The Happy Engineer Podcast

159: Who Else Wants More Energy at Work?

Are you ready to unlock your full potential by prioritizing what you know as an engineering SME? The key lies in energy management, not time management. Oh, and SME doesn’t mean what you think it does.

In this episode, I share a surprising revelation from my morning routine at the gym that transformed my perspective on career success. From casual encounters with gym buddies to discovering they were top executives, I realized a common thread: the correlation between physical fitness and professional achievement.

I delve into why a strong body is crucial for a strong mind, and how prioritizing health can elevate performance in all areas of life.

Join me as I challenge engineering leaders to become subject matter experts not only in their technical fields but also to become an SME in Sleep, Movement, and Eating!

Tap to DOWNLOAD the free Strong Mind = Strong Body Checklist, part of our New Career Acceleration Scorecard for Engineering Managers!

So press play and let’s chat about maximizing performance through holistic well-being.

Want free coaching, LIVE? Join us in a live workshop for deeper training, career coaching 1:1, and an amazing community!  HAPPY HOUR Workshop Live with Zach!


The Happy Engineer Podcast

How to Optimize Energy (not time) for Engineering Leadership



LISTEN TO EPISODE 159: Who Else Wants More Energy at Work?

Previous Episode 158: How to Minimize Regret and Maximize Success with Omar Halabieh


Top Takeaways on Optimizing Energy for Engineering Leadership

In this episode of The Happy Engineer Podcast, we uncover the powerful correlation between physical fitness and professional success as an engineering leader.

Here are the top three insights:

1. Energy Management: Learn why energy management is a key skill that differentiates an engineering leader’s performance, and how it’s the x factor to results.

2. Mind-Body Connection: Understand the deep connection between a strong mind and a strong body, and why taking care of your physical health directly impacts your career performance.

3. Holistic Success: Discover how investing in your physical well-being not only enhances your professional performance, but also supports a balanced and fulfilling personal life.

To go deeper and build an action plan around these points and why all this matters, listen to this entire conversation.



Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: So I remember when a new gym opened up, not far from the tech center where I worked when I was still a junior. Engineer at Whirlpool corporation. I might’ve been promoted one time. I don’t remember it, but Jim opened, I thought, Hey, what a great opportunity. It’s so close to the office.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:18] I can go work out before I start my Workday shower up right there at the gym. Drive over. It’s going to be perfect for my new morning routine. So I got a membership. I started going every day before work, get my workout in, get my sweat roll in. And they had a really nice locker room at this gym. It was more like a. golf clubhouse kind of vibe. 

[00:00:40] It was really nice. A totally unlike the YMCA in our town, which was a little bit scary to get, get ready for work. And so loved the place. Go in, have a great workout, showering up. I’m in the locker room and you start to meet people. Who you see every day? And eventually you get their name and then you start to have more interesting conversations. 

[00:01:01] And after being a member for six or 12 months at that gym, I started to look forward to seeing Brett and seeing Palo and seeing Matt and all the different guys that I was meeting at the gym. They were just by gym buddies. Didn’t really think a thing about it. Well, one day I’m walking the halls during a town hall gathering at our global headquarters building. And I saw Brett. And you have walked right up. 

[00:01:29] Hey, Brett, how you doing? Awesome to see you, How was your workout this morning? We have a little chit chat and then we part ways and keep walking. I go find my seat for the town hall and halfway through the town hall meeting. Brett gets up to present. And I discover that he’s a vice president of marketing at my company, and I had no idea. Well, I started to pay more attention and I looked in our portal where all the employees are listed with their job titles. And all of these guys that I was meeting at the gym. You’re director of engineering, vice president of branding, senior vice president of communications. 

[00:02:08] I mean, they were all executives and leaders within the company that I worked at. And then I got curious about a couple of the other people and I forget the guy’s name. It might’ve been Adam. I think it was Adam. Adam was a CEO at a very successful local company. It was unreal. It’s like I was hanging out with all of these incredibly successful people every morning and had no idea. It got me curious. About how many of these senior leaders. Had exercise as a key part of their regimen and routine. 

[00:02:41] And as I got into more curiosity around that, I realized most of them do. Fast forward a bit. As I got into coaching. I really leaned into the importance of energy. With everyone who I work with, we talk about energy. How energy management is one of the key skills that differentiates your performance in engineering as a manager, as a leader. And time management has a place, but energy management is the X factor to results. And I realized this correlation between working out. And success in your career. 

[00:03:18] Wasn’t just about discipline. It wasn’t just about. The kind of lifestyle that these leaders are drawn to. It’s about energy. It’s about the available energy that you have to perform. And I think the late great Paul Bragg said it best when he said that a strong mind exists inside a strong body. A strong mind exists inside of a strong body. that single concept has driven my entire approach. To my health and my fitness and my body. 

[00:03:57] Ever since you see, as an engineering leader, you create success with your mind. Not your body. Okay. Occasionally we go to the lab. We’re moving parts around we’re building product. If you are in the physical product world, you could argue you need fingers to type and run the mouse. If you’re in the software world, I get it. 

[00:04:14] We need our body to translate. That knowledge, but in principle, it’s your mind? That creates value and wealth for you personally as an engineering leader. So we need our mind to operate at its best. And the truth is that your mind operates at its best. When it is nested inside a system that is a strong body. You see these physical systems, which includes your nervous system, the nervous system being. The mind. we really don’t have a way to understand or separate our consciousness, our ability to think, and reason that makes us uniquely human from. The physical system that is your brain and your nervous system and how that moves throughout your entire body. 

[00:05:02] And these things are interconnected. It’s a two way street. There are multiple systems at play. And they’re all playing off of each other. Now I remember when I first shared some of these ideas, a lot of people got kind of frustrated with me. Because it felt like judgment. Of people who were not in good shape. People who were overweight or who chose not to take care of their body. And I’m just going to tell you flat out, it’s not a judgment of anyone. If you choose not to take care of your physical body or you have an ailment. In your physical body, that right now is difficult to manage or control. 

[00:05:41] It’s not about that. Don’t look to the exceptions, someone else, one time said, what about Stephen Hawking? It’s like, all right, come on. Look, there’s always an exception. And if you are one. Then manage that exception for yourself, but here’s the truth. The odds are really good. You’re not one. They’re called exceptions for a reason. And you will increase your performance at work. If you increase your available energy to do work. And when you’re healthy in your body. You have more energy and that energy is your X factor to performance. 

[00:06:21] And here’s the best part. It’s not just your performance at work. It’s your performance in every area of your life? So many engineering managers. I complain about getting home from work so exhausted. That they’re not able to be the dad or the mom that they want to be, to be the husband or wife that they want to be, to be the partner. 

[00:06:43] They want to be, to be the friend. That they want to be, and I don’t want that to be you. Don’t go home. With nothing left in the tank. and what you might be tempted to do is blame the challenges of your career. Two. Put blame on the toxic environment or the bad boss or the stress and pressure of the projects that you’re working on. 

[00:07:06] But rather than do that, what if we instead take responsibility? And ask a question about how to maximize your available energy. And a strong mind exists inside a strong body. If you’re not taking care of your body. Then you are missing out on this opportunity to maximize the potential of your mind being a great engineer. Means considering the whole system. You are an engineer. 

[00:07:34] Just think about it. It’d be like going to the, car that you’re developing the electrical system for. And saying that the mechanical system doesn’t matter. Just because you’re building the brain of the car. The writing software for the car and the control system doesn’t mean that the shocks. And the struts and the chassis don’t matter. It’s no different in your body. You cannot optimize the brain and the nervous system without optimizing the whole system. 

[00:08:04] And my challenge to you today is to take that seriously. If you don’t have a regimen. And a set of great habits to take care of your body. Then you’re not taking care of your mind. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to be happier and you will perform better in doing engineering work. This is one of the areas. 

[00:08:27] Everyone needs to invest. Focus. And change. A strong mind exists inside a strong body. If you need some quick tips on this, I have 12 really simple ways that you can activate this in our new scorecard for engineering managers. I really encourage you to jump in the show notes, grab a copy. These last few solo episodes. 

[00:08:48] I’ve covered other topics that are also. Uh, going to show up in that scorecard, it’s really useful simple tool. You can give yourself a stoplight status on each of these items. There’s four categories, super simple. And it’s a great way for you to make sure you’re getting the basics right. In these areas. 

[00:09:06] So jump in the show notes, grab a copy. And start putting one of these at a time into practice in your own life. Here’s a useful way for you to think about it. If you know, this is important, but you’ve struggled in the past. All engineers. no, the acronym S M E. Being a subject matter expert. And you’re probably like me. 

[00:09:29] I always wanted to be known as a subject matter expert in the areas that I was doing engineering on. You’re probably the same. There’s probably an area. Where you would like to be known as an SME, even if you’re a manager. You probably like to be known in some way for your skillset. And your engineering prowess on top of those people’s skills. 

[00:09:49] Well, take that. And ask yourself, am I being an SME on both sides of the coin? The one side is being a subject matter expert. My knowledge, my intelligence. On the other side of the SME coin. Is sleep. Move. And eat. Sleep move and eat the three simplest areas. To take focused action to improve your performance. The greater your intelligence, the greater your performance. The greater your sleep. Your movement, your physical exercise, the way you take care of your body physically. 

[00:10:25] And you’re eating the nutrition, the fuel that you put inside this vehicle that carries our mind around. The better off you’re going to beat. So my challenge to you today is to be an SME, not just a subject matter expert. But a person who focuses on sleep movement and eating every single day. 

[00:10:45] It’s a big bucket to go after. 

[00:10:48] So remember just like we talk about an everything on this show. Find the one simplest smallest action you can take right now. Two. Improve. On taking care of your body. And if you need those simple tips, like I said, grab the scorecard out of the show notes. It’s an easy way to get started, but here’s the truth. You already know. The thing that’s not quite where it needs to be. Maybe you need to go to bed a bit earlier, have that glass of water before you start chugging coffee in the morning. Hit the gym again, it’s been a long time since you’ve worked out, get a sweat, rolling. 

[00:11:24] Do some pushups. Trust that intuition. Take that small, simple action today. Don’t wait until tomorrow started today. Build better habits. And it will serve you. In accelerating and advancing your career. There’s a reason that Brett and Adam and Paulo and all these guys in the gym that I was meeting. We’re performing so well. That came out of the gym, vibrant. Alive. Focused ready. With energy in the tank. To go and perform at work. And energy left in the tank to go home. And perform at home. If you want that whole life balance, if you want that performance take care. Of maximizing your energy. A strong mind. Only exists. Inside a strong body.