Hustle. This is widely regarded as the top predictor of success for the tech entrepreneur. One problem- “hustle” in the context of a tech entrepreneur often translates to extended hours of operating behind the screen of a computer. In other words, hustle begets stagnancy. Stagnancy begets lethargy. Lethargy begets caffeine dependency. Caffeine dependency begets a depleted adrenal gland. Try hustling with a depleted adrenal gland.
Not that there needs to be added incentive to make health a priority, but vitality over the long term may require taking breaks from the daily hustle as we’ve come to know it. At least that’s the opinion of Beverly Parenti, former fitness instructor and founder and CEO at BodyAmi, an e-commerce site that sells an assortment of apple-cider based health concentrates. Parenti also holds the title of director of operations and events at KickLabs (ranked as the #3 US accelerator this year).
Tech Cocktail caught up with Parenti to pick the brain of someone who has successfully maintained the health of a startup without letting her own suffer in the process.
Tech Cocktail: As an entrepreneur, your most valuable resource is your time. Although health and energy are vastly important, it’s unrealistic for someone starting his/her own business to dedicate an hour a day to exercise. How can an entrepreneur rectify this dilemma?
Beverly Parenti: My first idea for an online business was to sell exercises one could perform at their desk. I was inspired to create this program because I saw first hand that exercise and health was a low priority for developers and tech types. My suggestion is to block out time to exercise just as you would plan a meeting or conference call. I often suggest setting aside only 20 minutes, up to 3 times daily for some form of cardio. It can be as simple as dancing to your favorite music, running up and down the stairs, jumping jacks, etc. Make it fun so you’ll look forward to it.
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest failure you see being made in regards to entrepreneurs’ eating habits? What steps do you recommend they take to improve this?
Parenti: Many companies and co-working spaces host free drinks and snacks. These often become meal replacements. Although the trend in San Fran seems to be more health oriented, I still see massive numbers of entrepreneurs and startupers drinking Diet Coke and eating anything in sight as a meal replacement. If they would be more mindful of what they are putting in their bodies and the effect it has on their health, maybe they would think twice. But during the wee hours, when there are few choices to satisfy hunger, they will grab anything in sight. Best advice is to plan ahead, keep an inventory of healthy snacks including fruits, nuts, crackers, protein bars, yogurt, and soups to satisfy ones cravings.
Tech Cocktail: Diets with the highest adherence rates are those that tend to be the simplest to follow. That said, what are the three most important tips you recommend someone follow to ensure a healthy diet?
1. Don’t wait until you’re ravenous to eat.
2. Plan ahead if you’re working late. Bring healthy snacks or buy some before it’s too late to go out.
3. Avoid all soft drinks. Don’t drink coffee around the clock. Drink water instead.
Tech Cocktail: In order to achieve health from a holistic standpoint, it’s important to reduce (or at least limit) stress when possible. In the startup culture, however, hustle (i.e. working around the clock) is regarded as the leading predictor of success. How do you rectify these two schools of thought?
Parenti: Life balance takes work and dedication. Taking short breaks (i.e. 20 minute cardio breaks as described above), going for a short walk outside, breathing in fresh air, even if it’s just for a short time, can create a calm feeling and help one keep focus when they get back to work. If you are in power mode, it may seem impossible to take even a short break, but if you condition yourself to step away, even for a few minutes, you could benefit. Breathing exercises are helpful, even if you’re at your workstation, or just closing ones eyes and breathing deeply, can be calming and refreshing.
A friend of mine was 1000% focused as CEO of a startup for which he raised >$100M. Rather than an elevator pitch, he had an elevator lunch. Riding the elevator was the only free time he had. Although successful, his stress level was off the charts. I insisted that we take short walks (to start) at lunchtime and gradually worked up to having lunch out a few days a week. I considered that a great accomplishment. Take time to nourish your mind, body, and spirit. It will help your work, your productivity, and frame of mind.
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