Sep 082013
 

Check up time: How is your New Year’s fitness resolution? For most people, not so good.

The time is right to break the “habit of defeat” when it comes to fitness. Now, in September. The gym is not crowded in September. Its a great time. By the time January rolls around, you will have a great rhythm established. Don’t make excuses.

First, decide why you want to have better fitness. Why is what matters. People often set goals with what. Write why-I-want-to-be-in-good-shape down in one sentence on the back of a business card. Keep it in your car for the first three months so that you will see it daily.

Why not set a goal to get in the best shape of your life? For many of us, it is still quite possible.

For me personally, I want to be mobile and agile when I’m 70+ — I want to be a dynamic older guy when my grandkids want to learn basketball, soccer, or ultimate frisbee — this is my “why” and I think long-term. I have witnessed, first hand in recent years, way too many seniors who limit their life’s potential by losing their mobility early. You will not be agile when you are 70 if you just wish for it, nor will you start when you are 65. No one starts at 65. To be fit in the future, start now.

Here are twenty truths to consider:

1. The gym will not work overnight. Become realistic in your goals. Set something truly achievable. Losing one pound per week is a great idea. Losing 10 pounds a month is not going to happen unless you are starving yourself.

2. No matter what Hans and Frans the personal trainers say, losing weight is 75% about what you stick in your mouth, not what you do in the gym. To lose one pound per week, eat 250 calories less every day, while burning 200 calories more.

3. The easiest way to eat better is to look up the calories for the meal you are about to eat before you eat a bite. Without trying hard at all, you will find yourself leaving 1/3 on the plate.

4. The reason to go to the gym is to burn calories, improve your cardio health, and tone up those sitting-at-the-desk-too-long muscles. It is not to lose weight. Eating better does that.

5. Things in biology take time. The gym is not designed to make you instantly feel better about yourself. If it was, it would be a sports pub with free ice-cold beer.

6. Pick a routine for the first 3 months that is reasonable and routine. Take daily decision-making off the agenda. I would suggest 6 days x a short 35 minutes, Sundays off. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, do aerobic / sweat stuff. I don’t care what you do so long as your heart rate stays over 130 for most of the 35 minutes. The other three days are weights. Chest and triceps on Monday, legs and abdominals on Wednesday, and back and biceps on Friday.

7. Show up. Showing up is much better than not showing up.

8. Buy a heart rate monitor watch for the three aerobic days. Costco and Sams Club sell them nice and cheap. Its the only way to be sure you are getting over 130 beats a minute and staying there.

9. Use an iPad or Kindle to read on the elliptical or treadmill. It will make the 35 minutes go by much more easily and productively. Better yet, start playing racquetball once a week. Fitness is fun if you embrace new things.

10. Dump the fries all day, and all carbs after 8 pm at night. If you feel compelled to buy girl scout cookies, give them away. Kids will think you are awesome when you give them a box.

11. Don’t expect perfection at the gym. There is always a crazy loud spin instructor cheerleader trainer / girl, there is always a weird lurker guy, someone will not wipe down the bench after using it, and there is always a guy that smells like Indian food. Get over it and make the 45 minutes count.

12. For aerobics to work, you have to sweat. That recumbent sit down bike / la-Z-boy crossover machine doesn’t work. There’s a reason the way-way-overweight-folks like that machine.

13. Don’t buy a 500 calorie protein shake after a workout. 99.99999% of us get plenty of protein. You don’t need the extra non-meal calories. It takes an hour on the elliptical at level 12 to shake off 500 calories.

14. Most energy bars are disguised candy. Don’t kid yourself. If you eat one, you have to cut your calories at lunch to accommodate it.

15. Forget the trainers. Learn it. Live it. You don’t want to get in a situation where your trainer is a crutch for will power. If you don’t know what you are doing, hire a trainer for 2 weeks, learn how to do things well, and then save the money. You must build up your will power unless you plan to fund a personal trainer for many years.

16. Don’t buy exercise machines for the house. They don’t work because it is way harder to get motivated when you are in close proximity to your own fridge.

17. Don’t take easy classes. Its simple: the human body responds to demands that you put on it. If it is easy, you might as well be watching Seinfeld reruns on the couch.

18. Always remember that muscle shirts are for guys with muscles. Really, really.

19. Talk to people, learn their names, find out what they do for a living. It makes going to the gym a heck of a lot better. Just watch out for the guys on steroids with headphones so loud you can hear the Metallica. Those guys don’t want to spot you because you are messing with their flow.

20. Most important, start now. It will be easier now than next month or next year. No one can do this for you. I know you can do this. You know you can do this. Bring your own music on the iPhone — it helps.

Just do it now.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 182013
 

I often make observations regarding long-term issues, goals, and visions. While it is important to be acutely aware of your long-term goals and vision, what really matters today is in fact, today.

Four ingredients will determine if today turns out to be fantastic or frustrating. These four ingredients must be combined and baked within your mind, before you finish that first critical cup of coffee. You can determine if your day will go well before 8 am.

First, decide your attitude. Decide that you will be full of optimism and energy today, before you finish that steaming mug. Zig was right — It really helps to say to yourself “today is going to be a great day.”

Second, choose your top priority mission for this day, without overloading yourself. Pick one strategically important thing to get done, one valuable task that when completed, will result in a really good day. Then specify two other “bonus” items of importance that you would like to finish. Write these three items on your calendar, blocking out the needed time for your top mission.

Third, decide to be a person of decisive, committed action for today. Anticipate that other people’s urgencies will pop up this morning and try to derail your efforts from the primary mission. As you sip that first cup, decide that you will be gracious and warm to all, while undeterred and focused on your top mission. Do whatever is necessary to get started on the mission before lunch. It is best to complete your primary mission before noon, freeing up time for the bonus initiatives in the afternoon.

Fourth, as that first cup runs dry, think through what you will do when you run into a roadblock. Adapt and overcome, with perseverance and tenacity. Too many people run into a roadblock and shelve the mission to gather dust for weeks or months. If your #1 mission for today was deserving of being #1, it deserves your whole-hearted commitment and tenacity. I find that if I think through alternate plans, roadblocks don’t seem like dead-ends but rather simple detours.

Lastly, after dinner, write down on your calendar a short blurb of how your day went. Pale ink is far better than a great memory.

If you use this simple recipe while drinking your first critical cup of coffee for 4 weeks, I believe you will find you will have had a great month. Accomplishing personally important initiatives leads to progress and happiness. Review your calendar entries at the end of the month and you will find peace and optimism. 

It is up to you to make today a fabulous experience. A fabulous life is the product of lots of fabulous days.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Oct 302012
 

There is a lot more to success and happiness than simply having a God-given great computational noggin. It is easy to see that our companies and our communities are not often led by rocket scientists sporting 160+ IQs.

Why is that?

Well, I think the reality of it all is is summed up eloquently by this one quote:

But the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance.

— Dr. William Julius Wilson

I personally would add a few more qualities, such as emotional IQ, empathy, experience, faith, optimism, and taking decisive action, to the recipe for success.

When your kid comes home from school, discouraged because she just earned a bad grade on a test, please embrace the opportunity and teach her of what it really takes to succeed, starting with perseverance above all.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Apr 302012
 

We all lose momentum on our endeavors. It is intoxicatingly easy to get excited with a sparkling new idea. It is often easy enough to plunge in headfirst and get started. But most — if not all — of our important projects will hit a wall, where part of our beautiful vision transforms into hard work and drudgery right before our eyes.

There is no magic pill to take to overcome that moment where you don’t want to continue. It simply takes persistence and will power. Don’t forget that. Believe that you can persist, and you can. Don’t give yourself an option of stopping until you get to that first finish line. Don’t forget that no project’s first finish line really turns out to be the final one. There will be an unanticipated phase two, and phase three, and phase four.

Here are a few quotes to consider and remember:

Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.
— Denis Waitley

The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.
— Napoleon Hill

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
— Calvin Coolidge

Zero to overnight success in seven short years.
— Optimism Man

All of us sometimes lose momentum on a worthy endeavor. Regaining the excitement and gaining momentum from a dead stop is very hard. I think the trick to get started again is to go to your personal fortress of solitude (mine is Starbucks because I just don’t have a nearby mountain peak to climb) and create a very detailed action task list to make a couple of first downs. Then pick a day to focus only on this one project and knock the tasks out in order, as though the deadline was just 24 hours away. Although I’m a big believer in the tortoise-wins-the-race formula, a big burst of action in one superhuman day is like a defibrillator that restarts the heartbeat of your project and establishes new momentum.

Stay Optimistic and Persistent, My Friends!

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 272012
 

The world is full of wishful dreamers. They dream of their first book, their first product, their first business, their first million, their tenth million.

Within this vast multitude of dreamers are a minority of people who are both optimistic and action-oriented. These two qualities, more than any others, ignite the engine of achievement. Starting something is far easier to do than finishing a project with gusto. I’ve personally have plenty of experience at starting without finishing. I have outlined nearly a dozen great book ideas but only finished two. I’ve wasted dozens of business ideas without getting nearly all of them to first base, watching others create successful enterprises that I had imagined years earlier. We tend to regret what we did not do, what we did not finish. Finishing is priceless.

Our society rewards those select few who create something real, not just dream about it on a bar napkin. This one of the most  famous bar napkins of all time because it became real.

If you want to succeed more, start less projects — a lot less — but finish everything that you start. Nike made “Just Do It” famous, but I personally like “Just Finish It” better.

“We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt”

Before you turn over a new leaf, forgive yourself and forget the past. All of us have started a lot of things that we did not finish in our past. Don’t regret. Learn and move on. Yesterday doesn’t matter. You must believe that you can and will become a finisher. Decide that you are a finisher. When you look in the mirror, you must see a finisher. If you can forgive yourself, you have seen the light.

You must become highly selective. Evaluate every idea and decide against nearly all of them. There are always many more worthy projects than a person can tackle. Opportunities are everywhere.

Less is truly more. The trick is not to start more projects. Don’t multi-task when you are chasing your dream — multi-tasking is over-rated while focusing is under-appreciated.  Refuse to procrastinate — procrastination makes simple tasks much more difficult.  Choose where you will invest your best time carefully — there are only a few hours of high-quality, sharp-mental-state time in each of our days. Get obsessed about finishing whatever you started like your life depends on it.

Plan to overcome. Count on every project requiring more time and effort than you imagined. Then there is pesky Murphy and his unescapable law: whatever can go wrong usually does, in fact, go wrong. You have to plan for things to be difficult. You have to decide to adapt, persist, and overcome. You have to anticipate that you will lose momentum but you must not stop until you finish. Become relentless.

If you have not been finishing in recent years, the trick is to start small. Pick small baby step milestones. Write them down and review them daily. Keep your promises to yourself. Be flexible. Setbacks are not failures but lessons along the road to final success. Your momentum will grow. Pretty soon, your bar napkin might turn one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

Don’t be one of the dreamers… the many who spend their life starting without finishing. Successful people get the job done after the excitement and the novelty have worn off. They get the job done when it is no longer fun. They get the job done when they run into roadblocks. They don’t use excuses. They don’t give up.

A few posts back, I mentioned that the gates of opportunity are often overlooked because three fierce guard dogs scare people away. Those guard dogs are risk, sacrifice, and faith. Perseverance is not easy. You will have to sacrifice to finish projects. You will have to put off things that you want. You will miss events that you will wish to attend. You will have to choose to work long hours and burn the midnight oil to finish what you start. Success only comes before work in the dictionary.

Optimism is the secret ingredient. It is optimism that sparks the successful, the extra energy that helps people get over the hump, even when it looks too difficult to see it through.

Believe in yourself, believe in your ideas, start less, always err to the side of action, always finish what you start, follow the commandments of financial success, and you will be rewarded with an awesome life.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Here is a great quote from one of the authors of the bar napkin above. Herb is one of the most optimistic, action-first, business leaders that I have ever met:

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Jan 042012
 

New Years Day is exciting. We wake up to a bright new outlook, a fresh new year to make extraordinary progress, to live better, to achieve great things.

This is a perfect time to set goals, to reassess our career, to make important changes, and to even decide to lose a few pounds. We live at an extraordinary time in a land of unlimited opportunities and unlimited freedom — what we do next is 100% up to us.

So why are we haunted by memories of resolutions and goals that we did not reach in the past? Why do less than 20% of people succeed at making positive changes based on goals and resolutions while more than 80% come up short? What can you decide today that will change this 80/20 equation in your favor in 2012 and beyond?

Its time to face the brutal truth. There are lots of reasons people succeed and fail, but one reason trumps all, by a wide margin: People who decide to be relentless, who refuse to give up, who have the tenacity — the burning all-in desire to succeed at something — are in fact, the ones that do succeed.

Do not set a goal unless you also decide to be relentless in its pursuit. Last week, I advised only setting and pursuing ONE great goal at a time. People with a burning desire adapt and overcome don’t let excuses hold them back and remain fully committed until the finish line.  People with a weak-hearted “wish” instead of a burning passion do not.

It really is that simple. You have to decide to be relentless. You have to believe you can succeed. You have to want it, really really bad! You have to be a burning optimist who believes anything is possible.

Happy New Years! Stay relentless my friends…

I.M. Optimism Man