Week 112: My Masterpiece

Nearly every artist has a masterpiece that they are working on perfecting. Authors have that great American novel. Composers have that major symphony. Sculptors have that one piece that they keep working on.

Regardless of the medium these masterpieces have many things in common. The artist feels a calling to make them the perfect encapsulation of their vision. They keep working on them whenever there is a free moment; sometimes at the expense of other responsibilities. Just when the piece is approaching completion the artist may find something that causes them to have to make major changes. There are often as many setbacks as successes. The whole process is maddening, frustrating and tremendously rewarding.

These great masterpieces are a labor of love and a continuing pursuit of excellence and fulfillment.

Why am I telling you this?

Every one of us is an artist working on our great masterpiece: our life. We spend every day crafting and perfecting our masterpiece to achieve our ever evolving vision. Only our own insatiable desire for excellence will suffice, nobody else’s view of success matters.

The fact that I am an artist working on a major masterpiece really occurred to me this week. The particular area of my masterpiece that I was contemplating this week is, of course, my fitness life.

I started my masterpiece with a huge block of stone and my vision was to craft a spectacular human form from that block. I started by making major cuts to unveil the basic outline of the human form I wanted. This was hard work but the results were unmistakable.

Before I knew it I had carved over 100 pounds of unnecessary stone away and the form started taking shape. Lots of enthusiasts of my art were impressed but not me. I still had a shapeless form in front of me and still had work to do.

Next I got busy with some more precision work sculpting more of the details. After two years I had cleared away even more excess material and had a clear shape that would have been a perfectly acceptable stopping place. But that wasn’t what I saw.

Nothing short of my vision was going to satisfy me and I wasn’t stopping. This became particularly challenging as my vision keeps evolving before my eyes. I think my vision for excellence is like the horizon, it just keeps hanging out there in the distance.

As I have continued working on the super precision work I have absolutely made progress. This week I noticed in my mirror that my shape had evolved a lot and I am very happy with many of the aspects. But it isn’t done yet.

Over the past few months I have struggled to be satisfied with “maintenance mode” and there are things I still need to fix. As I have been working on some of those things some other parts of my masterpiece have slipped backwards. Specifically my weight went up a bit as I work on shaping my muscles and some of my clothes have gotten too small though my weight increase has only been about 5 pounds.

This week I started refocusing some of my efforts working on my craft. I decided to switch back to some of the bigger carving tools to cut back on more of the excess material. Just for a couple of weeks.

I cut my calorie target back a bit to lose a couple of pounds. Plus I stepped up a little of my workout intensity to help too. These changes paid off quickly and I started seeing immediate results. So I can put these non-precision tools back on the shelf in another week or two.

Has anybody else noticed these flaws? Probably not but I am not doing it for them. I am doing this because I am not satisfied with my masterpiece and I know I can be better!

I haven’t stopped my focus on the precision work either. I am continuing to work on sculpting and shaping my muscles which are really looking great! Plus I continue to try to improve my performance and had a great 5k this weekend – that’s two 5k runs in 3 days with an 8+ mile walk in between!

When people ask me if I am satisfied or if I am done they are shocked when I say I am not. But my masterpiece needs to achieve my ever-evolving vision of excellence. If I know I can make it better I am going to make it better.

While the outcome and vision are important to me they are just a part of the story. Most importantly I am enjoying the craft and the journey. It’s not just about the destination for me. This is my art and I am going to be an artist!

Is it an obsession? Is it perfectionism? No. It is just a lifelong quest for excellence! Switching metaphors my masterpiece is an unfinished symphony and will be until the day I die. So my work will never be done!

Thanks for reading! I hop your masterpiece continues to take shape, moves towards your vision and that you enjoy the journey. If we all continue working on our masterpieces with courage, confidence and conviction we will build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Learn more about my journey and how to use project management to accomplish your most important goals. Grab your copy of Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year on Amazon, iTunes or Barnes & Noble by visiting. https://OperationMelt.com/book/.

Week 111: Power of Habits

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

This popular quote, attributed to Aristotle, probably wasn’t originally intended to be fitness related. But it is strangely relevant to what it takes to get and stay fit. Through my weight loss and fitness journey the power of habit was extremely important to me. It remains just as important today.

As I like to talk/brag about I had a few major accomplishments throughout my fitness journey so far. I ran two half marathons and participated in multiple other races. But these big accomplishments weren’t how I got fit. I got gift, and stay fit, through small daily habits that really add up over time.

In this week’s update I thought I’d share a few of my daily fitness habits that have helped me be so successful. I am not saying that these habits will make you successful in your fitness journey but I am saying they will likely increase your probability.

I care. My most important habit that leads to my fitness success is that I care. My fitness is a priority for me every day I never take a “cheat day”, I never take a day off and I am always focused on making the right choices to live healthy. If you follow me on social media you know this doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun and don’t live my life but I am always aware of how each decision plays into my overall fitness picture.

I track. Almost as impactful as caring is tracking, I track everything, Everything that I eat or drink, gets logged in an app. All of my exercise and activity gets logged by my wearable personal fitness tracker. Plus because I wear the tracking 24 hours per day except in the shower, my sleep also gets tracked. I also weigh myself daily unless I am spending the night away from home. Many experts say not to do this and I can tell you it is maddening sometimes but it is a habit that has worked for me.

I reflect. Every morning I review all of the numbers from the day before and reflect on whether it was a good fitness day or bad fitness day. I do this while I am journaling each morning. This habit helps keep me focused and allows me to make little adjustments when needed.

I make informed decisions about food and drink. I like to eat and I like to drink and I do both often. But every time I choose to ingest something in my body I know how it will fit into my overall fitness plan. Because I am tracking everything I am able to pause before I choose and consider the calories, protein, fiber and sodium implications of my choices. Then I don’t hesitate to customize menu items to suit my preferences. Half portions (including half beers), sharing with my wife, alternate side dishes are all examples of the many special requests I make. Plus, if I have a question about portion sizes or preparations, I ask questions of my server. Yes this makes me a little more high maintenance of a customer but I also never send things back or complain unless it is really over-the-tops. I also make sure that I tip accordingly.

I get moving. Here is the habit that everybody tends to dread: I exercise a lot. I try to make sure that I am getting at least 30-60 minutes of exercise per day and know exactly where I sit because I track it. This may sound like a lot of work, and sometimes it is, but it is easier than you think. Some days my exercise includes a long run but that is usually just Saturdays. Some days include a sweat session at the gym with my personal trainer but that I also usually just once a week. I have shorter runs some days of just 1-2 miles including warm-up and cool down. You may be surprised to find out that the vast majority of my daily exercise is walking. Whenever I have any free time to do so I go for a walk. I usually grab my ear buds, put on a podcast and get out there for 30, 60, 120 minutes and go for a walk. I get exercise, I get to enjoy my surroundings and get to spend quality “me” time. You don’t have to be an athlete running a 5k or half marathon to get exercise, anybody can go for a walk. Every bit of movement helps and it all counts.

I share. My final fitness habit is that I share. I try to share a real-time glimpse into how I get and stay fit on social media. I share through my blog to help keep me accountable and to inspire, motivate and equip others with the skills needed to start and succeed at their own journeys. I talk to people and share my approach and processes. I even wrote a book to help share. The more I share the more I can help others and that continues to be a big motivator for me. I wish there was a job where I could take people walking and running, help them with their fitness and career and leadership journeys and get paid well for doing so. I feel so great when I am able to do these things.

Thanks for reading! I hope seeing some of my habits helps you build some good habits of your own. If we work together we can build the good habits that build a world where goals never die 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.

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.