"Anyone can hit excellence for a day, even a week or a month. That’s easy. But a high performer is one who does it consistently for years over the course of a career."
In a previous life, I was a wrestler. That meant that every moment of every day I lived with a view to match day. I ran, cut weight, studied, practiced, slept, did homework with a view to competition. I only wished that every day was game day. I wish I knew then what Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams’ Every Day is Game Day teaches.
On one hand, because of my background, it makes sense to me that a guide to high performance on an athletic field could hold promise for high performance in the rest of life. On the other hand, I had never thought to approach my work-life with any kind of athletic intensity.
While I still love to play anything with a ball on my free time – work is work. Sitting around. Writing. Walking down the hall. Attending meetings. Nothing inherently athletic. Nothing that would make one think of “Game Day.”
Every Day is Game Day reminded me that I do all my work with my body, just like an athlete. The only work tool I really possess is me. I can try to cram more into a calendar or to-do list, get a smarter phone or a faster computer. But, if I underperform, all these other tools will fail to deliver the results I need.
High performance is built on a process
"The four pillars of that platform are Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery. Since every day is game day, you must: Prepare for It. (Mindset) Fuel for It. (Nutrition) Train for It. (Movement) Rest for It. (Recovery)"
This process governs for both training and performance, practice days and game days. The better you work the process during practice or off-season, the better you will be on game day.
The book applies this process to your physical training. And, if you need to get moving, I recommend it as an athletic training manual.
The process is really not much different than it might be for, say, project management. You have to prepare for it. Get clear on goals. Have the right attitude. Gather the right people on the team. You must fuel for it. What resources do you need? Are there other ways to think about what you need besides just a budget? You’ll have to train for it, and do the actual work. Just like an athlete can enhance their movements and technique, so a manager can improve his skill as he gains experience and does the work. And, you will need to rest for it. That is, if you plan to do another project. The recovery, evaluation, learning and regrouping can make the next project even more successful. At some level a game or a project will be a failure if you don’t recover and learn from it.
Fuel up, don’t diet
"Think of yourself as fueling throughout the day instead of sitting for three big meals."
The second pillar of high performance is fueling. I have always resisted investing much time and/or attention to eating because food was either a means of enjoyment or something to avoid in order to lose weight. My mom was into diet fads. I remember consuming spoonfuls of cod liver oil as a kid with the promise that it was good for me. So I purposefully avoid getting too uptight about my diet.
As a result, I’m tempted to treat what I learned here as a metaphor for work or business, but this part of Game Day is good enough to treat it as it is written.
Every Day is Game Day contains Insights I’ve never seen elsewhere with respect to food. Think of it as fueling, not eating. “Think brown and close to the ground.” This is a mantra to help you choose carbohydrates. “The fewer legs the better.” When thinking about protein, choose meat from animals with the fewest legs. Of course, fish have no legs. Chickens have two. That’s a good place to start. You need one gram of protein for every pound of body weight.
They recommend paying close attention to the effect food has on your body and energy level. I’ve started taking nuts to work to use as a mid-morning snack. This wards off hunger and prevents me from eating so much at lunch that I get sleepy in the afternoon.
Staying hydrated and choosing what you drink is also important. They recommend you drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of fluid per pound per day, but, as they say, don’t drink your calories. They also assert that alcohol is not part of a high-performance lifestyle. But take heart, they are up for caffeine!
Recovery sustains high performance
"If you go through the effort to train and move your body and don’t take measures to repair it, you’ve wasted your workout."
It is very significant that one quarter of the process of high performance is recovery. Very few hard-workers I know would assign one quarter of their attention to rest—the lazy people might! Rest, stretching, nutrition, and sleep all play a part in recovery.
Maybe because I am older I notice I need more down-time than I used to. Not only am I less resilient physically, emotionally I’m not as flexible either.
They recommend eating shortly after a workout. Stretching and balance exercises are part of an on-going injury prevention plan. Sleep is indispensable for high performance. Again, they are talking to athletes.
I have worked at the same job now for over 25 years. I have some idea of how to sustain a long-term career. It does have to do with recovery. Take your vacation. Separate work and home so that you can go home with some energy to serve your family. Recover first. Don’t take your fatigue out on the people you love. Find people who energize you and spend time with them. Much of the productivity literature you will read recommends batching work and taking breaks, even power naps during the day. Recovery is a key, if not the key to long term high performance.
The science of high performance has come a long way since I was an athlete. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I knew then what is between the covers of Every Day is Game Day.
While it may be too late for the book to help you compete on an athletic field, it is just in time to help you compete at work. You don’t just play on Friday nights any longer.
The reality is this: The better your body performs, the better you will perform. Don’t let yourself go. After all, every day is game day!
What one of the four pillars of high performance can you build on in your life so you can sustain high performance for the long term?