I have an extreme love of football. I’ve played the game for a good portion of my life either in an organized or social fashion. What has always intrigued me about football was not just the sheer physical demands but also the intellectual and emotional requirements of this great game.
The other night a short documentary came on about the life of Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy is one of the rare football icons that was not only a great college player but someone who has also won a championship at the collegiate and the pro level. A short segment of this bio captured him giving a speech to the University of Miami, addressing the football team and sharing with them his thoughts on what makes a great football player. His statement was “fatigue makes cowards of us all” … basically that everyone is a tough guy till they get fatigued and then fear creeps in. The only way you become a great football player is to be in better condition than your opponent and then you will impose your will on them as the game progresses. He said being in great condition is something that you control as an athlete.
His statements rang true to me. I’ve thought about how this analogy applies to the life of an entrepreneur and a CEO. In many ways, a CEO’s primary purpose is the manifestation of great energy in every direction. You have employees to inspire, investors to excite, customers to delight and competitors to impose your will on. In order to sustainably be a great CEO you need to be in great condition.
So what does it mean to be in great condition as a CEO? It’s much more than being in just astute physical condition. It’s about being in your most optimal energy state and being able to exude a positive aura that changes people and markets. This vitality is determined by the match between the ways you need to spend your time and how you actually spend your time. Each person has a unique formula of what they need from the physical, mental, social and spiritual activities in their life. If you deprive yourself of your needs, it’s not unlike running a car without oil for too long; there will be repercussions over time that will negatively impact the car’s performance.
How many stories have we heard about the CEO who can’t leave the office till midnight every night of the week but who is in desperate need of a social relationship to recharge his or her batteries? As they deprive themselves of a relationship for long periods of time, they begin to lose sight that they are getting more tired and that their view starts to change in a more negative way and fear starts to creep into their life. They become less grateful and less excited about the promise of each new day. They are less frequently in their flow state and its harder and harder for them to be come up with creative solutions to the challenges of running a company.
An entrepreneur’s best energy state happens when people can feel their true authentic energy that comes directly from their subconscious because they are close to alignment as they can be.
So how do you get to better alignment and to get what you need from life? The first step is to be honest with yourself around what you need from your daily activities and the second is to be aware of how you live your life and acknowledge the lack of synchronicity.
As entrepreneurs we tend to lean on the mental activities being our predominant focus. Many times, we tend to believe the intellectual endeavors are the only ones that matter and we pour everything into one more meeting, one more email and one more tweet. This leaves us tired over the long haul and with little time to engage in the other parts of life. The output of the mental faculty even in the most brilliant will become less impactful over time.
The opportunity to become a superbly conditioned leader is to consider shaking up your activities over time in the realms of physical, mental, social and spiritual activities. Do you have the following categories optimized?
What is your physical condition? What type of fuel are you putting into your body on a daily basis? Do you know which foods re energize you and what foods make you feel tired and lethargic? How often is alcohol required to get out of your head into the present and what are its repercussions the following day? How many miles do you walk a day? We are actually designed for movement and range of motion of our physical presence but the modern world can rob us of that.
Your body is your vessel. It can and will break down if you don’t treat it well. Take it from me. I’ve spent the last two years getting my physical condition back after one surgery and lots of therapy and new daily nutrition regimens. The climb has been challenging at times but I feel as vital as I did 10 years ago if not more vital because I’ve brought awareness about it to my life. Ask yourself; do I have the physical state I want? And if not, what can I do about it? Even spending 30 more minutes a day on your physical state and eating better food can have a dramatic effect on your daily outlook.
As discussed in earlier sections, we do lean heavily on our mental capacity as entrepreneurs. Are all mental endeavors in our life related to work or would it be useful to work on things that exercise our intellectual capacities in different ways? When is the last time you read a great book cover to cover in a topic that was not work related? Reading about psychology can be a great relief to someone because they are building blocks to help you understand your self and people in your life. This could potentially add more firepower to your arsenal when dealing with organizational challenges. Remember that if you exercise the brain in the same way constantly, it’s no different than doing the same exercise in the gym on one muscle. While that muscle will get diminished benefit over time, the other muscles may atrophy and overall body growth will not move in a homeostatic way. Mix up the mental endeavors and acquire a better-rounded mental physique that enables greater leadership!
Who do you spend time with in work and personal life? Where is their alignment and vitality? Do you feel re-energize or drained when you leave them? Every interaction with another human being is an emotional exchange of energy. You are impacted emotionally by the positivity set point of the 5 people closest to you. You have the right to deserve better in your life or take steps to make the engagements more positive. If you are lonely, spending time on Facebook is no substitute for looking into the eyes of another human being. 1000’s of years of evolution can’t be reversed in one generation of social media! Get out of the office and spend time with people you love doing things you love. This will get you out of your anxious mental state and give it time to recharge and heal. Don’t bring your iPhone!
Dissecting spirituality and what it means is a complex topic and would certainly stretch my capacity in this post. Personally, spirituality is the pursuit of understanding of your higher calling in life however you define that to be. What matters the most in the pursuit of spiritual balance is that you afford some recognition that you are greater than just the results of your company that day. Personal spirituality may integrate deeply with your career pursuits, however its more about the commitment of a place in your heart that you will continue to reflect and learn who, what, how and why you are. A spiritual balance enables someone to see their life from a different viewpoint than just a CEO or an entrepreneur and what the activities in their life really mean. Progress here can provide incredible moments of relief to how someone feels about himself or herself. There is much more to be discussed about spirituality but I leave you with two questions. What spiritual activities do you invest in on a weekly basis? And who is on your spiritual board of advisors?
Conditioning you for greatness!
Attaining maximum stamina for a high performance CEO in the competitive high tech world we live in is becoming table stakes. To build your long-term vitality, consider changing the formula of activity by first examining your life. Do you spend your time in the proper proportions of mental, physical, social and spiritual activities for you? I submit if you work towards greater alignment, fear will find fewer footholds in your life and you will navigate with greater courage and more vitality the long and beautiful journey of the entrepreneurial CEO.