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)!

PM Tips: Get Smart

Did you know that good protect management can make dreams come true?

I have proven that you can use project management to literally change your life. Now I am sharing some of the tips, tricks and best practices I have learned in my project manager life in hopes to help us all manage projects better.

My goal: to create a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness!

Get Smart

One of the core premises of project management is that the craft is universal and you don’t have to have subject matter expertise to be an effective PM. Whether building software, building a bridge, remodeling your house or managing a weight loss project the same techniques still apply. You don’t need to know the subject matter to manage the project.

While I agree conceptually that the techniques still apply I disagree that you don’t need to know the subject matter. As a project manager you are simply more effective when you understand the domain in which you are working. You really would not want me managing a project to build a bridge even though I know the core techniques.

Does this mean you can only ever work in a space where you already have expertise? Absolutely not. But it does mean that, if you don’t already have expertise, you need to prioritize getting smart very quickly.

When I started my fitness project I wasn’t an expert and really had no idea how to live a fit life. But I ended up being very successful because I focused effort on getting smart. I employed the same tactics when I learned how to be successful in my day job roles in marketing, transformation, government and now healthcare. Here are a couple of practices that have worked well for me.

Onboard

Start any new project management role by onboarding with the team and stakeholders around you. Sit down with each of them for a meet & greet meeting. Get to know each of them and what they do. Ask how they each work together. Understand their vision for what good project management looks like to them. In short: rely on the experts to provide their input as a good starting place for getting smart.

Observe

After you know who the people are spend some time understanding their work first hand. Immerse yourself in the work that people are doing to be successful in the space you are trying to learn. By seeing the work first hand you will build perspective on how things work and you will get smarter. Similarly, in my fitness project, I followed people on social media and observed other people and their fitness routines to help build my own.

Read

Related to observation is reading. Read everything you can related to your project, your industry, your company and any other related topic. The more information you can take in and digest the more quickly you will build expertise in your field. Reading is important so don’t shortchange yourself on building knowledge through reading.

Mentoring

Getting smart isn’t a one time activity, you need to keep learning. One important tool to keep the learning going is mentoring. Find a mentor in your space who you can leverage for ongoing questions, advice and guidance. By utilizing an expert mentor on a long-term basis you can continue to fortify your knowledge and be increasingly successful.

Teaching

Before you know it you are going to be a subject matter expert in your space.  This means you have a new responsibility – in addition to applying the knowledge to do a good job. You are now available to be a resource to help others get smart. Be very generous with your expertise and look for opportunities to teach others. Not only will you help others get smarter but you will help further increase your knowledge.

Are you ready to get smart in a new and unfamiliar space? Apply some of these techniques and you will be an expert before you know it. That expertise will be a crucial asset to being a more effective project manager.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year in eBook or paperback. Visit OperationMelt.com/book/ for details.

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!