Improve Startup Performance – Hack Your Nervous System

We all spend a lot of time thinking of ‘hacks’ for this and that – what about turning to yourself. What would you do to adapt and improve your own thinking and feeling states?

Let’s say you want to improve the financial performance of your startup. Let’s say you want to improve user adoption and, later on, retention. If I could, would I hack my nervous system to achieve these goals? Certainly. It’s only a question of how. Note to those in a hurry: These are not quick fixes, but practices you need to put into play every day.

Meditate to achieve focus.

If you practice meditation for five to 20 minutes every day, you’ll achieve more focus. (More than 20 minutes isn’t worth it – the mind gets tired after that and usefulness decays.) It might surprise you to know that big corporations are starting up meditation programs, and the US military has a program for fighter pilots to meditate to improve focus. Meditation works by reducing the cognitive processing load on the brain, allowing interesting stuff to float up. What you’re listening for in meditation is the signal that happens between and around the usual noise.

There’s a flip side to this, too, because achieving a lot of focus means you can become myopic. There’s research to show that people who become too task-oriented and too focused lose some of the power of the creative mind. So you have to mix it up.

Yoga keeps the mind flexible.

Lots of people do yoga for physical flexibility. It’s also useful for seeing datable people wearing little clothing. While you’re bending your body around in a yoga class, you’re also bending your mind, expanding your flexibility. You’ll start to see things from different perspectives. This, I find, is automatic. You don’t have to push it or ‘make it happen.’ It’s just a side benefit of this 5,000-year-old practice.

My creative formula: more beer, less coffee.

If you want to do creative work, a pint of beer or glass of wine has been shown to improve your creative functioning and ability to make creative connections. (If you wake up on the floor, you have not improved anything, so moderation is good.) Coffee is a task-oriented beverage: think of using it when you want to accomplish specific tasks, not while brainstorming.

You’ve already had all your best ideas.

Mind-blowing, but true. All your best ideas are already inside you. Inspiration happens when the internal concepts and feelings interact with something on the outside, a person, an article like this one, an experience. Try a few mind hacks like those above and see what happens.