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. 

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