E167 Lauren Vriens: CEO & Co-founder @ Habit & Co.

Episode 167 June 24, 2022 00:31:13
E167 Lauren Vriens: CEO & Co-founder @ Habit & Co.
NoCode Wealth
E167 Lauren Vriens: CEO & Co-founder @ Habit & Co.

Show Notes

Lauren Vriens is the CEO & co-founder of Habit & Co., a self-experimentation platform that helps high achievers take control of their stress and anxiety with science-based programs.

Twitter:@LaurenVriens @Habitandco

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Episode Transcript

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:01 Once upon a time, there were 10s of 1000s of makers struggling every day they built for hours and hours but didn't chip and didn't earn enough income. One day, the no code wealth podcast came to help them find a way because of this, makers became founders and live the lives they deserve. Because of that, founders live lives of abundance, freedom, and creativity. That's what I'm really all about. Hello, my name is Aziz and from being a poor boy born to a single mother in North Africa with no opportunities, just sheer hard work, to failing multiple startups, yet learning a whole lot to barely escaping alive the war in Ukraine, even living as an illegal immigrant. I've lost everything twice. And now, I'm rebuilding my life one more time. 1% a day sharing the wisdom of luminaries I've interviewed on this podcast from Google executives, Goldman Sachs, the Financial Times, Forbes Technology Council, the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, and even a priest from the Vatican church. Everyone is welcome, here. So let's begin. My guest today is Lauren greens. Lauren is the CEO and co founder of habits and Co, a self experimentation platform that helps high achievers take control of their stress and anxiety with science based programs. We will discuss topics such as entrepreneurship and burnout, how to manage stress and anxiety when you care. Too much, Lauren, how are you today? Lauren Vriens 1:54 Hi, Aziz. I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:58 Thank you do and I'm so excited about this. And I'll play the devil's advocate a little bit, although I believe in burnout. Well, for millions of years, people have been living in the jungle and in very, very hard situations where farmers needed to wake up every single day with no days off to farm and do whatever. Why are we suffering from burnout? Did they not suffer from it? Was it a thing? Was it not a thing? Tell me more? Lauren Vriens 2:29 Yeah, that's a that's a great question. You know, the element that's different today than back then is technology. And I'm a big technologist, I'm a huge fan of what we've been able to accomplish with technology. But frankly, in a way, it's evolved quicker than we as humans have. It, it can overload us, it can make us feel like there's a million things in the world that we could do, if only we had the time, from what you see on Instagram, to social websites to just really what you could learn and accomplish using technology. But frankly, our brain hasn't evolved that fast. And we're still struggling at trying to how to compartmentalize that and how to separate ourselves from from technology, so that we can reset and relax. But that's a really tough challenge for us, physiologically. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:24 Thank you. And this is really, really important. And I will ask you, there is some kind of myth or an idea pushed for massive hustles for you that it's under your control that you can become a multi billionaire, philanthropist renaissance person who is both an artist and an IT expert and business guru and all kinds of things. I know that sounds like a bit exaggerated. But do you feel that success is often a slow process? And what we're doing is we're trying to push things further than they are naturally growing. And therefore, that burns us out? Or do you believe it's possible to be the hair? And when in that turquoise and hair story without burning out? Or what's your perspective on it? Lauren Vriens 4:24 Yeah, so we've done a lot of research over the last three months, we've talked to over 200 different people about their experiences with stress and anxiety. And a recurring theme that we kept hearing is that it was almost part of people's identity, their self worth. And so, you know, we kind of grow up and we believe that we can just accomplish all these things if we just put enough energy into it or enough focus. And so when we think about relaxation, or we think about slowing down, it's a huge challenge for us because that would almost be antithetical to our identity. We are overachievers we are successful. We're we're hustling. And and if we took a step back if we relaxed that's, you know, that's that's, that doesn't jive with our self image. It doesn't jive with expectations of others. And so that's, that's a huge challenge. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 5:20 Thank you. So physiologically, and you spoke about the effect of technology on us, what is the solution? Can you speak about habits and CO about your approach the way that people can self experiment and find ways where they can balance their load and their work so that they don't burn out? What's your idea? Lauren Vriens 5:47 For sure, I'll tell a story, I'll tell the origin story of habit and Co. Because it really started with my own experience, I was working at a company called revel in electric mobility startup, you know, employee number 10, as their general manager, and scaled the operations up from really nothing to about 50 million in revenue, and 220 employees in about a year and a half, which is pretty astronomical growth. And, you know, of course, at a certain point in time, that starts to have effects. It's a 24/7 business, there's a lot of pressure, and I really, you know, it was my baby, right? Like, I was responsible for the people for the success of the business for the relationships with the community. So it was quite a lot of pressure that I put on myself. And when I left that role, that that company, I took three months off, and I was really excited to just kind of relax and enjoy time with my family. And yet, every day I would wake up, and my heart would be racing, my mind would be racing, and I had really nothing critical and important or stressful to do that day. And so that kicked off my my research project. So I started digging really deep into what was the research coming out of neurobiology labs like Stanford or UCLA, you know, what were the peer reviewed journals saying about what this was that I was experiencing. And I started doing that self experimentation, I took copious notes on what worked, what didn't work from breathing exercises to timing my my time outside with sunlight that impacts your circadian rhythm with, you know, different types of meditation with different physical exercises. I tried really everything and started noting, you know, what worked and what didn't work and, and overall, I was successful, I reset my what I call stress physiology. But then, you know, I started working again, I was back into a stressful environment, and I really found kind of my, my physical and mental symptoms of stress started to come back. And I was like, well, this, this isn't working, you know, even though I was maintaining the habits, you know, I was like, there's still something missing here. And so I set up what I called at the time universe calls with, with my mom and my sister, and we would meet bi weekly. And we would have kind of homework to do beforehand to prep. And then we would talk and we'd really just kind of help each other reframe kind of negative thought patterns that we had, you know, I think we get so overwhelmed, we can get really deep into kind of thinking, Oh, this is terrible, this sucks. There's no way out, I'm stuck. And a lot of times those thoughts might not actually be true. And so it's really helpful to talk to other people and have them reflect back like, Well, are you sure are you sure there's another not another path forward, that you can get yourself out of this situation where you don't feel like you're being your authentic self for are really, you know, enjoying what you're doing. And so it was immensely helpful for the three of us. You know, but it wasn't until I met my now co founder, Maria, that I realized, you know, this could be a business, I had been exploring so many options on how to turn this into a business because I was like, everyone I know is suffering from this, I really want to help other people that are suffering here. And, you know, a lot of founders right now we're approaching mental health from a technology standpoint. And I think that there's, you know, a lot of good that's happening there. But there's also a lot of issues that are kind of sometimes I think they might be missing things. So for example, I met with a founder that was looking for a co founder, and she had been working at Google for 10 years building AI solutions, and she wants to apply AI to mental health. And she said, You know, there's only been one problem so far, and she was like, the AI you know, eventually, if you keep talking to it, it eventually will tell you, you should kill yourself. And I was like, well, that's, that's horrible. Like, you know, and that's kind of the challenge sometimes with AI is that it can be very efficient. And if you're like, I want to end my suffering that eventually it might lead you to that conclusion. And I was really horrified by that. And I said, you know, there's gotta be some thing better hear something that brings the human back into mental health because we're fundamentally social creatures. And there's so many benefits that we've we now know about community and social activity for our mental health, you there's an element called co regulation, where if you meet with a group, your stress levels will actually rise up to the kind of the highest level of the group. And so you start to impact each other's mood. And so having that so that's one element, right? So there's just like, kind of the scientific elements of like, we're social creatures, we need other people that we can have honest real present conversations with. But we also need structure. Right, and we need that kind of constant reminder. Because we, you know, we forget, we forget the good things, we focus a lot on the bad. And so having, you know, every two weeks, it's kind of touch base time for you to reflect with other people to reframe, to really dig deep into what's driving your stress and anxiety, what's the underlying causes, there has been really life changing for for the people we've worked with already, and myself as well. So that's, that's what happened in CO essentially is, and that's kind of our first product service, if you will, is that structure around helping people come together, meet other people that are that are experiencing similar stressors, and have kind of guided sessions over a three month period that really helps them accomplish kind of that long term behavior change that they're looking for? Because that's fundamentally, really what what stress and anxiety is about is kind of reframing, changing behaviors, changing habits. But you need something to help you do it long term. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 11:51 Thank you. This is a very important topic. And can you in many ways, expand on the notion that technology is exacerbating this problem that before it or without it, things could have been much more manageable? What about technology pushes us to have this kind of mental anxiety or mental health problems? As well as why don't people prioritize their mental health as much as they do their physical health? Lauren Vriens 12:30 Yeah, it's a really good question. And just, you know, my prediction is that there will be a time, possibly in the near future in the next decade where people are prioritizing their mental health as much as their physical fitness. I mean, even if you go back to the 80s 70s, going to the gym regularly was not a common practice. That's now that's today. And I believe in the next 10. I mean, I assume even sooner, five to 10 years, people will be spending as much time on their mental health as they're spending on their physical health. So that's, that's one element it to go to your question about technology. In the book, 4000 weeks, which is a fascinating read, if you if you haven't read it, the author talks about how we as humans are finite. Frankly, we our time, you know, we talked about how we have time, but we we technically our time, our experience is only in the time that we have in a kind of a secular society. And the issue with technology is that it gives us this kind of perception that there's a million things out there that we could do or that we want to do, it gives us access to those things. You know, there's a point in time, way back in history where a human would rarely even leave their town. And now we have the whole world at our disposal, we can go anywhere, we can do anything we can experience anything we want. But the promises actually not true. You could never accomplish the things that you want to accomplish in your finite life. And that's the whole theory behind 4000 or the consequent 4000 weeks is 4000 weeks is essentially the average human lifespan. And when you put it in that kind of number, you realize how finite your time actually is. And yes, this sounds very depressing. I'm aware of that. But the, the author's point is that it, it almost frees you to realize that I can't do everything, and I shouldn't do everything. I need to focus the time that I have on the things that are most important to me. And so that's been that's been really eye opening for me and for others. And so you asked, you know, why don't people prioritize and I think we should talk particularly about about founders because they're a very special breed of human and, you know, there's so much pressure on founders today. Especially with with VC money, but even even before that even without that your identity is tied up in it You, You You're you are your company, your success is the company's success you're responsible for the people that work for you are responsible for the company's success. And that can be a lot of pressure. And so every day, when you're faced with the choice of prioritize myself or prioritize my business, it's really hard to make that choice. And oftentimes you're gonna prioritize the business because it's, it's urgent, it's there's other people that are holding you accountable for it, you know, and, and it's just in your face and, and your body or yourself is, well, I can just keep pushing through. The sad thing is that, oftentimes, that has huge physical impacts. We've heard lots of stories of founders, or others just kind of ending up in the hospital not even realizing their stress until their body rebels and kind of collapses on them. And so it's, it's, it's a real challenge that founders face and I think, without that external accountability, someone holding you, giving you the space, that structure the accountability to actually prioritize reflect on how you're spending your time, you know, it's really hard to do it on your own. And so that's, that's kind of the solution we're creating. Because I think founders in particular, are suffering greatly from mental health issues. And, and it's just not sustainable. And frankly, the more the more you have, like a like a balance, the more you have time to reflect, the better your decisions will be. So you'll actually be a better founder, if you if you kind of take a step back occasionally, and think about how you're spending your time. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 16:47 Thank you. And I'll play the devil's advocate a little bit, because this is a very important point. Some founders will say, look, I will arise when I reach velocity right now I'm defying gravity, I need massive action in order to break through, things are so hard that me taking a break is literally robbing my potential and my company of the success it could deserve, that nine out of 10 founders fail. So how can I differentiate myself, except if I take more opportunities, as well as priority when you prioritize things? Often, as a founder who's dealing with chaos and the beginning, you don't know what things are the priority? Because you don't know what will work before you do it? And therefore you say yes, to everything in order to find the needle in the haystack of what works and what doesn't. So what would be your answer to founders at that stage? Who tell you yes, what you say is beautiful, but I'm not yet there, I should burn out first, and do everything possible. And when I have like a safety cushion, and I know what works and what doesn't, only then I can help myself wind down and balance. Lauren Vriens 18:11 Yeah, and I recognize that as well. You know, it's a constant pressure, I have that same pressure for myself, but I think there's two there's two pieces to this. One is that what I'm talking about is not super time consuming. I think if if you you know how on your on your phone, you can look at kind of how you spend your time. There's for sure time that we're spending, doing things that that aren't necessarily fueling us, like Twitter, like Instagram, like tick tock or whatever, you know, it's a month ago or so I I was trying to build my Twitter audience and I just kind of casually looked at my time and I always like, holy cow, I'm spending an hour a day on Twitter. And what I'm talking about is spending 510 minutes in the morning before you start working outside and getting some some sunlight in your eyes, which triggers kind of your your you have you have special cells in your eyes that actually boost your cortisol and kind of set the clock on when you should be awake and energized and when you should feel tired. And so just five to 10 minutes outside in the morning can have that really positive effect of like boosting your energy and then helping you be tired when it's time to sleep. And so you know when you talk about an hour a day versus 510 minutes like it's it's really not that game changing or do it when you're on a call, you know you can you can multitask being outside. And so I think that's you know, we're not talking about a huge investment here. We're talking about micro habits, micro changes you can make in your life, because we're not trying to overwhelm people with what what we're trying to introduce into their lives and that would be counterproductive. Do it right, we're trying to build a program that fits within a busy person's life. So that's that's one element. The second element is that. And this is part of our program, too, what are you going to cut out? Right? Like, we can't do everything? And there are for sure things we do that, you know, maybe aren't fueling us or we don't like doing so how can we outsource those things? How can we ask for help? How can we leverage, you know, no code tools to make our lives a little bit easier, so that we can redirect just a tiny bit of energy to ourselves? Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 20:38 Thank you, I understand that I value it. And in general, after your experiences and dealing with anxiety, do you feel that founders should take a longer term view of success, that they shouldn't be pushing themselves so hard that they shouldn't go and try to build the next unicorn or try to get the VC money that is available for a light that they think they should get and to impress others, etc. But rather, do balance yourself to set a limit for how many hours you're working a day, and you put the hard line where you stop after it no matter what by prioritizing your body and health first, would that be a better approach? Or would those people lose against those who are pushing full force and burning out again and again, but at least achieving during those bursts of effort more than some people achieve in six months? Or a year? Lauren Vriens 21:43 Yeah, that's a really good question. I think that there's a movement going on now, amongst founders who are trying to take a different approach. Because they recognize, you know, even if they push super hard, and they get to that massive exit, it doesn't bring them fulfillment. And so I think there are people out there, and this is a growing movement, that are trying to enjoy the journey, and not just push for the outcome. And it can be, it can be an incredible journey to build a unicorn, right? Like, I'm not like that, that could be part of that dream. But if you're miserable the whole time, like what you're wasting, you're wasting your life. I mean, it takes eight, it could take 810 years to do something like this. And next thing, you know, you know, you like what's happened to your relationships? What's happened to your hobbies? Like, do you even have those? You know? So it's like, how do you kind of find the happy medium of what works for you? You know, we all want to be that massive success story and have more money than we know what to do with. But if we just change that outcome, knowing how many startups fail, we won't enjoy the journey along the way. So how can we make sure we are spending the time of things we like to do and we enjoy doing while pushing to be successful? I mean, we're not, we're not in the startup game to, to build something that nobody will use, right? We want to make an impact. But we also, I think, need to recognize that we're human, and we have finite limits. And so how can you push forward? How can you prioritize? And how can you still be successful at the same time? That's kind of the Holy Grail? Rather than how can I burn myself out and get to a unicorn status as fast as possible? And of course, there's people who want to do that, too. But I think there's a lot of people that are realizing it's, it's not sustainable, and it might not be all it's cracked up to be either. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:41 Thank you. And can you speak about your journey as the co founder of habits and Co? How are you going about it in order to protect yourself from the natural tendencies, or the programming that many founders all of us have, in order to sometimes, even in a short term sacrifice our mental well being just for some imaginary deadline or something that we set out for ourselves like you personally? How are you going about it differently compared to all your work before or career or whatever you have done that caused you a lot more anguish? Lauren Vriens 24:23 Yeah, it's, I'll be honest, it's a daily struggle. And I think there's some things that my co founder and I have done that are really helping. So we've set up a bot in Slack that kind of says, Hey, what is what is the like, most important thing you're going to do today? And, you know, are there any major blockers and so we just, we respond to that every morning. And it really focuses in it's like, your to do list is 100 items long when you're building a startup? I mean, there's a million things really that you could be doing. But asking yourself and reflecting every morning like what is the one thing that would be most important for me to accomplish today? And how do I finish that thing, not just started, not just like, you know, like actually finish that thing if I can really I think helps to focus us. And then the other part is just ruthless prioritization. You know, my, my, my co founder has a has a young family, I have, you know, a full time day job. And so we both recognize that we can't do the impossible. And so we kind of keep ourselves honest, in that point, where it's like, how do we build this thing, while managing our other responsibilities, realistically, and so that means sometimes we have to ruthlessly prioritize. So, you know, an example yesterday would have been ideal for us to be, you know, launching across all of the social channels, and we should have a tick tock, and we should have videos on Instagram, and we should be doing all these things. But it's like, you know, what we can't, we're just going to focus on one channel, and we're gonna do a really great job of that. And we're gonna see how things go. And maybe in two, three weeks, we can start to add things, but we really can't do everything at once. And that really helps that we're both super aligned on that, and we share the same value there. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 26:06 Thank you. And let's speak about validation. Because a lot of humans in general, they really want to be like, they have a hard time saying no to people, and some people do get offended just because you cannot say yes to them. So how do you go about that if some people might put on your plate, extra work or responsibilities that usually you might not feel comfortable saying no to? Did you learn discover or have ways of thinking about it in order to set the boundaries so that you don't over exhaust yourself by saying yes, to too many things, even things that not only you have an infinite list of things that you want to do, but sometimes other people put things on your plate, and you don't want to hurt their feelings or to lose them. So you say yes, and you double your daily to do in that way. Lauren Vriens 27:04 I love this topic. And I love this question. Because there's for sure something I've I've dealt with and experienced, you know, because I there's a book called The Way of integrity by by Martha Beck and part of her philosophy is that we were were liars. Frankly, we lie all day long and all the time. And I was like, No, I'm not a liar. What are you talking about? And then I started to pay attention to myself. And you know, of course, the next day someone at work is like, Hey, can you can you help with this thing? And I say without even thinking about it? Yeah, of course, I'd be happy to, because that's been kind of like my, you know, frankly, the neural pathways that have been tried and very deeply in my brain is that my success is deeply connected with me being willing and able to seek and accept responsibility. I mean, that was literally my mantra. And so if there's anything that people need, I was I was volunteering, I was first volunteer. And that's how you get that validation. Right? And I think, and so. So Martha Beck encourages people to just stop lying, and actually tell the truth. And so instead of saying, yes, I'd be happy to saying something like, actually, I don't think that's well suited for me. I don't think I have time for that today. Can I refer you to somebody else, you know, whatever it is, you don't want to be totally rude and say, you know, I absolutely, really hate this idea or whatever, but like, working your way out of it. And it was really scary to start doing that really scary, because you're like, are people going to reject me? Are they going to hate me? Are they going to talk badly about me. And what I found is actually, it almost like increased people's respect for me. Instead of being the kind of person that's bogged down with a million tiny projects, you know, I was able to be operating at a much higher level. And kind of being a leader being an executive. And so I think it's really, and not only that, but I also myself, felt so relieved, right, like it was so relieved, relieving to speak the truth and to be honest with people, and all the times that I've done this even hard conversations I've had to have that are more than just hey, can you do this task have turned out better than I ever could have expected? And I think it's just like people respond well to honesty. And that we should all be doing more of it Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 29:40 thank you. I love this as well. Now, just to make sure any listener who is interested in this topic who maybe wants to follow you to know more about you as well as about habits and CO where should they go? What is it exactly what can they expect? As well as some links, and I'll make sure to put some in the episode description so that they can find easily ways to reach habits and go and to follow you. Lauren Vriens 30:11 For sure, so you can find me on Twitter, Lauren rains, v r i e n s. And, and our website is habit and.co as well. And you know, habit and CO is what we're trying to build as the community to support people to make change in their lives. That's fundamentally what we're trying to do. I think everyone needs that support network. And we're here to provide that and along the way, you know, teach people some some tips and tricks from neurobiology, from therapy from group coaching from facilitation, so they can start to kind of make those micro changes in their lives and start to feel better. That's fundamentally our goal. And we're we're already making an impact, even people who just kind of, were part of our research phase said, even spending the time just to fill out a survey and reflect they found it was helpful. And so we're really trying to build a movement here and start to shift the way we think about mental health is kind of this thing on the backburner that we should be doing. We want it to be integral to your to our lives so that we all can be be more productive, be more successful. Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 31:19 Thank you so much, Lauren. This was my privilege. My honor, I learned a lot. It's a very important topic and very useful insights. And I wish you to keep going and I wish you a great day. Lauren Vriens 31:33 Thank you, Aziz. It's really been a pleasure.

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