Episode 374: Good habits for great agency leadership with Jeff Salzenstein
Jeff Salzenstein says we can feel balanced and less like we’re about to snap. Learn good habits for agency leaders with Jeff Salzenstein.
Weary is a great word to describe a lot of agency leaders right now. It comes up again and again that we’re just tired, overworked, and running on fumes. It’s not our fault, but there are things we can do to get back to feeling a little more balanced and less like we’re about to snap.
I brought Jeff Salzenstein on this week to teach us some good habits that we can work on little by little to improve our personal lives and help us be better agency leaders. As a former tennis pro, he knows what it’s like to be under pressure and have people counting on you to perform at your peak at all times.
We’ll talk about how he made the difficult decision to move from playing tennis to doing leadership coaching. He’ll cover everything he knows about getting your mental, emotional, and physical health to its optimal level so that you can show up as your best self for the people counting on you the most.
A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
What you will learn from Jeff Salzenstein in this episode:
- How to stay strong and committed in the face of challenges
- Navigating the weariness that comes with agency leadership
- Shifting a negative mindset into a positive one
- Focused breathing as an effective technique to recenter yourself
- The importance of good sleep for good leadership
- How incremental changes create significant shifts in our lives
- The importance of having well-rounded emotional health
“Being an entrepreneur and running your own agency is the ultimate spiritual journey.” @jeffsalzenstein Click To Tweet “If you shift your perspective and focus more on the growth opportunities and lessons rather than the actual result, you can become grateful for everything that comes your way. Even the bad stuff.” @jeffsalzenstein Click To Tweet “If you think you stink at something, there's a much greater chance that you're not going to achieve the thing you're setting out to do.” @jeffsalzenstein Click To Tweet “You're either planting weeds, or you're planting seeds with your thoughts.” @jeffsalzenstein Click To Tweet “If you can start to find appreciation in the things that don't go your way, that truly is the art of, I believe, success and fulfillment.” @jeffsalzenstein Click To Tweet
Ways to contact Jeff:
- LinkedIn Personal: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffsalzenstein/
- Twitter Personal: https://twitter.com/jeffsalzenstein
- Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BABApodcast
- AE Bootcamps: https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/online-courses/ae-bootcamp/
Jeff Salzenstein: Full Interview Transcript
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute back with you yet again week after week. We just keep showing up, I love that, for another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hope the year is winding down well for you and all is good as you look at 2023, that you have a plan in place, that you’ve got the team that you’re happy with, and that you’ve got contracts in place and pipeline is full. That’s what I’m hoping for you. That’s my holiday wish for you is that all of that is coming into play as we approach the end of 2022. But today we’re going to talk about something else. Actually, something more important than all of those things. But first I want to remind you that we are now running both the Advanced AE Bootcamp and the AE Bootcamp twice a year. The spring dates for those workshops, those live workshops are March 23rd and 24th is the Advanced AE Bootcamp in beautiful Mile High City, Denver, and then April 27th and 28th also here in Denver for your more junior people.
And if you’re trying to decide which workshop to send your folks to, if they have, I would say zero to four years of experience, they’re not supervising anybody yet. Maybe they’re a junior AE, or a project manager, and an associate account exec, whatever your title may be, it’s an entry level position. Then I would send them to the regular AE Bootcamp on April 27th and 28th. And if somebody’s got five years or more of experience, they are supervising some folks, they’re leading a team, they are on the more strategic end of account strategy and account management. Rather than moving parts and pieces through the agency, then the Advanced AE Bootcamp March 23rd and 24th is probably right for you. You can find both of those on the AMI website and you can register there. All right. Let me tell you a little bit about our guest and what we’re going to talk about today.
So Jeff Salzenstein, try saying that five times fast, is a former professional tennis player. He was actually ranked 100 in the world, so played at Wimbledon, played at the US Open. And through a series of events, decided to end his tennis career, which I’m sure he’ll tell us about, and has now turned to executive and leadership coaching. But he coaches from a very different place. It’s not really about accomplishing your ROI goals, or what you want to get done in the business, it’s really a much more introspective, looking inside yourself and learning how to be a leader in a stressful world. How when so much is going on around us that is out of our control, how do we stay calm? How do we stay grounded and centered? How do we stay healthy mentally, emotionally, physically? And that’s really the focus of his coaching.
And as I said earlier in the intro, that feels a whole lot more important than hitting your AGI goal, or your staff issues, or any of those things. Being strong and healthy and feeling energized, which I know for a lot of you is a challenge right now that seems like the holy grail of what we should be seeking as leaders, and then what we can teach our people as leaders. So I’m super excited to have Jeff on the show and for him to share his wisdom. I’m going to ask him for a lot of practical, tangible tips and tricks, and we’re going to get as much out of him as we can in this next hour. So that all of us can go into the new year feeling refreshed and energized, and on our way to being even healthier than we are today. All right? Let’s get them on the show. Jeff, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.
It’s an absolute pleasure to be here, Drew. Thank you so much.
So tell the listeners a little bit about your background and how you came to have this passion around performance, but at a much deeper level than just checking off the next box or winning the next award.
Sure. It’s been a fascinating journey for me. I’ll take you back to when I was 15 and a half years old. I was five foot four, 102 pounds, could barely see over the steering wheel when I had my driver’s permit. And I went to go play a national tennis tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I got triple crown. And that’s not the triple crown when we refer to horse racing where you win all three of the most prestigious races in the world. Triple crown in tennis means you lost first round in singles, you lost first round in doubles, and you lost in the first round of the back draw, the consolation. So you’re the loser of that tournament. And it was a big contrast from just three years earlier I was a national champion. So I had my first dose of real adversity in the tennis world of being a national champion at 12, and then just falling off a cliff in my teenage years.
And that created a lot of doubt in uncertainty within me, and fortunately, I was able to write the ship. I finally went through puberty about three years after everyone else went on and played at Stanford University, was really just a very kind of a grinder. A guy that scrappy, found ways to win. I was playing at the bottom of the singles lineup, which still playing at Stanford, which is arguably the best tennis program in the country. It was a great feat, but there was no chance I was going to play pro tennis at this point. And through some divine intervention, I guess I developed a world class surf, and I grew three inches, and I put on some weight and really became a force in college tennis. And that took me on a journey to play professional tennis almost by accident. The little kid from Colorado going to a public school in Colorado.
I was never groomed to be a pro tennis player, but it accidentally happened. And so this whole performance journey started young, but it really picked up steam as I became a professional. And when I went through a lot of adversity with injuries and my career almost ended, I was able to bounce back and have better results in my late 20s and 30s. But what I like to share with people is no one really remembers the matches you won, the tournaments you played, if you were at All American or not, what you were ranked. You’re really defined by these pivotal moments in your life, these transitions, whether it’s a change in career, whether it’s the painful end of a relationship, or something in your life, or a health condition, something happens where you come to that sliding doors moment. And my sliding doors moment was, I was at this crossroad in my professional career and I was a bit lost.
I didn’t know how to let go. My identity has been so wrapped up in being the tennis star. And I have a younger brother that really struggled deeply with addiction, and I found him laying on the floor. He was 17 years old at the time, I was 33. He was laying on the floor, passed out, drool coming out of his mouth. I mean, real, deep, serious addiction. And it was in that moment that I quit pro tennis. It was over. I basically said, “I got to help my brother.” And through very quick action, within six days, I had found a recovery center for him. I moved back to Denver and I announced the world that I was a coach. And so that was a very stressful time in my life. And when I look back on it, that pivotal moment changed the course of my life for the better.
And the reason why I did is because I realized that my gift, my superpower, if you will, Drew, is to be a coach. And I started coaching tennis instead of competing in tennis. And I’ve gone on an incredible journey the last 15 years as a coach, as an entrepreneur building an online platform, and then now speaking and coaching on optimal performance. And how to help people manage stress, how to help them get through the tough times and adversity. And as you know now, today, we are faced with challenges that we’ve never really experienced before in this fast-paced world. And so I just feel so blessed that when I can look back on some of the really difficult moments in my life, those were the catalyst and the springboard for more growth and more learning.
How’s your brother?
Thank you for asking. My brother has been in and out of the struggle and the addiction, and it’s been a long, windy journey. And I think he’s doing better now, our relationship is, as we speak, is challenged because he has made some choices that haven’t been the best for him. But he’s doing his best to improve and we’re very connected. So obviously I’m hopeful that he can get things going in the right direction, and that’s what I’m praying for.
Well, and it’s a great example of sometimes despite our greatest efforts and the sacrifices and things that we make in our work, in our families, we don’t get to control it all. And I think that’s part of the source of all the stress is, I think most business leaders, most leaders in life have a little affection for control, and want very much to control the journey, right? Guilty is charged for sure. And those of you that are just listening, Jeff raised his hand, so he’s confessing as well. So I think that’s one of the sources, and certainly through the pandemic and leading a business out of the pandemic, and now the talk of the recession, so much of our life is out of our control. So often external forces or other people make choices that impact us. So with all of that happening on the outside, how do we stay strong, stay healthy, be a committed leader? How do we do all of that in the face of that kind of challenge?
Right. Yeah. It’s the ultimate challenge, right? Our world, our society is set up for us to feel good if we win the tennis match, to feel good if we get the trophy, to feel good if we become CEO or we run our own company, to feel good if we scale our business and we hit a million dollars or $10 million. The reality is all of that is fleeting. And when I coach or when I help folks and support them on their journey, the metaphor between tennis and life is it runs deep. And there’s a famous book called The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. And folks in other sports and businesses have actually used that book to guide them. And I think it’s ironic that I have this deep relationship with tennis, and what I’m really interested and what I want to help people focus more on is the inner game. To really take a look inside and go deeper because there’s a reason why we’re distracted by all these things.
It distracts us from the deeper truths and the deeper healing, if you will. And so when I talk about hop optimal performance, it’s not just about the external results, it’s actually about learning to know yourself, understanding what makes you tick and going on your own journey. And I think that being an entrepreneur, running your own agency, it’s the ultimate spiritual journey. Whatever your faith is, whatever you believe in, being an entrepreneur, you and/or an agency owner, you bump up against all of this and all the moving parts of running a business, and being the best father, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter. And then it comes down to really understanding how to take care of yourself. And so we’re living in a world where mental health and emotional health challenges are at an all time high. If you’re watching the news, if you’re consuming content that doesn’t feed your soul, if you are eating foods or drinking drinks that don’t make you feel better in the long term instead of the short term fix, we’re all guilty of it.
But you made a great point about control. In tennis, you can only control the controllables, that’s your attitude, your effort, how you take care of yourself. And if you’re not doing these things, you also have to practice not going into judgment and beating yourself up that you’re not perfect, that you didn’t scale the business that way you wanted to. Or that you had to fire someone, or that you can’t sleep, or you have a specific health condition, or you have a lot of anxiety. Because the worst thing is to actually to go into judgment of all of those things. And those are the things that I like to shine the light on and really go deep with folks that are thoughtful and asking questions about, what is this journey all about? And ultimately, my belief, and this is what I’m practicing more and more every day myself.
I’m living it myself. I don’t have it all licked. But I do have a deep understanding that everything that happens in our lives, whether it’s good or bad, however we want to label it. It’s always for our own learning and growth. And I think if someone could embrace that, the worst thing that can happen in your life, it’s for your growth and there’s a lesson to teach you there. And if you can shift your approach and your perspective to life, and focus more on the growth opportunities and more on the lessons rather than the actual result, you actually get into that state where you can be more appreciative and grateful for everything that comes your way, even the bad stuff.
Well, even good stuff causes stress, right?
A hundred percent, the good stuff too. And especially when you’re always seeking that dopamine hit of the good stuff, again, it melts away. So it’s really about building that foundation, really understanding yourself, and starting to ask those questions and finding the right people that can help give you some answers, because we can’t do it alone. We’re in this together, we’re all human and we’re all having challenges, whether it’s physical, emotional or mental. And really having real time techniques, and tools, and strategies, and ways to feel better naturally and to remove the interference. Really to remove the distractions that allows us to perform at a higher level. And again, I’ve gone on my own journey to understand all of this, and I’m very blessed. My tennis journey and my entrepreneur journey and my coaching journey, all of it has been designed so that I can serve at the highest level and really help folks during some challenging times.
So I’ve worked with agency owners for a long time, and I will say that I’ve never seen them more weary. It’s not even physical tired, it’s weariness. It’s a weight on them and feeling like it’s, the way they often describe it is that it feels like they are climbing a mountain that’s taller than what they’ve climbed before. So if people are feeling that way as they’re listening, and they came to you and said, “This is how I’m feeling.” Where do they start? Where do they start picking away at that, and started helping themselves feel the energy and the enthusiasm that they are missing right now?
That’s a beautiful question. And when I work with people or I get to know them, the common theme that I always hear, and I witness this firsthand myself as a tennis player and then as a coach, and I just point in my head, is that the thing that is disrupting or causing all of this chaos internally is the mental chatter in our heads, and I like to call them mind bees. The bees are buzzing around in the head, all of the thoughts, all of the things that are in our heads that are stirring, right? And so tennis players, it’s exasperated, when you see a tennis player struggling on the court, they’re rarely in their body, they’re in their head. And we know from science that to get into the zone, you have to be able to get into your body. That’s why when you lose or win a tennis point and you’re getting prepared, you have 30 seconds to prepare for the next point.
You go back to the back fence and you grab your towel, and you take a deep breath, and you shake out your hand, you relax your hands and your shoulders, and you take a deep breath. Now, how many people do you know that are weary and overwhelmed that are actually taking 30 seconds or a minute throughout the day, let’s say, and actually going to get their towel and taking a deep breath? Actually getting into their body when they’re walking down the street, are they actually staring at their phone, or is the phone removed and they’re walking and they actually notice their feet walking on the ground, or can feel their heart beating, or feel the sensation of their hands? So we’re totally actually disconnected from our bodies, and tennis players struggle with this, and now we’re struggling with this. I mean, this is the biggest thing that’s actually I think pulling people away from being connected to themselves.
So a real strategy is to be able to actually get your mind and your body connected is simple breathing, and there’s a technique that’s called heart-focused breathing. And you actually connect to your heart and you start focusing on putting your attention in that area. And that may sound woo-woo, but the science says that you send a lot more signals from your heart to your brain than from your brain to your heart. And the problem is that we’re trying to solve all the problems and deal with our stress up here, and it actually needs to sink down here. And sometimes it’s not comfortable because there is a lot of pain and there is a lot of struggle internally, and we’re not taught to get comfortable in our body. So that would be something right away, if someone could just practice getting into their body, whether it’s their feet or their hands or more specifically into their heart, and do one minute of heart focused breathing that can start to improve the ability to handle stress.
And it can actually bring you into what’s called coherence. And coherence is the zone. And they measure that with heart rate variability. One of the greatest indicators of health is your heart rate variability. The higher the number, the better, that means you’re flexible, that means you can handle stress. And most of us today are running around in a stress state, whether it’s acute or chronic, and that builds up over time. It’s like your battery’s being drained every single day and you’re not recharging the battery. So just some simple breathing techniques can actually help you get into coherence and get into your body.
So if I’m starting to practice better breathing, I start to recognize that my phone or my computer or my email is a sav to stay in my head, to not connect my body.
All right. So if I am more disciplined about that a little bit, and even a little bit would make a difference, I’m actually maybe even just breathing in between meetings, or phone calls, or something to just literally catch my breath and feel reconnected. What’s next?
Okay. So what’s next is recognizing that you’re in the fight of your life when you do this. Because if you’re not used to doing this, basically by the time you’re 35 years old, you are running a program. 95% of the thoughts you have every day are the same thoughts you’re going to have tomorrow and the next day. So your mind is going to be a bucking bronco. And I’ve done this with clients before where I show them heart focus breathing, and then a week later I’m like, “How’d you do?” And they’re like, “Ah, I did it once or twice, and then I fell off.” It’s the same concept of the New Year’s resolution like, “I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” So just know that your brain is going to seek out familiar rather than the change, even though familiar is bad for you, whether it’s a bad relationship or whether it’s eating unhealthy food. It’s familiar and that’s safer than the unfamiliar, which is the new thing.
And so I think just recognizing that you’re in the fight of your life. I recently actually went to Mexico and I did a healing ceremony, and I remember sitting with this healer and I said, “Well, how do I know if it’s working or if I got it?” And she said to me very calmly, “If you learn the lesson, you will change. And if you don’t learn the lesson, you won’t change.” So I think just having the understanding that if you say, “Okay. I’m now going to do a heart focused breathing tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life.” If you don’t make that change, just know you haven’t learned the lesson yet, whatever the lesson you’re supposed to learn. So I would say, and going back to your question is, what’s next? I would say number one, it’s just seeing if you can set your timer for one minute, preferably three minutes.
And there is a specific way to do this breathing, but any type of slower breathing where you get into your body is going to make a difference. Just putting it in your calendar as an appointment three times a day, morning, noon, and night. And if you don’t get to it at least, maybe it’s once a day, that’s the first step. The second step is if you’re not able to achieve that to, again, not beat yourself up and recognize you just haven’t learned the lesson yet, and that’s okay, we go year sometimes without learning the lesson. And then the next step is obviously accountability. Do you need to get around community that’s doing these types of things? Because if you’re in an environment where everyone around you is not doing the thing that you want to change, that can be quite challenging. So I would say accountability, whether it’s in the form of coaching or community, or I’m stepping out here into possibly yoga class, or whatever you can do to change that environment.
And I believe, and I’m kind of go off here a little bit, I look at performance as a holistic approach. So we’ve talked about the breathing and we’ve connected the mind and even some of the emotions to getting into the body. But really taking a look at this whole view of like, “Where can I improve simply in emotionally, mentally, and physically?” So a lot of people are struggling with sleep right now. So they accept that, “Hey, I don’t sleep well. I need to take a sleeping pill at night. I’m stressed out. I’ve got so many thoughts in my head.” Just getting into your breath into your body is going to improve your sleep. The science proves it. Simple things like that. But also just learning about good sleep hygiene.
This is an opportunity as a business owner, again, you can either do it and struggle, or you can do it and thrive. And you can actually thrive through the difficult times if you’ve looked through this bigger lens of, how do I take care of myself? And again, this is a deeper conversation on why people don’t do it, why people want to do it, but don’t change. But the good news is there are strategies, there are techniques, and it’s not crazy stuff like start with small little doses and start to build those winds and that momentum, and it can make a huge difference.
So I think talking about sleep and breathing and eating healthy, and all of that, all certainly part of the puzzle. But to your point, our habits and our brain and our thoughts often derail those efforts. So I want to talk a little bit about how to make some adjustments in that space. But first we have to take a quick break. Hey everybody, I promise I will not keep you more than a minute, but I want to make sure you know that at AMI, one of the things that we offer are virtual peer groups. So think of it as a Vistage group or an EO group. Only everybody around the table, figuratively in this case, is an agency owner. So you have to be an agency owner to belong. The virtual peer groups meet every month for 90 minutes on Zoom. This was not a COVID creation, it was pre-COVID.
You see the same people in your cohort every time. So you get to create relationships with them. And it is facilitated by AMI staffer Craig Barnes, who has owned his own agency for 25 or 30 years. So plenty of great experience, both from Craig, but also learning from each other. So if you have any interest in learning more about how that works, head over to the AMI website and under Memberships, you will find the Virtual Peer Group, and you can get all the information there. All right? Okay. Let’s get back to the show. All right. We are back and we are talking about how to be more intentional about managing your health and your wellbeing, and your ability to manage stress in a world that is constantly barraging us with things that are out of our control.
So before the break, Jeff was talking about heart based breathing and some other things we can do. And the fact that really one of the biggest challenges for us making these changes, so we can feel energetic and full of enthusiasm, and get rid of that weariness that I know a lot of you are feeling is in our own heads. So let’s talk a little bit about that. What happens in our heads, and how do we identify it, course correct it, and actually maneuver it to our advantage rather than our disadvantage?
Sure. So we jumped into the breathing, which is again, connecting the mind and the body. And that’s a great place to start. Another place to take a look at, like you said, is your thoughts. And most people have no idea what they’re thinking or even the words that are coming out of their mouth. Now, that might sound crazy, especially being a leader, leading a company, but becoming, and I just said ‘but’ it actually should be ‘and’ because actually every time you say ‘but’ you’re negating the thing that you said before and you’re actually sharing what your belief is. And so I just caught myself there. So actually becoming aware of your language patterns. So I’ve been obsessed with communication, internal communication and external communication, the tonality, your presence with your physiology and your body, and then even the words that come out. And so words have energy, thoughts have energy.
And so again, going more into the deeper spiritual truths of how we basically create our own reality. If you believe in the law of attraction, it’s associated, your thought is the spark, right? It’s the spark. If you think that you stink at something or you suck at something, there’s a much greater chance that you’re not going to achieve the thing that you’re set out to do. And many of the owners that are listening to this, the agency owners and entrepreneurs listening to this podcast, they probably can relate to the things they fall short on and start thinking about their thought patterns, but also the tremendous success they’ve created. They had a thought, they had an idea, and then they went out and they execute and they were proactive, and that’s what inspirational leaders do. And I’ve studied a lot of language over the years.
I’ve studied folks that teach these principles. And again, you’ll see it in tennis as well. This idea of, okay, let’s play one at a time. Let’s play, be proactive with, okay, I’m going to serve this guy’s backhand, and then I’m going to attack and come in. It’s a very proactive way of speaking instead of, I don’t know if I can get my serve in. Gosh, my serve sucks today. And so Trevor Moawad, who unfortunately passed away is a top mental conditioning coach, and he shares this story about Bill Buckner. And Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series playing for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Mets. You may know it well. So he was the guy that let the ground ball go between his legs. He was a like 12 time or 10 time gold glove winner. He let the ball go between his legs. And 12 days before that, about 12 days before that, they found an old interview where he said, “The dream would be to win the World Series, but the absolute nightmare would let the ground ball go between my legs to lose.”
He didn’t make that happen, but he increased the probability of it happening just by planting that seed. So you’re either planting weeds or you’re planting seeds with your thoughts. And so there’s been a lot of research done that… Trevor actually worked with the Alabama football team and the Georgia football team and others, and they went in and they said, “Okay. We’re not going to get these 20 year old kids to meditate 20 minutes a day. We’re not going to get them to say their affirmations. What we’re going to do is we’re going to get them to avoid saying stupid stuff.” And I usually, sometimes I swear, and I use the other S word, but for the sake of this podcast, I chose not to. But just by saying negative things out loud, by externalizing it, it dramatically improves the probability that something bad is going to happen. And I know that might be hard for some folks believe, but there’s science behind all this.
So even if you have a negative thought, which is not ideal, but you will have negative thoughts. How you choose to express it, because you could take that thought and shift it, reverse it into a more positive or neutral thought. Or you can actually externalize it and complain about something or say, “This worker, he’s a terrible worker, we need to fire him. They’re not efficient.” There’s different ways to externalize that message. There’s different ways to show energy that moves in the direction of what you want to create. So you have to be very aware of how you’re externalizing your thoughts in the form of words. And that’s a practice and a skill you can develop, and it takes incredible self-awareness. And what we’re really talking about today, Drew, is again, knowing thy self, becoming more self-aware, and really going on a search.
If you believe that, “Hey, if I’m stressed right now, there’s something off in my system.” If I’m feeling burden and overwhelmed that is a signal, that is a sign that I need to make some changes. It’s not a bad thing. It’s actually the best thing that could ever happen to you because it’s trying to wake you up and say, “Life doesn’t have to be like this.” You can actually start implementing self-care practices and performance practices to help you feel better, even when you know what hits the fan. And that’s what I mentioned at the beginning is we’re going to go through a lot of adversity the next couple years and probably throughout our lifetimes. And it’s our ability to manage those tough times is what allows us to grow and to do incredible things and feel fulfilled at the same time.
I think a lot of people when they feel that sense of overwhelm, it is because of, again, external things, something’s going on in the family, I have too many things to do, work is a burden, I can’t find the right employee for this role so I’m having to step in. And what I’m hearing you say, correct me if I’m wrong, what I’m hearing you say is all of that may be true, but the reason that you’re feeling that sense of overwhelm isn’t those external things, is that something’s out of alignment within you. And that you can course correct some of those things so that you react differently to those external truths, whatever those are. Yes?
Absolutely. And I want to take it back to the heart focus breathing, and being out of coherence, and being in a stress state. So if you are feeling frustrated and they check out your heart rate variability, it’s very jagged and just doesn’t look pretty, it’s not a pretty piece of art. And when you’re in appreciation or gratitude, it’s a beautiful sign wave, everything is smooth. And that’s how our breathing is too. If we’re holding our breath, our breath is jagged, it’s not smooth and long and silk, and calm and silky. So I believe that the art of all of this is how you can stay smooth and even during these stressful moments, and not be like ping-pong just being bounced back and forth with these stressful events are happening every day. And so they took a look at first responders that go out in the field, and they have a stress response where maybe they’re chasing after someone and there’s an arrest or there’s a fight, or drug deal gone, whatever.
If these folks are not able to get into coherence, there’s a flood of chemicals, hormones, cortisol, floods the body. So imagine if you’re a leader, you’re flooding your body every day with all these different stress responses. So these first responders, they go out and they get stressed out. And if they’re not able to calibrate and go into heart focused breathing, that stress response stays in the body for six to eight hours. If you’re able to start to control your thoughts a bit, but more importantly get into your body and you practice that for a period of time, say six to nine weeks. They’ve shown that the stress response goes down to five minutes. So from six to eight hours down to five minutes is how you are able to deal with stress.
Now, imagine the impact that has day-to-day when you’re at work and you get a little mini stress, and then you get a big stress, and then kids sick at home and you got to come home, or you get in a fight with your girlfriend or your wife, or whatever that thing is. If you’re not able to recalibrate in five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, that stress response is actually making you sick. So it’s impacting your health, your physical, your emotional and mental health. And so I like to say when the, you know what hits the fan, how quickly in an authentic way, you don’t want to be faking it, you have to be aligned with this. But that’s why it starts with balancing your nervous system through the breathing and some other techniques. But if you can see the adversity, if you can actually see it as a gift. If you can see it and you can actually appreciate it for what it is to make you stronger, and it’s a lesson for growth, what I mentioned in the beginning, everything is for our growth.
If you can shift your mindset and you can shift your perspective and you can get into your body more, the downtime is so much less. And that’s what we teach in tennis. You got 30 seconds before the next point. I saw junior tennis players who they’re pissed off for the next 30 minutes. They can’t even play. They can’t even think straight. But if they can recalibrate in 20 seconds, they’re ready for the next point. And that’s what we need to do as leaders throughout the day. We have to be able to recalibrate ourselves throughout the day. And again, the good news is this is not random, this is science, this is based on 30 years of research, this is a skill just like any other skill that you want to develop.
If you want to learn how to play pickle ball, if you want to learn how to run paid ads for your agency, if you want to learn how to close a sales call, all of what I’m teaching are skills as well. The challenge is it’s not taught out there in the world, it’s almost hidden. And so that’s the inner game. We want to bring it out and we want more people to get exposed to these real time tools so they can feel better during times of stress.
So other than the breathing, how else can we get back into our body, put on our game face again, shake off the cortisol and all the other chemicals that are flooding our body? What are other ways for us to shift that?
Sure. So I’ll go into the physical realm here because we’ve talked about our thoughts, which is obviously the mental. We talked about the emotional heart focused breathing. On the physical side of things, there’s a number of things that you can do. And so on the nutrition side, I have studied nutrition for the last 25 years as an athlete, I wanted to figure out how that all worked. And there’s different philosophies out there, right? It’s just like politics, everyone’s got, you’re either vegan, or you’re carnivore, or you’re a keto. There’s so much out there that’s confusing. My take on it. A huge leverage point right out of the bat is remove seed oils from the diet. The restaurants are cooking with seed oil. So if you like to eat out a lot, which I do, I’m exposed to seed oils.
So these oils are being proven now, they’re not good for us at all on many levels. And so just one hack, like cooking with butter, and I know might sound crazy to some people, but butter, or ghee, or even beef towel. I know if you’re a vegetarian, you’re not going to go that direction. But one simple change like that, being aware of how your food is cooked. Number two, and this is a controversial one, in our world, alcohol, and it’s a triggering topic for me because I have, not only my brother, but I have other family members that have struggled with addiction around alcohol. But in our culture is it’s accepted. But if you want to be a high performer, if you truly want a high performer, try going alcohol free for 30 days and see what happens. You’re going to sleep better, you’re going to feel better, especially as we’re getting older. I don’t know about you, Drew. I’m not a spring chicken anymore.
Nope. Unfortunately, that was dated past.
And so the days of having a bunch of beers and drinks when we were 22 and bouncing back the next day are over. And so if we’re trying to really be the highest optimal performers we can be, one of the highest leverage points is to remove alcohol out of the system so that you can sleep better, so that you can recover better, so you can think more clearly. There’s a great podcast that Dr. Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist at Stanford in a two hour podcast. Again, not judging, not saying you’re bad or good because you drink or you don’t drink. He’s just providing the science about how it impacts our bodies and our brains. Another thing is movement. A lot of people, we were sitting in chairs all day, the lack of mobility from sitting all day for years is really impacting our health.
So standing, getting on the ground actually, and doing ground based exercises to improve our mobility. And the final thing I want to mention is how we can deal… So by doing those things, you’ll start to notice, you’ll start to feel better. And when you feel better in your body, then you can think more clearly, emotionally you feel better. It’s all one system that works together. It’s not one without the other. But the final thing I want to say is one of the most healing things for me, or the things that helps me calibrate is getting out in nature. Putting your feet on the ground, getting grounded for a couple minutes, one, two, three, four, five minutes going for a walk. And again, even taking your shoes off and just putting your feet in the ground. We are so inundated with 5G and cement walls and fluorescent lights that we need to get out. We need to get sunlight.
If you’re struggling and you’re hearing this message and you’re working it over time at your agency, see if you can get sunlight first thing in the morning, get it at night at sunset, get out into a park, get into nature, go for a walk. It makes a huge difference. And I know, I’m sure a lot of people listening to this are also doing these things. So hopefully it’s validation like, oh, okay, I go for my walk, that does make me feel good. There’s science behind all of this, which I love. And these are opportunities again, that if you’re struggling and you’re overwhelmed, it’s like your little alarm bells going off going, oh wait, the system’s out of balance. What are some things I can do to improve? And where can I find people that can help me with this, whether it’s community or whether it’s coaching or whatever that is?
And again, it’s your biggest lesson because when you get to the other side of it feeling better, you can look back and say, “You know what? I was in a pretty dark place, but I was able to do it. And I was really able to become self-aware and know myself better. And I didn’t go to more artificial ways of trying to soothe myself, whether it’s through coffee or drinking, alcohol or medication.” Again, no judgment, but if you really want to perform at the highest level for the next 20, 30, 40 years, I believe you want to take a real holistic approach to improving your health and your performance.
So let’s talk a little bit about emotional health, because all of this, we’ve talked a little bit about mental health, which I think is different. But I think sometimes we do think about our physical wellbeing, we do think about our mental wellbeing in terms of self-talk and some of those things. But I think one of the things that business leaders often, I don’t want to say they poo-poo, but it doesn’t get the same gravitas as the others, is our emotional health. So are there things that we can do, as we wrap up this conversation, are there things we can do to round that out as well? Because I think a lot of times our emotions trigger all kinds of reactions that we are aware and unaware of when we don’t have those in a good place.
Sure. So we touched on it with the heart focused breathing, and that next level with it when you’re connecting to your heart. And then if you can start to call up emotions of gratitude, of appreciation, it is so simple yet so difficult. Because we’re taught in western culture to focus more on the next thing, the next win, the next deal. And we’re not taught to be grateful for what we have. And so the simple act of gratitude and appreciation, and actually it’s not thinking gratitude, it’s actually feeling it. And again, we’re taught to numb and to not feel things. And again, to share one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had in some of the healing and performance things that I’ve done is, one of my coaches basically said, and this is crazy but, “In order to feel deep joy and happiness, you have to be willing to feel the deep sadness.”
And that’s a scary place to go. And I’ve personally been taught my whole life not to go th