Binge. It’s a loaded word. For most people, it conjures up thoughts of eating disorders and obsessive behavior. Bingeing is never a healthy thing, right?
I thought so, until a recent experience opened my eyes. I’m now convinced that binge behavior is the secret to the kind of business success that allows entrepreneurs to contribute hugely and be rewarded for it.
This post explains why. Starting with my personal account of an out-of-control binge experience.
Like most tech savvy males between 18 and 35, I bought a copy of Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Body when it launched before Christmas last year. For me, this tome on “becoming super human” came at the perfect time – my last ski season was a fitness disaster and I had big dreams to change all that for 2011. I harbored huge intentions to kick off an intensive training (and dietary) program starting Jan 1st.
Bear with me a moment, because this has everything to do with business success.
I decided to trial Tim’s slow carb diet and weight training suggestions in an intensive way. The basic premise is to cut out simple carbohydrates of all kinds – eating a ton of meat, legumes and veges instead.
This diet is different to many others because it suggests (actually, insists on) bingeing.
The idea is to strictly follow the diet for six days out of seven… and once a week go absolutely nuts bingeing on every kind of unhealthy, starchy and sugary food. This is a highly effective approach to weight loss (and muscle/strength gains) for both physiological and psychological reasons.
I geared up my brain with some psychological wizardry and began.
When I commit to an experience, I commit fully. My first week, I had zero deviations from the diet. I spent the whole week looking forward to a Saturday of insane eating – making a mental check list of every food I was lusting after.
I woke up on Saturday morning and breakfasted on almond croissants (x2), french fries and beer. Lunch was enormous slices of brie cheese, figs, honey and toasted turkish bread. Dinner was a family size chili chicken pizza smothered in cheese.
Needless to say, I felt terrible.
Even without following a rigid diet, I never eat stuff like that normally. I didn’t feel remotely hungry when I began my pizza… But I was determined to binge as much as humanly possible.
It was so disgusting, I ended up looking forward to a Sunday of eggs, lean meat, greens and lentils. My binge made it easy for me to commit to another week of hardcore adherence to the diet.
When the next Saturday rolled round I woke up, measured my waist (two inches vanished!) and grabbed french toast for breakfast. A sandwich for lunch. A bit of pasta for dinner. In other words, a kind of normal (slightly unhealthy) day of eating.
The psychological impact of the bingeing was significant. One day of ridiculous excess had put me off doing it again… at least for a while.
I finished the day realizing how little I really enjoyed eating those kinds of foods. It was an extremely introspective experience that taught me how much, in the past, I would eat unhealthy foods and regret consuming them immediately afterwards.
For some reason, it took a huge binge for the message to really sink in: I hate eating that way.
(Fear not, this is about to make enormous business sense… if you haven’t spotted my point already.)
As loyal readers will know, last year I spent three months ensconced in a mountain cabin, hanging out with a wild sausage dog (I kid you not), writing and skiing.
For me, that was a binge holiday. I’ve never indulged myself so hedonistically before and I found the experience hugely intimidating and rewarding. It also followed the same pattern…
Two weeks before the end of the NZ ski season, I was done. I had mentally checked out and was lusting after my return to the city, corporate consulting and the insane whirlwind that is my “normal” life.
A binge holiday had taught me, as gratifying as daily skiing is, I like hard work in the pursuit of business success better!
There is no way, in a million years, I’d trade what I do for permanent mountain cabin living… even if I won the lottery. It took actually doing it for three months to learn that. A binge was required.
See how this applies to business success yet?
When entrepreneurs work hard, push for success and then win some of it… bingeing is important. In fact, binge behavior is one of the characteristics I’ve observed in every entrepreneur I’ve met who are in the $100 million revenue p/a club.
When you buy a Ferrari, you’re car-bingeing. When you turn off your phone and spend four weeks in the tropics, you’re holiday bingeing. When you give yourself an experience of total, over-the-top indulgence and hedonism… you’re bingeing.
You are also giving yourself a gift. You’re presenting your egotistical, materialist self with it’s deepest, shallowest desires (fast cars, pizza, travel, furniture) and then some.
It’s when you over-indulge that something incredible happens. You realize that none of that stuff matters.
It’s actually not that important. It doesn’t really excite you, for more than a few moments of your life.
When you binge, you over-feed the materialistic self within. With it’s appetite finally sated, you give yourself the opportunity to ask yourself:
Now that I’ve overcome those adolescent desires, what is really important?
When an entrepreneur answers that question, through planning and action, things get really interesting. Empires are built and the world changes.
This is why, as the shrink for entrepreneurs, I’ll passionately encourage my clients to shoot for the most self-serving, material and shallow goals imaginable. I’ve helped people figure out how to make enough money to buy jets, take mini-retirements and more.
Shocking, disgusting excesses. Total bingeing.
I’m writing all this with a grin, because it’s a total win-win. When the client comes back, psychologically bloated from their binge, they ask me how to get started on “the work that matters”.
Only the experience of bingeing enables us to realize the limitations of fulfillment that self-serving goals offer. We get bored of feeding. The appeal of spending money and attaining “stuff” fades. The best part? It happens faster than anyone ever thinks it will.
Readers of this blog will be at various stages of the evolutionary journey I’m describing. Many entrepreneurs attempt to avoid binge behavior and, interestingly, fail to attain any kind of meaningful success.
My question to you is… Are you indulging yourself enough?
Are you willing to accelerate your personal evolution, as a human and entrepreneur, by working hard to fulfill your hedonistic desires… so that you can then transcend them?
The world needs you to get over your want for Ferraris, huge holidays, pizza, private jets and whatever else… so that you can get around to doing something that counts.