Marcel Muenster

@marcel.muenster

How to hack your mind to think like Richard Branson

“Work hard, play hard.”

Extreme Tech Challenge, Necker Island

Part of the “Entrepreneurship Unplugged” Blog Series: Blog 5

My recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit’s largest entrepreneur channel was a great walk down memory lane. One of the users asked me to share my craziest startup story. My greatest experience was meeting Richard Branson in his own paradise, Necker Island.

There aren’t many people I admire for their way of life and business success as much as Richard Branson. As one of the most famous serial entrepreneurs, we’ve likely all read of his “work hard, play hard” approach to business.

“I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living” — Richard Branson

Personally, I only knew him through his books like “Losing My Virginity” and “Screw It, Let’s Do It.” Reading about his beliefs is one thing. It’s a completely different experience to hear him talk about them. In person. On Necker Island!

View from the Great house, Necker Island

Back in 2015, I had the honor of representing my first startup, TraveDoc, at the Extreme Tech Challenge. The event was hosted by Branson on his private island in the British Virgin Islands. But this blog isn’t a trip report. Instead, it’s a nudge to my fellow serial or first-time entrepreneurs to take Branson’s “work hard, play hard” attitude to heart.

Six years ago, I jumped from being an “academic” to being a full-time, first-time, tech startup entrepreneur. I was passionate about changing the world.

Achieving a work-life balance in the early stages of building a startup is challenging, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s also a requirement for your success (and for maintaining that passion and energy!).

Spending time on Necker Island and learning from the man himself taught me how to achieve this balance for ultimate success.

“Regretting not doing something is worse than regretting doing something. It means I can sleep with a clear conscience. We all have to fight for our values and protect the things that matter to us, but also appreciate the joys life brings.” — Richard Branson
Richard’s hammock, Necker Island

You need to carve out periods of your life that aren’t obsessed with strategy, fundraising, and hiring. The seasoned entrepreneur knows this is easier said than done; you essentially live every moment doing one of these three things.

The best way I found to do this? Make time to have conversations with inspiring people in order to make sense of your daily chaos. Regaining your creative power not only helps you develop ideas but also build your company.

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” — Richard Branson
Wild night on Necker Island

I changed my approach to life and business in February of 2017. As a result of experiences that shook up my life, I knew a change was necessary. Branson’s approach seemed perfect. In hindsight, I wish I’d have made the move sooner.

Here’s what I do to keep the mind-body-soul trifecta in balance and, as a result, the work-life divide less chaotic:

Mind

Until I made the change a year ago, I always prioritized work without giving my mind the necessary breaks. When you’re so passionate about a project, all you want to do is work on it 24/7 to try and make it the very best. Yet in doing so, you typically get so stuck in your ways that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

As soon as I realized that my habits were harming my productivity, I started to focus more on my sleep. Instead of going through spreadsheets before bed, I now unwind by reading a good book or learning about topics I know nothing about. Ultimately, my goal is to stimulate a different part of my brain.

P.S.: This can also help when in networking conversations! Having a basic knowledge of a range of topics helps get any conversation going.

P.P.S.: Did you know that the “glow” of your smartphone impacts your sleep? Cutting down on screen time 15 to 30 min before bedtime helps to improve sleep.

That’s me feeding lemurs on Necker Island

Body

I’ve always been an active person: running, gym, and climbing, you name it. But my startup life turned things upside down. Not only was I extremely busy, long days tired me out and it could be hard to find the motivation.

The first radical change I made was to my diet. I switched to the Tim Ferriss slow carb diet, avoiding sugar and white carbohydrates. It was one of the best radical changes in my life.

My productivity went through the roof, almost overnight. It was shocking. No more heavy meals at any given time of the day that would slow me down.

I also picked up my old disciplined workout schedule. Now I’m back on track with five to six workouts per week. The result: I lost weight and feel much better about myself. No more excuses. I carve out time whenever I can and wherever I am.

And it’s not just me (and Tim Ferris)! Several studies have shown that the slow carb diet helps you to lose weight, lowers your bad cholesterol, and reduces your risk of heart disease. For those of you who would like to learn more about the effects, here is a great read.

Beach trampoline, Necker Island

Soul

Many of my entrepreneur friends believe in meditation as a way of life to find your Zen. I began when I made the change last February and admittedly, it was very difficult to start. Finding time to be “silent” can feel like time better spent in the beginning. Developing a routine, though, keeps you consistent and helps you quickly adapt to the habit.

An easy way to get started is by downloading apps like Calm and Headspace. They’re simple and intuitive to use. In the beginning, I’d suggest practicing five minutes every morning and evening.

Meditation helps improve your sleep, energy levels, and wellbeing. Developing a routine will help you become more productive!

“The best way of learning about anything is by doing.” — Richard Branson
Red dock, Necker Island

You work hard. If you’re an entrepreneur, that’s a given. You might also play hard to recharge your entrepreneurial batteries. Or, perhaps you do something completely different.

So tell me: How do YOU unwind? Share in the comments section below!

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You can reach me via:

Twitter: @marcelmuenster

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