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How to Take Care of Yourself as You're Growing Your Business

Transcript 

Kathy (host):  

Welcome back to Help! My Business is Growing, a podcast where we explore how to grow and build a business that is healthy and sustainable. I'm your host, Kathy Svetina. This episode, Episode 12, is the last one of the trilogy on productivity. Episodes 10 to 12 are all about productivity, but looking at it from different angles and from a different perspective. 

 

Kathy (host):

In Episode 10, we set the ground of how being productive and working are actually two different things. My guest Dawn O' Connor also gives us specific tools that you can implement in your work that will actually make you productive and not just busy. And in Episode 11, the last one, we dive more into what busy really means and how it cripples your business. My guest, Julie Hyde talked about how to avoid that and how to cultivate a culture in your business that focuses on not just getting the stuff done but getting the right stuff done, and how to get away from this reactive work that oftentimes feels very addictive as well. Episode 12, this one is the last one of the trilogy, you will dive into the topic of how to do more by actually doing less. And trust me, I know this is really, really hard to do and it's very easy to say, but so hard to do in a growing business when everything seems to be happening all at the same time. 

Kathy (host):

And that's why we're talking to John J. Fenton, who is an expert in this topic. He's teaching his clients on how to do just that. He uses teachings from Tai Chi, mindfulness, and breathwork. I have done Tai Chi myself in the past, and I can vouch for it that it actually does work. It really does work. Before we go into the interview, and how to actually do all of this, let me tell you a little bit about John. 

 

Kathy (host):

John J. Fenton is an executive coach who works with CEOs who love growing their business and leading their teams. But the hate all the stress that that brings. He's the founder and CEO of John J. Fenton Executive Coaching. He used to be a managing partner of the fifth largest accounting firm worldwide. And he has worked closely with CEOs and executives for 40+ years. He holds certifications as Jack Canfield’s success principles mentor, and he's a brain management consultant and is a black belt in the martial arts of Tai Chi. He has published in Forbes, and is the author of a best-selling book "Five Minute Mastery: The Surprising Secrets From Transforming Your Stress to Success and Mastering What's Important". Join us.

 

Kathy (host):  

Welcome to the show, John.

 

John (guest):  

Hey, great to be here with you, Kathy. Thanks so much.

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, I'm so glad you're here. Because we're gonna be talking about mindfulness and leadership. This is a topic that is really near and dear to my heart and something that I'm trying to implement, in my business in my leadership as well. Because you know, especially when you're running a company that's growing, it feels like there's just not enough time in the day to do everything. There's always another thing, another fire to put out. But I like your view that you see this as for us to do more, we actually have to do less. And I really want to unpack that. What does that mean? And how does this work in practice?

 

John (guest):  

Yeah, it's really counterintuitive, right?

 

Kathy (host):

Yep.

 

John (guest):

I mean, we're all successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, and we're trying to grow our business and so we're very driven, most of us are very driven on achieving success, and probably very goal-oriented, right? Something I had to learn for myself. I came from an athletic background, and then in the corporate world, as a managing partner with one of the top five CPA firms and accounting consulting firms in the world and very driven on getting to goals and deadlines, and all these things we had to take care of and growing our business exponentially, actually grew our business in about double our size in less than five years. And obviously, there's a lot of stress that comes with it, right? So really, it's the concept is around, like you said, doing less is more and really achieving more and doing more. 

 

John (guest):

The Navy Seals have a motto and the motto is "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." 

 

Kathy (host):

I love that. 

John (guest):

Yeah, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. I was speaking with a client this morning. And he said, "Yes, I'll be working on something. And I'll dive right in, and I'll get it done. And then, three days later, I realized I made some mistakes because I tried to do things too fast and too quickly. And kind of the ready fire aim kind of concept, right?" I'm all about taking action, more about taking action. But we also need to know when to slow things down, when to slow it down, and to really look inwardly and so by using some techniques that I've learned, and I'm a black belt and Tai Chi, Master in Meditation. I've studied for over cash over 15 years now in those methods and it was really a learning process for me as a managing partner, to learn how to slow things down, I had to look inwardly. And really to tap into my inner strength, right, and not be so concerned with trying to meet the next deadline. It was going to get done, it was going to get done. And so by slowing it down internally for me, and some great techniques, hopefully, we love to share a technique towards the end of our show today about that. But the main thing is slowing things down so you can be more clear and have great clarity, extreme clarity. I like to call it. 

 

John (guest):

The Navy SEALs, they're a very elite group, right. They're really known for their teamwork, and their own life and death missions, right? And so they had this concept that they know that to slow things down to be smooth, in the long run, is going to save lives and have a more effective outcome and their better outcome and their missions. Thankfully, we're in business, or there's no lives at stake, I don't think unless you're in the medical field, right. I used to say, "We're not doing brain surgery here, right?" It's slowing things down so you have greater clarity, greater clarity, so that you through that clarity, have more confidence. You have more energy to do the work you want to do. And I was just reading an article this morning from Gallup about burnout. Burnout is a big thing, it's still a big thing. And so having the ability to slow things down, enables you to create the success you want in your business and personally in your personal growth and to achieve all the things you want to achieve in the long run, it will be faster.

 

Kathy (host):  

What have you seen with people that you work with, and even with yourself, when is that pivotal moment, when you have to say, "Okay, I am spinning out of control here, I have to slow down." I think as you get more in tune with yourself and with your body and how your mind reacts, you're able to catch those moments faster, correct?

 

John (guest):  

Absolutely. You said something very important, Kathy, and that is, you have to listen to your body. Many of us, right, we're very much in our head thinking all the time constantly thinking. They're kind of spinning, is one of my clients used to say, spinning the plates, like multiple plates spinning at the same time, and she had to keep spinning those plates, right, to keep the business going. And so you want to be able to tap into your inner strength and calm in any situation. You kind of get into situations where it feels like it's spinning. Like she even told me one time she said she just felt everything was upside down, and she was really frustrated. She was a very driven and very successful business. And I said, "Well, let's step back for a moment. Let's step back, I want you to pause right now and to close your eyes, and just focus on breathing and feel your breathing, actually feel it in your body that is so hard for many people to do." 

 

John (guest):

We're actually very disconnected. Our brain and our body are very disconnected many times. I used to teach we teach Tai Chi classes, and I can tell when someone really was struggling because you would demonstrate a move or a technique. And you can see that your mind and body weren't connected because they couldn't bring those two in synergy together. As the body goes, the mind goes. If you have a flexible body, you'll have a flexible brain. Actually one of my certifications of brain management consultant, which sounds really sciency, but surely around using mindfulness and Tai Chi and methods like that, to really help you be the best leader you can be. I can tell when someone's pretty stressed out and how do I know that? Hey, I'm one of those. Okay, I've been there. Right? Like I know if I'm on the computer all day long. I know I have to go do something physically outside, move my body stretch, sweat, I love sweating. People don't like sweat. I love the sweat. I was an athlete. I love training. I love practicing. I love Get ready for the next contest. The next game, I played football at the college level, very high level. I just love that right? That discipline around that, and Tai Chi was something that I just really gravitated to help me. I love the discipline of it and would practice it every day. I still practice it almost every day. And a little routine that I have that takes it can I can spend 10 minutes so I can spend an hour just depends on how much time I want a lot to it that day. But the key is to start and, to start small, and then build up your inner strength over time.

 

Kathy (host):  

How would one start small? Are there certain steps that would be really helpful for someone who has never done meditation, has not done any of the mindfulness, has no idea about tai chi, how would someone implement those teachings into their daily practice?

 

John (guest):  

It is so hard. It really is difficult. I had a CEO client who I said to her, "You know I want you to take five minutes." So we've been working together for a few months. I said, "I want you to take five minutes in first thing in the day and focus on this breathing technique and just on your breathing", and she said, "I don't have five minutes a day". I started "Are you serious? You cannot. It's a mindset, right?" 

 

Kathy (host):

Yep.

 

John (guest):

We put up obstacles and hurdles in our minds that we think we can't do things. It's a mindset to just choose, it's a choice. And for many people there, I mean, look, the first time you do you sit down and try to sit down for five minutes of your brain is gonna be going all over the place, right? It may even be questioning or doubting yourself while you're used to spending time doing this. But what I would say is, "Keep going, keep going." And really simply just focus on your breath. 

 

John (guest):

There's a really good book that came out last year was the number one, I think it was a bestseller on New York Times bestseller list called "Breath" James Nestor, and he talks about his own physical, how you discovered breathing and how there's some data but not a lot of data around how we breathe and what we do for breathing. The whole point was to be able to take time to focus on your breathing because it has such immense health benefits if we actually focus on breathing intentionally. And real simply, if your mind is going 100 miles an hour, and you're spinning all the plates at the same time, and you can't even settle down, you can't. You're probably not sleeping well, which is another big, big, negative, right? 

 

John (guest):

In terms of your health, you got to get sleep, you got to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every day, consistent good sleep, restful sleep. If you're spinning all those plates, and you're not able to, to focus and you're feeling you're probably anxiety is probably building upright in your body, you've got to take time to just take those five minutes and just focus on very simple your breathing. When you focus on breath, your breathing is the one autonomic function in your body that you can control, the one thing you can intentionally adjust through your mind and just say, "I want to breathe slower, faster." You can do that intentionally. By slowing your breathing down and really feeling your breath in your body feeling the sensations, actually, the physical sensations. 

 

John (guest):  

I was in a training once with a very high-level master. And she said, "Being the feeling, being the feeling."  And I'm like, "What are you talking about?" Like, what she means the physical feeling. What do you feel in your body, what sensations do you feel? When you're under stress, and all this whole stress differently. When you're under stress, you will, there'll be a part in your body a portion of your body that will feel some tension, or some heat or some coldness, or just discomfort. You may feel it in your back and for me with my shoulders, your back, your shoulders, your chest, abdomen, other parts of your body, that's your body talking to you, that's your body communicating to you and it means you're under stress. 

 

John (guest):

When you identify that when you're able to be in tune with your body and what the body is communicating to you, then you can take a step back and just focus on your breathing very simply just 10 breaths, a very simple process. When you do that, okay, when you're when you breathe in, when you inhale, you're bringing in oxygen and energy into your body. When you exhale, you're releasing carbon dioxide. And when you exhale, you're stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest system. It's affecting your central nervous system. When you breathe in, if you're just to breathe in and hold your breath, try to hold it for a long time, you start to get anxious, anxiety builds up, right? What you're doing is you're stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which is fight or flight. 

 

John (guest):

When we're under stress in a business setting, or whatever it might be, there are perceived threats. There may be worries about the future, or we maybe get an email from a customer that we don't like or whatever, and it sets off alarm bells inside of us and our subconscious emotionally, right and so you're stimulating, you get into this fight or flight mode. "Oh my god, I'm gonna lose a customer is gonna affect the bottom line. I will pay the mortgage next month." Whatever that conversation is going on in your head, right? You're stimulating the sympathetic nervous system in fight or flight. Your body does not distinguish between a real physical threat or a perceived threat. It reacts the same way. And thankfully, nowadays, most of us do not have to experience real physical threats by the closest thing most of us will come to come in contact with is a maybe a car accident or something you're involved in, right? and real physical threat, your body's gonna react a certain way to save you, right? It does all kinds of hormones change and your breathing changes, your blood flow changes. There's only things going on inside. When you're in a business setting or whatever setting and you're feeling stressed, and it's continual, continual stress, your body's in that state of fight or flight, it's reacting the same way. Over time, your body will not be able to sustain that and you're gonna have some real health issues from that.

 

Kathy (host):  

Do you know what I love about that? What you just described is because it makes the benefit of mindfulness and meditation, it takes it from a biological standpoint versus as this, people think that mindfulness is a woo-woo, and I'm actually married to so many things that way. I really love that you took it from a place where it's you integrated the nervous system and the biological functions, that this is not just something that's up there, 'woo-woos land' but it's very physical, it's very real.

 

John (guest):  

Very much so. I just read an article. I just saw a blip this morning, actually. It was a Harvard study that was done around this whole concept around mindfulness and how it really affects our hormones in our body. Your physiology changes, okay? You know, stress hormones like cortisol increase when you're under stress, right? Whereas dopamine and other good hormones are released when you're in a state of rest and digest and parasympathetic nervous state, and that you want to have a balance. Some stress is good. I mean, it motivates you and you want to get usually, always use a football analogy, want to get to the end zone, right? You're in the red zone, we get to the end zone. But you have to have balance, too.  You can't always go, go, go all the time. 

 

John (guest):

And quite honestly, some of this comes from ancient cultures. I think in the east, we had these cultures, I think somehow they went away over time and the millennia. Eastern cultures seem to retain some of these ideas and methods throughout the millennia. The bottom line is its common sense. It's just common sense. Right? Someone tells if you're in an argument, someone says, take a moment, take a breath, right? We know how to use our bodies the way we need to do. Our bodies will tell us how to use them. But then we overthink things, right? We ignore the signs or we ignore what our body's telling us. There's so many simple ways to improve our health into and the whole point is really is about being a better leader and being clear. And if I may, I can share a little bit about my own story. My own personal story. 

 

Kathy (host):

Yes, please. 

 

John (guest):

I think I shared with you ... I was having this three years ago now. I was in a meeting with a client, and I just passed out, and I slumped forward in the meeting and he thought I was kidding. He ran to get help. The director of the facility was a multi-purpose facility were meeting at he ran in, saw that I was nonresponsive, got me on the floor, and begin administering CPR. He worked on me for 25 minutes until I got to a sinus rhythm. I hit stop breathing. I had stopped breathing. He said EMTs had shown up during that process. They rushed me to the hospital. I was put into a hypothermic coma. I woke up about three days later in ICU, and my bedside or my wife or my daughter and I had no idea what had happened. I said "What happened? What happened." And so what I discovered was that my heart had stopped. They call it sudden cardiac arrest. I had skipped. I didn't have a heart attack, it just went right to stop. Because my heart rate was out of balance. It was beating very rapidly and it just stopped. And so I was in the hospital for a few days. They actually implanted a defibrillator in my chest in case that happened again in the future. But it didn't happen again. And the good news is a full recovery. What happened to me? What happened there?

 

John (guest):  

Looking back on I know how I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, I know how I hold stress, and I had this irregular heartbeat for many, many years, and it got really worse and I didn't know. I had no idea. My body was telling me to stop. I was very lucky to be where I was, the person who was there at the building who saved my life through CPR was an expert at CPR turned out and the doctor said I beat the odds was less than a 5% chance of survival having gone through what I went through. But what did I learn from that what I take away from that. A couple of things, one, I had to make my health my number one priority in 2019. I had to stop doing what I was doing, and I thought it was doing a pretty good job. I was a pretty healthy guy. I was doing my Tai Chi in the morning. But I was also burning the candle at both ends and doing lots of things. I just written my best-selling book at that time and just published it and so you just taken a trip out of the country for a couple of weeks with my wife to celebrate and life was really good right and it just bam. Just hit me run it inside of the head. I had to stop what I was doing at a reassess everything and to make a push my health to number one on my to-do list if you will. 

John (guest):

I think that's one of the biggest mistakes, business owners, entrepreneurs, CEOs, people in business make his I call it the number one devastating mistake that you can make it and you make every day that affects your bottom line and that is you don't take your health seriously enough. You don't put your good health at the top of your list or near the top of your list. What happened? I had to focus on just my health I had to stop everything right and was able to fully recover. Thankfully, fully recovered. Great doctors and great care of the hospital and but I also use the techniques and the methods that I've learned over many years. Breathing and focusing on my health, Tai Chi and stepping back, pulling back, being more smooth, right? And it's always there's a thing of constant around mastery, you never really master something. ... It's the process to get to mastery, right? It's kind of a continuous self-improvement, if you will, really, right. 

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah.

 

John (guest):

I learned about those things I learned about listening to my body more moving my body, and that's why I love to go outside and move, making my health my number one priority. I have one other story that's similar. I had a client, owner of a business, very successful business, and she had cancer. She was out of the business for about 18 months, and the business suffered because she was not there. We're talking, it's like a $20-$30 million company, okay, Been around for a number of years. It was not a brand new company been around for 15 years or something like that. She realized that she had some things to fix. Number one, she had to make her health number one priority for her and her family. She did and she recovered. Thankfully, she recovered fully. But it takes you out of your game. Right? It directly impacted her business directly impacted her business. She spent the next few years when I met her was after she had come back to the business and was trying to rebuild the business. I believe in prevention is a good strategy, whether it's something in business or in your health, and I think the two are interrelated. Because if you're an entrepreneur, if you're a CEO, if you're a C-suite executive, many times our energy and our being is kind of tied up in that business, right? If you started a company, if you're an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a big part of you is in that business, but you got to know it's a marathon, not a sprint. It's not a sprint. You got to be able to pull back, find time to reward yourself find time to give yourself those breaks those mental breaks, health breaks, vacations are so important. It's so hard to let go, right? Especially young, small, relatively new business, right? A small business and entrepreneur, you get your hands in everything, right? What do you do about that? I mean, what can you do? I mean, one of the things is to make sure you hire good people so that you can trust, right? Give yourself that opportunity to really step outside the business. Always be in the business, which is one of the things I help my clients do is look at their vision or goals, step outside the business for a bit, think strategically, what are we doing? What do we want to do next? Where do we want to go? And also make sure they're focusing on their health, it's one of the parts of the conversation I have with all my clients on a regular basis.

 

Kathy (host):  

You brought a good point there with taking vacations and really taking those breaks. What I've noticed is, vacations are fine and great. But the problem with vacations is that they're far and few in between. Even if you decide to take, let's say two weeks, every three months, and in between those vacations, you're constantly running 24/7, it is still not a healthy place to be.

 

John (guest):  

Right. It's an up and down life. Right? 

 

Kathy (host):

Yep. 

 

John (guest):

Plus, you're probably not really vacationing, okay. And if you can take two weeks, every three, four months, that's awesome. You can take real vacations. I would be in Italy. I was in Florence, Italy, with my wife on vacation, I'm at a board meeting, right? Some things are just out of your control, right? You can't control everything. Because a lot of people you're dealing with people's schedule sometimes but you want to take time to balance I think is kind of a misconception around balance, right?

Kathy (host):

Yep.

 

John (guest):

I mean, especially an entrepreneur, you're very involved in your business, and every day of your life, you're thinking about your business or doing something for your business, I mean, I do the same thing. But I find balance. I find a way to get outside to move my body I enjoyed, going fly fishing or playing golf or hiking, things like that. Or even just taking a walk or jog, to clear my head, clear my head and everybody has their own way of doing that. You don't have to sit in a room, the candles and your legs crossed, okay, to be mindful, or to focus on breathing or any of these things you can do them. I really believe in moving your body very much and so not just sitting and meditating. Meditation is great, and I practice it almost every day as I said. That's why I love Tai Chi, too because we're actually moving your body to move meditation. When creating balance and really just kind of clearing your head. 

 

John (guest):

I know personally and my clients tell me this too. When they practice on a regular basis, like every day a bill every day builds upon itself. It's kind of like compound interest, okay? When you're in that flow of just doing it every day is a little bit every day. When you miss a day you really feel different, you notice it differently. I noticed the days when I'm able to really clear my head and focus on my breathing. That day things just rock, like, everything just flows that day, it's a productive day, I feel like a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I didn't get to everything I want to get done. But I feel like I got through the things that were really critical that day. And that's really important to create that flow that balances. And then give yourself some time to relax and step back. Sometimes it's just maybe half an hour or five or 10 minutes during the day. 

 

John (guest):

What I recommend my clients do is, we start with five minutes in the morning, you have a monkey brain up all over the place, that's okay, just keep going. Start with five minutes in the morning, gradually build that up a little bit each day, get to 10 minutes after a couple of weeks and 15 minutes, maybe after a month or two months, everybody moves at their own speed. But also you can take these five-minute breaks throughout the day, like mid-day, take one, do one towards the end of the day. And the other thing I love to share, I think it's so powerful is we talked a little bit about emotions before and how we can get kind of taken away by our emotions carried away by our emotions, right? But we can also use emotions very positively and one of the highest level emotions of human consciousness is a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Use a gratitude journal, or just think about what are three things that you're grateful for that day. 

 

John (guest):

I lead a small mastermind group, and we always close our meeting out with okay, what are you grateful for today? What's one thing you're grateful for today? So being in that state, reminding yourself, what are you grateful for? And start the day off that way, but also at the end of the day. What are you grateful for what happened today that you're grateful for, and just you can write jot down three things in the morning? Refer for that morning. And then what are three things at the end of the day, you're grateful for? The combination of gratitude and appreciation and mindful breathing can really be very powerful for you, and your listeners to just create the success you want to create, to where you create that smooth, that smoothness, right? And not just jerky up and down and chaos, and there's all kinds of chaos around us. Right? 

 

Kathy (host):

Yep.

 

John (guest):

The speed of change has accelerated dramatically in the last two years, really. It's always constantly changing and growing and increasing. It's how can you slow it down? How can you slow it down, and be so just really focused inwardly, kind of centering yourself? One of my favorite movies is Kung Fu Panda, a little Shih Fu, character, inner peace, inner peace, right, and I try so hard to have an interface. But you can find inner peace very quickly. It comes with some practice. But you can find it and it's all it takes is just starting with five minutes a day.

 

Kathy (host):  

These are great tips, especially love the gratitude approach as well. Years ago, I was in this coaching program. And they actually started us with 10 things that we're grateful for every morning. I found that exercise really, really helpful for what I was going through at that point, but somehow life happens, and then you forget about it. You have to put yourself into that regular schedule of doing it just because it's beneficial to you not just for the work performance, but also as a person as well.

 

John (guest):  

As I said, it's like compound interest. There's a rule about this, it's a mathematical formula. If you look at continuous improvement, like if you improved 1% each day, right? Over a year, 365 days, your increase, would be like 30 to 40 times more than improvement than it was when if you just did no improvement every day. It's really exponentially, it just kind of compounds and builds upon itself and the same as with these breathing techniques and this mindfulness, because what you're really doing is you're training yourself to calm your brain down, to connect with your body, and to center yourself, quite honestly. I like to say I played center in college football and so I use it as a double entendre, right. It's like, "Hey, center yourself, give some talks I talk about leading from the center, right?" But it's really about centering yourself and calming your brain down. So that the things that come up during the day- 

 

John (guest):

What I found it's really interesting. As a leader, we're under a lot of stress. We're growing our business like crazy in the early 2000s. Just crazy, crazy growth, transformed the business. And I was lucky enough to be the leader then and we were adding people and adding clients and it was just really crazy. Long hours, emotionally out of bottle a lot of stuff up and I could get angry, I could get pretty ticked off and sometimes I would explode right because I'm just be bottling it up, right? Usually, it was at home and I would explain that was not a good thing. What I found was when I started this process, and I kind of just fell into it. I was in a meeting in a business meeting, and I was in Midtown Atlanta, I lived in life in Georgia, in Midtown Atlanta, walking into this meeting, and I saw this Yoga and Tai Chi sign center right there in this little building, this office building, I went in on a whim just to kind of see what I was about. I just fell in love with tai chi and I noticed I would meet once a week with a master and then I would do all the homework. Yeah, the self-work, practice every day. But it really taught me I would practice every day that to help me. And I would just find the time to do it. 

 

John (guest):

What I noticed was that the things that used to bother me didn't impact me the same way. Right? The frustrations, the sometimes the stupidity, nobody is stupid, right? Or people do, maybe do things that don't make sense. But they're not stupid people, just we do dumb things sometimes. So things we didn't, the frustrations weren't there, right, same reaction to the frustrations weren't there. And I think one of the big mistakes we make is that, you know, we're busy doing things and some if something happens, right, something happens in the business, and we're affected by it. And emotionally, we're having these feelings. 

 

John (guest):

We don't really realize we're having those feelings because they're deep within our brain and our limbic brain, the middle brain, they call it, and we have these emotions, and they're kind of stirring around and all of a sudden, we'll just do something we'll blurt out, we'll act out, physically act out. Sometimes it's not a good result, right? It's nothing we didn't want to do, right? It's a reaction. Having that ability to step back, and just breathe, and take a pause. Even when I would find it, sometimes I get an email or a message from someone, I would want to respond right away, like, "Oh, my God, they're angry or whatever." And I would want to respond and kind it's like, wait a minute, wait till tomorrow. And here's the funny thing. The next day would look at that same email, it would look totally different to me, because of my state, when I got that message the day before I was in a different state emotional state. And I read it totally different than the next day. It wasn't an angry email at all right? We have these reactions, we don't even understand what's happening sometimes. 

John (guest):

Taking a pause, taking a step back, slowing it down, assessing the situation, and then moving forward. I still believe you got to take action if you want to do anything, if you want to grow, or your business grows personally, you've got to take action. But you want to do it in a way where it's not that you're carried by your emotions, you're doing intentionally with forethought, and so being able to center yourself and breathe, can really just get you in that place very quickly. Think I was fortunate in my training that I learned quickly how to center myself through my breathing very quickly which allowed me to progress to levels I did in my training, and also helped me be a better leader, a better father, a better husband, a better brother.

 

Kathy (host):  

How did you learn how to do that? Is there a specific exercise that you went through and I know that you had a lot of training and Tai Chi and the breathing and you took years and years to master all those. But is there a specific tip or trick that you found that when you get really angry or triggered by something? What do you do at that point to put yourself back into the center?

 

John (guest):  

Yeah, great question. I think real simple, take your palms and just place them on your lower abdomen and just slow down your breathing. So focus on your breathing. It was really, really important. Well, I think we realize this right? We become a society, I think a mouth breathers which is what James Nestor kind of talks about in his book Breath. It's important to breathe through our nose a lot. And we don't really typically for many reasons, but breathing in through your nose slowly, and then exhaling through your mouth, it's very important. When you breathe in through your nose, you feel your chest, exhale through your mouth very slowly. Do it 3-10, breaths, whatever time you have, but at least do that for a moment. And placing your palms in your lower abdomen kind of helps you to center your body. Your lower abdomen actually is the geometric center of your body. 

 

John (guest):

If you remember Leonardo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Vitruvian Man, right fitting a square in a circle. Basically, it was a way through geometry and through measurement to find the real center of the human being between a circle and a square and that center point is just below your navel. In martial arts, your center point is your navel just below your navel. And if you've ever watched like martial artists or tai chi or Kung Fu, or whatever the martial art might be, the way that those masters and those practitioners are able to break boards and bricks, all these things is they're able to center their energy and their focus very succinctly. Right? It starts with their lower abdomen and then they channel all of that force all that power through that power. Typically their palm of their foot, right. You have great mastery over how they use their energy and their power. And you can do the same in business, you can have great mastery over the energy you have for your business for good, right, not to beat anybody up or anything, but to channel your energy for good. And to help you be the best leader. It just starts with your breathing, just focusing on your breath, placing your palms in your abdomen, and just as you breathe and just in through your nose out through your mouth, you just want to feel your chest rise and fall. What you're doing is you're training, it's like building a muscle. You're training your brain and your body to connect. You're training your brain to listen to and feel what you're feeling in your body.

 

Kathy (host):  

I love that. And it's simple, yet it's hard. Because we all breathe, we know how to breathe, but it's really hard to when your limbic system takes over when you're in the moment when you're in that heated moment, to remember to breathe. And I have noticed that when myself when I get upset when I get really into that heightened state of the nervous system, my body just starts to do things on its own. It's really hard to go into that not going to that spiral.

 

John (guest):  

Right, right. You've become reactionary, right, your emotions take over. But let's try something. How about if we spent a few minutes. Is now a good time to start to do that to try? 

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah, I would love that. 

 

John (guest): 

Yeah, let's do maybe a five-minute kind of call it a breathing exercise, you call it meditation, what we like to do. We're going to start off by placing your hands on your knees, your palms facing upward. And if your listeners are driving, don't do this while you're driving, okay? And you want to close your eyes. Okay. I just want you to focus on your breathing and make sure your spine is straight. Pull your spine, your back away from your chair a little bit if you're sitting down. A straight spine promotes good circulation and good breathing and circulation of your breath. I want you to breathe in gently through your nose. Pause for a second. And then release breathe out slowly through your mouth. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Pause and exhale through your mouth. Be gentle. Don't force your breath. Continue to breathe in through your nose. Pause and breathe out through your mouth. Continue that at your own rhythm. Breathing in through your nose, pausing, and then exhaling through your mouth

 

John (guest):  

As you continue to breathe at your own pace. Bring your mind to your chest, your chest rises and falls with each breath. Feel your chest, feel your body, and now begin to scan your body from the top of your head as you continue to breathe in and out slowly. Comfortably. 

 

John (guest):

Scan your body from the top of your head and your neck, your shoulders, your chest. Skin down your arms and your hands, fingers, scan down your back and on your body and your back your spine down to your hips, and waist lower abdomen. Continue to scan down your body to your thighs, knees, calves, ankles, feet, toes. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Intend to breathe slowly, comfortably, and as you scan your body notice where you may feel some discomfort or some tension. Maybe a slight pain or maybe some heat or cold. And if you find a place of discomfort in your body, focus your attention there. Breathe into that discomfort, don't avoid that feeling breath into it.

 

John (guest):  

Gently place your palms on your lower abdomen just below your navel. Continue to focus on your breathing. As you fill your chest when you inhale, as you exhale, slowly imagine your breath is moving down to your lower abdomen. Relax your shoulders, relax your back into breath into your chest. As you exhale, imagine you're moving your breath down to your lower abdomen.

 

John (guest):  

Begin to breathe as a child breathes, as a baby breathes. Filling your lower abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Slowly move your palms back to your knees, palms facing up. And slowly breathe in deeply, and exhale. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in deeply. And exhale. You can open your eyes. Funny, you rub your palms together. If you want to get this kind of thicker face, you don't have to but sweep down. And I'll ask each of your listeners and people listening and watching you know, how do you feel right now? And same for you, Kathy? How do you feel right now describe what you feel?

 

Kathy (host):  

Very relaxed. And usually, when I do these exercises, my natural instinct is to start to feel sleepy afterward. 

 

John (guest):  

Yes. That's probably an indication you need more rest. 

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah.

 

John (guest):

I've actually I've had people fall asleep in classes and stuff. It's okay. That means you need to sleep as you need it. Yeah, so we know we our body we hold tension or our bodies and stress built up and giving us up just to chant I was five minutes, give me a chance to just breathe, feel your body connect with your body. And, you know, something I wrote about in my book, Five Minute Mastery. It's also a gift that I have for everybody listening and watching today that I'd like to share with them too. 

 

Kathy (host):  

That is so generous of you, John, and I love this exercise. It's probably going to be a buy bookmark for the podcast. Every 75 minutes, I'm gonna listen to John. 

 

John (guest):

Awesome. 

 

Kathy (host):

You know, I always ask my guests what is the one next tangible step that people can take in the next week to get them more towards their goal of in this case, mindfulness, but I think you gave us a great exercise of how to do that. Is there anything else that people can do except doing this exercise this wonderful exercise that you gave us for five minutes, any other small tip that they can do in the next week to get them more towards this mindfulness?

 

John (guest):  

Yeah, I have two things. One, whatever physical activity you'd like to do for yourself, do it mindfully. If you're running, feel your body focus on the bottom of your feet. If you like to work out in the gym, focus on the muscles that you're working out that part of your body is working out, right. Just connect, keep practicing, no matter what you're doing throughout the day, connecting your mind and your body together through all things. If you're writing, right I like to write with some pencil or pen, love to write on paper, or read a book actually reading a book in front of me as opposed to online. Just feel the sensations around that again, mindfully connect your mind and body. 

 

John (guest):

And the other great, a great tip I have is I have a wonderfully easy-to-use guide. It's called the CEO guide. Whether you're a CEO or business owner, anybody listening to its help. It's helpful for anybody who was listening can get it and they can go to my website www.johnjfenton.com/CEOguides,one word. The CEO guide, it's a one-page PDF that will guide you through this process. Kind of a reminder, and you can practice it every day. And what I recommend is to do it at least seven days, do it every single day, just for five minutes, just five minutes. If you want to take more time, that's awesome. That's great. See how you feel after seven days. So you have to feel after seven days. And if you like your experience, reach out to me and you can find me on my website, johnjfenton.com

 

Kathy (host):  

Awesome. John, thank you so much for all these tips and for your wisdom, and for your knowledge. Super appreciated. Thank you so much for being.

 

John (guest):  

Oh, yes. Thank you so much. I really appreciate one more thing I forgot. You can also find my book on Amazon. Five Minute Mastery, John J. Fenton, and you'll find it on Amazon.com.

 

Kathy (host):  

And for the listeners, I will also include all of the resources, the website, and the guides to John's website in the show notes. If you're interested, you can also find the links in the show notes as well. Thank you so much, John, super appreciate it.

 

John (guest):  

Kathy, so honored to be on your show. Thank you.

 

Kathy (host):  

We've come to the end of this trilogy on productivity. As a reminder, every single episode comes with its own blog post and detailed show notes with resources that the guests shared. I really hope you enjoy this episode because I definitely that they brought for how I need to be more intentional with my work and how important rest really is. As I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I've done Tai Chi in the past before and this conversation with John inspired me to go back to that practice. And it also reminded me of what my teacher always said, when I got frustrated, something that I use on an everyday basis and I actually internalize it so much that I forgot where it actually originated from. I want to share her message with you in hopes that it will help you. This is how this goes. "Next time when you feel like everything is going in a million miles an hour and you feel frazzled, and there's this hectic frazzled energy that's going around you and you feel like "Oh, I just have to get this done and I don't have enough time." Just take a deep breath and remind yourself to relax and do less." Thanks for listening. Until next time!