The Entrepreneur’s Fast

by | Feb 16, 2021 | Startup Advice | 1 comment

The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use? – Dale Carnegie 

It’s almost time for Lent!! I hope you all have fun on Fat Tuesday with the beads and hurricanes and the… well, this post isn’t about excess and debauchery but what comes after Mardi Gras, Lent. The part nobody wants to talk about. The fast. Even if you’re not Catholic, fasting is found in almost all religious and spiritual traditions. Even if you’re not religious, Philosopher Alain de Bottom discusses how various religious traditions are good to integrate into our lives as religion has become very good at behavioral modification through thousands of years of trial and error. Regardless, this brings us to the thing everyone hates. Why do I need to give up [insert whatever you want]? Oftentimes, those of us who decide to participate in Lent or other fasting traditions, tend to give up the easy thing. I’m not saying that’s not how to do it but fasting is supposed to be a transformative event so make it good.

Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do. – Bruce Lee.

Traditionally, people fast from food or subsets of food. Let’s change that up. Instead, fast from ignorance on a specific topic. You want to learn French? You have 40 days. Download a language app and find a native speaker online and go. Be specific with your goal, especially if its skill oriented.

For example; by the end of Lent, I want to be able to hold a basic conversation in French with someone from Cameroon.

Fast from being financially ignorant. Learn to invest, learn maximize your ROI on 401Ks, CDs, and IRAs. Even learn to options trade if you’re feeling lucky. You have 40 days. Get the books, read them, and run simulations. At the end of the 40 days, start. Get an account on ETrade, Robinhood, etc and go. For the record, I don’t options trade as I gamble enough with my own money being an entrepreneur. I’m looking around with my smooth brain and I’ve got no tendies. YOLO!

I hope you get the point. Don’t cut out red meat for 40 days just because. Fast from your cholesterol and blood pressure being high. That’s a deep commitment. What does it take? That’s dietary changes. That’s an exercise regimen. That’s discipline. That’s willpower.

“Hey Edwin, this is great and all but what does it have to do with being an entrepreneur?”

That’s easy. What do you want to fast from? You’re struggling to make a budget every month? Sit down and figure out why? Do you need to increase sales? How do you do that? Do you need to change your revenue model? What’s that process look like? Don’t just say “I need more money.” Say “I need a 20% growth in ARR by 2021.” And spend the next 40 days learning how to do just that.

I lose too many clients. I lose too many employees. The list goes on. Pick one and fast from it. You have 40 days.

When you’re learning the phenomena we colloquially call hypnosis, you’re taught that the fundamental rule is that you pit the person’s willpower against their imagination and when both are in direct conflict, the imagination will win. Your imagination is your emotions. Your will is what you know, what you should do. You see variations of this in marketing all the time with the most famous technique being the puppy dog close. You know you shouldn’t buy that item, but they let you have it for the night with a no obligation to buy return policy if you return the item the next day. We know how this ends up. Your emotions override your will and you buy said item.

This is why we fast. Fasting is exerting control over ourselves regardless of the emotions we feel. Traditionally, you’re hungry so you eat but fasting is telling yourself, don’t eat when everything in your body says, “put it in your mouth.” Fasting is saying, with regards to this specific thing, “Now I am the master.” You have 40 days. It’s not forever. It’s a limited yet doable time scale to make a temporary deep change that will have effects that last a lifetime. Do you think you’re worth it? Do you think your startup is worth it?

Karen Armstrong, in her book, Case for God, talks about belief and faith in an interesting way. Belief is an action. In a way, she states that we believe that we will be something that we aren’t and that we have faith that we will get there and that because of our belief, we do that which we say we will yet become and by doing over and over and over again and over again, we become that which we say we are.

Yes brothers and sisters! Read that one again because tonight in your sleep you will wake up and shout; “By George, I think I’ve got it!”

We oftentimes abstain from the concrete when we should be abstaining from the abstract. Fast from the abstract this time. Look at yourself and look at your startup.

Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast. –
Hermann Hesse

Pick one thing for yourself and one thing for your business that you want to fast from and do it. It’s only 40 days. Make magic happen for yourself and for your company.


Edwin Williams is a serial Entrepreneur and the Founder of ZenHammer and an original co-founder of Startup Tri-Cities (now FoundersForge).