It is easier for an officer to keep men healthy than for a physician to cure them”-Horatio Nelson
Late January of 2019, and as I slept anxiously and nervously in my bed. My heart racing, palpitations endlessly raging on as I tossed and turned in the dark, suffering from the trauma that is commonplace when an individual is afflicted by those scourges of a so-called modern-day lifestyle, I could not help but feel a deep sense of regret at the poor state of health I had descended into. Being both a student and a budding entrepreneur my aggressive chase of the delusions of grandeur we are trained to pursue at the expense of our well-being had lead me down a slippery slope, with hypertension now locking me in a vicious vice grip, which left me on the brink, life clinging on to my person by a knife-edge. Being an individual who believes in the power of words it was at this moment I went to my quote book, desperately searching for something other than just medication that could help soothe the angst within me. And there I would stumble upon a quote from a prominent naval officer during the great age of sail that would give motivation to me in a time where calmness is needed lest you panic yourself into the afterlife. “It is easier for an officer to keep men healthy than for a physician to cure them,” said the quote, and it was at this moment that I realized the importance of health in the art of decisive leadership.
The development and enhancement of technology and machinery have made work more efficient. Travel much faster, communication more instantaneous which has in turn aided us to make the world smaller through the ushering in of an era of interconnectedness that has brought new light to the notion of the global village. But anything in excess can be ruinous to one’s well-being, and in spite of the good that has materialized from said technological advancements many other issues have arisen creating dire consequences on our very being and on the issue of productivity. Man is made up of more than just the flesh and blood exterior that we all see, two other parts, the mind and the spirit which we talked about in our previous chapter also make up our being. And with the advancements we have seen in technology. Advancements that mean that for 24 hours a day, seven days a week we are occupied in a state of constant interaction with the world, with our bosses as well as with our many friends on the multitudes of social network platforms we possess, this consistent state of always being online has left us offline from our inner selves. We saw in the previous chapter just how valuable solitude can be, and it is that solitude that can be gained from detachment, that allows us to refuel and replenish our energies so as to be able to be at our best and brightest selves. Providing endless creativity that helps us to be more decisive in any sphere we consider dear to us that has gone missing.
“In a culture that enforces demanding work schedules and tells us that exhaustion is the price we must pay for success, our energy and stamina can get lost amongst the standards for perfection and the pressure to do it all” as Rebecca Miller so eloquently put it. And that hampers our ability to be able to make decisions that prove healthy to both ourselves and the bottom line, not to mention the purpose of the companies and organizations which we would represent. One would look at the city of London as a prime example of said occurrence of such a phenomena. According to a 2019 study done by the BBC across the country of the United Kingdom, 60% of the population have experienced mental health distresses as a result of work related issues. With over 12 million working hours having been lost because of the problems provided by mental health greatly undermining productivity on all aspects within the economy. A decisive leader is always quick to understand that “the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack”, and if one wolf were to otherwise be estranged, cut off or have befallen to them any misfortune then the safety and success of the pack is greatly undermined. The pack in this case can be any institution in any field one could care to name. It could be in banking with Goldman Sachs, a sports team like the New England Patriots or an army charging headlong into battle. Said institution or organization must be willing to take an ardent and holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of the individual should they be looking for decisive outcomes to abound for the collective.
Clinical psychologist Dr Bill Mitchell said it best when giving his take on the plight of many workers in the city by saying. “I’ve seen people who have wandered down a very long pathway, that’s taken them from optimum well- being, health, and energy all the way down to a place where it has become much more serious”. For years the dogma of the burnt-out entrepreneur, chasing deadlines and headlines at the expense of their own health and well-being has been prevalent, this however could not be further from the truth. Many a world class entrepreneur explicitly express the need for a holistic approach to the issue of health and wellbeing, and case in point is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Arianna Huffington who after suffering from mental exhaustion, having experienced collapse from burnout and sleep deprivation in 2007 decided to establish Thrive Global. A company which looks to help institutions to develop healthy, vibrant and vigorous environments through assisting with behavioral changes for the collective’s individual parts.
“When we take care of ourselves our performance improves”, as Mrs. Huffington so candidly put it and whilst speaking with Fortune Magazine in 2017 she would later show us just how crucial health and wellbeing can be to our overall decision making process.
“One piece that we had on thrive global for example that Jeff Bezos wrote went crazy viral, because you had Jeff Bezos an acknowledged leader in his field and many fields who wrote a piece and the headline was why my getting 8 hours sleep is good for Amazon shareholders and his analysis was that he knows that when he is not fully recharged his decisions are 5-20 percent less good than when he is fully recharged. And of course the best thing he can give Amazon is his decision making”.
And this is where the power of health and being able to govern one’s auspices both physically and psychologically becomes a crucial piece in the Art of Decisiveness. Another case in point would be the late great Kobe Bryant, always creative fully of vibrancy and effervescence he would attest to the importance of being able to manage one’s brain and mental state through the practice of meditation, rest and relaxation.
“Get an additional 30 minutes of sleep a night, take it as a challenge try to find that space quiet your mind and get your thirty minutes of sleep and you will see it makes a really big difference. My sleep habits where horrendous to say the least I mean I’ve always had a hard time sleeping, I couldn’t figure out a way to shut my brain off. So what made the light bulb come on was that I went out there and played a game and I played like crap, and I was like why am I playing like crap because I have been practicing these same moves over and over and over, and yet I couldn’t execute them properly, I was feeling sluggish, I was feeling lethargic and I knew it wasn’t because of my training, because I had trained obsessively and then I started to look at other things. And that’s when I came to the realization that hey Kobe you are not 21 years old anymore buddy, maybe the fact that you are sleeping 2- 3 hours a night has something to do with the fact that you are playing like crap.” Kobe hit it spot on in this particular instance and not only is sleep crucial to success but being able to reflect and also calm the nerves can be extremely pivotal for one’s inner self as well as their mind.
“The greatest arsenal any man can bring to the party consists of the resources of his own mind, his intelligence his stratagems and his force of will” to quote an animated version of Alexzander Luthor from the now iconic series young justice. And through meditation one is able to ensure that their mind is able to effectively and efficiently come up with the solutions that make decisive leadership child’s play as Kobe Bryant again would attest to.
“Five minutes of quiet time, five minutes for you to be mindful and to just sit and find that inner voice and just kind of listen to the self and preferably in the morning as you start your day”.
Fatigue of the mind is fatigue of all our physical faculties, as a fatigued mind brings irritability and rash decision making becomes common practice. Therefore mindfulness which can help to ease stresses and anxiety is a key aspect to health and decisive leadership, as the lights out execution that can so often become subliminal for creatures of a decisive nature can never be achieved when one’s main vehicle for inspiration is jaded.
Couple this with a good diet plus exercise and one is then ensured that they would have taken care of their triad of mind body and soul, that triad so crucial when crossing the perilous river of the modern day challenges we all face. Many a person is always in the zone never fully recovering so as to be able to enjoy the fruits of their enterprise and we see their life’s joy diminish all In the name of getting it done, not realizing that the blessing is never in the work itself but in the self-actualization obtained afterwards. No one can consider being in a wheelchair after having suffered a stroke from over working themselves as just reward for their efforts, which is why health is the key to optimum performance and being able to live life to the fullest.
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