Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a 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.”
Part 1 of The HR And Mindfulness Business Series
Ep. 71– With Yaniv Rivlin, Founding CEO, Bird Israel, and Bestselling author, “Life as a Startup”
We began our conversation with a low point. The moment after Yaniv graduated from Harvard, he moved to Atlanta where he got a job at the Schusterman Foundation. After all his education, being told over and over that anything is possible– reality hit hard, and it wasn’t anything like he imagined. He was all alone, surrounded by boxes in his new house, not sure if he was in the right place, and what the right move forward was- every exclamation mark in his mind became a question mark. He felt lost.
Luckily, he had the support of his amazing family, and his sister flew in to help him out. She knew exactly what he needed. The first thing she did was unpack all his boxes and carve a routine out for him- wake up early and work out every morning. Yaniv didn’t realize how much one’s environment and surroundings are crucial for one’s mental state: “Before I couldn’t even imagine myself getting out of bed and working out. But having her come and literally pull me out of bed and help me figure it out, I realized that this state I was in is not permanent. I suddenly felt better.”
People have different things that pull them out of their ‘fog’. For Yaniv, it is exercise. We should all find that one thing (or more) that helps us get out of our own heads and shift our perspectives– especially when we experience a big change in our lives. Yaniv shares that when he feels the same feeling creeping in, he puts everything down and heads out to a workout – it’s always worth it.
Understanding our own potential
Yaniv shares about his childhood in Katzrin with a smile: “Growing up, I wanted to be Michael Jordan. Sadly, I didn’t have the skills. I didn’t have amazing grades, nothing, in the beginning, would imply where I would go in the future – although my mother doesn’t like it when I say that.”
Of course, it’s not actually true; his potential was there under the surface for a long time, but even he couldn't see it. Our potential is something we all think about, but can’t really quantify or measure, and it makes things difficult.
We wish we just had the answers: the guidelines to our own life–the destinations we can make sure to cross and not miss out on, but we don’t always know where our potential lies. Sometimes it’s hidden, and we must make our own guidelines from our experiences:
“It's super important to understand through the journey what things you have, and how to build on them – our life’s portfolio. We need to treat our lives like a startup. Our portfolio is made of the experiences we gain throughout; we need to start building it from the beginning of our lives. When we’re younger we tend to have more freedom to take risks without going into ‘debt’ – we should take advantage of that.”
When talking about creating value through our experiences, Yaniv gives different types of jobs as an example: a job where you get paid a little bit more is not always better, because other jobs could build your portfolio in a much more profound way, so if we think about our lifetime value expectancy, a job that pays a little less can be worth more in the long run.
Being a CEO
After years of experience, Yaniv shares his passion for being a CEO: “In the end, as CEO, you need to know everything: you need to know when to focus on the macro, and when to switch to the micro. You also need to ask yourself if you like what you are doing along the way. Some people like to be in their own domain, excel in it and build their own kingdoms - and that’s great. I go for the second aspect, which is more like being a bird: you need to understand when to go from point A to point B, because if you stay too much in one spot, you won’t empower your team, and be the leader the company needs you to be.”
There is no right or wrong way of living our lives, we just need to understand the prices of our choices and be fully committed to them. Yaniv emphasizes the importance of doing what you love. He shares a conversation he had with two of his friends: While Yaniv and the first friend studied Political Science together at Reichman University, their other friend studied Industrial Engineering in the Technion. “I remember him saying - ‘I’m going to make way more money than you,’ and in response, we both said - ‘We’re going to do what we love and it’s going to be ok.’ Fast forward, we don’t make any less money than him, and we do what we love.”
It’s still complex, especially these days, but when you love the journey, you learn what to take from it and appreciate how you’re growing from it. It doesn’t mean you need to know the end goal right off the bat, but when you act out of love and follow your gut, you’ll navigate your best path.
Yaniv summarized it all in just one sentence: “Life is a game. Most people are passive about it so once you start playing actively, you're already one step ahead.”
So where is Yaniv heading? When I asked him, he simply said - “What’s next? I don’t know.”