Secret habits of an entrepreneur - Kale Panoho

Inc. 5000 Top 30 Founder Kale Panoho (Ngāpuhi) knows a thing or two about start-ups, now based in LA, Kale knows just what it takes to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Inc. 5000 Top 30 Founder Kale Panoho (Ngāpuhi) knows a thing or two about start-ups. In 2016 he opened a gym in Cromwell, turning a $200 investment into over $200,000 in annual revenue in just 14 days. Since then, he has become a rising star in the start-up space, as a partner at Rugby Bricks, founding partner at Kahune, and co-founder of digital marketing agency K&J Growth (which has worked with the likes of TikTok and was named the 28th fastest-growing company in California in 2021).

Now based in LA, Kale knows just what it takes to navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. He recently shared some of his personal learnings with students on Whitecliffe’s new Master of Creative Enterprise and Innovation (MCEI) – as well as the daily habits he has adopted to help him smash it as an entrepreneur.

His top three priorities for building resilience as an entrepreneur? Looking after his physical and mental health and focusing on his productivity.

“Taking care of your health is critical,” explains Kale. “Starting a business is inherently pretty stressful, fun, and addictive, and making sure that the first baseline gets taken care of has been a very important piece for me. The health part is the biggest lever you have and the one you pull the most to make you feel better. Without that, everything else seems to fall apart.”

Let’s get physical

#1: Create a morning routine
“I don’t check my phone when I wake up. First I have a cold shower, go for a walk around the block to get ten minutes of sun (that sets my circadian rhythm so I sleep better at night), and then I meditate using an app called Waking Up. I also don’t drink any coffee until 90 minutes post waking.”

#2: Regular exercise
“When you’re building a business it’s really easy to think only about your business and forget about everything else, but exercise – as well as being really good for you – helps you learn and gives you the ability to disconnect from a problem that you’re facing inside your business. I spend one-and-a-half hours training away from my phone and I come back and achieve better results.”

#3: Disconnect your telephone line
“Post 7 pm my phone is switched off. That’s been a pretty large game changer in terms of how I feel and interact.”

Mental health matters

#1: You are not your thoughts
“I meditate every day and it allows me to separate my feelings from myself. We all get sad, we all get frustrated, but daily meditation can lessen the severity – it gives me a better chance to dampen the effects of those feelings, and for me is a key piece around improving my mental health.”

#2: Surround yourself with good people
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – that means the people who you hang out with every day are going to dictate how you think and feel. If you hang around with people who are complaining, who are frustrated, annoyed, and upset, inevitably you’re going to copy that by osmosis. I’m pretty selective about the people I spend my time with and how they turn up. You have to find the people who can help pull you up and figure things out so you can get to the next stage.”

#3: Choose your digital thoughts and what you consume
“Most of us are stuck in a comparison trap of comparing our lives to someone else’s, and it’s not good for personal productivity. For this reason, my phone is on black and white, I don’t have any social media apps on it, and the only notifications I get are my calendar and flights. If I’m going to consume information, I want to consume information that’s going to make me better rather than comparing myself to others. I buy a tonne of books and read a lot of biographies – that’s where I get a lot of my inspiration from. Harry S. Truman said, ‘Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers, and I have found that to be very true.”

Practical productivity tools

#1: Weekly wrap
“Every day I track what I’m working on with Toggl. Why? Because I want to review my week, so I can see trends around how I’m actually spending my time.”

#2: Daily check-in
“At the end of each day, I write down what I’ve achieved that day. This shows me if I’ve spent my time well and helps me set the tasks I need to focus on the next day.”

#3: Online tools
“There are so many useful online tools that help me get stuff done and focus on the right things. Newsfeed eradicator replaces your news feed with an inspiring quote, and has been great for me because I don’t have a lot of willpower when it comes to social media! I also really like, which is a URL blocker that blocks all the websites that are not important to me.”

The last six years have been a whirlwind of stress, exhilaration, and success for Kale Panoho. He has built thriving businesses and a global reputation, and he has made a lot of people a lot of money. But it hasn’t been easy. The setbacks and challenges have been grueling – in fact, Kale admits if he had known how hard it would be, he probably wouldn’t have done it!

“But it has also been some of the best six years of my life,” he says. “I live in LA, I travel all over the world, and I get to choose how I spend my time. Business has been an incredible vehicle to do all these cool things and I am creating a life I am proud of.”

To find out more about Whitecliffe’s Master of Creative Enterprise and Innovation visit

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