Health is one of the most important topics today, especially for entrepreneurs and business executives.
This is no less the case in Israel, where there has been an increasing awareness of how self-care leads to optimal performance. Business owners and executives everywhere can learns from these experiences.
Most entrepreneurs in Israel spent their early years in high-stress settings such as the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). But as they age, they learn that they can’t build a high-growth company without taking care of themselves.
As someone keenly interested in self-optimization, I am always on the lookout to learn and speak with people who excel at the highest level possible.
We need stress to push us to reach our potential; without resistance, we wouldn’t be able to fly. But too much stress can lead to burnout, especially when the life of an entrepreneur is a constant battle that goes on for years.
Today, the nature of work and how effectively we complete our tasks are being addressed due to the pandemic. It is rare to find a successful startup founder who doesn’t understand that physical and mental health is critical to performance.
This generation of young entrepreneurs, Gen Z, are even more health-focused than millennials, some of whom will soon be hitting their 40s.
While heavily influenced by Silicon Valley, Israel as a culture–and particularly, the tech industry–has not promoted and encouraged wellness and work/life balance until recently.
Israelis value hard work and grit, so frequently they are measured by how many hours they put in the office. Completely decentralized teams have changed the importance of being physically present in one location and challenged how effective we can be working from home.
One entrepreneur says that creating a positive wellness routine is similar to creating a good sales or product development process. The key to integrating health and wellness into the workday as an entrepreneur is to create a routine.
Just like any Key Performance Indicator, one needs to plan, to track, and work to optimize a wellness plan. Putting a time on the calendar for a wellness routine and letting team members know how important it is can create personal time and makes sure the entrepreneur has dedicated time to focus on it.
Mindfulness and connecting with nature
Meditation and mindfulness help calm a busy mind and disconnect from everything going on around oneself. For many high achievers, their mind is racing most of the day, and they’re always “on.”
The ability to calm and focus the mind and breath helps promote relaxation and can lead to breakthroughs when the mind is focused.
Shahar Chaskelevitch, cofounder and Chief Procurement Officer at Bondsports, an Israeli startup that helps owners and operators of sports facilities run their business by providing software on one platform, reflects on the importance of mindfulness as an entrepreneur.
“I actually am able to think more clearly and focus when I run. Another big thing for me is going to sit near a body of water, preferably the beach; it is one of the most effective methods for me when I want to analyze a problem I’m having a hard time solving. It calms me down and clears my mind, making room for more creative thinking and finding solutions more easily.”
Mindfulness and meditation offer several benefits, as the Mayo Clinic reports: “Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.”
It is not just entrepreneurs who seek calm and find ways to connect with nature.
Investor Avishag Bohbot said, “I surf whenever I can, and have been doing it for the past 19 years. I spend most of my weekends traveling in nature. Since COVID, I’ve been practicing yoga six times a week via Zoom.”
Furthermore, she said, “I read inspiring poems three times a week, and I devote four hours a month to helping people. It makes my heart dance. These days I am taking photos as much as I can. One of my photos was even in the news during the first seger [lockdown].”
Exercise and morning routines
Releasing anger and frustration through physical exercise is common. Many entrepreneurs hear “no” regularly from investors, and sometimes feel they are misunderstood, which results in a lot of energy bottled up.
Intense exercise not only releases tension but also gives one energy. Hard physical exercise was the one common stress reliever hard-driving Israeli entrepreneurs used to manage their stress.
Yaniv Levin, CEO of cloud data platform Panoply, runs every day.
“I don’t look at the computer before I do my morning ritual run, and usually, I have an evening run as well… Overall, I run about 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) a day, five days a week, and another 8-10 kilometers (5-6 miles) on Friday. The morning running ritual clears all my thoughts empties my brain. It makes my morning sane and makes my start clean.”
When the stress is too much and he needs a reboot, Levin drives to the desert, camps out for a night or two and goes on extreme runs to completely drain his energy.
“Then I get back to the campgrounds, light a fire, sleep and eat raw food for the rest of the day. That usually fixes me up and re-energizes me. I’ve only had to ‘run to the desert’ twice in the past three years, but I always have a tent, sleeping bag and coffee kit in my car, just in case.”
Practicing what they preach
Founders who are driven by making a positive impact on users’ health often live their company’s ethos.
Israeli wellness startup fitV provides people with the most convenient and effective way to get and stay fit and healthy. The team founded fitV based on a deep friendship they formed serving together as officers in the IDF elite special operation forces unit Maglan.
As CEO Gal Rotman stated, “Sport is my biggest passion that led me to found fitV. In order to control the intensity and stress of the startup’s roller coaster experience, I’m keeping on a daily/weekly routine. I start every day at 6 a.m. with a one-hour walk in the orchard next to my home with my little daughter and my dog; that’s a great refreshing opening to my day (when) I can organize my thoughts and start my day calm and focused.”
In addition, he works out three to four times a week, including running twice a week, where his rule is to keep his phone at home as this is the only two hours a week that he is totally “free.”
Another founder who lives the wellness ethos and practices what she preaches is Adi Wallach of CalmiGo.
Their drug-free device provides immediate calm to people suffering from stress and anxiety. The device’s adaptive technology activates the parasympathetic system to provide relief in just three minutes of use, and can be used on-the-go.
“Like all other entrepreneurs, I’m working around the clock,” said Wallach. “To keep myself focused and keep my stress level low, I’m using CalmiGo, these days mostly before important meetings or when I feel too restless. I’m working out three times a week and hope to do more, and I do my best to stand/walk in any given opportunity. I also significantly decreased my consumption of caffeine in the last few years.”
Community creates balance
Community is one reason why Israel, despite its many difficulties, consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.
One of the biggest indicators of happiness is the depth and strength of meaningful relationships. Relationships also help ground and inspire Israeli entrepreneurs.
It’s not for nothing that investors prefer founding teams of two or more and that many entrepreneurs become successful after they have families. Having a strong social network helps create balance in an entrepreneur’s life.
As Shahar Chaskelevitch reflects, “I used to think the only thing that mattered for my success was how hard or long I would work. Everything could be solved by staying up another hour or skipping a meal to finish a task. Sleep and personal time always came last.”
“Today,” he said, “I know that how I treat my body has a huge effect on how my mind operates and have developed an understanding that to be truly effective, I don’t have to work longer but rather make sure that the time I do spend working is focused and with high energy. I will even take a break in the middle of the workday for a run. The old me would say that I’m prioritizing health over work, but my work benefits from my health, so it’s the other way round.”
Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel heads a digital marketing agency, YKC Media, focused on engaging millennial and tech professionals through content. He’s been involved in the New York Israeli tech community for many years and previously held roles as a nonprofit professional at the IAC Dor Chadash and AIPAC.
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