Sleep is one of those things that most of the people I know regard as something that gets in the way of getting ahead in life. How else are we supposed to fit an 8-10 hour work day, read, eat healthy, workout, socialize and work on side projects? I am among those sleep offenders. I routinely stay up late thinking that I am really getting some work done or am finally making progress on the projects I’ve been putting off. This is a habit that I have formed a LONG time ago. It began with playing video games late into the night, continued on with having friends come over late in the PM and is still going on while I struggle to raise two kids. The big difference now is, I am aware of the importance of sleep and exactly how it affects me.
Sleep Deprivation – A National Epidemic
I am sleep deprived and I know I am not alone. A recent study reported that 30% of adults (21 and older) in US, on average, get less the 6 hours of sleep per day. Only 30% of high school students reported getting 8 hours of sleep on a given school night. Sleep deprivation is a hidden epidemic. Insufficient sleep is a major reason behind some major diseases like diabetes, hypertension, depression and so many more. How many car crashes and work related injuries happen because of lack of sleep? It’s hard to say exactly, but I bet it is a major factor. Considering your ability to focus and your cognitive abilities get drastically reduced with insufficient sleep.
OK, I sort of knew all of this, but didn’t think I was being affected this way. It’s all the other people out there that can’t function when they’re sleepy. Weaklings… [sarcasm][sort of]. I don’t know if I actually thought that, but that’s how I acted.
Lesson: How to ruin a perfectly good plan
I work as a freelancer of sorts and have a fairly flexible schedule. This is something that is fairy new to me, considering I worked 6 years in a retail sales environment where every day was pre-scheduled for me. I had to adapt to having a lot more control over my schedule, this meant learning to get more organized. I always had an interest in developing organizational skills. From a very young age my grandpa taught me the importance of planning out your day in detail the day before. His theory was that if you left it till the day of… you would not get much done. It took me 20+ years to really appreciate the true value of that habit. So now, I write out my day the day before and it works magically! On the days that have been planned out, I typically accomplish a great amount of tasks, I feel good about my self and I have a lot less stress going through the day because I know what I need to do and I don’t have to spend the energy making those decisions during the day…
NOW, let’s look at what happens when sleep deprivation creeps in. I have had the habit of planning out my next day in place for over a year. I can’t say I am perfect at writing out my plans and executing those plans… I often get overly ambitious with my plans and get upset when I don’t meet some of my goals for the day. Some days emergencies come up… kids getting sick, car breaking down, laptop HD failing… you know, life stuff. But I am generally pretty good at staying on task.
sleep deprivation – the perfect storm
For the 2 weeks, it has been the perfect storm… sleep deprivation galore! It started with a couple of late nights after some hockey games. I can’t seem to fall asleep after a late hockey game (11pm games are rough). I stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, messing around, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, etc. Combine that with a my 8 month old baby teething and waking up 3 to 5 times at night for the past 2-3 weeks. Mix in my oldest daughter getting sick for 4 days with a fever and needing to be taken care of… Add a dash of partying for my wife and I’s birthday BBQ. And top it off with my wife and I both getting sick… and you have the perfect storm!
I started to see most of the habits I have fought so hard to instil begin to unravel and get replaced with old habits that have seemingly been lurking in the background, waiting for a chance to rear their ugly heads. Daily planning, specifically, is a habit that I treasure. It has been instrumental to my success. What began to happen when sleep deprivation set in is this. I would make a plan before I go to sleep for the following do, filled with goals and tasks I want to accomplish. I would set a timeframe of when I would like to accomplish those goals and the flow of things during the day.
What would happen is this… I would get woken up 3 or 4 times in the middle of the night by Kylie (8 month old) and would spend 10 to 45 minutes getting her back to sleep. Next, it will be time to wake up and take Sydney (5 year old) to school. I would snooze the alarm 3 or 4 times, crawl out of bed 5 to 15 minutes late and begin scrambling to get my daughter ready for school. After dropping her off to school late, I have started my day on a bad note. I would get home and try to work out as usual. I would get through half of a work out and feel terrible. After ending my workout short, I would feel a bit upset over that little failure as well. Then, after getting ready for the day I would start work. Well, that wouldn’t go as planned either. With a few setbacks in the beginning of the day and 3 – 4 hours of poor sleep, it is hard to gather the will power and the focus needed to be productive. After 10 or 15 minutes of working I would find myself drifting off on a tangent, looking at my phone, staring at twitter and the billion articles people post. Hours would go by and I would only get a few things done. I would get a little upset over that as well. To spear you some time, I will summarize what I have noticed.
A little set back in your day will hardly make a difference to most people. An accumulation of minor little set backs over time add up to some serious problems. Over the past 2 weeks I was unable to follow through on a lot of my goals and tasks due to the lack of energy and focus. I started to skip workouts because of feeling exhausted. I began to feel down and upset. My lack of sleep also lead me to give into sugar cravings… I am normally very good at regulating the amount of sweets I eat, but when I am exhausted and sleep deprived, the necessary will power needed from the frontal cortex of your brain to keep you from giving in is simply not there….
Lesson learned: make sleep a priority
It became apparent to me that lack of sleep is in the center of the mess I am creating. Lack of sleep over time can derail even the soundest of plans. And after a several failed plans, you wonder why you even bother planning if you aren’t going to follow through. The cure, is surprisingly simple… make sleep your #1 priority. There are lots of articles out there that give great recommendations on how to get yourself to sleep, how much sleep you should get, and good sleep hygiene. Many of these tips are very helpful, but first, you have to understand how important sleep is to you and your own success and internalize the reasons for making it your #1 priority.
I believe in order to learn, we need to get our hands dirty and learn by experience; To fully appreciate what is being taught in Entrepreneurship classes at San Jose State I decided to visit the hotbed for tech entrepreneurs in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Plug And Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA.
in front of Plug & Play Tech Center
Plug And Play Tech Center is an amazing place to visit. It is home to over 300 companies. The catch is, in order to be a part of Plug And Play you must be a tech company. The place is buzzing with activities around the clock. Ideas are being exchanged in hallways, cubicles, conference rooms and even the cafeteria. You can almost taste the creativity. Plug And Play offers their entrepreneurs numerous opportunities to enhance their products and find funding by connecting them with various venture capitalists, offering workshops, and a variety of other accommodation for their members. Plug And Play is by far the largest and most successful tech incubator in all of Silicon Valley.
work floor of Plug And Play
During our tour of Plug And Play we had the opportunity to interview one of Plug And Play’s entrepreneurs. Her name is Jingxi Li. She is the product designer and one of the co-founders of Dimensions Lab Technology, Inc. (DLT for short). Her company is developing a product called TIMEX. It is an add-on app for Facebook that will allow Facebook users to create customizable timelines filled with pictures, videos, notes and other types of media and, most importantly, share those timelines with people of their choosing. This product utilizes cutting edge facial recognition software that is also being developed by another founder of Dimensions Lab. Jingxi and the two other co-founders are Stanford University Alumni. Jingxi completed her MBA degree and two others got their PhD degrees in Computer Science. They are a very well educated bunch. This team won a business plan competition at Stanford and got sponsored by Plug And Play to participate in their Startup Camp. Plug And Play has connected DLT with several VCs that have offered invaluable suggestions that have shaped the TIMEX product into it’s current state. DLT was originally developing a Baby Calendar app for Facebook. With the help of VCs, they were able to modify that idea into a more viable product that will capture a much bigger audience. Currently DLT is finalizing their application prototype and looking for seed funding from angel investors and VCs within Plug And Play.
This is a short story of only one entrepreneur; there are many many more stories just like this one out there. Plug And Play is in itself an innovating business idea. Plug And Play offers entrepreneurs a whole suit of services that help them become successful while also capitalizing on the success of their members. Plug And Play can provide up to 10% of the investment proposed to the entrepreneurs by the VCs. Plug And Play is a very helpful middleman between innovators and the investors. Thanks Plug And Play for helping the likes of Ebay grow from an idea to reality.
inside of plug and play.
Today Dave and I drove down to Morgan Hill to meet one of Dave’s long time friends, Jeff Christian.
Dave wanted to test an idea he had.
Let me give you a bit of background on this.
Dave and I are currently working on developing our first prototype of the Pet Comb, and we wanted to try creating little metal spheres on the tips of the teeth on the pet rake.
Why you ask?
Well, my interviews at pet shops lead me to believe that pet owners really care about how threatening grooming tools look to their beloved pets.
Many pet owners see their pets as part of the family and are very protective of them.
Our kitty is par of our family
It’s a bit of a generalization, but this argument does hold water.
Several pet shop employees mentioned that grooming tools that look intimidating or look like something that may harm their precious babies hardly ever sell.
So when they see this
ordinary de-shedding tool
The customers must see this…
So we want to make our pet grooming tools to look like something that is harmless to the animal. We want to make sure the owner instantly feels safe using our products. So adding little metal balls at the tips of each finger of the rake should help with safety.
I had no idea what to expect when we were driving down to meet Jeff. Dave mentioned that I will love Jeff’s shop. He told me that Jeff didn’t want to have a full blown shop and was forced to open it because the demand for his work was so high that he could no longer handle it by running things from his garage. Sounded intriguing.
We got to Jeff’s shop and it looked like an ordinary office building. Nothing too fancy.
Outside of Phoenix DeVentures Inc.
First thing I noticed was a wall FULL of patents and pictures of products I assume Jeff’s company created
Wall of patents in the lobby
Needless to say, I was very impressed.
We went over to the R&D area of the shop first. It looked like you would expect a mad scientist’s lab to look like. Full of tools I had no idea about. One tool I got to see in action was the Laser Beam Welder (LBW for short).
If you are like me and have no idea what a laser beam welder is… check out this wiki article
I have never seen anything like it before.
Sci-fi welding machine
It’s a pretty amazing piece of equipment. Jeff used short pulses from the laser welder to precisely hit every tip of the blade. It sounded like littler poppers going off every second or so.
In about a minute we had a pet rake blade with a ball on every tip. This may not sound that cool, but it was pretty amazing.
This sci-fi welder was able to heat up the metal in a split second with pin point precision of a laser and turn it instantly into a ball.
Dave explained to me that the reason the tips turned into a ball was due to the high surface tension of that particular metal that made it ball up instead of turning into mush.
Jeff did his magic with two of our blades and after we polished them up it was clear that this is something that can be done on a big scale. We were really pleased with the results. The blade with the balls on the tips did not irritate my skin when I scraped it against my forearm, whereas the untreated blade left a red rash. Mission accomplished!
After some sci-fi welding, Jeff was kind enough to take Dave and I on a tour of his “shop”. It’s more of a full-blown R&D and state of the art manufacturing facility. Let me put it this way… I feel like the kid that won the golden ticket, Jeff is Willie Wonka… and his shop is the chocolate factory.
DMLS machine and her owner
Jeff has more work lined up than he knows what to do with. He is currently working on expanding his shop to take over the rest of the building to accommodate for the demand. Dave explained to me that there are many engineering companies that can create design specs for your idea. Most of the time they will pass the designs to a manufacturing contractor who will manufacture your prototype. Then you would have to find someone who can mass-produce your product. This place is one of a kind to our area. Jeff does it from start to finish. His company can design the product, create prototypes and can engineer the manufacturing process needed for mass production.
Jeff showed me many amazing machines he has in his possession. I am not an engineer and have never been to a place like this. I had very little idea of what some of the machines were, what they did and how they did it. Many of the machines looked very complex and equally expensive. I walked away from the tour with a basic understanding of what each machine did and why it was awesome. This is mainly thanks to Jeff’s uncanny ability to speak in layman terms. Thanks Jeff!
A machine that blew my mind was a 3D printer that uses a method called direct metal laser sintering. Essentially, this machine can print out a part designed with a typical 3D CAD tool… but it prints it using metal! I had no clue you can 3D print metal parts. Apparently you can use a variety of metals too. This requires no tooling and with sufficient quantity (10-20 parts), can be quite affordable ($70 per part) for an average entrepreneur. Amazing!
I know where I’ll be going if I need a prototype!
Hello and welcome to my very first post on my very first blog.
I will not pretend that I know exactly what I’m doing. This is fairly new to me, and even though I know that very few people will read this post… I still feel nervous about hitting that publish button. Well, if you’re seeing this. It means I did it.
I am starting a blog because I realize I am not a lone blogging newbie. I am not an expert at anything yet. But I will be. I want to make sure I have a trail of notes, posts, anything… that will help me see my progress.
I know sometimes it is hard to see how far you’ve come, until you look back and reflect.
I somehow also feel that if I publish something online, it will keep me more accountable. I mean, everyone can potentially find this post.
There are millions of things out there to learn. I want to share what I learn with the world in hope of learning more. My hope is that to eventually publish something of value to someone. My plan so far is to write about my entrepreneurial journey with Dave Hadden (my partner & mentor) and my attempts at mastering habits. That’s the plan at least.
See you in the next post 🙂