December 2016 was my fifth time at the Buchinger Clinic, a health and wellness clinic. The first time I heard about Buchinger, it sounded a bit extreme. For at least two weeks you basically live on water! Well, you actually get a tiny carrot juice in the mid-morning, a small cup of broth based vegan warm water for lunch (they call it soup!) and the same for dinner. In the afternoon, you get a spoon of a delicious honey. All together for the day: 260 calories!
Most people go there on a regular basis, as they believe fasting “helps to strengthen your immune system, activate your self-healing powers, treat a wide range of chronic illness and generally increase your vitality and well-being.” I went there the first time because I was stressed out with all that was going on in my life and business. And yes, I had gained excess weight!
The first day was strange with mostly self-doubts about why am I here, will I be able to do it at all, how long will I last, how much suffering I will go through.
The next two days were a bit of a struggle getting used to the feeling of not chewing any food at all, keeping up with activities like walking on the beach at 7 am for an hour, attending medical checkups, yoga, swimming and meditation.
By day 4, something changed. There was rush of energy going through my body. I couldn’t explain it but I wanted to walk more, swim more and join other classes I wasn’t interested in before like Tango!
By day 6, I still had the same surge of energy but then I also had mind clarity. It was easy for me to see what really matters, what habits were stressing me and holding me back, what new habits I needed to form to be where I wanted to be.
By day 9, I was deeper into the meaning of life and the purpose of my life!
By day 11, I felt like superman! There was nothing I wanted to achieve that I couldn’t do. I was totally inspired! Whatever I touched gave me inspiration and ideas on how to move forward.
By day 14, I had full clarity, no stress and I was able to run for at least an hour and swim for another hour. And if you’re wondering, I lost 12 pounds! I call that a success!
This time, I went there to rethink the challenges of 2016 and the road ahead for 2017.
As I was reflecting on a morning walk, I thought about some of the over 30 businesses I either founded, co-founded or seeded. Why did some do much better than others?
I realized that not one was a quick success. The road to success was always arduous. But most of the time it was fun. It was always working with amazing people that you trust and enjoy being with. They were all givers not takers. It was always about realizing a higher purpose in what we did and having a shared purpose in our personal lives.
And yes, we were on a 260 calories/day diet! Not food diet but funding diet. We had barely enough money to survive and we wouldn’t spend any penny except if it was absolutely necessary. Like my fasting experience, the fasting startup lead us to clarity and inspiration. We always looked for and found solutions even when we had what seemed like a dead end.
We stuck together as we starved to ensure we kept moving forward. It was like our immune system was supercharged. Nothing that hit us would kill us. We were so close to the ground that a fall wouldn’t hurt us much!
Our self-healing powers were activated. All wounds, self inflicted or not, were quick to heal. No business illness or team conflicts persisted, as we knew if we didn’t solve those problem fast, we were all dead!
I remember in my first successful startup, I had to gather the team and say: ‘we won’t have money to pay salaries for the coming month. I totally understand if you leave for another job. All I can promise you if you stick around is, whatever money we get, you will get paid first before I take a penny.’ I had to do that several times. The company survived and was self-funded. It grew in 18 months to over 1,000 employees and $300 million in annual sales.
Yes, fasting increased our vitality and wellbeing as a startup and finally we were able to pull it off!
In contrast, most startups I was involved in that failed were relatively well funded. The team was fat and well fed. Nice office, nice compensation packages, nice business plan. The solution of every challenge was ‘throw more money at it’ even if it didn’t generate any money back. Our excuses were, we’re building value, brand equity, marketing presence, adding talents to our team, staying the course and the answer was always: money will come later. Well, the money never came or didn’t come soon enough or large enough so we failed.
Conclusion: fasting startups will always trump feasting startups!
Ammar is an American serial social entrepreneur of Syrian origins with businesses and friendships across the world. He has an Engineering degree from University of Central Florida. He’s also an alumni of Harvard President’s Program in Leadership. Ammar is a member of multiple YPO chapters in the US, Europe and Middle East. Currently, he’s serving as YPO regional education officer for Europe.
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