Gene Gerrienne is used to making big business decisions, fast: in his leadership role at a small and innovative company, he has seen and shown fast-paced growth throughout his career. How does he do it, and what has he learned? He put some structures in his life—and is now sharing them with the world.
I work at a scaleup, a high-growth company, as part of the leadership. Our decision making is based on a combination of advice from our investors and the outcomes of our weekly leadership calls, where we talk about the most important strategic tasks and decisions we have to make. The beauty of the smaller company, like a startup or a scaleup, is that you know everybody personally. Of course, in challenging periods, this is exactly what makes it difficult. The most challenging period I’ve ever faced in my life, honestly, was making the tough decisions to lay people off—because you look at the spreadsheet and you know exactly who this person is going to be. Now, you also have to do it over video call. The empathy you would have in a face-to-face meeting is completely gone; the warmth, the body language, they don’t come through. That process has been extremely tough and mentally draining. But I believe this period has been a very binary one: you either came back stronger or not.
I chose pain over comfort, I used this time to work on specific skills. I really wanted to learn communication skills, leadership, resilience, and just improve myself every day. I remember meeting up with professor Ajay Bhalla from my Global Management class back in November 2019, and he recommended his book, Resilient Decision Maker. Who’d have thought that I would need it to that extent?!
I have my own wellbeing routine—it’s very strict now, an advanced routine, I’d say. I wake up at 6am, meditate, stretch, cycle, work out, journal. I started fasting too—prolonged fasting. I once did 60+ hours without food, just water. I do that once a month, plus cold showers in the morning. It’s still painful, even now, but when you’re done, you’re fully awake. All that negativity you might have stored inside, it’s coming out because you’re gasping for air. After that, you don’t need coffee anymore.
When I was living in the Netherlands a few years ago, I started to appreciate the beauty of cycling and owning a bike. It gives you freedom. That’s why, in 2019, during summer, I bought a bike. I believe freedom is the most important thing besides health, as we've learned this year. A lot of people take freedom for granted, but that bike can take me anywhere I want to go.
I’m also working on the side. It’s not work actually, it’s a passion. My best friend and I are finalizing an ebook, a unique holistic framework to help improve mental health among young men. We’ve been through this same journey ourselves, when we worked together in finance. I believe so many young men are struggling in life and don’t feel fulfilled because they have no purpose, no guidance. And then you eat terrible food, watch too much news, social media, end up in this vicious cycle—there’s no escape. I believe mental health is the symptom, not the problem, and I think we can help. It’s what I’m most proud of—it’s our chance to help the community and give back.