Family Office Connections: Special forces

Our own Joan Young sits down with Chris Frueh, clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo with almost thirty years of professional experience working with military veterans and active-duty personnel. Chris shares with Joan the challenges that face special ops forces and how family offices and businesses can learn from their experiences and adapt as we have all been impacted in some way by this global pandemic.


Joan: Welcome to "Family Office Connections." I'm Joan Young, Managing Director of Boston Private. Today, the title of our podcast is "Kissing the Demon." And our guest is Chris Frueh, who's a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii. His credentials are impressive, 300 scientific publications, 30 years of work with military veterans and special forces. And he is here today to share with us how special forces operatives are trained and helped to deal with danger, uncertainty, and ambiguous outcomes. We hope it's helpful for everybody. So, Chris, what are you doing now?

Chris: Hi, Joan. Well, thank you for having me, first of all, and thank you for that gracious introduction. So, as you said, I'm an academic psychologist. I teach at the University of Hawaii. I also do quite a bit of forensic, private consulting work. And then my work with the military Special Operations community takes up a lot of my time. And I do a lot of that from home, especially lately, like we've all been doing, adjusting and working from home. But I do a lot of what I would call transition coaching for a lot of guys kind of at the end of their career or after they've left the service. I also do small bit of...maybe a fair bit of operational coaching and work, helping guys that are still very active perform...enhance their performance and maximize their ability to do their jobs.

Joan: Well, we appreciate it. And thank you so much for joining us today. You suggested a title for this podcast, "Kissing the Demon." What does that mean to you, and what was the thought behind the suggestion?

Chris: Okay. Right. I think of the demon as an analogy for the internal fears and negativity and paralysis that impair our ability to perform under pressure or adversity. So I think that's kind of what you're interested in talking about today. We'll talk about how to get the most out of your own talent, but also to help others do the same. I think you start with the question of who is your demon? And for each of us trying to think about that and reflect on that, who are your demon? Who's your demon? So she or he, I don't know its pronouns, is that that nasty little fiend inside of you who wants to see you fail. I think of the demon as having been spawned by our fears, our fears of failure and embarrassment, our negative thoughts and pessimism and doubts, bad or destructive habits that we have, maybe deep-seated feelings of guilt or shame, memories of past traumas or past adversity, and perhaps even our own personality traits in some ways. We all have strengths in our personalities, but we all also have flaws and weak points that may enable our demons to hobble us. From here, we can go a lot of different directions. We could talk about how you identify your demons, or we could skip that and go right into what do you do about them.

Joan: Well, why don't we talk about what some of the challenges are that you and I discussed that special operations teams and their spouses face, and the extent to which those may or may not be similar to those that people themselves and people in leadership positions have been dealing with over the past nine months with all the events in the world today?

Chris: Sure. I have a term, an acronym that I'll use in just a minute. But let me just say a few things about the Special Operations community. Many Americans don't really realize this, but in America, only about 1% of us have served, you know, in recent wars. It's a very small percentage. And when you go to the people who have served in the military, from there, it's another only about 1% who served in special operations. We're talking about a relatively small group of people in America right now probably less than 100,000 people who are either active or formerly active in special operations.

These are groups of men and women that are highly elite. The selection process is extraordinarily competitive, somewhere between 5% and 10% of people who try out for a special mission or unit or special operations are selected. And from there, they have years of rigorous training, dangerous training. And, of course, then the combat experiences and deployments and exposures. The phrase I like to use, and one that comes from the business world, but has been widely adopted by the military, the acronym is VUCA, V-U-C-A. And that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. And I think that takes us right into the present moment to our audience here today. Does that VUCA term have any applicability to the family offices that we're thinking about today to you?

Joan: It certainly does for the world at large. And because the economy is uncertain, the election has been volatile and trying. And it's unclear what the ultimate outcome of whether the vaccine will come through, and life will return to normal as we used to know it, or whether we will be living in some rather different world, both in a business and in a personal sense. So I think it's very applicable.

Chris: Extreme uncertainty, extreme complexity. The volatility that we have all around us in markets, in global marketplaces, and within small units or businesses is enormous. And of course, we're all facing the ambiguity as to what signals even to look at, what data points are to remain in relevant to us.

Joan: Yeah, and which issues are real and which issues are not, and what the timing of the resolution of health issues will be economic issues. We see a lot of family offices who have dropped their office leases. And it's very unclear what happens to commercial real estate coming out of this pandemic because many businesses have concluded that they can work...function perfectly well remotely. So it does raise the question for all businesses of why you own large commercial real estate properties.

Chris: Right.

Joan: How do you teach, or what do you teach to address VUCA?

Chris: Well, let's go back to the demons first. How do you identify the demons? I think of there being four approaches, but within each approach, there's probably an infinite variety of ways. So one is just to take inventory. Think about what you have, think about the challenges that you're facing, think about the VUCA environment that you're in and how it fits with your personality, with your style, with, you know, your demons, what doesn't fit with your demons. One way is simply to take inventory. Another is to get evaluated by a professional of whatever strike makes most sense. That could be a physician, it could be a psychologist, it could be nutritionist, it could be, you know, business consultants.

A third way is to train with an expert, such as a coach or therapist, and a fourth are the experiential pathways or crucibles as we sometimes call them. Another phrase we often use is just the school of hard knocks, learning through hard experience. I like to always start. How do I work with people? And so let me kind of call it this. Sometimes I refer to myself as a performance specialist. And whoever you are, we all want to perform, we all want to perform at our best. That's usually something that each of us can relate to. And I think of, I guess, imagine a circle, absolutely my model, imagine a circle that has five or six circles within it around that circle, and put a word in each of them, behaviors, emotions, cognitions, biological processes. And let's go with the fifth one, and just call it faith or spiritual aspects. These are all interconnected. That's mostly the good news.

How you behave affects your emotions and your cognitions affects how you feel physically. If you change your behaviors, you'll get changes in each of those other domains. Your thoughts, likewise, your thoughts or your emotions, each of these has the ability to have profound effects on the other domains. That can be a bad thing if you become...let's say your emotion is depression, and you're sad and depressed and lonely. I know a lot of people have been feeling that. That can have a negative effect on cognitions because sad and lonely leads to thoughts of hopelessness, thoughts of doom, thoughts of failures. That can have the effect on your behaviors of making your behaviors, behaviors like isolation, less engagement in physical activity, less engagement in work, activity, less engagement in hobbies or pleasurable activities, and so forth. And that in turn can affect your biology in your spiritual strength. So we can easily get into a vicious cycle with problems in any one of these domains can have a ripple effect every other domain. So that could be a vicious cycle.

In my work, I try to help people see this and see the connections for themselves personally and then to turn it into a virtuous cycle. So changing some behaviors, changing some thoughts and cognitions, maybe changing something biologically. We'll get into that when we talked about some of the novel things. Any positive intervention on any one of these domains should lead to positive benefits in all of the other domains. For each of us, performance, to perform at our best, we need to have a certain number of five or six really important kind of health pillars in place. And so I guess I start with sleep. Sleep is one of the most important health pillars, good sleep, quality sleep, and sleep is so important in ways we know now scientifically just in the last decade than we knew 20, 30 years ago, certainly than when I was going to school. Sleep is so much more critical than we used to know and realize. And that's not just the quantity of sleep, but it's also the quality of sleep, time spent in REM, the time spent in slow-wave deep sleep. That's all very important.

Functional lifestyle habits. So diet, exercise, moderation in any substance use. Things like that are really important. Holistic health, staying on top of your medical health, but viewing it in a broad perspective. Health is not just about the absence of illness, it's not just about, "Hey, I don't have COVID today so I'm in good shape." It's about hormonal, keep paying attention to hormonal changes and fluctuations, psychological changes and fluctuations. Something that many people aren't even aware of is the concern about chronic systemic inflammation in their body. And this systemic inflammation has been implicated in depression, dementia, cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and a number of other cognitive things that will impair performance and concentration. So that holistic health perspective is important.

Another one is social networks. You know, humans have evolved as a species to be very social, which is one of the reasons why it's so difficult for many of us right now with the social distancing and the isolation working from home. For 100,000 years, we were hunter-gatherers. We lived in small groups. We were never alone. We slept around a fire or in a cave or in a shelter together. Not just with our own immediate family, but with everybody in our tribe, our community, so to speak. So finding ways to emphasize and be engaged with your social networks is critically important for all of us right now. Cognitive mindset. Let me talk about that a little bit. I think a productive mindset is critically important for leaders, and it's something that leaders can develop for themselves, but it's also something that they can help engender in the people who work for them and report to them.

So a productive mindset involves being optimistic, resilience, and resiliency as an expectation, not as a mask, but as a belief in the resilience of oneself and of humans in general. Being compassionate towards others. Someone with a productive mindset recognizes the gaps in their own knowledge and their own experiences, and they're more aware...they're aware of more than one possible solution to any given problem. And they consider the perspectives of others, they view challenges from an outsider's perspective, and they look for compromises. That's really what a productive mindset is about. And that can be developed and engendered. And it can be encouraged in others. And I think that's something important that leaders do.

Maybe the last pillar I'll mention here, and I don't think this is a problem for most of our audience today, but having a purpose in life, having a mission, having a reason to get out of bed, having a set of structured, goal-oriented challenges each and every day is really important for us. Maybe that's something that's deep that a lot of us are losing sight of a little bit in the recent months. Wherever we're at, whatever the circumstances around us are, whatever that VUCA environment is, one of the things I always strive to do is to find the best adaptations possible. And the only thing ultimately that I can control is myself. And you can control yourself, and everybody can control themselves up to a point. And to make the best of whatever the situation is. Now, that becomes very different when it's personal versus business, obviously.

Joan: So what are these novel approaches, and why are they novel, and how do they work?

Chris: Well, first off, let me just say it again, the model of behaviors, emotions, cognitions, and biology, and spirituality all connected together. We want to maximize our sleep, we want to maximize our health in a very holistic perspective. And we want to develop good, strong functional lifestyle habits and cognitive habits.

There are a variety of novel. So there are simple things for those and there's simple strategies. Sleep, for example, we could talk about sleep hygiene, just simple things like developing a productive routine for that hour or two right before bedtime. When we go to the novel approaches, these are just things that I and others, especially many folks in Special Operations community use to maximize things just to kind of get that additional edge. In many cases, that additional little bit of edge can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. It could probably also mean the difference between productivity at an extreme level versus moderate productivity here in civilian world.

I'll leave with one that maybe isn't so novel, and certainly doesn't sound dramatic, but doing some version of some kind of objective fitness tracking and sleep monitoring, I think is a really productive strategy to try for at least a while, maybe not for the rest of your life, but to use one of the very good reliable wearable technologies, just to get an understanding of what is your fitness and your sleep look like? I wear a Whoop band. I like the Whoop. I also wear an Oura Ring, and I like that. You could also...there's the Apple, there's the Fitbit, there's the Garmin, there's Suunto. There's many, many things out there. So I can see...on any given morning or on any given day, I can see how much time I got in those various stages of sleep. But I also can track that over time and get graphs and charts of the last week, the last month, the last six months so I can see my long-term trends there.

And I think there's something very valuable about simply tracking things. As soon as we start tracking something, we start paying more attention to it. And we start to make small changes just to try to see about maximizing our readings, so to speak, and maybe not even small changes, maybe that becomes the kind of thing that some people will find that kind of exciting and reinforcing, "Hey, wow, I worked out yesterday, and look at my sleep and my heart rate variability today." Look at those changes. That's really rewarding for many of us. That serves as a motivation and a reinforcement for fitness and sleep routines.

Joan: Well, could I ask a question on that?

Chris: That's one. Yeah, please.

Joan: It's called Whoop. Like W-H-O-O-P?

Chris: Exactly, Whoop.

Joan: Okay. And let's say it says that you haven't had much deep sleep, what can you do about that?

Chris: Well, it depends. You didn't get much deep sleep for one night, or you're not getting much deep sleep on any night? Or maybe you're getting good deep sleep during the week, but not during weekends, or maybe vice versa. Then what you do is you start looking at your own behaviors. "Well, maybe I'm not getting good, deep sleep on the weekends because I'm drinking heavy on Friday and Saturday night. Maybe there's another behavioral habit that I'm doing that's contributing to this." Whoop helps you find those little things. They all do. You can track... Like each day I create a little log from the day before that includes things like, "Did I take a nap? Did I exercise? Did I drink caffeine? Did I drink alcohol? And if so, how much? Do I use time-restricted feeding?" Which is something else on this list that I guess we can get to next, time-restricted feeding, it'll track that if you tell it to. And you actually can set up your logs to track any variable that you think is meaningful or interesting to you. So these become ways to start to identify little patterns. My wife the other day had a couple of nights of one of her best sleep ratings. And she was like, "Well, what did I do differently?" And she realized she had some chamomile tea those two nights. I mean, we don't really know that chamomile tea make her sleep better. But it was the only thing that really stood out as being different. So now she's drinking more chamomile tea in the evenings.

Joan: Interesting. Yeah, what is time-restricted feeding?

Chris: So time-restricted feeding is a relatively new idea. And I'm gonna say by that I mean the last decade or so. And there's different phrases for it or different terms. And they mean slightly different things but they're similar. So time-restricted feeding. Intermittent fasting is another phrase. And there's a variety of ways to do all of these, but they all come from the observation or the science that was found a couple decades ago that mice on very low caloric diets actually live longer than mice on regular diets. Mice that don't eat much food live longer, have less heart disease, have fewer metabolic problems. So they started, you know, taking those ideas and trying to figure out how to make them fit for humans. Time-restricted feeding, I don't wanna even pretend that I understand it fully or maybe that anybody understands it fully, but the idea is to try to get a certain period of every day where you're not eating.

The research shows they've done clinical trials that show they've compared groups, one group that ate at normal hours, the other group ate time-restricted feeding routine, but both groups had the same number of calories. So the food and the calories was held constant. All they did was vary the windows of eating. Most of us start eating as soon as we wake up in the morning, and we'll finish the day with a snack often late in the evening, very common. And so the only time that we have any significant period of time without calories is while we're sleeping. So the idea of time-restricted feeding is essentially to take that 8...let's call it 8 hours, maybe it's 9 hours or 10 hours depending on people's habits overnight where they're not eating and extend that by a few hours on each end.

So what I tried to do, and I'm not perfect at this, I tried to get all my calories into an eight-hour window feeding every day. So I try to eat breakfast around 10:00, 10:30. And I try to finish my last meal of the day by 6:00, 6:30. And then I eat or snack after that. The goal is to get 15 or 16 uninterrupted hours where my digestive system is allowed to essentially reset itself. There's no calories to process. What the scientists who do the research in this arena are finding is this becomes a very effective way of reducing the chronic systemic inflammation, which means that it's potentially a preventive lifestyle habit that can help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary illnesses, as well as help people maintain healthy weights.

And I don't even think I finished my story about the study. What they found is even when holding calories constant, the subjects in a time-restricted feeding condition either lose weight or maintain a healthier weight than the other group who's eating the same number of calories, but they're eating them spread throughout the day. So time-restricted feeding seems to be a very effective way of just helping to maximize your health. And I'll say I sleep better at night because I'm not going to bed with a full stomach or half full stomach. If my last meals is at 6:00, and I go to bed at 10:00, my digestive system needs four hours to do its thing, and I sleep better. I'm actually sleeping better since I started using this.

People have talked about all kinds of benefits from time-restricted feeding. Some people, myself included, find that I have more energy and more concentration during the day. I try to get up and do writing at my desk writing by 6:00 in the morning. And so I actually work for about four hours before I eat anything. I do drink black coffee. And I always used to put milk and sugar in my coffee. Now I drink my coffee black because black coffee has no calories so it doesn't violate, or it doesn't start the feeding clock, so to speak. What other questions do you got for me?

Joan: Very interesting. What are some other what you would call novel approaches?

Chris: Okay. Well, I know you want to talk about float therapy and sauna bathing. Why don't we do that next?

Joan: Yeah. It sounds great.

Chris: Float therapy, we know almost nothing about float therapy, the idea from a scientific perspective, other than a lot of people are looking at it is going, this may be the next great strategy for helping people recover from heavy workouts, from stress, from physical chronic pain in the body, and maybe even from depression and anxiety. Float therapy is something involves...and there's salons all over the country now that offer this. So you can just go to the Yellow Pages or Google your hometown and look up float therapy, you'll find some spas. If you live in a decent-sized town or a big city, you'll certainly find spas that offer this. It's essentially, you pay for a session, you go, and you have a private room that has a pod, and the pod is filled with the pod of the top that opens kind of like a clamshell. And inside it is water that has a heavy percentage of salt. So we float in it.

And the idea is literally you climb into the pod, you pull it, you close it over you, and you just float in darkness. Now, you can have light in there if you want, you can have music playing if you want, but the classic way to use this is for somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes, just to float in complete darkness, complete silence. And the floating takes all the pressure off of all of your skin and body contact points. I'm gonna confess, I've never tried this. I know a lot of guys who have, and they describe it as being like a combination of a powerful meditation, spiritual awakening, and sort of rejuvenation of their energy and their body physically. I have friends and colleagues that try to do this once a week. And they say it's just...has incredible benefits.

If you think about the special forces, a lot of the special forces units and teams keep these kinds of foot therapy pods in their rehabilitation facilities, and it's available to them. I don't know much about it from a scientific perspective other than the anecdotal reports are impressive. I do know scientists and exercise physiologists who are now testing and experimenting with it doing randomized control trials to see how it compares to, say, just laying know, doing quiet meditation, not in a float tank.

Another type of, I guess, salon experience would be sauna bathing, which obviously is very popular in the cold winter countries, Scandinavia and Russia and other countries. We've recently learned that sauna bathing lead to a profound reduction of chronic systemic inflammation. So everything seems to be about information. Anything that will reduce inflammation is probably really, really good for us, unless there's dangerous side effects or risks.

Sunbathing, science shows two interesting outcomes apart from the reduction in inflammation. One is it seems to have the same benefit of mild to moderate exercise. When you sit in a hot sauna for 20 or 30 minutes, your heart rate elevates, and you sweat. And we all kind of like had that experience. Some people like it, some people don't like it. But it actually mimics what moderate exercise walking very briskly does. So people who use sauna bathing find that it reduces...well, the studies find that for research subjects use sauna bathing that it reduces blood pressure, it improves heart rate, and it reduces resting heart rate a little bit, and has a number of other benefits that moderate exercise has.

It has also been done randomized controlled trials of using sauna bathing as an intervention or treatment for depression, and found a pretty least two studies have found pretty powerful benefits, antidepressant benefits from sauna bathing for people with major depressive disorder. So the cool thing about sauna bathing is you don't have to be depressed to benefit from it. But depression seems to be one of the many things that it will help ameliorate and improve.

Joan: So all of these novel approaches are really not very complex. And they're things that all of us could do. And at the end of the day, the goal is to address the issues that you started out at the beginning as saying that are the underlying fundamentals to being productive, being happy, being healthy.

Chris: Yes, being well. There's a few other novel approaches. If you'd like, I could just list them, and we could just see if we want to talk about any of them. Extreme exercise, crucible experiences, cold therapy. We could kind of get even more into the clinical domain, brain stimulation is another...probably the last 50 years, we've started to do a lot more with brain stimulation in the field of psychology and psychiatry. And there's a variety of ways to do it, some of which are very expensive and require medical, you know, diagnoses and supervision to implement the stimulation. But there's also gadgets you can buy on Amazon. There's a product called Alpha-Stim that probably costs about $1,500 that you can purchase and use on your own, just to stimulate your brain. Brain stimulation is not something I'm necessarily recommending for anybody. There are times and places and examples of when it might be useful.

Another very clinical experience approach would be hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which is medically used for certain conditions like stroke rehabilitation, some ocular problems. It's now being sort of thought as a possible treatment for traumatic brain injury. So a lot of the guys that I work with have received hyperbaric oxygen therapy that's probably more clinical than kind of a general audience or the VUCA perspective needs, but it's something just to be aware of. But we could talk about extreme exercise, crucible experiences, cold therapy, just go into those a little bit if you like.

Joan: Yeah, let's do that. Yeah, that would be great.

Chris: So cold therapy seems to have some of the same kinds of effects of sauna bathing ironically. One is super hot, one is super cold. Neither one are particularly comfortable. A lot of people kind of like sauna bathing, find it relaxing. Not many people love cold therapy, but a lot of people will swear by it. Imagine immersing yourself as in filling your bathtub up with ice, literally filling it up with ice so you can't put any more ice into it. Then turn on the faucet and fill it up with water, and the ice will start to melt a little bit until there's room for you to climb in. And you climb into this tub of ice water. You sit there for 15, 20 minutes. That seems to have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. It seems to be amazing at reducing pain in joints and ligaments. It seems to be very effective at helping people recover from intensive exercise.

And some people report that it helps them concentrate better and have more clarity of mind for the rest of the day after they've done it. That's something to think about. And I guess probably for some of the same reasons, extreme exercise, and I'll even take this into kind of the crucible experiences. I have a friend who...former Navy SEAL who some years ago ran a super ultramarathon around the rim of the Grand Canyon. So it was a five-day event. I think it was...I'm going to get the details all wrong because I don't remember exactly, but it was essentially he ran at least...he and his team did at least a marathon every day for four or five days. Some days, they did two marathons. So a marathon is 24 miles. Some days, they did 48 miles, carrying all their own food and water in gear, and going up and down elevation in a very austere environment.

And a lot of people describe experiences like that as being life-changing, partly because of the training involved and partly because of the experience itself. Now, I'm not necessarily recommending that to anybody. That's extreme. The risk of injury or even just, you know, bad stuff happening on the trail like that is significant. So I want to be careful. But extreme exercise or crucible experiences like going to war, going to Q selection with the army, going through buds in the Navy to become a Navy SEAL. These kinds of experience also can be profoundly experiences for people.

Joan: Well, it's interesting because on the exercise front, I've been hearing from a lot of our clients and a lot of my colleagues that one of the things that many people have done is to significantly increase what their typical exercise is, whether it's hot yoga, whether it's running more miles or running steps, but whatever it is. I think the five-day marathon might be a hard sell as frankly as the cold sub from my perspective. But certainly, all of us can increase our exercise.

Chris: Right. And, you know, I'll give you a personal example. A few years ago, I call him my trainer, he was a Navy SEAL who had been on a lot of the high-profile missions and deployments and raids, told me I was not doing enough. I was like, "Well, you know, I thought I was doing well enough. I have a healthy weight. People look at me and say I look fit. I can run on the treadmill for 20 or 30 minutes. I can do a few pull-ups, and I could do a few pushups, and that seemed to be enough." And he was like, "No, no, no, no." And he really helped me reinvigorate and elevate my exercise routine. And I'll give you...the extreme event I did earlier this year was the Murph Challenge. The Murph Challenge involves wearing a weight vest, usually 20-pound weight vest or body armor.

Let me back up a little bit. Murph Challenge is named after Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who died in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings. He was leading the Navy SEAL team that went into a remote area of Afghanistan. Most of them were killed. His favorite workout, allegedly, was the workout I'm about to describe. So he would have done it with body armor. I do it with a weight vest that straps around my torso. It's run a mile, do 100 pull-ups, do 200 pushups, 300 air squats, and then run another mile and do that for time. And it was a time where I would have said anything over 10 pull-ups is impossible for me, and 10 pull-ups with a vest on is completely impossible. And I was wrong about that. I was able to do this event. And I had actually been training a couple of years, not to do the event, but just to get better at doing pull-ups. And I never do more than 10 pull-ups at a time in a set. But over the course of about 70 minutes, I was able to do the 100 pull-ups and the 200 pushups and everything else.

And so I think all of us are capable of going well beyond where we think we are. And I definitely experienced two profound benefits that I was not expecting by increasing the intensity of my workouts several years ago, just better sleep, feeling better emotionally, and cognitively, and physically and in a variety of just...variety of ways. I've just felt better since I started exercising more intensely. Now, that's something we all have to be careful of. I mean, I'm not here telling you, Joan, go start doing 100 pull-ups every day. That's probably not possible or feasible for most people.

Joan: It seems highly unlikely.

Chris: I do 100 pull-ups once a year. Like I do that once a year, and I was pretty sore for a few days afterwards. So whatever we do, you have to do it I would say gradually, incrementally, and certainly aware of whatever physical and medical health limitations you start with. But each of us has ways we can improve and increase the intensity of our exercise.

Something along those lines, I guess this would be the responsible wise thing for me to talk about, next would be high-intensity interval training. In fact, that should be on my list. HIT, H-I-T, high-intensity interval training. Simplest way to do this is a warm-up and then a 16-minute exercise, and then a cooldown. So it doesn't even take a lot of time. Clinical trials have shown that the 16-minute high-intensity workout really, really increases lung capacity and heart functioning. And it's really simple. You go kind of easy for four minutes and then you go hard for four minutes. And so you have four periods of going hard. I guess I said 16 minutes. I should have said 30 minutes, but only 16 of it is really pushing.

So I will literally walk for four minutes to warm up, then I will run as hard as I reasonably physically can for four minutes, and then I'll walk for four minutes, and then run hard for four, you know, back and forth. And, you know, you determine what's hard. So those four hard minutes are determined by you. That high-intensity interval training has been found to be better than steady-state training for most people who just have fitness goals of improving their cardiac and their pulmonary function.

Joan: Very interesting. Are there any other novel approaches that you would like to add to the list, or are those the ones that you think the best of?

Chris: Those are probably the ones that I should be comfortable talking about here, a few of these push the envelope, maybe more than they should for most of us. Maybe one other thing to talk about is the role of failure. We don't often think about failure, and most of us are ashamed and embarrassed, and we don't ever want to fail. What I realized was a lot of my own personal habits were all set up so that I never failed. And what I've come to appreciate is the failure is amazing. Take it to a small thing with your exercise program. Maybe you're doing high-intensity interval training, and you get to that fourth period, and you're supposed to go hard, and you're just wiped, you're smoked, and you can't go eight miles an hour anymore like you did on the first ones you did. For me, that always felt like a failure. I would avoid it because I didn't want to hit the wall, so to speak, like that. But what I found is if I can't go eight miles, maybe I can go seven miles, and accept that that's a good failure to have if you don't give up on it.

And beyond that failure, every failure is a lesson. So part of what I do with all of these things, none of us are going to be perfect at any of these things we just talked about, and none of us are going to be perfect at completing them or following through. You know, famously New Year's resolutions, kind of famously fall to the wayside by about the end of middle or to end in January. But if we're willing to look at our failures and be open to what they tell us, they can be really valuable experiences.

Joan: Yeah. One of the things that I've noticed from investment banking and law and running family offices is that when everything's going really, really well, you don't learn anything. You only learn when there's a huge market crash or there's a security breach that you weren't expecting. And so in an odd sort of way, the environment that we've been dealing with for the past nine months is one in which there's opportunity to fail or opportunity to fail in a small way. And you do learn about what maybe wasn't well thought through in your portfolio, in your management style, in your hiring, sort of across the board in terms of how your business runs.

Chris: Yes, yes, that's very good. Early in my career, maybe 20 years ago, I was sort of elevated into a leadership position at the hospital where I was working. And a few months into that new role, I made a pretty significant mistake. And I barely even remember what it is now. But at the time, I was devastated. I had screwed something up and made a mistake. And people were unhappy with me. And I went to my boss and said, "Listen, I really messed this up." I took full responsibility. And I offered my resignation. And I was fully expecting him to accept it. And he just laughed at me. He goes, "Are you kidding? After that learning experience, I would allow you to step down? No, that experience was very valuable. Now you know how to be a better leader and how to be better at your job. If I promote somebody in there, then I got to see the next person make that same type of mistake." He not only did not accept my resignation, but he pushed me to see the lessons that were there for me to learn from it. So, a little failure, very important. And you were about to say something.

Joan: No, I was gonna say that the other part of this that probably was convincing to your then boss was that you stepped up, and you took responsibility for it because that ends up being a powerful tool both for yourself in recognizing what went wrong and what your part in it was. And also in convincing whoever's around that you've actually learned from it. And this will not be repeated in the future.

Chris: Agreed. Agreed. And I think the lesson from that is too many of us, when we do fail are embarrassed and shamed, and we almost hide it. We don't own it. And I think owning our failures is very important, owning and learning from them.

Joan: Yep. Well, the topic here was really to share what you've learned over your decades of working with special forces in the military to help all of us who have not served or not in serving now but are running family offices or running businesses or managing with our own families. Is there anything that we've not talked about that you would like to share with our audience in closing?

Chris: Well, I think two thoughts. One is, whoever used the term long-term, we keep thinking COVID will be over maybe in a few months, we keep hoping, but obviously, whatever happens with COVID, our lives will go on for most of us. And so we have to think about the long-term. We have to think about the distant horizons. And we have to think about what are we doing now with regard to these kinds of things that we talked about today? And how we're going to maintain them? How am I going to maintain my exercise program five years from now? How am I going to maintain my time-restricted feeding program five years from now? And to tell you that I think it will be easy, you probably wouldn't believe that. But I have a lot of confidence that I will because these have been habits that I've just trained into myself. I can't imagine now...I've been doing the time-restricted feeding for about three years now. I can't imagine not doing it. Now, I'm not perfect with it. And when I'm traveling especially, and food is maybe less within my control, if I'm eating with other people or engaging in social or physical activity outside of my home, I'm not always in control. But I think the long-term approach and plan is really important, and to be cognizant of that is critical. Because you can do everything today in this month, the next month, and be feeling really good, but if you stop, if you like let your habits go, then you may be back to where you started.

There's one other thing I want to say. This is about leadership and leaders. And I think probably everybody on this call has an awareness that what you do as a leader is observed and noticed by everybody who reports to you. You want to be an example. You want to be a good example. Calmness is very contagious. So calm leaders tend to engender calmness in the people around them. And I think the cognitive mindset that involves, you know, I'll just kind of go through it again just because I want to hit this point, it's important, a productive cognitive mindset means as a leader, being optimistic, resilient, compassionate to others, but also humble and willing to acknowledge your own limitations and the strengths of other people. And also to be curious to want to understand the world, not just from your own perspective, but from the perspectives of the people around you. How do outsiders seek it? How do other people see it? And what are the compromises that can be found? So I think that calm leadership approach that sets a good example and has that productive growth, cognitive mindset is really an important aspect for a leader of any unit or group.

Joan: And that's a very good final point, Chris. Thank you. Chris, thank you so much for joining me today. Really appreciate your time and your insights. If anybody in the audience would like to get in touch with Dr. Frueh, you can send us an email to I would also recommend you check out our website, where there are numerous resources. You can sign up for our newsletter, and we'll share how we help other family offices. That website is And you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you prefer to listen. Thank you all for joining us today, and we look forward to presenting new podcasts in the future. Thank you all. And thank you, Chris.

Chris: Thank you, Joan, for having me.

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