Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find the balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”
“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”
Ep. #46 - With Tommy Barav, Co-founder & CEO at Magical
Tommy began his career at Rimon Music School, where he learnt a valuable lesson: you need to work hard to be creative. There is no muse waiting out there to get the job done for you. He graduated from the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at Riechman University, where he met Liat Aaronson, who became his mentor, until this day.
At Zell, he was part of the initial team of Argus, the pioneers of the field of car cyber security. After Argus, Tommy joined the founding team of MassChallenge Israel, the biggest startup accelerator in the world. From there, after working with several teams and founders, Tommy noticed a pattern - we waste a lot of time at work. Just because we're at work, doesn't meant we are getting any work done. So, eventually, he decided to leave. It was a very difficult decision, but the right one for him, for his physical and mental health. He chose to prioritize himself.
In a deep & fun conversation - Tommy and I dove deep into the secrets of productivity and effectiveness, and how to master our time.
Reflecting on oneself
Tommy did the ‘Level 10 Life Assessment’, a productivity method created by Hal Elrod that helps you get a better understanding of how you feel about the current state of your life. The method allows you to step back and re-evaluate your current life status, which can help you take the right steps to improve it.
I use this technique with the founders and investors I coach, and it helps us to immediately map out where we need to begin in our coaching process. It’s a wonderful reflection of one's reality, and you are welcome to pause, dive deep with yourself and try it here - in Hebrew or in English.
Another essential book I recommend is Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. It talks about our undisciplined pursuit of more– which in the end, leads to less; we are less focused and have less time. It is our need to create balance in what really matters, that matters most.
In my clinic - I ask the founders I coach a very simple question - “Is it vital that YOU PRIORITIZE THIS task NOW?”. It immediately helps to create clarity in what matters and where the time and energy should go.
Another way to check ourselves is to have a weekly review at the end of every week - as an event in our calendar, and (1) create a list of questions that helps us estimate and review our focus and progress, or (2) have our ‘Future Self talk to our Present Self’ and ask him/her about his/her progress and what really pushes him/her forward, or (3) create personal OKRs that we can measure.
Creating systems and rituals
Tommy believes that we should create systems rather than goals. Goals can be changed, but the systems help us create and internalize the rituals that are true to our core - both on a personal and professional level.
Tommy has created a checklist of the DOs and DONTs of his life. That way - he doesn't question himself; when in doubt, all he must do is check the list. Every morning, he goes through his list and follows the things that are important to him. The book Atomic Habits by James Clear helps in mapping our constructive habits and how to make sure they are present in our life. For example - drinking lemon water, red wine and sharing a daily productivity hack with my team in slack - are things that make me a better person and help me create the culture I want for my company, at the same time. That’s why they’ll be on my list. Also, in the DOs list - sleep for 7 hours, make sure I have time for the things I want to read, the things I want to write and the things I want to shape. In the DON’Ts list, you'll find, don't eat sugar, don’t go to sleep too late, don't be too apologetic. The idea is to be 1% better every day.
Part of the secret of being productive is to not get caught in a loop of our thoughts.
As founders and human beings, we often find ourselves with so many thoughts, and so many considerations to account for, prior to making a decision. Don’t try to ignore it. True leadership comes from being vulnerable. When we communicate how we feel, it is simply contagious. The transparency is doing good for the team around you. Of course - don’t share everything and have boundaries, but make sure you are a mindful leader.
Here are 3 hacks to “break” the loop of thoughts:
1. Contain the feelings
Do you remember how flight attendants on airplanes explained how we must first put on our own oxygen masks before that of our children? The same rule applies here; if we help ourselves, we can help others. Allow yourself to meditate daily. Use any app (Sam Harris has a great podcast series, or calm, Kai, HeadSpace, and many others). This should be done at least a few minutes a day, but you have more time to indulge, you can do it for even an hour.
2. Cold showers
The Wim Hof Method consists of cold showers and breathing practice. Although it may seem counterintuitive, these showers are actually beneficial for both your mind and your body and Wim Hof recommends incorporating cold showers into your daily routine, as it reduces stress levels, enables higher levels of alertness, more robust immune response, increased willpower and supports weight loss.
Practicing Gratitude is known to increase our sense of happiness. One way to practice gratitude daily is to express 3 things that we feel thankful and grateful for. Another way is to create an ‘appreciation block' in our calendar, in which we send thank you notes to our team, stakeholders, and people that helped us along the way. It helps strengthen the relationships and our own sense of appreciation and happiness. Making showing gratitude, even for the little efforts that others do for us, a ritual, and being cognizant not to take advantage of what we have, allows us to engage more with the people in our lives. ‘Firgun’ is an informal Hebrew term that means showing appreciation to others in front of everyone, and that’s also a great ritual to implement in your startup culture.