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The Importance of Good Health for Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneur MBA Podcast 2.1

Today’s podcast covers an often overlooked one in entrepreneurship — being mentally and physically healthy and how that can affect an entrepreneur’s work. With new year’s resolutions just recently set, and many of those typically diet goals, this topic is definitely a timely one.  

Jeff Agostinelli is a life and business coach. Both his coaching work and his podcast, the Next Level Podcast, draw from his “years of immersion and study in the fields of natural health, personal development and business,” according to his website.  With the initial intention to become a doctor, Jeff was pre-med in college. He then detoured to Macrobiotic Chef focused on alternative healing. This enabled his private chef career which eventually led him to where he is today — as life and business coach.

Host Stephen Halasnik is Cofounder and Managing Partner of Financing Solutions which is a leading provider of Lines of Credit to Small Businesses and Nonprofits.

Summary of Podcast

Stephen and Jeff began the podcast agreeing that an entrepreneurs’ health can affect their ability to grow, and even run, their business. Stephen used the example given to him by a baseball coach from college that advised him to be at his best, regardless of external factors, and that training in the weight room and diet would directly result in performance on the field. To this day, Stephen still relates that advice to his entrepreneurship.

Agreeing how important being physically and mentally fit is for entrepreneurs, Jeff mentioned that just this morning he spoke with someone that lost several acquaintances to suicide. This shows just how many people there are that are silently suffering or don’t know how to take care of themselves. Jeff said this is also why he recontextualizes the “entrepreneur’s journey” and “how to play the game”. Going back to the Stephen’s baseball reference, Jeff explained that for baseball there is season and off-season, and that not many entrepreneurs look at business that way. This constantly “on” mentality leads to burn out and poor performances, much like what would happen to a player and their performance on a baseball team.

Jeff used another athletic example. As an “Ultra” runner, anything over 26 miles, he pointed out that one cannot just run to train for an ultra. He says he has to stretch and work on mobility, pace himself and know how to schedule. Jeff connects this to his clients by telling them it is not necessarily what they are doing is bad or negative, it is how they are thinking about what they are doing. Mindset is so much more than what one thinks. It’s how one thinks and how they feel and really understanding how to interpret what is going on in one’s life and body and business. It’s really understanding our emotions and how to move forward strategically.

This mentality is at the core of how to work smarter, not harder and making the right connections at the right time. Jeff challenged that all of that doesn’t happen for an entrepreneur from them just hustling and working 24/7. It happens by understanding there are cycles, just like one sees in nature and seasons and even, going back to sports, athletes’ schedules of training and recovery. This context is how Jeff begins to “rewire the circuits”.

Turning an Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite into a Superpower

Stephen reiterated the intense, long hours, and hard work that many entrepreneurs start out doing before possibly burning out. And that burnout might not even be related to business because life events also still happen to entrepreneurs. After the initial burnout, an entrepreneur might start focusing on good sleep, health or fitness, etc. Stephen then pointed out that priorities change especially with age. As one gets older they might start to focus on other things, such as sound sleep.

When asked what Jeff sees, when working with clients and their physical and mental health, as the number one big issue, he responded with habitual traits. He explained that everyone has their uniquely picked poison, and Jeff addresses this by finding a person’s keystone habit and their kryptonite that weakens them. He believes the thing that weakens someone is also their greatest strength. Not that it’s a deficiency, that it is something one is doing that is inverted. Once turned around, it can become a superpower.

As an example, Jeff used the ability to get a ton of stuff done and harnessing the power to hustle and work constantly. He spoke of a runner he knew that went from sobering up from addiction to running ultras to having a movie about his running career narrated by Matt Damon and his current venture, running from lowest of points to the highest in places like Kilimanjaro. This friend said, “The addict is all the best parts of me.” Meaning that the same person that was addicted to drugs and led him to his lowest points, is the same part of him that allows him to have the tenacity to really go and do the crazy expeditions and fully commit himself to the task at hand. Similar qualities, but on the drug addict side they are inverted and on the ultra side that depth of intensity is turned into a different direction.

Jeff explained the same concept in terms of an entrepreneur and their long, hard hours. Sixteen hour days turning into 90 hour weeks is not a sustainable strategy for the future. However, that commitment and amount of discipline can be taken and applied to a variable schedule and delegating and hiring the right people, while also applying that intensity and amount of attention to the entrepreneur’s personal life. That same skill can be used on say, an entrepreneur’s marriage and business, instead of “using it all up” on the business for a more well rounded life.

Stephen connected Jeff’s point back to his baseball coaches advice. His coach would always tell him practice should never be more than two hours. If practice was four hours, they were wasting two hours because one should be able to get everything in a two hour practice. This is similar to someone working a sixteen hour day. Perhaps some of the work could be delegated or maybe there is a more productive route to achieve the same tasks? Stephen then continued with how he views it as people only have a certain amount of gas in their gas tank. If that person uses it all up, there are no reserves. So it is better to pace oneself. Jeff agreed and furthered that there is also a cycle to it.

Breaking it Down to the Most Basic Entrepreneur Level

When asked, Jeff said it was tough to say what all this breaks down to at the most basic level for the entrepreneur. In his opinion, the only thing that really matters is if someone’s lifestyle and beliefs are getting them to their goals. If someone is moving in the direction of their goals, but their relationship sucks and they keep getting sick and their kids hate them, then clearly that is not an effective strategy if they want to have a good relationship with their kids and if they want to have great health. So the first thing is that people need to be really clear in what it is they want and not to have it be just about their business.

A lot of it comes down to the fact that a lot of entrepreneurs identify their self with their business to the point that it becomes them. So when they are not in their business they feel insufficient and lost. Or as effective or as strong — and it almost becomes like an addiction. When something doesn’t happen or has a challenge to it, it becomes a personal offense. Stephen and Jeff then agreed that it meant it was important to have other interests, but Jeff again said that it still came down to the entrepreneur understanding what it was they wanted.

For a more personal example, Jeff mentioned his own interests in life and his schedule around those interests. He has his business and his running, but also his nine year old daughter. So he had certain time constraints within his day and doesn’t have time to waste on things like just scrolling through social media. However he does schedule time to “meander”. This is his scheduled “leisure time” to allow that part of the creative cycle, in terms of rest versus action. One can’t always be active, they need that rest so ideas and concepts and next actions can flood in.

Macrobiotics and Restoring Balance

Stephen asked Jeff about his experience as a chef. To which Jeff responded first with an explanation and history on the form of cooking, or macrobiotics. Brought initially to the US to help people with conditions such as diabetes or cancer or other things that were seen at the time as an “imbalance in the body”, it was loosely based on the concepts of traditional Chinese cooking and yin and yang. The theory was that one could restore balance in the body through meridian systems and other things so that the body’s system could naturally come back into balance, for whatever imbalance there was depending on the “condition”, and could correct itself.

Jeff typically worked with people who had stage three or stage four cancer, living in their homes and preparing meals for them. The time would vary from six weeks to six months and the diet was prescribed by macrobiotic counselors. He would cook that prescribed diets for those he lived with for whatever period of time needed.

Using that same microscopic lens with the idea of garbage in, garbage out, Jeff went on further to describe how the idea is similar to what he tells clients now. When you take out the processed foods and eat closer to nature, your body works in a more natural rhythm. Though, Jeff admits it is more difficult for the average person to follow a more natural diet. Especially when most people grow up with, and become accustomed to in their adult life, the processed diets that are easier and more available.

Stephen brought up a recent podcast guest that recently wrote a book about the journey to getting healthy. One thing this friend wrote that stuck with Stephen was that he experiments with different changes. He reads the scientific evidence behind a certain change, tries it for three months, then determines if he feels better or worse than three months ago. Stephen’s takeaway from the book was to make these changes and then be realistic about whether or not it makes oneself feel better. Stephen commented that it was hard to follow a change when there are all these diets and suggestions out there.

Jeff agreed that it was hard and brought up the hilarious point that out of all species on the planet, we are the one that is most confused on what to put in our mouths. Jeff clarified and said that he’s not advocating that everyone eat super simple. He then said there was a different diet for everybody, though he doesn’t know exactly why or how, but it would be beneficial for so many if each person could find what works for them and then do that and share their experience. People should figure out what is best for themselves rather than eating from a place of guilt or fear of shame or anything else. Instead of eating because that’s the way they believe they were built to eat or because they feel great doing it. Over identifying with a way of eating is still not healthy and can have harmful consequences. At the end of the day, it’s about the outcomes and the goal. A good question to ask oneself is, “at the end of the day, am I supporting myself”.

And the “is it supporting me right now” is a good question too. Jeff’s example was his recent break-up with caffeine. He loves coffee and making “morning elixirs”, but realized it wasn’t good for him right now. It was overstressing his system and contributing to his short fuse. After even just a week, Jeff can tell the difference in his patience levels. The caffeine wasn’t working for him now, so he took it out. And people can benefit from looking at certain things from a “what is this doing for me right now” standpoint.

Rewiring Toward More Healthy Habits

Stephen related Jeff’s advice back to how he feels his diet reflects how well he can do his job. He only drinks one cup of coffee a day, eats vegetables, and makes regular exercising a priority so he can sustain the kind of health that will then reflect positively into his job performance. Jeff affirmed this as a positive strategy for productivity in the workplace. Expanding on the exercise part of Stephen’s healthy habits, he said that regular exercising, by nature can only help with overall focus and disciplined energy.

As a challenge to the listeners, Jeff recommends more whole foods. Saying “I’m going to eat more vegetables” is a great way to lose compared to the more winning strategy of “I’m going to eat two vegetables a night with dinner for so many weeks”. Something clear and decisive to incorporate more vegetables. Another great way to go is to decrease value. If one eats maybe two plates of food, change it to one and a half instead. Most people assume they need to add a bunch of stuff in or do something different when most people are actually overeating. So eating a little bit less or adding in vegetables are two great things people can do to start.

Jeff then answered a great question from Stephen about overeating, maybe from work or stress. Jeff has personally dealt with this, and still does he said. He brought in David Hopkins and his writing Letting Go about consciously using coping mechanisms. So if a person is under a lot of stress in a lot of areas, use a coping mechanism. So if someone is overeating emotionally, instead of overeating and feeling guilty, they should do it and then examine why they did it. Use the coping mechanism to examine and self reflect the reasons for those coping mechanisms. This is one step towards rewiring. “Nerves that fire together, wire together.” So on could possibly use this intentionality to rewire from “eat and feel guilty” to “eat and reflect” to help change emotional eating habits to reflect before overeating.

Stephen discussed his experience with intermittent fasting and asked Jeff about it. It seems to work so far for Stephen and Jeff said he personally likes it. He did caution that he wasn’t a doctor and so can’t advocate from that sense. He personally though has always been into fasting and that it has personally benefited him in multiple ways. However he also knows that people can sometimes follow fasting too religiously. And while it is great for people to use that fasting for a health goal or to help lose weight, a lot of people might misinterpret it as a “forever” habit and then end up overeating during times like the holidays. So like anything, when used wisely, is great.

To conclude, Stephen broke away from his usual and spoke personally to his some of his own habits. He prioritizes his health and therefore exercising. And he knows that when he eats the right way, he knows he does better at work. For the third point, he mentioned that he meditates to slow down his typical multi-tasking to allow him to think more strategically. The other thing is that he picks up things that are fun — like the competitive rowing he picked up this year. He makes exercise fun. Jeff expanded on the multi-tasking and how he has great strategies he uses with clients to mult-task on purpose. He also thinks that meditation is a great practice.  

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