The simplest way to improve your startup's chance of success

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Running a start-up is extremely demanding. Whether you’re focusing on getting that product out or making sure you can pay out salaries, as an entrepreneur you face constant pressure. You live a hectic life. It seems like you never have enough time, and sometimes you just feel like you need to sit and take a deep breath.

Well maybe you should.

But don't just take a deep breath. Take several, take them rhythmically and smoothly. In fact forget the 'deep'. That is not the key factor. The magic is in the rhythm.

Do you breathe your brain into chaos?

As you breathe in and out, your heart rate goes up and down all the time. This phenomenon is called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). The degree and pattern of your HRV is influenced by your breathing, emotional states and general health. Erratic breathing (which is what most of us do all the time) and stress or negative emotions make the pattern more chaotic while also decreasing the HRV. When your HRV becomes very low, you are about to die.

You are still alive and reading, but there is bad news nevertheless.

First, a decrease in the degree of HRV means lower energy and overall flexibility. Start-ups need people, and particularly leaders, with fantastic energy reserves, great dynamism and an ability to renew their energy levels easily. In that sense, your degree of HRV- and that of your employees- is an indicator for success.

Second, chaos in your HRV pattern contributes to mental stress. It’s part of the reason why smart people do stupid things, and it could be part of the reason why you can't get your answers right in front of an investor or important prospect. So, while it might seem subtle, chaos in your HRV risks making your startup a mess too.

So how can you be full of energy and smart, all of the time?

The answer is in your breathing. Just sit down in an undisturbed place, a few times per day, for 10 minutes, and breathe in an effortless and steady rhythm. Make sure you sit upright and that your outbreath is minimum the same length as your inbreath. Ideally it is twice as long. Breathe in for five seconds and out for five seconds. Or six in, eight out. Or whatever feels comfortable to you.

And while you're at it, think of something that makes you happy.

What will happen is an increase of your HRV. This means more 'vital energy' and ability to respond flexibly to your environment. Your HRV pattern will go from chaotic (A in the image) to coherent (B in the image). This state of physiological coherence is what one would call 'the zone'. You get in your flow. You get more creative, can concentrate better and have greater working memory. Smart thinking mode: ON. And you're more pleasant to be around, too.

A sharp brain and 10 years younger

With a biofeedback sensor and app on your phone, such as the Inner Balance app from Heartmath, you can track your HRV, coherence levels and the evolution over time. After some time this coherent state will start to carry throughout your day. You'll be on your A game all the time. Imagine running your company with the knowledge you have today AND the energy level you had 10 years ago.

Learn how to manage your energy instead of your time

HRV science proves that yogis were spot on with their Pranayama (the use of breath to regulate vital energy). And there is more where that came from. From relaxation techniques that increase your emotional intelligence to 'body locks' that lift you out of a heavy emotional or energetic mood instantly, there is a lot that you could incorporate in your (office) life to improve your performance.

Don’t have time for that kind of thing?

Listen to the Yogis once more: if you don’t have time to meditate 30 minutes per day, then you should meditate 1 hour per day. The key is energy, not time.

On the 13th of September there is a workshop in Dubai organized by [link:] on the topic of Mental Performance. Both HRV breathing exercises and the above-mentioned kind of techniques are addressed.

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