You don’t have to want to be president or even care much about politics to learn something from the men who became leaders of the free world. While researching my new book, Jocks In Chief, I began to notice a few themes about our presidents, their athletic talents, and how their abilities (or lack thereof) shaped their legacies. Here are a few tips to help you shape your own:
Fist Fights Build Leadership
Teddy Roosevelt practiced martial arts in the White House. Abe Lincoln was basically a street brawler in his youth. Andrew Jackson was beating people up well into old age. If there’s one thing in common with some of America’s boldest leaders, it’s that they were physically commanding before they became Commanders-In-Chief. This isn’t to say you need to go out and join a Fight Club, but there is a strong connection between physical confidence and your performance as a leader.
Make Your Feats Memorable
George W. Bush ran a sub 4-hour marathon at age 46 before taking office. Ronald Reagan saved 77 lives as a lifeguard. Woodrow Wilson played over 1,000 rounds of golf as President. If you’re good at one thing or you want to be known for it, push yourself to put up a number or performance that people will remember.*
*Obviously, the opposite of this is creating a negative memorable moment, like Jimmy Carter collapsing during a 10k, or Barack Obama attempting to throw out a first pitch.
Play Team Sports (and Win)
Sports psychologists have long studied the positive effects that winning can have on individuals, and it seems that many presidents started winning as part of a sports team and didn’t stop until they got to the White House. Gerald Ford won back-to-back NCAA Championships as a football player for Michigan. Dwight Eisenhower’s high school baseball team went undefeated and George HW Bush played in consecutive College Baseball World Series’. The old adage is true: success breeds success.
Own Your Size
If you aren’t going to voluntarily explore uncharted waters on the Amazon river (TR) or jump out of airplanes in your 80s (Bush 41), or play hoops with anyone who has a basketball (Obama), then you need to own the fact that you’re just not a great athlete, accept it and have fun with it.
Bill Clinton has been caught lying about a lot of stuff, but when he said, “I was a fat band boy”, well, he was telling the truth. People knew he struggled with his weight, so his jogs around DC, while fodder for late night comics, actually garnered him sympathy.
Same with our largest president, William Howard Taft, who, rather than discuss his lack of athletic accomplishments, shared his weight loss goals with the New York Times…and this was pre-modern media, where Oprah or Ellen would have made him do it. Impressive.
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Jon Finkel’s new book, Jocks In Chief: From Football Stars and Brawlers to Feats of Strength and Iron Butt, A Complete Ranking of the Most Athletic Presidents of the United States is available now: http://bit.ly/jfkaom
Follow him on twitter: @Jon_Finkel