Even in the coaching world, there’s a lot of baloney that’s out there and all the fads and all the headline chasing. Bradford Cooper resists that with evidence-based work. Bradford is the CEO of US Corporate Wellness and the Cofounder of The Catalyst Coaching Institute. He teaches on how we can take meaningful steps that can surely change our lives for the better through wellness coaching which is focused on evidence-based practices in health and wellness. Stay clear of the shiny object that’s not going to help your life at all. Through this episode, learn to appreciate the benefits of coaching and what effective professional coaching does.
Wellness Coaching with Bradford Cooper
We have Brad Cooper. Brad is the CEO of US Corporate Wellness and the Cofounder of The Catalyst Coaching Institute. We’ve been trying to get this done for some time, but you were presenting in Germany and working on your PhD. I appreciate you taking time.
It’s a joy to be here. Thank you very much.
Tell us about the business and who you serve?
There are two hats. At US Corporate Wellness, we serve employers. Employers that are looking to improve the lives of their employees in the health and wellness arena. A lot of people think of health and wellness as food and fitness, we go so far beyond that. We may be talking to them about stress or life balance or it could be food. It could be fitness. It could be sleep or any number of things. That hat worked in the trenches. We’re with the employer. We’re putting all those things together for them. The other hat we’ve been training wellness coaches. The wellness coaching industry has changed dramatically in the last few years.
There’s a National Board Certification for wellness coaches. You and I can’t be having a cup of coffee and say, “You want to be a wellness coach?” You say, “Yeah, Brad. That sounds pretty good,” and we walk out the door as wellness coaches. There’s now an extensive training process. You have to go through an accredited program. You have to have a number of practice sessions, etc. We’re one of the programs that if you decide you want to be a health and wellness coach, you can go through our program, become certified and pursue that National Board exam. On the one hand, we serve employers. On the other hand, we serve the people out there doing it. Sometimes there’s an overlap. We’re known in the industry as the coaching experts. The companies that want top level of coaching, they come to us and that’s because they heard of us through The Catalyst Coaching Institute and they didn’t even know about US Corporate Wellness.
For the business owner that maybe hasn’t gone down the road of approaching this as a strategy for the company, what’s the typical problem that business owner will recognize or into it in his company? Why do they typically reach out to you?
There are a lot of answers to that. First off, they tend to look at their medical claims and say, “Are you kidding me? We’re going up another 8% and another 12% or whatever this year. We have to do something about that.” That doesn’t happen like this. You’ve got to get a good plan in place. Oftentimes, that’s the first thing that makes them reach out or have one of their team members reach out and find us and talk to you the details. The reality is it’s so much deeper than that. You talked about culture. I interviewed a guy on our podcast about resilience.
What is the name of your podcast?
It’s the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching podcast. It’s focused on evidence-based practices in health and wellness. You and I were talking about all the baloney that’s out there, all the fads and all the headline chasing. We resist that as a company, but through the podcast, we want to try to say, “The Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching podcast is all about evidence-based. It’s not the stupid stuff. It’s not the ridiculous things that get your attention, shiny object, but frankly, it’s not going to help your life at all.” In any case, I completely lost where I was with that. I love getting off the rail so let’s keep doing that.
What we were talking about is the business owner and how they recognize the next level.
The medical claims or the sick time are oftentimes what brings them to us initially. It makes them think, “We should probably do something like that.” What makes them happiest long-term is they see the impact it’s having on people’s lives. My PhD is on performance psychology. It’s all about how do we improve our performance through a number of different ways. They’ll notice things like, “People are sleeping better.” Do know what happened once you sleep better? It doesn’t make you feel like you’re less sleepy. It improves your performance in a dramatic way. One of the studies I did for my PhD was on sleep and mental toughness. How does time in bed influence your rating of mental toughness? How does mental toughness affect everything else?
Coaching is never telling. Coaching is always drawing out.
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We found outstanding results. It’s something simple like that. If we only take everything off the board where we’re talking about all these different things, but we for a moment said, “Let’s address sleep,” if we only influenced that, the business owner would say, “We have better relationships. We have better energy. We have less sick time. We have better financial decisions.” It’s crazy. A simple example of you, if you didn’t sleep well last night, and I don’t mean chronic sleep deprivation. I don’t mean you’re going off the rails. This has been going on for a few months.
Your likelihood of exercising, even if you normally would, goes down somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% to 40%. That hunger pain you get at [3:00] in the afternoon, your likelihood of choosing junk food instead of something healthy at that [3:00], [3:30], whatever time people take goes up on the junk food side dramatically, the same 40%, 50% if you didn’t sleep well. It’s those kinds of things that the business owner will notice is, “I thought we were addressing medical claims. This has changed our culture. This has made people happier. This has improved their marriages. It’s across the board.”
You don’t have to have a membership and you don’t need to buy a set of weights. As you say that I’m struck by, I wonder how many business owners and people recognize that fact.
What’s missing frankly is people hear about coaching and they either think of their third-grade teacher who had them do push ups in PE or they think of the insurance companies’ coach and nothing against coaches that worked for insurance companies. They do a great job. It’s a different model. This is all about you. This is how can we make your life better? A funny example is we had a coaching certification out in New Jersey. We have mentor coaches come in and I was sitting in on one of the sessions where a new coach was coaching another coach and they’d go back and forth. They started off. This gentleman when the first coach said, “What would you like to talk about?” He said, “I’d like to talk about cats.” I was like, “Is he joking? What do you mean?”
Within about four minutes, it wasn’t all about cats. It was about his relationship with his wife, how he is a treasure to him and he wanted to be better. Here’s what he was going to do to improve. That’s what effective professional coaching does. The traditional or the old school coaching is, “Are you eating your fruits and veggies? Did you exercise? Yes. No. Okay, good.” That doesn’t do any good. That’s a waste of everybody’s time. Professional meaningful changes the equation because I start off saying I want to talk about cats and it turns out I want to improve my relationship with my wife because I love her. I want to make sure that she knows that. It’s those things that come out with coaching if it’s done well. That’s the exciting thing for me.
I think about the business owner. I like business owners. You are brought on board and you go through the entire population of employees with your coaching sessions. Are they one-on-one or one to many?
It’s one-on-one. It’s a personalized one-on-one setting. It’s telephonic. It’s done around their convenience. That keeps it from being too expensive too. It’s not cheap. This is not an X and O on a computer screen. This is a person. They’re scheduling time out for you who is highly credentialed. When you do it right, it doesn’t have to be that expensive either.
You’ve got that. I’m the employer. We’ve set up and all my employees have gone through one time through. Is it a one and done or is there follow-ons or how does that work?
It’s different models for different companies. Budget often is the driver for that. The most common model is quarterly. They have a pre-scheduled quarterly coaching session to keep the ball rolling. They reach out to them via email in between that. It can create a lot of emails back and forth if they got questions. We have companies that do a lot more than that. We have companies come in saying, “Brad, we love this concept. This makes so much sense, but we’ve already budgeted for next year. Is there any way we can get in at a smaller level? Those companies oftentimes will do two sessions a year and they’ll do one early in the year. If you’re coming out of New Year’s resolutions, you’ve got some ideas, maybe you’ve done some biometric screenings or something, and you have that conversation. You’re going follow up with that same coach, six months later.
That’s not optimal. It’s twice a year. We’re not changing the world twice a year. Compared to what most people have, most people don’t have that at all. They go through their life. They’re grinding it out. They’re trying to survive. Suddenly they have this conversation with the coach and they say, “I never thought about that.” The coach doesn’t take, “That’s a good idea,” and say, “I’m glad you’re going to work out three times a week.” They’ll say, “Monday, Wednesday and Friday. What are you currently doing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday?” “I have to drive my kid to school on Monday. I can’t do it on Monday.” They talked that all that stuff through. It goes from being this concept to being a reality.
When it becomes a reality, that’s when exciting things happen. That’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions. People have these great grandiose ideas while they’re on vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. They’ve got extra time. They’re sleeping in their loving time with their family, hopefully. Regardless, they’ve got this extra time, they forget that they’re working ten-hour days. They drive an hour each way. That’s twelve hours and they got to get their kids to soccer. The coach brings reality. They say, “Awesome, I love it.” That’s a goal. What does that look like? Not for Joe out here in the clouds, but for Bob in this next month with your current schedule.
It’s how to do it. You hear, “You should get in shape,” and you go, “Thank you for that. I should be taller.”
It’s not even a “you should” because one of the keys to coaching is the coach never tells the client what to do. I could tell you what to do. You could tell me what to do. We would both nod. We’d be friendly. We’d smile at each other. We wave and go, “Thank you very much. That’s great advice.” As soon as we leave the room, you go off doing what you are doing. I go off doing what I was doing. Coaching is never telling. Coaching is always drawing out, “Bob, what were you thinking you’d like to do?” “I’ve been wanting to work on this.” “What ways have you been thinking about doing that?” “I haven’t thought about it before.” It’s taking it from, “I know the right answer for your life.” I don’t. It doesn’t matter how many PhDs I have. I don’t know the right answer for your life, but you do. Oftentimes, you don’t have that conversation with somebody to draw that out and create that meaningful step that will frankly change your life for the better.
Do you think there’s a push back on coaching?
Yeah, initially because they don’t know what it is. Generically, if ever 1%, 5% of people are saying, “I don’t like this,” absolutely. We are not the perfect thing for everybody. I won’t pretend that but lion’s share 90%, 92% in our surveys of people who participate in the coaching say things like, “I had no idea what this was and now I won’t miss my coaching call for the world.” We were doing a live event with one of our clients. She was standing up front and sharing her story. She said, “Through everything that I had going on, all the stuff, there were two people that I knew were in my corner. One was my husband and one was my wellness coach.” That’s the relationship that you create.
You’ve been doing the performance athletics side of the house all your life. I can tell.
No, I’m a latecomer. I ran with it in college. Nobody knew I was there because I was so slow and I’d get hurt all the time. I enjoyed basketball, tennis but I started picking it up in my ’40s. I fell in love with endurance sports. Now I’ve done probably 60 triathlons, eleven IRONMAN’s, four times at the world championship in Hawaii. Jerry Schemmel and I did The Race Across America bike race. We won that a few years ago. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a nice combination with his business frankly because it allows me to have a different place to share this information than the typical.
Thinking about the concepts, practices and disciplines that you’ve learned doing endurance sports, how do you bring that into the business of coaching that you have? What difference did that make in your coaching efforts?
In my coaching efforts or more in a leadership role?
How about the leadership role?
I would say it’s similar. For example, when you think of training for a triathlon, you think of swim, bike, run. That’s a small part of it. If you’re not eating well, if you’re not sleeping, if you’re not recovering from those workouts, if you’re not fueling appropriately, it’s not going to matter. That type of concept as a CEO, as a business owner, Stephen Covey’s old sharpen the saw off. If you’re not sharpening the saw, you’re not going to be as effective as you could be. The data is clear. If you’re not doing those things, you will not be the potential person that you could be. It’s incredible. That’s where that comes in. As CEOs, as business owners, we have all these things that are on our plate that we’re supposed to be focused on. As a triathlete, you have these three things. I’m supposed to swim. I’m supposed to bike. I’m supposed to run. If you focus on those, you’ll do okay. If you realize all the complementary aspects to it, you could be awesome.
The part that always strikes me is professional athletes have at least one coach and many of them have multiple coaches. Yet in the civilian world, non-athletic world, it’s not common for an individual to have a coach. I think about trying to frame and figure out on your own, particularly if you’re not an avid reader, fairly difficult to take and get that done.
The belief drives the training, which drives the belief; it’s cyclical.
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Even if you are an avid reader, taking that to what it means for you is stuff to do. The value of that coaching is they help you process. If you look at the research on resilience, it’s all about the high challenge and high support. If you have a low challenge, high support, you don’t build resilience. If you have a high challenge, no support or low support, you don’t build resilience. The key is you want that high challenge. All of the reading your blog have, is a high challenge. Do you have the support? Do you have that coach that can help you figure out the sleep, the eat, the scheduling and how do I keep moving? How do I keep from gaining that 40 pounds? All those kinds of things. We think they’re subtle. They are immense. They’re important. You’ll be such a more effective CEO, business owner, dad, wife, husband, mom, if you’re taking off these other things.
Are you seeing recognition in the coaching space by business owners where there are more business owners bringing your coaching into the workplace?
What we’re seeing is they’ve historically said, “We have that to our insurance company,” and they do. It’s a different model but they’re finding that when you bring in accredited, so they’ve gone through the National Board Certification Training Process. It is confidential. It’s not part of the employer. It’s not part of the insurance company. It’s you and the coach, that’s it. There’s nobody else in this room. It’s meaningful. We’re not telling you to do something. We’re not jamming something down your throat. We’re not telling you about kale, running shoes and all this stuff. We’re taking it to you. That’s where the power is. Once they see that, they say, “It’s a good deal.”
I wonder and you see it when we do podcasts, we talk about it before, where you’re listening to your guest. I wonder when the coach is listening to their client, how many times the client has been listened to without some preconceived agenda?
You nailed it. When we talk to somebody, they’re waiting for space to fill as soon as you stop talking. A coach is all about reflecting back what you said, what does that mean, what that leads to and why do you want that to be different. You’re right.
We’ve gone off the rail on the script anyways, which seems to be more of a recent occurrence. What are the influences that have led you down this path or books that you’ve read that are influential for you?
One I’ve read, we interviewed David Epstein on the podcast. He wrote a book titled Range. I don’t know if you remember David Epstein. He was the science writer for Sports Illustrated. He went on to write the Sports Team. This new book is titled Range. It’s outstanding. He and Malcolm Gladwell are buddies, but it’s almost like he’s coming at it from the other angle. He’s saying instead of specializing, the more range you can have, the more value there he is. He said, “The specialists out of the gate will get ahead.” For example, the kid that learns how to dribble at age three is going to be ahead of their friends in kindergarten, but everybody learns to dribble.
The head start doesn’t matter when you’re a sophomore in high school and you’re trying to make into a college team. He talks those kinds of examples through. It resonated for me because I have many different things. Creating a triathlon training device invention and doing this PhD that seems people are like, “You’re doing what. Why? You’re 53 years old, why are you doing this thing?” Starting our coaching business, doing The US Corporate Wellness, all these different things and I enjoy those. I’ve always wondered should I put all that energy into one instead of doing all these things? It was probably an affirming book for me to say, “You’re not crazy, Brad. This is working out fine.”
I was talking to an NFL agent. They said one of the hallmarks of a successful NFL player is they didn’t play football. They played baseball. They played hockey. They played something else besides and they had multiple disciplines that they brought to the table. It also lengthens their time in the league because they had multiple discipline. For you looking back over time and there might’ve been a challenge, I’ve got ears for failure. When you look at the failures and you bring them forward to where it was a contributing or a positive event, how did you use past failure to get you where you are now?
I have many examples. Faith is a big thing for me and I’m convinced that you run down this path and you hit a wall and you’re like, “God, why are you doing this? What is going on here?” A few years later, you go, “I would almost be willing to say and clearly, there are some diseases that people go through that I’ve been fortunate not to have to battle. That would be the exception. Maybe even some of those that almost every great thing in your life comes on the heels of something where you go, “Why?” For me, the first example that comes to mind is we wouldn’t even be doing what we’re doing had I not been laid off from our company when they sold their division to another company. They laid off 27 vice presidents, I was one of them. I was stunned. I’m doing management training and leadership training around the country.
I’m overseeing three states, 43 clinics. It’s going well but there was overlap. There was overlap with 27 of us. I didn’t know what to do. I remember coming home and looking at my wife like we have a nice severance package, so we’re going to be okay for a little while but I don’t know what to do. I thought you’d come to work. You work your tail off. You’re successful. It takes care of itself. That was not the case. Twenty-eight days later, we launched US Corporate Wellness that led to The Catalyst Coaching Institute. It’s been the best several years of my life. No question. I don’t have to pause. I don’t have to think, “Was that better than the last?” No, this was amazing that never would have happened had that failure not occurred in 2007. That’s one of many examples.
The old cliché thing is you don’t grow in your comfort zone. You grow outside your comfort zone. All of us get pressurized periodically. That’s where a character is defined. It was in those pressure moments, are you going to fall down? Are you going to get up and do? When you go into the triathlon arena or whether you’re going to ride across the country, there’s no doubt in your mind what’s coming because you’ve done the bicycle. You’ve done the running. You’ve done swimming. You go, “I excel at this. I’m the less good at that.” How do you take and get your mind set up for the challenge that you know is coming?
I enjoy the competitive side of things. This would not work for everyone, but I tend to put a huge goal out there. For example, one of my goals after this PhD is to make the podium at Kona. Kona is the world championships. That means be one of the top three 55-year-olds in the world at the IRONMAN World Championship. Setting that massive goal drives the training to such an extent that I know I’m the most prepared person out there. I might get a flat tire. I might have a stomach issue. I might have a knee issue. It doesn’t matter because these things happen. They happen to everybody. That may happen, but I know that if I can pull off my training, I’ll win that race. A lot of that is maybe the training phase builds that confidence going in and maybe it’s the, “If I do this well, I can win this thing,” and knowing that and usually, it’s an unrealistic thing.
I’ve got a buddy of mine, I’m not going to say his name, but he is an awesome guy. He’s one of the best triathletes in the state. Everybody loves him. He’s incredibly talented. I’ve never beat him, but I still think I can. It’s not hope, it’s a driver. One race he beat me and this is a funny story. I had the fastest swim bike run, but he was so good in transitions that he beat me overall by a few seconds. We had another one that he beat me on the swim. I got him on the bike, which he usually does get me. I couldn’t quite get him on the run. That belief is still there. The belief drives the training, which drives the belief. It’s the cyclical type thing.
Do you employ triathlete coaches to help you out?
It’s on and off, most of it is me. My background is I’m a physical therapist, getting a PhD in Psychology. I study of everything about wellness obviously because of my role, but it does help. I’ve worked with three different coaches. They’ve all been outstanding. I can get the first 95%. I need that coach to give me that last 5%. If I’m going into a race saying, “I want to try to qualify for Kona.” As long as I stay healthy, that should happen. I can do that on my own, working on my own schedule. When it’s time to try to nail the coffin on that Kona podium spot, I’m going to need help for that.
Swinging back to the corporate wellness side, if you could take and put an ad or a banner on the front page of any business and paper talking about the key takeaways from doing a wellness program, what would they be?
If I were creating a headline, it would be something like, “Are you doing this one key thing or this one critical thing,” or something along those lines. When people think wellness, they think of all the extraneous stuff. They think of, “We need to do a health risk assessment. We need to do bio-metric screenings. We need to have the web portal set up. We need to have points for this and this.” Those are all good things. We do all those things and we have partners that do those things very well on top of that. When it comes down to it, wellness is personal. If we’re not doing meaningful, accredited, personalized, confidential coaching, we’re missing the boat. We’re missing it. That would be the key is there are all these things with wellness. You’re being told all these different things, but are you doing the one that will move the dial the most. Wellness is about behavior change. If it were about information, we could send people to Google websites.
As you focus in on the discussion face-to-face and that person you can see the switch when they go from, “I don’t know about this,” to comfort. What do you think that light switch is for those people?
You’re not taking comfort zone that I like talking to my coach?
Yes. What do you think the trigger point is for the client that causes them to shift?
It’s obviously different for each person. The biggest single one is a realization that they’re not going to be told what to do. None of us like to be told what to do. When we have an appointment with a wellness coach, we think they’re going to tell us to eat kale and start running. We don’t, at least a good coach doesn’t. When the person realizes, “This is about me and what I want to improve in my life.” Who doesn’t want a better life? I don’t know anyone that doesn’t want their tomorrow to be a little better than now. That’s wellness coaching is. When that switch flips over and they say, “I’m not going to get lectured for twenty minutes or an hour or 30 minutes or whatever, I’m going to get a better life by talking about me. How cool is that?”
Wellness is about behavior change.
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For the corporate clients that bring you on board and let’s say I’m that corporate client and I brought you onboard a couple of years ago. You said, “We liked the outcome and we’ve maintained a program.” What do you see as far as the change in the company when you get one, two or three years past your first sessions?
You’ll tend to see the medical claims level out because you’re taking care of a lot of those low-hanging fruit type aspects. You’re starting to change life patterns within three years. It’s not, “We’re trying to lose five pounds. That’s cool, but it doesn’t make a difference.” You’re starting to see some real-life changes. You do see that. It’s also some of the cultural things we talked about. You tend to see less turnover. You tend to see less sick time. You tend to see greater engagement at work, again, simple sleep. If we’re improving the sleep of people, that enhances everything. People complain about stress all the time. Stress is a big topic of conversation right now. One of the reasons is there’s stress in all of our lives but in a lot of ways, we can’t handle as much as we used to because we’re carrying around 50 extra pounds.
Everything is more tiring. We’re not sleeping enough. We’re on our phones constantly. We’re not eating well. We’re drinking too much. We’re having caffeine all hours of the day. I can’t handle stress if that’s my life. If we can come in and say, “No more coffee, spinach at lunch every day,” we’re not going to do that. If the employees start looking for ways to improve their lives and realize, “If I start sleeping better, that’s going to improve how much I make, my relationship at home, my discipline with exercise, whatever is important to them, that’s pretty powerful.” They start sleeping better and it influences everything else.
For the person who goes, “How do I sleep better?” What do you advise to sleep better?
We don’t start with advising. It’s coming back to the coaching again. What do you mean by not sleeping well? What does that look like, Bob? If you want to play this out, I’m totally happy to do that too.
For a lot of times, I was on an episode and the guy said, “You should have good financials.” I go like, “What does that mean? What does that look like? If I had them, what do I do with them?
We would start off talking about, “What is your sleep now?” A lot of times that conversation makes a difference. I was talking to a gentleman but he started telling me about his sleep. He said, “No, I sleep pretty good.” I said, “Play with me here. What does it look like?” He said, “I go to bed. I get about eight hours. I go up to bed at about [11:00]. I’m pretty much in bed by [11:30]. I’m up by [6:00] probably most of the time.” I started laughing. I said, “I’m not sure how you get eight hours in there, but it’s pretty impressive. I want to do that.” He laughed. He’s like, “Yeah, that’s true.” Within a month, he was starting to go up at [10:30] now instead of going up at [11:00]. He was capturing an extra half hour and he noticed the difference. He said, “I can feel the difference.”
It’s those kinds of conversations that sometimes we think we’re fine. We’d like to use that word in this country, “I’m fine. I know you’re fine, but are you happy with fine?” If finding our family is a bad word, it’s a four-letter word. If our kids say “I’m fine,” I’ll literally when they were growing up, “How are you doing, Josh? I’m fine. No. Did you break your leg at school?” Is fine good enough? Is fine the life you want to live or is great the life you want to live? That’s the decision. If you’re fine with fine, my PhD research is on mental toughness. If you’re fine with fine, you don’t need me. You can be fine on your own. You can meander your way through, grind it out, barely get through the day, make the minimum income you can, carry all this extra weight around, don’t sleep well, and have a very average relationship with your wife and kids. If that’s fine with you, go for it. Knock yourself out. If you want better, there are a lot of ways to get better.
As you were talking about your PhD on mental toughness, I think about mental toughness. For many of the people, they are going to be in the corporate arena way longer than any athlete, 30, 40, 50 years. I think about the ability to come in and coach the senior corporate athletes, for lack of a better term. What are you seeing in that crowd?
It’s the same thing at a different age. They’re wanting the best life they can have. They’re not sure how to get there. If anything, they and I should say, “Me too, I’m entering that mid-50s now. I’m more stuck in my habits.” It can be more difficult to move past.” That’s one of the values of the research I’ve had an opportunity to do because a lot of times people see mental toughness as something you use on the football field, “Come on, I know your legs were broken but get back out there. We need you on the field.” That’s what we think of with mental toughness. That’s not mental toughness. Mental toughness is that ability to achieve above your trend line. If you think Google has got an algorithm on you, they’ve got an all of us.
Do you want to perform at that algorithm or what if you could perform a little bit above it? When I do speaking keynotes and stuff, two of the examples I use is the icing on the cake. Mental toughness is the icing on the cake. It’s not the cake. If you don’t make the cake, I can’t help you. If you have the cake, we can make this a cool design with some great icing or a sentence. You don’t need to put an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. You can put a period there. That’s totally fine. If you like living your life with periods, live your life with periods. You don’t need to use mental toughness. If you’d like to put an exclamation mark every once in a while, we got one for you. That’s where that comes in. With the senior executive leadership, they hear that and they say, “I would like a little bit more. I do have this.” You don’t use mental toughness 24/7. You use it strategically. You say, “I want to run this marathon. I want to be better speaking in front of a crowd,” or whatever it is. You use it strategically in those situations and this allows them to have the tools to do that basically.
For all of that, for me, people said, “What’s your biggest fear?” I said, “I failed to live up to my potential.” When you achieve this goal, what’s next? Whatever the next one is. It’s what I’m interested it. It makes one show up daily, at least, it makes me show up daily. For you, looking back, when you allocate your day and you’ve got the PhD. You’ve finished your PhD dissertation, did you have your defense?
I’m working on it now. We should be done by the end of the year.
You got that going on. You’ve got your businesses going on? What’s the allocation of your time or a habit that you use to manage all of that?
I am hyper-focused. Our daughter is a fourth-grade teacher. We joke about that’s her superpower. She’s a teacher and it’s amazing. Mine would be hyper. Right now, I’m in the tailend of writing up the dissertation. I am hyper-focused on that. When I get up in the morning, if it’s [4:30] or [5:00] in the morning, once that workout’s done, I am all in. I go until [6:00] at night and then I cut it off wherever I am and we move forward. That helps me. I’m sure they ask a lot of your audience the same question because they’re all high achievers. People are constantly like, “How is it possible that you can train for an IRONMAN, run a business, hopefully be a good dad, good husband, all these other things at the same time, those don’t fit? Some of it is time management, but a lot of it is you know what you want to achieve. You dial it up and get after it.
I think about that and in this business that I’m in past the podcast space, it’s extremely important to be focused on what you’re doing and tune out the noise. We all have rituals, at least I do. I’m assuming many do. When you’re in the midst of focus, something will happen. You go, “I’m not as focused as I want to be.” What do you do to reset and get back into focus?
It depends on what it is. It depends on what I’m hyper-focused on. I may need to pull that distraction. I may need to step out. I’ve also got little things that I’ll do throughout the day. For example, somewhere around [2:30] every day or [3:00], I have the same healthy snack. It’s one square of 90% dark chocolate and a handful of almonds. That will give me a break. I’m needing to get a little fuel anyway, but I space it into that because I know that’s generally a break between when I grabbed a little salad for lunch and when I’m going to cut it off at [6:00]-ish for the evening. Things like that are probably the biggest thing.
I keep coming back to sleep. I feel like this is a sleep podcast instead of a business podcast. The sleep aspects, if I’m sleeping well and I don’t always sleep well, it’s a big issue for me at times. That allows that hyper-focus to tune out the noise even more than I would otherwise. When I’ve sharpened the saw and others when I’m able to get my run in when I’m able to get to sleep and when I’m eating well, focus is even more. When I’m not doing those things, I’m highly distractible. I’m all over the place. If I’m getting distracted, it’s a sign that something else is going on wrong and I need to deal with that.
I found some headphones that I like to put on and it tunes out the planet. I’ll put some noise on in the background low and it keeps the back end of my mind occupied. I find that as a reasonable tool to assist, but it’s a good tool. Past few years, with the growth in initiatives in your company and putting in the institute, what are the additional beliefs or protocols that you’ve put in place that’s allowed those businesses to flourish?
We’ve tuned in at a higher level the value of that coaching. We’ve always done coaching, but in the last few years, we’ve looked at that and said, “We have the web portals. We have group challenges. We have the mobile apps, we’ve got the health risk assessment, all this stuff. What’s moving the dial? What’s helping people create that behavior change they want is coaching. As we put our focus more and more on that, as the industry as a whole has awoken to this importance of credentialed coaches and not nice people on the phone with the script, it’s merged and supported each other very well.
It’s funny. We got credentialed people that know what they’re doing as opposed to the other coaches that were coaching that didn’t know what they’re doing and go, “One would hope the outcome would be better.”
They’re nice people but don’t have the same training. There’s nothing against them, it’s just they don’t have the same training. I don’t know if you’re on Twitter, but it is very much the same. You have these knuckleheads love to yell on Twitter feeds. They love to spout their stuff. You have the people that research the information. Hopefully, you’re listening to the right ones because it’s very easy to get drawn into the great stories, the cool pictures of the fakes and forget that these quieter people have done the research and have studied this for twenty years. They know what they’re talking about. That’s a similar even broader differential between the people that are nice people and can carry a conversation. They have a good script and the person is a trained coach.
Mental toughness is that ability to achieve above your trend line.
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Brad, how do people find you on social media if they want to engage and bring you on board?
Email is the easiest, BCooper@USCorporateWellness.com. If you’re on Twitter, it’s @Catalyst2Thrive. On that site, I post a lot of human performance, studies, references, tips, retweet things that other people I’m following that know what they’re talking about even more than I do about nutrition or sleep or exercise or healthy eating or any of those kinds of things.
Invariably I forget to ask, I thought this time I would make an effort and not forget, what are the misconceptions about your role in the leadership position with your companies? What do you think the biggest misconception might be?
I don’t know if there are any conceptions. Do you need conceptions before you have misconceptions? I don’t know if anybody knows I exist. It’s like, “What does he do?” Only half-jokingly, I think a misconception, maybe not about me but about people in this role as a whole is that we know completely what we’re doing. Every day is a learning process. Every day I make mistakes and every day I try to fix those and reflect on them and I say, “What can be different? I’m looking at my running journals and I saw that sitting there. It’s the same thing with running. I went out and did a track workout yesterday, twelve 200s, twelve 400s. It was terrible. I was slow. I didn’t have it. I couldn’t hit the splits I was wanting to hit.”
I came back and I reflected and I thought through, “Why was that? Was it fatigue? Was it eating? Was it a glass of wine the night before? What was it?” If we do the same thing with our work lives, it’s incredibly valuable. If we take that moment and it can be a moment. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It doesn’t it be a half hour. Reflect on, “I screwed that meeting up” and not walk away saying, “I screwed the meeting up,” but what could I have done differently? Should I have started off differently? Should I have interacted with people a bit more before, whatever it might be? A reflection is a powerful tool. We missed that opportunity in the rush-rush, especially in the roles that we play.
There’s a habit on pre-mortem and post-mortem. The military has that down. They will have after-action reports and they’ll have evaluations and training and what we did well and what we didn’t do well. You go, “What didn’t you do well? This is what are we going to do now to address your shortfall?” I think about in this particular business, and probably yours too, you get to know every day where you go, well that didn’t work out quite as well as I’d like. What can I do better or different? If I’m going to pay the price of tuition, I might as well get something out of it. Influences in people that perhaps a quote is meaningful for you or quotes meaningful for you.
It’s easy to remember. Are you familiar with Seth Godin, a great blog for your audience that is not leaving that says blog on a daily basis? It’s pretty powerful. He’s got one and I’ll simplify it to pick yourself. The concept of pick yourself, he has a longer post about this and even almost a book on it of everybody’s waiting to get picked. They’re sending in their resume. If they’re a writer, they’re sending their book to Oprah to get on Oprah’s book list. If they’re an athlete, they want to get on this team. Seth is big on pick yourself, jump in, get it going and ship something that matters that’s meaningful and you pick yourself. That’s a powerful reminder to all of us, encouraging the audience that probably reads this because they’ve already picked themselves. They’re running their business, they’re the CEO. It’s been a good reminder to me of I’ve screwed up a lot. I’ve tried to start many businesses. We’ve only had two-and-a-half that had been successful. I’m going to keep picking myself.
For the business owner, I don’t know any business owners who didn’t have a failure in a business somewhere. You look at that and you go, “How many business coaches that know what they’re doing out there to teach you along the way? If you weren’t fortunate to have a mentor, you’ve got to figure it out as you go. In many cases, you get in your own way. Brad, we probably touched on this more, but between when you’re in an endurance effort or your endurance in your business, which is truly a marathon, multi-year deal, when you have less than an optimum outcome, what type of self-talk or self-coaching goes on between your ears when you’re reminding yourself, “I do have five more miles to go, I have this business challenge,” what do you do mentally?
I’ll ponder that with you. The first thing that comes to mind, it might be of even more interest. My fourth VAC study was on self-talk and its influence on mental toughness. It’s not published yet. We’ve submitted to the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology. We hope to hear back soon. If they don’t take it, we’ll submit it somewhere else. It should be published in the next few months. The data from that was fascinating. What we did is we took three athletes, three runners, an IRONMAN triathlete, an All-American triathlete and a high school track coach, all masters. These are all 35-plus. These are not high school kids, they’re not pros. These people are living real lives, real stressors and the whole deal. They ran multiple 800s, so 800 is two laps of the track for the people that aren’t runners out there.
They’d meet me. They’d run as fast as they could and they’d go home. Two days later, they’d come back, they’d run as fast as they could. Days later to come back and we did that for four to six times before we changed anything. We set the baseline. We got the learning curve out of the way. It wasn’t because “Bob, you learn how to run an 800.” We got that out of the way. On the fifth, sixth or seventh session, we gave him a personalized self-talk strategy based on some of the conversations we’ve had, things they brought up to me, etc. They saw between a 6% and 12% improvement in their time. Now to put that in context, caffeine, the most utilized drug on the planet has an impact of somewhere between 1.9% and 2.6% in your performance.
Now granted, these are not 800 meters specialists. If you took a high school kid that specialized in 800 and did the same thing, I believe he would still see improvement. It’s not 6%, not 12% but still how cool is that? As a reminder that whether you’re an 800-meter runner or a business owner, self-talk is powerful. We saw it impact not only their times but also their mental toughness assessment scores. With that in the backdrop, what do I use? I use almost like the study. This was personalized. The one that one person used was different than the next person. I use different ones for myself. I even think they can wear out. If I’ve got one that’s helpful to me, I’ll use that for a while when I’m in need of it and I’ll need a different one. You needed to pick different ones to go through that. It changes every day. It changes every month.
What would be an example?
The simplest one is you got this. It’s interesting. A study came out looking at the difference between, “I’ve got this,” and “You’ve got this,” sounds subtle. It’s not subtle. The difference is powerful. Using the self-talk, you’ve got this, even though I’m saying it to myself is better. It’s more effective than me saying, “I’ve got this.” There’s something about that support system. It’s feeling like it’s somebody else coming in and saying, “Bob, you got this. Come on, you could do this.” That’s a simple one that I use all the time.
That would be fascinating if you’re going into a business presentation or a board meeting or making a pitch to a big customer. You take a moment before you go in and go, “I’ve done all my homework. Just like you’re talking about. I’ve done all my training, I had the opportunity to win.” I wonder how many people think about that as a discipline. Brad, this is fascinating. I can’t wait for your research to come out. Hopefully, what would be fun to do is once you’re done and you’re now Dr. Brad, when you get all completely done, we’ll have to circle back around and talk about some of the research. I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your schedule. This has been a lot of fun.
Thank you, Bob. Thanks very much.
I appreciate it and best of luck with getting your defense done on your PhD.
We’re getting close. It’s a long journey. Thanks so much.
Brad has been a lifelong student of, and catalyst for, human performance optimization at all levels…
• In his 20’s, he earned a Masters degree in Physical Therapy and treated patients across the spectrum of orthopedic and neurological diagnoses
• In his 30’s, he earned an MBA, wrote 3 books, moved into a VP of Ops role and worked to expand upon his clinical & leadership knowledge/understanding while continuing to treat patients
• In his 40’s, he became the CEO of US Corporate Wellness, the Co-founder of the Catalyst Coaching Institute, wrote a 4th book and was generously identified by several publications as the World’s Fittest CEO
• Now in his 50’s, he continues his CEO role, while simultaneously launching into an international PhD program. His research is focused on mental toughness and how it can be applied in athletic, professional and (especially) population health management outcomes
Along the way, he’s fallen deeper in love with his bride of 25 years, treasured being Dad to 3 incredible kids, secured 2 US Patents, completed 11 Ironmans (4 times at Kona), won the Race Across America and spoken professionally in all 50 states to a wide range of organizations.
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