things. You feel like you can handle what’s thrown at you much better, and much easier. Your confidence is on beast mode, and you all around feel good.
This is the kind of brain reset that this strategy gives me, and I figured I’d share it with you.
Some facts to help clear the reasons this works up:
- When you do cardio, the brain derives a “neurotrophic factor,” a protein that is involved in good neuron connectivity, and growth. It’s literally called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, and is known to improve brain performance multifold.
- When you rest, the brain goes into a reset mode of sorts. Especially when you sleep. I feel like, after a run, if you go into a rest mode, you not only recover quicker from the run, but you get BOTH the exercise induced BDNF effect, and the rest induced neurological reset.
- Cardio specifically, but exercise in general, helps your brain to more rapidly supply glucose to the brain. Glucose, as you may know, is the primary fuel the brain uses to process information. With a better glucose update in the brain, comes better brain performance. I can get this effect from strength training, but not to the extent that I can with cardio.
Use it! And throw me a comment below if you do this, or want to chat about it.
Sometimes, being a good entrepreneur has to do simply with what you care about above all else.
Elon Musk cared/cares about sustainable transport, and has always been interested in rockets, and later, reusable rockets.
Steve Jobs, likely cared almost exclusively about the iPhone, when it was being created, and a good time thereafter.
And to me, in my own life, there are very little important things going on, other than running and growing my current business, and learning and building my next business.
On Saturdays, when mostly everyone I associate with is going to the local something fest, I am not. Because I don’t care about the local something fest. I just don’t care.
But I do care about: Business development for the mobile device services company I have, and learning Rails and AI, for the business productivity application I’m building. Those two things, virtually dominate my life.
I am willing to forfeit caring about a lot of other stuff, sometimes to the detriment of my enjoyment, and experience novelty, because I know I’m only forfeiting it temporarily. I’ll be getting out more, and enjoying what the world has to offer when I’m comfortable doing so, with millions of dollars in cash in a bank account to support me. — And then, once my two week excursion is over, I’ll be back to what I care about, which is building businesses.
Why do I care about these things? And why do entrepreneurs care so much about their projects, in a way that makes them take absolute precedence over virtually everything else in their lives?
There are probably many reasons. Innumerable probably. But one clear one is, most entrepreneurs recognize the window in which things need to be done. They understand that there’s only a limited amount of time.
Technology could evolve. Another company could out-innovate your idea. The market could move far past being interested in what you’ve thought to create, or are working on. And that is your problem to solve, by caring exclusively about your thing, and engaging most of your time in it.
Some entrepreneurs, are just in a race for cash. Sure, building companies should be enjoyed by the entrepreneur, and the industry/product they’re working with, should be exciting, but we can’t rule out the drive to get those Benjamins.
In this world, a world where seniors from 49 states are struggling to handle retirement comfortably, if you’re smart, you’ll be focusing on building and stashing a considerable amount of money, as soon as you can. Forget the Benzes and Porsches, you need to focus on building money to live. (But get the Benz or the Porsche if you can )
Ultimately, it’s what an entrepreneur cares about the most, that they end up working on exclusively.