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“We’re capable of so much more than we realize.”
Opening line in forward of “Be Excellent at Anything”
Do you ever feel like the proverbial hamster on the wheel? You are busy – busy “doing” – but you’re not getting anywhere! Do you ever stop to consider:
- What it is you really want?
- How you spend and renew your energy?
- What you need to do to work at full capacity?
To maximize the height of a soufflé we know we must follow the recipe carefully.
What if there was a recipe for maximizing your ability to “rise”?
Tony Schwartz has that recipe. He describes, in his New York Times Bestseller “Be Excellent at Anything”, how each of us can achieve sustainable excellence at anything!
The Big Idea
Humans don’t come with a power cord
“The way we’re working isn’t working for us, for our employers, or for our families. It’s not the number of hours we work that determines how much value we create. Rather it’s the quantity and quality of energy we bring to whatever hours we work.”
Be Excellent at Anything, Page xii
I charge my iphone over night and it’s good to go for a full day. But what about you? How do you fuel your energy source? What is your energy source? Can you operate without refueling your energy? And what happens to your work and life if you don’t?
Operating at our best is not just about intrinsic talent and working hard. A key element is how well we meet our four energy needs:
- physical (sustainability),
- emotional (security),
- mental (self-expression),
- and spiritual (significance).
The problem is, most people think we work like a machine; plug us in and we go! However, by moving rhythmically between activity and renewal in each of the four energy needs, we can build our capacity to generate more and more value over time.
Insight # 1
Plug in. Recharge.
We all know them. The people that “punch in” before the sun is up and punch out like zombies when the sun has set. Maybe you are one of them; because, like most of us, you think the best way to get things done is to “keep your nose to the grindstone”. Start early and finish late.
Our computers can do it because we offer them a never-ending source of energy by plugging them in. This allows them to run multiple programs simultaneously at consistently high speeds for long periods of time. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a simple power supply. Most people leave themselves “unplugged” from an energy source for periods of time that are far too long. And our output suffers.
For some unknown reason we think we can run on empty. We haven’t taught ourselves how to recharge and maximize our energy. The better we are at pulsing between expenditure and intermittent renewal of energy the more productive we will be!
How often should we plug in? Schwartz tells us the best way to produce maximum output is to consciously change gears, refresh and recharge every 90 minutes.
Want to produce “high def” output instead of standard? Try this:
Wake up after 7-9 hours of sleep and spend 90 minutes working. Then take a break and have breakfast. Work for another 90 minutes then go for a run. Work for 90 minutes then take your lunch break. Get the picture?
Can’t do it you say? What about…
- taking your lunch away from your desk?
- Or, making a habit of eating something healthy every 2 or 3 hours?
- Or as a baby step,.. just stepping away from the task at hand every 90 minutes to breathe deeply?
Now that you know it will help you produce at a higher level you can give yourself the permission to simply step away. Refresh, refuel and recharge….what a concept!
Insight # 2
Fatter, Dumber, and More Dangerous
“No single behaviour, we’ve come to believe, more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life than sleep.”
Be Excellent at Anything, Page 57
What is the first ingredient of Schwartz’s recipe? Where does this energy renewal begin? Physical renewal. It is the foundation of the four dimensions of energy. And, plain and simple sleep is the foundation of physical energy.
Schwartz drives home the value of a good night’s sleep by sharing overwhelming evidence that sleep deprivation takes a toll in nearly every aspect of our lives, including performance. In short, it makes us fatter, dumber and more dangerous. Ironically, it is the first behaviour most of us are willing to sacrifice, on the mistaken assumption that that we can use those “saved” hours to be more productive. In fact the reverse is true. If you have a good night’s seep, you can get more done in your waking hours.
Schwartz says “Awareness is half the battle when it comes to sleep, both because most of us underestimate the costs of getting too little and because of the extraordinary value of getting enough.” He is convinced (and convincing!) that adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night) sets the stage for improvement in every part of our lives.
You don’t “need” that much sleep you say? Five hours is sufficient? The Henry Ford Sleep disorders and Research Center says, “The percentage of the population who need less than five hours of sleep per night, rounded to a whole number, is zero”.
Most of us who are sleep-deprived however, often don’t recognize it. We don’t see the gap between our performance and what it could be – with proper sleep. “Like a drunk, a person who is sleep-deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is.”
Have you forgotten what it feels like to be truly awake? Schwartz thinks most of us have.
Be Excellent at Anything exposes the uncomfortable truth that most people are not satisfied or fully engaged in work…or life. Schwartz’s solutions to maximize human potential are rooted in fascinating research, making his advice all the more convincing.
Whether you want to improve your own or your team’s potential, Be Excellent at Anything has the solution. And it is presented in an engaging, ‘don’t want to put it down’ way. Get the recipe …..to be excellent at anything!