Tag Archives: relaxation

Why I Just Invested in Crafter, Maker of the Most Beautiful Arts and Crafts Kits in the World

I’m super excited about today’s company! Of all the startups I’ve looked at recently, Crafter might have the most compelling product. This San Diego-based company makes arts and crafts kits of the very highest quality and provides great instructional videos that will have you making beautiful crafts in no time.

A beautiful textile project from Crafter

I never thought I’d consider embroidery until I saw their product! Crafter, also known as The Crafter’s Box, can also help you make quilts, leather bags, and even stained glass! This post barely scratches the surface; you really have to check out Crafter.com and see all this cool stuff! Go ahead, I’ll wait here. 🙂

Learn to embroider!

The founder, Morgan Spenla, created Crafter after what was supposed to be a relaxing crafting experience turned into a nightmare. Morgan wanted to make a nice necklace, and found herself at Joann’s looking at a thousand different tools and materials. She had no idea what to choose. The store was about to close and her kids were going wild. Morgan wound up with a random assortment of materials and couldn’t find a YouTube video to show her how to turn them into the necklace she wanted. She wound up giving up in frustration. But she knew there had to be a better way.

I doubt Morgan is the only person to have this experience. Crafting has become increasingly popular during the pandemic. If you’re stuck at home, why not make a cool scarf? And I don’t see people giving up their fun new hobby just because things are reopening.

The venture capital world is largely male, and most of us probably don’t do crafts. But that doesn’t mean other people don’t! Arts and crafts is a $44 billion dollar industry that has grown by half in just 5 years, and it’s almost all brick and mortar retail. Crafter could completely disrupt this market. Etsy is the go-to for finished crafts, and Crafter may become the go-to for making crafts. Oh and by the way, Etsy is valued at $25 billion.

On a meeting with Morgan recently, I was impressed by her resourcefulness and dogged persistence. Founders giving up is the biggest killer of startups, and I don’t see Morgan giving up. She funded the company herself for nearly 5 years before raising venture capital, and continues to work long hours to make her dream a reality.

She also excels at recruiting the best people to help her. On a recent episode of This Week in Startups, Morgan shared her strategy of recruiting former Starbucks employees for customer service jobs. They excel at dealing with difficult customers, and if your tech startup can pay more than Starbucks, you’ve got them. This struck me (and the host, noted angel investor Jason Calacanis) as brilliant.

Take a look at Crafter.com and make yourself something awesome! And by the way, that link will save you 20%!

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How I Fall Asleep Instantly, Night After Night

I was chatting with some friends during the UFC fight on Saturday, and they both mentioned the same problem. Neither could fall asleep for at least an hour, night after night.

Many people I meet seem to have the same issue. They lay down, ready to get a good night’s rest, and wind up tossing and turning endlessly. Entirely too soon, the alarm clock sounds and they’ve lost out on precious time to restore themselves.

This stands out to me because I fall asleep instantly, night after night. Why do I seem to be (almost) immune to this common problem?

It’s because of the system I have around me that promotes sleep. I’m going to break that system down right now, so you can get the same benefits of health and relaxation that I do:

  1. Avoid screens for 30-60 minutes before bed time. The glowing, the clicking, the distraction, the endless stream of largely pointless information…none of this is conducive to winding down for the day. Instead, I like to read a physical book or magazine or chat with my wife. Although occasionally, I find a BBC nature documentary by David Attenborough lulls me right to sleep.
  2. Lower the lights. About 30-60 minutes before bed time, I dim the lights, generally to the lowest setting. This helps the wind down process. That gradual winding down gets me in the mood to sleep.
  3. No screens in the bedroom. Ever. Extra points if you turn your phone completley off a solid 30-60 minutes before bed. It’s so freeing!
  4. Sleep mask. A recent addition to my routine that has cut my middle of the night tossing and turning to almost 0. I didn’t think light affected my sleep much, but turns out it did!
  5. Humidity. In this drier part of the year, dry nasal passages tended to make it harder for me to breathe. Then, I’d wake up. When I got a humidifier, the problem was solved. And sure enough, if I forget to turn it on before bed, my labored breathing comes back!
  6. Physical exhaustion. I work out 5 times a week and also walk 4-8 miles in a typical day. This means that when I lay down, I’m exhausted and grateful to be off my feet! That goes a very long way to helping me sleep. It’s hard to sleep if you’re not really tired.
  7. Meditation/journaling. I usually do these in the morning, not the evening. But, they could easily be used at night if you’re struggling to relax. If thoughts are keeping you awake, you can get up and write them down. Then, they’re preserved and you can pick them all up tomorrow! But more likely you’ll never look at it again. 🙂
  8. Temperature. 60’s is generally best. But, my wife would turn blue if I kept the bedroom that cold. So, I’ll often sleep with just a sheet, even in the New Jersey winter. I find I fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
  9. Bed. Not as important as you might think. But, I’ve taken no chances here either. I bought a Tempurpedic memory foam mattress 11 years ago and it’s still as good as the day I bought it. It wasn’t cheap: $1700. But there are memory foam mattress toppers you can get for far less. I’ve gotten great sleep in much less expensive beds, and as long as you’re comfortable, so can you!
  10. Shower before bedtime. The gradual lowering of your body temperature after you come out of a hot shower promotes sleep. If you want to take another in the morning, you always can and I sometimes do.
  11. Remove stress from your life. Easier said than done, I know! But you can gradually work toward a lower stress existence. I often found my work in tech stressful, so over a period of years I transitioned to running my own investment business instead. And I’m sleeping better than ever.

A lot of this system came out of the superb book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD. He directs a sleep lab at the University of California-Berkeley and knows as much as anyone about the subject. He helped me enormously. If you want to understand sleep and improve your sleep, get this highly readable volume ASAP.

What I Don’t Do

Ambien. Dangerous and doesn’t provide real sleep. Unconsciousness and sleep aren’t the same thing.

What About Melatonin?

Not helpful for sleep unless you’re jet lagged according to the Walker book, but if you feel like it’s helping you, go for it! I do actually take 5 mg a day at around 8:30 pm generally, but I made that decision based on its possible ability to prevent COVID rather than sleep benefits.

And finally, when you get to lay down after a long day, enjoy it! Avoid anxiety over whether you’ll fall asleep.

Walker recommends an 8 hour “sleep opportunity.” I love that phrase because it focuses on what you can control (laying down), rather than what you cannot (falling asleep). If you’re there ready to rest, you’re doing what you can do.

Don’t worry too much if you can’t fall asleep sometimes, because that’s normal. Just keep giving yourself that opportunity to rest!

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Photo: “Baby sleeping POV” by robscomputer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Sleep Hack I’m Loving

Yesterday, my wife gave me a gift that will keep on giving: a sleep mask. She recently started using one and noticed the quality of her sleep improved enormously. I observed her, intrigued.

Just before dinner, she presented me with a sleep mask of my very own! I took it for a, err, test drive, last night. I slept more deeply than I have in a long time, with less tossing and turning. I woke up an hour earlier than usual, dramatically more refreshed and energetic. My wife said she could easily tell I had much more energy than usual.

Sleep has an enormous impact on health. Lack of sleep demolishes the immune system, doubles cancer risk, and can cause Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes. The list of conditions lack of sleep can cause is enough to keep you up all night!

But for just a few dollars, you have a shot at really feeling rested in the morning. I don’t find the mask uncomfortable, and it’s very easy to put on. Anything that covers the eyes and is comfortable should work. The one I have is here.

Sweet dreams!

Why You Should Tell Your Boss You’re Not Coming in on Friday

In my prior career in medical software, I worked both five and four day weeks. Guess which one I preferred?

Correct! But I was also rested and refreshed on Monday when I worked 4 day weeks. 5 day weeks? Not so much.

Late in my tenure in software, I was asked to create a feature that was the most complex work I had ever done in 14 years in the field. I made almost no progress for months despite a lot of effort. I was beginning to think it was impossible. I also hadn’t taken a vacation day in 6 months.

Then I went here (highly recommended) for 3 weeks and came back. I looked at the task again, saw it with new eyes, and got to work. I accomplished more that 1st day back than I had in the prior 3 months.

Research is emerging that rest is a necessary precondition for productivity. Microsoft Japan went to a 4 day workweek and saw productivity go up 40%. Perpetual Guardian, a financial services firm in New Zealand, did the same and their profits increased by 12.5%.

If we’re rested, we’re healthier, happier, more creative and more productive. In my investment business today, where I have no one to answer to other than myself, I alternate brief periods of focused work with long stretches away from that work. My actual active time can be as little as a few hours per week, and the results are beyond what I expected.

So with that in mind, I think I’ll go test out my new hiking boots!

What I’ll Be Doing The Next Time I Fail

Sometimes, we all miss the mark. When I do, I have the tendency to yell at myself in the most hectoring tones imaginable. Maybe you do too. Most of us would never talk to a friend that way. If we did, we wouldn’t have many friends for long.

Enter Kristen Neff, Ph.D., a professor at UT-Austin who researches self-compassion. In an interview with Dr. Peter Attia, she explains how to take the compassion we routinely extend to others and extend some to ourselves.

One practical technique I will be trying the next time I fail is to put my hand over my heart and say something supportive to myself. Who wants to try it with me?

My natural inclination is to think this is the road to laziness and failure. However, Dr. Neff cites research showing that performance actually improves as people learn to both give themselves a break and give themselves constructive, rather than bullying, criticism. And our lives get a lot more pleasant too!

Some interesting moments:

This podcast is also available via Apple Podcasts.