The Executive’s Edge

James of Harwood on how to stay at the top of your game physically and mentally

Successful sports, entertainment, and business organizations all have something in common—consistent performance! Top athletes, actors, actresses, and now business leaders are recognizing the importance of rising to and staying at the top of their game. Whether it’s physical fitness, mental fitness or both, these things can no longer be ignored. Notice I said “Top,” because some still are searching for the magic pill, book or enlightening seminar while others realize it takes a lot, lot more… Of course, books, seminars, and vitamin supplements can help but are not the solution in and of themselves. So, what does it take? How can we rise to and stay at the top of our game? What can we do as executives to create the best environment to create success for ourselves, our families, our shareholders, and our employees? Please know I am not preaching or stating absolute facts for all of us, but I do want to share what has worked for me, the success I have achieved, and how I plan on keeping our company at the top of its game.

I like to consider myself an amateur triathlete. In 2010 for fun (and fitness), I started competing in triathlons, completing more than 40 triathlons over the past 7 years. Triathlon training takes incredible discipline and commitment. I rarely schedule early morning meetings because I focus on physical fitness needs first by hitting the pool, bike or nearest running trail. Besides achieving the training preparation needed to complete triathlons, these early workouts also provide the mental clarity and physical energy needed to sustain me as I care for my family, lead my team and serve our customers.

Having regularly scheduled downtime and fun time helps to equalize the balance of a hard-working CEO. We ALL need a break to bring us back to center.

Do I fail? Yes, we all do. But I believe sticking to a regimen gives me the edge I need to more than just “get through the day.” I also focus on diet-balanced meals with lean protein and healthy carbohydrates, and I enjoy an occasional nice glass of red wine in the evening. For me it’s all about balance and consistency. Having the energy I need allows me to perform to the best of my ability in almost every situation. At least I know I am giving it my all!

[To read more of James Harwood’s thought leadership click here]

I am not saying we all have to be triathletes, or complete early morning trainings six days a week, but having a consistent routine that both clears and expands the mind, moving our bodies to stay fit and energetic, will no doubt give us CEOs the edge we need to create and sustain our success—whatever that may mean to you.
Part of staying at the top of our game is also making time for fun. Vacations, attending entertainment and sports events or getting involved in charitable events are also part of the equation. For some this is the goal and attaining financial success can help allow us to become the people we have always envisioned ourselves to be. Leading by example, I believe, is the best way to lead. People don’t always listen to what you say but will observe what you do and how you behave.

Having regularly scheduled downtime and fun time helps to equalize the balance of a hard-working CEO. We ALL need a break to bring us back to center. Planning these breaks and scheduling them on the calendar gives us a bit of a motivational tug that keeps us looking forward. Staying in top shape helps us be present and in the moment, prepared for whatever life or business may bring our way. Is it 100% failproof? Of course not! But we’ve got one shot at this so why not give it our all?

Eight Tips for Keeping an Edge

  1. Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep. Sleep becomes more difficult as we age, so do what you can to get natural rest. Limit computer and phone use at least one hour before you go to bed.
  2. Don’t bring your cell phone to the bedroom: Have email, text, and appropriate phone boundaries to keep your sacred space. If you need two numbers or phones (one personal and one for business) do so.
    Get up at the same time every day. The mind and body love routine when in the mode of work and producing—so do your shareholders!
  3. Eat balanced meals, drink good clean water, and eat lighter meals in the evening (you’ll sleep better).
  4. Move your body right away. Whether it’s meditation, yoga, a brisk walk or hitting the gym—DO IT! It works really well for me and just about every top performer I know.
  5. Start the day with a low carbohydrate meal. High carbs (high on the glycemic index) cause a mental and physical crash and later cravings. Lean protein and water helps sustain energy for many hours.
  6. There’s nothing worse than dozing off in the meeting you yourself called to action.
  7. Get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. We all tend to sit in front of our computers for way, way too long. Getting outside changes our mindset and mood, giving us a new perspective that is not compliments of Microsoft or Apple.
  8. Be grateful. Have a sense of gratitude for whatever success and failures you have enjoyed and endured. It’s why we are the leaders we are today. We could not be here without the good AND bad times that shape our experience.