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1. Are you eating?
These are simple questions. But they get at the heart of the basic needs of a human. Food, drink, shelter, sleep, and oxygen. To be fair, the likely answer to these questions will be yes, but they get at the underlying grinding nature the challenge in starting or running a company.
The early days of starting Cremalab were in my early 20’s. I was married and we had just had our first child. My wife was early in her nursing career and I was now a freelance designer. Looking back. I think my hourly rate was something close to $20/hour, and I had not sold out of some previous company with a wad of cash. Needless to say, the luxurious life of entrepreneurship was not raking it in. But I was grinding. Working long hours to get more clients, doing more design, managing more projects and only sometimes remembering to eat. Thankfully I had a spouse that helped provide for us as we were getting started. We didn’t splurge on food, but we also didn’t starve. But food costs money and takes time to eat.
Are you eating? The question actually unpacks two questions.
- Are you stopping long enough to feed your body? Or are you moving so fast, so hard, so tirelessly that you’ve forgotten to refuel. Our office manager at Crema still often asks me if I ate lunch. I get in the zone and just forget to eat.
- Are you making enough money to actually eat? Likely if you’re not, you’re borrowing or using a credit card, but the question drives at the same root. Have you found a business model that creates value, revenue or potential opportunity for investment in a way that you have some money in your bank account to buy a sandwich?
I still remember the day that one of our clients had missed their payments, and we realized they didn’t get the funding they had thought was a sure thing. In the meeting, they expressed that they had been living off large jars of peanut butter to get by. This may have been true or an exaggeration, but the principal is still there.
Are you eating?
(Side note. Best investment? Eggs. SUPER cheap, filling and mostly good for you.)
2. Are you sleeping?
Everyone talks about how vital it is to get good rest. But at the same time they cheer on the hard working, grinding hustler working twenty four hours a day. Burning the midnight oil.
A good litmus test for the stage of an entrepreneur is to understand if they are sleeping. If you are sleeping than you have systems, processes, people in place allow you to turn it off just enough hours to give your body rest, so that you can create greater impact the next day.
Good sleep gets to the heart of two questions as well:
- Have you reached a season in your business where you are not doing everything. Are you still creating the product, supporting the customer, finding new customers, taking out the trash, doing the books, etc. You have to replace yourself enough with processes that work and trust that you can spread the load across a trusted team.
- Is you mental and stress level dialed down enough that you can actually turn your brain off and go to sleep. Can you stay asleep hopefully without some type of aid? When you reach this point, then you can enjoy the rest sleep offers, and value the results of a good night of sleep.
Sleep is my biggest struggle
As the founder, I carry this “feeling” that I should never stop. That I should check email one more time. Write one more blog post. Review one more design. Follow up with one more sales lead.
Or its just that I can’t turn off the engine in my head. Constantly thinking about how to find more clients, recruit the next talent, take the next risk, improve our processes, promote our company, and pay the bills. Even with an incredible team, and awesome business partner, I find myself tossing in turning as I dream about work.
It will come in waves
Everything has its season. A new normal for today. These two questions often are my first “dig deeper” probes after someone tells me that they starting or have been running a business.
In the early days. The waves can tend to be relentless, tiring and brutal. Yet if you can catch them just right, its exciting and fun, and you just can’t wait for the next one.
As time goes on, the waves tend to settle out a bit, and you’ll find season where you can eat and sleep like a king. Wondering how you ever survived without it. Then you say yes to the next opportunity. You push the company further, or you start the next thing, and the grind has you skipping a few lunches and waking up dreaming about how you’ll get your venture to the next level.
So what about you?
Are you eating? Are you sleeping?
Let me know in the comments below or give me a few claps!
Oh, and the next question I always ask after this, “Are you still having fun?”