Kelly Starrett on Entrepreneurship, Optimizing Sleep, and Living for the Long-Term | Below the Line with James Beshara

Key Takeaways

  • Start a business to solve a problem, not to become an entrepreneur 
  • In entrepreneurship, always be looking to mitigate risks and cap the downside
  • “Ambition is the only addiction that we collectively encourage as a society” – James
  • Sleep tips:
    • Wake up at the same time every single day 
    • Avoid caffeine after 4 PM (if you’re sensitive to caffeine, make it 12 PM)
    • Wear an eye mask
  • Be mindful of your exogenous compound intake
    • You can use all the stimulants and sleeping meds you want, but you’ll eventually have to pay the price
    • A good way to think about utilizing exogneous compounds – use what’s available, but never as a crutch
  • Treat drinking alcohol like eating a piece of cake – Do you eat 3 pieces of cake every day?
  • Good nutrition starts by eating more whole foods, fruits, and vegetables
  • MOVE MORE
  • A quote to ponder:
    • “You’re playing a long game… Chances are all of us will live to 100. You need to start playing like there are another 50 years in play. Right now, many people are playing like there are 6 months left to play.”

Products and Resources Mentioned

  • Kelly wears an eye mask every night – the Mindfold Sleeping Mask
  • Kelly highly recommends Brian Mackenzie’s app – State, which is loaded with different breath work exercises
    • “If you download State and follow the breathing protocols, your life will change”

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Host – James Beshara (@JamesBeshara)
  • Kelly Starrett (@mobilitywod) is a CrossFit trainer, physical trainer, and mobility expert
  • “Many founders, creators, and leaders… 95% of the people I know, don’t put enough time and attention into their physical health” – James
    • “Train the body and the mind will follow”

Dissecting Entrepreneurship

  • Society has a misplaced notion of entrepreneurship
    • “The reason to start a business is not because you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s because you want to solve a problem”
  • Entrepreneurship isn’t all sunshine and rainbows
    • Very often, instead of working for someone else for 40 hours/week, you get to work for yourself for 70 hours/week, for half the pay, and ALL the stress
    • You need to realize – entrepreneurship is NOT glamorous 
  • “It’s no longer enough for you to have the best product at the best price. That ship has sailed. Now you have to have meaning, catch people’s attention, and whether you like marketing or not, you better be a ninja at it. Otherwise, your best idea won’t be good enough because no one will hear about it through all the noise.”

Kelly’s Entrepreneurial Journey

  • On building MobilityWOD:
    • “We worked an unsustainable amount for a long period of time and it almost killed me”
    • “There was a time about 6 years ago where my sleep was trashed, I was travelling and teaching a ton, trying to building this thing, all the while having two kids and a wife… I felt so burned out” – this was around 2012-2013
  • Kelly and his wife started MobilityWOD in 2005 (while Kelly was a full-time grad student in exercise physiology and his wife, Juliet, was a full-time attorney)
    • “We never put ourselves into a position where we felt that if the business failed, we were dead. We always had a day job to do back to.”
      • This is key – always be looking to mitigate risk and cap the downside

Wow…

  • “Ambition is the only addiction that we collectively encourage as a society” – James

Find Your Process

  • In the Free Solo documentary, Alex Honnold has a simple life – he climbs, eats, and sleeps
    • “He has this deep practice that keeps him centered that he never loses track of”
  • Kelly also brings up Laird Hamilton
    • Laird’s life revolves around his family, training, and surfing – that’s his process 
  • The lesson: It’s very easy, in work, to lose track of what’s important, what drives your thinking, and keeps you hooked
    • Find that place or process you can always return to
  • For Kelly and his wife, their children keep them grounded
    • Everything else is simple – they train, sleep, use an ice bath/sauna (all of which he does at home)
      • “The more stressed out we are and the more we’re taking on, the simpler our home routine becomes”

Be Mindful of Your Exogenous Compound Intake

  • “If you drink 4-5 coffees per day, there’s a biological cost to that (like spiking your cortisol) and that’s going to throw you off the next day even if you get an incremental gain originally” – James
  • SOOO MANY people are caught in a viscous cycle of self-medicating, using stimulants to stay awake during the day (excess caffeine, Adderall, nicotine, etc.) and depressants to get to sleep (alcohol, weed, Ambien, etc.)
    • “The dirty secret at the top of professional sports is Ambien and Adderall” 
  • Kelly recommends the book Normal Accidents by Charles Perrow
    • One of the key points – an accident (like a heart attack) looks like a system error, but it’s actually a completely normal expression of the system assuming the system has had enough time to express itself based on its inputs (like eating an unhealthy diet for years)
      • Said another way – You only need 5 hours of sleep per night…. until you get a heart attack
  • You can take all the stimulants and sleeping meds you want, but you’ll eventually have to pay the price
    • “If you’re cutting corners, drinking 17 Bulletproof coffees per day and taking uppers, you can do that for a while… until you can’t”
  • A good way to think about utilizing exogenous compounds –  “Everything is on the table, but you can’t use it as a crutch”
    • Know that everything has a cost and if you’re leaning on a compound (even coffee) it’ll hurt you in the long run

The Importance of a Wind-Down Routine

  • You NEED a wind-down routine at the end of the night to help you get to sleep
  • What does Kelly’s wind-down routine look like?
    • He’ll either use his sauna or hot tub
    • He’ll do some soft-tissue/mobility work 
      • This is discussed more in Kelly’s book, Deskbound
    • He avoids caffeine after 4 PM
    • (Kelly moves around a ton during the day though, so he’s wiped once it’s time for bed)

Sleep Tips

  • “When’s the last time you heard someone brag about how much sleep they got? They don’t.”
  • Sleep trackers (like the Oura Ring and WHOOP) help -“But the goal isn’t to track, the goal is to change behavior”
  • Wake up at the same time every single day (which for James is 6:45 AM)
  • Avoid caffeine after 4 PM (if you’re sensitive to caffeine, make it 12 PM)
  • Wear an eye mask
    • Kelly’s favorite is the Mindfold Sleeping Mask
    • “Sleeping in a pitch black room [using an eye mask] will radically change the quality of your sleep”
  • One of the best ways to improve your sleep – just get into bed 30 minutes early
    • In two weeks time, you’ll have spent an additional 8 hours in bed
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, consider if you’re actually moving enough during the day
    • If you sit for 8-10 hours…. you’re not

Optimizing Your Diet

  • Avoid alcohol most of the time
    • Treat drinking alcohol like eating a piece of cake – Do you eat 3 pieces of cake every day?
      • “You can have your fun, you just can’t have your fun every single day”
  • The best way to change your body composition is through your diet, not exercise
    • If your trying to lose weight – eat mostly vegetables and meat and only drink water
  • “I see all this crazy disordered eating, ‘I’m keto, I’m vegan, I drink shakes and Soylent.’ Here’s what I’ll say: Until you eat 800 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, what are you talking about?”
    • Good nutrition is all about eating whole foods
  • Eat more of the foods that have only one ingredient
  • Kelly has a slightly different opinion on intermittent fasting
    • It’s fine, but make sure to eat breakfast (especially if you’re an athlete) – just start your fast earlier the night before

Humans Were Made to Move

  • Develop a movement practice
    • Every day: Walk + do some form of yoga, weight lifting, cycling, running, or X
  • Kelly and his wife walk their kids to school every morning
    • By 8 AM, he’s already hit 10,000 steps
  • With exercise – “Be consistent. Don’t be heroic.”

Tips for Stress Management

  • James: 
    • Practice the art of undercommiting
      • Overcommiting is one of the biggest causes of stress
    • Have some form of meditation practice
  • Kelly:
    • Kelly doesn’t meditate but he has a breath work practice
      • He highly recommends Brian Mackenzie’s app State – “If you download State and follow the breathing protocols, your life will change”

Wrapping Up

  • “You’re playing a long game… Chances are all of us will live to 100. You need to start playing like there are another 50 years in play. Right now, many people are playing like there are 6 months left to play.”
    • “How you arrive at age 100 is up to you today”

Additional Notes

  • Kelly pays ~$22k/month in rent for the San Francisco CrossFit Building
  • Kelly is good friends with David Epstein, author of the new book – Range
  • “My one skill set… the only thing I’m good at is pattern recognition. I see relationships between systems really well and really quickly”
  • Kelly didn’t try alcohol until he was 22
    • Why? – Alcoholism runs in his family and Kelly was largely afraid of repeating the cycle
  • “There’s a wonderful book called Finite and Infinite Games
    • Finite games have clear winners/losers and rules with a well defined start/stop
    • An infinite game is quite different – it lacks clear rules and the only way to win is to play beautifully and keep everyone else in play
      • Examples of infinite games – business, health, and satisfaction
  • One of the best sports psychology books out there is The Inner Game of Tennis
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