Fifteen years ago, I woke up and found myself headed in the wrong direction. Change was necessary and this article reflects that change, aptly titled:
“The Fit Executive Starts on the Inside. My Journey from Fat to Fit”
I put a lot of effort into living by attributes that I believe are foundational for every successful executive and senior manager. Business author Patrick Lencioni speaks and writes about the ‘Extraordinary Executive’ and the three things he looks for when recruiting future leaders. He believes that smart, hard working and humble people have the right building blocks to be successful leaders. I agree and its clear to me after a thirty year career that the Energy to Compete and WIN is critical to maintaining the mental acuity (smart) and the stamina (hard working) to set yourself apart. In fact, as we get older, it’s even more important to focus on the energy it takes to compete in the business world and to come out on top.
An old African proverb sums it up best…
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.
…. African proverb (unknown source)
For the lion or the gazelle, the ability to wake up running is life or death. I contend that in your work life, the ability to wake up running is life or death for your career. People like me spend a lot of time preparing to hit the ground running. Your competition is waiting for you to become slow and sluggish. In fact, they’re counting on it.
We’re not talking about something you’re going to find in a Red Bull can or under a Power Bar wrapper. It’s what you’ll find from the right life balance. One of the best summaries I’ve found on how to get focused and accomplish what enables you to have the physical and mental energy to compete and win comes from friend and clinical psychologist Dr Julie Gurner.
Doctor Gurner delivered a keynote speech in the summer of 2014 to a group of 4,000 affiliate marketers attending a summit conference. In her talking points, she lays out eight simple tips, all based on science, on how you can “Accomplish What Matters”.
Check out her terrific video presentation on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMF7KT1STEs#t=10
For this discussion, it’s not Eat. Pray. Love, (although I’m a BIG believer in faith and love for spiritual well-being). In the day-to-day grind of your worklife, its……..
Eat. Play. Sleep
Eat: Nutrition is Critical – “You are what you eat”
I’m not a nutritionist but clearly its common sense that your nutrition sets the baseline for everything you can expect to deliver over the course of a day. It’s the fuel for your body and when high octane goes in, high octane and performance can be the output. Eat small and frequent meals. Maintain great blood sugar levels. Not bloated and slow but always ready and nimble.
Use caffeine to your advantage but judiciously. It will cause insomnia. I love the fix of a Starbucks double-shot or a 12 oz Red Bull but I do understand that as high as the highs are, the lows are just as extreme. Balance and timing is everything.
Limit alcohol and drink water, lots of water. No one loves a glass a wine more than me. One is actually helpful in many physical (and for me, mental) ways. Two however starts a slippery slope for some of us. Enough said.
Water delivers nutrients to your cells as well as whisking away waste. 8 ounces every 30-60 minutes during an 8 hour day is key, especially if you are exercising.
In the end, we need to be delivering nutrients and water to our cells to function at the top of their game. This is something that you can COMPLETELY control starting tomorrow morning.
Play: Exercise is the differentiator.
I believe the biggest difference between the executive that is always ready and has the energy to challenge and the executive that runs short on stamina at the end of the day is exercise. I speak from personal experience……
Yep, I’m a twenty year smoker. Correction, I WAS a twenty year smoker until the day in the late 90’s that I woke up…literally and figuratively. The best hour of my day was 15 minutes after I opened my eyes in morning, sipped the first cup of ‘go juice’ (Starbucks, of course) and lit that first Marlboro. In reality, it was all downhill from there. I get it now. I needed a change and thats when I laced up the running shoes and started…1/2 mile at first, increasing distance over the next 6 months. Within a year I was competing in my first Olympic distance triathlon. Ever heard about the guy that quit smoking and lost 25 pounds? Now you have. My story and journey is another much longer post for later days….If you smoke, stop lying to yourself and quit, NOW!
Look, exercise and increasing your activity early in the day is going to build your fuel and energy bank for the entire day.
1. You are going to boost your brain power and mental acuity. Yep, exercise can improve your focus and mental acuity for ten hours post workout.
2. Combined with the right nutrition, morning exercise is going to reduce strong cravings and increase your metabolic rate and calorie burn throughout the day.
3. Next, you are going to release feel good endorphins that improve your mood and energy levels getting your day off to a great start. How important is getting off to a great start to you?
4. Finally, exercise is going to help with your sleep cycles. Is sleep important? You bet! That is covered next.
For more about the benefits of morning exercise see: http://dailyhealthpost.com/5-benefits-of-early-morning-exercise/#ixzz3SUrawK2O
Sleep: or the lack thereof….
1. Dumbs you Down: First, lack of 7-8 hours sleep impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.
Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.
2. Makes you Forgetful: In 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.
3. Puts you on a Slow Decline: Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it, If you look at how they do on tests of alertness and performance, they continue to go down a very slippery downhill slope. Scientists tell us there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.
See WebMD’s overview on the effects of the lack of sleep:
There are many traps for you along the way. The biggest mistake a young manager can make is not recognizing the opportunity to differentiate. How about that big industry conference in Las Vegas like CES, NADA, Con/Ag or SEMA? Those with less business maturity don’t see the opportunity to network or differentiate, they see an opportunity to test the “What happens in Vegas….” cliche on the company’s dime. Clearly showing up the next morning with energy sapped and hungover is a FAIL and lost opportunity. It takes Discipline to make sure you are prepped to compete and win. It’s science and your roadmap is common sense. A well balanced diet fuels your body and brain. Exercise shifts your gears taking you from plough horse to thoroughbred. Finally, sleep is your daily ‘record and reset’ button. You need seven hours.
I have made all the mistakes. I lived on McDonald’s super-sized #2’s and chased it down with Marlboros, Starbuck’s double-shot espresso and Diet Cokes. I’ve also survived for years on a restless 4-6 hours sleep a night. If you aren’t spending time focused on how to build the foundation to succeed, there is no way you can compete and win. I can honestly say that the best, most productive and successful years of my career have come after I recognized how to leverage diet, exercise and sleep. There is still plenty of opportunity for improvement (I’m still not a good sleeper, might be FOMO) and there are other attributes which I will cover in later posts.
The Keys to your Success:
- Preparation and Focus. Dr Gurner’s keynote nails eight helpfuls tips to set you up for high performance.
- Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep. These three elements are foundational.
- Discipline, Grit, Determination. You will be tempted to stray and it will take perseverance.
So in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle if you wake up and hit the ground running. One will survive and grow, the other will perish and it will completely depend upon which has the energy to compete and win when the sun comes up…….
you can find this article and much more from The MBAR Group and TalentBlcd founder at: Mike McNamara
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services. Today he coaches a number of high profile media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.