The Ohio State University sends out a daily news update to its students and faculty. For Valentine’s day, one of the articles they shared in the daily mail was on how to take better care of your heart – or as they put it “4 simple steps to a healthy heart”
It struck me how appropriate this advice – useful for any person, is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs – who all too often – skip meals, and even if they don’t skip meals end up snacking unhealthily, run around in a high state of stress and all too often are desk-bound and sedentary. If that’s you (it certainly was me), that’s not a really good way to take care of your heart and health.
The four simple ways to take better care of your heart they recommend are:
eating healthy in my case this began by becoming conscious of what it is I put in my mouth – my meetings seemed to be accompanied with drinking endless cups of tea or coffee (with large doses of sugar in them) and snacking on cookies (or biscuits). Simply replacing such snacking with a water or green tea made a huge difference. I’ve written elsewhere how eating healthy also helped me drop 15 kgs (33 lbs) elsewhere.
being active I’ve begun using a simple 15-45 minute (Pomodoro) timer on my laptop and mobile phone so that I don’t spend 3 or 4 hours sitting on a chair. Additionally, I try to put in between 2-4 miles of walking a day – usually sneaking away at lunch time. Try holding at least some of your 2-person meetings as a walking meeting, in a nearby park – you get some exercise and mind find your meetings go way better.
managing stress many of us when younger were like “What me stress?” But whether we feel stressed or not, the every day pulls and pressures of our jobs and lives do cause us stress. Conscious deep breathing, when you take that 5-minute break, walking around, mindfulness exercises or good old exercise are all good ways to manage stress. Of course, one key indicator for me personally is when my snacking desire increases, it’s usually a good indicator of being stressed.
avoiding tobacco here’s the good news – eating well, exercising and managing stress are all good ways to overcome habits, that you’d like to lose. Not having been a smoker, I’m hardly an expert in this area. But do what you can to avoid tobacco or seek help to quit smoking.
Yesterday I met the wonderful Artie Isaac, whom I discovered via his blog Net Cotton Content. As with any conversation between men in their fifties, our own turned to the topic of our children, whose stories weren’t ours to narrate we agreed. When it was time to bid adieu, Artie asked me, if he could give me a book – one that might enrich my discussions with my daughters around diversity. Being the shameless book collector that I’m I eagerly accepted his gift of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me.
Later in the day, I found myself nearly 15 minutes early for my next meeting (a very unusual occurrence for me, as most folks who know me can vouch.) I cracked open the book and began reading. Right from page 1, the book written as a letter to his 15-year-old son grabbed me by the throat and sucked me right into it. All evening I struggled as to how best to describe the impact the book had on me. Then it occurred to me that others had been here before – and it was John Keats who so eloquently described his experience of discovering Homer’s work through Chapman’s translation. I reproduce his poem in whole below.
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Much like stout Cortez in Keats’ poem or Keats himself reading Chapman’s translation, I too was transported to a whole another realm, held enthralled not just by the word picture that Coates painted but by the raw emotion, the immense clarity and urgent insight that he brought to me to understand what it was for a black man to grow up in Baltimore or the South-side of Chicago. In many ways, it brought back memories of seeing Boyz N The Hood back in 1992!
As leaders or even just as humans, all too often we lose sight of what’s important. Worse yet, we think we understand things – this book and Coates’ writing style brought me back to the simple insight, that there’s much we don’t know or even if we did, we don’t revisit it often enough to question our assumptions. Knowing oneself, the world around us and the others is an ongoing journey of discovery. Run out there and get this book. And thanks Artie for this wonderful gift!
After years of planning to lose weight and get in shape (sound familiar?), in 2014 I finally got my act together. Sure, a mild diabetes scare and being termed obese in that clinical way only doctors can helped me finally get off my duff.
Over a six month period, I dropped about 20 kg (nearly 44 lbs) and over the next six 24 months have managed to keep those pounds off – in the bargain, my resting heart rate went down to mid-to-low 50s from the mid-80s and I feel great. I’ve written about how I lost those pounds elsewhere, but I realised that some of the very same lessons I learned while losing weight, were equally applicable to being a good sales person. So here are the four lessons.
Every day counts Weight loss involves only two things – eating right (usually less) and exercising well (usually more). The critical thing is it has to be done every single day, certainly the eating right part. Exercising has to be done at least every other day. Some folks recommend taking Sunday off or even rewarding yourself on Sundays with a treat. Most sales folks get Saturday and Sunday off. Which means the other five days count even more. So make the calls you need, regardless of whether you feel up to doing them, do the research, meet the customers – relentless and daily discipline is critical for steady progress. And you know what? Once it is a habit, it doesn’t feel anywhere as oppressive as it might sound at first. Make every day count.
Plan and start your day early Overcoming 20 years of bad eating habits required me to start my day early and make at least two healthy meals (usually salads) before 7AM, so that when the munchies hit me at 11AM and 4PM I had healthy snacks ready with me and avoided the temptation of empty calories. Of course, it also gave me feel a great sense of accomplishment each morning (even righteous at times) and set the tone for the day. Creating a daily selling plan, before even getting into work and often getting in the first few calls or follow ups before 8AM will give your day a great start. A side benefit I stumbled upon was that many hard-to-connect people were much easier to reach at the start of the day. Planning and starting early meant I could balance some low-hanging fruit with a feel good factor and get chunks of time to handle that hard-to-crack accounts.
Measure but in moderation The first thing I did, once it was clear that I was going to have to lose weight was to get a weighing scale and the doctor did set me a target. I started with measuring everything – how long and how intensely I exercised and how many miles I covered in a given time. Similarly with my selling, I found initially measuring and staying on course with activities – did I make n calls a day, did I send the info to m people, helped me do the right things – so regardless of how I felt on a given day, I was moving things forward, however, incremental at times. Initially, when the needle began moving it was very motivating but excessive measurement (such as weighing myself daily) can be both obsessive and at time depressing, for as I discovered our bodies have an ebb and flow of their own – not unlike relationships in a major account or most other things in life.
Teams make it fun Selling, much like weight loss can feel like a lonely pursuit – worse yet a competitive one with the other members of your own sales team and competitors. Rather than envying the guy who’s running faster than you, on the treadmill next to you, working on a buddy system or with a team of running companions made it not only fun but a learning and fulfilling experience. Similarly sharing leads or even scuttlebutt about buyers or opportunities with team members whether in sales, marketing or technology and occasionally with the guy from the other company, always pays off in spades, not just karmically but often in new business and leads of your own.
Enjoy the journey – if it’s a chore, whether exercise, eating healthy or selling, if you don’t enjoy the journey it’s not worth doing!
An earlier version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.
For example, it’s true that not as many women choose to become mathematicians versus, say, high school math teachers. But is this really an independently made choice that young women take? Or is it socialized choice?
As the father of two girls, I’m always interested in what we as society and the communities we are part of signal to our children – especially when they are growing up. As the Cathy O’Neill, aka mathbabe looks at the gender wage gap (in the US) it presents a glass half full picture. Read the full article here The gender wage gap is not misleading
Despite having been through four startups – and dealt with journalist across two continents, it never is too late to remind oneself of what it is that journalists are looking for and how best to build relationships with them. Great piece by Pete Warden
For nearly six months I’d been planning to take some serious time off – and finally from 1st November, I took a break from my more-than-full-time quest at the National Entrepreneurship Network. I’ve now been gone a month and have still another to go, but reckoned might be as good a time as any to take stock. It has been a busy and hectic month – yet both exhilarating, fulfilling and neither as boring as others feared nor as stressful it threatened to be. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do this a lot sooner.
In this last month, I got the following accomplished
Learnt more about college applications and essays than I’d ever want to and shared some insights with others and helped my twelfth grader think about her options – I can’t say I got more accomplished but this was the hardest thing I did.
Read at least three books about Deccan history – absolutely fascinating period between the fall of the Pandyas in the 11th century and the rise of the Bahamani and Vijayanagar kingdoms and their eventual downfall in the 16th century. Still reading – all preparatory to my first historical fiction that’s brewing.
Enjoyed attending three Carnatic concerts by my wife Chitra, including the prep, the recording and figuring things about her website. Barely scratched the surface – much work remains. Caught several more by others with mom who was visiting including discovering old tapes.
Kicked off the Gratitude series – acknowledging, celebrating and thanking mentors and friends, who have helped m in the journey so far. Got ten of 30 planned completed. Again work for December all lined up.
Outlined – okay, draft outlined – one book – Selling Your Startup – that I hope to get written in the upcoming quarter and kicked off another book project with a prospective co-author, about Technology M&A in India. You’ll certainly hear about both in coming weeks and months.
Got a couple of travel pieces written with Chitra and already had one on the Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat published in the Hindu Sunday travel section.
Learned how to use two new pieces of software – Scrivener (for writing) and Unity (for game building) – still early days and a long way to go, but it’s always fun to learn new stuff.
As one of the organizers of our 30th Reunion chased my old college mates with varying degrees of success and good deal of fun & discovery – yep, good ol’ ITBHU in Christmas 2014 – this is going to be a great deal of fun.
Yep, finally rewarded myself with the new Amazon Kindle and putting it through the paces. Now all I got to do is publish some of my stuff for the Kindle!
Almost soon as I made the case why you need a co-founder, a friend responded with the question “What should I look for in a co-founder?” While we’ve asked this question of both entrepreneurs and angels, here’s my take on what you need to look for in a co-founder.
Vision Match Building a business is often a long hard journey, and you want to make your that your partner or co-founder shares your vision. As setbacks occur (which they will) or when money seems hard to come by, customers leave, milestones slip or worse yet when things work, and especially when you seem to be making more money than you can keep track of, having a shared vision will ensure that things stay on even keel. If there isn’t a shared vision of why you are running your business and what it is you seek, as a company and as individuals, it will be difficult to survive every fork in the road that you’ll encounter. And you will encounter far more than you can imagine. So make sure your visions match.
Complementary Skills All too often we end up hiring or connecting with people who are just like us. While that’s nice, its far more important to find someone who has complementary skills – someone who’s comfortable talking to prospective customers or selling, if you are building a product. Someone who can manage projects or money, if you are out there focused on selling; someone who’s comfortable writing or documenting while you are out there hustling or building. Usually startups require everyone to be as hands on as they can, especially co-founders and it can really help, if they can do things you can’t or do them better than you can. So make sure that they not only have shared vision but can do things you can’t!
Honest & Open Communication The nature of startups is such that you will screw up. Heck so will your co-founder and more than once. So it’s important that your co-founder and you share a healthy interpersonal relationship – one not just based on mutual trust and but on honest and open communication. If you walk around each other, either too polite to raise uncomfortable topics or avoid conflict or confrontation at all costs, lots of important issues will not get sorted out in a timely manner and that’s something no startup can afford. So it’s really important that you feel comfortable around you co-founder that either one of you can raise issues that bother you and can be talked through to resolution. Only with honest and open communication can you keep one another honest, not to mention your business out of trouble.
Here is Sanjay Anandram’s take on what to look for in a co-founder
Meanwhile to make sure that your prospective co-founder & you are aligned on
a shared vision of the company and its raison d’etre
what complementary value each of you bring to the table
talking openly and resolving matters through timely and effective communication
So go out there and find that co-founder. Good luck!
Over the last several years, I have written about startups, entrepreneurship and business in general in the Hindu BizLine and Wall St. Journal. I have compiled these for easy access in the column below.