Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Focus

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

What does this have to do with fitness and my weight loss journey? Nothing!

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the broader vision for Operation Melt…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Focus

I am now 2 full weeks into working a new full time day job after an almost five month sabbatical. While I was out of work I changed up my day-to-day routine and added some new recurring activities.

  • I worked out over an hour each day, sometimes significantly more
  • I posted multiple times per day in my OperationMelt social media accounts
  • I started producing multiple forms of weekly written content
  • I started working on building some supporting materials for a future coaching business
  • I started focusing on improving my network
  • I cooked at home way more often
  • I read a lot more and listened to countless podcasts

I really enjoyed each of these new additions and initiatives that I took on and they were all pretty rewarding. Each of them took time and energy but they were absolutely a labor of love and helped me discover previously unknown passions.

Now I am back to work and I need to reallocate over 40 hours of my week to my primary job. That means that I now have less time to continue pursuing all of these initiatives and I am struggling to make it all fit and still achieve the level of quality that meets my own standards.

Some of my struggle will get easier as my routine takes shape but some of it means that I have to make a decision. Do I continue trying to pursue the same scope and let quality suffer or do I need to refine my scope of activities?

While it is going to take me some time to figure out the optimal mix of activities in my portfolio, this has reminded me of an important part of leadership – focus.

Leaders are very aware of the fact that time is not unlimited. They understand a key concept of project management, the triple constraint. That is that all projects are a balance of scope, time and budget/resources and any imbalance between these results in compromising quality.

I think the following quote from Dan Millman summarizes the importance of focus

I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time.

So how do you improve your focus?

  1. Know your goals / priorities. Focusing on the right things always starts with knowing what to focus on. The most important first step to this is to know your goals. By setting clear, measurable, SMART goals, you have a standard to use when determining which projects are most important for you. Here is a pro tip for all of you leaders of people and mentors out there: your top priority should be your people and their development! No matter your goals write them down and keep them visible. This will help them stay top-of-mind.
  2. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or “good enough”. Based on your goals, the next step is to figure out what is the least amount you can do in order to achieve this goal. For example is you are focused on working out to maintain your weight and health you need to expend far less energy spend less time working out than if your goal is to lose 100 pounds. In many cases the secret to accomplishing more is to figure out what your minimum threshold is for success.
  3. Say no. In many cases, the word “no” is the key to accomplishing your biggest goals. If you know what your goals are you can decide which activities don’t align with your current priorities. Then you can say “no” to the other things.
  4. Do it “later”. Later is more than a way to procrastinate, it is an important way to separate the things that are important to you know from the things that you still want to do, just not today. By shifting some things to a later date you can still focus today and not lost track of the other things that you might like to do.
  5. Activity Stacking. One way to increase your capacity is through a concept called “activity stacking” or doing more things at once. For example, if you want to read more but you also want to work out more, one option is to switch to audiobooks while you are exercising. Any time you can double up on work, and still give each task the attention needed to meet your quality standards, you have mastered productivity.
  6. Timebox. One way to ensure that you are spending time on the things that matter is by timeboxing your day. IN your schedule each day carve out sets amount of time that you can work on each of your biggest priorities. Then stick to that time to ensure that you can get to everything.
  7. Optimize your processes. In some cases you can accomplish more by improving your personal organization and by reducing wasted time. We all waste time here and there so there is opportunity to eliminate some of that wasted time and reinvest in higher priority activities. Not sure where you ware wasting time? Try tracking your time for a week or so to figure out where you are actually spending your time. In productivity, fitness, finances or anywhere else that you have a goal a personal audit is a good tool to use to figure out how to get to that goal.
  8. Ask for help. A great way to accomplish more of your goals is to engage more resources. Whether you are asking your friends for assistance or delegating to your team leveraging other people is a great way to increase your capacity. You can even buy this capacity through various online services.
  9. Self care. Another way to help yourself get more done is to care for yourself. By doing things like exercising, getting quality sleep and consuming a healthy diet, your body is in tip top shape to do its best, most focused work.
  10. Let yourself stray. Sometimes the best outcomes happen when you let yourself stray from the goals you are trying to achieve. By embracing a few distractions and giving yourself permission to take a break from your goal you clear your mind and that can lead to some of your biggest ah-ha moments. Plus this really helps you enjoy the journey. So go easy on yourself when you stray from your path for a short time.

There you have it, 10 very actionable tips to help you focus your time on the most important things.

Call to action: figure out your biggest priorities… what is most important to you. Then leverage the techniques mentioned above to ensure that the way you are investing your time matches your most important priorities. If now, make a change. You have choices and decisions in life and have control over how you invest your time.

Week 53: Year 2 Starts off Strong

My fit-iversary week has come and gone and I am now fully into the second year of my Operation Melt journey. It was a pretty good week and I am getting settled into my new job and a daily routine – balancing exercise, eating and working. I have learned that I need to take snacks to work and basically graze on food all day or I struggle to get to my minimum daily calories… who would have thought that would ever be a struggle for me!

I am so happy with what I accomplished in the past year but I am not done yet and I am still going strong.

Let’s talk about some of my notable updates from the past week.

Weight Plummets

This week something happened and I broke through some kind of weight loss plateau.

Since June 6 I have been noticing my weight hanging out in the same range in the 208s and 209s and, while it would fluctuate day to day, not really budging from there. Sunday, the day after my 5k and all of the celebration foods and drinks, my weight was up to 211 and Monday at 212. These occasional spikes are common and usually just temporary water weight gains related to sodium and alcohol consumption and thy go away in a day or two.

Tuesday morning I stepped on the scale and dropped from 212 to 207.8. I was pretty pleased because this was a new low weight for me. But the excitement was just beginning. I continued to lose weight on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I ended the week at 203.8 pounds. That is amazing and such a good feeling.

I didn’t talk about Saturday or Sunday because I was at our lake house and don’t have a scale there during lake weekends. For reasons I will talk about in a minute I am completely ok with not weighing myself on lake weekends!

Milestone: 120 Down!

By the way, me dropping to 204 and then into the 203s is significant. It means that I have hit the 120 pounds down mark. That is a big deal in just 53 weeks!

Where Does it End?

The big weight loss this week means that my revised weight goal of getting under 200 pounds is completely within sight. If I don’t get to 199 pounds this week, I should get there the week after depending on July 4th celebrations and such.

It is so exciting to be thinking about the possibility of getting under 200 pounds. I am almost certain that it will be the first time I have weighed that little since 8th grade!

So as I am coming up on this new milestone weight I am continually thinking about a big question: where does it end? When am I going to stop focusing on weight as my measurable fitness goal? I have been telling people “once I get under 200 pounds I am going to switch to maintenance mode” when they ask. But is that really what I want to do?

Some of my best friends have told me “you don’t really need to keep losing do you” and I say that I don’t. But I am not completely satisfied with where I am yet and I still have areas that could stand to lose some fat. But do I want to keep losing weight? I don’t know.

I am also not sure what my healthy low weight is. At 199 pounds I will have lost about 40% of my body weight through this journey. But according to the rules of BMI I am still in the overweight category. I know BMI is slightly flawed and my doctor told me not to worry too much about that, but it is a metric that can be used as an evaluation.

When I use online calculators for ideal weight, the results vary widely. Basically 140 pounds to 190 pounds is the range.

Spoiler alert – I am not going to try to get to 140 pounds! But, I only need to get under 190 to be in my “healthy” weight category based on my BMI. I am just not sure what impact my continued muscle growth will have on me.

I need to quickly figure out my next set of fitness goals and start measuring progress towards them or I am just going to keep trying to lose weight. I guess I have a project for the next 2 weeks!

5K is My New One Mile

On 9/24/2017, I wrote the following sentence in my daily journal

“I just finished a 1.4 mile walk with a slight attempt at running”

That was the day that I tried running for the first time after 3 months of my fitness journey and using walking as my go-to form of exercise. It was only about 50 feet or something and it wasn’t good and it didn’t feel comfortable. But I did it and kept trying to mix in a little bit of running into my walks.

During the winter, there were times when I would hop on the treadmill at the gym and be excited if I could get to a full mile of running. It didn’t happen a lot, but I could get there every now and then. But it was a world of difference from the struggle to get 50 feet of running in.

Earlier this spring I got to a point where a one mile run is pretty comfortable for me but any more was a little too much. So I would run a mile when I could and kept at it trying to go faster or further when I was running. I just wasn’t really tracking progress at all on it though I could go back and look at the data.

In late spring I started being able to get to the 3.11 mile mark (a 5k) every now and then but would end pretty sore. Me being me, I kept at it and kept pushing myself to do more and more and I successfully ran my first organized 5k last weekend.

Yesterday it occurred to me that 5k is my new one mile. Where one mile used to be my comfortable distance to run on a regular basis, now 5k is my semi-comfortable distance and I can pretty much do it whenever I want and have enough time.

I share this story because I just reflected on it while running yesterday. It is a true example of how perseverance leads to success. I could just as easily said “that run sucked, I am never doing that again” when I had that first run on 9/24, but I didn’t do that. Instead I kept trying and I got better and better.

Now I am asking myself a question about my running distance: where does it end?

Signed up for Next 5k

This week I decided that I am ready for my next organized 5k run. So I signed up for a 5k at Indian Lake on 7/6, the day of the Indian Lake Independence Day Celebration. I think it is a fundraiser for a high school cross country team but I am not entirely sure. Me supporting a cause is honestly just a secondary benefit. The primary benefit is that I continue to prove myself to myself that my First Time 5k isn’t really a One Time 5k.

I am going to sign up for as many 5k runs as I can based on whether or not I will be in town that day and if I have other plans. My objective is to keep getting more and more comfortable and to keep increasing my speed.

My next big goal is to be ready to run the Oktoberfest 4-miler on September 7. In fact, I am registering for that today!

Lake Time Choices

So far I have pretty much given you a highlight reel from this week. From everything I have written so far you would think that I had nothing but successes. Unfortunately this isn’t entirely true – though this was a really good week and I am not poo pooing on my own wins.

This was a lake weekend for us and I continue to struggle with making good choices at the lake.

While I generally eat healthy the majority of the time, there are unhealthy meals that sneak in more at the lake than in the city. I had a calorie bomb of a Mexican restaurant night on Friday on the way up to the lake. Fortunately I had anticipated that and tried to prepare for it proactively through the day with lower calorie meals and making sure to run.

Unfortunately I also tend to drink a little more at the lake than in the city. Nothing overly excessive, but just more frequent drinking occasions. We have lunch and listen to a band lake-side at the bar on our island so I have a margarita or a couple of beers. We grill out alongside the water while hanging out and listening to music, so I have a beer. There is nothing inherently bad about this, but the calories in alcohol add of very quickly.

I know that I can’t always be “on” 100% of the time and I know that it is important to enjoy my life every step of the way. In fact “enjoy the journey” is one of my key personal and leadership values. I just can’t help but think that I am not doing as good as I could be doing with this journey.

That said…. I have absolutely kicked ass with my fitness journey! I have kicked ass while mixing in unhealthy food and drinking, that has been part of why I didn’t fail. So, maybe I just need to embrace the bad choices so long as I am making sure to be disciplined about tracking them and that I am always working to keep them in balance.

Plus a delicious bourbon by a fire with some classic country music (or Dave Matthews or showtunes – true story) is a little bit of heaven on earth!

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (6/11-6/17):
Distance walked/run: 42.9 miles
Total calories burnt: 24,874
Total calories consumed: 14,894
Weight change: 1.6 pounds gained!

Reflections on Leadership: Lead Like a Plane & Soar to Success

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

What does this have to do with fitness and my weight loss journey? Nothing!

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the broader vision for Operation Melt…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Lead Like a Plane, Soar to Success

Do you know how an airplane flies?

The rounded edge of the plane’s wings allow air to pass rapidly over them. This air creates low pressure above the wing and high pressure below the wing causing the airplane to lift into the sky. It is much the same as when you put your hand out of the window in a fast moving car and tilt upward and downward.

The goal of a plane is to get off the ground which is a force called lift. Lift is one of 4 forces that act on an airplane as depicted below.

Lift is used to counteract the force of gravity which pulls the plane and everything else down to the earth. Thrust is used to move the plane forward. Drag is anything that slows the plane or the air moving over it and counteracts thrust. It is the goal of the airplane to minimize drag because the more thrust the plan has the more lift the plane has.

I am going to say that again… the more that a plane moves forward the more that it is able to achieve its ultimate objective… lift. There is an important leadership lesson there!

Like a plane, we are able to climb closer to our goals if we just start moving. If we sit and wait to have the perfect plan or the perfect conditions, we go nowhere. Just move!

This is an important concept in many areas. First off, it was a big step in my fitness journey. Before I had figured out my whole plan, I started exercising and moving. It is far easier to make progress and make changes when you are moving than when you are sitting still. Just like it is far easier to change the path of a flying airplane than one sitting on the tarmac.

This is also an important concept in project management – I call it the “quick win” concept. In projects you spend a lot of time working on identifying work, estimating work, sequencing work and laying out a detailed plan for the team. During this time, the actual amount of the ultimate business value of the project that you earn is zero. So, while detailed planning happens, it is always best to get the team focused on moving the project forward. In fact, in a very simplistic way, this is the concept behind Agile, DMAIC and many other solid approaches / framworks.

This concept of getting moving even applies to personal and professional development. If you start working on something, you are going to learn more along the way (progressive elaboration for you project managers) and be able to make quicker progress. Plus there is something to be said about getting your mind focused on the work and what comes next versus trying to jump right into long term planning.

Even Mark Twain knew this when he said “the secret to getting ahead is getting started!”

Here’s a real life example of how I have used this in a leadership setting. I was mentoring somebody who was facing an issue. For several consecutive meetings she would talk about this problem with her manager and how it was making her miserable. But she wasn’t making any progress because she was trying to figure out a big plan for what to do about it. I challenged her to approach it differently. I asked her to think of one tangible thing she could do to make an improvement to the situation within the next week.

I asked my mentee to commit to me that she would implement that idea within the next 2 weeks and come back and tell me how it impacted the situation. She did and it made a big difference. Then she committed to the next item and the one after that and eventually she was out of the problem. By achieving some thrust/momentum she acquired the lift she needed to get off the ground.

Call to Action: are you staring at the horizon of a major goal out in the distance that you don’t know how to achieve? Take a step forward before figuring out the full plan and then another and another until you have both your plan and some progress at the same time.

Week 52: Happy Fit-iversary!

It is finally here, the one year anniversary of me starting my Operation Melt fitness journey last summer. So, let’s chat a bit about how I spent my fit-iversary week.

One Year

There are so many thoughts and feelings inside me about the past year, the journey, the accomplishments, my transformation and such. So much has happened since I made the decision that changed my life. In addition to my physical changes, I have had changes to my confidence, to my passions, to my job and many other things.

I am not going to write a ton about the anniversary right now. I will likely write more in future posts, but I am still trying to sort out all of my thoughts. But I will share a couple of things.

First, I posted a separate brief blog post yesterday titled Milestone Moment: One Year of Melting that celebrated the actual double milestone moment. Please make sure to read that post too. It includes a some thoughts I wrote right before heading to my 5K, a poem of sorts called I Did It.

Throughout the week I shared posts on social media that included pictures from before or during the journey accompanied by quotes from my daily journal. It was very interesting as I reviewed my journal entries from along my journey. I really got to reflect on where my mind was during this and what my ups and downs were.

Finally, I will share the top 4 thoughts that are top of mind this morning:

1. Thank You!

A big thank you to everybody who made this past year successful.

From the likes and comments on my excessive social media posts to the in-person advice and support to the people who ran and supported my 5k to the people who sought advice from me along the way to the inspiring people who I looked to as role models to the people who just quietly followed my blog and especially to my wife Liz.

Every single one of these people helped keep me going and helped me meet my goal. I seriously, without hyperbole or blowing smoke, could not have done this without so much support.

2. Life Changing.

My life is so much different today than it was just 12 months / 365 days / 8760 hours / 525,600 minutes ago.

I never thought so much could change in a year, but it certainly did. I am still me but I am certainly an upgraded version of me. I am healthier, happier, more confident, more aware and more driven than ever before. I have also discovered a passion that I didn’t even know I had.

Plus, I think I am technically an “athlete” now because I have had a formal athletic event where I did great. Hard to believe it but I am already craving my next race and am thinking about doing a half marathon, mostly with walking.

3. Project Management Matters.

When people ask me what my “secret” is to the success of my journey, I usually credit 2 things: data and project management. P.S. there is no secret to my success, it was a process. It is a process that anybody can use and I can absolutely teach you how. The process was surprisingly easy, but does require you to work your ass off!

After more than a decade of being a project manager, I used those concepts and best practices to make this journey a success and it worked. This has reminded me of how important project management can be and that, done right, project management really matters.

I will be a lifetime project management evangelist!

4. Superpower / I Am Amazing.

Ok, I am wired to be a fairly humble guy and I don’t usually like to boast or brag. But through this journey I have learned that there are areas where I can be pretty amazing and even surprise myself.

When I think about this journey as well as some other aspects of my life story it becomes clear that I have at least one superpower. I can turn goals into realities as long as the goal is important to me. With a superpower like that, and after successfully conquering both poverty and obesity in my life, I know there is NOTHING I can’t accomplish!

This picture was from after my 5K and I am wearing a t-shirt that was given to me by an amazing woman, Pam McCarthy, the executive director for Central Community House.

Pam is retiring this month and these are shirts that were created for her retirement party. She gave me one when I stopped into the end of her party and told her about my 5K being a fundraiser for her organization – a total surprise to her!

I really love this shirt because it has very succinctly summarized the 2 things that I hope that I can do through my life, my journey(s) and my work. Lead and Inspire.

Operation Melt First Time 5K

Saturday morning was my Operation Melt First Time 5K run to celebrate my fit-iversary with another big milestone, my first 5K.

I am happy to say that I achieved 100% of my personal goals for this event:
1. I completed the run
2. I ran the whole time without having to stop to walk
3. My pace averaged 10:35 per mile which was right in the range I wanted
4. I didn’t finish last
5. People participated and had a good time
6. We raised over $500 for Central Community House, $645 was our total

This event was so much fun and so rewarding. I cannot say enough how appreciative I am for all of the people who supported it. We even talked at the end about making it an annual event and I already have a sponsor. So we will have to see if we can do that.

There are a lot of great pictures that were taken and I didn’t want to put all of them in this post. So, I will work on creating an album and linking to it over the next week or so.

New Job

Last but certainly not least, I started a new job this week! I have joined the team at a consulting firm named Data Systems Integration Group, or DSIG.

My first assignment is to spend the next year at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to help them with their project management office. This is another place where project management can literally help save and improve lives. When you think about the services provided by ODJFS there are some pretty important things they do. So it is critical that their projects are successful in the least amount of time and money in order to maximize the assistance that they can provide to those who need it.

So far I am just 3 days in but really enjoying it!

Check back next week for more!

Last week’s stats (6/4-6/10):
Distance walked/run: 49.8 miles
Total calories burnt: 25,828
Total calories consumed: 15,253
Weight change: 2.3 pounds lost

Milestone Moment: One Year of Melting

Happy 1 year anniversary to my Operation Melt fitness journey. Today marks a double milestone of 1 year of melting as well as my first 5k!

This was me one year ago…

One year ago today, I wrote the following in my daily journal

I really want to get healthier. I hate being so overweight.. I hate not being able to buy clothes in normal stores and having to always be concerned about weight capacity. I hate not being able to do things that I know Liz wants to do like horseback riding. Plus I hate the little aches and pains, the terrible stomach and being so self-conscious all the time. But, it is way too easy to keep doing what I am doing instead of fixing it. I want to get better and have to challenge myself to do so.

So I did challenge myself. I spent a year making smarter decisions and working hard and watched the weight just melt off of me…I have lost 117 pounds and am on my way to 125. My original goal of losing 100 pounds in a year was met in 9 months. Here is a graph of the journey – fun with graphs!

One year later and I am celebrating the anniversary of my decision to get fit by hosting my own 5K run. It was unbelievable to have so many people sign up to run with me and support me in my first 5K. Plus, for people to be so generous with their donations to Central Community House to help families out of poverty was also great. We raised $645!

 

To make it even better, I did pretty good! I finished in 32 minutes with an average pace of 10:35, which is exactly where I wanted to be!

Before heading out to walk down to the 5K course, I was inspired to write something to get the thoughts out of my head, so I wrote the following:

I Did It

I didn’t come from greatness.

I didn’t think I deserved it.

I didn’t make it a priority because I thought I would fail – so I didn’t try.

I let it get the upper hand and it was trying to kill me.

Then it all changed!

I was done, embarrassed and ready.

I made a decision.

I knew why I wanted it.

I made it a priority (obsession?).

I worked my ass off.

I won!

I FUCKING DID IT!!!

Because I am completely amazing!

Now… I can do anything!