Having recently started my fourth business and designing my fifth, I can claim some reasonable understanding of what it takes to run a successful business.
A business is nothing but a coordination of systems that ultimately results in an exchange of value. One party produces an offer of said exchange, and another party agrees to that offer: business is being done.
There are an endless number of ways to develop offers, endless ways to make offers, and endless ways to fulfill offers. However, all of these steps must occur to produce a desirable outcome.
I would like to suggest that the best way to perform all of these steps-with consistency and accuracy-in order to get the result you want-is to ensure that the executive responsible for each step is routinely drunk, anxious, and depressed. If you can figure out a way to make sure that she is malnourished, sleep deprived, and not getting enough exercise-even better.
At first blush this might seem like a crazy idea. However, if you truly commit to giving this a try, you and your business will eventually reach a new homeostatic level, wherein you won’t even remember what is was like to have a sober, focused, and healthy CEO. A status quo will be set in place. Meaning, any routine breakdowns in your business systems will just become “normal” and you will develop routine methods (or habits) that will let such breakdowns largely go unnoticed. You can call it business as usual.
Once all of your executives-especially your CEO-are operating in this highly impaired “normal” state, the business will slowly but surely adapt. Your executives will certainly have novel ideas on how to grow your business. And as time goes on, your CEO will feel less inhibited and more in charge. Although you may notice that she has completely unpredictable behavior patterns and shifts her focus rapidly, and sometimes lacks any semblance of focus at all, this is a good thing because she feels and acts as though she is truly in charge.
“Preposterous” you say? Hiring and keeping a drunk, depressed and otherwise impaired CEO sounds like the dumbest business advice I’ve ever heard? Perhaps you think I’m impaired writing this blog? You probably think that there is no possible way that following this advice could end up with anything other than complete failure and disaster.
If so, I would agree with you on all accounts.
Curiously though, as a society, most people follow this exact business practice. Any executive you employ, as well as your value as an executive, are only valuable to your business or employer because they can perform actions that we often call “executive functions”.
Executive functions require planning, decisions, novel responses to novel situations, novel sequences to routine problems, overcoming automatic behaviors, resisting temptation, and the maintenance of attention and focus. These functions are made possible by a region of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
Just as you need your executives to function powerfully in order to improve the likelihood of success, the same is true for the “executive functioning” of your brain. I say that the PFC (pre-frontal cortex) is like the CEO of your body. The PFC manages your resources. It decides where to focus the body’s and brain’s attention. It responds to novel environments within our brain and body. It develops novel approaches (based on changing resources) to routine processes. In fact, every action or behavior that one would usually associate with a CEO, is being performed by your PFC at this very moment.
If you wouldn’t want a recurrently impaired CEO to lead the executive functioning of your business, why would you ever deliberately impair the CEO of your body whose job is to ensure good health, optimal performance as well as longevity?
Here’s the catch. If you sleep deprive yourself, you are impairing your CEO: the PFC.
Your PFC is the CEO that allows you stay on purpose and achieve any goal. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to get to the gym more regularly, eat a better diet, be a better spouse, be a better parent, win a gold medal in the Olympics, or build a company that dwarfs Amazon. Your ability to achieve any goal is 100% determined by your PFC. Sleeping a couple of hours less than you need impairs your PFC more than any other region of your brain.
Sleeping 2 hours less than your ideal, or decreasing the quality of your sleep by 25% leads to a 30% decrease in performance in your PFC. This means you will make worse decisions, you will be worse at communicating, you will have less focus, you will be less able to resist temptation, you will worse at planning, executing plans, or sticking to any plan or commitment. The behaviors of your PFC-in running the business of your body, brain, and consciousness-will be on par with a drunk, anxious, depressed, malnourished CEO. The business of being healthy, and joyfully pursuing your goals, interest and ambitions, will be a failing business. You will be bankrupt very soon.
If you are wondering how so many people are “successful” with routine sleep deprivation, wonder no more. They are only 70% as successful as they could be! Would you be okay with the CEO of your business being 30% less successful as a result of being regularly impaired? Just like business, Living up to your full potential is not possible if you are not operating at your full 100% potential.