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A better life means a better business


For far too many business owners, their business is their life.

These owners work far too many hours, don’t get enough exercise, and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They’re often overweight from eating too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things.

Does this sound like you or someone you know who owns a business?

“The Longevity Plan: Seven Life-Transforming Lessons from Ancient China,” a new book by John Day, M.D., is being published this month. His research discovered that 70 percent or more of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments such as high blood pressure, chest pain or palpitations.

A Yale University study found that feelings of sadness, anger, stress, impatience or anxiety increase an individual’s risk of getting atrial fibrillation by nearly 600 percent.

Day writes in his book that he had been led to believe that these adverse medical conditions were a normal part of the aging body. Then he visited the village of Bapan, China, where one in every 100 people lives to be 100 or older.

In the United States, only one of every 5,780 people makes it to the century mark.

To provide some personal perspective on this, my grandmother, born in 1889, died at age 109. She lived through such events as the Wright Brother’s first flight, the sinking of the Titanic, World War One, Lindbergh’s first flight across the Atlantic, the Great Depression, World War Two, the creation of the atomic bomb, the advent of jet aircraft, man landing on and safely returning from the moon, and the administrations of nearly half of America’s presidents.

I bring this up only because in hindsight, I believe that my grandmother followed many of the recommendations that follow below.

Of course, many factors have created the huge gap in live expectancy that distinguishes a small village in China from the United States. Let me pass along some advice offered by Day that may make a difference in your health outcomes, and by extension, make your business better.

The first is to smile more. A 2010 study published in “Psychological Science” found that baseball players who smiled in the photo used on their playing cards lived seven years longer than those who did not.

When Day interviewed villagers in Bapan, he found a woman who, at age 107, smiled all the time. The doctor asked if she smiled during tough times and she replied, “Those are the times in which smiling is most important, don’t you agree?”

The takeaway for business leaders is that for yourself and for those you lead, smiling matters. You owe it to yourself and your people to smile more. If you are always walking around with a stern face, what message are you sending?

The second is to be focused on daily accomplishments. The goal is not to put in long hours because the time is available. The goal is to work hard so you can complete something of significance. At the end of the day, getting something done you can take pride in is what matters. This is something that leaders can teach and model for those they lead.

The third is not forgetting to play. Business leaders not only need to encourage their followers to take deserved time off, they need to lead by example by going on vacation themselves. This summer, make it easier for employees to play by having a summer dress code, and if possible, go to summer hours. Encourage listening to music if it doesn’t interfere with job responsibilities. Have contests and games with prizes to encourage people to laugh, enjoy being on a team, and to compete.

The fourth is setting aside each day to think. I believe that every business leader has an obligation and the responsibility to seek out periods of solitude.

The introduction of the iPhone, and before it, the Blackberry, have created a 24/7 culture of interruption and rapid response.

All the communications opportunities require being on call all the time with immediate turnaround required. People need to respond quickly, before the sender issues a second communication saying “Why didn’t you respond to my first message?”

To set aside ample time to think, business leaders need to separate themselves from this artificial sense of crisis created by the endless flow of trivial and unimportant messages.

How do I define ample time? Start with a goal of 30 minutes a day, and focus on eliminating distractions disguised as opportunities with a plan to eventually having a full hour a day to think about the business.

What is thinking? It consists of reflection, evaluation, assessment, strategizing, focusing, and planning.

If the leader doesn’t set aside and take uninterrupted time in solitude to think, who in the organization will? All companies depend on the leader to think. Leaders who fail to invest in the time necessary to do this critical task put their organizations at risk.

We’re at the midpoint of the year. The best thing you can do now is to think about how you want the rest of the year to go, and to being thinking about 2018.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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