Fit to Lead: Be Bad at Things

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Be Bad at Things

As I mentioned in last week’s post I was on an annual family vacation last week enjoying some rest and relaxation. While on vacation I played golf with my brother-in-law which had become an annual tradition. I am not good at golf at all but mostly because I only play once or twice a year though he plays way more frequently and is great at it.

During our golf game we started taking about whether or not his twelve year old daughter is ready to start playing golf yet. We know that she soon will be and it is only a matter of time. But he said that she probably isn’t ready yet because of one trait that would make it no fun for her.

Like many kids her age she gets very frustrated with any activity where she isn’t instantly good. Then she wants to give it up and move on to other things. He is working on teaching her the important lesson that you can’t be good at everything in the beginning. He will do great at teaching this lesson and she will soon beat us all at golf!

This got me thinking back to when I first started my fitness journey. I didn’t know how to do much beyond just walking and tracking foods; and I wasn’t great at that! I was underestimating my portion sizes and mis-logged my food often. I also underestimated the importance of rest, form and proper equipment and gave myself several injuries but I learned and got better.

Eventually I went on to achieve my goal, and then some, and ran a half marathon just 16 months after starting my journey at 325 pounds. I was successful because I stuck with it, I learned and I got better despite not being a natural. I read a lot, I talked to more experienced people and I practiced. Plus I hired a trainer to help me be safe when I started lifting weights so I had some expert guidance to keep me from a serious injury.

What does this have to do with leadership? It relates to one important, and maybe tough to hear, fact. Great leaders aren’t born as great leaders. Leadership is a learned skill and it takes lots of practice to be good at it.

It is important to be bad at leadership because it is when you are bad that you grow the most. Being bad at something means that you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Comfort is the opposite of growth!

Just think about how bodybuilders grow big muscles. They constantly lift just a little more weight than their previous maximum. It is uncomfortable, and sometimes literally painful, but it is how muscles develop. Your leadership muscles work the same way.

Give yourself permission to be bad at things as long as you are committed to getting better. Then do the work! Read, talk to experts but, most importantly, try and push yourself outside your comfort zone. Before you know it your leadership muscles will grow huge!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Week 110: Vacation Then & Now

I have spent the past nine days at Indian Lake for our annual family vacation. Over this vacation we have four houses full of family and there are 15-20 of us here depending on the day. We spend the days floating, boating, playing board games and generally having fun while mostly disconnecting from our daily responsibilities.

Last week I talked about how my life has changed because of my fitness journey. This week has included another example of that change. My approach to relaxing lake vacations is very different now.

This is the eighteenth year that my wife and I have been coming to Indian Lake together and it is always during this same week. That means that, throughout the week, I have been seeing  “memories” pop up on social media from our vacations from the past. These memories from the past are a good reminder of how much things have changed through my fitness journey.

Just a couple of short years ago my average day at the lake started with waking up at 8, 9 or 10 o’clock after staying up until 1 or 2 at night. I would turn on some Netflix, park myself on the couch and start eating some sugary cereal. After eating I might drift off and sleep a bit more.

Eventually I would get up and my wife would be up too. We would hang out around the house for a while and then get showered and dressed. We would hop in the car and drive to the restaurant on our island (just .4 miles away) and get some lunch. I would likely get a burger or other sandwich and some chips. Then we would sit there for a couple of hours watching the band and the people.

Mid afternoon we would pack up and head to the other side of the lake to meet up with family. We might play some Scrabble and just sit beside the lake relaxing and maybe fishing. Then we would have dinner as a family and continue the games until after sunset. Then we would break off into separate groups and may play poker or other games while snacking and drinking until late night when we would return to our respective houses and go to bed. The next day we would repeat.

There would be minimal exercise. There would be lots of junk food. There would be lots of alcohol. Plus there would likely be a variety of work phone calls and emails. It was mostly relaxing but not really very healthy at all. Thus it was the perfect metaphor for my life.

Today things are pretty different on the average day at the lake. Here’s a summary of what my normal day at the lake looks like.

I might sleep in until 7 or 8 before I get myself out of bed. Once I am up I spend twenty minutes or so journaling and posting daily inspirational posts on social media. After that is done I make sure to drink at least sixteen but more likely thirty-two ounces of water to start rehydrating myself. I also eat a healthy breakfast that usually consists of a banana and peanut butter or maybe some Greek yogurt and fruit.

Next up comes some time for exercise. I put on my workout clothes and head outside to do some lunges, push-ups and some jumping jacks. Then I start my morning run for at least a couple of miles or maybe even longer. This weekend I started my day with a run of nearly five miles. After my run is done I may tack on a walk or a bike ride or both. I try to start my day with plenty of exercise and I consider it a big win for myself if I burn over a thousand calories of exercise before noon.

My afternoons are still fairly similar to what they were before but with a couple of notable exceptions. First is that we will not drive to lunch if we are going someplace conveniently walkable. When we get to lunch I am way more deliberate about the foods that I choose. I make sure that I choose primary fruits and vegetables plus some protein of some sort. I essentially never have fries and I limit my bread intake. I also am more choosy about my drinking and try to choose lower calorie alcoholic drinks mixed with plenty of water.

Later in the evening I still play many board games and lots of rounds of poker. But I am more careful about my snacking and try to limit my mindless grazing on chips and other super unhealthy snacks. During one late night poker game this vacation there were plenty of chips and such available for the taking but I ate sugar snap peas. Plus I drank more water to help my body stay hydrated and healthy – I shoot for 140+ ounces per day.

To be sure, I still have tons of fun and relaxation at the lake during vacation. In fact I may have even more relaxation because I am much better about disconnecting from work. I still spend time drinking, snacking and having fun. But more of my fun and activities include exercise and I love it. Plus I continue to challenge myself never to operate on autopilot when it comes to my health and eating.

So what? This means that it is absolutely possible, and pretty darn easy, to have a fun and healthy vacation. We are all a product of our choices and it just takes a couple of smart choices to live your healthiest life. Most importantly vacation is not an excuse for “cheat days” nor is any other day of your life. The key is to build a fitness lifestyle that you love and that doesn’t require you to cheat.

Thanks for reading and please try to make your next vacation your healthiest one yet. You will be happy that you did.

Want to know more about how I used project management to lose 130 pounds in 18 months? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year.

Fit to Lead: Rest Up

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Rest Up

This week is my annual family vacation at Indian Lake in northwest Ohio. We spend this week relaxing and having fun with my wife’s extended family. We have nightly dinners, boating excursions, poker night, board games, bonfires and many other family friendly activities.

As I was relaxing by the lake another parallel between fitness and leadership occurred to me.

Through my fitness journey I have become a runner. One of my personal rules is that I don’t run on consecutive days. If I run too much without any rest days in between my body doesn’t have time to recover and heal and I develop pain. It is very important that I incorporate plenty of rest in order to perform at my peak.

The same thing applies to weight lifting and almost any other exercise. If you go as hard as you can in your workouts every single day they will start to lose their effectiveness. It is during periods of rest that your body rebuilds itself. If you are trying to build muscle it is literally the rest time when the muscles build. The actual workout is just tearing away the old muscle structures to let them build bigger.

Leadership is also requires periods of rest in order to achieve peak performance. Our minds need time away to relax and to process and to build perspective. If you continue to go as hard as you can at leadership every single day you will suffer burnout. This will ultimately hold you back from achieving your goals.

The need for leaders to rest applies to your daily behavior. Some leaders work around the clock and are almost never “off” work. They pride themselves on never missing a detail, never being slow to respond to an email and being able to work more than anybody else. I know leaders who have been operating with a high intensity level of urgency for years without resting and that is just not healthy or effective.

This always-on, extreme hours approach used to be how I operated. I used to work from 7a to usually 6p. I would be on calls on the way home from work. I would be responding to calls, texts and emails during dinner. I would log back in and work from home at night. I would work during the weekends and often go into the office on Sunday morning. I was averaging 60-70 hours per week.

The result of my long hours and lack of rest time was not becoming one of the most effective leaders in the organization. In addition to it taking a big toll on my physical and mental health because of high stress and long hours there were other consequences. First off I conditioned those around me to believe that this was ok and I never set boundaries which meant this became the expectation. There is always more that needs to be done but I had no more to give. It also lowered the expectations for what I expected my team to do because I was trying to do it all myself and that wasn’t fair to them – it limits their professional growth. Plus I ended up becoming tunnel-visioned and focusing on the fires of the moment instead of taking a step back and looking at the situation through a more strategic lens. I never had time to separated myself from the moment. You don’t make good decisions during times of high stress! Finally I was passively setting a bad expectation for my team by modeling bad behavior. I was telling my team that I expected them to work every minute of their life too – though I didn’t. In short my lack of rest made me a less effective leader.

Finally I was passively setting a bad expectation for my team by modeling bad behavior. I was telling my team that I expected them to work every minute of their life too – though I didn’t. In short my lack of rest made me a less effective leader.

More importantly I never really stopped to consider why I was doing this. I was paying a big cost of my lack of rest but what was the benefit? Life is short why spend every minute of it at work?

Do you want to be a good leader? Then rest up!

Start by setting some boundaries and limiting how much you work each day. By doing this you will create time care for yourself and to build meaningful relationships outside of the office. You will have time to work in some exercise and other stress relievers. While you are resting you will likely also be able to see broader connections and approach the work more strategically.

While you are resting your leadership muscles each day make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Sleep is an often underrated part of living healthy. Your body and mind need sleep to regenerate themselves and to operate at peak efficiency. You cannot be an effective leader when operating on limited sleep.

The final way to work in rest as a leader is vacation. Take time off, go away and disconnect from work and don’t spend your entire vacation checking in at the office. Spend time doing things you enjoy and playing. Also spend some time reading and maybe working on a creative outlet. Give your mind space to roam and rest and live.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. Now go get some rest so you can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness (or exhaustion)!

Week 109: How’s This My Life?

Over the past 109 weeks I have shared lots of my accomplishments with you. After making the decision to get fit and lose over 100 pounds in under a year, I had lots of big achievements and transformations I am very proud of and haven’t hesitated to share with you.

  • I have lost 130 pounds in 16 months.
  • I have put on some new weight through pretty significant muscle growth.
  • I went from Saturday mornings watching Netflix on the couch while eating my Capn Crunch to #Sweaturday long runs.
  • I run 10+ miles every week and at least one race per month.
  • I have run 5 total half marathons (only 2 organized) in under a year.
  • I have deadlifted over my body weight and bench pressed 110 pounds after only being able to do 55 pounds at the start.
  • I have gone from a obese body to an amateur athlete body.
  • I left a high stress, long working hours job that wasn’t a good fit for me, had a 4+ month sabbatical and am now in a job that really fits my priorities.

And the list goes on.

Just this past week it has really hit me just how much my life has changed since my decision to get fit. Simply by decided that I was going to be successful and by setting and crushing a big goal I have set in motion a strange series of events.

On Thursday this week I had a workout with a local radio host who is also a model, a nationally recognized podcaster and more. We worked out with my trainer at The Fitness Loft while her crew filmed us. They were shooting video and photos to promote an upcoming Operation Melt event.

On Saturday, August 24, I will be interviewed for an upcoming episode of You Inc (her show & podcast). The interview will occur in front of a live audience (you are all invited) at The Fitness Loft. The interview will focus on how each of us are the managers of our own lives and can build the life we want. It will focus heavily on how I used project management to transform my life and will talk about my book.

A little overwhelming: yes. A little imposter syndrome: maybe. But I really believe in my message so bring it on!

But that is just the point I am making today. I would probably not have had the courage or confidence to make something like this happen before my fitness journey. I definitely did not have a message that I was so passionate about or this calling. That can all be traced back to making that decision.

On top of that, I wrote a freaking book! Talk about stepping outside my comfort zone. I took the time to tell my story and share my approach in order to help others. There was absolutely a portion of the book writing that was because I was proud of my accomplishments but it was mostly an attempt to be of service to others.

This is all just scratching the surface of how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. Just wait to see what the next year brings! I haven’t ended my fitness journey by any means. I also haven’t stopped writing and don’t plan to stop at one book. Plus the Operation Melt message and business are just getting started!

Before I wrap it up today I want to mention another special milestone. Today is our 18th wedding anniversary. 18 years ago I married my best friend and that still remains my best decision ever. Happy anniversary Liz, I love you so much!

Thanks for reading and please keep following my adventure!

Week 108: Fitness is a Symphony Not a Solo

Over the past couple of months I have been seeing big weight fluctuations and my weight has increased a little bit. I think most of the increase is muscle but it is still tough to see the numbers go up on the scale after working so hard to make them come down.

It is the day-to-day fluctuations that are maddening. My weight can increase 5 pounds in a day and decrease 2-3 pounds in a day. These fluctuations are my “real” weight, they are just daily changes in how much water my cells are retaining. These changes in how much water is being retained are caused by many things and most often are related to my sodium intake.

I have talked about these things before in my blog but there is one difference today. As I have been struggling with some big fluctuations I have been trying to figure out what caused each one. How much sodium did I eat? How much alcohol did I drink? How much water did I drink? How was the quality of my sleep? What did my resting heart rate do?

All of these varying factors have reminded me that fitness is a symphony and not a solo.

By this I mean that living a fit life means constantly balancing dozens of factors. There is not a single “secret” to staying fit. This means you have to be aware and can’t just mindlessly leave your fitness to autopilot or you won’t ever be fit.

When I say dozens of factors I really mean it too. Start with diet: how much did you eat, how much protein did you get, how much fiber, how much sodium and how much carbohydrates? Then move to exercise: how much exercise did you get, how many calories did you burn versus what you consumed, did you get a balance of cardio and strength training, did you rest and stretch properly to care for you joints and muscles? Then comes hydration: did you drink enough water, did you drink too much of anything else like soda or alcohol or caffeine? Plus there is sleep, heart rate and, of course, weight. Lots of things to balance to make sure that you are living your fittest possible life. And all of that is just your physical health before thinking about mental, emotional, social, spiritual and other types of health.

With all of these factors at play you can see how fitness is a symphony. In a symphony a disproportionate focus on any of the players results in not getting the sound that you desired. In fitness a disproportionate focus on these factors means that you don’t get the results that you are hoping to achieve and can get wild daily weight fluctuations too.

I know that tracking all of this sounds super-complicated and it can be. But I will also say that I didn’t start by tracking all of these factors. I simply started by tracking what I put in my body to increase my mindfulness versus my autopilot and I started by moving more. Everything else built from there as I learned more. So don’t let the complexity prevent you from taking a first step.

This fitness symphony is why I often get taken aback or even a little frustrated when somebody asks me “what was your secret?” By expecting to hear that there is some secret people are trying to ask which soloist made the symphony sound good. It just doesn’t work that way. It was much harder work than that.

Thanks for reading!

Want to learn more? Buy your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year today.