Bing Blog

Why sharks run the world


When I was a boy, I used to worry if I didn't get enough sleep. I would go to bed thinking, "Boy, I hope I'm not too tired to function tomorrow morning." I would get up at whatever hour was required of me, and if I hadn't logged my seven or eight hours, I would say to myself, "Wow, I'd better get a nap in later or I'm going to fall asleep at the afternoon meeting." And sometimes I even did.

That assumption -- that I'm ever going to get enough sleep -- seems like a luxury to me now, a fond dream, albeit a waking one.  I work in two time zones, for one thing. I learned pretty quickly that the only way you function, moving from New York to LA, is to pretend that there is no such thing as a time zone. Midnight is midnight. Noon is noon. So when I wake in New York at 6 AM after a week in Los Angeles, I don't even register any more that it's really 3 AM in my head. It's 6 AM. It's time to get up. Yeah, there's a kind of cottony softness to everything for an hour or so, but so what? Shake it off. On the other side of the continent, when I wake up at 3 AM LA time as bright and frisky as a wounded beaver, I simply hop online and get the day started a tad early. If I thought about the whole thing too much, I guess I'd be horrified. Instead, I'm just a little dragged out now and then and perhaps a tad more cranky. Who isn't these days?

One major lesson I've learned, and it's not a good one, probably, is that I can actually function on three or four hours, not just now and then, but consistently. Some days I need to close my door and faint for a couple of minutes to set things right, a habit I've been pursuing since I was new to the corporation. I used to sleep on the floor with my head right next to the closed door, so that if anybody opened it I would be slammed in the head and wake. Sounds stupid, I know, but it worked. "What are you doing down there?" they would say, and I would reply, "Looking for a cuff link. What's up." And life would go on.

Today I just put my feet up on my desk and faint completely. The state is something that can't really be called sleep per se. It's more like death. Total systemic shut-down. It's possible I drool. When the phone rings, I awake in a much better place, ready for whatever the next couple of hours has to hold. At night, when others are contemplating slumber, I often find myself most alert, weirdly. So it begins all over again.

I may be wrong here, but I think most of senior management, in corporations and governments alike, function on something like this very same sleep schedule. Work all day. Stay up late. Get up early. I wonder what it does to our decision-making processes. Actually, I don't have to wonder. I know what it does. It makes people a little bit grouchy, more impatient, more solution-oriented, with shorter attention spans and a greater need for visual, auditory and sensory stimulation. We are never tired. We are always tired. And if we stop moving forward, we sink in the water, like sharks. They don't sleep much either, do they. Maybe that's why they're one of the few species to survive while so many others have fallen to the wayside. And why they pretty much run any corner of the ocean they choose to inhabit, come to think of it.

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Wow!!!! you just described my life, I work two weeks in North America and another 2 weeks in South America, back and forth for the last 9 months,,,,I only have three hours on Sundays for me and I only sleep 3 or 4,,,,the scary thing: this is addictive,,,,,

was wondering how you were going to tie that back into something about sharks... well done sir

Hate to break it to yah, but I'm a student, make 23 grand a year, and I've got a 15-month old... when I'm not getting screamed at by customers at work, I'm trying to take care of my child, self-train myself because I can't afford to go back to school to finish my degree, and hunt for a better job.

Doesn't leave much time for sleep. If this "shark" stops swimming, my child will be eating Ramen for the rest of her life. Senior management where I work doesn't seem to have this problem...

The older I get the more I feel like I have to keep moving, or rust will set in.

Anyway, I needed more sleep when I was a young shark...course' I'm in Spokane, so I'm not a noble 'great white' like one of you oceanic species. I'm plenty irritable, but can only manage to tear off the occasional finger, not a subordinate's entire torso.

Hear ye, hear ye, finally a testament to a lack of sleep. Maybe even a manifesto. "Get more sleep" is the one piece of advice from a doctor that one has the right to ignore. Thanks for speaking it so plainly, I'm posting that last paragraph on my wall.

Being day neutral has some benefit; one can operate nocturnally or in the light of day.

The shark has the best of both worlds, it can seek prey on sunny beaches or in deep water with the help of the noctiluca.

Sleeping on the floor in front of the door for sudden illumination may have roots back to Sister Mariettta's knuckel trepidation.

As a writer, don't you find you have only certain waking hours in which your brain functions well enough to produce good material? I wonder if this is true for all professions? Maybe after eight hours of hard work, we're all just swimming in circles. Maybe we should hunt hard and fast, get the job done, go home and get a good night's sleep. In other words, be more efficient sharks.
Just a thought.


Siesta's are one perk of having an office. It is much harder to nod off when you are in a cube. I am down to four hours a night. I usually fall asleep at 10pm and awake at 2am and get my day going. I still set my alarm for 5am but it is only a reminder that I need to get dressed. Some how I still manage to get to work late even with a 5 hour head start!

The amount of sleep you get and when you get it, is your body fighting time as defined by clocks.

Clocks say it is time to get up, time to go to bed, but your body looks at the sun and the season and says other wise.

Hence the conflict of trying to obey two masters.

This readily become self evident when you go on a long hunting trip, after two days your body and sleep habits adjust back to nature and you sleep well and long and wake up ready to hunt.

Same thing could occur if you worked on a farm without TV or a radio/ cell phone.

Dude! With your unconventional sleep pattern philosophy, You have a bright, bright future at Northwest Airlines! I suggest you sign up for Pilot training right away!

And just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water....

Dun Dun
Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun,
Dun, Dun, Dun!!!

My dad had another name for the 'Sharks'. He called them peasants. Anyone who has to get up and go to work each day - even the CEO - is a peasant.

However, all is not lost. Soon they will amass enough money to stay home like the rest of us. If we decide to take a nap at 9:00 AM, we go for it.

Life is good.

It means that we react rather than really think things through. That works in a steady state environment. But when the environment changes, the organism cannot adapt and perishes - the curse of large organizations.

Large established firms rely on the founder's good underlying business model. The founder eventually leaves and the fixed costs are allowed to scale up - creating bureaucracy and absurd expense accounts. Eventually either a CEO's vanity cripples the business model, innovation leaps past the model, or the environment changes.

Unless you are in a C-level position, thinking isn't allowed anyway. So go with the collective flow, react, and bank that bonus!

Traits I've seen in leaders at the executive level: above-normal tenacity, the ability to generate (or at least feign) enthusiasm about initiatives as dull as improving a balance sheet, and endurance through meeting marathons. Many will squeeze a 40-year career into 20 years of sleep-deprived 80-hour weeks, and, should they survive it, walk away with nothing but money and time on their hands.

I dunno, Bing. You actually LIKE living that way? Sounds like a term in hell to me. Good luck. I can't faint at work -- there is a constant line at my door. They see me park the car, and they are waiting before the door closes behind me. Cannot do it in a sleep-deprived state. Not worth trying.

I used to live that way too. Then we'd go to the beach for two weeks, and it took me a full week to come down from my crazy work life. Then I'd have a week of fun, and have to go back and start this nuttiness again. Made me wonder why I even went to the beach -- the transition in each direction was so difficult.

I found a solution. We go to the beach for three weeks now. Works better. My life is more in balance now. I take naps on the weekends, and I feel great afterwards.

And as I always say, "If I can get a good eight hours sleep each night, that's about half what I really need!"

Napping on the floor with your FEET next to the door would probably be less painful. That's what I do. Twenty minutes out and I'm good to go.

Sleeping on the office floor (carpet), in your work clothes, right next to the door. With all kinds of sounds and smells coming under the door as you sleep. Yep, this sounds like paradise to me!

I've got a big office, with a couch, but I'll be damned if I can bring myself to take an afternoon nap, no matter how tired I feel. I'd rip ass if I found subordinates sleeping on the job...and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. They've got to know I'm alert and irritable, or they'll go for the old wolve's hamstrings.

When I'm tired I get moving and start "managing by wandering around" and my subordinates probably wish I was in my office sleeping. It is, however, interesting what you find out wandering around a large facility.

Sawyerspeaks....much more often than not the tenacity and drive displayed by a competent executive is nearly impossible to simply set aside only 20 years into a career....especially if your training was lengthy and demanding. You learn to wear the harness, and endlessly sitting on your butt on a warm beach somewhere soon loses its appeal. You need your place in the world.

Okay, Mike. Though I don't sit on my butt. I surf. Pretty well, too.

Over the years I've noticed that it's possible to run on very little sleep if you allow yourself an occasional five-to-ten minute period of “sleep”. I hesitate to call these naps. I suspect this is what you mean by "fainting". I used to--stupidly--fight the impulse (when my eyes began to close and my head began to inexorably sink forward at my desk, or when I started to blank out even while talking to someone), but now I embrace the opportunity to conk out for just a few minutes (if time and situation allow of course). If I do I wake up incredibly refreshed--and ready for several more hours.

When I was younger I was able to stay up for two days in a row without much problem (the record is three, but that stretch was rare). I'm willing to bet that it's a genetically-determined capability, so I feel pretty lucky. Waking life is often too exciting--or at least useful--to waste with too much sleep.

Thanks for that insight into decision makers like yourself. This helps when pitching so we get it right in knowing that no matter how a great a presentation, the appeal to the visual, sensory and auditory senses is compulsory. Besides its impact, it may be stimulating and interactive. Reading may be the last thing a person with irregular sleep patterns may need. Plus, auditory, visual and sensory presentations help with short attention spans.

What you describe as your sleep habits is also symptomatic of bipolar disorder -- you know, as in Crazy Bosses.
Nothing personal, just think about it tonight.

Peter, I'm not bipolar. I'm polar.

You sharks need to see "Up in the Air" with George Clooney. Sheds a new light on that lifestyle.

You people are pathetic, you are perpetuating a problem that society seems to have these days. People are slaves to their lives and that is a shame. You need to find a hobby, spend more time with your family. This is why Americans get discarded as they age, like old equipment, they die alone in some nursing home with nobody to care about. You have ruined modern society with the "Quantity" of hours you put it, never the "Quality" 9/10 jobs in this country could be done in half the time. But we love to show how many "Hours" we put in, try to fool people by introducing new methodologies, processes BS...... Get a Life. I get about 9 hours of sleep a day. I am 35

Hey, John from Arlington. I'm glad you sleep. And I'm glad you have the right attitudes about family and time. The problem is, I think, that very few people really feel at home with their own families. Successful business people will do anything rather than spend a whole day at home with nothing to do but be happy and enjoy their hearth. They go nuts. They are on BlackBerrys and cell phones and e-mail and blah blah blah. When i joined the company back in the 90s, there were guys who would call over the weekend just to "say hi." I discouraged that. Now nobody calls unless there's a crisis. But the e-mail? Out of control. I know one guy who took a trip to Turkey with his new wife and all he did was sit on conference calls all day from Istanbul. He didn't do it because he didn't love his wife. Of course he did. But the feeling of being a human being alone in the universe, untethered from his source of identity and power, totally flummoxed him.

Dude,you describe the symptoms of getting old.

You may be right, Vic. But I've been like this for 40 years.

Sleeping (or napping till the door hits you) on the floor at work and convincing yourself that a colleague who sits in on conference calls while in Turkey on his honeymoon suggests a fear of losing one's job, not a deep attachment to work. I hope the guy who phoned it in from Turkey is still married.

Excellent vision and great thinking by the writer.But one thing is for sure its all what carl Marx said all exploitation of men. Survival of the fittest. You always have to be on your toes in modern capitallistic world.

Actually, Adil, Darwin said that survival of the fittest stuff.