CRA Health & Leadership Explored – USA
By Aaron Keller
I was fortunate enough to do an informational interview with an entrepreneur in my senior year at the University of St. Thomas. It wasn’t for an entrepreneurship class, because I didn’t take one. It was part of the marketing major work and this gentleman just happened to be a marketing professional and entrepreneur.
The largest memory I have from the interview is this quote, “Be sure to find something for you or this business of entrepreneurship will put you in a pine box way too early.” The funny thing is, that wasn’t part of my questions, but he felt compelled to share. Over the years I’ve heard stats like “entrepreneurs are twice as likely to get divorced” and “the suicide rate is higher for entrepreneurs than the general population.”
In a bit of research I couldn’t find any studies to confirm these bits, but there are studies to confirm higher stress and more worries reported by entrepreneurs than the general population. There’s also an increased risk of depression, anxiety, self-worth issues, and addiction. These can certainly lead to other bad outcomes and eventually someone having to work through your key person insurance.
Enough about the bad news, let’s get to what this means for you. It entitles you to some time focusing on what helps you be a healthier entrepreneur. It isn’t an excuse, it is a moral imperative, for your spouse, kids, employees, investors, customers, and friends. As 2020 marks my 21st year of entrepreneurship, I’d like to reflect on some healthy habits.
Exercise, my way.
More than fifteen years ago, we had a client who always asked for “the big guy” and I thought he was referring to my status, but apparently that wasn’t the case. He saw me after a transformative period and didn’t recognize me. I had found exercise. But, I’ve learned that exercise for its own sake doesn’t motivate me; I need more purpose. Like riding a bike to work, walking on the treadmill while playing Wii with the kids or completing a ride from Steamboat Springs to Salt Lake City with our Smartwool client, these endeavors hide the exercise. I’ve had to reconfigure my brain to make exercise a priority.
Slow down, don’t shut down.
Way early in my entrepreneurial journey I tried to turn off all communications and remove myself from “work” for a week. It was a complete disaster. Things happened that I could have fixed if I would have just checked email and taken 5 minutes to reply. And, I was more worried during this “down time” than anyone should be on vacation. So, now I check my email on vacation, but I don’t work. I am always available for issues and will address things as they need attention, but I don’t stress. I’ll have a call with a prospect or client, but then I’ll be on to other things. I had to rewire what a vacation was: not a complete shutdown, but a period of slow down, reflection and decompressing.
Food: consume to live.
My grandfather on my mom’s side was a noted bar owner in St. Paul and the combination of alcohol and entrepreneurship took his life too early. I’ve often referred to a large mocha from Caribou as my “job performance enhancement” drug of choice. Which is, let’s be honest, an unhealthy behavior of mine. My thinking on food is scarcity, veggies over meats, and always keeping it varied. Much of this I’ve learned from working with Dan Buettner the founder of BlueZones; any of his books will change how you think about food.
Experiment with your brain and habits.
A friend from years ago pointed out to me that our bodies are sending many more signals; we’re only listening to a few of them. And, now that we have more technology—iWatch, Fitbit, and others—we are gathering more knowledge of our own bodies. This has dropped me into a world of data, an addiction I’ve yet to conquer, and a better understanding of how my response to foods, exercise, sleep, and other activities. And, my newest thing is a new relationship with chocolate, not as a treat, but as a daily healthy habit. So, my experiment is 30 days, 30 grams of Verse dark chocolate (a client).
Entrepreneurship is dangerous work, we need to find ways to “de-risk” the lifestyle in order to stay around longer and pass down the lessons learned. If you need some perspective on a bad habit and how to rewire your brain, happy to have that conversation.
Be safe out there, entrepreneurs.