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Why bingeing makes you an ultra successful entrepreneur

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”.

Every time.

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.


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  1. As someone who binged her heart out in her previous life in Oz and now happily does “work that matters” along the Thai Burma border, I so appreciated and agreed with your points. Interestingly, the teacher and Guru, Osho, advocated taking the same path of bingeing to reach a place of fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment. Thank you for sharing your insights – swing by for a coffee anytime you’re in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 🙂

    1. Hey Marike! Thanks for joining in here. Sounds like this is a concept you’ve lived.

      Chiang Mai is on the list (near the top)… I’ve been trying to get to Thailand for years.

  2. Peter,
    As a marathon runner and someone who cares about health, I really loved this article. I definitely have bouts of bingeing followed by periods of focus and control.

    Your article made me think about bingeing in business. I quit corporate land for that reason. I was fed up working my butt off (metaphorically, not literally), getting highs from promotions, money, socializing but starving myself of doing “work that matters”.

    As an entrepreneur, I’m hungry but satisfied.

    1. Right Suellen! I love this example – corporate bingeing on money and power… and isn’t it interesting how many people get sick of over-feeding themselves on that?

      When they hunger for something more nourishing, interesting stuff happens 🙂

  3. Hi Peter,

    Most enjoyable article.

    I say, live your life like a good story – use sentences of various lengths and constructions. Always trying to do everything the right way, whatever that means, gets folks too stymied to take the chances they need to pull ahead of the pack. In some ways bingeing sounds like an over-the-top kick-start to a dull, complacent life. Makes a lot of sense.

    Thx, Giulietta, choc chip cookie binger

    p.s. Would you plz consider adding Comment Luv? it’s a great gift for your commentees.

    1. Hey Giulietta, thanks for your comment – keep up the cookie consumption! 😉

      I’ve been counseled away from Comment Luv, it’s known to cause coding issues and dramas with wordpress. With my overly complicated (read: exciting) site, I’m motivated to keep everything that can be… as simplistic as possible.

  4. Peter,

    This is too good. Have you been reading my diary again?

    I went from one binge (pushing like crazy, chasing the money, filling my schedule) to the next binge which has been 6 months of complete quiet and retreat. I didn’t plan it that way but it’s what happened. And, as you say there is a lot of clarity that comes with bingeing. I don’t know whenever I have had this much clarity, peace and at the same time motivation to do what’s really important to me.

    There are a million ways that people binge and many don’t have rosy results; however, if we pay attention to what’s happening to us physically, psychologically, intellectually and spiritually we may just allow that binge to take us to a step we may had never considered.



    1. Hey Melani! I thought this post might prompt a comment from you 😉

      Sounds like you’re at that tipping point when you realize that NEITHER one of those two (distinctly different) styles of bingeing are really what you want. Third strike lucky?

      And you’re right – when most civilians binge, it’s not for the right reasons. Speaking as someone who’s worked with the worst kinds of eating disorders etc…. it’s no fun.

      But the concept of bingeing is also a useful metaphor for exploring business philosophy!

  5. My break last year, from early November to mid January, was a binge. The first month was great, because I was so busy with other things. By early January though, I was itching to get back to work. I hadn’t thought of it as a binge, a holiday is usually passive, but it was.

    I see a lot of entrepreneurs who go the other way and binge on work though. They get fed up with it, but don’t ever seem to stop. Not healthy.

    1. Hey Mel! I’ve done the other kind of binge (crazy work) and find it enjoyable, rewarding and then always finish looking for something more nourishing. Same pattern – same cycle.

      The benefit though, of work-bingeing, is that you tend to make a ton of $$$$ with which to fund holiday/relaxation binges. As far as cycles go, this one is FUN 😛

  6. Peter,

    Good article, mate!

    My personal binge: Trying to retire to a remote island in my early 20’s. I made it for seven whole months; and then I was bored to tears! In that instant, I realised the goal was not to “make enough money to be able to do nothing”, but to enjoy the fulfillment and flow that comes from working hard and pursuing worthwhile goals.

    That realisation was the message you clearly articulated in this great article. Thanks for sharing!

    Aron Croft

    1. Hey Aron, thanks for taking time to comment!

      Yours is a PERFECT example of what I’m talking about here. I wonder if, without that experience, you would have connected with the deep sense of mission/purpose that you shared with me the other day? My guess is that the island was a key step in figuring out that stuff!

  7. Nice post.

    Yes, I realize that bingeing is one important part of my “entrepreneur” life. It allows me to find profitable ideas to pursue and to clear my mind of the unimportant things. And, like you, I couldn’t be on vacation all year long because what’s fulfill me the most in life is the creation of something (product or art). I must create!

    I’m on my 4th week on 4HB… Past days were difficult but I’m back on track after a little bit of exercise. It was fun to know that you’re on that program too!

    1. Hey Marie-Pier! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Sounds like you’ve figured out how to make the odd binge (of whatever kind) work for you … fueling your desire to create meaningful work!

      Rock on with the 4HB!

  8. Awesome stuff Peter, I completely agree. I think another way of phrasing it is that entrepreneurs like to take things to the extreme and test their boundaries. Sometimes you really don’t know how much you are capable of drinking, or lifting, or writing, until you do a whole marathon of it. I think when we take things to the extreme we open up lots of opportunities for growth and learning.

    1. Hey Steven,

      I like your way of putting it – entrepreneurs take everything to the edge! That’s definitely a philosophy I can associate with… all that may just be my ego talking 😉

  9. Great point.

    Sometimes we realize things rationally (“stuff” won’t make me happy, indulgence is unnecessary, etc.) that we don’t realize emotionally until we actually have that experience.

    It’s only by going through the door that we realize through experience what we “knew” all along.

    1. Hi Jack – thanks for joining us here. I think you make a *real* good point – I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs who have a sort of “academic” belief that they’re “better than” materialism… but usually they have to actually DO the whole material schtick for a year or so (and do it WELL) before they can really get over it.

      Good call.

  10. Right on, sir!

    This is -exactly- what I’ve experienced in my own way. At 20 I had more money than I could spend thanks to poker, but it helped me realize that all the money in the world wasn’t going to make me happy or fulfilled.

    I’d still have to say that I am not indulging myself enough. I tend to be an extreme long-term thinker, so I try to be perfect, but it’s all slowly falling to the wayside.

    Life just gets more and more interesting, doesn’t it? 😉

    1. Hey Henri,

      Awesome that you experienced that kind of abundance at such a young age – I’ve no doubt that would have accelerated your development in terms of values and “doing work that counts”.

      Looking forward to seeing what else you do with that gift 🙂

  11. Aaah. What insightful commentary.

    Being an entrepreneur is also about bingeing on the latest fad – based on the book you just read, talk you just attended or podcast you just heard – and, only after implementing it rather aggressively, you know where it works and where it sucks. And, you bring it down. The point being passion.

    At Online courses on WizIQ, when we add a new sales channel, we go all out. Everyone thinks, debates and discusses only that. And then the sobering happens. If its a huge success, dedicated teams take over. If it hasn’t worked as well, we rejig and go back convinced more of things that work. Unless we went all out for it there would always have been “Maybe if we had just tried harder for that sales channel”. Right now, it is “Maybe later, not now”. It is so powerful and effective. And it keeps us lean 🙂

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