Fitness Advice from the 1 Percent

Occasionally I find myself annoyed by people who decide that they need to proselytize to the rest of us. In this case, it's an article that someone recently tweeted about from Time magazine. Before that, it showed up in Entrepreneur magazine. Here's the article: Why Exercising Is a Higher Priority Than My Business. Go read it, or just move onto my cantankerous take.

As with most reformed individuals, Josh Steimle starts with a "once I was fallen" paragraph, talking about the early days of building his business and how he fell into the trap of valuing it above other things, including his health. He then moves on to talk about how the changes he made, how much more effective he is now that he is exercising ten hours a week, and finishes about watching his employees fall into the same trap that he did.

What he leaves out of his narrative are two critical features. First, when you are building a business, it's an all-or-nothing proposition. If the business doesn't succeed, you don't eat. Your family doesn't eat. You end up sleeping in a Hugo in the warehouse district and listening to hobos singing around a fire in a barrel. Of course he worked like mad and ignored things not directly related to building his business.

No sensible person goes into business with an intention to fail. The ones that make it are single-mindedly focused on whatever legally, morally, and ethically it takes to reach their definition of success. (I separate out those that don't operate legally, morally, and ethically as they aren't businesspeople - they're crooks.)

The second point where Steimle takes a disingenuous tack occurs when he talks about setting up incentive programs for his employees. While he freely states that he'll put off a meeting with a major client to get a run in, he doesn't go so far to say that he'd permit his employees to do the same. Instead, they get an incentive program - which the cynical among us might suggest also lowers the insurance rates for his company.

The difference in the way he treats himself and the way that I suspect he treats his employees mirrors the difference in their relationship to work. He has full control of his schedule. Most people do not. If you are working at Arby's and tell the shift manager that you have to check out for an hour for your noon run, he or she will escort you to the time clock to bid you a firm and final adieu.

I'm not picking on Arby's. Teachers can't just bomb off the job for a trail run unless it lands on their lunch hour - assuming that they're not busy then, too. Factory work? The same. Construction? The same. The hospital? The same. Patients don't care for themselves.

Josh Steimle recognizes the value of exercise, so much so that he pays his employees to cover his absences. His advice, to place exercise above work, sounds great - if you are part of the five percent of the population that works for themselves or has reached the upper reaches of a company that allows you to dictate and delegate down to free your time. I'm fortunate enough to be in that category (working for myself) with Steimle. I schedule my runs and yes, they make me more productive and happier. I also recognize that I'm an outlier.

I'll agree with the mantra that all people control how they use their time, but offer these amendments. If you need to put food on the table, you acquiesce to the boss and work the hours demanded. A stay-at-home mom has a choice, and the control, between running and consoling a crying infant. Which is the higher calling, exercise or your responsibilities to others?

There are many events that justifiably move exercise down the priority ladder. It shouldn't be that hard to acknowledge them and, instead preaching down, find a way to lift up.

Run gently, friends.

If you're in Spokane at 7pm on October 9th, I'm doing a book reading at Auntie's Bookstore. It would be great to meet some of you in person.