John Donahoe, CEO of Nike
When I was 28, I received some tips that changed my life.
It was 1988 and I was Bain’s consultant. They were intense years: long hours, little sleep, many trips, constant work and trying to balance family life with a spouse and two young children. I was glad to learn as much as I was, but I also remember feeling that I was barely left on the surface.
One day, during a training program for young consultants, a speaker came to give some wisdom. At first I was listening halfway, with my mind to the office, when he asked us a question: how many of us wanted to be world class in what we did?
Naturally, we all raised our hands. The speaker laughed and said, well, this is the test of intelligence.
Then he explained. He said he spent years studying world-class athletes. (I had always watched the athletes and my ears were encouraged by it.) And he said all of these top-level athletes shared a unique trait: taking care of themselves.
He said that every hour they are on the playing field, they train 20 hours. They work, sleep well, eat well. They look inward to learn their own strengths and weaknesses. And most of all, they are not afraid to ask for help, in fact they consider asking for help to be a sign of strength.
“Michael Jordan has a bench coach, a personal trainer, a chef and a mental trainer. He wants to get help so that he can improve “, the speaker told us. “But employers don’t care. Believe that not sleeping is a badge of honor! And do you want to be world class? You think asking for help is a sign of weakness, not strength. I do not get it! ”
They pulled me back. They opened my eyes. He was right. Like so many others, I sacrificed my mental health at the altar of my work, simply because I thought it was the only way.
As my career continued, I heeded his advice. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have jobs with great impact and challenge. And despite these leadership positions, I have always tried to maintain perspective by taking care of myself and asking for help.
The story goes on
I meditate. I exercise every morning (well, most mornings). I do gratitude practices to try to stay positive by staying grounded in what I appreciate most. And I have received a lot of help. I have had the same therapist for the last 30 years. I have spiritual advisors and business mentors, to whom I often seek guidance. I can’t imagine being able to act today without getting help.
As you know, May is the month of mental health awareness. For me, it’s a reminder of the joy I must have learned about the importance of mental health all those years ago. Today I still try to eat well and get plenty of sleep. And I strive to advocate that those around me take care of themselves, always trying to be rested, present, and whole.
What really excites me about mental health today is how many paths there are now for people to find their peace.
In recent years, elite athletes from the NBA All-Stars to the Olympics have shown their vocation on incorporating yoga into their daily training routines, as they focus on the mind-body connection: the idea that taking time to breathe or meditate can have a big impact on all facets of fitness. Today, looking to unlock strength from within, millions of people rely on yoga to improve calm and movement. Is yoga a sport? Absolutely.
So is walking. Or dance. Or meditation. This may surprise you, coming from Nike, but we firmly believe in expanding the definition of sport. We are committed to getting people active and taking care of their health and well-being, no matter how they are.
We also know that mental health does not have a low season. It is not just about preparing for times of urgent need, but also about cultivating a healthy mind and body for daily life. That’s why at Nike, we’ve taken a number of steps to support our employees through improved access to various advisors, free welfare members, family assistance (including paid family and family leave, security care, child care grants) and more. And as we continue to listen to the needs of our teammates, we plan to further improve our offerings later this year.
We have also teamed up with Crisis Text Line to offer free mental health care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the US on text messages. Through this partnership, we can give access to more simple and convenient people (send a STRONG message to 741741 to reach a volunteer crisis counselor). There is no doubt: asking for help is one of the most powerful expressions of strength. We know that mental health is as important as physical health to reach our full potential, both in sport and in life, and a supportive community is a vital part.
Our focus on mental health and the expansion of sport was essential during the pandemic over the past year. Ever since Covid started spreading, we’ve seen exactly what sport can be like around the world. When people were trapped at home, we saw first-hand a global and deeply felt demand to keep moving. People worked in the kitchens and on the roofs of the apartments. They processed their uncertainty with meditation and ran carefully. It sparked an explosion of creativity and optimism that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Today I continue to be inspired by the many ways in which people make sport a daily habit, even in the most difficult times. I firmly believe that sport can no longer be defined by traditional activities alone. It’s about movement, dance, yoga and, yes, mental health. Sport has become more democratic and has spread to fitness and well-being of people everywhere like never before. It’s something we all share: the ability to think of our mind as one more muscle that boosts our goals.
This is a catalytic moment for all of us: a time for new and better ideas that will define the future of sport and create lasting change. Each of us has the power to take care of ourselves, just like our sports heroes. Mental health is the ultimate tool for athletes. Let’s all be world class together.
John Donahoe is the CEO of Nike.
Look for live stock market quotes and the latest news on business and finance
See tutorials and information on investing and stock trading Dinner
Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, i reddit.