Flex Your Success Muscles
These six workouts can turn you into the corporate alpha in no time

September 1, 2011

Think of each part of your career as a muscle group that needs to be exercised in order to reach peak performance. Follow my programme, and you’ll be the envy of every suit you know.

Presentations pose a very special kind of challenge. Not everybody is good at them. In fact, most people probably suck at them, especially at the beginning when they’re flabby and out of shape in this area. That’s why PowerPoint was invented. Using PowerPoint, everybody is equally boring, within a factor of plus or minus 20%. It’s the great equaliser. Your goal is to progress to the level where you don’t need PowerPoint to be boring. Seriously: the great ones sneeze at PowerPoint. They fly off the cuff, with nothing but bullet points to guide them.

Targeted exercise
There are always intensely tedious industry think-tank gatherings taking place somewhere. Have your PR department arrange a booking for you on a panel. Rinse and repeat. After you have mastered panels, you may move on to speeches. Warning: this is an incremental process. It takes years to develop the proper muscles in this arena. Those who rush it will fall into the sea in a flaming and public ball of wax.

Sadly, meetings are the heart of our business day. I know a senior guy who can sit through meetings from 7am to 7pm with only a 15-minute lunch break. He’s always behind closed doors, kicking ass and taking names.

Targeted exercise
Book as many meetings as you can but only three days a week. Go light on the in between days. Walk around. Talk to people. Eventually workup to attending meetings for which you are completely unprepared. Stay awake, look intelligent and sharp. Contribute at least one comment to the meeting without being discovered as having no idea what people are talking about. Repeat at least four times a day, three days a week. Buildup your daily meetings as your strength increases.

We hit a tipping point a few years ago with email. Once a real boon to business, email became a burden as millions of poor workers were forced to walk around like Jacob Marley in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, weighed down with heavy email chains. Really successful operators now know that a two-minute phone call is far superior to a stupid email chain that lasts all week and includes multiple “go boys” and “gotchas”. Conversely, bad phone usage leads to egregious time wasting and rampant idiocy, as conference call heaps onto conference call and nobody can get up to take a leak for hours. Mastery in this area is all-important, and for that you need the right occupational muscle groups in working order.

Targeted exercise
Execute 10 short, punchy phone exchanges before noon, four times a week. Rest. Then repeat between 4pm and 6pm. Practise the phrase, “Hey, I’ve gotta run,” as a means of disengaging from calls within the two-minute window. Caution: do not employ the “Hey, I’ve gotta run” strategy with senior officers. In these cases, the exercise is to let them talk as long as they want to, until they say, “Hey, I’ve gotta run.”

People who are great at business have the amazing ability to pull critical all-nighters when necessary. They are tireless. Their will to complete a task to perfection can, in a pinch, transcend the needs of their bodies. The great secret all power players share is that they can endure a few sleepless nights. You must gain the important insight that showing up one day being very, very tired is not the worst thing in the world. You’re just playing hurt.

Targeted exercise
Once a month, pick a night to stay up very late working on a critical project. We’re not talking about midnight or 1am either. Keep yourself awake until 3am or later. Before you collapse at that hour, set your alarm for 6.30am. When it rings, get up, take a shower and in spite of the fact that you want to die, go to work. Pursue a full schedule. Note that you have not died. At 3pm, take a 15-minute nap. Go home at a normal hour. Sleep well that night. You will eventually develop the ability to operate normally in inhuman conditions. This is a powerful muscle indeed.

Being a booze hound used to be a requirement in business. That’s all changed now. It’s perfectly acceptable to go out for drinks and order sparkling water – if you’re a recovering alcoholic, or a wuss. Still, drinking with pals, customers and enemies is one of the great pleasures of a man’s working life. Building strength in this area is a matter of starting small and working your way up to the heavy weights. Unfortunately, in my career I did things just the opposite. I reacted to the free whiskey served at corporate functions rather badly, pouring flagons of booze down my throat and disgracing myself many times. It took years for me to realise that the liquor was not going to run out, ever, and that I didn’t have to drink it all at once.

Targeted exercise
Have two drinks at every business-related function, even drinks after work. Repeat until your system can assimilate that amount of alcohol while remaining sentient. Move to three now and then, but don’t strain yourself. Injuries in this area can cripple you for a lifetime. On occasion you may do some powerlifting to see what you’re capable of, but only if spotted by good friends.

The musculature that supports your cojones is perhaps most important of all. We all have those muscles. Only some of us use them. You can be one of these people, if you are careful and don’t allow any short, sharp shocks to your gonads. In that area, as in so many others, it is better to give than to receive.

Extremely Targeted exercise
Find somebody who has pissed you off. Ascertain that they are of equal or lesser size than you. Kick some butt, with restraint. Don’t tear or pull anything. But make sure the idiot feels it. When you have mastered this exercise, you may move on to bigger morons. You will find your balls growing larger as you do so. This is not a bad thing.