The Corporate Athlete
First seen on Fly Feet Running
“You are what you repeatedly do.
Excellence is not a singular act but a habit.” ~ Aristotle.
Before starting Fly Feet, I spent almost 20 years in that corporate life with two breaks – one for the Peace Corps, and one for business school. I started my corporate career at Accenture and finished at Target running the $6B Beauty and Personal Care business. Finding success in your career can be - - should be - -likened to how athletes become successful. Coaching, practice, deliberate recovery, balance, a solid nutrition plan, self care, etc…. but it usually isn’t looked at that way at all. It’s up to you to figure it out. You have to be “always on”, but aren’t always equipped with the tools to perform at a consistent level.
One of our flyers, Mike M., shared this HBR article - The Making of a Corporate Athlete - with me, and it really resonated. The overlap between what we instill in our training at Fly Feet and what this article calls out as a recipe for high performance in your corporate life is significant. The same methods that enable world-class athletes to reach IPS (Ideal Performance State) are equally effective for business leaders—and perhaps even more important in our lives.
If you want to see the entire article, read it here. Otherwise, here are the things I find useful in finding my “Ideal Performance State” in my work life:
If you give the muscle time to heal after a tough workout, it will grow stronger (adaptation). If you don’t, it will just continue to diminish and you not only won’t see results, but you’ll likely also get hurt. Same rules apply in your work life. Simply said – take consistent vacations or days off if you want to continue to grow in your role. You’ll come back renewed, refreshed and look at your problems with a whole new perspective. You’ll be better for it.
Balanced work to rest ratios. The same point above applies on a micro level. The study suggests that every 90/120 minutes the body and mind need a recovery cycle. Eat a piece of fruit, take a quick walk, connect with someone. We know interval training is the best physically, turns out it’s also the best intellectually.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE.
Make your goals known. True in sport, and in your career. One of the guys I worked with was “out of the office” every Tuesday and Thursday until 9:00 a.m. (Target was a very early culture, so this was like halfway through most people’s days! Remember – I used to get up at 4:00 a.m.!! Again – that’s another blog.) Everyone knew it was because he wanted to workout and then have breakfast with his kids. Amazing. Everyone worked around it for him.
Have you ever suddenly found the solution to a vexing problem while doing something “mindless” such as running? I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve solved running, or driving to work, or just staring out the window. Your brain needs space to think outside the box. You have to plan that. It won’t happen by accident. And you don’t have to sit in the middle of a candle lit room with your legs crossed. Just tune out for 5 minutes. Amazing things happen.
An amazing example the article cites for visualizing your success, is about Laura Wilkinson, an Olympic diver. Six months before the summer Olympics in Sydney, Wilkinson broke three toes on her right foot while training. Unable to go in the water because of her cast, she instead spent hours a day on the diving platform, visualizing each of her dives. With only a few weeks to actually practice before the Olympics, she pulled off a huge upset, winning the gold medal on the ten-meter platform. Boom. Meditate. Your body does what your mind tells it.
Music has powerful physiological and emotional effects. We see it in sport all the time. Remember watching Michael Phelps rock out before he crushed his gold medal performances? Turns out, it can prompt a shift in mental activity from the rational left hemisphere of the brain to the more intuitive right hemisphere. It also provides a relief from obsessive thinking and worrying. I used to listen to Jay Z so loud in my car on the way to work, heads would turn as I entered the Target Corporate garage. Ohhh haaayyyyyy!!!!! :)
SENSE OF PURPOSE.
This one is the most important, but the hardest to crack. The energy that is unleashed by tapping into one’s deepest values and defining a strong sense of purpose is unbelievable. People ask me if I’m working like crazy now as an entrepreneur. Is it more stressful? The thing is, if you know your sense of purpose and you’re chasing your true ambition, it doesn’t feel like work. It's a powerful source of motivation, focus, determination, and resilience. It’s exhilarating.
Repeated regularly, these become your positive rituals. We can perform successfully even if we aren’t deliberate about these rituals. But we won’t reach full potential or without a cost over time—to ourselves, to our families, and to our overall success. Put simply, the best long-term performers tap into positive energy at all levels in life. What are your rituals?