When I’m not managing CEO Coaching International or working with clients, you’ll find me running, cycling, pumping some iron, or hiking, often in preparation for my next marathon or triathlon. Or I might be touring a vineyard, or out for a boat ride. A couple times each year, you won’t find me at all – I’ll be off on one of the BIG family vacations we’ve planned months, sometimes years in advance.
These activities aren’t just things I fit into my days here and there. At the beginning of every year, when I crack open my new calendar, the first things I schedule are time for my family, leisure, and hobbies. That’s how important the things I love doing when I’m not being a CEO are to me. In fact, I truly believe that work-life balance is critical to improving my performance in both my work and my life.
I was curious if my CEO Coaching International team felt the same way. So, I asked some of the world-class coaches, entrepreneurs, and business leaders working here about their hobbies. Interestingly, not only does the CEO Coaching International team place just as much emphasis on hobbies and leisure as I do, but their answers kept circling back to these 4 important ideas that underscore why time spent away from work is so critical to your BIG-picture success.
1. “I need to unplug from the business.”
Being a CEO demands so much of your mind and your body. If you carry that stress around with you even when you’re not at work, your performance and your health are going to suffer.
Like me, Jim Weaver spends much of his free time exercising and playing sports: baseball, racquetball, and golf. Jim is also a pilot and he counts family vacations among his favorite activities as well. “They’re an outlet for me,” Jim says. “They allow me to focus on something other than business at that moment. And as many of my hobbies are sports related, they help me stay in shape.”
David Sobel estimates he attends a dozen or so live music events and around 15 hockey games every year because they “help me recharge my battery.” David also blocks out three nights and two mornings every week for taekwondo – he’s a 2nd degree black belt!
In fact, many of the coaches say that they make a point of scheduling their rec time. “Absolutely everything is scheduled,” says Jason Reid. “Most things are in ‘micro doses’ of 15 to 30 minutes. Everyone has time for a hobby, everyone has time for balance, even if it’s only 15 minutes here or there during the day. It makes you a better person.”
The other nice thing about scheduling your leisure time is that if it’s on your schedule, you’re more likely to do it. “Turning off from work can be difficult,” says Jerry Swain. “But when I have a planned hobby and set the time to doing so, it has truly helped balance not only my time, but my mind and spirit.”
“When I’m my very best, I can give my very best to others,” says Sheldon Harris, who enjoys RV travel, weight training, hot yoga, martial arts, and stand-up paddle boarding when he’s not coaching. “But I have to call ‘time out’ from others in order to recharge and be my very best.”
2. “My hobbies improve my leadership skills.”
On a recent episode of our podcast, Jim Weaver emphasized the importance of strong leadership and hiring top talent. He believes his time in the cockpit helps sharpen his appreciation for both.
“Flying reminds me that we need ‘A’ players in every seat,” Jim says. “As a pilot I thought that when I was flying, I was relaxed. The reality is that I am totally focused on the mission. This creates a ‘zone’ where everything feels right, and decisions are second nature. This is where we want to be as leaders.”
When I asked Jason Reid how his hobbies, including writing, guitar, shooting, archery, and sculpting, help his leadership, he answered, “Balance makes me a better person.” That’s a simple but extremely important insight. As much as our attitudes towards such things are changing for the better, there’s still a tendency to lionize the “bad boy” CEO who’s more of a bully than a real leader. Hobbies can help CEOs find healthier outlets for our natural competitive drives, whether that means mastering an instrument, creating a new work of art, or battling it out in your town’s adult softball league.
When Don Schiavone showed me his sports regimen, I wondered if he was thinking about turning pro! He has two seasonal schedules, one for golf and one for skiing, each carefully broken down with time for weekly practice and competitive play. Don believes this routine improves his leadership in three key areas: setting and meeting challenges, committing to a big goal, and learning how to manage risk.
“Every shot in golf is about managing risk versus reward,” Don explains. “Hit a bad shot, then decide how to recover. Take the riskier shot and be the hero or take your medicine and save bogey. This helps me to think through the risks I face as a business leader and to weigh all the options.”
3. “My hobbies help me network.”
Back when I was running Platinum Capital, I struck up a friendly – and vitally important – relationship with the managing director of Bear Sterns. Our jogs through Central Park let me mix a hobby with cultivating a key business relationship. Since then I’ve always taken opportunities to hike with clients, have dinners together, take boat rides, meet up for a glass of wine. Through these hobby trips I’ve connected with other CEOs, met prospects who became clients, and made several friends who eventually became CEO Coaches. And recently the CEO Coaching International leadership team traveled to Tuscany with our spouses, mixing up a productive meeting schedule with an invigorating exploration of Italy.
“Some of the best people I have hired have come through my recreational connections,” says Jim Weaver. “The best source of talent is from people you know and trust.”
And one of the best ways to determine if a potential hire is going to fit with your company’s culture is to spend some time together away from the company. After all, if you wouldn’t want to have a glass of wine with someone, would you really want to spend 40 hours every week with him or her?
On the other hand, don’t let networking turn your hobbies into defacto work shifts. “My objective is solitude and rejuvenation, not networking or relationship-building,” says CEO Coaching International’s Sheldon Harris.
4. “I’m committed to self-improvement.”
IRONMAN taught me the importance of tracking everything. Squash taught me what was possible by believing you can achieve something BIG. These realizations didn’t just become cornerstones of CEO Coaching International’s best practices – they taught me how to optimize my time and energy to be a better father and husband as well.
Rafe Wilkinson is one of those lucky guys who turned his passion into a successful career. He played in the NFL for the Denver Broncos before transitioning to the business world. Now, when he’s not coaching CEOs, Rafe does CrossFit and Orangetheory training and goes on big game fishing trips. Rafe says these self-improvement pursuits give him, “Focus, mind-clearing time, and balance. I believe that doing shapes our being, and your being blesses your doing. You have to take time to savor life.”
Bill Whitehead told me that golf, skiing, and snowmobiling have helped him improve his focus and raise his performance level. “I do my hobbies at high levels,” he says. “Without focus I could get hurt. I train to stay in shape to perform at my best. I surround myself with people who are better than I am at these hobbies. I learn from them and up my game.”
“Whatever I choose to do as a hobby, I’m always seeking to learn from the experience and see how I can apply that to myself and others,” says Jerry Swain. And ultimately, those opportunities for learning and growth might be the greatest value hobbies and other recreational pursuits have for a CEO. The more you do, the more you see, the more you experience, the more BIG you’re going to want out of your life and your business, and the better-prepared you’ll be to go get it.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 170 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s from over 20 countries on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 350 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 20 different countries. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for 4 years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 40.1% during their time as a client, more than four times the national average. Additionally, clients have averaged 210% growth in profit while working with the firm. For more information, please visit: https://www.