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The new programming language every startup founder should know

There is a new programming language. Except rather than being used to program software, it’s used to program the human mind — the founder’s wetware — and to engineer emotional states.

This programming language comprises methods, routines, and functions that can be called upon and routinely executed to help founders achieve #peakfounder state, and optimise themselves for success, at work, home and play.

The concepts listed below are not taken from clinical psychology. Nor are they theory based or motivational. Instead they are tangible, action-based concepts taken from some of the most successful individuals, that you can adopt to better manage your time, and to engineer your emotional state, on a consistent basis.

A new glossary for peak founder state:

Adulting — the art of getting your basics right, from sleep to meals, water consumption, exercise, making your bed, personal hygiene, clothing and grooming. It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs and creatives let these basic skills lapse due to the demands and pressures of their business.

Blockers — blockers are anything or anyone which prevent you from doing or achieving your goal, task, or objective. This can be the spouse who tries to drag you back into bed at 4am when you are trying to get up to exercise. Or the endless stream of people wanting your attention or time. Or circumstances that prevent you getting to a key meeting or key moment. Recognising blockers allows you to then engineer around them or disable them.

Brain Board — a decision making tool, this is a virtual boardroom of advisors that exists purely in your head, to help you reflect on a decision or plan. One method is to choose people you respect (real or fictional characters), and then hold virtual advisory board meetings in your head to help you process decisions and reflect on actions you should take. The process is simply to pose a question to each virtual board member, and then play out how you think that character would respond to that same situation. Also see Filters.

Calendar control — the art of engineering your day and week, and managing the inbound requests of your time, to balance creative and strategic work, with operational work, along with the demands of others, as well as time for family, rest, and play. It also involves recognising your emotional response to activities and then consciously engineering your calendar to suit you, not others.

Circuit breakers — tools and language you can use as triggers to stop a negative situation, feeling, destructive behaviour. Unchecked, negative emotions can spiral out of control. But with circuit breakers, you can interrupt thought patterns and behaviours and correct them, to then return to a balanced and positive mood. This can be for individuals or groups of people.

Disclaimers — these are phrases and language we use that signal our subconscious intent to retreat from a task or challenge. They indicate that we haven’t really committed to completing the action behind what we are saying. A classic example is “I will try to…”. Using the word ‘try’ immediately implies you are not fully committed. [There is no try, there is only do or do not.] Once you are aware of disclaimers, they become very obvious when people use them.

Download — the act of verbalising your day or an event or your stresses to another person (or through a self-reflection such as recording a video), so as to unload, process, and purge thoughts and emotions, enabling you to transition to a more-stress free feeling, and shift into a new persona or emotional state. The act of downloading is less about problem solving, and more about purging or reseting by sharing your thoughts with a suitable download buddy.

Download Buddy — a person you download to. Ideally they should be someone who understands both you and the topic you are downloading about. The closer the relationship, and the more vulnerable you can be without fear of judgement, the more powerful the download process.

Enablers — the opposite of blockers, enablers are those individuals, objects, or circumstances that help you to achieve your goals and objectives. Enablers are typically people that encourage and support you, and who perform actions to assist you to achieve your goals and tasks, or who just know how to say exactly the right thing to you at exactly the right time.

Filters — these are questions you can ask yourself to help make decisions (aka filters for decision making). Some examples include: “What would Elon Musk do in this situation?”, “Does this take me in the direction of my long term goals?”, “How would I feel if what I am doing was on the front page of the newspaper?”. You develop the filters that best suit you and your drivers and goals. Also see Brain Board.

Founder Tribe — a group of founders who form a kinship through mutual respect, sharing, and vulnerability. Finding your tribe of like-minded peers will build confidence, knowing you have a trusted support network of others going through very similar experiences. A good founder tribe also enables faster laps of learning through peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.

Meal Prep — the act of preparing the meals for you and your household for the week ahead to increase productivity, reduce stress of last-minute or rushed meal times, ensure healthy food consumption, and reduce the risk of skipping meals or resorting to unhealthy fast-food alternatives. Meal prep is a productivity-enhancing routine typically completed on the weekend.

Peak Founder — when a founder is operating in their peak mental, emotional, and physical state. At Peak Persona we help founders achieve their peak self.

Personas — These are versions of ourselves where we emphasise certain characteristics we have, in order to best perform particular activities. For example, if you are naturally an introvert, then you may need to engage your extrovert persona when you are called upon to facilitate an event or speak to a large audience. Personas for founders could vary between roles and responsibilities within the business and the roles played at home and play.

Persona Playlist — these are music playlists used to generate an emotional response in order to put you into a particular persona needed to perform a specific task or activity. Examples include upbeat playlists for pitching, selling, hustling, or presenting (also known as super hero or invincible playlists). Another is a more relaxed playlist for transitioning to home and family time. Others may be for exercise, love, or to de-stress after a toxic situation.

Founder Pit Crew — the people immediately around you who serve as your support network. Think of yourself as a F1 racing driving, and your pit crew is there to ensure you are out on the track performing at your best. Your pit crew can include your spouse, family, peers, friends, mentors, and others. Your pit crew should understand you on a deep level, and know your triggers and blockers, and exactly when to push you, and when to comfort you.

Pre-Dawn — the time before the sun rises. The pre-dawn is your time, before the inbound requests and distractions of the day begin. The majority of successful people are all pre-dawn people, typically awake and active before 5am. This time should be used to invest in yourself and should include routines to create momentum for the day.

Random Acts of Kindness — these are gifts or gestures that you give or complete for others (often complete strangers) completely anonymously, and without the expectation of return or recognition. The acts can take any form of the 5 Love Languages. Regularly performing random acts of kindness will change your perspective of the world around you, and help build emotional intelligence, as well as release oxytocin. It helps personify the #GiveFirst mentality.

Self-talk — this refers to our internal dialogue; the voices in our head. They can be positive or negative influences. Being aware of and controlling our self-talk is one of the most critical steps to achieving success. The easiest step to overcoming self-talk is to take massive immediate action that commits you before your brain has time to talk you out of it. Also see The Others.

Retreater — this is a person who sets an ambitious goal but then retreats to average. Reasons for retreat can include fear, blockers, internal dialogue, imposter syndrome, refusing to accept short-term pain for long-term gain, or the detrimental sacrifice of putting others ahead of self. The top 2% never retreat.

Third Space — this is a physical place outside of home and work that is used to allow you to decompress and transition between the roles of work, rest and play, or to achieve micro transitions between interactions and events in your day. A third space could be a cafe, a beach, park, your commute, or even locking yourself in your bathroom.

The Others — many people have different characters that play out in the internal dialogue in their head and manifest as different moods or versions of themselves. One tool to recognising and managing these “moods” is to assign characters and names to them. You might have an Anxious Annie within you, and you can tell Annie to keep it down when she is yelling at you at 3am, and that you will talk to her in the morning after you wake up. Or you might have an internal warrior that you can choose to use when dealing with difficult situations. You are the CEO and in control of The Others, so use them wisely.

Triggers — these are words, sounds, smells, objects, places, or people that generate an emotional response within us or cause us to take a particular action, positive or negative. For example, a cluttered desk may trigger anxiety for you. Or the presence of a particular person may send your emotions off the chart (in either direction). Knowing your triggers enables you to weaponise and leverage them, or remove them, in order to achieve peak founder state.

Unplug — the act of disconnecting from technology and non-natural sensory or mental stimulus, allowing your brain to process thoughts and reflect on events and conversations. Every day should include some unplug time, but just as importantly, at least once a year you should have an extended unplug of at least 4 days.

Zones & Spaces — this refers to the allocation of physical spaces into specific purposes. For example, a dining room has a specific function, and should not be cluttered with home office contents. Similarly your bedroom is for sleep and connecting with your partner, so should be free technology and other objects that distract from that purpose. Defining zones in this way helps to create the right mindset and mood to switch your context as you move into those spaces, and prevents carrying stress or moods from one context to another.

Have some of your own?

Do you have a routine or tools you use to achieve your peak state as a founder? If so, please share it in the comments below, or drop us a message, as we would love to include more suggestions here to share with other founders.

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