“Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.”
Lil Wayne, “6 Foot 7 Foot

I’m a big believer in Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). I find that achieving BHAGs lead to greater self-awareness and self-improvement, which is why I establish BHAGs for myself on a regular basis.

This past year, I challenged myself to three BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). The first was a seven-day food fast, which has become an annual endeavor for me over the last several years. My second BHAG was running the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, a set of four 100-mile trail races held over a three-month period. And my third BHAG was a seven-day voice fast–as in, I stopped talking for seven days while continuing to live and work as usual.BHAG

As you can imagine, not talking for seven days straight was quite a challenge, especially in my work as a venture capitalist. But the experience taught me a few valuable lessons, which I detailed in my third and most recent TEDx BeaconStreet talk (see video above).

The key takeaways from my seven-day voice fast:

  • Efficient Communications: in place of talking, I communicated with others by writing on a portable whiteboard. I found that expressing myself through written abbreviations, like writing a tweet, forced me to get right to the point. Interestingly, people reacted to my silence by communicating at a similar level of efficiency: they communicated with me in fewer yet more concise words.
  • Improved Listening: being a great listener is one of those basic yet invaluable skills that can improve every facet of our lives, in personal and business settings. By virtue of not talking, I became a better listener and, in turn, I was more deeply connected to the moment, the conversation, and the speaker. While remaining taciturn during business meetings, I was reminded of how valuable silence can be in many business contexts, such as in negotiations. Better listening is better business.
  • Decreased Stress: the absence of my own voice coupled with the decrease in conversations made for a very quiet and relaxing seven days. The silence led to decreased stress, and this is rooted in science: studies show that prolonged silence throughout the day lowers blood pressure.
  • Better Sleep: silence also lowers insomnia and enhances the quality of sleep, according to researchers. I fell asleep easily at bedtime and awoke feeling rested and refreshed.
  • Heightened Senses: it’s fascinating how our bodies compensate in the absence of a regular function. In this case, not talking heightened all my senses. I was not only a better listener, I had sharper hearing–I was constantly aware of the sound of my own breathing. Visually, I became more adept at observing the most subtle movements: by more carefully watching body language and gestures, I could read what people would say before they actually uttered a word.

Overall, my seven-day voice fast was a worthy BHAG that yielded some enduring insights. Now, I’m pursuing my next BHAG. What’s yours?