Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of The Blackstone Group. Blackstone’s portfolio of companies employs nearly one million people worldwide and includes Hilton Hotels, Busch Entertainment, Pinnacle Foods, and The Weather Channel.
Jon Huntsman, Founder and Chairman of Huntsman International, a global manufacturer with more than 11,000 employees and 2009 revenues of approximately $8 billion.
Leonard Riggio, Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc., the world’s largest bookseller.
The list goes on and on. For nearly 35 years, the Pritikin Longevity Center has been honored to count among its Alumni some of the most successful men and women in the world, including Nobel Prize winners, members of the U.S. Congress, authors, Academy-Award winners, philanthropists, and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. Business Week recently described Pritikin as “where the A-list goes to lose weight and get healthy.”
Funny thing is, success in the world does not always translate into success in healthy living. Many renowned individuals, just like the rest of humanity, struggle mightily with personal goals to get in shape, lose weight, and live a healthier life.
The solution may involve using the very same business strategies used to achieve professional success.
Investors Business Daily
The national financial newspaper Investors Business Daily crystallized these strategies into “10 Secrets of Success” after years of interviewing and analyzing world-class leaders and visionaries in all walks of life.
Below are Investors Business Daily’s 10 Secrets of Success, but with a lifestyle-change slant. They can help you achieve success in the most important goal of all – a long and healthy life.
1. How You Think Is Everything.
Always be positive. Think success, not failure. If, for example, you run into a day so hectic that your exercise plans are derailed, don’t focus on the failure of that day. Focus on how to make the next day better.
Take charge of your thoughts instead of feeling overwhelmed. Restrategize. For exercise, develop a shorter, more convenient workout that you can use on unusually busy days. Don’t ever think “All or nothing.” Twenty minutes of activity is far better than none.
Beware of a negative environment. Take the lead, for instance, when going out to dinner with friends. If someone suggests a pizzeria famous (or rather, infamous) for its double-cheese crusts, diplomatically suggest a restaurant that includes healthier options, like seafood, big salads, and grilled vegetables.
Bottom Line: In order to be healthy, you must believe that you can do what it takes, and that you have the resources available to you.
2. Decide Upon Your True Dreams And Goals.
Shut your door, turn off the phones, close down the email, and keep it that way for about 30 minutes. It may be the most important 30 minutes of your life. Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
List your exact health goals (weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, exercise level, etc). Print out several copies and tape them to several oft-frequented places, like your computer monitor, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, and full-length mirror.
Several times each day, review them. Read them aloud to yourself, particularly first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Make them, in effect, your own personal identity. Ultimately, they will become far more powerful than any urge you have during the day for a candy bar or cheeseburger. That’s because nothing tastes as good as success feels. Nothing.
3. Take Action.
Goals are nothing without action. Don’t be afraid to get started now. Determine the five most important action steps for reaching your goals. Then take one step at a time.
If, for example, Step # 1 is making sure you eat a bowl of hot cereal with fresh fruit every morning, get Step #1 in motion before tackling Step #2. Throw the calorie-dense dry cereals and energy bars currently sitting in your pantry into the trash, or take them to a local food bank.
Then stock up on bags of easy-to-microwave whole-grain hot cereal. When traveling, take a bag and a bowl with you. It’s much easier to stick to your weight-loss goals when you start each day with a breakfast that sticks to your ribs, keeping you fueled and satisfied till noon.
4. Never Stop Learning.
Read as much as you can about health. Re-read chapters of your Pritikin Guidebook. Attend health expos. Better yet, make time for a refresher retreat at Pritikin to learn the latest in healthy living and reinvigorate your motivation.
Famed film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that for years he had attended Pritikin on a regular basis, always interested and enthusiastic, but never as successful as he wanted to be when he returned home. But then, on his sixth or seventh visit, it “took.” Like never before, he embraced healthy living.
While at Pritikin, sharpen your skills. Go to cooking classes and other real-world-living workshops. Even if you never step foot in your kitchen at home, the chefs’ tips that you pick up in class will help you explain (and get) exactly what you want when dining out. In exercise class, take extra time with your exercise leaders to fine-tune your workout.
Back home, take a tour every month through the aisles in your grocery store to see if any new healthful and interesting products have appeared on the shelves.
At farmers’ markets, pick out new fruits and vegetables. Ask the vendors for tips on how to prepare them.
If your exercise program is in a rut, try out new classes, join another gym, or hire a personal trainer.
Seek out those who look and feel great, and find out their secrets for success. Pritikin cardiologist Dr. Maurice Laszlo, trim and athletic, is 83 but looks much more like 63. “Our guests tell me, ‘You’re my role model. I want to be like you,’” smiles Dr. Laszlo.
“I tell them, ‘You can! Just get on the treadmill 45 minutes a day the way that I do. Watch what you eat the way that I do. And here at Pritikin we’ll show you how. So go ahead and change!’”
Says a Chinese proverb: Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
5. Be Persistent And Work Hard.
Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up. There will be pitfalls, but just as you wouldn’t throw out your career because of a bad day, you don’t want to throw out healthy living when the going gets tough. Setbacks are part of the road to success.
For example, if a waiter forgets to leave the bleu cheese dressing off your first-course salad, as you requested, it’s no cause for languidly responding, “Oh well, I guess I’ll order the Fettucine Alfredo for my next course.” Simply do not accept the cheese-drenched salad. Insist on another one – and insist on balsamic vinegar, salsa, or another low-calorie dressing on the side.
And if a well-intentioned colleague celebrates your birthday by baking double-chocolate brownies and bringing them to the office, well, there’s a big difference between eating one, while smiling graciously to the crowd, and eating three and four with your eyes on any leftovers you can smuggle home.
Relapses and setbacks do not equal failure. They only mean you’re human. Get back in the saddle, and praise yourself for all your success so far.
As in business and other professional endeavors, setbacks are also a chance to ask, “What went wrong? How did the Oreo cookies get in the pantry?” They’re a chance for you to fix the problem (get the damn Oreos out of the pantry) and strengthen your commitment to your goals.
6. Learn To Analyze Details.
Get all the facts. Take time, for instance, to read labels when grocery shopping. Take your time when ordering at restaurants. Don’t let servers or friends rush you. Just two minutes of questions can do wonders for your arteries and your waistline.
Also, don’t believe everything you hear about health, especially if it comes from the media. In a recent analysis of health information on 122 local television news stations, researchers found that the average airtime for health stories was a mere 33 seconds. Moreover, “egregious errors were identified that could harm viewers who relied on the information,” reported lead investigator James M. Pribble, MD, and colleagues at the University of Michigan.
There are a lot of quacks out there, and a lot of studies funded by companies who stand to profit considerably if the data are skewed in their favor. Find out what the research is really saying. Login to your Pritikin membership at www.pritikin.com and ask our doctors, dietitians, and exercise experts. They’ve had decades of experience separating the hoaxes from the real research.
Finally, always look for scientific conclusions that repeatedly have been proven to be true.
7. Focus Your Time And Money.
As with your professional goals, try not to let other people or events distract you from your health goals. If you need a week at Pritikin, but the kids and grandkids want a week in Palm Springs, take the week with the family, but make every effort to carve out time later in the year for Pritikin. Your health is priority #1.
Old habits die hard. It takes time and money to learn new habits. Think about it this way: You invested in the education of your children, and maybe even your grandchildren. For your own midlife and beyond, it’s important to invest in your own education as well.
And what a learning experience it can be. “The education you receive at Pritikin is mind-boggling,” noted Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, PhD, Associate Dean of Yale University’s School of Management. “In just weeks, you understand more about nutrition and exercise than most doctors.”
The fact is, in our fast-food, remote-control culture, it’s only those who arm themselves with an education who have a fighting chance. We live in a world where living healthy is not the norm. No investment is more important – or yields better dividends – than an investment that teaches us how to prevent disease, live well, and love what we’re doing so much that fast food and other unhealthy foods no longer have their pull.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate. Be Different.
Following the herd is a sure way to not only mediocrity in professional life but also ill health in your private life. Because of typical U.S. eating and drinking habits, the average American has a more than 50% chance of dying of heart disease, two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese, childhood obesity and diabetes are nationwide epidemics, and the lifetime odds of developing high blood pressure are 90%.
Is this the path you want to follow? In a deranged society, it is the sensible person who often gets mocked as “deranged.” (It’s happened to all of us – the snickers, the whispers around the table, “Oh, there she goes again, ordering grilled veggies.”) That’s okay. You know you’re on the right track. You look it. And you can feel it. What else matters? Be different. Be healthy!
“People always joked that I was in ‘disgustingly’ good health,” says John Baker, 87 years old, who has been following the Pritikin Program since the early 1980s. “Well, ‘disgusting’ is a great thing to be. I’m 5’11 and 155 pounds. I take no medications. I simply have no serious problems. I give Pritikin a lot of the credit.”
9. Deal With And Communicate With People Differently.
No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others. Be willing to join and/or set up support systems to help both you and others. “A like-minded community of friends is always stronger than will power,” says Pritikin writer Eugenia Killoran, who organizes healthy food fests with family and friends.
Enlist the help of others, including exercise trainers, cooks, doctors, nutritionists, and fellow Pritikin Alumni, and enjoy the camaraderie that follows. For years, New York City Pritikin Alum and longevity expert Dr. Robert Butler has organized a weekend walking group in Central Park with Pritikin Alumni and friends.
“We have a delightful time,” smiles Dr. Butler, President of the International Longevity Center. “It’s a terrifically lively group of people – journalists, investment bankers, civil rights activists, and so on. With all the fascinating conversation, time flies while we’re walking!”
At Pritikin, psychotherapist Dr. Coral Arvon conducts individual sessions to boost guests’ long-term success on the homefront. They learn how to get support, develop better relationships, identify goals, and cope with setbacks. Everyone leaves with a “recipe” for success.
10. Be Honest And Dependable. Take Responsibility.
Otherwise, steps “1” through “9” numbers won’t work.
Your health is YOUR responsibility. Take the initiative. Don’t wait for some magic bullet or pill to come along. Remember, the big secret in weight loss and health is:
There is no secret. Just proper diet, lots of exercise, and a healthy, positive attitude.
But there is no better return on your investment.
As the poet Virgil wrote: “The greatest wealth is health.”