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There is an often quoted statement about entrepreneurs that I believe is attributed to Manish Sabharwal: “Entrepreneurship is the art of staying alive long enough to get lucky.” That has always felt true for me — so much of being an entrepreneur is managing the “down” days and getting cash flow to grow, but not putting yourself out of business in the process. And while there are those insane stories of entrepreneurs who get a huge investment within a year (or go public quickly), it really is a long game for most of us — at least those of us who survive. As we all know, most startups don’t make it. In 2019, the failure rate of startups was about 90%. Terrible odds! It takes a lot of grit and determination to make it in that 10% of successful startups, but it also takes more than that.
A key part of survival is staying healthy physically and mentally while we’re keeping our businesses alive long enough to get lucky. It’s all about self-care, an underrated but super important part of our longevity strategy. Many of us (like me) tend to put our own needs last. We’re so focused on the day-to-day business issues and opportunities that it’s easy to let yourself get fried. And let’s face it, many of us are self-proclaimed workaholics or Type-A personalities. Here are some strategies to avoid that and ensure you can stick it out.
1. Take actual time off
Not just a night. Or “pretend” time off where you are not working but are still tethered to your phone and computer. Take actual time off so you have a real break from the grind. Ideally, a week or more in an exotic place without wifi. Set parameters so you will only get disturbed if there is a serious problem. And put away the technology. Everything can (and will) wait. But if you can’t make it to Bali or Bora Bora, at least head to The Berkshires, Palm Springs or somewhere different so you can get a change of scenery, relax and decompress.
2. Get active
Don’t let your body start to give up on you prematurely. Stay active. Find time every day to move, whether it’s doing yoga first thing in the morning, taking an afternoon walk or biking after dinner. Even stretching daily can make a big difference in how you feel and what your energy level is. I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. The classes are not too long (half an hour) and you can try the 30-day programs. Plus, it’s free, so there’s really no excuse.
3. Go outside
Many studies have shown that nature can be a source of revitalization and energy, with measurable health benefits. Take time to go explore — go on a hike, visit a beach, garden or tend to your beehives. Just get outside. You’ll be amazed at how much this can recharge and center you and help not just your body, but also your mind.
4. Treat your body well
I’m a big fan of weekly massages. It could be that you love pedicures. Or maybe your body responds really well to acupuncture or flotation tanks. Whatever makes you happy and feel good, do it regularly. Don’t look at it as an occasional “treat,” but as part of your schedule that deserves to have time carved out for it. And while you’re at it, detox your beauty routine. Make sure your products (skincare, haircare, cosmetics, deodorant, oral care, etc.) are free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates. There are so many great, high-performing brands right now that you really don’t have to risk getting skin irritations, allergies, having your endocrine system disrupted or worse.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
I know that this is easier said than done — especially as you get older and sleep becomes more elusive. But it’s so important. Ariana Huffington has even made sleep into a media platform. Fortunately, for those of us who have a hard time sleeping, there are some great sleep aids available, from CBD supplements and gummies to pillow sprays and more. A big part of getting solid sleep is sticking to a regular schedule, so while you might need to pull an all-nighter every now and then, it should be the exception.
6. Clear your mind
There are a lot of articles about the power of mindfulness and meditation to combat stress, anxiety and depression. There are also a lot of tools to help you. Whether you like audio journaling with Journify, the Calm app or 10% Happier, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help to clear your mind. In fact, many of us need the help — it’s hard to stop when you’re used to running at top speed all of the time.
So when you’re starting to feel tired, burned out or cranky, take action immediately to course correct. Think about how you can rework your schedule and priorities to make self-care important. It will really help you sustain a healthy body and positive attitude in the long run and ensure you’re able to deal with whatever gets thrown your way — making sure you’re in the 10% of startups that survive.