Updated: Aug 24
Becoming a Marketplace Athlete
Jack LaLanne who was widely referred to as “The Godfather of Fitness” died in 2011 at the age of 96. You may remember him from his popular infomercials for his Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. His accomplishments are amazing. A few of them include the opening of the first modern health spa, the first marketing of vitamins and exercise equipment on television, and being the first person to recommend that the elderly and people with disabilities should exercise with weights. His own physical feats are even more amazing. At the age of 42, he set a world record of 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes. At the age of 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed and towing a 1,000 pound boat. At the age of 70, he swam 1.5 miles towing 70 boats with 70 people on them.
While we may never subject our bodies to these kinds of rigorous physical demands, as business people we do put our body through great stress. In an information age economy, we may not have a lot of physical stress; however, we do have a huge amount of mental stress that we put on ourselves. Our 24/7 lifestyles have reduced our margin in life and obliterated our boundaries.
This stress comes with a price. Scientific research has linked stress to a variety of ailments including depression, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. While many try to eliminate stress, I believe that isn’t a reality. In fact, some stress is actually good for us. However, we can learn to manage stress at an appropriate level and learn to use it to our advantage.
Great athletes understand this concept. Michael Phelps didn’t win eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by avoiding stress. He spent countless hours in the pool and weight room purposely creating stress on his body. Why? He knew that he had to learn to manage and use stress for his benefit to grow physically and mentally as an athlete.
The word athlete comes from a Greek word that means “one who competes in a contest for a prize.” The Olympics are certainly the pinnacle of sporting contest. However, when you are up against a deadline at work or competing with others for a sought after promotion, you are just as much in a contest. In fact, in today’s economy just maintaining your job or business can be a great feat.
In spite of the obvious similarities between athletics and work, most people don’t train for work as they would for a sport. I grew up playing tennis and for a period of about ten years taught hundreds of children and adults how to play the sport competitively. I studied all I could on how to coach people to excellence in being a competitive athlete. Many of my adult students trained for their passion of being a better tennis player, but very few thought of themselves also as a marketplace athlete.
Drs. Jack Groppel and Jim Loehr, the founders of The Human Performance Institute, used to train many of the world’s top professional athletes including tennis champions, golf tour winners, and NFL quarterbacks. Today, they train a different kind of athlete, the marketplace athlete. They bring a holistic view to equip entrepreneurs and executives for peak performance. They focus on developing the mind, body, and spirit of their marketplace athletes. They understand the psychology of success and show marketplace athletes how to successfully manage stress and develop meaningful careers. From their teachings and my own experiences, I share below some of the key points that allow any of us to be peak performers in our own jobs.
You Are a Marketplace Athlete
First, you have to change your paradigm to view yourself as a marketplace athlete. Hopefully, I have begun to make that case in this article. We commit significant time and energy to our work that demands the best we have to give. As I share with my clients, “every day you are open is game day in your business.” By changing your paradigm, you will be better able to embrace the concepts that follow.
Train for Success
If you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t sit around eating doughnuts and watching TV to prepare for the big race. You would get off the couch and get moving. You would start to build your endurance. You would start eating healthier and cutting back on the sweets. As a marketplace athlete, you do the same thing. You exercise to build your energy reserves. You eat healthy meals and snacks to avoid the mid-afternoon crash. There is nothing worse than that feeling after a fatty lunch meal and you want to curl up under your desk and take a nap.
Athletes are intentional in their training. They plan their meals and exercise. They don’t “wing it.” They don’t let the afternoon munchies lead them to the candy machine for a pick me up. They also train to hone their skills. Athletes don’t just hope that they will get better, they work at it. What skills do you need to be working on to train for success?
Take a Break
Athletes use a technique called "periodization" to get ready for big events. They don’t train at maximum level day in and day out. They also take breaks. For example, studies show that we can only work at maximum capacity 90-120 minutes at a time. At work, we should be taking mini-breaks along this cycle to recharge. I am not talking about the old smoke break here. Instead, spend five minutes getting up and walking around. Have a glass of water, and clear your mind. If you have never done this, you will be amazed at your increased productivity. Get some sleep. Too many of us are getting by on fumes. We need more sleep to recharge our batteries. Finally, get away. When was the last time you had a vacation without your phone on? Better yet, when was the last time you had a vacation at all? As marketplace athletes, we have to take a break!
Get in the Zone
Whether it was Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods in their prime, we can probably all think of times when we have witnessed athletes in their zone. They make incredible feats of athleticism almost seem easy. They were in their “flow state.” In this flow state, years of training and experience come together in almost unconscious excellence. Athletes passionately pursue their goals and log the hours to become true experts.
Books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated have informed us that it takes about 10,000 hours of intense training to become an expert at something. Where are you logging your 10,000 hours? How are you becoming an expert? Athletes harness the power of visualization to see themselves in that flow state. They train for it. What success do you need to be visualizing? Maybe you see yourself giving a big presentation or creating an incredible new product. As a marketplace athlete, it’s time to get in the zone with your career.
While we may not be tugging towboats behind us as we swim across open water, we all have the ability to improve our lives and our careers by recognizing the marketplace athletes that we truly are.