Why you always have to be thinking about the next step in life

Chris Clawson knew that it was the end of his baseball career, even if his father wasn’t ready to admit it.

The future president of Life Fitness had put together a great spring training performance in 1986 with the Houston Astros. He hoped to use it as a springboard to a strong season in the Astros’ minor league system, one that would get him moving again toward his dream of playing in the majors.

Unfortunately, the injuries that had plagued him the two years prior struck again. And as the season ended, Clawson was at the same place he had started.

“My dad came down and I had had a great end of the year and he said, ‘They’ve just got to see what you can do when you’re healthy,’” Clawson says. “I said, ‘Dad, I’m back in Single A. There are guys ahead of me that are my age, there are guys next to me that are younger and guys behind me that are younger.’”

Clawson knew it was time to give up his dream of playing baseball and start the next phase of his life. The experience taught him a lesson that has served him well in the business world.

“Business is a lot like life in that way,” Clawson says. “Things don’t go exactly as planned and you have to be able to rebound and recover. You have to put it behind you and focus and instill that you’re not going to be upset because something didn’t go exactly as planned.”


Keep it on the level

Fortunately for Clawson, the next phase of his life has been a tremendous success. He leads Life Fitness, a division of Brunswick Corp., which had net sales of $693.5 million in 2013. It’s the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial fitness equipment and a leader in making high-quality consumer fitness equipment.

Those are pretty lofty accomplishments, but Clawson doesn’t get carried away thinking about them, nor does he get too down when times get tough.

“You can’t get so high when something goes well because people lose focus and there’s still a lot of work to do,” Clawson says. “When a new product first comes out, there’s a lot to do to continue the momentum.”

But just like in sports, when the time comes to measure up and see how you’re performing, there are plenty of stats to grade your efforts.

“They tell you exactly what’s going on,” Clawson says.

The important thing for Clawson to see on his team at Life Fitness is progress.

“You want to see them progressing, developing, evolving and getting smarter and faster,” Clawson says. “You want them to have more understanding and appreciation for the marketplace, the customer, the competition and the product.”


Take a deeper look at Chris Clawson’s approach to leadership at Life Fitness and the passion he has for people by checking out this month’s Chicago cover story. Click here to learn about one of Chris’s greatest inspirations in life.