They say you can't have it all, but in 2014, Blake Mycoskie did. Or at least he seemed to. He'd recently sold half his company, the buy-one-give-one pioneer Toms Shoes, to Bain Capital, in a deal that valued the company at $625 million. He had started a fund to invest in social entrepreneurs. He was married, with a child on the way.
Yet none of this made Mycoskie happy. After a couple of years, "I was anxious, and digitally distracted," he says. "I wasn't as present with my family as I wanted to be. I was kind of borderline depressed. I had never had those feelings."
Every year, Mycoskie goes on a guys' weekend with about a dozen friends. At dinner, they try to answer tough questions. So Mycoskie asked, "If you won the lottery and didn't have to work for money, what would you do?"
Another member of the group, Pat Dossett, said he would try to reconnect with what he'd learned as a Navy SEAL about who thrives and why. He wasn't sure, in his then-job in innovation and program management at Google, that he really was thriving. He missed the sense of purpose he once had. That immediately struck a chord with Mycoskie. He said that if Dossett wanted to work on that problem full time, he'd provide the financial backing.
After two and a half years of research, Mycoskie and Dossett thought they had it figured out and launched a company, called Madefor, to help others figure it out, too.
A Kit to Shift Your Habits
There is nothing particularly flashy about Los Angeles-based Madefor, except perhaps the price point, which is $750 for a 10-month program (some scholarships are available). "Butter coffee is not a real thing," says Mycoskie, referring to a takeoff on Bulletproof coffee and its supposed promise to help weight loss. "All these short-term hacks were not going to move the needle for people. There are some simple foundational practices that make a difference, and that's kind of hard to sell."
Each month, Madefor, which currently has four full-time employees, focuses on one common-sense strategy, such as hydration, better sleep, or reducing phone use. Participants receive a package in the mail that explains the science behind the activities, a tool to help them achieve it, suggested challenges, and access to a private Facebook group to help keep them on track. "We're not giving anyone this totally new information," says Mycoskie. "What we are doing is making it easy to do it."
But First, His Own Habits Had to Change
As Mycoskie and Dossett spoke with experts such as scientists and doctors about human wellness, Mycoskie became his own guinea pig. Of all the habits Mycoskie investigated, he says, proper hydration and sleep have made the biggest impact on him personally. Hydration, he says, "is the one thing that makes everything work." While many people think they have to drink eight glasses of water a day, Mycoskie says that's not necessarily true. Hydration needs, he says, vary based on climate, exercise, even how you sleep.
Mycoskie thought he was getting enough water. He drank a lot when he went to the gym. But he realized that on a typical office day, he hardly drank any water. And he said he was dependent on a high dose of caffeine to keep him powered up in the afternoon. When he was properly hydrated, he said, "I didn't necessarily need the coffee, and I still had the energy."
Sleep was also simple, at least on the surface. One of the biggest problems with sleep, says Mycoskie, is using one's phone as an alarm clock. "You see a notification from your boss and you're not even out of bed and your body is flooded with cortisol," he says. He says that he personally was doing all the wrong things. He was looking at his computer or phone before he went to sleep. A lot of light was coming into the room through his shades. His fixes: He started wearing an eye mask. And he stopped looking at his phone first thing in the morning, acknowledging that it makes no sense to start the day with a stressful behavior.
Before Mycoskie started paying attention to these basics of human flourishing, he says, "I didn't have the energy or positivity to be doing the work at Toms that I wanted to do, because I wasn't taking care of myself." Now, he says, "I'm on a bigger mission, and I feel energized around it."