Lighten Your Days: Managing Your Stress To Manage Your Business With Professor Pete Alexander - Episode 82
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Do you know how to use stress to your advantage?
There is no doubt that stress can take a huge toll on your health when it’s unmanaged. However, stress does not have to be a negative thing – and it can actually have a positive impact when it’s managed correctly. Doug C. Brown speaks with Professor Pete Alexander, co-owner of Office Plants by Everything Grows and Stress Management Specialist. They discuss how to manage stress, how to reduce stress for better efficiency amongst your team, and much more.
In this episode you will learn:
Episode’s guest – Professor Pete Alexander
Lighten Your Days: Managing Your Stress To Manage Your Business With Professor Pete Alexander
I got a great guest for you. His name is Professor Pete Alexander. He wrote a book called Lighten Your Day, and I brought him here because I want to title this Manage Your Stress, Manage Your Business. There’s a difference between different levels of stress in the business. If you’re in negative stress, which is distress, your business is going to be also in distress. You might go, “Doug, that’s crazy. That wouldn’t happen.” There is a lot of evidence to support it. We’re going to talk about it in this episode together with Pete.
Here’s the thing, you could be in what’s called eustress, which is positive stress. That is a good thing. That will promote and grow your business. Pete brought that up. We’ll give you very different reasons why and some case studies from that process. Without further ado, let’s talk to Pete and let’s get your day less stressed.
Pete, welcome to the show. I’m very grateful you’re here.
Doug, thank you for having me on the show. I appreciate your readers’ time as well.
We always have a great conversation every time you and I talk. I’m very happy. In this episode, we’re going to talk about Lighten Your Day, which is the book you wrote. For all of you reading, I asked Pete to come on here because we’re going to talk about stress. None of you have it, but we’re going to talk about it anyways. We’re going to talk about what good stress is, what bad stress is, and where the blurred line is. Pete, what is stress when it comes down to it? What would be the definition of stress?
Everybody has their own definition. It depends on how you react to it. In general, it’s our negative reaction we have to something that would be considered a challenge. Most commonly, we’ll have this come up when it’s with our finances, career, job, or business, especially when we’re talking about sales because we’re always under the gun to make our numbers. That is going to be a stress for us whether it’s on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, etc.
It could be something family related where we have challenges. Especially those of us as parents, we know what a challenge can be with children. Also, I’m part of the sandwich generation. I had to take care of my mom and dad, who didn’t properly manage their finances and needed financial help as well. Any of those causes us stress. The challenge is trying to be able to manage that. We always hear about work-life balance. I don’t believe in that specific term because each one of us needs to find whatever that balance is. For some of us who love our careers, we can be 90% work, and that’s okay as long as the stress we’re facing is good stress versus negative stress. That’s the critical fine line, as you mentioned.
Let’s talk about good stress. A lot of people, when they think of stress, they think, “This is negative. It’s the worst thing ever.” I haven’t always found that, quite frankly, even in sales. A lot of people are like, “Sales is stressful.” Yes, if you make it that way. When somebody says no, we feel that it’s the end of our existence. I’ve never seen anybody’s head burst into flames when somebody said no, like if a CEO or a business owner says no across the table. A lot of people take it internally. Is the stress that we take internally a bad thing or a good thing? The better question would be, “What the heck is good stress?”
There’s a word called eustress, and that is good stress. You mentioned that sales isn’t necessarily a stressful thing. Exactly, if you love your career. You have to hit your numbers, but if you love your career and are passionate about your career, eustress is good stress that helps us get things done and hit our numbers. It helps us make sure that we do whatever we need to do to get to whatever we want to be. That is perfectly fine because good stress helps us get things done.
What we want to avoid is what’s commonly referred to as distress. In my experience, that comes in two flavors. One is ruminating about something in the past. This is commonly something like guilt, where we might be guilty about something we either did or didn’t do in the past. We continue to churn and let that beat ourselves up when the reality is we can’t do anything about the past because it’s in the past. What we can do is learn the positive learnings from that and move forward. We cannot continue to churn about the past.
The other flavor is anxiety about something that may or may not happen in the future. A classic example of this would be imagining, “We have to give a presentation to the board of directors, and it’s an important presentation.” You are nervous as you can be. Being nervous in a presentation is a good thing because that means you’re excited about it, but if you start imagining that it’s going to go terribly, why are you doing that? It hasn’t happened yet.
What is amazing is I’ve seen this time and time again. When somebody worries about a future event that hasn’t happened and worries about the worst-case scenario over and over again, what ends up happening is they manifest that because they’re sending that negative energy out there. If we’re talking about a presentation, imagine five seconds after you’ve finished your presentation and you get a huge applause or a standing ovation.
Imagine that. That is going to send much better energy as you’re getting ready for that presentation. It’s all mindset because the negative aspects that we get from stress and the long-term effects we end up having on our body are often from the work we’re doing in our mind thinking negatively about a certain situation. Continuous anxiety and worrying, and that’s not healthy for us.
It makes a lot of sense. We’re speaking with Professor Pete Alexander. Now I know why you own a plant company. You own a company called Office Plants by Everything Grows. It’s got to be calming as all it can be to be around these plants all the time. There’s stuff that goes wrong in the business, I’m sure.
Is that good stress or bad stress?
The example that I like to give happened to me. Like most people, I’ve dealt with stress all my life. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. I did a good job of trying to ignore my stress and not let it affect me, but at a certain point, it finally did. For me, it was back in 2008 because I have owned Office Plants by Everything Grow since 2005. In 2008, I had this perfect storm of stressful activities that were going on. One of which was the business needing all of my attention, and I had all my employees want my attention, etc.
What ended up happening is that I first lost 30 pounds in 30 days. I was thinking to myself, “Wow.” I was in my mid-40s. I thought to myself, “This is fantastic. I haven’t lost weight since my twenties.” I wasn’t doing any special diet or anything different with my exercise routine, but the pounds kept coming off. After that 30th pound, I had my blood work done, and I’m stress-induced diabetes.
What happened was before that, I wasn’t listening to my body giving me the early warning signals. The classic ones for us are if we have a lot of back and shoulder stiffness, more frequent headaches than we normally would have, or maybe indigestion that we normally wouldn’t have. Those are the things that our body gives us these early warning signs. Unfortunately, when we ignore those signs, our bodies have to keep ramping it up until something breaks.
For me, what happened was I got this diagnosis with stress-induced diabetes in 2008. I didn’t listen to my body about what stress was doing to it and did the classic entrepreneur thing. I kept burning the candle at both ends for another ten years until I ended up in the emergency room with a severe case of diabetic ketoacidosis. For your readers, who don’t know what that is, my body was eating itself alive because of my stress.
The crazy thing about this is that when I was admitted to the ER, the doctors told me I was one hour from being comatose. My blood sugars were so high that the medical-grade glucometers could not read my numbers. The lab did an estimation that my blood sugars were 8 to 10 times higher than normal. It’s interesting. Whenever I let stress start churning inside of me, my blood sugar skyrocket. That’s my indicator. That’s a good one. I’ve got diabetes for the rest of my life, so the one positive that I’ve got from that is that is a constant reminder that, “If I’m stressed out and my numbers are very high, I got to do something to get myself back into a more normal range.”
For those of you who are reading, who go, “Ketoacidosis?” that can be death. That’s close. When you have a medical background, which I do, and I hear ketoacidosis, I’m like, “You were getting pretty close.” We’re speaking with Professor Pete Alexander. He wrote a book called Lighten Your Day. It’s about how to have the stress released within a few minutes. I was wondering why you work because we’ve had several conversations, but now I get it. That’s a big slap wake-up call right then and there. You either get it, or you don’t. If you don’t, you and I probably wouldn’t be talking now.
It was this epiphany moment for me in the hospital because I realized that if I didn’t do something about it now, I wasn’t going to be around much longer. That was back in 2018. The crazy thing is that after I got out of the hospital, I started applying different stress-relief tools and techniques. Not only did I see my stress, blood sugar, and weight go down, and my energy went way up.
If you saw a picture of me back in 2008 when I first got diagnosed with stress-induced diabetes, and you see a picture of me or look at me now, I look younger now than I did several years ago with the exception of a little bit more gray hair, but otherwise, it’s crazy. Figuring out how to deal with the stresses positively is like finding the fountain of youth.
There’s always a blurred line between what’s healthy and not healthy, but when we can get into eustress, how does this affect growing a company? I can imagine people sitting here going, “Pete, this is interesting, but this is a business growth program. How does stress affect my business negatively or positively?”
Think about it this way. Depending on how many people you have reporting directly for you, if you are not managing your stress well, it could be any number of things that could affect the business. First and foremost, imagine if you’ve physically or mentally burnout, you got to go right to that because that’s a clear issue that business owners have to think about. If you’re physically and/or mentally burnout because of your stress, you are not going to have any energy to do anything.
You’re probably going to only have the energy to lie in bed or maybe watch TV, and that’s about it. If you’ve ever had bad flu, that’s a classic example of it because when we have the flu, we can’t have any energy to do anything. We want to lie in bed. If all we have energy for is to lie in bed, we’re no good to our business, family, or anything. We are barely able to take care of ourselves if we’re lucky.
On the extreme end of it, business owners have to realize that if you take your health for granted, there are going to be ramifications for that. That is top-level that could happen to your organization. Let’s say that you’re lucky enough not to experience burnout, but when you’re stressed, what ends up happening, especially when you’re working with people, whether it’s your employees or peers, etc., you’re going to have less patience and empathy for those around you.
What happens is that if you are not being able to be collaborative with those people or clearly lead them without attacking them because you have no patience anymore, then you become the leader that everybody wants to run from as opposed to follow. That is a real big culture issue that your company would have to deal with.
We’ve all dealt with people like that, even down to the doctor who has terrible bedside manners. I have a story to that. I went through professional burnout. I was the type of guy who worked seven days a week. I never took a vacation. Twelve hours was like, “You only work twelve hours a day? What’s the matter with you?” That was me. I was driven. I reminded myself I had two little kids and that I wanted to have a better life. I did the mission thing and put down the dream board. I did all that and went after it.
I’ll tell you two stories. Both were on a Friday night. The first Friday night story is I get a call from my wife, and she says, “Are you coming home?” I said, “I got a couple of client things to finish up.” She goes, “Why don’t you come home? Your daughter, who is less than a year old been waiting up for you.” I said, “Yes.” She goes, “Doug, it’s 10:00 PM.” I’m still at my desk. I used to get up at 5:00 or 5:30, work, get home, kiss a couple of people, go to bed, and that was it. Get back up and do that same thing.
She’s like, “It’s almost 10:00 PM.” I’m like, “I’ll wrap up and be home in about half an hour.” She goes, “Doug, do day is it?” I said, “It’s Friday, right?” She goes, “No. What’s the date?” I said, “I don’t know.” She goes, “Doug, it’s your birthday, and we’ve been waiting here with your daughter to have a birthday party, and you aren’t here.”
On a personal level, we get into stress because stress drives us, especially if it’s negative. You talked about the anxiety of the future. I always figured if I didn’t have the money, I’m screwed. I grew up in a place where we didn’t have money. I figured the money was going to solve all the problems, so I’m driving forth. What I didn’t realize is all this stress that I was driving forth about a couple of months after that, all of a sudden, I was sitting at my desk again at 10:00 PM on a Friday night. Some words came through my head. It was like a wave that went from the left to the right. It said, “You’re burnt.” I heard it in my head.
You’re right. From that moment on, I couldn’t get the motivation. I was tired all the time. I would work, try to work, and I couldn’t. That lasted for over a year with me. I thought something had happened to me or whatever, but it turned out to be stress when it came down to it. Those of you are saying, “I’ll brush it off.” You’re not going to brush it off forever if you’re going into complete negative stress over and over.
I’ve worked with so many CEOs and so many business owners that go through the same thing because they’re just charging, number one. Number two, to your point, I wrote down the word, “There’ll be a jerk.” We’ve all worked with people that are short-tempered for whatever reason. Who the hell wants to be around somebody like that for a long period of time? As we grow older, we want to be around that less. What will happen is that turnover in people that you’re referring to, and that is expensive. The worst offender of this I had was a client. They had an 82% turnover rate of their employee base every year. That’s insane.
That is totally insane. I can’t imagine that.
It all stemmed from the CEO and the way the CEO was running the company. As soon as we fixed those issues, people stayed, were happy, etc. By the way, their business grew from $48 million to $110 million in a few years. The third thing is when somebody’s under stress like that as a business owner, they start getting into scarcity thought. They’re no longer in abundance thought, and they’re driving their business forward in an abundance mentality. What do they do? They pull back on things that they should be pushing the pedal down.
The crazy part is I have found that they usually pull back on marketing and sales. Now, we’re all going into recession. We all agree the recession’s here. This is going to be here. What happens when you get all the stress upon you? As a business owner, you start pulling back on things, and it’s the exact opposite of what we need to do in a recession in order to make our company grow from now into the future.
It’s so funny that you say that. I am always amazed at companies that decide, “Marketing and sales, that’s an expense. We got to lower that expense.” If you at least keep or maintain what you have, if not grow a little bit more, put some more budget into it, you are going to take advantage of all the competitors who are cutting back because you are going to be front and center to the prospects that you haven’t hit yet.
It’s crazy. To your point about scarcity, it also comes from business owners when they’re so stressed. There’s not much room there anymore to think these things through. They can’t give as much mind to it as they should when they’re not as stressed. They have to make these quick reactions, “Let’s reduce the cost of marketing here. Let’s reduce the cost of sales here. That’s easy. Let’s get that done,” without thinking it through.
It’s the thing that bites them in the ankles. They don’t realize it until later on down the line, and all of a sudden, their competition’s pulling ahead of them, and they’re like, “What happened?” Their employees start going to the competition and getting hired. I had a software company that was doing the exact same thing. He wasn’t showing up and was so stressed out all the time. This company was in South America.
Along comes American companies looking to hire good people from other countries. Now, they’re doubling their salary to come to them. It’s an easy decision for the employees. It’s like, “I’m not happy here. This person is not showing up for meetings. They’re capping off and doing this. Somebody’s offering me twice what I’m getting now. Goodbye.” That’s what happened. Fortunately, it got turned around, but it took a fair amount of conversations about that. What I have found is stress typically comes from habitual behaviors that are learned in childhood.
It’s very common. One of the most common ones is a fear of authority figures. Thinking about that as a business owner, if you’ve got any employees doing everything they can to try and get you to pat them on the back and recognize them, that’s typically a learned behavior that they’ve had as children. You don’t have to be constantly doing it. Every employee wants to be recognized in some way. Some may not want it to be publicized in front of a group because that might be embarrassing to them. You do a one-on-one, send them an email, or something like that. For others who want that public recognition, it’s always something to acknowledge them. It doesn’t take a lot.
I remember earlier in my career. I had a supervisor who was good with whoever came up with a particular idea. He would acknowledge them in the meetings. He says, “So and so came up with this idea, and this is going to be something good.” It was nice to have that acknowledgment. We learn from the best people that we’ve been mentored by, and we also learn from the worst ones.
That’s true. We go, “I don’t want to be that.”
With my parenting skills, I can’t tell you how many times with my kids when they were young, where I would sit there and go, “What would my mom or my dad have done in this situation?” I often did something different.
Do the opposite because it didn’t work for us. That is the communication you’re talking about, giving praise in whatever capacity that the person’s looking to accept. We can ask people and say, “I want to acknowledge you. Do you feel comfortable doing that?” Those of you who are reading this who are saying, “Is that important?” yes, it is. Don’t find out the hard way.
I remember when I was first starting to date my wife. She handed me a book called The 5 Love Languages. She said, “Read this.” I’m like, “Okay.” I read it, and I was like, “This is interesting,” because I wanted to continue to date her. I figured there was a reason behind it. I didn’t ask at the time. We got together, and she said, “What language am I?” It turns out that she is the type that verbally needs to have reinforcement. That’s her love language. It’s on a verbal basis. I remind myself on a consistent basis to tell her how special she is.
Here’s my challenge to everybody that’s reading this. Do you stop telling or showing your significant other how special they are? Do you stop going out on dates? If you do, what’s going to happen to your relationship down the line? People will go, “I’m going to continue to do that. If I haven’t done that, I’m going to do it tonight because that’s stupid not to, now that I’m supposed to.”
I’m speaking mostly about men, but the reality is women do it as well. The relationship wanes and peters out, and then over time, bad things happen as the bad things happen to you. Over time, you neglected it for another ten years or so. People don’t believe that the same principles sometimes apply to business. What they forget is you don’t have employees. You have human beings with titles. Human beings have feelings, wants, needs, and desires. They grew up in a certain way. If you understand who they are, you can help alleviate stress in your organization as well as not even have the stress for yourself.
I’m interested to hear your thought on this. If I take care of sometimes the ranks and the CEO or the business owner now has a reporting mechanism coming to them where she, he, or they could see what’s going on, some of their stress settles down. We can hit stress from the executive level through all other levels in a company. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that should improve productivity and efficiency by having everybody have better days.
There are a couple of different things from an organizational standpoint that can be done. If you have a smaller team, I’ve always been a big fan of each person doing the personality tool so that everybody else knows their preferable way of interacting, talking, etc. There’s a free tool online, 16Personalities.com, where each person can take it, and they’ll get their four-letter acronym about what type of personality they have. There’s nothing controversial about sharing it among the group. It provides everyone with a little bit better information. Doug, if you and I were working together and I knew that you tended to prefer an extroverted conversation or being acknowledged in public to the rest of the team, that’s great for me to know that versus an introvert who may not want that. That’s the information there.
The other one that is extremely powerful for a team to do, and this is from the leader, CEO, and down the ranks from every title, is to do personal values exercise for each person based on what they want out of their career. I have an exercise I use that takes 10 to 15 minutes at the most to do to identify the top five values as it relates to your career. What ends up happening is that any time that you have an important decision that has to be made as it relates to your career, if it’s the business owner, is he or she thinking about buying a competitor business, maybe considering selling, or considering hiring another person in that’s going to be a big part of the organization?
An important decision like that should always be run on your personal values. Make sure that that decision is in alignment with those top five values because if that decision is not in alignment with those top five values, I guarantee you’re going to add additional stress to yourself because you’re not being true to yourself.
We’re speaking with Professor Pete Alexander. He owns a company called Office Plants by Everything Grows. He is a stress elimination or reduction expert. This has been an extremely interesting conversation because I’ve been writing lots of notes. I’m like, “Top five values. Doug, take that one.” I always bring it back to human interaction because if you have two people, one has a value of family first and one has a value of family seventh, and they have a family together, I guarantee there’s going to be a ton of stress in that in that situation.
When we’re looking to hire topnotch or what l call elite sales professionals, we have to look at their value set as well to see if they fit culturally into the organization because if the organization is this what I would call a pitbull mentality, where it’s like take no prisoners and sell at any cost, and if you then try to put somebody in who’s a Labrador retriever who mellows and kicks back, they’re not going to be happy in that situation. Even if they’re a top producer, they’ll flush out. We want to look at that alignment of values. Your book, Lighten You Day, is cool. Where can people get it? Where’s the best place to get it?
The best places on Amazon. That’s where it’s available in Kindle, audiobook, or printed version.
Are the exercises in there not onerous and only take a few minutes?
No. There are over 100 exercises in there. When I started looking for different books on stress relief after I got out of the hospital, I noticed that they were all these 200-to-300-page books that talked about the theory of stress or maybe 1 or 2 activities. Who has the time to read a 300-page book on meditation? The reality is most of us are going to have five minutes or less to be able to try and calm ourselves down. 95% of the exercises in that book take 5 minutes or less. What’s great about that is it’s twofold. One, it doesn’t take long to try something. If it works, fantastic. Run with it. Use it as often as you can. If it doesn’t work, no big deal. You spent a couple of minutes trying it. Try another one next time.
That’s the thing. What might work as a great tool for you may not work as great for me, and vice versa. We have to find what works for us. That is the whole intent. You have a whole bunch of different ones. You’re not supposed to try them all. You can if you want. Most people what they do is when they find 1 or 2 that work for them, they use them on a daily basis. That’s the real key. If we can do 1 to 2 minutes a day of stress relief, the compound benefits over time will be enormous. We just got to start now. We can’t say, “I’ll do it tomorrow, next week, or next month,” because we’ll never get to it that way.
The Law of Diminishing Intent stays with us. The longer you wait to do something you know you’re supposed to do, the higher the probability it will never get done.
Pete, thanks for being here on the show. I know everybody got a lot out of this. I know I got a lot out of this. I’m very grateful to have you here. Thanks again.
Doug, thank you so much for having me on the show. I greatly appreciate the readers’ time. Hopefully, this was helpful for them.
Lighten your day is a positive thing for everybody to do. How do we do that? We get rid of the distress that’s going on in our lives. There are exercises that we can do to reduce that. There are exercises we can do over time that will eliminate that so that the things that we are stressed out about, we don’t become stressed over any longer. We want to get rid of that distress and get into good stress or, as Pete coined it, eustress. I didn’t even know that word existed prior.
The values thing he’s talking about is huge. It’s huge in regard to creating positive momentum forward growth in your business. When people are all on the same value set, stress melts off. It’s not going to go away because you’re always going to have certain things in the business. The reality is that when you don’t have interpersonal conflict going on, that helps in a big way. You’d be surprised. It’s much better for your clientele and the employees. Therefore, it’s much better for you.
Even if you have people who are outsourced and you look at their values and say, “I’m using certain vendors, and they’re driving me nuts,” why? Usually, it’s a values conflict. That is what I found it to come down to. Grab his book. Do some exercises. Reduce your stress. You’ll make decisions now not from scarcity, but from an abundance place, so you’ll play more win-win. You won’t worry and ruminate about the past issues as much or maybe at all. You won’t go into anxiety as quickly and worry about what the potential outcomes will be. Reduce your overall stress. Please take it from somebody who has burnout. You don’t want to go there. When you burn out, that’s it. No matter what you try to do, you can’t. It’s the weirdest thing I can ever tell you that happened in my life.
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If you want to get yourself, anybody you know, your company, or your teams to the top 1% in selling, in other words, in sales revenue growth, or if you want to have people get in your organization or yourself and the top 1% earners globally, reach out to me. If you’re looking to have people like that in your company on the sales side like, “I’m looking to have elite professional salespeople who are 1% earners work for you,” reach out to us. My direct email is Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com. My LinkedIn is DougBrown123, and the phone number here is (603) 595-0303. As always, go out and sell something. Sell it profitably. Sell a lot of it. Play win-win. Make people happy. Make yourself happy, have a better day and tomorrow, and reduce your stress overall. To your success.
- Lighten Your Day
- Office Plants by Everything Grows
- The 5 Love Languages
- DougBrown123 – LinkedIn