Founders need to be intentional about their health and performance. Mental and physical health have real business impacts.
How does a founder's health and performance impact their business?
David DiPaola, Founder & CEO of Sensibly, shares how entrepreneurs can think differently about their approach to health and wellness – while navigating the chaos of being a founder.
David is offering free 20 minute coaching sessions for /Founders Focus podcast listeners. No sales pitch, just health and performance coaching.
Have feedback? Connect with Scott Case on LinkedIn
Visit foundersfocus.com to connect with other founders and see what topics are up next.
Scott Case 0:00
Welcome everybody. I'm Scott Case, co-founder and CEO of Upside and co-host today for this bonus episode of our Founders Focus podcast. I'm joined today by David DiPaola, who is the founder and CEO of Sensibly. We're going to talk about health and performance around founders, and how to think a little bit about how to even know what those points are that integrate between your health and your wellbeing and everything from sleep, etc, and how you navigate the chaos of being a founder. And so with that, I'll turn it over to David to share a little bit about himself.
David DiPaola 0:44
Yes, so thank you, Scott. And I'm the CEO of Sensibly and Sensibly is a company that is focused on helping you thrive in both health and performance. And I also have another company, DiPaola Consulting. I do that part time right now. But I'm primarily focused on Sensibly and trying to grow that. And previously I was a vice president for a technology company, TT electronics, traveled the world, had staff in multiple countries, and then prior to that, I was an engineer slash leader where I worked on sensor products.
Scott Case 1:23
So talk a little bit about the sensor products. You have a background in, not just in software and health performance, but also in the hardware in the sensoring side. So how did all that come together to create Sensibly and what Sensibly's primary purpose in life?
David DiPaola 1:42
When I started DiPaola Consulting back in 2011, I started working with some health companies on different health sensors. And one of the sensors that I worked on was a small little device, it's about this big and you strap it onto your arm, and you can actually diagnose if you have a rotator cuff tear or not. And you don't have to go through an MRI to be able to do that. Now, you don't know for sure how bad it is and you need the MRI for like the 2% that actually need surgery. But to use it as a screening tool to sort out, let's say 95% of the people who don't need it right away, right in the office and send those to physical therapy. That was one of the sensors that I worked on that kind of inspired Sensibly.
Scott Case 2:36
That's awesome. All right. So what is Sensibly do and what's the product or the problem you're solving?
David DiPaola 2:45
Sensibly is best represented by health management companion. And what that is, is a healthy body, mind and mindset. Then the M stands for monitoring, which gives you continuous feedback as you're going through this journey. Because feedback is extremely important – one for motivation, but then also to know that you're going in the right direction. And then C stands for coaching. And coaching is both digital and human coaching. And what that does is that brings out intrinsic motivation and really acts as your guide – it's not directive, it's more bringing out your best through questioning. And when you get stuck we act as a guide to help you get through those plateau periods.
Scott Case 3:34
And so how is it different from lots of other smart wearables like the Apple Watch or I have a Withings smartwatch that tracks things and I have an app that tracks my basic health? What's the big innovation or value that Sensibly creates?
David DiPaola 3:54
For one, one of the things that we specialize is you don't have to continuously wear your monitors. We find that a lot of people don't want to continuously wear monitors all the time. And so if you're monitoring, for example, hypertension, you really only have to take it once or twice a day and that's it. But the real differentiator is we merge this performance piece also with the health piece that really gives people tools to get past these really difficult times just when adversity hits. So two months in and you're going and then an injury hits and what do I do? Or I start to lose my motivation. And the coaching piece is really, really important. I think that's what separates us from someone like an Apple where it's more like machine based and it's not personalized just to the individual whereas we are.
Scott Case 5:03
So talk a little bit about – founders have stressful moments, I don't know, every 15 minutes throughout the day, sometimes even when we're sleeping. So with health and performance, how does it go beyond just eating right and exercising? What are the other components that have to be kept in mind? And sort of what are some of the mistakes that maybe you've observed founders getting into when they're maybe not paying attention to some of the other aspects?
David DiPaola 5:34
There's a few things that are really important. One - mindset is hugely important, because as a founder, you can get into a cycle of negative thinking, because there's a lot of rejection, a lot of closed doors. And so having a mindset of not failing, like, I'm not going to fail at any cost. That's really, really important. But then having some tools, just from a performance perspective, like how to form good habits, how to better manage your time, how to set the right goals, how to deliberately practice so that you're constantly improving, that you have the right focus, the right forms of feedback, how to fix those things. And then, how do some of the elements of health play into that? How does sleep affect things? How does memory affect things? How do you get out of a state of chronic stress and bring in renewal so that you don't have these hormones constantly just dragging you down and causing it to be very difficult as a founder?
Scott Case 6:42
So, Sensibly is not quite in the market yet. What tools might I use as a founder today? And what are the things to be aware of? What are your 1, 2, 3 tips and tricks that any founder can use to help kind of manage to perhaps get yourself out of a negative spiral, but also to kind of keep yourself moving forward from a performance standpoint?
David DiPaola 7:09
One of the biggest things is sleep. And there's a lot of people who have overrated sleep deprivation, like I only get five hours sleep a night, or I only get six hours sleep a night. And the research is just overwhelming that seven to nine hours is really important. And if you want to cheat a little bit, stay closer to the seven hours. But there's just so many things that you can improve your performance on with proper sleep. And so that's one element. So that's number one is get enough sleep.
David DiPaola 7:44
Number two is really managing your stress. Stress is not bad, so we have to get out of the mindset that stress is bad. What's bad is chronic prolonged stress, where you just don't get a break. And so build in points of renewal throughout your day. So like, for example, once in the morning, I go for a walk. And then once in the afternoon, I go for a walk. And that walk allows me to process information throughout the day. And then I get insights because when I'm in the thick of it, it's really hard to work through some of those elements. And so those walks I find are hugely beneficial, because one, it's reducing my stress, and then two, it's giving me insights.
David DiPaola 8:25
And then the last thing I would say is start to develop some really positive habits. So think about your cue and your response, and your reward associated with that. And then start thinking about how you can build some positive habits that will really influence your business. For example, just around time management, because time is really fundamental for a founder, right? And so if you're able to build in some of these habits, and making sure that you tap into emotion as well as your intrinsic motivation, those are really, really important. So those are like my top three.
Scott Case 9:06
Do you see some kind of research trends? You talked a little bit about the importance of sleep – are there some other examples of research you found that founders should pay particular attention to as it relates to the link between our overall health and our performance?
David DiPaola 9:28
What's interesting is there's a lot of work done now around memory. I'm of the age 47, where I've started to see a slight decline in memory. And that can affect you as a founder, right? Because you want to be able to remember people's names and you want to be able to make links between different pieces of information. And what we're finding through the research just recently in the last 10 years, is that the brain is highly plastic, meaning that you can actually strengthen your memory. And I've actually been working on as a founder improving my memory, like just improving names, because you can make a very dramatic impact. When I give presentations, I memorize a lot of the information so that comes right off the top of my tongue and you can really impress investors with that type of knowledge. And how do you go about doing it? I think founders can really take advantage of some of the things that we've learned from like these memory championships and apply them to everyday practice in presenting interacting with people. And I think that is one of the most interesting areas right now in health and performance.
Scott Case 10:45
All right, so everybody has challenges remembering names, what's your top trick to practice embedding those names in your memory so that you can draw them in that real time moment?
David DiPaola 10:59
What I do is, I look for a particular feature on someone's face, that makes them stand out. So for me, you may or may not notice this, but I have a scar right here. Well, that could be a feature that you use to remember my name. For someone, it might be like really bushy eyebrows. For someone who might be a particular hairstyle. And what you want to do is try to associate that with something already in your long term memory. Like, for example, this one particular person I met typically wore their hair in a bun, and that reminds me of a berry and her name was Mary. And I just made that association. And I just come up with a name all the time. And for example, there was this other person who had a mustache who reminded me of my friend, Bill, and I remembered him having just pretend like really bushy blue hair, and I made it like really extreme. And I was able to remember that his name was Bill because I associated his mustache and his really bushy hair with my friend who had bill and I've never forgot his name since. So how can you make it extreme? How can you make it a mental image? And how can you associate emotion to that? And that's a really good trick on how to do it.
Scott Case 12:26
Do you typically do that in real time? Hi, my name is Scott. And you're practiced enough to do it or do you do it right after the conversation? Where are you trying to cement that memory link?
David DiPaola 12:38
So what I try to do is I try to repeat someone's name almost immediately. So when I shake their hand, yeah, I repeat their name back to them. And then I introduce myself. And then as they're talking, I'm trying to listen, but I'm also trying to cement just a couple things. And then afterwards, I then really cement it, because you want to focus on what the person saying.
Scott Case 13:05
Yeah, that's why I asked the question, I find that my brain starts to immediately go past the name and into the content. And I'm like, Oh, that's really cool that you work on a sensor product, and what kind of sensors to use and how did you get there? And I'll know your entire story, but oh, what was his name again? That's a whole nother game.
Scott Case 13:24
What kind of behavior changes have you seen that are related to the way that the, I guess, as we've been shaped pre pandemic, in the pandemic, post pandemic? Like are we getting better at some of these things around stress and sleep, or are we getting worse? What are some of the features or changes that you've observed around the behavioral changes that we're seeing? And I guess focus primarily on the founder type headspace?
David DiPaola 13:57
Yeah, so there's a few things that are kind of up and down. People are tending to get more sleep, because a lot of people are home based, and then they have a little bit more time. Some people are getting out to exercise more. But we've also seen a trend where they say the COVID 15, so people that actually gained weight. And there's also been like an increase in the amount of drinking and just alcohol use and substance abuse and things of that nature. And then there's been some positives and some negatives. There's a lot of stress around concern about health and family members. And so that's been something which we've been looking at and quite frankly a lot of my discussions have been about fear – fear of getting sick or family members getting sick or people grieving for family members who've been lost. So those are just some of the things that I've observed during the pandemic.
Scott Case 15:08
When you talk about those kind of fears, how does Sensibly actually discover them? How is the monitoring actually giving feedback to the person to say, hey, like, you're stressed about something or you're fearful about something or maybe you appear to be using some kind of substance abuse? Like I know, heart rate goes up dramatically overnight when you've had alcohol, for example. So are you monitoring those things and providing feedback back? How does the person use some of these tools, whether it's Sensibly or other tools, to pay attention to that stuff?
David DiPaola 15:46
Yeah. So let me talk about my dad, just because I'm a HIPAA compliant company and he's given me permission to talk about it. So he's a family member. Just recently, about a week ago, my dad's sister passed away from a health complication not related to COVID. And I could actually see it in his blood pressure. My dad is hypertensive. He's made dramatic improvements. So he's went from like 15 medications down to four medications, he lost 40 pounds, but we're still monitoring it. And he's made huge improvements in his health. But I can see when he's had a fight with my mom, I can see when he's going through an adverse event. Now, I just happen to know some of these dates, because he's a family member. During Christmas, he got too much into unhealthy foods and then his blood pressure spiked considerably. I called him up and said, Dad what are you doing? He said Oh, I've been eating all these different Italian foods that are really high calorie. And I saw it in the data. And likewise, when someone's in a very fearful event, then we can actually see it in the data, because stress causes both adrenaline and cortisol to rise, and we can actually see it in the blood pressure data. So that's just one example of where we can actually see it in the data and then help the customer try to address it.
Scott Case 17:24
You've talked about providing coaching, Sensibly is pretty early in the development, is there something that if an audience members interested in this is there something that they can engage with you on to help you get the business off the ground or be test subjects or something for you? If so, how would they get in touch with you?
David DiPaola 17:47
If you go to my website, sensibly health, and then we can just put that in the podcast description. There is a link right under the first video that says free coaching session, and you can sign up for a 20 minute free coaching session. There's no sales pitch. It's all coaching. It's related to you, it's focused on you. And you'd be amazed at how much we can accomplish just in a 20 minute coaching session. And that helps me because I need to get the 50 coaching session so that I get my national certification by mid May. But it also can help you to see if sensibly is a fit for you or maybe it's not.
Scott Case 18:34
Excellent. Well, we work a lot with all kinds of founders and entrepreneurs at various stages. What do you think is your one leave behind piece of advice for our listeners to take away from this? What change should they make or what should they pay extra attention to?
David DiPaola 18:54
One of my pieces of advice is to start small. This is not a sprint. This is very much a journey. And I can tell you that having worked with a number of people on this front now, it's going to take anywhere from 3, 6, 9, 12 months. And so start small, start to build momentum and then build as you go. And that is the best way of forming a habit. But it's the best way of solving this, which usually took you years to get into, and it's not going to happen overnight.
Scott Case 19:31
Excellent. So set your expectations for yourself. Took you a while to get there and it's going to take a while for you to make an adjustment but be patient on it.
Scott Case 19:39
David, thank you so much for talking a little bit about Sensibly. And thanks everybody for listening to this Founders Focus podcast. You can learn more at foundersfocus.com.
Scott Case 19:50
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Founders Focus. What do you think? You got any feedback for us? Got a topic that you'd like us to discuss or maybe a future co-host? We'd love to hear from you. Just hit me up on LinkedIn at T Scott Case. And join us at foundersfocus.com to stay up to date with the latest episodes. And join us live every week at our Founders Focus sessions. Hope to see you there.