This is part #2 of my “CEO and a dad” rambling.
My wife and I sleep in the same room with our little one – having his baby bed right next to ours placed at 90 degrees along the left side of our bed. This constellation was my wife’s idea, so she can handle things more conveniently at night – without having to actually get up from bed. Our little screamer has a nasty voice pitch, so you can imagine how it looks when he does his C6 a the top of his lungs at 2am – you don’t want to let him “practice” for too long :)
Just for the record, I feel obliged to say that although I slept on the opposite side of the bed, I still did my part of shushing at night – especially on weekends. On weekdays my caring wife wanted me to be well rested and focused for my work – so I paid her back on weekends.
One day, a month or two ago, my wife was feeling particularly exhausted and energyless. We had a rough week with the little devil, and sleep deprivation harms her system a lot. I offered to do the ‘shift’ that night, and to emphasize that I told her – “say – why don’t we switch sides, I’ll sleep on the left side tonight!”. It’s not that I had any clue how switching sides would help in that regards, I just felt I needed to emphasize my intention to help her get a good night’s sleep, and I hadn’t any better idea in that particular moment.
But totally funky thing happened the next morning. Although little Luciano Pavarotti did his arias that night – she actually slept very well!
Notwithstanding the fact that this is not the first time I did the night shift – this is the first night she slept without hearing all the sounds coming from his baby bed. Usually, she hears every sigh or sound he makes at night – which I’m positive all mothers will acknowledge – but interestingly enough, that night she hadn’t heard any.
That insignificant move – switching sides, produced an incredibly strong subconscious effect. She felt that someone is on top of the problem, and things were taken care of. So her system allowed her to fall into sleep really deep, and don’t get awakened by usual sounds of flipping in bed or moaning.
From that night onwards, we shift sides in bed.
Interestingly enough, even though we don’t hear his fabulous C6 so often at night – the one sleeping on the right side gets a much better sleep. We both confirm that fact. You know someone else is responsible for potential problems, so you’re more relaxed, and vice versa. Although there aren’t any real problems going – you simply have a dose of anxiety, due to anticipating them.
Don’t put it all on your shoulders
Being a founder, or early-stage CEO means you’re on a constant watch for everything. Product, customers, infrastructure, roadmap, partners, and (especially) budget. There’s literally nothing that is not in your line of duty, and there’s nothing you’re not anxious about, anticipating the worst outcome.
Like a mother, you hear every sigh, and feel every move.
I read a phenomenal book recently, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things“, by Ben Horowitz, and one thing from the book resonated extremely well with me. Ben says – “You won’t be able to share every burden, but share every burden that you can“.
As a founder/CEO – you have to “sleep on the right side” every now and then.
Leaders often make mistakes thinking their job as a team lead, or product manager, executive or even a CEO is to filter out the outside stress for the team. To be a firewall for all problems coming from the outside. Consequently, they often don’t tell stuff like “we have only two months of cash left“, because they don’t want to scare people off.
Simply being honest is the best possible thing you can do on the long run to instill trust in your company. Get the maximum number of brains on the problem even if the problems represent existential threats. People will get personally excited and motivated.
And it will reduce anxiety.