What would you do with the most powerful tool in the world?

What do all successful people have in common? They can accomplish 10x more than the normal person per day? They can start a business on the side of their multi-billion dollar company, raise 4 kids, write a blog, and found a charity?

Are any of them overweight? Unhealthy? Hating what they do?

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

Exercise.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning.” –Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey. (Source: http://www.mylifeatnilico.com/roger-smith-ceo/national-income-life-ceo-roger-smith-on-exercising-the-mind/)

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning.” –Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.
(Source: http://www.mylifeatnilico.com/roger-smith-ceo/national-income-life-ceo-roger-smith-on-exercising-the-mind/)

What happens to your mind and body as a result of physical activity is a mind-blowing asset in any endeavor. Productivity multiplies and successes increase. Busy people swear they don’t have time NOT to work out.

Sure, success is mental. But where does mental strength come from? The strength to stay engaged, innovative, and responsive after hours of meetings, phone calls, and conferences… Successful people know that pushing your body beyond physical boundaries will enhance your ability to overcome mental limitations. Exercise reduces stress, sharpens memory and recall, boosts confidence, and amplifies health.

Exercise = stamina.

“Because the demands of leadership can be quite strenuous, the physical aspects are just as important as everything else”

Are you convinced yet? Here are a few examples:

  • Apple’s CEO Tim Cook goes to the gym every morning.
  • Virgin America CEO David Crush wakes up at 4:15am to respond to emails and jump on his bike.
  • President Barack Obama runs three miles a day.
  • Anna Wintour from Vogue plays tennis every morning.
  • Nancy Pelosi takes a 45 minute power walk every morning
  • Panera CEO Ron Shaich works out to “keep up mentally and physically with the demands of a growing business” He says that the workouts boost his energy and focus.
  • Senator Wendy Davis survived a 13 hour filibuster because of her fitness.
  • Citi Group CEO Michael Corbat played football at Harvard University as an All-Conference offensive guard. He also is a trustee of the US Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation. His workout, called the Spartacus Workout, aims at cutting fat, while he also sheds excess layers of fat from Citigroup.
  • Condoleeza Rice says that, “Part of the secret to traveling well is continuing your routine. So when I’m on the road I absolutely schedule time to get up in the morning and exercise first”
  • Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint.com stresses the importance of physical activity to break up your work day: “You cannot work, in this instance, 14-hour days without getting a good working in as a break… If there was no break with physical activity, you’d be more tired and less alert”
  • One of the richest people in the world, Richard Branson, says his physical activities give him at least four additional hours of productivity per day. His physical activity is not always the same, and can include any combination of swimming, yoga, rock climbing, running, and weight-lifing. He is the Founder of Virgin Group, and is currently responsible for more than 400 companies
  • Craig Esrael, CEO of First South Financial uses a daily routine of 4 miles and circuit excercies to stay focused and build his company. He spent most of his childhood and highschool career overweight, and attributes his commitment to fitness as a factor of his success.
  • Mike Cassidy, the CEO of travel and tour site Ruba: “Fitting a workout into the word day reduces stress, keeps you health, and is great for getting “alone time” to work out business and personal problems. When someone asks for a non work-related meeting, see if they are up for doing the meeting while running or biking together. Work out at lunchtime and then eat at your desk”
  • Jordan Zimmerman is the founder of Zimmerman Advertising, an advertising agency with 22 offices and billings in excess of $2.6 billion. He says that “Being in good shape gives me energy”. He wakes up at 3:30am every morning and bikes 25 miles, before eating breakfast with his kids and taking them to school. “Sleeping isn’t living, you sleep when you die”
  • Laura Garnett helps business owners and CEO’s develop a personalized leadership and brand strategy by identifying their zone of genius. She suggests that business people can increase their success by creating rituals and regulating how they live to increase performance, as modeled by athletes.
  • Frits van Paaschen is the CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, W) who excercises 6 days a week. He completed his first Ironman Triatholon at age 52, in an incredible completion time of 12 hours and 44 minutes. (2.4 mi swimming, 112 mi cycling, 26.2 mi run). His love of fitness started at age 7 while watching the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics on TVPaaschen is the former CEO of Coors Brewing Co, and oversaw Nike’s business in Europe in 1997-2005, the Middle East, and Africa. Former VP in Finance as Disney Consumer Products. His career started as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey and Co for 6 years in 1990.
  • Even the current Disney CEO Robert Iger wakes up early to work out!
  • Unilever CEO Paul Polman wakes up at 6am to run on his treadmill in the office before attending to emails or phone calls.
  • Avon Products CEO Andrea Jung goes to the gym before getting to her desk by 8am.
  • Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz starts his day with a workout, making it to the office by 6am.

Do you think all of these examples are just coincidences? Think again.

This list hardly scratches the surface of how a commitment to your body’s health can cultivate success. To look at the larger picture, take note of how the United Nations is using sport to approach some of the world’s largest issues.

Try and name one overweight Fortune 500 CEO. Humans are predisposed to make internal attributions about people based on their physical image. We all have stereotypes about “fat”, and “successful” isn’t one of them. CEO’s today are more visible than they were 50, 20, or even 5 years ago. According to Amanda Sanders, a New York based image consultant, excess weight conveys a “lack of control” and vulnerability.

For example, here are a few people who could have been really successful, but weren’t:

  • McDonalds CEO Jim Cantalupo died of a heart attack in 2004, after holding his position for only 16 months.
  • Coca Cola Chairman Roberto Goizueta died of lung cancer after years of heavy smoking in 1997.

Mark Holowesko, the former head of Templeton Investments, regularly wakes up at 3am to bike 70-80 miles and swims laps during his lunch break. He represented the Bahamas in the 1996 Olympics for Sailing, is a 3-time participant in the CEO Ironman Challenge in Lake Placid, NY, and was a champion rower in college.

T. Boone Pickens is the CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management, says:

“Fitness is a daily priority of mine. Exercise does more than build muscles and helps prevent heart disease. It also boosts brainpower.. it may offer hope in the battle against Alheimer’s. I’m living proof that exercise also builds your self confidence”

So there you have it. Exercise is empowering. Exercise builds stamina, brainpower, confidence, and hard-work. Anyone can exercise, from walking a few miles today to finishing an Ironman before your first cup of coffee. Now that you know the most empowering tool in the world, what are you going to do with it?

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