How Rejecting The Superhero Mindset Of Entrepreneurship Made Me A Better Leader
We’ve all heard about the CEO who wakes up at 4:30 am each day and after just 4 hours of sleep manages a packed schedule with every minute accounted for and just crushes it. This hyper regimented lifestyle is one that’s associated with top CEO’s. So when I started learning about these seemingly supernatural beings I felt compelled to emulate their behavior. After several weeks, I came to the distinct conclusion that I was completely miserable. The lack of sleep made me cranky and irritable, my work tasks became unmanageable and uninteresting, I was less present for my wife and kids, and simply put, I was miserable. I began to suspect that perhaps I wasn’t CEO material.
So as I’ve done many times before when I failed at something, I went to my go-to strategy — I did the opposite. Instead of waking up at 4:30am, I got up at 6:30am managing to get in a full 8 hours of sleep. I also kept my schedule open with the exception of a few important daily items. And more importantly with a handful of exceptions, I maxed out my work week at 35 hours. The outcome of this lifestyle change was nothing short of miraculous. I was well-rested, happier, and able to connect with my wife and kids better than before. More importantly, I just felt more whole as a person.
When I started doing the the research I came across a study conducted by Antibodies.com. One of its findings was that in 38% of the countries with the shortest life expectancy, citizens worked on average over 45 hours per week. And every hour exceeding an average of 48 hours per week shaved 2.5 hours off of a person’s life. So, was this “extra” effort really worth it in the end? Were the professional achievements and accolades more important than my well being and family? In fact, were they worth the price of early mortality? For me, if the end goal professionally isn’t aligned to my overall happiness — I’m not doing it right. One can be successful professionally and yet fail at life. But if I succeed at being a good father, husband and friend, I’m certain to achieve true success in life.
As I continued my research, I learned that the benefits of my newly adopted open calendar approach that I experienced also had a basis in science. For me, implementing this approach made my days more interesting and less monotonous. As it turns out, Gabriela Tonietto, a professor of marketing at Rutgers University, and Selin Malkoc, a professor of marketing of Ohio State University found that when an activity is planned, it’s less enjoyable than if it had taken place spontaneously. It’s similar to when your favorite song that comes on the radio, it sounds better than when you incorporate it into your workout soundtrack where you expect to hear it. So, according to science, leaving room for spontaneity during the day makes you more content and fulfilled.
I’m not proposing this approach as the end all be all since each of us is wired differently. My experience caused me to recognize that I could take an approach that was counter to all that I had read in the current business literature and reap incredible results. So if like me, you’re looking to get the most out of your life as well as your work, know that there is an alternate path — and it might just keep you around longer to enjoy it.