How Focusing on Your Health Makes You a Better Entrepreneur

How Focusing on Your Health Makes You a Better Entrepreneur

Health is wealth.

It’s a mantra I repeat to myself a dozen times a day anytime my brain wants to slack off on training, or reach for those nachos.

It’s also a belief I share with many of my entrepreneurial friends, like David Hauser.

I first met David (co-founder GrassHopper.com / Chargify.com and many others) 10 years ago when I cold emailed him for an interview on my blog (recorded with a Flipcam :).

Since then we’ve spent a lot of time together talking about starting new companies, growing businesses and most recently around his health journey.

Even though he’s crazy successful, reportedly selling GrassHopper for $165M in cash to critix, it wasn’t until after that experience that he decided to put his personal health at the top of his priorities.

Since then, not only has he transformed his body and lifestyle, started a new food company SuperFat, a direct to consumer nut butter (they are SOOO GOOD!), but he’s written a new book that outlines his process for becoming Unstoppable

It just got released yesterday and was a big inspiration for me completing 3 triathlons in a month (not really knowing how to swim a month earlier).

I got an early copy, loved it and asked him to share some of those lessons learned for my audience of SaaS founders looking to transform their lives..

There’s a half dozen people I turn to in life for big decisions, David is one of them – I know you’ll love this as much as I did.

So with that, enter David.


It’s time to become unstoppable.

If you’re an entrepreneur, see if you relate to this statement:

I take better care of my employees’ health than I do my own.

Years ago, this perfectly described my approach to health and wellness. I knew how important health is to creativity, productivity, and showing up for work every day, which is why I stressed to all my employees at Grasshopper, the company I founded, that they should prioritize health.

Notice the key words in that admission: “I knew.” “Stressed to all my employees.” “They should prioritize their health.” To be honest, I was a health hypocrite for years. I talked the talk, but I did not walk the walk. As a result, my work suffered and so did my physical wellbeing.

What I had to learn the hard way is that focusing on your health doesn’t distract you from your work as an entrepreneur. The opposite is actually true: being healthy makes you a better entrepreneur. In fact, it’s the most surefire way to take your game to the next level.

I’d like to share a small piece of my health journey with you in this article, along with some of the changes I made that I believe can help you in your entrepreneurial journey.

My beliefs about entrepreneurship led me to ignore my health.

As I’ve already confessed, I always took the health of my employees far more seriously than I took my own health. At Grasshopper, we provided healthy snacks, drinks, and lunch choices every day. We did in-house yoga and stretching sessions, and offered massage therapy.

I would show up at the beginning of these events and be like, “This is really important.” Then I would leave. Why? Because I had “work to do.” Outside of the office, we offered to pay for employees’ gym memberships and reimburse them for participating in team sports.

I didn’t take advantage of any of it. I think the reason why had to do with the myths I believed early on about entrepreneurship. Our culture today has set up this paradigm that the only way to be successful is to kill yourself trying. Hustle harder and work longer, right?

Today I realize there are better ways to be an effective entrepreneur. As I started to think of ways I could prioritize my health, I studied the data around productivity and self-care. It’s clear that people who treat themselves well from a health and wellness perspective—including taking vacations—are healthier and more productive than those who don’t.

Health insurance companies understand this fact. It’s why they all promote health and wellness initiatives: they know a healthy person is cheaper to insure than someone who isn’t healthy.

I invested time and money into my employees so they could be healthy, but I didn’t pay attention to myself or follow my own advice. Eventually, I realized I had to start making changes.

This one change skyrocketed my productivity.

As we all know, entrepreneurs have been told that more hustle is the key to success. Part of that mindset for me was believing the myth that working long hours late into the night would allow me to get more done. What I’ve learned is that the opposite is actually true.

Working late at night actually decreases your productivity. You don’t get things done because you’re worn down, you make terrible food choices, and you’re downing drinks packed with sugar and caffeine to stay awake. You get distracted and watch Netflix for a bit, with some work sprinkled in. Four hours of “work” yields about 30 minutes of productivity.

That was my life for a long time. Believing I was a night owl, I’d stay up until 3 or 4 a.m. thinking I was being productive. It wasn’t until I made a simple shift that I realized how wrong I was.

When I started going to bed earlier—between 9 and 10 p.m.—and waking up at 5 a.m., I got far more work done than I ever did staying up late. In fact, those three hours before 8 a.m. are now the most productive time of the day for me. If you had told me that before I made the switch, I never would’ve believed you. I had to experience the results for myself to believe it.

When I get up early, people aren’t awake yet to distract me with calls and emails. When I’m with my family, I want to be fully present with them, so by working when they’re not awake, I don’t have to divide my attention between work and them. Also, starting your work day on a three-hour productivity train gives you an incredible sense of momentum.

When I go on vacation, people make fun of me because I still wake up at 5 a.m. to work. But guess what? By doing that, I don’t miss any time with my family, and when I get back to the office after vacation, I’m not buried by a bunch of work that I ignored. 

So, to my fellow entrepreneurs who are looking to be more productive: go to bed earlier, get plenty of sleep, and wake up before everybody else. Being a night owl doesn’t compare!

Changes to my office also improved my health.

In addition to getting more sleep, there’s another practical way I’ve prioritized my health that you can replicate in your work life. But first, a bit of background. I’ve always been big into exercise, from running in the Boston Marathon to competing in Ironman Triathlons.

What happened over time was that my knees and back began to hurt all the time. I know aches and pains are normal for everyone my age, but my back would be killing me from sitting in the car 10 minutes while I drove my daughter to school. I knew that wasn’t normal.

I tried everything to get rid of the pain: chiropractors, MRIs, active release therapy, an alignment coach. Nothing worked. It wasn’t until I bought a new office chair and my back pain got worse that I thought my pain might be related to sitting. I’d had a standing desk sitting in my closet for a long time. I took it out, put it together, and within a week, my back pain was gone.

I did the standing desk exclusively for a while and found that my calves and feet would hurt from standing all day. I decided to switch things up. Every other phone call I take now, I sit down in a proper chair, not a standard office chair. It’s a chair that forces me to engage my core and sit up straight. If I have a call on my cell, I’ll walk outside or go up and down the stairs while talking. Same thing when people come to me for meeting: if possible, we do a walking meeting.

Nothing is good in extreme amounts, including standing. I encourage entrepreneurs to buy both a standing desk and a proper chair. Also, walk as much as you can during the day.

The health of your employees starts with you.

Every good entrepreneur knows that the core values of their company start with them. If they don’t model those values, employees will dismiss them as unimportant. The same is true for prioritizing health and wellness. When employees know that you get up early, exercise and eat right, and remain active during your workday, they will follow that model. They will buy in, and they will want to do the things that you do. Don’t make the mistake I did for years and ignore your health for the sake of “getting work done.” This is important work, too.

Making these shifts totally changed my life. I have a great routine that prioritizes my family and my work (not one or the other), I’m not in pain any more, and my productivity in and out of the office has gone way up. Perfect example: I never would’ve been able to write a book if I had not made these shifts in my life. I used to get brain fog in the afternoons and waste a lot of time. Now, thanks to better sleep quality, regular exercise, and eating healthy, I have more focus and discipline. Once I changed, I became someone who was capable of writing a book.

 

***

David Hauser is a serial entrepreneur who launched several companies before he began high school. David spent his youth working more than one hundred hours a week, until he realized the toll it was taking on his mind, body, and life. After failing to see results from conventional wisdom, he decided to do what he does best: innovate. His unique journey to wellness has helped him realize his life’s purpose of empowering others to optimize their own lives by reclaiming their health. As David continues to evolve, he receives tremendous support from his partner, Dawn, and their three inspiring children. His new book, Unstoppable: 4 Steps to Transform Your Life, is available now on Amazon.

  • Kunal Sampat

    I loved this article on the importance of health and wellness for any entrepreneur! Two big take ways for me (a) need to learn how to swim (b) need to get back to waking up at 5am (no excuses). Thank you, Dan and David!

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