The Healthy Executive

Executive Health Interview

This is a transcript from the Money For Lunch podcast on Executive Health.

Executive HealthBert:             Jeff Popoff welcome to Money For Lunch.

Jeff:              Thanks for having me on your show.

Bert:              You bet. All right so let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about the health for wellness trap. Walk me through. What is happening to so many others that we literally are trading our health for wealth?

The Wealth For Health Trap


Jeff:              Sure Bert. I want to tell you the pattern that I see with a lot of my clients. Most of us typically start off our careers in our twenties and we’re generally healthy. We’ve been gifted with health. We may have participated in college sports or after college we may participate in recreational sports. Go to the gym. Do yoga. Somewhere in our thirty’s four things happen to us generally speaking. And these four things are as follows.

Number one. People tend to get married.

Number two they tend to get promoted at work. If you’re good at what you do get increasing responsibility should maybe more travel. But generally at work we step up a ladder a notch.

Number three. We have kids. So all these place demands on our time. And as business leaders you know we kind of have that priority list of, you know mission first team second, family first we put ourselves second.

And so the fourth thing that happens in our thirty’s is we typically stop whatever sport we did or going to the gym. You know we stop exercising by the early forty’s or so. What I’ve noticed is each of those life events tends to give us a five to ten pound weight gain. At forty three in my case I was fifty pounds overweight. And you realize you can’t go on this way and you’re tired. You’re not eating while. And usually we get triggered by an event I would side of ourselves. Family member may get ill. A colleague may have a heart attack. Something will get us off the fence. So this is a pattern I see and the trap. Part of the problems is that it happens slowly over fifteen or twenty years so we don’t actually see it happening around us. But one day we wake up and we realize hey I’m not healthy. But I want to be around to provide my family. And I want to see my kids have grandkids.

Bert:              What’s interesting is the reason that we’re sacrificing our bodies our health is like you said to take care of the family. And then in some cases you and I have seen people that are fairly young. Forty or fifty. And they have a stroke. And now the family’s got to take care good take care of them and that’s OK if you if you’re ready for that or you have the insurance for that. What a lot of us do is we have life insurance so we’re good, if we’re dead. But if we are in a situation where we need long term care, then a lot of people are not only are they losing their health, now they’re jeopardizing everything they worked hard for because they don’t have the financial structure taken care of. You know what it would call the intense of the health for three four five months. A while back I had the C.E.O. of Remax on the show. And he had he had gone in for routine surgery and contracted some disease. And he was paralyzed and unable to do anything for months now. He’s in a financial position where he could afford the very best. But he didn’t return to work full time work for eighteen months most of us are not in that position.

Jeff:              That’s very true Bert. I’ll never forget my first job when I moved to Texas. I was being sold life insurance when the agent mentioned something casual. He said your four hundred percent more likely to be disabled than dead later in life. Couple that with the second fact that the leading cause of bankruptcy is you exhausting your savings over an extended hospital stay. So I totally agree with you.


Why Is Being Healthy So Hard?


Executive HealthBert:              Let me ask you this: Why do you think being healthy has become so difficult for us? We have all this technology we have all this information. But it seems like we’re getting fatter and unhealthier every year.

Jeff:               This very true Bert and I’ll give you my wealth-health experience. You know there’s a lot of theories out there about you know processed food and hormones in the food but let me just give you my direct experience. The people I coach for health.

You know the number one reason they give is they have no time. Number one reason bar none. I have no time. But I ask them that true? Look at Richard Branson of Virgin. Look at Elon Musk at Tesla. Look at Tim Cook at Apple. Look at Larry Ellison at Oracle. These are highly successful business leaders that have home gyms and work gyms. I used to see Tim Cook bicycling ok seemed like an around Cupertino. These people make time for their health. And it doesn’t seem to detract from their ability to lead organizations. In fact Richard Branson says that working out give him an extra four hours a day of additional productivity. So when people say they have no time I sometimes wonder if that’s not a case of conflicted priorities. I have recently looked at a study that showed that. You know for an average work week, after fifty five hours you’re actually not adding value or being productive. Your productivity essentially drops to zero. So a lot of my clients work seventy hour work weeks and I ask them if those last fifteen hours are really being productive. You know why don’t you stop doing something that’s not giving you an ROI and invest it back in your health and your family instead.

The number two reason I hear about why being healthy is so hard is due to unpredictable schedules. And hey I can totally relate. I was in a Silicon Valley startup. I’d wake up in the morning and it was possible that that evening I’d be landing in Ireland or South America. You know it just it was the nature of the business when you have clients. Closing deals and unhappy customers, whatever the case may be. A LOT of business people say I can’t get to the gym on a regular basis. And that’s fine. You know it took me ten years to realize that being healthy is not an extra thing on your To Do list. You really have to find a way to build it into your daily business life. So I found a way to make it sustainable while on the go. I’m a former systems engineer. I’ve taken a very science based approach to just get results. It’s based on proven best practices. Because all my clients want to be sustainably healthy.

We’ll talk about this in a few minutes but there’s an interesting development in technology. You mentioned why technology doesn’t help. There’s a trend now towards virtual coaching. It’s a new trend based out of Silicon Valley that recognizes that people are busy and do have trouble scheduling. And they also have smart phones. So we’ll talk a little bit about how virtual coaching is sort of addressing the “no time” or the “unpredictable schedule” problem.

Bert:              I want to repeat what you said being healthy is not just another thing on your To Do list. There’s you know, to me, there’s no point in you and I making millions of dollars if all we’re going to do is turn around and give that to the hospital. You know the health care providers right? I’d rather make less money and have more health and have a better life. I don’t want to be on six medications and needing help to go to the bathroom and all that other stuff so I like that being healthy is not just another thing on your To Do list.


Benefits Of Being A Strong Leader


Executive HealthBert:              All right let’s talk about the benefits of leading strong. As an online health coach that’s one of the areas that you like to specialize in so let’s talk and talk a little bit about that.

Jeff:               Yes Bert, be happy to do that. I see sort of four key benefits to being a strong leader. And I’ll walk them through for you.

The first one is productivity as I mentioned earlier. It’s very hard to be a productive that if you’re tired. And you’re mentally exhausted. In fact Richard Branson directly says that many business leaders he knows are run down due to overwork and he sees that they’re exhausted and making poor decisions. So being strong make you more productive leader.

Number two is respect. You know it may be an unconscious bias but I think we all know a first impression counts for a lot. And I’ve noticed in business that how you look tells me a little bit about the way you think. You know, if you’re organized, I think you can take care of business. It’s a subconscious impression maybe that’s wrong. But it’s sort of hardwired into sort of human judgment so to speak. And so I went to the statistics, I’m like OK maybe it’s just psychological. But I found a Harvard study of performance reviews that show that fit leaders get 61% higher ratings. Versus just 25% for unfit leaders. So this is actually borne out in the performance data on our jobs. Also a George Washington University study looking more specifically at weight, and they found that obese women are paid on average $8,666 less than their counterparts. For men, the difference is a bit smaller; it’s about $4,762 a year. So if you add those differences up over a forty year career you’re looking at $200,000 to $350,000 less in lifetime earnings.

Number three is our actual pay. The Journal our Labor Research found that workers who exercise regularly are 9% more in the workplace that those that don’t work out. And even people that just work out a one to maybe two times a week will see a 5% increase in pay. So being a strong leader translates into more money in your pocket.

Number four is quality of life. I think one of the major benefits that you carry over from the job into your personal life is just longevity. Longevity for your kids. You’re a better role model for your kids. I think you mentioned on one of your podcasts that the boxer Evander Hollyfield was heavily influenced by his mother, and his values growing up. And so a lot of clients I talk to you know, realize they can’t tell their kids to exercise and be healthy if they’re not leading by example.

So those are the four reasons. You’re more productive. You get more respect on the job. You get more pay. And you have a higher quality of life for your children.

Bert:              You know what I think those are fantastic and you know going back to what you said earlier about working. Fifty-five hours and you hit the skids. You know this. After that, all of these are nonproductive hours. First of all I think that we have this. We call it, I like to call it, the exhausted club where everybody’s telling you they’re working between hours a day in and they’re sacrificing their family in their health and everything else in there and they like to brag him working ten twelve fifteen hours a day, I don’t know what sleep is yeah yeah look at me on spending all my time at the office. I’m not any more productive but I’m here all the time that we’re having all these little many meetings. And then on top of that we eat at our desks because we want to show how committed we are. And then on top of that we are taking tons of energy stimulate. Because we’re all exhausted. So I think that adds to this. An unhealthy environment where we are expected to work fifty, sixty, seventy hours a week. Even though a lot of us do believe we’re not being productive. It’s just a weird kind of a silly mindset.

Jeff:              Now I’m slowly I think a badge of honor to be exhausted and like you said Bert. But at some point, you know, you have to question if it’s working for you or not. If Richard Branson can be ripped apart wealthiest man in the world and find time to work out. You know obviously it’s a false trade off to say that working extra hours are going to make you like him.

Bert:             Well you could be somewhat like Richard Branson; you could say I work out just like Richard Branson. It’s a start; you’ve got to start somewhere. That’s right.


Stress: The Leadership Blind-spot


Executive Health
Bert:             We’ve been talking about the health for well trap when working. Fifty, sixty, seventy hours a week and then got being very productive past a certain point. Let me ask you this let’s talk about the leadership blind spot. Please let us talk about this.

Jeff:              Yeah sure. You know first off I just want to note that some stress is good. You know its like competition makes us perform better. It’s called eustress; it is beneficial stress and is what happens before you get into distress. So it’s a beneficial stress. Eustress is the thing that makes people excel, it’s what moves civilizations forward to improve and evolve. So the goal here is never to reach a state of zero stress. So you want to a bit of good stress. Not too much stress. So let’s look at the statistics for what happens when you get much stress. How is this: 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress related illness. So from ¾ to 100% of why you go to see a doctor is related in some way to stress. 50% of interpersonal or emotional disorders are stressed related. 43% of adults suffer from adverse health effects like stress eating. And I’ll share the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has declared that stress cost American industry at $300B annually. So we’re swimming in a sea of stress. I think most people recognize this, but it’s so pervasive day to day. Sometimes you know, it’s hard to step back and see what’s going on. And the real key thing here is stress is actually not measured by the type of stressor, it’s measured by how we perceive stress. Business leaders know that one very effective way of coping with stress is improving their perspective, and to get better advice to reduce their stress.

Bert:             So let me ask you this before going on, you say OSHA said that stress costs businesses $300B annually, hundred billion with a B.

Jeff:              Realize that getting a better perspective on a situation is the best way to reduce stress because that’s the perception of stress that causes it not the actual type. But for leaders the dilemma is, they know their organizations are biased the flatter the boss. People kiss up to the boss people tell about things in sort of nice terms. Many startups I’ve worked out have sort of neurotic C.E.O.’s. They walk around the hallways buttonholing college students and interns. You know asking him what’s going on, because they are kind of skeptical of the official channels. So the solution here really is to increase your perspective and a good way to do that is to get outside perspective. Talk to other business leaders. Look at things like the Young Presidents Organization. Look at a Mastermind group, or a group of peers in unrelated industries. They can help you with your problems. Or consider an online coach. You know somebody that can talk to you that you have confidentiality with and the security knowing the discussion won’t find its way into the workplace. These are all very effective ways to deal with leadership stress.

Bert:             And I want to point out what you said there. Which up was kind of interesting is that it’s not necessarily stress. It’s how you perceive it or how you deal with this activity or this event that determines whether it’s going to be stressful for you. It sounds to you know it’s. Bottom line is stress is kind of a custom made deal.

Jeff:              Yeah it’s very much an inside job. I mean there are things we can control. And there are things that we can’t do anything about at the moment, it takes time. So I think a lot of stress is typically self-imposed.

Bert:             Interesting. Yeah. You know when people think of stress, you always think of work environment or this or that. I don’t think most people realize it is subtle that you and I could be having the same experience and it stresses me out in your view it’s just like no big deal. I know, how do we handle this, it goes back to you said. Finding somebody that you can work with that will help you coach you on how to deal with some of your stress. So it won’t be stressful.

Jeff:              Exactly. I work with startups; I work with the engineer culture. You know engineer sometimes have a tendency to get really worked up about things. And I’m a business guy and would come into a meeting and everybody is so upset. And I would ask who’s actually dying here? Nothing’s caught on fire. You know let’s go sleep on it and come back to this tomorrow.

Bert:             You know it’s funny to say sleep on it. I think that sleep is one of those simple strategies that is sometimes overlooked and even caught a scoff that right I think that. When I used to work in the corporate arena instead of taking more coffee or any kind of energy drinks or anything like that, I would grab a nap. I would literally go under my desk and take a twenty minute power nap when I was tired. You know that to me was such a delicious way of relieving my body. But I think back to how we were talking about the badge of honor of exhaustion. We sacrifice our sleep. Without realizing how quickly our body starts to, what’s the word, react, to that to lack of sleep. I mean it’s almost instantaneous. Not only are you tired and have your clouds your thinking and your judgment, but you start eating crappier and crappier food. So you now you’re gaining weight. You’re not you’re not performing as well. Sleep is this magical drug almost that people really overlook.

Jeff:              Totally agree. Bert. Some studies out there that show every hour of sleep we skip results in the five pound weight gain. The military studies sleep a lot and team performance. They found that, you know once you get less than five hours sleep a night it’s like operating drunk. Essentially like having some drinks and going to work. Nobody would do that in their right mind. But you know, we cut corners on our sleep all the time and operate in a low performance state I’m not even aware.

Bert:             Man that’s amazing, say that again. So for every hour of sleep we miss is equal to five pound weight gain you say.

Jeff:              You’re going to gain weight once you get down to five hours sleep a night. At that point most people are effectively operating with like a blood alcohol content of 0.08%.

Bert:             That is scary. And we see this all the time, we see truck drivers. This is where unions can really be a benefit. For many years truck drivers were forced to keep these really long schedules and they had to drive all night. And they’re putting not only themselves at risk but they’re putting, you know literally, anybody on the road at risk of being hurt. And of course unions came in regulations were created to make sure that a trucker is allowed to get, I forgot what they’re allowed an eight, or ten, or a twelve hour break. Same thing with pilots.

Jeff:              Absolutely, I used to be a private pilot. If you look at commercial pilots and their work rules, they are all built around adequate sleep. If you’re under slept, you don’t fly. It’s a simple as that. You don’t put other people at risk.

Bert:             And again, this is something that some of us do every day, we’re not getting adequate sleep. And then you hit the road or you do a road trip and you get you haven’t gotten adequate sleep in the first thing we want to do is pump it up with caffeine or some other kind of stimulants. We try to make it all happen but sooner or later our body wears out. I remember many times where I was trying to make a deadline I was driving all night. Ands sooner or later your body hits that wall that doesn’t matter how much more stimulants you take you gotta take a nap, you’re just worn out.

Jeff:              Yes, very true Bert. Coming back to the pilot thing you have to wear an oxygen mask at twelve thousand five hundred feet. Because the problem as pilot is they get oxygen impaired and they don’t even know it. So that’s exactly the problem. You know you get impaired the point where you can’t recognize that you’re impaired. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.


Online Health Coaching: The Coming Revolution

Executive Health
Bert:              Let’s talk about this. You are of the mindset that there is a coming. A revolution in coaching; talk about to us about this revolution in coaching.

Jeff:               I’m happy to do that. I’m an angel investor in Silicon Valley and also advise a number of startups. And so I have a first row seat at the latest tech trends in Silicon Valley. And I actually wrote about this recently at length in a leading psychology blog. But let me give you the highlights of what I see happening in Silicon Valley right now. There are companies working on on-demand digital services. They are trying to create a virtual assistants, virtual therapy, virtual psychology, and of course virtual coaching. Think of the techniques this way, its humans plus artificial intelligence. It’s like Apple Siri plus a domain expert and they’re working on your request and. typically you submit your request through your smart phone. And they’re trying to give you a concierge response. It’s a little bit like when you travel and you go to the hotel staff can ask the concierge “Hey what’s there to do and get tickets were good place to eat?” So they are taking that concierge experience, they’re taking it online, making your very own virtual assistant. And what’s driving that is what we’ve been talking about: people have busy hectic life styles, they travel a lot, and their schedules are variable. Everyone’s got their smart phone on them, you know, seven days a week twenty four hours a day. So these are the trends driving it in terms of on demand digital coaching, which I’m familiar with. You know this solution is perfect for business leaders. We do sessions by mobile phone, by tablet, by laptop, and text messaging is getting very popular. And it goes around the clock seven twenty four, when the need is there, we can communicate. And it’s multi-channel you know somebody may say something on Facebook and I may respond with a suggestion via Twitter. You know people sort live their lives on social media and virtual coaching in the revolution coaching sort of taps into that.


Bert:              Interesting interesting. All right Jeff Popoff we’re out of time. It’s been great having you on the show; I’m looking forward to bring you back again and speaking some more about what’s going on with our health as well as in our business. Jeff Popoff thank you so much for stopping by.

Jeff:               Thank you Bert, it’s been a pleasure.

Bert:              You bet. Good stuff, I think a wealth of information on not getting enough sleep. Too much working is unproductive hours.

Executive Health

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