How To Be A (Start-Up) Superhero

6 small superhuman changes you can make right now

Superhero Cropped

As I stood in the middle of my office, with one arm in front like Superman flying, imagining a red cape flapping behind me, I was thankful that my team had already left for the day, otherwise they would have thought I was crazy (or, even crazier!). But I wasn’t preparing for a fancy dress party, this was all part of an experiment. I recently read a study from Harvard University, which claims that 120 seconds of ‘power posing’ like a superhero can help you feel stronger and reduce stress levels. True story. The study showed that, when participants held a superhero pose or waved their hands above their heads as if they’d won the lottery, their testosterone levels increased and their cortisol levels decreased. And I am certainly not one to knock something, even as zany as that, until I’ve tried it.

The truth is, although my life has been extraordinary in the past few years, recently I’ve had to face some personal challenges and I’m more grateful than ever for the rituals, routines and odd habits that I have in my toolkit to ground, boost and balance me. And I know I’m not alone. If you research any kick-arse business person with a career of any longevity (or anyone steering the ship of something challenging), I’ll bet they have their own superhero arsenal of tricks to help them both fly and stay grounded. Nobody is immune to pain or self-doubt or struggle. But it is possible to develop a superhero skin to help you deal with disappointments, to recover, bounce back and keep moving forward.

So, whilst I might be wearing my knickers over my yoga pants pretending to be Wonder Woman, I want to inspire you to find your own ways to feel like a superhero today. If you need a little guidance, try adopting the following tactics of people who’ve already made it. Now, go and save the world (or at least your little corner of it).

I’m talking about your stomach! It might seem overly obvious telling you to eat well to work well, but I think many entrepreneurs – including myself – are guilty of putting meetings before mealtimes. According to rumours, there’s a rule at Google that no workspace is allowed to be more than 100m from a food source because they appreciate that good sustenance equals success. Meanwhile, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley, says his productivity changed when he stopped skipping breakfast.

“Now I have a V-8 juice, half a bagel and a cup of yogurt,” he says, “I eat five or six times a day. It’s about managing your glycaemic level. You don’t want to boom and bust.”

In a blog post, Canadian leadership expert Robin Sharma reveals one of his ‘strange’ rituals – the Second-Wind Workout or “2WW” as he calls it.
“Given that exercise is one of the finest productivity tools ever created, why not use it more often within a day to get more valuable things done?” he asks. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about running a half marathon every day or even a 10km jog for that matter. It might be as simple as going for a walk before work and then going for another walk at the end of the day before heading home for the night. If your company culture allows it, my personal tip is to stay in your workout kit all day. Then you’re already good to go, so the thought of having to get changed won’t slow you down.

I’m not suggesting you sit in your office making odd noises (unless you want to). The WOOP framework is a technique developed by Professor Gabriele Oettingen, author of Rethinking Positive Thinking. It stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan. “The solution isn’t to do away with dreaming and positive thinking,” says Gabriele. “Rather, it’s making the most of our fantasies by brushing them up against the very thing most of us are taught to ignore or diminish: the obstacles that stand in our way.” There’s now even an app to help your WOOPing, developed with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Want to end your day on a high? Trying WOOPing at the moon before bedtime.

Whether it’s freshly cut grass, your mum’s perfume or bread baking, I’m a big believer in the power of smells to soothe, ground and destress you. So, use this to your advantage. In an interview, Martha Stewart revealed she has been wearing the same fragrance – Fracas by Robert Piguet – since she was 19 years old.
“I’ll put fragrance on three times a day,” says Martha. “I’m thankful every day that they haven’t altered their formula.”
Studies have found that lemon, jasmine and lavender can boost productivity. Or there’s always the smell of money, which is reportedly pumped into some Japanese factories to keep their workers focused on the end goal. Who thinks that idea stinks?

From Barack Obama to Oprah and Mark Zuckerberg, some of the world’s most recognisable names love to read, even though they could easily plead they’re far too busy. Whether it’s magazines, blogs, e-books or even comics, don’t underestimate the power of escaping into someone else’s words. The entrepreneur Jason Zook – who made more than US$1 million wearing T-shirts through his blog IWearYourShirt – has a morning ritual he calls “InstaCoffeeHobbes”. As the name suggests, this routine revolves around drinking coffee, checking Instagram and reading Calvin and Hobbes (the comic strip about a tiger and his best friend). Apparently it helps Jason “conjure up feelings of happiness”. Who says productive reading needs to be highbrow?

The president of the American food firm Cinnabon, Kat Cole, gets up at 5am every day and drinks exactly 24 ounces of water (about 700ml). But she’s not just a thirsty riser, it’s Kat’s way to count her blessings.
“[As I drink] I walk around the room, look out the window and think about the day,” says Kat, “I check my calendar and all my major social media platforms, news sites, blogs, emails and messages… I picked up this ‘drink lots of water first thing in the morning’ habit while travelling for humanitarian work in eastern Africa. We are so lucky to have access to clean drinking water, and I think about how grateful I am for that almost every day.”

This story originally ran in Issue 25 of Collective Hub.

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