When my kid brother and I were growing up, and our elder siblings would try to correct us, we would say stuff like, “You’re not the boss of us.”  This sentiment is at the heart of why most entrepreneurs become, well, entrepreneurs. It’s in our DNA that we instinctively do not like when others “boss” us around.  There is a reason for that. The human machine is built to be the boss. Whether you are in the start-up or one-member -band stage or you have scaled the operation to hundreds of employees, it takes deliberate and consistent action to an effective boss. And it all starts with being the boss of yourself, which I call mental toughness.

As of right now, consider yourself to have been hired for the most powerful prestigious position in the history of all humanity. You are now the CEO of You, Inc. Your job as the CEO of You, Inc. is to get your Board of Directors to act in concert for your betterment instead of your detriment. Allow me to introduce you to your Board of Directors. You know them as your Body, Mind, and Emotions. 

When you have a board meeting, which director (body, mind or emotions) would you say usually wins the vote? Have you ever made an emotional decision? How’d that work out? I was speaking at a large conference in Atlanta and asked the crowd this question. I heard a voice cry out from the back-left side of the room, “DIVORCE!”  The crowd laughed, more in relief from the tension the question created than from hilarity. Why? Almost without fail, in most of the human population, the emotions have on occasion hijacked our boardrooms, and the results have taken us someplace we didn’t enjoy. 

If emotion running the boardroom wasn’t bad enough, the body runs a quick second. The body tends to jump in and take over at any given time. When I enlisted in the Marine Corps, back in 1985, I was 50 pounds overweight. I loved eating, and I hated running. In fact, the only thing on planet earth I hated more than running, was more running. What do you do in Marine Corps boot camp? Exactly! Running and lots of it.  The first morning we went outside for physical training, we lined up in formation. The drill instructor gave us the command to face to the right, forward march, and then the dreaded command, “DOUBLE-TIME MARCH!” We took off running. Three steps later my body tried to take over the boardroom. “STOP!!” It screamed. “We’re DYING!” It screamed. Was I dying? No. My body was attempting to take over the boardroom.  There are three votes in the boardroom, and the body usually sides with the emotions, only doing those things we “feel” like doing or complaining the entire time we are forced into doing something we don’t “feel” like doing.  (Like going to meet a prospective client on a cold, damp, rainy Monday morning, and you know the traffic is already fouled up.)

Who should be running the boardroom, emotions, body or mind? I believe to be an effective boss, a mentally tough boss; the mind should be running the boardroom. Unfortunately, in most us, the mind wields the least amount of power backing its vote. Remember, there are three directors, each possessing one vote. To gain a majority vote and carry the day, two directors must vote together. WARNING: The mind and emotions are diametrically opposed and will never vote together. It’s like the State Department and the Defense Department; they have completely opposite missions. One diplomatic and the other force.  The only chance we have of the mind running the boardroom is to get the body to vote with the mind.

This is great news because the body is the weakest part of our being and the easiest to dominate.  We have all heard the saying, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Growing up, I would hear relatives at holiday gatherings use this saying as a humorous way to get away with eating a second piece of cheesecake. “Well, I certainly don’t need a second piece…the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” as a forkful of yummy, yet unhealthy, goodness passed through their lips. That is NOT what that saying means. It means that our bodies are the weak spot and the easiest to control.  Unfortunately for most of us, we stopped dominating our bodies after we stopped wearing diapers.  We eat whatever we want, exercise (or not) whenever we feel like it. We go to bed at whatever time the show we are binge-watching is finally at a good stopping point, or the game finally ends. We get out of bed, begrudgingly to an alarm clock, only if we must. Otherwise, we will get up whenever we feel like it. And on and on. After all, isn’t that the point of not having someone “boss” us around and running our own business?  (By the way.  our employees will learn, imitate, and adopt these practices based on what behavior we leaders model for them consistently. The results are what is called “company culture.”) 

Dominating your body, i.e., self-discipline in sleep, nutrition, and fitness is the baseline entry point for becoming a candidate for becoming an effective and mentally tough boss. Without this, you haven’t even entered the arena. Therefore, when we think of mental toughness, most of us think of athletes, spec-ops soldiers, and first responders. They have each, at least nominally, dominated their bodies even to enter their respective fields. Once you consistently dominate your body, you have made the first cut in becoming effective and mentally tough. Every executive, business owner, and leader I privately coach must send me daily a handwritten log documenting their sleep cycle, nutrition intake, and fitness activity. Most entrepreneurs won’t do this on their own. The reason? It’s the same reason we struck out on our own because we like not having a boss. However, many of us confuse not having a boss with not being accountable. If you do unswervingly hold yourself accountable, then congratulations are in order! You just surpassed the clear majority of those alive on the planet today. If you struggle with just keeping up with your sleep, nutrition, and finding time for fitness, why do you believe the mind will ever run the boardroom? Dominate your sleep cycle. Dominate food choices and fitness routines. The sooner consistently executed, the sooner the real work of the mind winning steady control of the boardroom, and the skillful deployment your emotions taking you to the next level can begin.