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The Value of Wellness: A CEO’s Perspective and Practice

Sean Reardon, CEO

The pace of business seems to be ever-increasing like a childhood game of “crack the whip”, threatening to fling participants in the human chain out of play if they lose their footing.  A wellness-focused lifestyle that includes the following elements can be tremendously helpful in creating a firm foundation to combat a crash:

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Commitment to Fitness
  • Purpose-driven Career
  • Self-care, Rest and Mindfulness
  • Supportive Relationships and Community
  • Non-toxic Environment: Physically and Emotionally
  • Positivity, Gratitude and Joy
  • Continued Learning and Evolution

In fact, to help employees thrive rather than just survive, many wellness-conscious companies have instituted a variety of supportive techniques like “mindfulness” rooms, in-house gyms, fitness stipends, healthy food bars, and even “napping pods” to help employees balance their physical and emotional demands with that of the frenetic workplace.  But, even if you’re fortunate enough to work in a supportive environment like that, there’s still plenty you must do on your own to manage your wellness motivation and practice.

So I wondered, how do you prioritize and commit to those practices when you’re already spread too thin?  And, does wellness play an increased role as you work your way up the corporate ladder given the increased emotional and physical demands?  I thought I’d get the perspective of a well-respected CEO that would meet that description…in full transparency, I also happen to be happily married to him. 

Let me introduce Sean Reardon – in addition to CEO, his short-list of titles include Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Diamond Frequent Flyer, and 3x Board Member…and everyone associated with one of those titles demands a piece of him.  So, does a wellness practice fit in amongst all of that relentless expectation?  And, how?  Sean shared his thoughts in a recent interview with The Well-Intended.

Q: Do you personally practice wellness?  What is your motivation?

Yes, I practice wellness. I’ve more or less graduated into it through a series of better life decisions I’ve built upon with increasing fervor over the last 5 years. The origins of my practice coincide with a period in my life when I became a Father and a CEO in close proximity. I was motivated to be a better version of myself so that those I cared about the most – my family and my employees would benefit.  To be completely candid, I was overwhelmed with the pressures of fatherhood and being a boss and I knew that the path I was on was not sustainable if any type of success was to be found in my future.

Q: What kind of benefits have you experienced?

While I’ve touted my family and employees as my motivation, my story is not completely altruistic. I’m selfishly motivated to live a more fulfilling life. Sure, I’m a much better dad and boss, but I’m also a much happier person. I have a better disposition towards life in general. Do I get angry, yes. Do I get sad, yes. Do I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders at times, without question. But the ratio of happiness vs. unhappiness is increasingly tilted in my favor.

In terms of the specifics in my behavior that I’ve noticed: I’m much better at dealing with high degrees of pressure. I’m not “cured” by any means, but I’m finding more peace in moments beyond my control that would have historically sent me over the edge.

I’m also much more present in my interpersonal engagements. This is really important for me as I’m an extravert by nature and I get energy from engagements with others. When I’m distracted, that flow of energy is compromised.

The last thing worth noting: I’m in better physical shape at 43 than I was at 23…and I’ve always kept a modicum of exercise in my routine so this is saying something. I eat better, I sleep better and I work-out more dynamically. That’s been a pretty simple, but effective formula.

Q: Do you believe there is a critical tipping point as a corporate executive where wellness plays a critical role?

I don’t think I can speak for all industries and all professionals, but I can say with some certainty that I was personally at a tipping point and I think my situation is increasingly common for those in professional services like marketing and those with executive roles and/or ambitions. Why? The constant connectivity enabled by technology is reshaping working behaviors, social norms, volumes of information flow, etc. The derivative by-product is a cultural state that increasingly compromises many of the physiological needs we have as humans. Wellness helps counterbalance this trend and so as technology continues accelerate at a rate faster than we are able to physically evolve, I believe wellness will increasingly provide value to people, particularly high performers.

Q: What’s your perspective on wellness as a corporate culture?  Does it matter? How does it benefit your organization and how do you cultivate it?

I think it matters and will only matter more so to corporate environments. For all the reasons outlined above AND because employees are starting to seek this from their employers. Looking ahead, those organizations that are committed to providing wellness programs and curriculum for their employees will be advantaged in attracting the best employees. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who is doing it well right now. So there’s lots of upside ahead.

Q: How do you squeeze fitness into the schedule of a diamond frequent flyer? 

This is a really good question on the heels of my previous question’s diatribe. I think there’s a perception that a commitment to wellness equates to fewer working hours which is a common proxy for employee performance. To be clear, I’ve worked no less than 3,300 hours in any of the past 5 years. So how do I squeeze it in? I CHOOSE it when it’s hard and I get creative in finding new ways to “game” my calendar. What do I mean by CHOOSING it? First off, I stopped drinking 4 years ago and that created a lot of “found” time to work with that I didn’t have previously. I’ve repurposed that time primarily to exercise and reading and certainly to activities with Ashley. You’d be amazed how much more time you find in AM hours when you don’t go out late the night before. I choose it on Sundays where YOGA has become as much a part of my weekend as brunch once was. I choose it on weeknights when I ride Peloton vs. an extra hour of Netflix. My goal each of the last two years has been simple: more Peloton rides than Airplane rides.  Last year was a lost cause. Now, I’m seeing Pelotons increasingly in hotels, so I have high confidence I’ll hit my goal in 2019. Regardless, I choose it when I don’t want to…not every time, but more times than I don’t…if that makes sense.

Regarding gaming my calendar, I’m constantly looking for ways to do this. One method, I don’t login to WiFi on flights, so I don’t check emails or do work if I can help it. I flew 105 legs last year at an average of 2.5 hours per leg. That’s 250+ hours a year where I give my brain a rest from technology.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it nonetheless – having a spouse with the same POV on things is a huge advantage. Like anything, we get at it in different ways, but it certainly motivates me to be married to someone with the same lifestyle ideals.

Q: How do you stay motivated to eat right and exercise when you’re traveling, pressed for time and/or tired?

Diet is really hard, but it’s also really important. Maybe even more so than exercise. You are what you eat and if you’re on the road, you generally eat shitty. I’ve tried to curtail the extent to which this happens, I think eating right every meal on the road is a lost cause for me personally. So what do I do? I generally skip breakfast when on the road, I avoid sandwiches for lunch and I try not to eat out at a restaurant more than two nights in a row. These are all bendable rules because when you’re hungry, you’re hungry, but I think 80% of my weeks I’m true to form.  I also try not to eat late. If you’re eating after 9pm, you’re probably not eating anything good for you. Even worse, you’re playing against the odds with your sleep.

Q: What’s your go-to health food when you need an energy boost?

Almonds or Cashews.

Q: Is there a wellness practice that drives your greatest creative thinking or business performance?

A good workout/shower combo is my fast-fix for a stagnant brain.

Q: Do you have wellness rituals during particularly stressful times that you recommend?

I mentioned Yoga on Sundays…I’m pretty steady with diet (red meat = once a week, no packaged foods, no soda). The thing I haven’t touched on with the emphasis it deserves is sleep.  I need at least one good sleep a week. This doesn’t mean 12 hours in bed, it means one night a week where I get to bed before 11p and sleep until my body tells me to get up. No alarms, no diving out of bed to check my work emails – a good sleep with a “slow-roll” out of bed to ensure I’m rested (not just caught up on sleep.) I’ve found this works wonders and while these days typically fall on a weekend and I still generally wake up before 7:30a, the difference in waking up when your body tells you vs. hearing an alarm is huge for me.

Q: Finally, in the spirit of balance, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure that may not be particularly “well-intended”?

A 16 oz. glass bottle of Coca-Cola made with sugarcane – “the original” good stuff.

 

1 comment on “The Value of Wellness: A CEO’s Perspective and Practice

  1. Sounds like a good plan, except for getting only one night a week of good sleep. Doesn’t sound like enough to me!

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