Why we breathe

Free Diver in LimasolHold your breath for a moment.

In about 10 to 30 seconds you’ll be feeling a strong desire to take a breath. That’s not caused by lack of oxygen. It’s caused by excess carbon dioxide buildup in your blood.

[Ok you can breathe again.]

The trigger in mammals that causes us to want to take a breath is an excess buildup of CO2. In reptiles the trigger is lack of O2. Free divers don’t hyperventilate to get more O2 into their bloodstream. They do it to to flush out excess CO2 and remove that breathing trigger. That’s also what causes shallow water black-out as you’re surfacing, so don’t try it without a buddy.

I’ve worked in more startups than I care to count where the lack of endurance was not caused by lack of oxygen, but an excess buildup of waste. Getting a larger office, buying excess server capacity early on that isn’t needed, hiring excess people to manage that server capacity, hiring managers to manage the people, hiring an ad agency and PR firm and a small team to manage them.

Once you start down the path of waste you may still have enough oxygen in your bloodstream to surface, but the excess CO2 in your business creates a strong demand for more Oxygen which causes you to raise another round of funding, producing more CO2 and the cycle continues.

So start your business by hyperventilating to flush out all excess CO2, take a deep breath and beware of shallow water blackout as you’re approaching the surface.

[Photo credit: My good friend Bruno Stichini who hosted a free diving world record attempt in Limasol, Cyprus back in 2000]