Leading indicators that something is wrong


I pay very close attention to three leading indicators that something is wrong. They are: sleep, food, and exercise. Sleep is almost always the leading indicator that something is off. If I am not falling asleep easily, waking up in the middle of the night for hours on end, and/not waking up feeling refreshed, I start debugging.

Easy fixes include: I have not exercised in the last few days and/or I am eating crap. I exercise two to three times a week. Right now, I am deeply obsessed with biking (https://www.strava.com/athletes/4946585), but before that I was into hockey and surfing. Before that, I ran competitively. It fucking sucked.

It is a guarantee if I don’t exercise and/or eat like crap that I will be mentally off. It took me a long time to learn this simple fact. We humans like to find complex process and practices to complicate the simple fact you should (a) exercise regularly and (b) eat reasonably well.

Those are the easy fixes. The harder “I’m not sleeping” fixes involving deeply reflecting on what is actually bugging me and keeping me up in the middle of the night. The potential topics of stress usually revolve around:

  1. I don’t like what I am doing
  2. I don’t like how people around me are acting and/or
  3. I don’t like how I am acting.

Until I figure our the core problem (it takes time), no amount of exercise or healthy eating will help. I used to meditate a lot thinking it would get me out of this state and meditation is fine, but unless I find and solve the core mental problem, I am not making progress and likely not sleeping.


Written by


Michael Lopp. VP of Engineering at Slack. I favor bridges, critical thinking, and Mac'n'Cheese.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade