Ryan Carson, the founder and CEO of Treehouse, has implemented 32 hr (4 day) work weeks and bonuses for employees who get 8 hours of sleep every night. I saw Ryan speak last May in New York at the 99u Conference, and his talk was easily one of my favorites. He believes that helping his employees live more balanced lives is about much more than the increased productivity at work, it's just the right thing to do. Although 4 day work weeks specifically aren't realistic for our company, I do agree that balance and healthy lifestyle should be a priority for our employees. At our DM Retreat in Lake Tahoe, we wanted to go a little further than the normal training agenda, and start to coach our DMs and recruiters on things like whole life balance and healthy living. Here are some of my notes from the 1.5 hour talk.
Whole Life Balance
There are 2 ways to interpret “whole life.” Whole life as in your 90 year life. Also, whole life as in all areas of life: career, financial, family, relationships, health, hobbies, etc. Looking at the first one, you want to look a your college years as a balance between the present and the future, more weighted to the future. You are investing money and time in college to develop yourself to be a successful person, to figure out who you are and what you want to do. What is the danger of more fun than development now? … Being a DM requires significant time and commitment, but is 10 levels above the normal development that you would get from just going to college. That being said though, there is still a balance, you want to live the life you want now, in the present, while focusing on your future success, so this is going to be some advice on how to deal with that.
Money is not the only currency. Time and mobility are currencies. The value of the money you earn is determined by the number of Ws you control in your life: what you do, where you live, who you spend your time with, and so on.
- Tim Ferriss
You can live life by default and go through the motions, or really try to design the lifestyle you really want. I heard a quote once that success is "creating your ideal future, now." First you need to define what that "ideal future"looks like. Lifestyle design is trying to control the Ws: what you do, when you do it, where you live, who you spend your time with, and so on. What does that look like for you? Which Ws are more important? What skills do you need to develop in order to control those things? Right now in college, you don't have very much money, nor do you have a lot of control of your time and mobility, but that is okay because you are more so trying to develop the experience and skill set to later on be able to control those things.
Let's talk specifics around your time:
50 hours per week of sleep, 25 hours school commitments, and 25 hours work commitments. That leaves 60-70 hours of time left over. Is that more or less than it feels like? Here is advice on using that time to the fullest:
- Stack your calendar
- Plan December travel
- Take your hobbies seriously
- Plan, and be vocal with your VP/GM
The above things sound nice and dandy in an ideal world. But what are the things that prevent us from what we need or want to be doing? (procrastination, laziness, distractions, fear, lack of motivation/discipline, not planning, etc).
- Professional vs college student (pro vs amateur) - getting the job done, no matter what. Your excuses don't matter.
- Discipline = freedom (Jocko Willink) - "The truly free individual is only free to the extent of his own self mastery, while those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find other to govern over them." - Socrates
- Start a discipline habit, something small that you can do every day, no matter what, to practice discipline.
- Not doing what you say you’re going to do is unacceptable and you will get your ass chewed out. Things in your calendar can move, but not get missed.
- Everything is figuroutable - I’m overwhelmed, I’m stressed, there’s not enough time, I’m not doing well in recruiting, I’m not doing well in school... approach these things with an "everything is figureaoutable" mentality. And ask for help.
Healthy Living - Body
"Ask 'what does it mean to be human?' And that's how we should take care of our bodies. - Kelly Starrett
Four cornerstones - sleep, water, food, exercise. These are keystone habits, they make everything better: more energy, better productivity, increased happiness, etc. Create self awareness and a daily practice around these 4 things.
Sleep - 7-8 hours per night. I track it with the Way of Life app. Even better, use a Fitbit or wearable tech.
"We care more about recharging our smart phones than recharging ourselves" - Arianna Huffington
Water - 8 cups (64 oz) of water daily, 2/3 of Americans don't drink enough water per day. Grab a nice Hydroflask, fill it up in the morning, and hydrate all day.
Food - eat whole foods, not processed food or fast food. Eat nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and veggies. Educate yourself about food, there are many great documentaries on Netflix, such as FedUp and Forks Over Knives.
Exercise - many CEOs and executives say that their key to success is exercise. Humans aren't made to sit all day. Sitting is the new smoking. Humans are made to move. Even focus on non-exercise movement like taking the stairs. "Don;t be heroic, be consistent."
Healthy Living - Mind
"We suffer from an illusion that comfort will bring happiness."
What does bring happiness?
“Very little is needed to make a happy life - it is all within yourself and your way of thinking.” - Marcus Aurelius
Our most important choice in life, according to Epictetus, is whether to concern ourselves with things external to us, or things internal.
The Circle of Influence from Stephen Covey. Focus on the things you can control, not what you cannot control.
"You don't control the world around you. You only control your response to that world.” - Ryan Holiday on stoicism
Gratitude is the opposite of anger, of entitlement, of stress. It isn't possible to feel anger, and be grateful at the same time. The same with stress. Practice gratitude - 5 Minute Journal, or some other kind of daily gratitude practice.
Mindfulness - a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
"Depression is an obsession with the past. Anxiety is an obsession with the future."
The Story of Buddha inviting Mara to tea:
...Instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying, “I see you, Mara.”
He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest. Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea, place them on the low table between them, and only then take his own seat. Mara would stay for a while and then go, but throughout the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.
When Mara visits us, in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you, Mara,” and clearly recognize the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart. By accepting these experiences with the warmth of compassion, we can offer Mara tea rather than fearfully driving him away. Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness. We express such wakefulness of heart each time we recognize and embrace our hurts and fears.
Our habit of being a fair weather friend to ourselves—of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can—is deeply entrenched. But just as a relationship with a good friend is marked by understanding and compassion, we can learn to bring these same qualities to our own inner life.
Pema Chödron says that through spiritual practice “We are learning to make friends with ourselves, our life, at the most profound level possible.” We befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.