Professor Scott Meadow is an acclaimed practitioner and pedagogue of entrepreneurship at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is a devotee of exercise and a former bodybuilder who has won the Mr. New England, Mr. Collegiate U.S.A., and Mr. Northern States contests, as well as completing the New York Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and the Boston Marathon twice.
I sat down with professor Meadow over a bowl of cantaloupe (I offered cookies; he declined) to discuss fitness.
Chicago Business: You started working out at an early age, how did you get into physical fitness?
Scott Meadow: I was awkward as I entered high school and therefore a bit of an outsider. One day an acquaintance of mine took me down to the Dayton (Ohio) YMCA where all the University of Dayton football players worked out. After a month of watching those guys train, one of them invited me to join them.
Think of this: Six 20- year-old college football players, throwing hundreds of pounds of metal around were thoughtful enough to remove all of that weight, at great inconvenience to themselves, to allow me to “work in,” and therefore be “one of the guys.” I’m not sure why they did it, but they changed my life.
[CB]: Were you always into weight training or did you play other sports?
[SM]: As a senior in highschool I was a captain of 3 sports - football, wrestling and track. I started out strong but overweight in 10th grade. As a frame of reference, as a 16 year old, I weighed 225 lbs. and was benching over 400 lbs..
Unfortunately, I was too fat and too slow to be effective in sports. So I added running to my daily routine and by the end of my sophomore spring I had lost 60 lbs.. As a result, I was not only stronger with better endurance, but I also had better muscular definition. What followed was an invitation to participate in the teenage Mr. Ohio contest; my first sojourn into bodybuilding.
[CB]: You excelled in academics in college, how did your athleticism contribute?
[SM]: The ritual of the weightroom, transferred over to the classroom. I would run 5 mi. every morning, go to class, study, eat lunch, work out for three hours, study, teach a weightlifting class for my scholarship, and study until 11:00 pm. I kept that routine for 2 years.
I loved the academics at college, and particularly loved English. By the time I was a junior, I was intermittently taking tutorials from senior faculty. I found that I was able to work closely with my professors one-on-one because of the discipline and attention to detail that were essential in the weightroom.
[CB]: Does fitness play a role in Finance?
[SM]: At a young age, I could see tangible results for my hard work. As weight was added to the bar I could see gradual improvement. Similarly, as a venture concept reaches a milestone, funding often follows.
Being a Venture Capitalist is not something you are taught how to do. We can teach you how to play the piano, but we can’t make you Mozart. We can, however, help you understand when you are in the presence of Mozart. In the Venture Capital business, you either SEE things or you don’t. I always had the ability to SEE, and I had developed the fortitude and creativity to put projects together. Putting the project “together” means patiently integrating analytics, money, people, and constantly refining the project into a commercial enterprise.
[CB]: What was your diet like when you were training and how has that changed?
[SM]: At the peak of my activities in bodybuilding in 1975 and 1976, I was eating a high protein diet often including 12 egg whites for breakfast, 3 lbs. of canned salmon for lunch, two chickens for dinner and a pound of lean ground beef before I went to bed. I never used anabolic steroids or any other chemical enhancements.
Recently, I have given up red meat and all processed food. For example, the only thing I drink is black coffee, water, and an occasional single malt scotch. I eat oatmeal, nuts and fruit throughout the day, and at dinner I am a vegetarian 4 days a week and a pescatarian 3 days a week. My wife helps by making soup out of pureed vegetables.
[CB]: Do you have any closing remarks for our young and ambitious MBA students?
[SM]: Having lifted enormous amounts of weight, run 10 mi. a day, and completed four marathons, I was rewarded for my efforts with five muscular-skeletal surgeries since 2007. Of course, the lesson is everything should be done in moderation. I would give all of my past athletic endeavors up to run 4 mi. three days a week, at this point. Now, my exercise activities are limited to some anaerobic exercises, bicycling, and swimming which I complete over two 35 minute sessions a day.
Probably most important particularly as you are working long hours and getting older, is attention to diet. I have found that moderate exercise and attention to diet are fundamental to leading a calmer less anxious existence. In my case, I have embraced the notion that “vanity has its price” and I will probably continue to run from that “unpopular awkward teenager” for the rest of my life. That demon keeps me motivated.