Shocking Facts That May Help You Conquer the World

Why Downtime Builds Staying Power


And now to Ian Bremmer: his tips for resting and conquering....

In this series of posts, professionals reveal their best antidotes to work stress. Read the posts here, and then write your own (use #OutsideWork in the piece).

What you do in your "downtime" is essential. And, it's easy to forget if you’re passionate about your work. I had to learn that bit the hard way — I spent the first five years after founding Eurasia Group working nonstop, pretending that everything else didn’t matter. Those first years were really productive. I was proud of it. But it was also really unhealthy. I knew that if I wanted my company to succeed over the long run and stay sane (and happy!), I needed to make some changes.

One change was a daily routine. I started working out every day for at least 90 minutes. I know that sounds like a lot, but if you’re committed to something, whatever it is, you’ll find a way to make it work. Working out keeps my energy up, balances me, and readies me for the day ahead. I prefer the morning, sometimes it slips to midday. No matter what, I avoid working out at the end of the day — it’s too easy to say “I’m tired” and put it off until tomorrow. The strategy has worked — I’ve missed maybe a day per year over the past 10 years.

The workout specifics doesn’t matter that much. It's nice if there’s a big gym around. If the weather outside is good, even better. But sometimes you have to make do with what you have — at Davos I would get by with floor exercises, stretching and whatnot. I wasn’t too happy about it, but I would manage to work up quite a sweat.

Carving out time in my daily schedule was a big step. Another was a break from the daily routine entirely. You just can’t come up with good ideas if you’re always on 24/7. Good ideas need time and perspective, so I started taking a month off each summer to go to Nantucket and reboot (I still work out every day though, even there). There are a few reasons I chose Nantucket. First off, it’s close to where I grew up. I miss hearing New England accents and people talking about the Red Sox. I’m also not ashamed to admit that Nantucket has always been aspirational for me — I was raised outside Boston, but in the projects. I didn't even know Nantucket existed. 

Nantucket is also really quiet, which makes sense given that it’s an island. I spend most of the day outside, biking, playing tennis etc… I read a lot, and I spend time with my family and friends who I don’t get to see nearly enough during the year. My dog Moose loves it, which is almost reason enough to go. 

When I first started taking my summer trips, I sent an email out to my clients letting them know I’d be out of the office. One particular high-flyer wrote me back and advised me not to, saying that it showed I wasn’t committed. Hardly. If anything, it shows that I’m committed for the long haul. I want to stay passionate about my work and continue to enjoy it. I can’t do that if I’m not happy.

I really don’t understand CEOs that remain “on” all the time. Maybe they’re just wired differently than I am. Of course, not everyone can take a month away, but anyone can take a week, a day, an hour. It's so important to clear your mind. 

If there’s a theme that runs through all this, it's balance. I went to college when I was 15. I was too small to play sports, and too young (and dorky) to date. My goal in life wasn’t to keep getting smarter, it was to get balanced. Thirty years later, that still feels like a goal worth achieving. 

Ian Bremmer

President at Eurasia Group