Last year, I gave myself a gift. It helped me nearly double my business and more importantly gave me the clarity to put plans in place to continue our rapid growth for the next several years. I feel younger, have more energy, and think faster. I gave myself a pair of running shoes. But, that is not the whole story. It's just the beginning.
Before the shoes, I read "Younger next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond," by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD. It was a recommendation from one of my board members. And while I am not yet 50, the book rang true for me. The fountain of youth is centered around exercise and is complimented by diet and social interactions. For me, the social interactions is a given as a CEO and the diet is a given thanks to my better half. Prior to reading the book, I thought I was doing great by exercising 3--5 days a week. More than half of the book focuses on the benefits of daily exercise. That's right, daily. The premise is that the cells that help our body grow when we are young become dormant as we stop growing unless we exercise. Tearing your body apart every day, keeps the cells active and affects not just your muscles, but also your brain.
One of the authors, Lodge, is a medical doctor on the faculty of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He weaves scientific information on evolutionary biology and human neurochemistry into his story. The "scientific proof" spurred me into action.
For one month, I decided to exercise every day. Although I wasn't sure I would notice a difference, I thought I should try it. I first noticed it on the ultimate Frisbee field. I play a game of pickup every Tuesday with the same group of guys for the last 15 years. After four Tuesdays, my teammates noticed that my eye hand coordination, especially when it came to catching, had changed. They asked me, "what's gotten into you." I noticed it too and was more confident in my game. I made a decision at that point that if it was helping my game, it must be helping my other game--work.
I started paying attention to how I was thinking at work and noticed that my confidence and comfort with my decisions increased. I was comfortable being more assertive about what mattered most to the business. I tackled the hard decisions instead of deferring them and hoping that they would go away. Just like with ultimate Frisbee, noticeable results reinforced my behavior and continues to influence my actions.
Employees, partners, and investors have all asked me at some point or another, "what has happened to you?" The answer is that my gift to myself keeps on giving me clarity, confidence and quickness in thought that has changed how I lead for the better.
One other nice benefit of daily exercise is that your metabolism changes. Since starting my running regimen, I have lost 35 lbs, while not trying that hard (I still eat my cookie every day). Tracking my daily progress with my running is also a great reminder that what doesn't get measured doesn't get done.
As you're looking for gifts for others, don't forget about yourself. Flight attendants say, "Place the Oxygen mask on yourself before helping others." If you don't help yourself first, you won't be able to help anyone. So, why not pick up a pair of cool running shoes, swimming goggles, or a cycling jersey this holiday season for yourself. It could be the greatest gift you and your company ever receives.