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Give your career a workout at the gym

You can learn a lot about making money by going to the gym. This is because the same attributes that drive someone to succeed at the gym are the attributes that drive someone to succeed at the office. So if you're feeling like you're not earning the money you should be, you might do well to try out a health club. Working out regularly forces you to develop the skills that bring a successful business person to the next level in her career. Here are some places to start:

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Exert self-discipline
The hardest part about starting a workout regimen is getting yourself to the health club. It's always easier to go home after work and eat pizza in front of the TV. But once you get yourself to the gym, more likely than not you'll do something there besides watch TV. Some nights, I tell myself I just have to go to the gym, I don't have to do anything. Once I promise myself that I don't have to do anything, getting there is much easier, and I always manage to hop on a few machines.

By the same token, if you can't get your work done at the office, you'll never be able to move up the chain of command. And the same nagging voice that says, "I'll never work out hard enough at the health club" nags at work, "I'll never write the report as well as my boss wants me to." Self-discipline is what forces you to overcome the negative voices and take action.

Setting goals
If you go to the gym without a plan, you'll accomplish nothing and then stop going. People who work out regularly set goals. Some people aim to lose weight, some people train for a marathon. Whatever your goal is, it will keep you focused so that each day you go to the gym you know exactly what you're there to do.

You need goals for your career, too. If your goal is to become a managing director, then you can map out the steps you need to get there, and you have focus for each of your days. Whereas gym goals may look like number of laps or amount of weight, work goals will look like projects finished or skills learned.

Bouncing back
Everyone skips a day at the gym sometimes. Even Andre took time off tennis training to see Steffi give birth to their son. The important thing is not to get discouraged. People who work out regularly think of themselves as people who work out -- even when they are ditching the gym and eating ice cream.

The career equivalent might be botching a project. When my boss gave me the authority to overhaul my company's e-mail system, I brought down the whole network three times in one month. My first instinct was to crawl into the back of my cubicle and hide there until everyone forgot who was responsible for e-mail. Instead, I explained to my boss why the task was more difficult than anticipated, and how I was going to get us back on track. I tried a new tactic for stabilizing the e-mail system, and in the end, I got a promotion.

Finding someone to help you
If you don't know how to lift weights, then it won't matter how much time you spend in the free-weight room. The only big change you'll see in your body is that you'll permanently injure your back. And then you'll never go to the gym again. That's why people who work out regularly get a trainer to help.

At work, the equivalent to a trainer is a mentor. And the nice thing is that while you have to pay a trainer, a mentor helps out of the kindness of her heart. Remember, though, that a trainer can't help you until you tell her your goals, and the same is true of a mentor. Want to move into a more lucrative field? Want to win the next big account? Tell your mentor so she can steer you in the right direction.

Doing something that's fun
If swimming doesn't rock your world, don't bother trying to convince yourself to do it three times a week. Find something you like -- it'll make for much easier motivation when the pizza beckons. The more fun you have in your chosen activity, the more likely you will be to keep a regular workout schedule. In fact, if you really love what you're doing, you might workout more passionately than you ever expected.

The same goes for your chosen career. Pick something you love, and you'll do it with passion. You know that complete energy drain you feel when its time to go to an aerobics class but you hate aerobics? That's the same energy drain you feel when your alarm goes off and you hate your work. Find a job you love and you're likely to love the money that follows.

Taking time to think
A lot of people think going to the gym will be boring. It is, in fact, if you do not like to think. Because let's face it, there's nothing to keep your mind off the pain of a workout except keeping your mind busy with something else. Try using that time to think about what you want from your life. What do you need from your money? From your time? The thinking you get done at the gym will clarify the action you take at work.

So if you want to build a bigger nest egg, maybe the first step is to build more muscle mass. The changes you'll make in your life to enable regular workouts will be changes that will enable better work at the office, too. And one more thing before you join a gym: Negotiate. Those rates are not set in stone. Besides, negotiating is another skill that you can hone at the gym and then let loose at the office.

--Updated: Feb. 2, 2005




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