An Odd Entrepreneurial Success Tip From A Former Marine and Special Agent
Self-discipline in sleep, nutrition, and fitness is the entry point for becoming an effective and mentally tough entrepreneur.
When my kid brother and I were growing up and our elder siblings would try to correct us we would respond by saying stuff like, "You're not the boss of us!"
This sentiment is at the heart of why most entrepreneurs become, well, entrepreneurs. We instinctively do not like when others "boss" us around even from early childhood. There's a reason for that. The human machine is built to be the boss. Whether you're a startup, a solo-practitioner, or you've scaled the operation to hundreds of employees, being an effective leader for your business all starts with being the boss of yourself, which I call mental toughness.
Every entrepreneur is the CEO of themselves; the CEO of You, Inc., if you will. Your job as the CEO of You, Inc. is to get your Board of Directors to act in concert for your betterment instead of your detriment. Allow me to introduce you to your Board of Directors, you know them as your body, mind and emotions.
When you have a "board meeting," which director (body, mind or emotions) would you say usually wins the vote? Have you ever made an emotional decision? How'd that work out? I was speaking at a large conference in Atlanta and asked the crowd this question. I heard a voice cry out from the back-left side of the room, "DIVORCE!" The crowd laughed, more in relief from the tension the question created than from hilarity. Why? Almost without fail, in most of the human population, the emotions have on occasion hijacked our boardrooms, and the results have taken us someplace we didn't enjoy.
If emotion running the boardroom wasn't bad enough, the body runs a quick second. The body tends to jump in and take over at any given time.
When I enlisted in the Marine Corps, back in 1985, I was 50 pounds overweight. I loved eating and I hated running. What do you do in Marine Corps boot camp? Run. The first morning we went outside for physical training, we lined up in formation. The drill instructor gave us the command to face to the right, forward march and then the dreaded command, "DOUBLE-TIME MARCH!" We took off running. Three steps later my body tried to take over the boardroom. "STOP!!" It screamed. "We're DYING!" It screamed. Was I dying? No. My body was attempting to take over the boardroom.
There are three votes in the boardroom, and the body usually sides with the emotions, only doing those things we "feel" like doing or complaining the entire time we are forced into doing something we don't "feel" like doing (like going to meet a prospective client on a cold, damp, rainy Monday morning, and you know the traffic is already fouled up).
To be an effective boss, even if it's just the boss of yourself, the mind should be running the boardroom. Unfortunately for most of us, the mind wields the least amount of power in the boardroom. Remember, there are three directors -- body, mind, emotions -- each possessing one vote. To gain a majority vote and carry the day, two directors must vote together. WARNING: The mind and emotions are diametrically opposed and will never vote together. It's like the State Department and the Defense Department; they have completely opposite missions.One diplomatic and the other force. The only chance we have of the mind running the boardroom is to get the body to vote with the mind.
This is great news because the body is the weakest part of our being and the easiest to dominate. We have all heard the saying, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Growing up, I would hear relatives at holiday gatherings use this saying as a humorous way to get away with eating a second piece of cheesecake. "Well, I certainly don't need a second piece ...the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," as a forkful of yummy, yet unhealthy, goodness passed through their lips. That is not what that saying means. It means that our bodies are the weak spot and the easiest to control.
Unfortunately for most of us, we stopped dominating our bodies after we stopped needing diapers. We eat whatever we want, exercise (or not) whenever we feel like it. We go to bed at whatever time the show we are binge-watching is finally at a good stopping point. We get out of bed, begrudgingly, to an alarm clock, only if we must. And on and on. After all, isn't that the point of running our own companies and not having someone to 'boss us around? (By the way, our employees will learn, imitate, and adopt the behavior that we leaders model for them consistently. The result is what's called "company culture.")
Dominating your body, i.e., self-discipline in sleep, nutrition, and fitness is the baseline entry point for becoming an effective and mentally tough boss. Without this, you haven't even entered the arena. When we think of mental toughness, most of us think of athletes, spec-ops soldiers, and first responders. They have each, at least nominally, dominated their bodies even to enter their respective fields. Once you consistently dominate your body, you have made the first cut in becoming effective and mentally tough.
Every executive, business owner and leader I privately coach must send me daily a handwritten log documenting their sleep cycle, nutrition intake and fitness activity. Most entrepreneurs won't do this on their own because they confuse not having a "real boss" with not being accountable. If you do unswervingly hold yourself accountable, then congratulations are in order! You just surpassed the clear majority of those alive on the planet today. If you struggle with just keeping up with your sleep, nutrition, and finding time for fitness, then your mind will never run the boardroom, your emotions will.
Want to be more successful in business? Then dominate your sleep cycle. Dominate your food choices. And dominate your fitness routine. The sooner these are consistently executed, the sooner the real work of the mind winning steady control of the boardroom, and the skillful controlled deployment your emotions taking you to the next level, can begin.
Andrew D. Wittman, PhD, is a United States Marine Corps infantry combat veteran, a former police officer and federal agent. As a Special Agent for the U.S. Capitol Police, Wittman led the security detail for Nancy Pelosi and has personally protected Hillary Clinton, Tom Delay, Trent Lott, King Abdullah of Jordan, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Sir Elton John, as well as Fortune 20 CEOs. As a security contractor for the State Department, he taught high-threat diplomatic security to former Navy SEALS, Marines, Rangers, and Special Forces.
Wittman is founder of the Mental Toughness Training Center, a leadership consultancy specializing in peak performance, team dynamics, resolving conflict in the workplace and is the author of the new book, Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You (2016). He holds a Ph.D. in Theological Studies, is a guest lecturer at Clemson University and co-hosts the radio call-in show “Get Warrior Tough.”