Last week my family and I were in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One of the many activities we experienced was ziplining. It was a first for every single one of our family members.
As we were preparing to head up to the zipline course, my wife and I talked about the concern we had for our youngest – my son, Karsten. He has had a history of being afraid of trying something new – especially things that would challenge him directly.
But to our surprise, when it came time to head out on the course, Karsten stepped up to be first in line. He jumped off the first platform and flew down the zipline without any problems at all. Throughout the entire experience, he was excited. I think he knew that he was actively conquering a fear.
I learned a lot from my 8 year old son that day. There are lots of times in life when we face new challenges and new experiences. But instead of standing petrified on a platform, many times it’s just better to jump and trust the mechanisms that you have in place and just go with it.
I told my son that he was a role model for me that day. He just smiled.
Truth be told, I think I was the one who was the most afraid of the experience. But I conquered my fear, jumped off the platform, and zipped to a new adventure.
Sports have always been a big part of life, beginning when I was a kid. My father’s way of teaching me how to swim was by throwing me in the water and telling me to fight and try every possible way to get to the surface. This approach has actually helped me overcome any potential fears I may have had, and ever since, I have used sports to get through long study nights and long working hours.
For entrepreneurs who are working hard to build startups, and their employees, exercise is crucial for keeping you in good health. According to many studies, it also improves your mood and reduces depression. The road to building a company is rocky enough; an even mood will help.
Here are 10 reasons why exercising will make you a better performer at work:
It makes you determined. If you play a sport on a regular basis, then you probably have a coach who is always pushing you and shouting at you to help you get the best out of yourself. If you don’t have one, then you probably have your own ways to keep yourself motivated. Athletes always strive to push their limits; any obstacle in front of them is just another challenge. The same thing applies at work. If you stumble upon a difficulty and have too much work to do at the office, if you can’t get any investment or if your startup idea needs some adaptation, you will learn not to give up. You will work it out, because, it’s just another challenge for you.
It reduces stress. Stress is an undesired companion, especially if you are an entrepreneur. “I do exercise in the gym before work, then I do some cardio, like taking a long walk or jogging after work,” says Lebanese entrepreneur Mark Malkoun, the co-founder of ReachFast, an application that helps iPhone users call and message their recent contacts more easily. “Entrepreneurs endure a lot of stress due to the nature of their work, and exercising can help a lot to reduce this stress and offset the harm that it’s causing to our bodies and minds.”
It makes you a better team player. Whether in the gym, in the pool or outdoors, workout buddies always encourage each other to perform better. If you’re involved in a team sport, like basketball or football, this increases your team work ethic. Team players are also a great addition to any startup. By team players, I mean those co-workers who help each other and collaborate to get a specific task done efficiently, and who work hand in hand to take their startups to a whole new level.
It makes you more accepting of failure. Team sports not only make you a better team player, but also help you accept failure. When playing against another team, one of the two teams will fail. Acknowledging that you failed is good, as it helps you reconcile with yourself. In the workplace, accepting that you failed when accomplishing a task or when launching an idea or making an important decision, will first, help you understand the mistake you made and learn from it, and second, work even harder to avoid it in the future.
It makes you more responsible. George Washington Carver who once said, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” In team sports, just as at work, admitting that you broke the rules lets your colleagues, your teammates and your boss realize that you are a straightforward person who takes mistakes seriously and doesn’t cover them up. This will make them trust you more and maybe rely on you more often.
It gets your creative juices flowing. A study has shown that aerobics are more likely to boost your creativity. Exercising doesn’t train your muscles only, but also your brain. That is why sometimes when you are out of ideas and go out for a jog, you feel much better afterwards and the ideas start coming.
It replaces your morning coffee. Have you tried working out super early before coming to work? If not, try it. It fuels your body with energy and jump starts your metabolism, to get you ready for a long day at work. And if you’re bootstrapping, it’ll be a good way to cut down on your coffee expenses.
It makes you a good listener and teaches you self-discipline. Hind Hobeika, a competitive swimmer and the brain behind Instabeat, acknowledges that swimming has taught her self-discipline, “which is SUPER important as an entrepreneur”, she wrote in an email. It has also made her a good listener. “Swimming has taught me to listen to a coach and train with a team, which is the similar to listening to mentors and working with a team,” she says.
It gives you time to reflect. I personally enjoy swimming a lot, and I try to do it four times a week. During that time, I’m able to stop thinking about the outside world and focus on my technique, endurance and pace. It’s also a good time to collect my thoughts and reflect. Hobeika agrees: “Swimming is my alone time, the only time I’m not connected to anything but myself, so I’m obliged to listen to my thoughts and do a lot of reflection.”
It lets you meet potential partners or customers. Last but not least, exercising is a social activity. It allows you to meet new people or to get to know your colleagues, employees or co-founders better. “Sports give employees an opportunity to meet both colleagues and friends through a healthy medium,” said Derv Rao, co-founder of Duplays, a Dubai-based platform that connects players to sports in their local city. “Relationships are built above and beyond those formed by conducting business together.” (Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in Duplays).
Companies should offer sports to their employees, he says, because these companies “have demonstrated a direct impact on the bottom line through lower sick days, better employee performance at work and a healthier social life, leading to increased employee happiness and retention.”
Sometimes it is good to just throw your laptop away, get out there and enjoy a well-deserved workout. Not only will it make you feel better, it might help you come up with the next best idea. And just like kids fight their way in the pool to reach the top, entrepreneurs and employees should do the same too, but not only in the pool.
Reine is the Arabic Editor at Wamda. You can reach her at Reine[at]wamda.com, on Twitter @farhatreine or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Are tweets, statuses, pins, pokes, and pixels dominating your life? This week, as part of our #unplug series, we’re re-posting some of our most popular stories from the archives, with a special focus on the beauty of a tech break, the power of analog, and how a little quiet can kickstart creativity.
New research shows that if you want to purge your mental muck, you should make like a tree and leaf.
Puns aside, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine evidences that green spaces lessen “brain fatigue”–that familiar (urban?) feeling of being distracted, forgetful, and flighty, as Gretchen Reynolds notes for the New York Times.
All it takes is a stroll
You may be familiar with the clanging clamor of urban life–and psychology helps us understand why it’s so sapping. Pedestrians get drained because they have to remain vigilant of all the madness that’s around them, being forced to use directed mental attention–a limited resource–to get from one block to another without being run over by something with two legs or four wheels. In contrast, the environs of a park, unless there’s a stroller festival afoot, can put you into a state of soft fascination,the aaaaah-inducing feeling of taking in the space around you. By being in a green space, that ever-so-scarce resource of directed attention is able to renew itself.
Some countries might be ahead of Scotland in the greenery game. Outside Magazine had an amazing feature in December about how doctors in Japan are beginning to prescribe walks in the woods to help the mental health of overloaded urbanites. There’s even a totally adorable word for it, shinrin-yoku, which translates as “forest bathing.”
But you need not be in Edinburgh or Tokyo to get your shinrin-yoku on. The key is to get into the woods, whatever the neck may be, says Jenny Roe, the professor who oversaw the Scottish study. Reynolds has the quote:
…Right about now, you should consider “taking a break from work,” Dr. Roe said, and “going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces from your office window.” This is not unproductive lollygagging, Dr. Roe helpfully assured us.”It is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”
So do your brain a favor and have a midday stroll. Or, maybe better than that, do your colleagues a favor– make your next meeting a walk in the woods.
by Simon Reynolds
Any business person aiming high is going to be stressed at times.
But surprisingly few have learnt smart ways to reduce their stress.
Below are 6 highly effective ways to keep your stress under control, no matter what is happening in your business and personal life.
1. REMIND YOURSELF OF WHAT’S GOING RIGHT.
Usually people are stressed about just one or two areas of their life. If they only took a moment to look at the big picture, they would see that the vast majority of their life is going well. Grab a pen and some paper and write a list of all the stuff that’s going well in your life. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long the list becomes.). Now stick that list next to your computer, so that you see it all day long. Watch how quickly your perspective changes and your mood lifts.
2. GET ULTRA CLEAR ON YOUR TO DO LIST.
Clarity enhances serenity. If you’re stressed by how much you have to do, get precise about exactly what tasks must be done (You’ll often realize it’s less than you thought). Once you’ve created your list put a circle around the truly crucial tasks. Most of the time stressed executives have exaggerated just how much they have to do. Getting it down on paper helps you see that mountain of work may be smaller than you thought.
3. TIDY YOUR ENVIRONMENT.
The renowned personal development guru, Wayne Dwyer, says you can tell the state of a person’s mind by the state of their car. I agree. if you’re feeling overwhelmed one of the most effective strategies is to create order in your immediate environment – car, office, home. As you take charge of your surroundings your feelings of control will increase. And as the esteemed behavioral psychologist Martin Seligman has shown, there’s a strong correlation between feelings of control and well being.
4. TRY THE 3 BREATH RELEASE.
I mentor executives and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Whenever they come to me complaining about stress I get them to do this simple exercise:
Take a deep breath. Then as you exhale imagine all your problems and stress leaving you. Do this just 3 times and I bet your feeling of stressed has dissipated significantly.
5. FOCUS ON HELPING OTHER PEOPLE.
One of the most effective techniques for reducing your stress is to take the focus off yourself. When you start devoting time to helping others around you inevitably spend less time thinking about your own problems. There are several studies from the University of Pennsylvania linking happiness with service to others. It may seem strange to connect the two, but the truth is many people who are stressed in the corporate world are so partly because they are incessantly thinking about their own issues and situation, rather than others. We need to balance the two.
6. TAKE MASSIVE ACTION.
There is a concept in psychology known as Learned Helplessness – failing to respond or act to improve our circumstances. Originally discovered in rats, learned helplessness is also evident in some humans who feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. They feel that things are so bad there is little that they can do to change things. We have all felt this at some point in our business lives and it is a depressing feeling to say the least.
The cure though is simple. Take action to fix things. By proactively acting to improve our circumstances we regain a feeling of control and possibility. If we continue acting we soon get a change in our situation. Soon our situation improves, which encourages us to act further. A virtuous cycle develops which usually quickly improves our predicament.
The key is to act greatly, taking multiple steps to change things, even if we’re not sure if they’ll work. If we act enough, we will usually see vast improvements in almost any area we focus on.
So next time you’re feeling stressed at work, try one or two of these techniques. You’ll find every one of them is highly effective in both reducing your stress and improving your performance.
by Jacob Kache
The phrase “corporate culture” describes the specific and unique sense of community that is created within a company. There is a clear difference between a company that has a bad atmosphere, and one that has built a good corporate culture within its walls. When your company has a good corporate culture, employees love their work and the people they work with. This encourages productivity and increases employee retention. Building a corporate culture is part of being a good leader, and caring about your company and the people in it.
If all of your employees understand the vision of the company and what you want to achieve, they are more likely to understand the “why” behind why they are doing what they are doing. So if your company does not have a mission statement, now is a good time to create one. Once you have come up with your company’s overall mission, publicize it to all of your employees, and come up with smaller, more specific goals that will help you all to work together to reach your mission.
Create a Relaxed Environment
Of course you want high levels of productivity and disciplined employees, but one of the ways in which you can make this happen is to create a relaxed work environment. Stress and tension do not facilitate good results, nor do they encourage an effective corporate culture. You can create a relaxed work environment through the design of your offices, regular office parties, or any number of other techniques that will help people to feel excited to go into work each morning.
Reward Your Employees
One of the best ways to foster a good corporate culture is to create a rewards program for your employees. Service awards show your employees that you appreciate the work that they do. Things such as parties, paid-for lunches, and friendly competitions help to develop a sense of camaraderie and friendship between workers.
Communicate with Your Employees
An open channel of communication is crucial for the growth of a healthy corporate culture. You do not want your employees to see you as unapproachable, and you also need employees to be able to communicate well with each other. This is the foundation for a well-run business. Share the goals of the company with your employees, listen to their feedback, and use social tools to create an online community for the company.
To create a good corporate culture, you must have the right people working for you. Try to let your corporate culture seep into the hiring process, hiring only people who are passionate about their work and the company. Make sure that there are sufficient opportunities for employees to grow and progress within the company, and you will find that you also have a better rate of employee retention.
Be Open to Change
Your corporate culture might not be at the stage that you desire just yet, but that does not mean that you cannot get there. If you are open to change and new ideas, it will happen. It might take longer than you want, but it is worth it to achieve the results that you need.
About Jacob Kache
I work as an account manager for O.C. Tanner, a company dedicated to developing employee recognition and rewards programs that help companies appreciate people who do great work.