A healthy founder is the best thing you can give your new startup. Sounds like common sense, but unfortunately, I’ve known too many founders who started out healthy and then developed health issues while building their new ventures.
Case in point. I had a client named John who co-owned a business with his brother Jeff. John played football in college. He loved physical exertion and continued to stay fit well into his 30s. When I first met John, he was super fit. But as his company grew; he stopped going to the gym. His waist expanded and he didn’t look so fit.
One day, when I came by for a meeting, I noticed that John kept rubbing his eyes often while he was looking at his computer screen, searching for a file to share with me. So I asked him what was wrong. He said he didn’t know; he said he was feeling lethargic all the time. Worse, he was having trouble focusing; and this was affecting his productivity as the company’s CFO. I asked him if he had been to the doctor.
John shared that he had been experiencing insomnia and anxiety. He saw his doctor and completed a series of tests. He’d been on medication for weeks now, which appeared to help for a few hours, but the issues persisted. His latest issue was reading and digesting information on his large desktop screen. He couldn’t focus for very long. His mind wandered and nothing stuck. It wasn’t a vision issue because he had just acquired new bifocal glasses.
I asked John, “When was the last time you exercised?” He replied, “I don’t know. Maybe 10 months ago?” Then I asked him, “When did your insomnia and anxiety issues appear?” He thought about it and replied, “Six or seven months ago?”
I offered my two cents, “Perhaps your insomnia and anxiety started because you stopped exercising. You’ve no outlet to decompress from your work stress, your life stress, right?” John replied, “Right.” I suggested that he considered making time to work out again, to see if his insomnia and anxiety will go away. I told him that I need some form of exercise almost every day to recalibrate. John looked at me and after a few silent moments, said, “You’re right. I enjoy working out. I always feel much better afterwards. I do miss it.” I said, “You’ve got to take good care of your health because no one can do that for you.”
Three weeks passed until our next meeting. John was back to his alert self. He told me that he listened to my advice and started working out the next day, and every morning before going into the office. He also stopped taking his medication and eating healthier. Waist was shrinking. Insomnia: gone. Palpitations: gone. Fortunately for John, he got back on the exercise train and resolved his health issues.
I knew another co-founder / CEO who did not keep up her fitness routine in spite of my constant efforts to get her to decompress. During a very stressful period, she made a couple of rash decisions that created adverse results for her startup.
From the start, incorporate exercise into your startup life and commit to it. See it as essential as eating and sleeping. Do not give it up, period.
If you do not institute ways to decompress and recharge, you will accumulate stress that shall affect how you think and how you work. We all know that it is not prudent to make decisions under duress; most likely, you will not think clearly and select the best course of action.
In addition, if you value your health, then you’re more likely to value your employees’ health. If you don’t value your wellbeing and abuse your health (long work hours, eating badly, not sleeping enough, and skipping exercise), you’re more likely to expect your employees to do the same. Overworked and stressed out employees will affect company morale, which in turn affects the company’s health. Worse, if you get sick, your venture will falter, especially when you are the founder and in the driver’s seat.
Keep this in mind, your health has a direct impact on your venture’s health. Take great care of it!
© 2013-2015 My-Tien Vo