“Prince has returned to his home planet.” This lovely statement came out in the wake of the untimely death of musical genius Prince Rogers Nelson. The dark, dark 2016 of celebrity deaths as reported by the BBC perhaps leads us to think on the lives that particularly musicians lead on a day to day basis, and what is involved in promoting such ‘other worldly’ creative talents. Surprising to some may be the reports that Prince was healthy in his habits, tireless at work and an energetic creator who friends said avoided alcohol and drugs, and thinking back on the past few decades it could be said that rockstars don’t trash hotel rooms anymore.
They don’t. Think about it; in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, there was frequent destruction of hotel rooms, and wild parties and televisions thrown out of windows were part of the de rigueur of rock star success and excess.
But those days are gone. This very question was picked up by the Guardian newspaper in 2010 in which requests for a quiet place in the hotel, a comfortable bed, and late check-out were shown to be the new norm. So to help us answer the question, let’s look at the day-to-day routine of a well-known rock star, Mick Jagger:
“I train five or six days a week but I don’t go crazy. I alternate between gym work and dancing, then I do sprints, things like that. I’m training for stamina. (I get to) bed early the night before. I give myself two hours to get ready for a show, to tune up the voice and get myself in the right frame of mind mentally and physically.”
As you may expect, Jagger has a personal trainer and also frequently trains by running, swimming, kickboxing, and cycling. Yet he also spends a lot of time practicing ballet, yoga, and Pilates—activities that develop a key aspect of fitness: core strength, which is essential for athletes and businesspeople alike. He also places great focus on his diet and looks at consuming a large carbohydrate intake as well as lean protein for those high-energy and movement concerts.
How many miles do you think he moves in one concert? Quite a lot, actually: 12. So this changing rock star behaviour perhaps owes much to the fact that the rock stars are simply too tired! Twelve miles every other night, in between media duties and sustaining the highest standards of performance. It’s hard work being a rock star, and it’s getting harder. The multimillion dollar business that is a world tour no longer leaves space for those heady days of excess, and this raising of standards and demands is reflected in many spheres of society.
Professional sport, home to another type of modern-day rock star, offers an additional example. The Wall Street Journal included a simulation in January 2014 during the Sochi Winter Olympics that placed all previous gold medal winners in speed skating in the same race. As you would expect, the first gold medal winner in 1924 was last in this simulated race of champions, but even the difference in the past 10 to 20 years, not just from gold to silver, but likely gold and nowhere, was quite staggering.
This pattern is good news for society in general. We are evolving as a human race, and standards are continually increasing. We are pushing the boundaries not just in sport, but in business and science. Yet at what price? Those raising standards in business mean that demands are also placed on the business professional. It’s no doubt harder now to survive and thrive in the global competitive business landscape than it was 10 to 20 years ago, and that bar rises ever higher.
So, just like a rock star, how can you find that extra advantage, starting from your physical self, that ensures you attain and sustain a high level of professional performance?
Sporting performance of course requires a physical focus, and Jagger, in his 70s, perhaps needs to dedicate more time in this respect, yet the performance habits of another modern-day rock star shows the universality of the approach. Magnus Carlesen is the World Chess Champion and is 25 years old. Chess, from a distance, has nothing whatsoever to do with athletics and the physical self, yet Carlesen, in between modelling for clothing labels and his marathon chess matches, places a massive focus on his physical preparedness and fitness. In the 2013 world chess championships, he took his personal chef to the tournament. His older opponent had shed 6kg of weight in the 6 months prior to the championships.
And Carlesen is only following the example of the greatest chess player of them all, Gary Kasparov. Kasparov would prepare for his chess matches like a boxer, putting himself through a punishing regime of strength training for another type of endurance event. A personal record of 102 push-ups isn’t bad for a chess grandmaster, and he acknowledges that it played a role in his longevity, allowing him to sustain his grandmaster-level performance for more than 20 years.
So why does management development focus, almost solely, on the neck up? when the demands placed on you as a manager, as an executive, touch every facet of your life. On this planet at least.