Imagine you have a chance to start all over — a chance to change the way you do things in order to find success. I am always fascinated by the daily routines of successful people. One of my favorite quotes says, “Successful people don’t do what others are not doing. They are doing what everyone else can do, but don’t.”
Enter Peter Polydor. A young and very successful entrepreneur who built companies in eCommerce and web services, and spent the last several years working in venture capital. As the Director and Founder of ERGO Capital and the startup accelerator Ergo Accel, he continues to build a massive startup and tech community in Orange County, California.
As I drank my Americano and he sipped his Moroccan Mint Green Tea, we discussed his tips on goal setting, and dug into what qualities he sees in successful entrepreneurs who build companies that make it past the startup phase.
I was interested in Peter’s daily routine, to try and discover if he is doing any simple things that I can (and you can) do, but are not doing.
Ryan Foland: What do you before 8am to be more productive?
Peter Polydor: It depends on if I wake up before 8am. You see, I don’t have an alarm.
Ryan Foland: Wow, okay. That kinda stresses me out. Tell me more.
Peter Polydor: My body will wake me up at a relatively early time, usually it normally wakes me up around 7ish.
Ryan Foland: I love how you refer to your body as it ‘waking you up.’
Peter Polydor: Yeah, I guess my body is the alarm clock. Your body goes through REM cycles, and if you want to start your day off positively, let your body wake yourself up. You’ll wake up feeling rested and calm, rather than struggling to get out of bed because your alarm happened to interrupt your REM sleep. When my body wakes me up, it is ready and excited to get out of bed.
Ryan Foland: Now, did you work up to that after a certain amount of time setting emergency alarms just in case? Or has this been something you’ve done forever? I can see people like me being scared of trusting my body to wake me up. We have all had that moment when we roll over to look at the clock, and freak out because we missed our alarm. Panic kicks in and it can be pretty stressful. Or worse, if that sleeping in causes you to miss an important meeting…
Peter Polydor: Yeah, the struggle is real. Years ago, I was still using an alarm but over time, I began to wake up on my own before the alarm. Especially when I travel, I respect my REM cycle, and letting my body wake me up is one of the greatest skills I have acquired. Sleep is so important and your body knows how much sleep it needs. That being said, if I know I have a 9am or 8am meeting, I will set an alarm to make sure that I get there on time. But I try to not schedule any meetings for myself before 10am. Phone calls would be the exception.
Ryan Foland: Gotcha. Any other weird, quirky stuff you do? Do you do ten pushups before you get going? Do you drink green tea? Are you a coffee guy?
Peter Polydor: I don’t do caffeine in the morning either.
Ryan Foland: What, what, what!? Really? Why not?
Peter Polydor: Because then you get used to it, and you’ll always need caffeine nitro boosts to get your body going in the morning. The only time I usually drink anything with caffeine is in the afternoon, and that’s only if I’m lagging.
And yeah, I always have some kind of workout routine in the morning, whether it’s as simple as doing twenty or thirty pushups right before jumping in the shower or actually going to the gym. I have to do something active in the morning.
Ryan Foland: How do you deal with stress that comes along with being a business owner?
Peter Polydor: I listen to myself.
Ryan Foland: You talk to yourself?
Peter Polydor: No. When I’m actually feeling stressed, I try to recognize that I am stressed. This active listening to myself helps me know when to not make decisions.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I am listening… to you, not me at this moment.
Peter Polydor: The worst time to make decisions in life is when you’re afraid of the outcome or stressed out about what’s going on. My solution is recognizing when I am stressed, so that I can go do something that’s completely unplugged from whatever it is I’m looking at. It can be as simple as watching a movie or playing a video game or doing something that stops the stressed part of my brain from critically thinking. This ‘brain break’ helps me de-stress and allows me to revisit important decisions with a clear mind.
Ryan Foland: So listen to yourself and identify when your thoughts are fearful, anxious, or stressed. And you’re saying that this awareness helps you to know when to take a break, allowing you to revisit things with a clear head?
Peter Polydor: Right. When you are under stress or afraid, whatever answer you come up with will not be your best answer. My dad always told me, ‘Never do anything out of fear because that will lead you down the wrong path.’ In fact, Yoda has some great insight here too — he says, ‘Fear is the path to the dark side; fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.’
Ryan Foland: Nice Yoda throwback!
Peter Polydor: Fear is the worst decision maker. So if you can realize when you are afraid, you should know to hold off on any big decisions. Take a walk, and come back to the decision when your brain is ready.
Ryan Foland: All right. Any other morning hacks? I like all of these — no alarm, no meetings until after 10am, work-out, focus on not focusing when you’re stressed. Anything else that is stupid obvious and simple, but has a big impact on your daily routine?
Peter Polydor: Yeah, make sure you get up in the morning. It’s great when people say that they were up until 2 am working, but I’m like why? Turn off, go to sleep and let your body regenerate itself. I was listening to a talk at Oxford on how our brains are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid. Your brain is basically soaking in it, right? And throughout the day this fluid gets more and more toxic because of all the impurities coming through our body during the day. While we’re sleeping, the brain fluid flushes itself and removes the toxins, so all the bad stuff gets pushed out and new fluid gets pushed in. If you don’t sleep you’re literally carrying all the problems, stresses, and impurities of the day before. This actually lowers your cognitive functions.
Go to sleep when you’re actually tired and give yourself enough time to sleep. If you’re someone who just sleeps in until noon every day, no matter how awesome your rocket ship or plane is, you might never make it off the ground.