Entrepreneur Barry Lall: “Focusing on your health is the key to peak performance”

Ask any person who has started their own business and they will tell you that pursuing entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. Entrepreneurs have some of the most stressful jobs. They must deal with a multitude of uncertainties that come with building something from the ground up, not to mention the fact that every decision made for the business they are personally responsible (as well as liable) for. Especially in the beginning, they must wear many hats and gain a wide breadth of knowledge in a number of different fields from finance to marketing to managing people. For all of these reasons, entrepreneurs tend to have the longest working hours of any occupational group.

For every wrong shipment sent, fall-through in securing funding, and even massive growth that leads to exciting new opportunities, an entrepreneur experiences a jolt in cortisol, the primary stress hormone that can increase your heart rate, negatively affect your immune and digestive system, and increase your chances of lifestyle diseases. According to Barry Lall, founder, president and chief executive officer of the hotel management company Pinnacle Hotels USA, this is why it is imperative that entrepreneurs place a high level of importance on their lifestyle choices. 

“Being physically fit and having a healthy diet is the key to peak performance, both in anyone’s personal and professional life,” said Lall. Although Lall initially pursued a career in medicine and worked as a family physician for a time, he had always felt a pull toward entrepreneurship and eventually left the practice in order to fulfill his dream. Starting out with the purchase of a small dilapidated motel, Dr. Bharat Lall put in massive amounts of time and energy to build his business.

“In the beginning I worked a few hours a day at my medical practice and worked nights and days at the motel,” said Lall. At one point, he and his family moved out of their home and into one of his properties so that he could give it his full, undivided attention. “We lived on the property, converted three bedrooms into our guests in our apartment and did everything, waited on tables, cleaned rooms when necessary, took guests to the airport.” 

Eventually, Lall founded Pinnacle Hotels USA which today has over 1,500 keys across nine properties. Lall himself no longer actively manages the properties, instead focusing on running the company and pursuing new investment opportunities. However, it was only after he had achieved his modern day “American Dream” that Lall realized he had not been paying adequate attention to his health in the process, and it was negatively affecting the way he moved through business and life. Below we explore more of Lall’s journey, both in entrepreneurship and health. 

According to Lall, he was lucky in having a strong foundation in fitness with a love for sports. Growing up in a British colony in Africa, his father influenced him to enjoy a number of different sports and in his childhood he played cricket, badminton and tennis. Later after immigrating to the United Kingdom for university, Lall found that sports provided him with a quick way to overcome the cultural and language barriers he encountered, allowing him to have an instant connection with others. 

However, by the time Lall moved to the United States in his late twenties he had begun to experience migraine headaches. “These headaches really made it very, very difficult for me to engage in strenuous physical activity,” said Lall. “Although I knew that these headaches were brought on by certain environmental factors, and even what I ate the previous day or consumed, I could never manage the frequency of these headaches which I used to get maybe two or three times a week.” 

The headaches impacted his ability to think, articulate, made him irritable and generally in low spirits. He described that period of his life as one in which he generally had a pessimistic outlook, during which time he felt depressed and that “everything was gloomy.” In spite of these debilitating symptoms he never missed a day of work, neither while he was working in medicine nor when he started his own company. However, the uncertainty that came with whether he would experience a migraine made scheduling things out difficult. “If I had a headache and I had a meeting with you, I would come across as rude. I’m just so irritable, and because of that I didn’t want to put myself in a vulnerable situation because of that.” 

Lall said that it was when he was approaching his 50th birthday that he came to the realization that he needed to put a more active effort in taking care of his body and health. He had achieved all he had ever dreamt of and more in his career, but at that point was spending hundreds of dollars each month on co-pays for migraine medications that were still proving ineffective. They say that we take action when we finally say “enough” and Lall made the decision to completely overhaul his health. Following the book “Heal Your Headache” by David Buchholz, he utilized an elimination diet and for the first time in years was able to stop taking medicine and be relieved of weekly migraines. 

Although Lall still gets migraines on occasion, he says that this life-changing experiment allowed him to hire a trainer and began the process of becoming physically fit and paying attention to nutrition. “For me, even when I was in my late 40s I didn’t know as much about nutrition,” said Lall. Even though he had been a physician practicing medicine for a number of years, during the time he was in medical school they did not teach much in terms of fitness and nutrition. “I must give credit to my son who has inspired me a lot in terms of how to be careful with my nutrition.”

Thanks to his newfound focus on health, Lall said has been able to approach his work and home with better mental clarity. His love of sports has helped him forge lifelong friendships and allowed for successful dealmaking, and he has also taken up meditation which Lall said has “has helped quieten my mind and has been instrumental in leading me to a state of inner peace and fulfillment.” 

For entrepreneurs to perform at the level they must in order to succeed, Dr. Lall said they must place an importance on stress management techniques that benefit their mind and body. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep are a bare minimum, while practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can also be extremely beneficial. Even taking time for hobbies – Lall and his wife love long walks on the beach and even sometimes go boogie boarding – can have a profound effect. “My advice is to begin slow, but aim to be consistent in whatever you do,” said Lall. “Consistency will lead to long-term success. It’s not about how much, but even if it’s less, just do it consistently. And so if it becomes a habit, it becomes a practice, I think it’s huge.”

healthNutritionPeak Performance