Article previously published in Arkansas Money & Politics
My brother, John, passed away several years ago. As is common when such a tragic event occurs, I stopped to reflect on my brother’s life. Were there lessons I could learn to help me be a better man? Were there insights on life and business that I could pass on to others? I believe so. This is the second in a series of three articles on those lessons and insights.
John was eighteen years my senior. He graduated from high school the year I was born. He played cards and drank his way through one semester of college before joining the Army and serving in Korea during war time. Because of our age difference, I didn’t really get to know my brother until I was a young teenager. He married a few times, had four children, loved his family, enjoyed hunting, fishing and keeping to himself, served our country in time of war and appeared confident that he was the strongest, smartest guy in the room.
As with most siblings, there were things about my brother that I didn’t like, but I loved and respected him until the end.
It was only two weeks from the time my brother was diagnosed until he passed away. Cancer. He smoked most of his life. The cancer started in his lungs and spread rapidly to other parts of his body.
The second of the three lessons learned from my brother was this:
Make spiritual, physical and mental fitness a priority. No matter how busy we are as entrepreneurs, we must eat well, exercise regularly, get rest, get regular medical checkups and make time each day for a few minutes of peace. These things are no less important than the most important meetings of the day. These key elements were not part of my brother’s daily life. As it always does, it eventually caught up with him.
I’m a practicing Catholic Christian. I use the term “practicing” because I know that practice is the only way to get better . . . and I need to get a whole lot better. I start my day with spiritual readings and prayer. I do this first thing in the morning because it is my highest priority of each day and, for me, it is difficult to step out of the rhythm of my business day, once it gets going and focus on readings and prayer.
We all know that regular exercise, a healthy diet, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest are good for us. In business terms, it’s not that the value proposition isn’t clear, it’s that we simply don’t execute. We would never dream of missing an important meeting, but we seem to de-prioritize our physical fitness anytime something else comes up. “I’m just not feeling it today”, “I have to take this call”, “I have a hang nail”, blah, blah, blah. Stop whining, put exercise on your calendar, and EXECUTE!
I’m glad the importance of good mental health is more prominent in our national conversation, after being ignored or put on the back burner for years. It has been, and will continue to be, an issue for entrepreneurs. The demands of the job, the stress, the constant pressure to keep everything in balance, and the feeling of isolation can all take a toll on our mental health. Meditate, engage a licensed therapist, or just disconnect from electronics away from the office and sit quietly, but do something. It’s not a sign of weakness to need this or ask for help with it. On the contrary, it is a sign of ignorance, overconfidence and neglect if you don’t.
As counter intuitive as it may seem to make time for these things when we are so busy, fitness in these areas allows us to sustain our hectic pace. Think of it as inflight refueling.