Matt Unger

I like software

Chairs Are The Enemy

Jim Cramer is known for angrily throwing chairs.

He's the host of Mad Money, an entertainment/finance television show on CNBC. He acts absolutely crazy. He wears wigs, smashes things, screams, presses buttons with goofy sound effects -- and throws chairs.

One reporter asked Cramer why he throws chairs. His answer?

"I hate chairs."

There's a deeper reason why Jim Cramer hates chairs. After he worked at a traditional bank for a few years, Cramer started up an investment company. Resources were limited. They were inexperienced. The only edge his company had over the big guys was the willpower to put in whatever time they needed to succeed. So they didn't get much sleep. They'd get to the office at 4:30am, leave late at night, and repeat the next day.

They eventually learned that if you're working with severely little sleep, your body instinctively shuts itself down. I've had it happen. You will essentially black out and fall asleep without thinking about it. You don't get a say in the matter. It's a primal instinct.

Jim and his colleagues discovered that this involuntary reflex is much less likely to occur if you're standing. So when they were really, really low on sleep, they didn't stand. They only stood. Chairs became the enemy.

I think sleep deprivation is unhealthy and has diminishing returns. After a while, a steady 40 hours a week is more productive than 80-100 hours a week. It's better to steadily run a marathon than it is to sprint the first few miles and then walk to the finish line.

But it's even better if you can sprint the first few miles and then steadily run the rest of the way. That's what I did. Just as Roompact was getting off the ground, I did freelance programming for 40 hours a week to pay my bills. I also worked on Roompact for 40 hours a week. Sleep was rare. I went to bed with my laptop and woke up with my laptop. I was constantly in a daze.

Back in the summer of 2013, I had a 10am phone call scheduled to show Roompact to Marquette University. I was afraid I'd sleep through the meeting. What if I sat down on the couch to prepare for a few minutes, accidentally fell asleep, and completely missed the meeting? One of my biggest flaws was a lack of reputation, and missing a meeting would only hurt my already-poor reputation.

So I listened to Cramer. I didn't sit down. My crummy little 750-square-foot two-bedroom apartment that had views of a parking garage on one side and a rat-infested alley on the other side had one valuable asset: an awkward kitchen counter that happened to be the perfect height for a standing desk.

I stayed awake for the meeting and did just fine. From then on, I've felt an odd sense of solidarity with others who put in their dues by trading sleep for a chance of success. The phrase "chairs are the enemy" gave me the motivation I needed.

After a while, I shifted my pace from a sprint to a steady run. Like I said, prolonged sleep deprivation is unsustainable. You will become less productive without a good night's rest. I haven't ever been as sleep deprived as I was back in that summer, and I hope I never will be again.

...But still, every once in a while, I'll need to string together a few days without much sleep because of some rare issue we're dealing with. In those cases, I have a much fancier standing desk than I did back in the day, with a way better view.

Matt Unger

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