5 Management and Life Lessons From the Gym

By: John Ricco, CAE

Like many people, I like being active and doing what I can to stay fit; biking, kayaking, lifting weights, or running — O.K., I’m lying about enjoying running. In addition to the physical benefits, I find these activities help clear my mind and improve my ability to focus. The other day while on a run (not really), I began to think about the parallels that my fitness activities taught me about professional life and vice versa. The same mental framework we use to power through runs and bike rides can help us be more effective and productive at work — here are some that come to mind.

1. Don’t worry about where you are; focus on where you’re going.

One of the first things taught to inexperienced mountain bikers is to focus on what’s coming up ahead several yards ahead of the bike’s front tire. Too many novices look down at the terrain they are 01currently covering, leaving them unprepared for the obstacles ahead. When looking further ahead, just beyond the front tire, the bike and rider become a cohesive unit, intuitively bounding over obstacles and keeping the bike on track. The same holds true in the business world. Be cognizant of the current state of your organization, but concentrate on what lies ahead — where you ultimately want to be. Focus on where you going.

(Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 2. Get the painful stuff out of the way.

Many people find that the exercises they find tough or boring (anyone up for some ab work?) are the ones they tend to give up on or
skip altogether. Don’t fall into the same trap at work. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each day evaluating what you need to get done versus what you want to get done. Make the former your first 02priority for the day. Practice this for a few weeks and you will be amazed at how much more effective you will be.  Don’t procrastinate; get the painful stuff out of the way.

(“Selfie” taken while hiking alone (never a good idea) in the Wasatch mountains (Park City, UT))

3. Don’t take shortcuts.

Have you ever been on a run or ride, got tired and then cut a corner or turned back a few blocks (or miles) earlier than planned?  Chances are that once finished, you realized you could have powered through that extra distance without much problem.  That “shortcut” mentality can prove costly and create regret that somehow you didn’t put your best03 effort forward. Fight the temptation of choosing a short-term benefit that may be detrimental long-term. Don’t take shortcuts.

 (My son preparing to put in for our early morning kayak ride down north Florida’s Wacissa River)

4. Go the other direction.

No matter how many times you take a certain route or trail, it looks completely different when you travel the same circuit in the opposite direction — the view and terrain seem poles apart and you gain a new perspective on territory you have covered many times before. The same technique can be applied in our professional lives. Whether trying to gain the perspective of others we are in conflict with at the office, or understanding the objectives of those we are negotiating contracts with, looking at things from the other side of the desk will help improve your take on the situation. Go the other direction.

5. Change gears and push through.

Efficient bikers understand the benefit of shifting into a lower gear and digging deep to make it up a hill. At work there are times when you have to keep your head down, dig deep and plod through. Whether it’s taking the first few steps in moving forward on the project you been dreading or finding the final inspiration to finish a project that took too long, change gears and push through.

These are just a few observations from the gym and outdoors that transfer to personal and professional life.  Please share others in the comments section!

And for those of you attending the ASAE Convention in Nashville this August, join me and your colleagues at the ASAE 5K Fun Run – get invigorated and gain insights outdoors!



(Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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