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Jacques Habra: The Entrepreneur’s UpSpiral and the Future of the Quantified Self

The big talk at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas focused on the new products serving the emerging field of the Quantified Self. The movement focuses on self-tracking — things like one’s work habits, sleep, exercise patterns, diet and eating routine, even moods and emotions.

Jacques Habra
Jacques Habra

The Quantified Self industry currently focuses primarily on health and nutrition, helping active people to easily track their exercise routines, weight loss and nutrition management. Several new innovations were introduced at CES a few weeks ago, including:

» The Fitbit Flex, a bracelet that measures your steps taken, distance walked, calorie burn, activity versus stasis minutes, sleep time and even sleep quality — all automatically.

?» The BodyMedia Core 2, which measures body temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response, activity and heart rate.

There’s even a fork that monitors your eating patterns!

» The HapiLabs HapiFork alerts you when you’re eating too fast and keeps track of your every bite.

Most of these tools measure the physical self and not the emotional self — although recent advances in the study of positive psychology coupled with neuroscience suggest tracking the emotional self is right around the corner. Before you develop technology to track emotions like happiness and mood, you have to define some key metrics, some quantitative data points. At first blush, the notion of measuring and maximizing happiness may seem more like pollyanna science fiction than true science, but the process is rooted in scientific studies and is gaining momentum and credibility.

I’m often asked what makes an entrepreneur successful? Most experts will point to answers ranging from a good business plan to the right management team. When it’s all said and done, the explanation that most share is that it comes down to the “attitude” of the leader. That makes perfect sense since an entrepreneur’s life is often full of risk, doubt and challenge. How the entrepreneur handles the adversity is critical to his or her success. We spend so much time on what an entrepreneur does to be successful, but very little on the “how.”

Recent studies in positive psychology, led by Barbara Frederickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that individuals who “experience positive emotions show heightened levels of creativity, inventiveness and ‘big picture’ perceptual focus.” In other words, those individuals who maintain an “upward spiral” are more productive, effective leaders. This tenet is of utmost importance for entrepreneurs who often face challenge, defeat, even failure, and must overcome such emotions to keep the company focused and productive.

The Fitbit Flex
The Fitbit Flex

Dr. William Larkin, head of the Applied Neuroscience Institute, has taken these concepts to the next level to translate living in the UpSpiral into quantitative metrics that entrepreneurs can reduce into data points, measure regularly and improve upon.

The Five Metrics of Quantifying the Emotional Self (“Attitude”)

» Self awareness: Cognizant awareness of how an entrepreneur is doing, almost like looking at themselves on an UpSpiral or downspiral.

» Emotional Scale: Measures an ability to differentiate what an entrepreneur is thinking and what he or she is feeling.

» Vibe core: An equation between knowing what you want to achieve in a business objective (1-100); believing you are going to achieve it (1-100); and being open to however that goal will be achieved (1-100). The division of the total by three is your vibration to the world; or in the case of the entrepreneur, how you vibrate to your team. This helps to establish a negative-to-positive ratio that empirically predicts the level of success in a business.

» Decision nucleus: Determines your probability to make decisions or avoid making decisions.

» Strengths smart: Knowing your self well enough, through scientific testing, to know your top 10 strengths and focus on them daily to enable a state of flow.

The BodyMedia Core 2
The BodyMedia Core 2

If you analyze these five metrics throughout the day, you find that most entrepreneurs a) do not know their true core strengths; b) often delay making decisions; c) do not separate thoughts from feelings; and d) have very little awareness of what they are experiencing and how they are perceived. When the leader of a startup spends too many days in this state, lacking awareness or decision making or practicing their strengths, the organization is stifled. Startups typically operate with limited capital investment and too many days of spinning wheels often leads to closing doors. This is a common result of a startup, regardless of how brilliant the idea or how well researched the business plan came together, or how talented the management team assembled.

This is why entrepreneurs who measure these five metrics produce more and their companies advance further.

Beyond these benefits, there are scientifically proven results of the Upward Spiral that include the following:

» Faster learning

» Greater creativity

» Greater access to strengths and options

» Have more energy due to energy efficiency

» Improve the immune system

» Lower your level of cortisol and inflammation

» Greater resilience to negative

» Greater health at a cellular level, particularly effecting cell mitosis.

The HapiLabs HapiFork
The HapiLabs HapiFork

?An upward spiral is the most effective anti-toxin. A downward spiral creates exactly the opposite effects, narrowing diversity and openness to novelty, decreasing available resources and energy, and wasting energy.

Larkin also talks about the concept of The Emotional Gym, a process of growing positive neuropathways in the brain and access to the UpSpiral of personal experience. After all, you probably go to a gym or exercise several times a week to keep your body in shape. But what about your mind and your positive emotional life, essential to sustaining an upward spiral over the long term with lasting results? This UpSpiral increases hemispheric brain synchrony and conserves psychic energy for better performance.

Although such self quantification currently requires manual management, there are companies — such as Santa Barbara-based SelfEcho — that are creating technology platforms based on these data points to help monitor and maintain one’s UpSpiral or level of happiness.

If this all sounds interesting, Larkin will be giving the keynote talk at the next MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center, 1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd. The program includes networking and dinner, and features a panel of experts in the field of the Quantified Self. Click here to register or for more information.

The future of the Quantified Self? Self Analytics to maintain your upward spiral.

Jacques Habra is an award-winning entrepreneur and CEO of Santa Barbara-based Noospheric, an early stage consulting and investment firm that has launched several local companies and nonprofit organizations, including SelfEcho. The opinions expressed are his own.

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