Treating Ourselves As Professionals or Amateurs

In high school, I ran two marathons and one one-half marathon. I also ran the 2-mile in track, as well as cross-country every fall in the mountains of North Carolina. I played racquetball as a "B" player and my wife and I played competitive volleyball and table tennis. I refuse to play pickleball until the really old people quit playing it and it's cool again. We aren't there yet.

Looking back, I was a remarkably unremarkable athlete. Well, not an athlete so much as someone who enjoyed sports. The thing I realized recently is that I never paid much attention to how I took care of my body, though I knew that if I arrived at fall practice overweight, I'd be wishing I was dead when I trudged up what was unaffectionately but very accurately called "Killer Hill" in Asheville, NC.

Contrast that with what real athletes do to take care of themselves: nutrition, sleep, stretching, massages, mental therapy, and even all their little warmup routines. That's how they make a living, after all. And in case you weren't watching, there are now more NBA players making north of $30M/year than there are CEOs of S&P 500 companies doing the same. Wow.

So here we are as creative professionals, and I wonder why we aren't doing the same things to protect our livelihoods. If you were a coach and a very creative person wanted to hire you for a lot of money to help them protect their core asset, here's what you might suggest:

  • Diet. I mean, you know how you feel after you eat the wrong things or drink too much, right?
  • Distractions, and on that point, I mean at home and at work. I'm guessing that you'd never expect to see a super high output from the sort of things that you (and I) let into our days. I scan about 20 publications/newsletters every morning before I get to work, and recently I realized that I'm wasting my sharpest moments of the day on nonsense, frequently. Are we really better off consuming politics and the crisis of the day?
  • Mental Health. I've talked about my own relationship with that and it's likely that many of you reading this have faced similar things. How in the world do we expect to give clients or team members the attention they deserve when we are consumed, unhappy, depressed, needy, or anxious? You are self-consumed or you are empathetic; your mental capacity is finite, and these two are mutually exclusive.
  • Other Humans in Your Orbit. You're stuck with family, but you're not stuck with anyone else. You can't be selfish about it, but you can be strategic.

You may think of yourself as a researcher, designer, advertiser, developer, or comms person. But the red thread that connects all that expertise is giving people advice. Maybe you don't want to think of yourself as a consultant (I understand that), but you are in the advisory business, and it's very difficult to do that well unless you feel confident. And it's very difficult to feel confident when you don't feel well, are distracted, or whatever.

Anyway, I don't have anything else to say about this, but mechanics take care of their tools, athletes take care of their whole persons, pilots do frequent prechecks, and you're either an amateur or a professional, and that's the same choice you and I face every day.

I didn't realize until just recently that we sometimes take our professional creativity for granted, and it probably shouldn't be that way.

Taking care of yourself isn't just for your clients, but also for you. You both have a stake in that outcome. This is an entirely new concept to me, and I hope you find it helpful.

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