On Being Driven and Staying Healthy
Nurtured by nature, a pinch of discipline and passion!
Entrepreneurs are known for being hard-charging, working around the clock, and always putting their enterprise first. But as many of my fellow entrepreneurs have talked about here, it is critically important to take care of yourself and recharge to avoid burnout and be able to perform at the highest levels for your company’s ultimate success.
A three-hour train ride transported me to a striking natural landscape where I’ve been able to breathe fresh air, and take long walks on wintry, deserted, but no less beautiful sandy beaches, surrounded by gorgeous rugged cliffs.
For me, stepping outside in the midst of beautiful natural surroundings is completely restorative. As I write this, I am in Europe — far from my home in California — meeting with customers, government officials, presenting at conferences, and trying to accomplish as much as possible prior to year-end. This year, at a time of political shifts, it seems that many organizations feel compelled to act now, making this season seem even more hectic than usual.
This past weekend, rather than remain in Paris where we had been working, and which has been suffering from the worst air pollution the city has experienced in the last 10 years, I took a 2-day break in nearby Brittany. A three-hour train ride transported me to a striking natural landscape where I’ve been able to breathe fresh air, and take long walks on wintry, deserted, but no less beautiful sandy beaches, surrounded by gorgeous rugged cliffs.
Even though I had to do some work while there, the beauty and peace of the environment let me disconnect from my non stop work routine, while giving me space to problem solve, and recharge. This contact with nature is necessary for me — so I can re-fuel, catch up on sleep and prepare for the busy weeks ahead. It is not always possible to jet off to a favorite destination, but it is possible to get outside and change your perspective. At home, I walk or run on another gorgeous beach, privileged to work and live on the Pacific coast. Stepping away and getting outside should be a key part of everyone’s routine — and can help keep us all from developing tunnel vision or losing perspective.
Another key part of my operating mode is to try to stay in tune with my body, knowing when it’s time to take a break and doing what I need to do to stay fit for the long run. Years of ballet training and ocean sailing have taught me to know my limits, and nurture my physical and emotional wellbeing.
When you see the personal and public health impact of your enterprise, you can stay focused on an end goal and for the long run. And that can provide ongoing fulfillment, another recipe for good health…
While taking care of myself helps me keep my mind sharp and my body healthy, focusing on the bigger picture — not just my business or personal performance — also helps me stay effective. As a Public Health physician and informaticist, I have had the privilege to found and run tech companies that could impact individual and population health at-scale. Since the healthcare industry moves very slowly, this has often involved assembling a tremendous level of complex knowledge from a talented multi-disciplinary team, and lots of patience to execute on the plans. However, the rewards are huge when we reach our goals.
If I were motivated solely by my own personal success or wealth, I am pretty sure I would have let go long ago, or at least stopped after one or two companies. I am on my fourth company focused on the development of novel technology for individual and Public Health, and can see our team’s persistence paying off as the National Health Service in the UK is using our technologies to revolutionize care for patients with chronic conditions; or other government agencies around the world tap our mobile platforms to empower their citizens to make meaningful use of their own health records for safer care and to lower costs; or US veterans with complex medical needs tell us how our technology has been at times life saving for them when using one of our apps to coordinate their healthcare between VA and non VA providers.
This higher purpose — and staying close to users of our technology is more motivating than any financial success alone could be. When you see the personal and public health impact of your enterprise, you can stay focused on an end goal and for the long run. And that can provide ongoing fulfillment, another recipe for good health as a recently published longitudinal study conducted in England showed that sustained wellbeing over time could help us live longer and better!