May 08, 2024

Finding the Energy to Drive Your Ideas Forward

photo of Suneel Gupta

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—“Emotional Runway” might sound like the title of a Taylor Swift track, but it’s a much deeper concept. Emotional Runway is what Suneel Gupta describes as “the energy to drive your idea forward,” and he sees a very big issue with it today. 

“We don’t talk enough about Emotional Runway. And the reason that it matters, the reason that it’s important for the moment that we’re in right now is that a lot of people are low on this energy,” said Gupta.

A bestselling author and Harvard Medical School visiting scholar, Gupta studies leaders around the world to discover simple, actionable habits that lift performance and bring a deepened state of well-being. He shared some of those in his May 7 opening keynote at Smarter Faster Payments 2024.

For example, there’s what Gupta calls the “55:5 Model” which he explained as “for every 55 minutes of work, whenever possible, build in 5 minutes of focused, deliberate rest.” The benefits add up. 

“By building in this rhythm of 5-minute breaks throughout the day, you’re constantly bringing yourself back to that fresh state,” said Gupta, adding that the way many of us look at rest is simply wrong. “Rest is not a reward for what you have done; it is a preparation for what you are about to do,” he said. 

Along a similar line, Gupta also believes in what he calls “Rhythmic Renewal.” 

“Instead of waiting for vacations, waiting for long weekends or breaks, the highest performers are taking frequent, focused breaks throughout the day, every single day,” said Gupta. “The average high performer that we studied is taking somewhere around eight breaks every single day. Eight focused, deliberate breaks.” 

That includes Martha Stewart, who works 16-hour days and at 82 “has the energy of a 22-year-old,” said Gupta. “What I found in her habits is that she was constantly taking these little timeouts, these little breaks throughout the day.”

Once equipped with this new energy, the way to best use it is by playing what Gupta calls the “Game of Now.”

“The Game of Now is different than the Game of Someday, because with the Game of Now you don’t wait for courage in order to take action. You take action and you let courage catch up along the way,” said Gupta.

“There are three words that I think hold people back from what they want in life, and those three words are ‘I’m not ready,’” said Gupta. And if that sounds like you, you’re not alone.

“After studying all of these extraordinary people around the planet for the last 10 years, what I can tell you is that none of them were really ready to do what they did. Three friends from design school were not ready to start Airbnb. Two bagel shop entrepreneurs were not ready to become Ben and Jerry.”