How To Prioritise Your Health and Energy Levels as a Business Leader with Brad Kearns

In this blog, we will take a look back over the best bits of my talk with Brad Kearns. Brad is someone that I have listened to and learned from for a very long time, he is also very highly regarded. 

Brad has a long list of accomplishments, including being a world record holder for speed golf, a New York Times bestselling author, an accomplished podcast host, a master’s high jumper and a former professional Triathlete. There’s a lot of gold in this episode and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

I began by asking Brad to tell us a few things that would really benefit the business leaders and the business owners out there who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle in this fast-paced world that we’re in.

“There are so many things to address and one of them is this tendency to overdo it on the workout side and actually in many other areas too, we see in the diet scene, a condition called orthorexia, where people are overly concerned with an unnatural fixation with eating the correct foods to the extent that it stresses them out and adds to the stress level of their life but especially in the exercise scene, people tend to overdo it.  

The personality style, the attributes that you start out with are the ones that can become your worst enemy. Like who’s going to get off their butt and go into the gym? It’s the people who are highly motivated, type-A driven focussed people and then they get in their own way and tend to destroy their health in pursuit of fitness. 

So we have to make that critical distinction between fitness and health.

When I was I was a professional triathlete, for nine years, I travelled all over the world, I trained all day,  I slept for half of my life during the time I was on the circuit but I was constantly pushing my body right up to that red line, up to the edge of compromising my health. 

I had to learn the hard way over and over again that these two things have to stay in balance otherwise, you’re not going to reap the intended benefits or the stated benefits and your stated goals.

I coached people for a long time, mostly in the triathlon scene, and you’re talking about an extremely driven person where some of the coaching element was just to sit down and say, hey, what are you all about here? 

So I think the first thing we got to do is examine what’s going on out there. Why am I doing this to myself?  What void am I trying to fill with over-exercising? 

Then correct that.

 

Be kind and gentle and give yourself permission to rest or to go easy on yourself or go get a massage or whatever it is you need to do to balance your life. 

I think we also have to acknowledge that maybe it’s OK if you’re out there to blow off some steam, unleash some competitive intensity and possibly in an inappropriate manner, one that might compromise your health. 

So if you just acknowledge here’s what I’m doing, I’m bashing my body today because my boss got mad at me and I can’t process it any other way than that’s the way it’s going to go and maybe someday you’ll be ready to make a choice and make a decision to move on from that previous trap that you’ve been caught in.” 

Brad’s answer brought up some interesting points around the stress of trying to manage healthy living and the impact it can have on an individual, but also, how ambitious people tend to be ambitious in all areas of their life, often wanting to exceed and go all-in on everything. 

“It’s so parallel to the workplace example and we have so many examples of people overworking and spending too many hours immersed into their peak cognitive task at the expense of whatever else. 

But a lot of times you’re there because you can’t bear to go home early and face the problems in your own home or things like that. 

We are more productive, more focused, make better decisions, are more creative when our lives are in balance and the longer we work, it’s not going to be anything of benefit.”  

Brad expanded on some research he has used for his new book, Keto for Life

“There’s something like 55 hours a week, then you really fall off a cliff and you become so unproductive. 

I think it backs up to somewhere around 40 hours a week where you start to become less efficient and less productive, so things take 20% longer if you work more than 40 hours a week. 

If you’re congratulating yourself that you just put in 50 hours a week, you probably should go back to 40 and do things more efficiently and make decisions more quickly.

We get stuck in these traps, I believe one of the big things to blame is hyperconnectivity. We never give our brains a downtime to sit back and reflect.” 

I spoke about the parallels between popular movements, such as the 4 day week, but also the pressure in business that comes down from the top, whereby it is expected that people work 60, 70 or 80 hour weeks. Many people see that as a badge of honour and as something that must be done, to achieve their ultimate goals.  

“Yeah, I’m recalling a passage from Jack Welch’s autobiography known as the Great Leader of G.E. and Corporate Legend in America and he was talking about how the workaholism culture that he created as he rose up the ranks, it was expected that you come in on Saturday if you want to rise to the executive ranks. 

He acknowledged that he had compromised some areas of his life, such as his children, so he’s using his children as an example of stuff he missed out on. 

Now I’m a parent, they were probably my highest purpose for being, in those years as a parent was to raise children and so I’m shaking my head going, wow, you want to live a life out of balance and live with regrets when you’re older? 

Read some other people’s words, take things to heart and be all in at the moment and make sure you can live, there’s no guarantee of tomorrow. 

Us folks here in America, sports fans, are absolutely mourning and devastated by the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter and seven other passengers on the helicopter and I can’t get it out of my mind. 

He meant so much to me and my son and, you know, he thought he had a lot of security, wouldn’t you agree? But there’s no security of anything, no matter who you are, we might as well make the best of today and so I’m here on the show arguing for, protect your health, balance your work efforts with your personal life and guess what? 

You may go beyond that person who is stuck in the workaholic mode.” 

What’s your advice for those business owners, business leaders who are looking to scale, looking to grow and maintain some level of fitness, health and even cognitive ability? I know you’re a big fan of slowing down and being mindful, so what would be your big tips? 

“One of my favourite pieces of advice, in terms of progressing with your career, comes from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. 

He related how young comics would come up to him all the time and say, hey, did you hear my set, what do you think? 

How do I get on The Tonight Show? 

How do I get my own series?

His standard advice to young up and coming comic is work on your act. 

That’s it. 

Work on your act. 

So if you can excel in your core area of responsibility and your highest passion, the highest expression of your talents, there’s nothing else that you should even mention when you’re talking about this topic. 

What I try to do is keep a little bit of recognition if I am indeed pursuing the highest expression of my talents in a micro-level, as well as a macro with the big decisions.

My mission for 2020 is to focus more because everyone can succumb; we’re all victims to the allure of the dopamine hit. As Dr Robert Lustig says in a new book called ‘The Hacking of the American Mind’. 

He’s talking about how we’ve all become addicts in various ways to the instant hit of pleasure.” 

Dr Lustig is one of the original writers on the topic of sugar, and Brad expands on his research 

“He’s one of the leading anti-sugar crusaders, saying how it’s an addictive substance and then he expanded the topics in this book to talk about social media, digital devices, the mind-altering drugs, video games, porn, all these things hit the dopamine pathways and flood them to the extent that we’re incapable or less capable of experiencing happiness and contentment, which are the serotonin pathways. 

How do you experience happiness and contentment in life? 

It’s struggling and persevering through difficulties and challenges to become a better person, but now we can theoretically sit back, fire up the video game and kill a bunch of soldiers, win the battle and have instant pleasure and instant gratification.” 

There’s one thing trying to get away from all this stuff, but how do you focus and stay on point and ignore these distractions? 

“You have to put some systems in place and use repetition and endurance to create habits because otherwise we’re too weak and we’re going to succumb and we’re gonna fail. 

If you can, get things into this new category of absolutely mindless and automatic, where you do not have to apply motivation and willpower to achieve these objectives.

Motivation is highly overrated in any circumstance. 

So one quick example that I have (you can see it on YouTube) it’s called ‘Brad Kearnes morning flexibility, mobility routine’, I designed this custom leg and core exercise routine and I do it every single morning. 

I get out of bed and the first thing I do is I hit the deck before I reach for my phone, which is what 84% of Americans do. So instead of reaching for the iPhone, I hit the deck and I do a very mindful experience of doing 30 leg scissors and 20 frog legs and 20 core drills and I don’t have to think, do I feel like doing this or not? Even if I’m running short of time, I’m going to get it done and if I skip it because I have to get it early morning flight, I do it that night so I can proudly say to the world, I do this every single day, no matter what, without fail, even if I don’t feel like it.” 

Brad expanded on what can others do

“It’s really anything that’s proactive and advocating for your own health and well-being. 

So if you have a dog and you want to be a responsible dog owner, get up first thing in the morning, leash up your dog and take the animal outside into the fresh air and the sunshine and the open space, but also getting out there and doing something that’s habitual. Now if we can start stacking these things together, you build momentum toward being this way throughout your productive workday.” 

Brad then discussed his experience with the Wim Hof cold plunge practice 

“What the morning cold plunge means to me is sort of an opportunity to promote focus and discipline and resilience, so I don’t do anything special before I jump in, I don’t want to delay that action at all, I want to finish my morning leg swings and I go right downstairs and jump into the tub whether I feel like it or not. 

If we can get that way about everything that we need to do, I think it puts you into that more resilient mindset, which is so important these days amidst distraction and also amidst getting discouraged.”

Talk to me about stress and the positive effects of bringing on stress. 

“That’s a really important concept because this word stress is bantered around to convey a large number of circumstances and so we have to distinguish between an appropriate positive natural stressor that delivers a net positive benefit, so the term for that is a hormetic stressor, and that means challenging your body and it responds by coming back stronger and more resilient and now we have this condition of chronic stress. 

The human organism is not adapted to withstand chronic stress day after day after day. 

This leads to breakdown, burnout, illness and injury. 

So we want to transition over to pushing and challenging the body with these appropriate stressors. 

We want to shorten the duration of these positive natural stressors and get away from those chronic stressors.

When I mentioned these quick examples over the show jumping into the cold water, I’m only going in there for five to six minutes, but I’ve worked up from three minutes. In the gym, I’m over and done within 20 minutes, I’m not in there for an hour, exhausting my body.

So we want to just shorten the duration of these positive natural stressors and tone down the ability to get away from those chronic stressors. 

Now, guess what the reality about chronic stress is? 

A lot of it’s in our mind. It’s in our control. 

Our thoughts are the source of all our pain. 

So when we feel stressed out about this, that or the other thing, we can live in a different state of mind control or mindset. And therefore, these things that we perceive to be stressful, a traffic jam, a difficult boss whose personality is coming out again, it drives you crazy deep down inside, but you can look at that person with a loving, compassionate heart and say they’re doing their best with the tools that they’ve been given. 

You can take control of your stress response and float through the day in a much better circumstance than constantly getting agitated when the world’s not exactly as you perceive that it should be.” 

It’s that ability to self regulate, to manage the emotions under pressure?

“That’s where the breathing comes in, because if you can work on things like intentional breathing or in my case, you can develop the ability to overcome the instant shock effect of the cold, and breathe through it.” 

Final thoughts

With some great tips and tricks for managing stress and dealing with pressure, the podcast came to a close. 

Talking with Brad was as insightful and informative as expected and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

His knowledge and passion for all things health, wellness and lifestyle are infectious and it was thoroughly enjoyable to spend some time speaking with Brad. 

A keen podcaster himself, you can find out more about Brad by checking out his ‘Get over yourself’ podcast or by visiting BradKearns.com, where you can see more information on Brad, his books, his speed golf world record and his work as a whole. 

To listen to the entire podcast and hear all the gold for yourself, just click here. 

Interviews with Game Changers

I have had the opportunity to interview the worlds leading minds on business, health and mindset. You can read the highlights of my podcast interviews by clicking here

Read Game Changers Now

Podcast

The Scale Without Burnout podcast is for business owners who want to learn how to devote equal time to their business, body, relationships & mindset to bring their life into balance.
Get weekly tips and feel empowered with Business Psychologist and host Andrew Sillitoe

Listen to the Podcast

From the Rugby Pitch to the Boardroom with Stuart Lancaster

In this interview, I speak with former England Rugby coach Stuart Lancaster, now at Leinster, about his take on management, leadership and the differences between the Rugby field and the boardroom.

This interview contains the best bits of our talk and in some places has been shortened to allow for a clearer conversation.

We started the chat with me asking Stuart to provide some background on how he got the role as England head coach and how he felt when it happened. 

I was at a coaching conference at the time and I got a phone call to say that Martin Johnson had left the role. I remember thinking ‘I wonder what they’ll do next’ but I eventually went to present to the board and I said listen, why don’t I do the interim job for the Six Nations? 

I went and presented my vision about what I thought and maybe a day or two later they said, yes, and they arranged a press conference where I was announced as the interim England coach.” 

And the interview process for the full-time role

“The interview process for the full-time job took place during Six Nations, 2012. 

There was a lot going on and we managed to win four out of five. I guess on the back of those performances and some of the changes we made, I got the job full time and it was only then really that it does dawn on you, you know, I am the permanent England coach. 

It’s a big shift in mindset because you go from offering an opinion to making all the decisions. And that’s the difference between working for the leader and being the leader and being a leader of a national team. It’s everything from the national team all the way down to grassroots Rugby.”

Looking back, how prepared do you think you really were? 

“I was prepared as I could be at the time, given the fact I’ve never done it before. 

I felt that I’d done as much as I could, to be ready to go. 

When you’re in that number 2 position and you’re waiting to go to number 1 position, and you’ve not been there, I still think you can prepare for it. 

You can go on courses, study leadership, you can think about what you’re going to do. 

But the most important thing is you must have clarity of what you believe in and what you’re going to do if you get there.” 

Stuart began to expand on what this meant. 

“I think where leaders fall down when they go from a number two to a number one position is that they don’t have real clarity on their philosophy, i.e. the values and the behaviours they want in their organisation and also, the technical philosophy of how they’re going to drive the organisation forward. 

In Rugby, you need clarity in your on-field philosophy, the way you’re going to play the game, and clarity in your off-field philosophy, the behaviours and the values you want to see in your organization and I felt I was clear on both.”

 

How did you go about developing that philosophy and that set of values, whether it’s on the field or off the field? 

“You spend time thinking about it. You think about what really matters to you, the values and behaviours you want to build your organisation on. What are the traits you want to display during this period of uncertainty? 

It’s a bit like the England job, it was more managerial, more leadership, more of a director Rugby role and during all those times, I’m constantly reflecting on my behaviours, my values, my learning and clarifying. 

What do I actually believe in here? 

How do I improve my technical competence? 

How do I improve my managerial skills? 

How do I improve my leadership skills? 

And so then when the opportunity does come you’re ready.

One of the big key points for me, I went on a level five leadership course and it taught me self-awareness, relationship management, emotional intelligence, building relationships, all those softer skills that will guide you to your philosophy. 

There’s no right or wrong way, the way I would lead would be different to someone else.

So it’s not say that you have to have a particular philosophy that everyone will follow. 

What people want from their leaders is clarity in their philosophy. 

They want the leader to have a point of view. 

They want the leader to sell that vision to them. 

They want the leader to inspire them and they want to have a leader they can willingly follow, not because they’re paid to follow. 

That all comes from having clarity in what you believe in.” 

What advice do you have for somebody who says, I can’t get out of the operational mindset and make that shift towards that kind of thinking along the lines of emotional intelligence? What would you say is either a step towards it or even the value of doing that? 

“Delegate the managerial stuff, employ people who are good at taking those tasks off you and let them do it and entrust them to do it. 

Organising the weekly schedule, the monthly schedule, organising the next tour, managing the board, speaking to the media, dealing with the commercial team, Club Country relationships, I have people at Leinster that do the managerial stuff brilliantly, which frees me up to coach and use my time on leadership and coaching. I think it’s a better balance.” 

Stuart then acknowledged this didn’t happen when he was at England. 

“It’s not through anyone’s fault. It’s just through the nature of the England job and because I was reasonably organized and quite adept at the managerial stuff anyway. But in hindsight, I probably should’ve got someone who can take some managerial responsibility off me, to focus on the leadership and the coaching side of things. 

That’s a danger when you become the leader, that you still hold on to your managerial responsibilities. But actually, what people want from leaders is relationships. They want a connection. They want vision. They want decisions. They want high-level support. The micro detail can be done by someone else.” 

How do you align everyone to see the bigger picture with you, to believe in what you believe in? 

“The first thing is to have clarity, clarity in your mind about what you believe in and where you’re going to go, and you need to spend time thinking about what your vision for the future is. You’ve then got to be able to articulate that and pull people with you towards that vision. 

Once you’ve got that clear in your mind, the way I went about it, I jumped in into groups, so to speak. So if you imagine a circle and there’s me in the middle and then there’s the coaching teams, I go and meet them and I speak to them and I explain the vision of what I’m trying to achieve and how we’re going to try and build it. 

Then the next meeting I have is with the management team and I’ll get them aligned. 

Then we have the players and we sell them on the vision. 

Then I invite in the board members of the RFU and I try to involve them. I go to the Council of the RFU and the professional game board of the RFU and the clubs that support the players and I go and present to them and I sell that vision to them. 

So that circle is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and then you’re ultimately trying to sell your vision to the nation that there is one team that’s connected. 

You connect the RFU, you speak to the RFU staff, you go to the RFU staff meeting you involve the grassroots people, by use of the media, get your message across to grassroots Rugby fans and then eventually you want England to take this one team mentality. 

So from this little acorn, if you like, of three coaches in a room, to a country, that’s the way I tried to do in my mind. And I think if I was in an organisation, I probably wouldn’t do it any differently. And I think you’ve got to describe what the future looks like, but in detail and you’ve got to tell a story and get people to feel it, if that makes sense.” 

It’s about how the players then see that bigger picture and feel like they’re working towards something bigger than themselves. 

“Everyone wants to win the next cup, the next trophy, at Leinster, we want to win the European Cup, but there’s also something beyond winning the next trophy. 

Is it about inspiring younger people in Leinster? Is it about getting the families down to support Leinster? Watching and creating that family atmosphere that we all look for? 

Is it about actually sitting in the changing room with a beer after the game with your mates? 

If you speak to players about what’s the best part about winning a trophy? it’s actually sat having a beer after the game.” 

I could personally relate to this from my own sporting experience and to players connected with something bigger than themselves rather than just the result. 

I asked Stuart if, as Rugby has becomes more professional, whether players lose that connection with their why? 

“Well, I think that’s the quality of the leader if that’s the case. So I don’t think they should. I mean, I’d like to say at Leinster, I think they very much understand the reason why. 

They think about the former Leinster players that played for the team. 

Think about the history of the province. 95 per cent of the team is Home-Grown from Dublin or from Ireland, Leinster, the province. 

They want to play for their family and friends who’ve supported them.

You do occasionally need to touch on it and just remind them of the reason why we’re all doing this, but that’s the art of leadership [knowing] when to intervene with those moments on when not to. And so no I don’t know if it has been lost in some teams, I would say perhaps we all need to look at the leader.” 

I asked Stuart if he thought it was the same in Football…

“I look at, say, Liverpool at the moment, there’s clearly a connection isn’t there? 

There’s a connection between the playing group, a connection between the playing group and the management team, there’s a connection between the management team, the playing group and the supporters. 

They are playing for cause and for team and for purpose. 

How powerful is that force? 

We’re not talking about eleven players on a pitch, we’re talking about a city playing against a team. 

And he expanded on how England tried to replicate it. 

I never forget we played Wales in 2013 and we were going for the Grand Slam and Wales beat us at the millennium and it felt like you weren’t just playing against 15 Welsh players you were genuinely playing against the nation. 

What we tried to do with England was flip that around and say, well, why can’t we do that with England? I think Twickenham did change. The games we played against the All Blacks and other games, France game sticks my mind in 2015. The energy behind the team, the people wearing the white shirt, the pride the supporters had in the team, the connection the team had with the supporters, It was such a powerful force at Twickenham. 

It makes England very difficult to beat and sometimes we didn’t always tap into that very well, being English.” 

We changed lanes here and I asked Stuart what his advice would be for leaders right now who are trying to bring about the balance of managing the crisis, but also trying to lead with some optimism and hope? 

“I think it’s very tough times. 

The worlds fighting a virus it can’t see, people have been locked down into isolation, the financial pressure, the social, the pressure of isolating and, you know, everything that goes with it will increase the financial pressure that people are feeling will increase. 

So I think it does require good leadership. 

Let me give you an example of how I’ve tried to do it in the last week. 

I did three short presentations, one was on the past, where we were this season, where we’ve come from, the lessons we learnt this season. The second was on the present, where we are now, and the third was on the future, this is what I think we can go to next. 

It was me trying to describe the future in graphic detail and I sent them a motivational video of us playing our best Rugby to some great music. 

I sent it on to them and I said to the players, I want you to come back to me with any observations you’ve got on what I’ve said, really go back to our performances and what was our best performance and why? Describe it to me and I’ll collate them all together and send them back out to the group.  

So, even though [I’m] not actually physically seeing players, I’m in Leeds, they’re in Dublin, I can still connect with them and paint a vision for the future.” 

Do you connect with your players once a month? Once a week? How does that work for you? 

“I’m far better at it now. I made a conscious decision to really try and connect as best I could at their level. By that I mean on the gym floor, so to speak. I’ll go down the gym floor [and ask] how are you getting on? How was the weekend? How’s the family. Thought you were brilliant at the weekend by the way. 

You’d be amazed how much that conversation will resonate with the person and how long it lasts. We get stuck behind our desks and we don’t do those conversations and the best way I can describe it is it’s like an invisible call between me and every individual in the team. 

The more you communicate with them, the more you get away from your email, the more you get down to the shop floor, you start sport speaking to them, the thicker that code becomes.

When you have problems in teams, you get this department’s working over here and this departments work over here and they’re not speaking to each other at all. 

But stop emailing. 

Why don’t you get off your laptop and go down and connect physically or even just say listen, I wouldn’t mind catching up this week, could you pop up for five minutes? 

I just want to check-in and see how you’re getting on. 

You’d be amazed, they come up and they speak to me, five minutes, nothing more than that.” 

It’s hard for people to get away from their desk

“It’s hard because it takes emotional energy. It doesn’t take physical energy it’s the emotional energy and it does burn you out a bit.  

So the next step then is how do I renew my emotional energy on a daily basis so that next day I can do the same again? 

You need to find those windows as well yourself because if you don’t, you do tend to burn yourself out. 

So that emotional energy, how you renew your emotional energy at the end of the day, at the end of a week or whatever is really important.” 

I think that emotional energy and coping with that and building time in for downtime, to think, to reflect is equally as important, whether it’s in sports or business. 

“I mean, the challenge of sports is, your games are every weekend, so you work all week and normally when you get some downtime, you’re at the most emotionally charged part of the week, which is the game. And then sometimes you lose and you’ve got to try and pick the team up from having lost, or the emotions of winning. And then before, you know, you’re on Monday again.” 

One of the things I talk about a lot is being able to balance business body relationships and mindset. How do you manage that? How do you manage those? Because you’re in Dublin, your families in Leeds and kind of managing all of that and being present. 

“Getting that balance right is absolutely key. 

Obviously, for me, it’s a challenge. There’s no doubt I’ll miss massive moments. 

I miss my time with my wife, I miss time with the kids who are 18 and 19 now, I miss the day they pick up the A-Level results or pass a driving test or things that you never get back. 

But I’m a lot more reflective now of making sure I create special moments. 

I’ll be proactive in my diary planning. So I’ll say to my wife, let’s go away for a meal here. Let’s go away for a night here or see the kids, I’m home this weekend, why don’t we do this together? 

So you diarise events that create memories. 

I think if you don’t do that when you’re travelling or commuting or working, then what happens is you don’t do them. You just come home. Function. You prepare for the next day at work and you go back to work. 

I’ve missed big moments and I don’t want to miss any more if I’m being honest.” 

Final thoughts

As the podcast drew to a close Stuart touched on his favourite podcasts and we also took some questions from the audience.

It was a truly informative and insightful interview and coming from a sporting background it was great to get the thoughts of someone who has managed at the top level and not only hear how he handled leadership and management but also discuss how those same principles can be applied to business. 

It was a great talk, one I certainly enjoyed and you can listen back to this fantastic episode in its entirety by clicking the link here 

Interviews with Game Changers

I have had the opportunity to interview the worlds leading minds on business, health and mindset. You can read the highlights of my podcast interviews by clicking here

Read Game Changers Now

Podcast

The Scale Without Burnout podcast is for business owners who want to learn how to devote equal time to their business, body, relationships & mindset to bring their life into balance.
Get weekly tips and feel empowered with Business Psychologist and host Andrew Sillitoe

Listen to the Podcast