Ken Rosenblood of obVus Solutions: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus
For mindfulness, focus and being in the present, breathwork is essential. Everyone should develop a breathing practice. The brain weighs about 2% of our body weight yet requires 25% of our oxygen. Breath work decreases cortisol supporting stress resilience, increases healthy hormones, and endorphins while activating the parasympathetic nervous system to operate in a state of stasis shutting down the flight, fight or freeze response of the sympathetic nervous system. Science now supports that wellness, performance, and focus are all promoted by breathwork.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Rosenblood.
Ken Rosenblood is founder and CEO of obVus Solutions, [ob-Vee-uhs], a Los Angeles-based wellness company that develops user-friendly products to change behavior and condition healthy habits including award-winning, five-time patented minder®, a smart wearable app + accessories that pairs with the Apple Watch to track breathing, posture and breaks through visual biofeedback; and the obVus Laptop Tower Stand, an ergonomically designed, height-adjustable that turns a laptop into sit/stand/desk, named “Best Laptop Stand” by Wired magazine in 2020.
A 30-year technology and healthcare veteran, Ken has a proven successful track record of pioneering multi-billion dollar platforms and developing products and devices in practice-based healthcare. Ken has had multiple successful exits from previous ventures in recurring revenue, PaaS, SaaS businesses.
“As more consumers are tasked with finding ways to work and study from home, obVus Solutions will lead the wellness journey by helping consumers build better habits, from practicing good posture and nutrition to the management of stress and other healthy behaviors,” says Ken.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was inspired and greatly influenced by my paternal grandmother and grandfather and my maternal grandfather, all of whom were hard-working, dedicated entrepreneurs.
My grandmother was born in Poland and immigrated at age 4 to Hamilton Ontario Canada. An entrepreneur through and through, she started working as a child in her father’s grocery store. When she married my grandfather she became an equal manager of their businesses. She gifted me a subscription to Fortune magazine as soon as I could read, and with her guidance, I started buying stock at the age of five. She taught me how to read the Standard and Poors guide, and the intricacies of the family auto parts and office furniture businesses, and later, supported my startup business efforts.
My paternal grandfather was born in Hamilton and started as a tire stripper at the Firestone Tire company, before running liquor from Canada to the US during the US prohibition as a moonlighter. While on a New York run, he saw the first refrigerated glass display case. He brought five of them back to Canada, sold them and used the proceeds to open an auto-parts store and an auto wrecking yard. After WWII he bought at auction from the Canadian government 50,000 wood desks, files and chairs no longer needed by the military, refurbished them and sold them for decades to come. I went to work in the summer and on weekends with my grandfather, where he taught me many lessons — most importantly, how to watch and listen.
My maternal grandfather in Los Angeles was an inventor, industrialist and real estate developer. Born in Brooklyn NY, he moved to California after WWII. It was here in Los Angeles where he invented the automatic baseball pitching machine as well as many innovations in the HiFi business such as surface mount patio speakers and psychedelic lights that pulsed to the sound of music. As a child, I came to Los Angeles whenever I had a break from school and worked at my grandfather’s factories and in his real estate business, which is where I learned how to run a business. He taught me to be scared of nothing. That if it did not exist and it made sense, you could design it and build it.
With all my grandparents there was nothing I was not made privy to. I was interested, and they wanted to teach. And it was from them that I learned many of the good habits that make a successful entrepreneur- problem-solving skills, unwavering dedication, a focus and desire to “make things better,” attention to details, the value of persistence, and perhaps most importantly, to have no fear. For these hallowed lessons in survival, I will forever be grateful.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
While all of my grandparents were each uniquely valuable in helping me develop the curiosity, confidence and skills to become a successful entrepreneur, there is one story in particular that set me firmly on the path to where I am today. When I was 7, I asked my grandfather in California how I, too, could become an inventor. His advice to me was to find something that needed improvement. After careful thought, and since the family ping pong table had just collapsed on me, I thought that a re-design was of that table was in order. I was extremely dyslexic at the time and when we sat down at his desk to design the ping pong table improvements, I was very reluctant to put pencil to paper. With the level of patience that only comes with age and experience, grandfather showed me how to use grid paper, a ruler, and scale to bring my vision of a better ping pong table to life. And while I remember being especially proud of the inlayed drawers for storage of paddles and balls, most importantly, I learned that day that I was capable of accomplishing whatever I put my mind to. And to never let a label like “learning challenge” hold me back in any way from working towards my dreams.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
My advice to anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur is first, do you what you love. And then find a problem to which you can offer a solution. Sometimes that might be starting from the ground up with a completely new product idea that helps people live better for example. Or, you may already know of a product or service that is useful, but which you can improve upon. Take the long view and don’t get discouraged if early success does not come automatically. Learn as much as you can and never stop growing your skills and knowledge.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’ve had a long successful career, both as an attorney and as a senior executive in the healthcare and technology fields. I’ve been fortunate enough to build on those skillsets and apply them to the founding of my own company, obVus Solutions. The inspiration for this company came after being plagued with health issues, thanks to too many long hours behind a computer and sitting at a desk, where I didn’t give much priority to my posture, stress levels or breathing habits. These behaviors took a severe toll on my health, eventually leading me to surgery followed by a long, painful recovery period. I knew that there were many others, like me, who were experiencing the same. That inspired me to develop a range of wellness products that can help people work and live better. Our flagship product, the minder app and accessories for Apple Watch, is an award-winning, five-time patented smart wearable that leverages the best of technology and motivational health coaching to help consumers reach their wellness goals by adopting better behaviors centered around mindfulness, nutrition, movement, and sleep habits. Our Laptop Tower stand is ergonomically designed so that users can easily position their laptop at a range of heights and positions and have the flexibility of either sitting or standing — without a standing desk. It’s both sturdy and light, making it conveniently portable.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey is a classic book that still holds up. I have used that book over the course of my career as a tool to provide a shared lexicon with associates. When a team organizes itself on the same page according to the same concepts and words — wonderful things happen.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
From the children’s book Flicka, Dicka, and Ricka Bake a Cake…. “A job worth doing is well done once.”
To me there is nothing better than executing at your highest level mindfully, effectively, and efficiently.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Healthy behaviors are the foundation of a healthy, long lasting and quality life yet for many of us, it takes a significant investment of time and repetition to change bad behaviors into good ones. That’s because our brain is inherently lazy and will do what comes easiest to it and what is familiar. Psychologists call this a “habit loop,” where first there’s a trigger, followed by the behavior, and then the end result, or “reward.” It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle and habits that negate our health become automatic so that we don’t even think about it. The good news is that the brain has neuroplasticity, allowing us to rewire our brains and improve the quality of our lives. It starts with awareness, then moves to data monitoring. Smart apps like minder act as an awareness tool, compiling personal data and tracking our habits — sleep, nutrition, mindfulness — so that we can begin to have a complete picture of our health patterns over time, with the goal of establishing better routines.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I practice daily mindfulness. I follow the advice from Flicka, Dicka, Ricka (quote above) that a job worth doing is well done once. For many years I thought going at it full throttle, 24/7, was the only way to succeed. I was dead wrong. I now break every two hours minimum. And when I do take the step of clearing my mind — by breathing in cadence, envisioning the ocean tide or going for a silent walk — I invariably come back to the task at hand with a fresh new perspective. I’ve applied this learning into product development for the minder app with a feature we call “ME/Mos,” or “Me Moments.” These are “mindful moments” that the user can customize and schedule to prompt meaningful “ME/Mos” throughout the day — anything from a 10-minute brisk walk, to a quick stretch — to help relieve stress and build better health.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Little steps and little victories that can be built upon are key. Grand plans of quitting smoking, drinking, starting a diet, and exercise routine all at once every Monday is always a recipe for disaster every Tuesday. The goal is to become internally motivated a little bit at a time. This is easier said than done. External motivators — whether it is a smart wearable, a health/fitness coach, or a bet with a friend — are all great ways to boost motivation until a new habit is truly formed.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
We define optimum wellness, performance and focus as having established positive habits in five key categories: mindfulness, nutrition, movement, sleep and our approach to habits themselves.
For mindfulness, focus and being in the present, breathwork is essential. Everyone should develop a breathing practice. The brain weighs about 2% of our body weight yet requires 25% of our oxygen. Breath work decreases cortisol supporting stress resilience, increases healthy hormones, and endorphins while activating the parasympathetic nervous system to operate in a state of stasis shutting down the flight, fight or freeze response of the sympathetic nervous system. Science now supports that wellness, performance, and focus are all promoted by breathwork. I just know I feel better when I do it. During the day I use electronic reminders to do the 4–7–8 breathing technique. This is a pranaymic practice made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil. It serves me as a reset button. I do it five times a day every couple of hours for five cycles which takes me 1:20. So a total of six minimum 40 seconds a day keeps me humming. I use my minder to make sure the quality of each breath is optimal. I started this practice 4 years ago and I have seen dramatic improvement in my blood pressure and have more energy and clarity throughout the day.
For nutrition, hydration is key and the use of electronic reminders from my minder smart app all day long reminds me to drink my water. My first reminder to fill up my water bottle (which holds 64oz) is set to go off while drinking my coffee. The water filter is a long way from my work area so starting the day with the goal of finishing a bottle by mid-afternoon makes it easier for me to stay well hydrated.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
For wellness, performance and focus, we look to breathwork. Everyone should have a dedicated breathing practice. The brain weighs about 2% of our body weight yet requires 25% of our oxygen. Breathwork decreases cortisol, builds resilience to stress, and increases healthy hormones and endorphins. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system to operate in state of stasis, shutting down the flight, fight or freeze response of the sympathetic nervous system. The science now supports that wellness, performance, and focus are promoted by breathwork. Focusing the breath on its own or while conducting any other activity, whether it’s yoga, cardio or meditation, should be the goal.
When trying to ingrain or make a new habit stick the concept of tying works across all the categories of wellness whether mindfulness, nutrition, movement, or sleep. Tying is a simple concept. Let’s say I want to start taking a new fish oil supplement but I keep forgetting. Well I never forget to make my coffee in the morning so tying my fish oil to my coffee making has been very successful. This can be applied to any healthy habit we want to adopt.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
In golf, I employ a pre-shot routine that involves the clearing of the mind and a specific breathing cadence. Almost every PGA professional employs these same techniques. Watch an NBA player at the free-throw line do the exact same thing. Repetition and familiarity allow the brain to perform the task at hand in a highly predictable and high-functioning manner.
Also — hydration, hydration, hydration. Our brain and heart are 73% water. This needs to be maintained, either by drinking water or by eating fruits and veggies with high water content.
Positive sleep habits are important for work and for play. Sleep is crucial to cell repair which is key to wellness, performance and focus. If you wake unrested or are having trouble sleeping, examine your routine for potential bad sleep habits that you can adjust or eliminate. Perhaps add a pre-sleep breathing routine, reduce your screen time 1–2 hours before bed, or try a nutritional adjustment. I find a magnesium supplement has a calming effect and helps me to fall asleep more easily.
I get my cardio from power walking. I have a great hill near my house which at the top of it you can see the Pacific to the west and downtown Los Angeles to the east. I sometimes just don’t want to do it. I can come up with a myriad of excuses, but for the last couple of years every time I get to the top of the hill I snap a picture on my phone of the view either of the Pacific or of downtown. It serves as a log for me how many times I have conquered the hill. I like to see my streak and the different views…..and it does change. My beautiful pics serve as an external motivator, beyond my desire to see my minder show 10,000 steps.
I also keep a plethora of sports equipment in my office. Therabands, Swiss ball, balance board etc. I incorporate these tools into my ME/Mos. It clears my mind to do some band work or 3 minutes on the balance board to break up the day and refocus.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
It all starts with a plan based upon a vision that you want to achieve. Having SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) will produce desired outcomes. Document your progress using a smart wearable like minder and partner with a health coach who will hold you accountable.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
Each morning, I practice meditation for a good 10–15 minutes, which I find has a positive impact on the quality of my focus throughout the day. I use my minder app to track and earn PATs (Personal Achievement Tokens), so that I get a congratulatory “ring” for completing my allotted daily “mindful” minutes. At the end of the week, I look at my health history and earned PATs for having reached my meditation goals. I find that gives me a feeling of accomplishment and motivates me for the week ahead.
In addition to “mini-breaks” every 1–2 hours throughout the day and a daily mid-day walk, I practice a breathing cadence of five sets of 4–7–8 breaths a day. This cadence, made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil, acts as an effective reset for me.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
My personality is such that I will keep going. I love to work at my computer. I have learned to make my tech my healthy behavior partner. I have my minder set up so that I get automated reminders to take my ME/Mos whether to drink water, eat healthy, go for a walk or just breathe.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
Sometimes less is more. If I don’t break for a ME/Mo I end up chasing the state of flow and don’t get there. When I don’t want chase the flow, and shift my focus towards the “nothingness” of meditation or exercise, that’s when it comes.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
To make partnership of technology and health coaching a ubiquitous thing. To have people get help from someone they like and enjoy the company of to help motivate them to achieve better habits around mindfulness, nutrition, movement and sleep.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
Obviously, I would like to break bread with Tim Cook. I love the Apple Watch and think it can do so much more to connect people with each other and healthier habits. I also would love to meet Wim Hoff or Laird Hamilton….two great disciples of breathwork.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.