Many executives and entrepreneurs work long, busy days. It’s the rule, not the exception. It’s part of the job, as they say. The thing that’s important to keep in mind though, is that mental acuity and physical fitness are closely intertwined.
Much has been written and discussed about the mind-body connection over the years, but it’s not a new concept. People living in ancient Sparta, a Greek city-state, figured it out centuries ago. You might have heard the legendary story of Leonidas, the Spartan king who led his 300 warriors against the powerful Persian army.
Ali Ghani, an Edmonton entrepreneur and investor, spends his time traveling, meeting and working often until late at night on a diverse range of business projects. Ali says he couldn’t have accomplished anywhere near what he has to date had it not been for his unique approach to work and life.
“The ancient Greeks had it right,” he says today. “History teaches us that many Spartans began their physical training as children, which set the tone for how they would live their lives. This not only helped them become fit, but it also enabled them to build mental toughness and resilience. We can apply their lessons to how we live today.”
Ghani says that for too many people, it’s easy to become complacent and even sedentary. Some go to work then go home, sit on the sofa, turn on the television and eat or drink things that in large amounts are detracting from their physical health.
“In business, we have to be sharp, alert and on top of our games, especially if we’re putting together deals worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars,” he says. “This also requires confidence in our own abilities and the ability to take action.”
For his part, Ali Ghani says he keeps his body fit and in tune through running and working out — and he’s noticed that staying fit and healthy really does contribute to his mental acuity when he’s in work mode.
“In terms of access, these are probably the two easiest activities to do no matter where you are on a given day,” he says, “Gyms can be found everywhere, and all you need to do when you want to run is lace up your shoes and open the door. When I start the day with a run or a morning workout, I feel energized and motivated for the rest of the day.”
Another lesson Ali Ghani, Edmonton entrepreneur, takes from the Spartans is developing confidence. It’s been written that the Spartans hated cowardice and as a result, trained themselves and their children to be able to face fears and uncertainty.
“In business, leaders absolutely have to be confident and unafraid on a number of levels, whether taking part in negotiations, asking for a raise if you’re employed or raising the stakes in a deal if needed. Most truly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs are what many people refer to as go-getters. They know what they want and go for it. In many ways, your fitness level will help you feel more confident in a range of situations.”
Finally, perhaps the most effective Spartan habit to improve your mental strength is the Spartan concept of defeat. “No one wins at everything,” says Ghani. “That’s life. But in the Spartans’ case, while they might have accepted defeat when necessary, they never surrendered.”
During ancient times, the only way Spartan soldiers could only lose was if they were dead — something they accepted as a tribute to the state. In fact, every fallen soldier received proper honors. But they didn’t surrender, however, was a different story. But they didn’t surrender.
The lesson for today’s business leaders, according to Ghani, is that being a successful entrepreneur might mean weeks, months or even years of challenges. You might experience defeat occasionally and maybe even often, but the important thing is to keep at it until you succeed.