- CEOs need a vacation that touches both relaxation and productivity
- Founders need an overall healthier lifestyle
THREE of the most common reasons why people want to embrace entrepreneurship is to create better work-life balance, have more personal freedom, and also make greater impact through their work.
Yet, after facilitating the Type-A Retreat for 15 startup CEOs from all over Asia in the Kingdom of Bhutan last week, the gap between the perception of entrepreneurship the day-to-day realities of running a business in 2017 was readily apparent.
While in Bhutan, the CEOs/Founders and I biked country roads through the mountains, meditated with Lamas in hilltop monasteries, and met social activists charged with ensuring the country’s adherence to its “Gross National Happiness” measure of development.
We also spent considerable time just sitting and chatting, discussing not only our businesses, but also ourselves as busy family men & women.
As such, I never interviewed anyone per se. Instead, the insights about life and business below all happened spontaneously as the result of the incredible atmosphere of trust and curiosity we achieved in retreat.
CEO/Founder Insight #1: “My peers are all healthier than I am.”
Two days into the retreat, one of our members divulged that she’d recently been in a serious car accident. While she and her children walked away unharmed, it lead us to a deeper conversation about health and wellness.
Founder and CEO of Triip.me Hai Ho then asked the group, “How would you compare your health to your peers currently working at corporates or normal companies?”
Shockingly, all of the founders present for that conversation rated their health worse.
The reasons why they worked such crazy hours, sacrificing sleep and not exercising, were nothing new. They cited investor pressure, not wanting to let their teams down, the ever-changing landscape of technology, etc.
In other words, all predictable – but still difficult-to-mitigate – pitfalls of startup life.
This is where I had my first big insight of the retreat: going to the gym or completing a bodyweight fitness routine does not constitute living a healthy lifestyle.
Same with starting a meditation habit or taking a class for fun.
When done in isolation, all are insufficient.
Rather, founders needed an overall healthier lifestyle – sleep, time off, healthier food, physical exercise, and family time all need to work in concert to help founders regain and retain health.
That said, we all acknowledged the monumental task of doing so in light of the speed of business in 2017.
This is what lead me to my next CEO/Founder insight.
CEO/Founder Insight #2: “I love to travel, but I’m incapable of taking a vacation.”
At first glance, this insight is directly related to the issue above: founders are living unhealthy lifestyles, and therefore don’t prioritise active renewal like vacation or time off.
This is totally true. But, in retreat, a second, equally powerful aspect of this came to light.
Business people are business people, through and through. These founders are so passionate about building their businesses and business in general that they simply don’t mind thinking about, working on, and building their companies at all times – including while on “vacation.”
For example: while hiking 7 hours to 3700m for a night of camping, aside from enjoying the pristine Himalayan nature around us, we happily engaged in a revolving conversation about recruiting, training, digital marketing, leadership, and VC strategy.
I know what you’re thinking: You’re hiking in the Himalayas and thinking of business?
Isn’t that the exact opposite of a balanced life?
For some of my friends, this is an anathema. To them, there’s nothing better than a week lounging at the beach thinking only of their tan and next meal.
I love the sun, but would be bored to death within five minutes of sitting there.
For me – and for the founders in retreat – feeling productive and feeling relaxed go hand in hand.
We’re the kind of people who’d leave the sand to go chat up the tiki-bar owner nearby about shifting tourist demographics, how she hires and trains her staff, her expansion plans, and the effect of recently arrived global resort chains on her community socially and economically, etc.
Business is simply a primary lens we see the world through, and we’re always exploring the social and business environments around us while we travel – for the sheer joy of learning what’s happening in different markets! Let alone promoting our own passions and businesses.
Thus, in retreat, our founders began the week lamenting their inability to vacation. But, after experiencing productivity travel hacks like our Type-A Breakfasts, and deep conversations with each other and local business leaders, they realized they’re not incapable of taking vacations; rather, they have insatiable business and productivity orientations that, if given outlets, create a particular kind of vacation that is both satisfying and nourishing.
In short, CEOs need a vacation that touches both relaxation and productivity, in order to achieve my third and final insight below.
CEO/Founder Insight #3: “I am so grateful for startup life.”
On the mountain of business, the summit for startups is usually an exit, sale, or IPO. As a result, we spend so much time leading, planning, and strategising, and not nearly enough time enjoying the freedoms we already have – especially those of us who worked previously in corporate life.
During our two-day trek, I can promise you the best part was not the freezing cold tents at the top or waking up at night to use the bathroom in pitch-black -10ºC weather.
It was the time we spent supporting and talking with each other up and down the mountain that was so much fun, if not invaluable to us personally as well as our companies.
Thing is, all the CEOs were so caught up in the craziness of startup life, that when the retreat first began we had to spend a few days processing the stress and lack of personal time. However, by retreat’s end, everyone was in awe of the opportunities of time, freedom, and impact startup life already afforded them.
Thus, what we realised together was that everyone’s initial entrepreneurship goals were already largely in hand – even if the summit of a big exit or IPO for some remained elusive.
Such was my profound experience during the inaugural Type-A Retreat this February. I simply can’t wait for our next retreat in June, and also actively help this community grow. I know for certain that my continued growth as a husband, father, and startup leader depends on it.
To apply to join the forthcoming Type-A Retreat in June, click here.
To learn more about Triip.me, please click here.
Trevor Weltman is leader of the Type-A Retreat in Bhutan and head of Growth @ Triip.me. He can be contacted via LinkedIn and Facebook.
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