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Work Hard, Play Hard

Going to extremes

When Jeff Ross, 32, plays, he goes all out. The founder and president of P.I. Corp., an Austin, Texas, firm specializing in IT consulting, product distribution and integration, Ross works hard for 45 to 60 hours a week. But he always makes time (at least eight to 12 hours per week) to push himself to the limits off the job by participating in extreme sports like martial arts, sky diving and mountain biking. "At the end of long days and weeks," says Ross, "I need to unplug and recharge."

How do extreme sports, like sky diving or martial arts, reinvigorate Ross? "They really keep the fear of failure out of my life," he explains. "Pushing myself to the limits [in extreme sports] has helped me take my business to heights I and others never thought possible--by stepping outside my comfort zone. There's nothing like a great adrenaline rush!" Ross, whose 26-employee company has generated $8 million in sales, credits his "work hard, play hard" routine as one of the keys to his success.

Marianne Linde is another entrepreneur who spells stress relief "e-x-t-r-e-m-e." When the 30-year-old co-founder of Complete Data Solutions Inc., a technology services company also in Austin, needs a break, she heads to the lake to go wakeboarding. Wakeboarders ride a snowboard-like board and "surf" the wake as they're pulled along by a ski boat. "For me, [wakeboarding] is a great stress reliever," says Linde. "Working on the physical aspects of myself, like improving my wakeboarding skills, makes me feel more balanced. Playing hard keeps my energy alive."

The notion that exercise is important to relieve stress and boost energy is nothing new. But why the need for the extreme? Why not a tamer diversion, like yoga or golf?

"Yoga is just not profound enough for this generation," observes Dr. Jim Loehr, a renowned sports psychologist and author of Stress for Success (Times Business, $14, 800-726-0600). "It doesn't take them far enough to really create excitement and thrills."

Hence, the need for the extreme. "[Young entrepreneurs] want to define their limits in new ways," Loehr continues. "They don't want to just do it in the context of a professional job, as their [boomer] parents did. They want to run a Class VI river, go on a Trident Navy Seal retreat, go hiking and canoeing and cross-country bicycling. All that gets them closer to an appreciation for how much more in life there is than just a 15-hour day at the office."

Loehr identifies four key benefits to extreme sports that many successful young entrepreneurs are tapping into:

1. Staying fit--and having fun doing it. "Extreme sports almost always push you physically," says Loehr, "which gives you a goal: to get more balance in your life so you can handle the physical demands of your life."

2. Establishing key relationships. "If you're CEO of your company, you're fairly alone," Loehr says. "You really can't share a lot of personal things. But when you get out in these extreme sports, you develop friendships that are extremely dynamic and rich."

3. Recharging your mind. "Extreme sports enable you to switch gears. You don't think about your business for a minute--and that gives you complete recovery," says Loehr.

4. Building self-confidence. "The world is asking more and more of us all the time, so you really need to have expanded limits," Loehr advises. "You need a tremendous amount of resiliency and stamina. Extreme sports kind of suck that into you."

Sure, you need balance in your life to most effectively grow your business. But that's old news. What's new is how many of today's entrepreneurs are achieving that balance. "Most [baby boomers] thought of stress reduction as going to the beach," says Loehr. "Now we understand that stress reduction can be going on a three-day weekend that pushes you to your absolute max. You come back completely exhausted physically, but, mentally and emotionally, you're brand new."


Sean M. Lyden (seanlyden@mindspring.com) is the principal and senior writer of The Professional Writing Firm Inc., a Kennesaw, Georgia, company that specializes in ghostwriting articles. Lyden writes frequently on motivation, management and marketing issues.

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Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.

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