This week my travels find me in Scottsdale, AZ for the Executive Leadership Conference put on by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, where the theme was “collaborate.” I’m excited to attend this meeting not only because I perceive collaboration to be one of the cornerstones of great leadership—we cannot achieve our success alone—but also because the conference wrapped up with Walter Scott, who sits on the Berkshire Hathaway Energy board, answering questions from Berkshire Hathaway Energy CEO Greg Abel and audience members. Scott has been named by Forbes as one of the world’s richest people and is a lifelong friend of Warren Buffett.
There were many takeaways from his Q&A but the one that stuck with me was the three most important things that Walter told his kids to cherish: 1. Health (don’t do anything to hurt it). 2. Education (once you have it, you have it for life). 3. Community. Be a giver and not a taker. Be part of the community and understand that once you have acquired great things it’s your responsibility to give back.
Another reason why I’m happy to be in Scottsdale has to do with legendary swim coach Bob Bowman, who helped Michael Phelps win his record-setting 28 Olympic medals and was the men’s swimming head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Bowman is currently the head swimming coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils and through mutual connections, I was able to have dinner with him and also visit the ASU aquatic complex.
Bowman has long inspired me by his persistence on the importance of a morning routine. In fact, one could argue that Michael Phelps’ dedication to his routines directly correlated to his status as the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time. Bowman started working with Phelps when he was just a child but recognized early on Phelps could be a champion with the right training and the right routine. Their long history working together brings us back to the theme of collaboration from the Berkshire Hathaway Energy conference.
Phelps followed a morning routine and race-day routine that included a hearty diet, stretches and getting in the right mindset for success. He also trained his mind with positive affirmations and reviewed his goals daily. Phelps once said, “I have my goals somewhere I can see them, so when I get out of bed I know I’m waking up to work on what I’m trying to achieve.”
There’s science behind regular routines that create positive mindsets, too. A study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found that subjects who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. And Robert Emmons, a psychologist at UC Davis, conducted research to show that keeping a regular gratitude journal can significantly increase well-being and positive emotions.
So, what’s the message? Follow a morning routine with diligence and dedication if you want to find greater success. The philosophy not only works for Olympic athletes but also for leaders in any field. My own routine involves taking my M.E.D.S.—Meditation, Exercise, Diet and Sleep. This routine helps me with my keystone habits that create small wins. I know this helps prepare me to have a great day. (If you’d like a copy of my morning routine, I’d be happy to share it with you. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.) And when it comes to maintaining your morning routine, always remember the wise words of Artistotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”