Ever since Optimyzed Brain was launched, entrepreneurs, founders, and startup community leaders have been asking me: “What exactly IS brain optimization?” The not-so-secret-anymore secret: an optimized brain is the difference between a business being stalled at $1M ARR and one that grows to $100M+ ARR. In this article, I break down the science of brain optimization: what it is, how it applies to founders and provide three high-growth entrepreneurial examples.
To get started, let me share with you a bit of brain science.
The frontal lobe, the area of your brain behind the forehead, is predominantly responsible for a set of brain-based abilities and skills known as ‘executive functions’. These executive functions - such as attention control, distraction override, self-regulation, reasoning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, pattern recognition, mental operations - help facilitate the attainment of your business goals.
As an entrepreneur, keeping your executive functions sharp is what will enable you to meet your business milestones, such as a $100M financing round, transforming the lives of 1,000,0000 users around the world with your product, and creating economic opportunities for hundreds of staff. As Dr. Adele Diamond puts it, executive functions are the first to suffer disproportionately if you are stressed, sad, lonely, lack sleep, or lack exercise. Since entrepreneurship and building a fast-growing startup is extremely challenging, it’s no surprise that 2 in 3 entrepreneurs feel depressed once a week. Without having the right training, systems and structures in place to ensure your brain is sharp, the rate of your business goal achievement substantially slows down; it is the difference between raising a $1M round in 3 months versus a $1M round in 24 months.
While you already have some of these innate brain abilities, what makes them significant is that executive functions are also skills that can be developed, harnessed, and sharpened through training and experience. The good news for all you entrepreneurial founders, is that if you are…
feeling scattered and overworked (are you pulling long days yet your to-dos don’t seem to get any shorter?)
feeling anxious (do you have a constant fear of missing your ambitious targets?)
feeling stressed (are you dealing with countless inbound activities and distractions and feeling unsure what is the most impactful task you should be focused on?)
feeling self-doubt and questioning every decision (do you sometimes feel like an impostor in your role as a founder?)
feeling overwhelmed and always ‘on’ (do you find your mind is racing, not shutting down for sleep, or do you feel guilty not being fully present with your family?)
feeling always tired and exhausted (are you lacking that burst of energy to take you through the day, or find yourself worn out by the end of the day?)
…there is a huge opportunity for growth where with proper training, tools, and techniques, you can boost your brainpower to achieve more in your business without burning out overworking, losing sleep and missing out on quality family-time.
This brings me to the definition of brain optimization.
At Optimyzed Brain, our goal is to support ambitious entrepreneurial founders like you - whether your business is pre-revenue, VC-backed, or expanding market share - by training you in the tools and techniques that optimize your brain at the neurological level. We define brain optimization as a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach that aims to increase the performance and productivity of an entrepreneur at the neuro level by ‘hacking’ (i.e., creating small positive changes with exponential impact) in three areas that directly influence the brain’s executive function.
1) Your Environment (i.e., your lifestyle)
This includes your physical environment: the oxygen you breathe, your hydration, the choices you make every day, the way you live, the way you work, your access and use of greenspace, environmental toxin exposures, and the materials that surround you. These are but some examples that may impact your business success.
Ask yourself, what situations in your business venture cause you stress, anxiety, and deplete your energy levels? Let’s imagine you are having a highly emotional debate with your co-founders that has depleted your energy and increased your cortisol levels. What has been your performance and productivity like after such a highly charged and negative experience? You likely noticed that for some time the feelings of stress, anxiety, and even anger continue to linger for a while, hindering your ability to focus. A simple 10-minute email can take you an hour, a decision that requires some thinking consumes more thought than usual. The next thing you know, the day is gone and not much work has been completed. According to CB Insights, one of the top 20 reasons a startup fails is because of disharmony among team and investors.
When you get trained on optimizing your brain, you become highly self-aware, recognizing the situations that cause you these feelings, learning and utilizing tools and techniques that enable you to control your brain. In this example of after a highly charged debate, instead of continuing with your work, it’s important to pause, to take time to think and process things. It is best to then use a technique that can supercharge your brain by releasing those negative feelings/emotions. A technique that changes your brain state from stress to calm and from low energy to feeling re-energized.
For example, a simple hack to change your brain state is by going for a walk in a nearby greenspace. A study by Bowler et al showed that participants self-reported positive beneficial changes in feeling from anxiety, fatigue, anger and sadness after a walk or a run in natural greenspace. Another study conducted at Stanford University, showed that “participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination”.
Helen Guo, Co-Founder of Schoolyard Snacks says, “my hours spent working outside is directly correlated with productivity and happiness.” This is Helen, who prior to Schoolyard Snacks had 3 failed startups and a 6 months gap where she fell into depression. Starting her fourth venture, she wanted to do it right by having a lifestyle and business workstyle that prioritized her brain. Her optimized system allows her to never work on weekends. “I stopped working on weekends, and my company grew faster.” With this decision and attitude, Schoolyard Snacks hit $10M revenue within 12 months of launch. “I used to look up to people who bragged about how many hours they worked… Now, I admire people who have found a smart way to work fewer hours and spend more quality time with friends and family.”
Optimizing your brain by learning how to hack your environment and lifestyle allows you to sustain concentration on cognitively demanding tasks, feel re-energized throughout the day to increase productivity, and stay calm during the most turbulent times to make sound decisions. It’s the difference between a $1M ARR and executing the hacks that optimize your environment and lifestyle that allow you to scale to $100M ARR without having to work 80 hours a week, sacrifice your vacation, or burn out.
2) Your Psychology (i.e., your mind)
This includes your perceptions, attitude, emotions, beliefs, and the way you experience the rollercoaster life of an entrepreneur, which directly impacts how fast you achieve business metrics and milestones.
By digging in just a little into your own psychology, you can influence and change the way you experience the rollercoaster life of an entrepreneur. Can you think of a time in your business venture that you collided with a massive unforeseen problem? A problem that keeps you awake for nights wondering how you are going to solve it, or else it will have detrimental effects such as not meeting payroll, loss of staff, production cancellation, even edge of bankruptcy?
Many of you entrepreneurs have likely been impacted by the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic. Like co-founders of Series C funded startup ($70M USD), Ritual, a food pick up app, sharing in a post that they had to let go of over 50% of their staff (196 employees) in April 2020 as restaurants shut down. Situations like this are excruciatingly painful for the co-founding team and all the laid-off staff.
One of the psychological hacks in brain optimization is to train founders to change perception of what IS and ISN’T in the circle of influence and control. Restaurants shutting down due to a pandemic are out of the circle of control and influence of the co-founders of Ritual. If you continue ruminating on this incident, can you imagine the negative impact on your brain health? However, if you learn to quickly hack your brain to identify what IS in your circle of influence and control, you’ll instead divert your brain energy to finding opportunities, significantly improve your brain health, and the outcome of your business.
The co-founders of Ritual focused on what IS in their circle of influence. They diverted their brain energy and focus on innovating a solution that provides food service businesses with a way to accept digital orders from their own site. And in just 2 months after the devastating hit to lay off more than 190 employees, Ritual secured a partnership with the City of Toronto along with raising $22M USD for this new innovative product line.
Your job as an entrepreneur and startup founder is to solve one problem at a time. With each problem you solve you advance your business forward. Being trained to hack your psychology through our brain optimization program enables you to enhance your creativity to bring forward incredible solutions in the face of adversity and turn perceived mountainous problems into a molehill. Our program will enable you to expand your impact on a global scale no matter whatever unforeseen crisis life throws out you. It's the difference between the death of a business and surviving and thriving.
3) Your Physiology (i.e., your body)
This includes your nutrition, circadian rhythm, sleep, physical performance, and body compositions. All of these influence you at the neurological level such as how you analyse, how you solve problems, and how you innovate. All of these factors play a crucial role in dictating how you accelerate the growth of your business.
As an entrepreneurial founder, do you ever feel like you have a million inbound activities? Do you feel scattered, distracted and not knowing what is the most impactful activity you should be focused on any given day? Have you noticed that there are certain time periods during the day where you feel sluggish, lacking that brainpower to get through the task at hand? Or by the end of the work day, you find yourself not having enough energy left to dedicate to things outside of your business, like your loved ones or your hobbies?
If you said ‘Yes’ to any of the questions above then you are not alone. An article by Entrepreneur highlighted that more than half of founders in a survey said they ‘never switch off’. If you continue as is, you become inefficient, forcing you to put in even more hours so that you can get things done. Next thing you know you are doing 12 to 17 hours work days. Exhaustion results in making costly and devastating mistakes. Just imagine that you are in the middle of an enterprise customer negotiation that can bring you $1M revenue. However, your brain is too tired to think strategically to respond and engage the decision-makers in your value proposition, which results in the loss of $1M.
These feelings weren’t so far off for Mike Fata, who founded Manitoba Harvest in 1998 at the age of 21, a company which became a global leading manufacturer and brand of the highest quality hemp food products at over 7,000 retailers. Five years into the business it was already making 7-figure revenue. Ten years later, the business grew to 8-figure revenue. The biggest contributor to Mike's success? Hacking his physiology by starting with nutrition.
Mike is a high school dropout with a grade 9 education. At the age of 18 he weighed 300 lbs. He was always unhappy, and exhausted. It came to a point that he was sick of feeling tired. He started by hacking his nutrition to provide his brain and body the best nutrition. Two years later he lost 125 lbs and he has been maintaining this optimized healthy lifestyle to build, grow and eventually sell Manitoba Harvest to Tilray for $419 million in 2019. In 2020 Manitoba Harvest surpassed $500 million in sales. Your path to an optimized brain? Start by hacking your physiology. “Health is wealth”, posted Mike on his LinkedIn.
Training to hack your nutrition, sleep, circadian rhythms, and physical performance optimizes your brain to reduce distractions at a neuro level so you can heighten your focus and have more incredible creative ideas come forth, while also living a high-quality life.
Optimize Your Brain to Take Your Business to $100M and Beyond
You have big goals and dreams for your business venture. You too can thrive and succeed like the co-founders of Ritual, Helen Guo of Schoolyard Snacks and Mike Fata of Manitoba Harvest. Yet, just like them, undoubtedly, your journey is full of challenges and unforeseen events. Investing in your brain is the first step to achieving that next financing round, or getting your product to the hands of customers around the world.
In this entrepreneurship journey, you’ll be drawing on all of your brain’s executive functions as you attain one major business goal at a time, hitting your first $1M, then your next $10M, and then your $100M, all while transforming the lives of your customers. The secret to these founders? None of them did it alone. Just like Olympic athletes, they created a team of experts that keep them at their peak performance.
At Optimyzed Brain, we are your brain optimization expert. Ensuring your brain’s executive functions are optimized is the difference between being stalled at $1M ARR and growing to $100M ARR; a Kickstarter campaign that exceeds its target by 200% versus one that barely generators traction; or pivoting to a brand-new line in the face of adversity that recaptures market share versus closing down the company in the face of adversity.
Want to take control of your brain’s performance and become a master of your brain in this entrepreneurship journey? Get started with a free consultation session of our flagship 5-week brain optimization program that trains you in tools and techniques to hack your environment, your psychology, and your physiology to boost your brainpower at the neurological level. When you invest to optimize your brain’s executive functions you attain these ambitious goals at an accelerated pace while also living a high-quality life.