Secretary Mark Esper is the leader of the United States Army, which commands over 1 million uniformed personnel and over 300,000 civilians. His responsibilities span across personnel, manpower, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and equipment acquisition, communications, and financial management--no big deal.
Secretary Esper spoke at the annual AUSA conference and amongst his top objectives is to modernize the force in support of the National Defense Strategy, the Army Vision, and Army Modernization Strategy.
On July 1st 2018, the Army also established the Army Futures Command (AFC), which is aimed to modernize the Army and is focused on six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile & expeditionary Army network, air & missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.
Needless to say, to effectively drive the modernization agenda, innovation and creativity are always at the forefront for the Secretary.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary Esper, where he shared a powerful formula that enables peak creativity:
The formula? He wakes up no later than 4:15a and then immediately works out. Secretary Esper shared,
"That's probably where I do my best thinking--working out at the gym or running. You get these 'ah'ha' moments. The key is making sure you can write it down somewhere to remember it, but that's my routine."
When you let your mind wander while working out, you're enabling a layer of creative clarity that is only available when you exercise. Studies prove that exercise increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and also facilitates interaction between it and the amygdala. Why is this important? The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that can help tamp your fear and anxiety. So with a clear mind while exercising, can be harnessed into creative fuel.
Secretary Esper isn't alone with his thinking of the extremely early, joining the ranks of other business tycoons such as Tim Cook (3:45am) and Richard Branson (5:00am),
If waking up at 4:15a isn't your cup of tea, try embracing the formulaic approach of an earlier rise coupled with a workout. Commit to doing it for 2 weeks (that's how habits are formed, everyone) and see if a little creative amplification comes your way. Oh, and if that creativity gives life to a solution that can help Army tackle their largest modernization challenges, they want to hear from you.