In February of 2018, I was about 230 pounds, sleeping horribly, and, while I was successful at work, I wasn’t feeling good overall health-wise. I had heartburn, high-blood pressure, and I was pre-diabetic – but I wasn’t paying attention to any of that. Then I was hit by a car as I walked to the bus to start my morning commute. To say everything changed in an instant is an understatement. I had one of those life-flashing-before-your-eyes moments and, while I was luckily still able to walk, I did suffer a dislocated right shoulder, a fractured humeral head, a T12 compression fracture in my spine, and a broken tooth.
With the support of my wife, a great boss and team, and some amazing physical therapists, after a year I was back to normal. But “normal” still didn’t feel healthy. When my wife told me we were expecting our first child in 2019, I got scared straight. I didn’t want to be one of those dads who couldn’t run around with their kids or had to watch from the sidelines. I joined Noom, developed a much healthier relationship with food, and lost 40 pounds. My heartburn was gone, my high blood pressure was under control, I was sleeping great, and I was no longer pre-diabetic. In June 2020 we welcomed my daughter Cassy into our lives and all the changes were totally worth it. These changes also made me a better partner to my wife. I felt better so I was more present, more engaged, and just overall happier.
Sleep has been huge for me. More than anything I try to keep the same sleep schedule, regardless of the day of the week. I’m not saying that I don’t go out and have a good time — being healthy doesn’t mean skipping out on life — but I keep about an 80/20 split between sticking to my routines and cutting myself some slack. I’m generally in bed by 10:30 pm and I’m up by 6:30 am every day. Sticking to this routine keeps me grounded and refreshed. If I don’t sleep well I feel off, and with a toddler at home, there are no days off.
I also run a lot. I know running is not for everyone, but for me it’s the ease with which you can disconnect while running. I run through my neighborhood, the woods, pretty much anywhere. And the nice thing is that I am outside. Even when it’s cold, getting outside is refreshing and helps me to recharge.
And as I mentioned earlier, eating well is key for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can crush a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and fries any day of the week, but I try to keep things balanced. I eat whatever I want, but I try to match it up with the day’s physical activity. If I know I’m going running that day, I’ll have a bigger meal or add in dessert. When I’m not as active I try to keep it leaner. I’m not perfect, but it works for me.
If I could give some work advice, it would be to never chase a title. I started my career at KPMG and that world is all “up or out”. When I left, I took that mentality with me to the tech world and was repeatedly disappointed when I wasn’t promoted. Once I stopped chasing titles and just focused on the work, the titles came. Be driven by the opportunity to do fun, interesting, and challenging work; the rest will come as a result. So take your vacation. There is never a better time to do it, and, I promise, everyone will survive if you step away and recharge. burnout is not a badge of honor.
And remember that everyone you work with, including yourself, is simply human. When working with my current team, or previous teams that I have led or been a part of, I always remember to think about what is happening in their lives, not just work. You are a person, parent, partner, child first. Then you’re an employee. I’m more interested in how you’re doing than I am in the presentation you are working on. I want you to do good work because it matters to you, not because you want to impress me.