Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seven Secrets to Put You at the Top of Your Form

here is a saying in the field of boxing: “It is easier to win the heavy-
weight championship than to keep it.” It is not enough merely to
achieve the position you have always wanted. Remaining successful
means continuing to be a good prospect—showing your colleagues,
your employees, your boss, your coworkers, and your rivals that you
are someone who continues to perform at the height of his or her
powers, someone who is always on the edge of new accomplish-
ments. A good prospect projects confidence, energy, and inspira-
tion. He or she knows how to pull off the difficult coup, to land the
big client, and sometimes even to surpass others’ expectations.
How do you remain a prospect over the length of your career?
The secret is to understand this: performance doesn’t just happen. It
must be managed like an asset.
To continue to be an outstanding player, you need to develop
strategies for bringing your body, mind, and emotions back into bal-
ance. You need to evaluate your health and make intelligent choices
about nutrition, exercise, stress management, and lifestyle. You need
to get clear about what you really want out of your job and your sig-
nificant relationships. Once you know that, you can set goals and
take specific steps toward achieving them.
In my twenty-five years of working with world-class athletes and
high-powered men and women, I have come up with seven strategies
to keep you at the top of your form.
Secret 1: Reduce Your Health Age to Increase
Your Performance Levels
All of us have a chronological age and a health age. One of the hard-
est tasks we face in the workplace and in life is learning how to man-
age our health and performance so that the wear and tear of the job
doesn’t make us old before our time.
We have all seen men and women who slow down and become
old before their time, with a health age much greater than their
chronological age. The person who burns the candle at both ends
might be fifty but looks and feels like he’s seventy.
On the other hand, we all know incredibly youthful and ener-
getic individuals who might be fifty, but look, feel, and perform like a
thirty-year-old. Their health age—their general level of fitness—is
below their chronological age. The factors that determine our
health age include body fat percentage, resting heart rate, upper
body and lower back strength, metabolic rate (normal thyroid), cho-
lesterol, fasting glucose, and triglyceride levels. Those in our society
who have a lower health age are the new elite because they have the
energy to perform dynamically while others are struggling to main-
tain the status quo. For example, I have one sixty-seven-year-old
client, Alvin Edinburgh, who is so fit he was chosen to be one of the
Olympic torchbearers.
When I turned fifty, my doctor told me I had the health age of a
nineteen-year-old. This is not just luck or good genes. It has every-
thing to do with how you manage your greatest asset, your health.
Achieving and maintaining optimum health in your thirties, forties,
and fifties are governed by very specific lifestyle choices—as are
maintaining physical vitality, a good mental outlook, and passion
during your last decades of life. The best news is that it is never too
late to start.
Doctors used to say that our health was 50 percent heredity and
50 percent environment. They have since revised those percentages
to 33 percent heredity and 66 percent environment. So aside from
serious injuries or inherited health problems, you have a tremen-
dous amount of control over your health age and, therefore, your
performance age.
Poor Health Dulls Your Performance Edge
Sometimes disease or ill heath can cause you to lose your perform-
ance edge. Recently, Louis Congemi, mayor of the city of Kenner,
Louisiana, came to me for help. In childhood this man had con-
tracted mitochondrial myopathy, a rare disease that causes difficulty
in the extraction of nutrients from food, resulting in muscle atrophy.
The mitrochondria are the power packs in the cells that are respon-
sible for energy production. This is the same disease from which
American bicyclist Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de
France, suffered. LeMond’s condition forced him to retire in 1994.
Mayor Congemi was usually able to keep the effects of this dis-
ease process under control, but he felt that he wanted to do more to
improve his exercise capability. When the doctor he consulted
needed assistance, Mayor Congemi sought me out because he knew
my reputation for finding solutions for people with serious health
problems. He’d heard of the work I’d done helping Brett Butler to
recover from cancer, and he knew that I had assisted in the design of
the highly successful Pro Circuit program for the Kenner Police
Department. Based on the results he had seen among the police offi-
cers, he believed that I could help him to find a health and nutri-
tional regimen that would at least improve his condition. If not, he
knew he would face a tougher challenge as he became older.
Since the mayor had a rare illness, we found ourselves largely in
uncharted territory. Most doctors, including the one the mayor had
consulted, seemed to know little or nothing about his condition. My
physiologist, Dr. Flaherty, and I researched everything we could find
on the disease and came up with a three-point program to counteract
its effects and rebuild the muscle tissue the mayor had lost. First, we
worked to increase his immune system so that his symptoms would
lessen and he would have the physical stamina to better resist the
degenerative effects of his illness. Second, we created a special exer-
cise program for him that would rebuild his strength and increase his
lean muscle mass. This involved designing a workout routine for him
that would allow him consistent improvement without exhausting
him. To do so, we gave him every advantage we could think of. We
warmed up his muscles in the sauna prior to exercise and identified
his fatigue point so we would never overtire him during his workout.
Lastly, to support his workout and help him gain weight, we prescribed
three nourishing meals per day and a between-meal milkshake
designed to build lean muscle and supply him with energy. The shake
contained vanilla Ensure, pure carbohydrate powder, Personal Edge
soy protein powder, and Phosphocreatine, which I sometimes use to
help athletes gain muscle mass with medical approval.
Within a few months the mayor went through a metamorphosis,
experiencing a dramatic reduction in his symptoms. He gained fif-
teen pounds of lean muscle, became stronger, and regained his bal-
ance and energy. He has not only been able to do superlative work,
but has also gone out and tackled some of the larger issues facing the
city. In the ensuing months, he continued to see improvements in
his health and well-being, resulting in more lean muscle, and energy.
He recommended my wellness program to his four hundred city
employees, and so far, over a hundred of them have signed up.
Just as I help athletes in the arena of competitive sports to extend
their careers far beyond what they formerly believed was possible, I
also teach my business athletes, the ordinary men and women with
whom I work, how to achieve exceptional levels of health and fitness
for life. In this book you will find everything you need to know to
reduce your health age far below your chronological age. With
proper lifestyle management, any man or woman can remain in
their prime at the peak of their experience and achieve high per-
formance in all areas of life.
Secret 2: Reduce Your Fatigue Threshold
Managing fatigue and reducing your fatigue threshold are essential
to maintaining maximum performance. No one can work at peak
efficiency when he or she is exhausted all the time. According to Dr.
Hans Seyle, a leading stress researcher, we all have an energetic sav-
ings account and a checking account. If you consistently overdraw
your energetic checking account—your daily energy reserves—
through overwork, unmanaged stress, and ignored health warnings,
eventually your checking account will empty and you will have to
draw on your savings account—the body’s emergency energy reserves.
Twelve years ago Lomas Brown, an NFL player on the offensive
line for the Detroit Lions, came to me because he was having prob-
lems with his knee joints. Since the NFL is always looking for bigger,
stronger, and faster linemen, Lomas’s weight was 310 pounds. When
I ran him through our health checks, I discovered that his Body Mass
Index and his body fat composition were much too high.
At this point, Lomas had already played eight years on the defen-
sive line. He knew that he didn’t have the energy of a rookie any-
more. He wanted to improve his performance so he could stay in the
game for a few more years, but he couldn’t do this unless something
changed for him. He also knew that overweight offensive and defen-
sive linemen had a 50 percent greater chance of dropping dead of a
heart attack than the average man on the street. He wanted to be
around to enjoy his children and his grandchildren when his career
was over.
Since Lomas was a seasoned veteran with some of the best tech-
nique I’d ever seen, there was only one suggestion I could make. I
told him, “Since the quickest way to compromise technique is to
become tired out, let’s work on improving your fatigue threshold by
dropping your weight and getting you better conditioned.”
Soon we had his weight down to 280 pounds, with more lean
muscle and less body fat. But then Lomas said, “Mackie, that’s all fine
and good, but my offensive lineman coach wants me to weigh in at
I said, “But you’ve also had knee surgery. Increasing your weight
will be harder on your knees in the long run, so I think we’ll have to
keep your weight down lower if you want to achieve your goal. Talk to
your agent. Tell him ‘When I go into the preseason training camp,
weigh me in at 295 automatically. Let my statistics speak for me. If I do
what I need to do, then my coach can just assume I’m 295 pounds.’”
Lomas followed this advice and became all-pro that year. He’s
been all-pro for a total of nine seasons. At a final weight of 276
pounds, he became the lightest player in the NFL at left tackle.
When he first came to me, he only wanted to squeeze another three
years out of his career. But he got an additional nine, as one of the
highest paid left tackles in the game—and he’s still playing as of this
writing. He learned how to improve his performance by managing
his fatigue.
Since you are born with only a limited amount of energy, the key
to maintaining a high level of performance and productivity is learn-
ing how to manage that energy. There are several ways to do this:
• Your heart has only a finite number of beats in it before it
stops forever, but you do not have to squander those beats
because your aerobic conditioning is poor. Through exercise,
you can always develop a lower resting heart rate.
• Get regular health checkups.
• Make sure you get enough sleep.
• Keep your weight within acceptable limits.
• Manage your stress (see chapter 6).
Secret 3: Manage Your Performance to
Go the Distance
One of the keys to delivering maximum performance is being able
to manage your energy so that you can go the distance. Every task
takes a certain amount of time, and you must maintain enough
energy during that time to effectively exercise your skills, talents,
judgment, and teamwork long enough so that you can win. Athletes
are great role models for energy management. For example, boxers
must be able to control their energy expenditures for twelve rounds.
It does not matter if you give your opponent the battle of his life for
five rounds if you don’t have the stamina to finish the fight. The
workplace is no different. To complete a task or a project, you need
to be able to go the distance.
The competitive challenge in life as in sports is to maintain your
own energy levels while pushing your opponent into a state of over-
use and overreaching. On the other hand, wise energy management
involves being smart enough to never allow others to maneuver you
into a position where you are being forced to overreach, to attempt a
task that you know is beyond what you can realistically do. That
could automatically set you up for a failure.
• Always perform with integrity. If you have integrity, you will go
the distance with your client, even when the chips are down.
You will stand by your people, handle and minimize the dam-
age, cut your losses, analyze what went wrong, and create a bet-
ter plan to help you make a comeback.
• Never overreach yourself. Managing your energy system is crucial
to going the distance. It does not matter how much sheer tal-
ent and experience you have if you are overreaching. What-
ever amount of energy you are putting out daily on your job,
make sure that it is never so much that you are not able to
The upside of the equation is that once you have learned how to
manage your energy system, you are almost always going to be able
to go the distance and accomplish whatever performance goals you
set for yourself.
Secret 4: Control Your Emotions for
Maximum Performance
Being in control of your emotions at all times is another important
key to maximum performance. Controlling your emotions is not the
same thing as suppressing them. Rather, I’m referring to a technique
that will allow your emotions to easily pass through you as they hap-
pen so that you will not become so emotionally paralyzed, stressed,
or unfocused that you cannot perform properly. If you cannot gain
access to your emotions, acknowledge them, and process them, you
lose energy because they move below the conscious level and
become tied up somewhere inside, creating an energetic short cir-
cuit. The result is compromised performance.
In order to keep that short circuit from happening every time
you encounter an emotional stressor, utilize an autohypnosis tech-
nique: Squeeze your hand into a fist and release it five times, repeat-
ing the word control and consciously letting go of the stressor. Each
time you do this, simply feel your emotions and your stress pass
through you. Sometimes it helps to visualize your heart in your hand
and to see yourself squeezing out the tension and gently releasing it.
Emotional equilibrium is key to achieving high performance.
Secret 5: Keep Your Work Life and
Your Personal Life Balanced
Many people lose sight of the fact that it is just as important to per-
form well at home as it is at work. What good is performing hard at
work for those you love if you never have any time to spend with
them? And how long would you expect a family member, friend, or
significant other to stay in your life if you are never around? Personal
relationships might be the reason you work long hours, but you must
ask yourself, Have I been mindful enough to arrange my work load
and my personal life in such a way that they are in balance? Or has
my life become lopsided?
My wife Sandy works daily to keep a healthy balance between the
demands of her career and of being a wife and mother of two. Sandy
is the president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing
Corporation. Since tourism is the number one industry in New
Orleans and involves 65,000 jobs, this position is tremendously
demanding. She must coordinate the activities of her corporation
with two others—the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and the New
Orleans Hotel/Motel Association—as well as answer to both a high-
powered board of directors and to the city counsel of New Orleans
while she manages a budget of roughly $10 million.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—when
tourism had almost stopped due to fear of flying—Sandy came up
with a campaign called “New Orleans on a Song.” Anyone who drove
to the city and stayed two nights would receive a third night at their
hotel free. It took quite a bit of hard work, cooperation, and quick
planning, but the campaign was successful and tourism began to
pick up again. In a city that depends so much on tourism, this was
welcome news.
But no matter how hard the job gets, Sandy always manages to
spend a good deal of time with her family. The secrets of her success
are organization, always looking ahead to see what is going to be
happening with the family, and working closely with me and others
to meet the needs of our children and ensure that our home runs
smoothly. On Sunday nights, Sandy creates a calendar for the week
describing all the kids’ school and sports activities, when they will
occur and where. One copy goes to me and one goes on the kitchen
bulletin board. In this way, everyone knows what is coming up and
how to plan ahead.
Sandy and I have always known how important it is for the two of
us to work together to keep our home life balanced and our kids’—
and our own—needs met. We share grocery shopping and cooking
the meals. Both of us try, whenever possible, to be present at impor-
tant functions at the school, but if one of us is not available, we make
sure that the other is.
If you can focus, communicate, and plan ahead, you can achieve
balance between maximum performance in a successful career and
loving performance in your home life.
Secret 6: Learn to Anticipate Life’s Next Moves
Another aspect of maximum performance is being able to anticipate
your opponent’s next moves. If you do then you need only take the
actions most needed, and you will not waste precious energy rushing
around trying this, that, and the other thing until you get it right.
Great athletes know how to enhance their performance through
anticipating the competition. Retired Miami Dolphin Dan Marino
could always come up to the line of scrimmage and have a very accu-
rate idea of where his opponents were going to move. Wayne Gret-
sky, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, could always see
the puck coming two moves away. He knew so much about his game
and the people he played against that he could almost always guess
what the opposition—and his fellow teammates—were going to do
next. Tiger Woods has the same gift.
In life, we need not only to be aware of what’s going on in the
here and now but also to be able to look down the road and see
what’s approaching. Some blows are inevitable, and the best we can
do is to see them coming and try to limit the damage. Others we can
prepare for so that we don’t have to sustain damage.
General George S. Patton once wrote: “I have studied the enemy
all my life. I have read the memoirs of his generals and his leaders. I
have even read his philosophers and listened to his music. I have stud-
ied in great detail the account of every damned one of his battles. I
know exactly how he will react under any given set of circumstances.”
All of us need to learn how to patiently study and understand
those we compete against in life and in the workplace. Always focus
on the big picture and anticipate the future. Some tips for doing this
• Head off the younger, less experienced coworker who is after
your job.
• Read the signs of your industry and see when things are going
to make a downturn or a major shift—and be ready.
• See that tremendous opportunity down the road and position
yourself so that you are ready to grasp it when it presents itself
to you.
• Never become complacent in your career or in any other area of
your life. Educate yourself about new developments in your
field and make yourself available for new training opportunities.
• Seek out willing mentors who can honestly evaluate your skills
and teach you things you could never learn otherwise.
The ability to look ahead and accurately foresee the next move
will give you a performance edge that those who spend their lives
rushing around to catch up just won’t be able to match.
Secret 7: Perform Well to Your Last Breath
There is no overtime in life. Therefore it benefits us to perform with
as much gusto as we can until our very last breath.
In a very real sense, the adversary all of us will eventually face is
death. For this reason a question you must ask yourself is, How do I
want to die? Do you want to end up living in a nursing home for the
last decade of your life because you can no longer take care of your-
self? Do you want to spend your final years partially paralyzed by a
stroke? Would you look forward to the pain and limited mobility of
arthritis or the hassle of having to replace a knee or hip because the
joint was just worn out by overuse or abuse? Would you enjoy being
extremely overweight and suffering from obesity-related illnesses
such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease?
Or do you want to enjoy life, playing and working for as many
years as possible?
I often ask my clients, “If how you live is determined by how you
want to die, what performance strategies must you develop to work
and live with gusto?” While the average life span for men is seventy-
eight and for women is eighty-two, that figure has been steadily
increasing. In fact researchers are projecting that by the year 2025,
sixty-two million people will be over the age of sixty-five, and by 2040
as many as one million people will celebrate their hundredth birth-
day. Many of us will live much longer than our parents did.
The choice we face is this: Do we want to spend our later years as
a drain on society, suffering from health problems that are largely
avoidable? Or do we want to remain a good prospect for as long as
possible, performing with energy and a zest for life?
Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the physician who did the first heart
transplant, said, “I want to die ‘young’ as late as possible.” I love to
share this with my clients. When I repeated this to one woman, she
told me, “That reminds me of my Great Aunt Ruth. She always
walked everywhere—miles and miles per week, ate right, and kept
her joy for living alive by traveling the world with her children and
cultivating friends of all ages. She ran her own business, retired, then
managed to keep active and live independently all the way up to the
age of ninety-one. At that point she had a stroke that partially para-
lyzed her and put her into a nursing home. The last eight months of
her life were hard for all of us, but at least we knew that she had lived
the first ninety-one years with good health and gusto.”
There is no overtime in life, no going back onto the field for one
last play. The lifestyle choices we make every day truly determine the
level of our performance, whether we remain a good prospect or
become suspect. It’s up to us to make sure we’re choosing wisely.

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