Does your success come at the expense of your health?
Building a company often requires you to be all-in. The early stages of a start up can feel like an impossible juggling act. Trying to balance that with your personal life (and even just regular meal times) can be a challenge. You can forget about a structured fitness schedule and any chance of a healthy, balanced lifestyle… I found out the hard way that putting your health on the back burner will come back to bite you.
In 2020 it bit me, hard. But let me rewind a little to give you the full story…
Together with my co-founders Fred and Phil, we built Swelly together in 2016 and the product went from an app to a multi-platform chat bot used by millions of people.
The 3 of us moved to L.A. from Vienna, Austria — we could hardly believe it was happening. Things were going great, we felt inspired and motivated and we were living a surreal Californian dream. I remember one day waking up to 167k new users and was beyond excited to work hard and keep growing our company.
But we were young and our health wasn’t on any priority list. Since we didn’t know anyone, we thought we could reach Arnold Schwarzenegger by appealing to his sense of humour and love for Austrian food! So we cooked and ate Wiener Schnitzel for 153 straight days and posted it online, inviting Arnold (@arnoldschnitzl) to join us, hoping he would invest in our company. We managed to create a great network with our “The Daily Schnitzel” show and even had a chat with Arnold’s Investment manager.
From a health perspective, this exercise was obviously a TERRIBLE idea. We’d buy the cheapest 10kg (22 lbs) packs of pork from Costco! I gained 15kgs (33lbs) within 6 months, and we all felt tired and unhealthy. Besides bad eating habits, our sleep schedules were also far from ideal. I would wake up in the morning and find Phil behind his screen still coding, I’d tap him on the shoulder and send him to bed. I’m glad I don’t have an actual count of the (few) hours he slept.
So much exciting growth was happening at this time and I was meant to be on top of my game. I made sure I kept up with my demanding schedule, I even flew between Europe and San Fransisco twice in one week to meet investors, but the downside was coming.
Fast forward to 2020. I had a whirlwind of a year, trying to make lemonade out of lemons (a global pandemic, lockdown in Vienna and all the uneasiness that comes with it). I went all-in! We were on a “what next?” mission and in trying to figure this out, we started three new businesses. I thought that focusing on work would keep me occupied and distracted from global events.
But in September my girlfriend found me passed out on the bathroom floor with a temperature of 32.2°C (91.22°F). I should have been rushed to hospital and was incredibly lucky that it didn’t drop to below 32. I couldn’t carry on, ignoring my health.
I’ve always loved the 5 minute journal (among other types of journaling), I’d also worked with coaches and started going to therapy. This was great but it didn’t feel like enough.
On the physical front, I had 13 visits to different doctors, health checkups, blood tests, allergy tests, and COVID tests (of course), the big reveal was that “technically” there was nothing wrong with me and my body. How is that possible? I had spent so much time and energy on this and the outcome didn’t pay off at all.
I realised I needed to make some drastic changes and take control of my health and well-being but I had no idea how. A little while later I was diagnosed with sports asthma, so I was hesitant to start my health journey with exercise.
If someone says healthy, I immediately think of exercise and a salad but as it turns out, sleep is actually a great place to start! A friend of mine recommended I get an Oura ring to track my sleep and recovery, and improve my health with the insights. The Oura Ring (literally a smart ring that you wear on your finger) tracks your sleep stages and measures your heart rate (resting heart rate and heart rate variability), giving you some amazing insights into your health.
To show his support, my co-founder Phil got an Oura ring too and we created a leaderboard for us to compare results, talk about possible solutions and to keep each other accountable. I could text him and tell him to go to bed early and he could tell me to cut out my afternoon coffees. We started making improvements and could easily see the positive results. I started feeling better which was the main objective, but it was also great that I wasn’t alone.
A few weeks in, we felt like something was missing. Oura gives you a sleep score and a readiness score, both out of 100. Sometimes I would sleep really well and have a readiness score in the high 80’s but in reality, I felt quite run down (I would give myself a readiness score of 60). Oura’s insights are great, but sometimes I wouldn’t know what to do with them. There are also so many other factors at play when you think about your ‘readiness’ for the day. What about food and the emotional side of things?
I reached out to other Oura ring users in Facebook Groups and received some great feedback. We decided to share our simple dashboard that we’d made with them and we were blown away with the response. We got over 100 comments in a day or 2 and started chatting to everyone who responded. Based on all these conversations, we saw the enormous potential… People are searching for a way to easily understand and manage their data to improve their sleep and health (both mental and physical).
This all happened in the last three weeks!
So we’ve found our “what next” after all. We’re now focused on, “how do we empower people and enable them to improve their health?”. You don’t need to experience a story like mine before you start to change your lifestyle. You also don’t need to be an athlete to use wearables and benefit from the data! You might be a founder like me, or a parent, and you know your health is important but staying on top of it everyday somehow falls lower down your priority list. I want to help busy people take control of their health and well-being effortlessly. I want to enable myself and others to reach goals without sacrificing themselves along the way.
If this topic resonates with you, follow me and my team on our journey to the future of personal health. I’m beyond excited about this and love that I get to build something that I’m incredibly passionate about. I’ll share updates as we make progress. My current goals are to gain some weight, work on my focus and be mindful of the food I’m eating…
I’ve a community discussion space called All About Sleep, please get involved and share your experiences!
Stay safe. Stay Healthy.
Just so you know, we have recovered from our Schnitzel Marathon and as a team are all health conscious, cooking vegan meals daily, going for annual health check ups, measuring everything from blood to fitness levels in detail.