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Sleep When You’re Successful

I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of ‘entrepreneurial literature’. Or really any entrepreneurial content. It’s usually written by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It’s usually aimed at getting you fired up and motivated about having your own business and making it wildly successful. 

That’s all fabulous. I drink it up. Until they start to talk about the hard work required. 

Now OF COURSE you have to work incredibly hard as an entrepreneur, especially when you are getting your start-up started. You need to build momentum to get it off the ground. 

And OF COURSE you have to warn people about this and emphasise that having your own business is not all cocktails by the pool while your sales roll in.

But often the version of ‘hard work’ some people are advocating is mental. 

Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck famously tells people that there are ‘no excuses’ for not building your side hustle while working full time, because you can work on it from 7pm – 2am each night, then get up in the morning and go off to your day job. 

Youtube vlogger and film maker Casey Neistat blogged about his daily routine, where he too works on his side hustle (the video blog) until 2am each night. 

It doesn’t help that Gary Vaynerchuck has an estimated net worth of $160 million and Casey Neistat sold his business to CNN for $25 million in 2016. These guys have credibility and they have massive followings. 

But the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds are littered with the burnt out husks of people who have devoted themselves to the idea that working longer and longer hours is the way to get ahead. These are people who are often working until 2am and can’t sustain it. Because no one can.*

But so many of us are trying to pretend.

Now, there might be crunch times where you choose to work late for a very short and finite time. But the strategy of sleep-deprivation that Vaynerchuk and Neistat espouse leads to greater success in the VERY VERY short-term…at best. 

To do it as a habit is not the path to the top. It’s the path to burn out and worse. (Arianna Huffington is the most prominent sleep reformer currently publicising the horrific impacts of long-term sleep deprivation on health and performance. Check out her book ‘Thrive’ for more.)

For world class performance that has longevity you need to have habits that are sustainable. You need to have habits that allow you for rest and recovery, so that you can be super focused when you are working. 

So what are your habits for rest and recovery? How are they serving you?

And do you have help to change and/or sustain them?

*Correction: very very few people can.  If you can sleep for only a few hours a night and suffer no impact on your health or performance at work, you are a rare statistical anomaly. Most probably there are severe negative impacts on your health and work, but they just haven’t shown up yet. 

A fixed mindset about a fixed mindset…

Warning: This blog starts with a humble brag. But it has a dark side.

In February 2014 Satya Nadella was the new CEO at Microsoft. He wanted to harness the power of Microsoft employees through a diversity and inclusion program called “1Microsoft”. The company of which I am co-founder and director, People of Influence, was commissioned to design a program on Growth Mindset and deliver it to teams across the Asia Pacific region. From all of the feedback, it had a real and lasting impact on the ways that employees thought about themselves, each other and their work.

But there is a dark side to Growth Mindset, and any other organisations seeking to have this real and lasting impact with it, need to be aware.

When you use growth mindset as a tool for self-reflection you can think, “Hhhmmm, what do I believe about my own abilities? Do I believe that my talents can be developed or do I believe my capacity is fixed? What do I hear myself thinking and saying that would give me clues to that?”

Then you can set about to change your own mindset, your own thoughts and words.

Useful. Transformative. Great.

However, as more and more people know about growth mindset and use it in conversations, they start to categorise OTHER people as either fixed mindset people or growth mindset people.

What’s so wrong with this you ask? Dr Carol Dweck PhD, who coined the terms, used these categories in her studies of school students. That’s the whole point – the ‘growth mindset’ kids tended to achieve more highly.

This is true. But when we start using the terms to categorise/assess/judge other people we have to be careful. This is where it gets problematic.

When we say “She is a very ‘fixed mindset’ person” what often comes with it is the unspoken assumption that they can’t change or won’t change. That they are stuck in their ways, stuck in their thinking about themselves (and others). We are sometimes mentally writing them off and…having a fixed mindset about their fixed mindset.

Of course, this is incredibly ironic. We are using the terminology and concept of growth mindset to reinforce a fixed mindset about other people and their capacity to grow, learn, develop and improve. Sometimes we are using the term ‘fixed mindset’ as a weapon.

So what’s the solution to this?

When we notice ourselves judging others for their fixed mindset, we need to address it in the same way we would if we notice it in ourselves:

  • Become aware of it
  • Approach it with compassion rather than critical judgement. We all have fixed mindsets about certain people at certain times, so we can all relate to this.
  • Watch our language and tweak it. Use qualifiers and specifiers to make the statement more accurate. One simple and powerful way to do this is to use the word YET. ‘She is not demonstrating a growth mindset ….yet.’

Janelle Monae (a singer and artist I adore) does a great song with Sesame Street called ‘The Power of Yet.’ Yes, Sesame Street. Yes, it’s cheesy. And it’s memorable. And if pre-schoolers are learning to have a growth mindset, we’d all better get on board and catch up with them.

So please, introduce the concept of growth mindset for yourself and your teams. But then apply that growth mindset to both your thinking about yourself and your thinking about others.


Posted to Developing Leadership Capability on 15th May 2019

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