The Best Entrepreneurs are Gym Rats
In my work as a business attorney, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of companies in a variety of stages, but I particularly enjoy working with startups.
It’s fun working with early-stage companies, because every company and every situation is different. Some need to be set up, some are raising angel and venture capital, some need help with general contract negotiation and drafting, and others are on a hiring spree. However, a few things hold true throughout these diverse startup companies. For one, it takes a ton of work to make a new business successful. A close second is that the best entrepreneurs are generally somewhat crazy (no offense) – like “I feel dizzy because I forgot to eat today” crazy. Or "I feel dizzy because I just did a 1440 on my hoverboard" crazy.
The Opposite Effect
In the midst of the craziness, sometimes my clients will reach out to me just to talk. One thing that might make me a little different than other lawyers is that my undergraduate degree is in exercise science. So, I’m probably biased, but I think the best non-legal advice I can give entrepreneurs in the middle of crazy time is to take care of yourself. I’m a big advocate for personal fitness, (pretty) good nutrition and a healthy amount of sleep. I personally enjoy playing pickup basketball and am somewhat religious about working out three or four times a week with my friends at IronTribe Fitness. Working out and staying physically active help keep me sane, especially when the schedule is packed and it doesn’t really look like there is time for it.
Most people tend to avoid exercise, thinking it will have the opposite effect of what we desire—making us feel more exhausted. To the contrary, even in a week where I’ve worked and traveled well over 40 hours, maintaining my exercise regimen of 30-60 minutes a few times a week enables me to sleep better, re-charge more quickly, and stay sharper and more alert as I go about my work.
I’m currently reading a really great book about the formula for startup success. Raleigh entrepreneur and investor Bobby Martin (First Research, Vertical IQ) recently published The Hockey Stick Principles: The Four Key Stages to Entrepreneurial Success.
In the Hockey Stick Principles, Martin addresses head-on the physical toll of building a business from the ground up: Hockey Stick Principle #24 is “Building a startup is a physical challenge as well as a mental one.” He also highlights something that many of you who’ve been involved in startups can validate as all too real—not only the volume of decisions that have to be made on a daily basis, but also the speed at which you must make them. These twin factors of responsibility lead to a dynamic called “decision fatigue,” as Martin cites the work of psychologist Roy Baumeister.
No one can operate at optimum levels if they are exhausted, so any entrepreneur that wants to be successful will do well to mitigate this decision fatigue. Exercise, nutrition, sleep, days off, and vacation time will contribute to not only performing better, but will also allow you to enjoy life to a greater extent while slogging through the tough times. Building a successful business isn’t going to do you any good if you ruin your life in the process.
While I have more sophisticated, complex advice for the legal aspects of running a startup, my non-legal advice is pretty simple: Avoid the urge to overwork, to the point where you’re not leaving time to unplug, exercise, and spend time with your family and friends. Yes, building a startup into something special takes hard work, and lots of it. The ride will be bumpy, even if you’re the one executive in history to never make a mistake. But the road will be much smoother for you and those you care about if you take care of yourself.
Say hi to Jesse on Twitter @jjonesJD