Habits #1 - A Day in the Life of Nikola Tesla
"Nikola Tesla, tall, lean, with the face of an esthetic and deep-dash set eyes, whose expression denotes concentration on a canvas of work too big for most people's comprehension."
This was the description of Nikola Tesla in an article from 1933. Tesla is the source of inspiration for many of today's entrepreneurial mavericks - Elon makes the top.
Tesla wore many hats. He excelled in fields like electricity, physics and mechanics - to name just the bare minimum. He obtained around 300 patents for his inventions. Some people think Tesla possessed one of the most prolific and creative minds of human history.
My purpose with this series is to discuss the daily habits of remarkable achievers. Thus, I will not pay particular attention to getting you familiar with all aspects of their lives. If you want to know more about Tesla, his Wikipedia page is probably one of the longest there is.
Special thanks to @sauravrungta for inspiring me to start this series. Maybe we'll do the next few ones in conjunction (synchronously).
Daily Habits of Nikola Tesla
Constitution: 6 ft 2 in. tall (~1.88 m), 142 pounds (~64 kg).
He maintained this physique with little to no variance between 1888 and 1926.
Work: from 9 to 6, daily.
Dinner: Around 8 PM, mostly alone.
After dinner, he would often resume work until late into the night (3 AM). By all means, I consider him a workaholic.
In the interview he gave in 1933, Tesla thought people eat too much and exercise too little; and that they eat the wrong kind of foods. Well, Tesla, you'd be surprised. Nothing changed in 2016. In fact, the situation seems to have gotten worse.
He ate little meat, according to another interview he gave in 1935:
“I myself eschew all stimulants. I also practically abstain from meat. I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.”
If you were to ask me, with two meals a day, Tesla was practicing intermittent fasting :)
"Why overburden the bodies that serve us? I eat but two meals a day, and I avoid all acid-producing foods. Almost everyone eats too many peas and beans and other foods containing uric acid and other poisons. I partake liberally of fresh vegetables, fish and meat sparingly, and rarely. Fish is reputed as fine brain food, but has a very strong acid reaction, as it contains a great deal of phosphorus."
I refrain from commenting on the wisdom of his dietary choices.
Later in life he followed a vegetarian diet, with emphasis on 'milk, bread, honey, and vegetable juices'.
Main activity: Walking for 8 - 10 miles/day
In his own words:
"I believe in plenty of exercise. I walk eight or ten miles every day, and never take a cab or other conveyances when I have the time to use leg power. I also exercise in my bath daily, for I think that this is of great importance. I take a warm bath, followed by a prolonged cold shower."
He claimed to sleep very little:
"Sleep? I scarcely ever sleep. I come of a long-lived family, but it is noted for its poor sleepers. I expect to match the records of my ancestors and live to be at least 100.
My sleeplessness does not worry me. Sometimes I doze for an hour or so. Occasionally, however, once in a few months, I may sleep for four or five hours. Then I awaken virtually charged with energy, like a battery. Nothing can stop me after such a night. I feel great strength then. There is no doubt about it but that sleep is a restorer, a vitalizer, that it increases energy. But on the other hand, I do not think it is essential to one's well being, particularly if one is habitually a poor sleeper."
Seeing the present day research studies on the importance of sleep, I think Tesla would have reconsidered his strategy. He could have lived to reach 100.
- with a passion for chess, billiards, and card-playing he would sometimes spend > 48 hours at the gaming table
- on other occasion he would isolate himself inside the lab for more than 80 hours at a time (without rest or sleep).
Even though he was repeatedly stricken with illness in young age, he always prioritized on healthy living:
"If youth had the knowledge and age the power of doing, our condition of body and mind in old age if merely a certificate of how we have spent our youth. The secret of my own strength and vitality today is that in my youth I led what you might call a virtuous life."
He lived inside of himself, with deep interest in his own work. He possessed a supply of self-love and self-confidence, often associated with success.
It seems to me Tesla didn't need external validation for anything he did. Though I suspect he would often feel the auspices of severe isolation.
Tesla spoke 8 languages.
He never got married; he thought this may allow him to better focus on his work.
He didn't have a rich social life either*:
"However, when he did engage in a social life, many people spoke very positively and admiringly of Tesla."
Tesla didn't live up to 100 years as he hoped. He diet at 86. He was remarkably well from a health and mood perspective. In his later years, he reported:
"Today, at 77, as a result of a well regulated life, sleeplessness notwithstanding, I have an excellent certificate of health. I never felt better in my life. I am energetic, strong, in full possession of all my mental facilities. In my prime I did not possess the energy I have today."
I suspect that keeping his brain engaged all the time was what provided him the so-much-needed fuel to work for and pass on his precious legacy to future generations (us). And for that, we owe him indefinitely.
Cristi Vlad, Self-Experimenter and Author