20 Questions

This CEO's Favorite Productivity Tips Are Surprisingly Simple

All it takes is getting some rest and doing the right thing.
This CEO's Favorite Productivity Tips Are Surprisingly Simple

Oren Frank

Image credit: Ccourtesy of Talkspace
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Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.

One in five adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with some form of mental illness every year but only 41 percent of adults with a mental health condition are getting the help and services that they need. One of the obstacles can be finding the right therapist. If you need a one, you may not know where to look. Or if you do find someone you have a rapport with, the cost may be too prohibitive to pursue getting treatment. Oren Frank looked to change this.

In 2012, Frank, along with his wife Roni, built Talkspace -- a platform to make therapy and counseling more accessible and affordable for everyone, while helping to remove the stigma that can be associated with getting help. Today, the business connects more than 300,000 users with therapists 24 hours a day, seven days a week through their computers, phones and messaging apps.

Given his company’s mission and the fact that he runs his business with his significant other, it’s unsurprising that Frank’s advice for his fellow entrepreneurs is to approach life and work with a clear conscience, plenty of sleep and substantial time carved out to spend time with friends and family.

We caught up with Frank asked him 20 questions to figure out what makes him tick.

Related: How I Put My Mental Health First (and How You Can Too)

1. How do you start your day?
I make my wife coffee, bring it to bed and open the curtains so that she can see the light of the new day. The ritual is about starting the day with a focus on the important people in my life. Only when the ritual is complete, I’m ready to move my attention to work.

2. How do you end your day?
Before I fall asleep, I always read something, preferably non-fiction. It's a reset to the mind that provides good perspective.I'm rereading Churchill's The Second World War, which is six volumes. I read it the first time when I was 18 or 19 and remember the impact.

He was always thinking way, way ahead of the issues he was dealing with. The other aspect is the unprecedented combination of a person who is a writer, I’d even say a poet  -- he won the Nobel prize for literature for this work -- a historian, and above all, a leader, with very unique capabilities as a commander in chief. For all this traits and experiences to be manifested in a single person is an amazing gift. It's a great exercise to read it twice, as it gives you a great perspective.

 

3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
I think The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. I’ve always been fascinated and horrified by World War II and the Holocaust. As a young person, Shirer’s book was the first comprehensive narrative and history of that period that caught my imagination and attention. It is an ambitious and encompassing book, but at the same time, filled with the tiniest of details and mostly based on actual Nazi documentation. Reading it was a memorable experience for me, and a testimony to the power of writing. It [gave me] a different point of view into your own life. Sometimes we think that we have it hard, [but reading about what life was like in the Third Reich] if you think that the day to day is really insurmountable, you know, guess again.

4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Professionally, I recommend a book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. He's the first and only psychologist that won the Nobel prize for economics. The notion that people, emotions and relationships determine so much of the decisions we make and these are deeply rooted mechanisms is something that is becoming more understood and accepted. It's basically the fundamentals of business, because who do you do business with? You do business with people. This particular book gives you amazing insight as to how to better understand and work with people.  

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Strategy and focus are synonyms. For me the definition of strategy is what not to do. If you don't do the things the things you don't have to do, then by definition you are strategic or focused, at least to me.

Related: The 10 Mental Skills Necessary to Become a Strategic Visionary

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don't think I ever wanted to grow up to be honest. Being a kid at least little in your mind is great and essential. I was always curious about many fields and preferred to learn about multiple topics that drew my attention. I still don’t have a dream job, mostly because work is just work, not life, and certainly not a dream.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
No amount of talent and brightness can compensate or even atone for being an asshole.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
I read a study once that interviewed people who worked in hospice care. The study quoted the top five regrets that people were about to pass away [said they had]. The regrets were very common, but none of the patients said, 'Wow, I'm sorry I didn't work enough.' That idea influences my approach to work.

 

9. What’s a trip that changed you?
There isn't one that I can relate to. I was born and grew up in Israel. I think what's changed me and gave me a new perspective is the first time you live in a different culture, in a different country. It provides people with a notion that what you learn and grow up with is not the only solution or only truth. It opens the mind.

10. What inspires you?
That's easy: people. I think the plurality and the diversity. We're in New York City, and this is where it’s best expressed. If you walk the streets of New York City, you will see thousands of people. Every one of them is completely different and unique, and I find that astounding.

11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
My first was to be a sports car designer and I did nothing with it. But I will do it one day, at least that's what I tell myself. I'm a gearhead, completely.

 

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
I spent about five years in the Israeli Defense Forces in that beautiful oxymoron called military intelligence. It taught me discipline, order, persistence and planning. It also taught me that I'm a horrible fit for the military.

13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
One of the best pieces of advice was given from one of early bosses who actually sent me home one night. He said go home, and get a life. I think he was a very smart person.

14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
That's tough.The good ones you remember, because they have potential value that you take with you. The bad ones just evaporate, and I think there are just too many of them.

Related: Here Are the Best Cities to Run a Socially-Conscious Startup

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
One is always have a clear conscience, because it allows you to do the right thing, and do it well. The other one is get seven hours of sleep a night.

16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I really like cooking and food, and I’m obsessed with a Japanese whetstone, which you use to sharpen knives. I don't need that sharp of a knife, and I put more time into it than is probably needed. I think it's highly therapeutic -- just doing something with my hands.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
I think the concept is mistaken. I think work is work and life is life. and I think that anyone that has a real discussion with themselves whether they should spend more time working or more time with their family or loved ones is making a huge mistake. Hopefully, they will learn to regret and repair.

Related: Why Entrepreneurs Should Never Feel Guilty for Sleeping (Infographic)

18. How do you prevent burnout?
The same way I stay productive. A minimum of seven hours of sleep every night and a clear conscience will do the job. Try it.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
I think ideas are always there; they are endless. They are all waiting in line to appear, if you're just patient enough or point your attention elsewhere. Don't even focus on the need for that idea, it always appears.

20. What are you learning now?
I think learning is an incredibly important discipline; it's something you need to nurture and keep your curiosity alive. One thing I'm learning now is something called sous vide. It's a cooking technique where you cook stuff in water over a long period of time. I'll probably do something else in two months, it's just fun to know new things.

Edition: December 2016

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