Here’s an easy but essential success tip from the billionaire’s playbook | Inquirer Business

Here’s an easy but essential success tip from the billionaire’s playbook

/ 02:17 AM July 25, 2022

Illustration by Ruth Macapagal

Mens sana in corpore san— in Latin, a healthy mind in a healthy body. I had to learn that the hard way. When I was five, I started to become a heavy stutterer. Other physical ailments followed that impaired my movements. Then I developed nervous tics on top of it.


How did I get out of this? At the age of 16, I received a scholarship to go to one of the top boarding schools in the United States, a place called Choate Rosemary Hall. And something strange happened. At that boarding school, I needed to do an hour and a half of sports every day. It was mandatory. That had not been the case in Germany where I was born and grew up. After following this regimen of daily workouts for a few months, most of my physical problems, including the stuttering, started to disappear until they vanished completely.

What happened? It was simple: I had been hyperactive all my life, but nobody realized it. I had suppressed all that energy and that suppression caused all my physical challenges as a kid and teen. It’s as if you put a jaguar in a small cage and expect him to be calm all day. He has to move!


Be one with your energy

Once I learned that I had to be “one with my energy,” I could apply that knowledge constructively. I became proficient in a variety of sports, from earning a black belt in Korean kung fu to becoming a passionate kitesurfer. And nowadays, my assistant has to schedule an hour and a half of sports into my day six times a week, no matter where I am on the planet.

This daily routine empowers me to be at my best in my personal and professional life, achieve a true sense of well-being, lead my worldwide strategy and management consulting company, deliver impactful keynote addresses around the world, achieve global impact with my charitable foundation, and solve the many complex problems that business owners ask my team and me to solve that no one else could. In short, I get to live my best life.

I have even had the pleasure to coach famous athletes to achieve their peak performance, such as the Russian champion freediver, 24-time world champion and world record-holder Alexey Molchanov.

The mistake most business leaders make

However, there is one concept that is often misunderstood. Let me share a short story to tell you what I mean. A good friend of mine was one of the earliest Google employees. He joined when Google only had 100 people working at their office in Silicon Valley.

We were on a beach together in the South of France and he said: “Tom, I would love to have your energy!” And I replied: “I disagree. You have to be one with your energy. Look at everything that you have accomplished: You are an international bestselling author of several books, international keynote speaker, a famous Google employee, accomplished philanthropist and so much more. My rigorous workout regimen would deplete your energy but not optimize it. Do not try to change yourself into somebody you are not. Go with your energy; do not try to copy someone else’s.”


“You are right, “ he replied. “I had never looked at it that way.”

As part of my role as the global chair of my strategy and management consulting group, and in my role advising and consulting for Fortune 500 CEOs, family business owners and billionaire entrepreneurs around the world, I have seen again and again how important it is for business leaders to stay true to who they are to maximize their success and impact. That also means not suppressing your energy but living it to the fullest. That is the key to unlocking your full productivity in business and as a leader.

It is not the hours you put in; it is the quality of your decisions that counts.

As a leader, you need to optimize the few key decisions a day that only you can make. Do not focus on quantity, but on quality. And to make these decisions, you need to be in your best state. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, says that for him “three good decisions a day, that’s enough, and they should just be as high quality as I can make them.”

A lot of business leaders neglect the importance of their body and their physical state when making decisions. You should always aim for maximum health and fitness because that will put you into your best state. Your state will determine the quality of your decisions.

“I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit,” said Richard Branson to FourHourBodyPress. “It keeps the brain functioning well.”

Once you express the unique energy and vitality of your body, this will naturally boost your productivity and performance levels in all areas, personal and professional. On top of this, it will create a true sense of well-being, fulfillment, balance and happiness.

Your mind and body form a holistic system. Treat your body well, and you will have more of your decision-making powers available. And, as in my case, it might even become a door to hidden talents you never thought you had.

What it means to treat your body as your best friend

This is where “being one with your energy” comes in. Listen to what your body needs. If you have low energy levels in general, do not try to copy the workout routine of a professional athlete or a business owner who is hyperactive. You will just wear yourself out and drain your performance.

What works for others may not work for you. There is a risk that I describe above that you slip into asking yourself: what person would I like to be? That is the wrong question. You have to start with yourself and your own energy and needs. Start with where and who you are. That is the key to prolonged and sustained physical health, fitness, and mental superpowers. Don’t imitate. Don’t copy. Don’t follow. Listen to what your body needs.

The number one mistake that I see CEOs or business owners make is that they do not respect that. Either they do too much—meaning they wear their bodies out by trying to coerce themselves into a ruthless exercise regimen they are simply not made for—or they suppress their energy because they believe their physical needs stand in the way of their professional success, like a pet they have no use for.

Always observe the number one rule: don’t deprioritize your physical well-being against your professional goals. To quote Richard Branson: “I seriously doubt that I would have been as successful in my career (and happy in my personal life) if I hadn’t always placed importance on my health and fitness,” he explained in a blog. Richard estimates that exercise gives him at least four hours of additional productive time each session.

3 next steps

1. Make fitness a priority alongside your professional goals. Ask yourself: What does my body need to be in top physical shape? How much exercise do I need? What activities could put me in an excellent physical and mental state?

2. Feel free to use others as inspiration.

3. Do not try to change the fundamental nature of who you are but embrace it. Then, create a plan that fits your energy, unique personality and lifestyle. And watch your professional performance soar! INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: or email

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