Leaders September 2015

Using the athlete’s mantra

Tips that apply to work and sport

As the organisers of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2015 finish tournament preparations, it’s not only the world’s finest players who are packing their bags and heading to England. Fans from around the world will be converging on match venues as fixtures kick off on 18 September. It is great to learn that Japanese fans will be in the vanguard of this migration.

A recent survey by online travel firm Opodo forecasts that, during the world cup, the UK will welcome 20 times more visitors from Japan than usual for this time of year. The increase in numbers is the largest among the 18 so-called travelling nations, and is a positive sign of Japanese enthusiasm for the game as the country begins to accelerate preparations to host the tournament in 2019.

Be the best

For the participating teams, the RWC is the culmination of four years of preparation. A tremendous amount of planning goes into ensuring that high-performing athletes can peak during the tournament—when it matters. While champions have a rare capacity to overcome physical and mental fatigue due to nearly superhuman levels of determination and willpower, the best prepared will have done all they can to avoid such obstacles.

Three key things form the foundation on which athletes prepare to excel at their chosen sport: training, rest and nutrition. Although science is applied as part of modern training regimes, there is no magic to the fundamental methodology. A deficiency in any one element will quickly lead to a decline in performance, and an appreciation of this fact is something that all of us can use to improve the productivity and quality of our working lives.


There is no substitute in the sporting or business world for careful and meticulous preparation for the task in hand. The athlete’s mantra of “train hard, race easy” will serve you just as well in the boardroom as it will in the gym. There are no shortcuts.


A neuroscientist from the University of Oxford recently told The Telegraph that people who get by on not enough sleep function as poorly as drunks. It’s a colourful analogy, but one that should remind us that burning the midnight oil on a regular basis helps no one if the quality of our decision-making is impaired.


Fuelling the mind—to stay alert, imaginative and innovative—is as important as replenishing our bodies physically. The late Steven R Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, referred to this practice as “sharpening the saw”—in other words, continually improving ourselves.

Reading widely and exploring interests beyond the confines of our job may help, but members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan need look no further than the chamber’s autumn events schedule for inspiration: yet another benefit of membership!