Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Sleep

There was one take-away from the Stanford University panel "The Global Leadership and Talent Equation" that is so powerful and simple that it deserves its own post. Eric Benhamou, Chairman and CEO, Benhamou Global Ventures, is a seasoned veteran who has started, run, and sold many businesses during his long and distinguished career. The final moderated question of the panel asked what is one piece of advice that the panelists had for every aspiring entrepreneur. Eric's answer: sleep. The audience laughed at this answer. Of all the things we need to do and should do as entrepreneurs, Eric recommended "sleep"? In all seriousness, yes.

Eloquently, he made his case without cracking a smile. Eric describes Silicon Valley as a chronically sleep deprived area of the world. With so much to do and learn, there is hardly time to slow down. Yes, Eric argues that in order to keep going, we have to slow down. He discussed how a lack of sleep depresses the immune system and makes clear, decisive decision making nearly impossible. Sleep helps us to reason through difficult problems; it gives our minds time to dream.

In addition to sleep, the idea of pure down time is critical to staying at the very top of our game. Downtime can take the form of a hobby, socializing, running, or meditating. I also think that there's something to be said for getting some time out in the fresh air every day, unplugged from any kind of electronic device, off of concrete. When I was in San Francisco, I found myself lifted from a funk I have been in for a while. As I was walking through a park, I recognized the cause of my funk -- I needed to see some greenery, something that symbolized life. In New York it's grown pretty gray and we've been dealing with the tail-end of a cold winter. We all need a little sunshine, a little warmth, and a little green in order to keep our spirits up.

Entrepreneurs, take yourself for a walk and get some shut-eye. You're going to need it.

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