Dancing with Angels

Dad

My father came from the “old-school” having witnessed the Second World War, the Japanese occupation, the American liberation, and the rise and fall of my grandfather’s cigarette factory. I came into his office when I was around nine years old in the early 80s where the place was just buzzing with busyness as men and women were walking by. Typewriters and telex machines were tapping away in the background as he opened a listing from a book called “The Top 1000 Corporations of the Philippines”. There his company was listed somewhere in the 700s as he pointed at it with his thick stubby index finger projecting from a cuff perfectly extending from his suit sleeve. He says: “Blood, sweat and tears! You need to work like a Devil to dance like an Angel”. He’s up there right now with the angels looking down with a high-brow probably saying; “Well, my son is still working at it!”

A bible verse goes: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Indeed the verse should ring louder for many executives as one would usually encounter a “Faustian Bargain” of sorts especially when they move higher up the corporate ladder. “Everything has a price” as my father would say. I have witnessed, (having been one) many executives who play the risk and bargain of moving up the ladder only to forfeit their health and eventually their quality of life. The wagers are often high! We tend to overlook the quality of our relationships with our loved ones and friends and unfortunately, we also neglect ourselves.

This is not to scold anyone; because I know how it is in the C-Suite when you’re just about to pack up for work at 6:30 PM, your boss peers his head into the office to say: “We have a dinner meeting at 8:00! I’ll meet you up front at 7:30!” There is a huge gap between doing your job really well and understanding and working the business. The latter takes a higher level of commitment which sometimes supersedes many other priorities. Business usually comes first.

There is also a career paradox that creeps into a lot of our decisions. Charles Handy in his book “The Age of Paradox” says that we usually work on our careers so that we earn a better quality of life. However, what happens is usually the reverse. We work so hard that we start neglecting our health. And once we do, our effectiveness at work starts to diminish as well. We work so hard just to appreciate that it takes more resources to guard your health through corrective measures. Sadly the most you get in the end is just a bunch of “stuff”.

In 2012, I had the best year “career-wise” when I often rode a private plane to and from work. I racked up at least 26 billable days per month. We were liquid. We had a lot of cash in the bank but along with it was my obvious gain in girth. While I tried to put in the hours as a “weekend warrior” biking my lungs out whenever I had the time, still the executive life caught up to me. Not to mention the loss of sleep and missing some important dates in my family’s life. Sure, work was good! But when January 2013 came around, I failed the stress-test on my APE (Annual Physical Exam)! After spending a thousand dollars on bike parts, I found that my body was the one in need of dire repair. I was put on a stricter diet and a regimen of Statins and Anti-Hypertension medication. Climbing high could also lead to a crash.

The paradox of career success and health is inversely structured. In your progression towards the top we slowly tip the work-life balance in favour of advancement. We focus on building our careers with the justification of seeking a higher quality of life. We do get to a sweet spot that gets stretched at some point, but somehow the allure of success and a skewed sense of purpose slowly tend to reel us into the career track. Every decision (even the smallest ones) that we make between work and everything else works along a zero-sum sort-of balance sheet that crediting hours to work takes away from either yourself, family, society, and fitness. In the end some of these accounts cannot afford to give anymore. At this point you need to re-align your priorities!

We have to realise that our bodies can only take so much. And just as you would demand for your mind and body to remain productive, it is subjected to physical principles and limitations. What I did learn from working with competitive athletes, of which some are successful entrepreneurs, is that we need to adapt a “physical performance mindset.” At the end of long days of conflict where you seem to be pulled apart in different directions, you will realise that you only have one body. Take care of it! Upgrade it! Enforce a renewal!

  • Time and Motion = Time and Energy. Always set aside the time to condition your body and mind for peak performance. Invest in fitness and you will find that you can push your energies a bit further every time it’s called for. You cannot be the dynamic leader you want to be, if your body is not willing.
  • Manage your Exercise like a task! Invest at least 2 hours a week in cardiovascular exercises. Set appointments with your workout tasks on your calendar. 2 hours can be broken down into four 30-minute sessions. Keeping this into a discipline you will soon realise that you are exercising most days of the week. That in itself is an accomplishment!
  • Find some exercise hacks! Make it convenient enough so that you don’t have an excuse.
    • Buy a pair of running shoes and pack them along whenever you travel. Running is a great way to see a new place.
    • Pack a ready gym bag in the car so you’re always ready to go when your schedule opens up a window to hit the company gym.
    • Learn the “7-Minute workout” so you can work out in your hotel room.
  • Acquire a health baseline. Visit your health professional and get an accurate assessment of your health and fitness. Finding the “need” to correct matters could start you off on the right path with the right priorities.

Investing in yourself yields enormous returns on actual work output and effectiveness. You will find that with exercise, you will have more energy for increasing demands across all areas of life. Being in touch with your body also means you have the ability to listen to what it is saying, whether or not it could push itself or ask you to slow down and recover. Time may be inflexible but with exercise, you can feel that energy could be elastic.

Looking fit and healthy can also give you a boost in your career. A leader who knows how to manage himself and his energy across a wide range of demands is “Fit to Lead”. If your outward appearance seems like it could take an extra assignment, so shall these opportunities open up to you. You will always be that person who looks fit for the job. In a study published by Frontiers in Neuroscience “New evidence suggests that healthy-looking individuals are perceived as better leaders, even over intelligent-looking people.” So if you are looking to increase your executive / leadership clout, you might as well start with yourself! “Be Fit to Lead!”

The familiar paradigms of the old-school need to be redefined in the modern age though they both point to the same thing: “Commitment”. As my dad would say, “You need to have your hands bleed practicing, in order for you to be exceptional”. But I would like to redefine blood sweat and tears along the following directions:

  • Blood: Commitment, Trust, Loyalty with the ones you lead and those who matter. Be willing to give yourself to them.
  • Sweat: Giving yourself 100% to every task, in everything that your do. Strive for excellence and exceptional results.
  • Tears: Connect with those that matter. Engage them even at an emotional level. Everything is personal. “Business is personal”.

My dad is up there saying: “See I told you so!” But dad! It’s more than just you saying it, experience and science say so as well!

5 Things You Can Get to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Work

John Walter Bay

It is January 5, 2015 8:30 AM. The first full working week in the New Year 2014 and the gym is brimming with “resolutionist” from all over town. All the treadmills are humming along at a 7-minute pace, all other cardio machines are occupied and the aerobic class is fully booked. Zumba is pumping in the background. All the machinery is humming and clinking at a frenetic pace. Fast forward 30 days later and 50% of these resolutionists will be gone. Many of the treadmills would be unplugged to save energy and what would be left are the typical gym rats shaking their protein shakes at the sidelines giving unsolicited advice to anyone who makes eye contact.

According to a recent article 60% of gym memberships remain unused after the 1st month of purchase and with all this reading and talk about fitness, a majority of people simply quit from…

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5 Things You Can Get to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Work

It is January 5, 2015 8:30 AM. The first full working week in the New Year 2014 and the gym is brimming with “resolutionist” from all over town. All the treadmills are humming along at a 7-minute pace, all other cardio machines are occupied and the aerobic class is fully booked. Zumba is pumping in the background. All the machinery is humming and clinking at a frenetic pace. Fast forward 30 days later and 50% of these resolutionists will be gone. Many of the treadmills would be unplugged to save energy and what would be left are the typical gym rats shaking their protein shakes at the sidelines giving unsolicited advice to anyone who makes eye contact.

According to a recent article 60% of gym memberships remain unused after the 1st month of purchase and with all this reading and talk about fitness, a majority of people simply quit from their resolutions in less than a month! While many of us are quick to condemn the failure to lack of commitment and discipline, integrating your fitness goals into your regular habits is more often easier said than done. The fact of the matter is that 9 out of 10 resolutionists will quit on their fitness and weight goals by March without getting any results from the effort.
While your goal is to reduce your intake of calories and burn more through exercise, many of us don’t have system to track progress. Worse, after a hard session at the gym, we often over compensate by eating the equivalent number of calories suitable for Sumo wrestler. The average gym session (1 hour) could burn off 500 calories but most of us have the tendency to eat more than 1000 the minute after you leave the gym. The key is to make some tangible investments that keep you “moving” and monitor your progress. Some of the best investments I have made that had me losing 10 pounds and keeping it off during the holidays were the following:

  1. A Fitness Tracker. You can get a pedometer and calorie counter from the app store for free; this helps you monitor the amount of steps you take. The challenge is take at least 10,000 steps a day as described in this site. Getting a fitness tracker (device) as described in our earlier article could help you track your progress in walking and running, it comes with a calorie counting app and even helps you monitor your sleep patterns. iHealth comes with a full dashboard which works with other devices that monitor your blood pressure and glucose. The suite is very useful for those who are just starting a fitness program especially for those who have hypertension and diabetes. Email us at john@projectbinc.com if you’re interested.
  2. Some Running Shoes. If you’re reading this article in early January, chances are, you can get a pair of “decent” running shoes as described in this article for 50% off. Not only do you lose some weight from running, but you also get a bit of “street-cred” if you decide to run your first short race. Packing a pair of running shoes the next time you travel also helps you keep in shape while you’re out on a business trip. Not to mention that most hotels also have their own health clubs.
  3. A Bicycle. One of the best investments I’ve made in fitness was a mountain bike. Not only could you commute with it, you also have a chance to see the best of the country by being outdoors, not to mention that a vigorous off-road adventure could burn up to 700 calories per hour. Cycling is also gentler on the joints than running and could be your 1st step in getting into more competitive sports by building your cardiovascular health.
  4. Friends. Getting a fitness buddy or joining a club motivates you to stick with your program. Being part of a team also ensures you receive motivational as well as technical support for you to take it up a notch. If you’re looking at joining a mountain biking club get in touch with EXO (Executive Off-Road Cycling Association)
  5. Sleep. Don’t forget to recover! As you push yourself to higher levels of fitness, do remember that you only get stronger as you rest. Make sure you add in an hour of sleep for every workout session. Try to go for both quantity and quality by getting at least 6 hours of sleep at 80% efficiency. You’ll be surprised that a power-nap could get up to as much as 100% efficiency and could boost your performance and alertness for the rest of your day. Making sure you recover could prevent your from burning out before reaching your goal.

As it is with any effective planning, the secret is in “breaking-down” your goals into smaller objectives. Quantify your targets and manage your time more effectively. Try to put in at least 2 hours of cardio vascular exercise per week. While 2 hours might sound like too much, you will find that “breaking-down” your sessions into 30 minute intervals spread across your week could give you some very effective results to start. Combining this with other habits such as walking around the office more, parking a bit further and doing a 7 Minute Workout. Walking to the store might not be as convenient as driving, but it is usually simpler and comes with the benefit of burning off some extra calories.

Time and Traction

Originally Published at The Star Malaysia – Leaderonomics 03.26.14

“Traction” is a recent buzzword that I thought I left behind in my days of working with start-ups and business planning. In my case, it was often used within the context of funding where infusion is sometimes done in tranches. Where a sum of money is allotted for the capitalization of a business, a business plan would first have to prove “traction” within a critical period of time to ensure that the business was actually making any progress and therefore has some semblance of sustainability. In some cases the term is also used when a business has passed the start-up phase and has entered the growth phase, evidences of progress are referred to as traction. Metrics or indicators that prove business progress such as revenue growth, market share, brand awareness and efficiencies could all be considered summarily as traction. There is no prescribed way of defining it. Traction could be used under broad contexts under different applications.

The easiest way to define traction is to bring the term back into its simplest forms. When you ride a bicycle just as I do, “traction” is the measurable force that directs power to the ground and in turn propels me towards a forward momentum within a given direction. Without traction or grip, the bike cannot go in a direction, will lose its momentum and will fail to reach its destination. The same could be said in the business of life. Output will always be the ultimate measure of effectiveness, and effectiveness is defined by your capacity to reach your goals. Simply put, going back to the analogy of the bike, “traction” indicates whether or not you are actually getting anywhere in life and business.

To understand the importance of traction, it is best to retrace the steps using the framework that is broadly described within the orders of: Input – Process – Output. At the end of this equation is a singular “Output or Outcome” which is a summary of a desired result. Taking it another step back within the realm of “Process” are subsets of objectives that are results of activities that need to be accomplished. Within this area of process and objectives are measurements of progress that are referred to as “traction”. Taking a further back in step is the realm of “Inputs” where resources are used to start the process. Here is a real life example to make things easier.

I am currently coaching a business led by a driven CEO named David who had his goal set on finishing an Iron Man (Triathlon Event) in Melbourne last March 23, 2014. While a goal of finishing a strong Ironman event may sound overly simplistic, seeing through a framework of Input-Process-Output puts the matter under a deeper perspective. The key here is having an end in mind but also the knowledge of breaking down your goal into smaller objectives, activities, smaller tasks, and material inputs. I usually teach a framework that a mentor also taught me when I was working for the International Labour Organization. It is called G.O.A.T., which stands for Goal, Objectives, Activities and Tasks. It helps you break down a goal into smaller manageable chunks. In this case the Goal is to finish a full Iron Man under 17 hours. The Goal broken down into a set of 3 sub-objectives would be to finish the 3.86 km swim within 2 hours and 20minutes, a 180.25 km bike ride within 8 hours and 10 minutes and a 42.2 kilometer run within 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Goals and Objectives are considered outputs and tracing things back, objectives are driven by processes and activities that are measureable. While David was racing in Melbourne, his friends were giving a minute-by-minute report online. David finished the first event, the swim leg within 1:13:09 and the bike leg within 5:18:09. With two legs out of three out of the way with measurable speeds way below the cut-offs we are almost sure of a very strong finish. This is what we refer to as “traction”

Traction is a measurement of progress and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that signifies that you will accomplish your goal or mission. In the end David finished the race strong with a few seconds above 11 hours. That is 6 hours below the cut-off.

Activities
You cannot get these types of outputs and traction overnight. The hours saved per leg are a composite of how much time was invested in training. The effects are in direct proportion to the amount of hours spent in the pool, on the bike, and inside your running shoes. The point is that time and traction are directly correlated. The amount of measureable performance that indicates traction is directly proportionate to the amount of time invested in training. This is the very reason why I love working with athletes. They know that strategic goals and objectives cannot be achieved without an investment of time and resource. According to BeginnerTriathlete.com, training for an Ironman event requires a cumulative of 20 weeks of training of up to 18 hours per week. That is approximately 360 hours of training for a 17-hour event.

Tasks
There are prerequisite inputs and “Tasks” such as taking the proper nutrition, managing your schedules, getting equipment and mental preparation. You also need to have the base fitness before getting into a rigorous training program.

The same could be said with any goal. You must understand the commitment, time and resource involved before reaching them and yes, all of these processes will take time. It takes about 2 hours for me to write an article such as this even before it gets to the editing phase for later publishing. Perhaps you’re looking at “running a marathon” to knock it off your bucket list, if you haven’t done a “half-mary” or worse, haven’t started running yet, and then perhaps you should start walking today? Perhaps you need to get a pair of running shoes first? Develop the Input-Process-Output mindset and after you’ve made up your mind, you can follow it through with the GOAT framework for planning.

While this may seem all personal and not much to do about business, then take another look. David runs a company that distributes some of the best brands known to endurance athletes such as Pinarello, Cervelo, and Felt Bicycles. He also distributes soft goods such as 2XU, Zoot, and Aquasphere goggles along with race nutrition and other performance gear. Being a competitive Ironman is actually very strategic for him. It gives him the personal brand profile advantage that he could use for his suppliers and customers. It pays dividends both in his personal brand equity and the company he runs. The passion and personal commitment that he attaches to his sport and his business gives him enormous credibility with the people he works with, as well as the brands that endorses. In my experience in working with him, I could truly say that he’s getting a lot of strategic traction but also because he puts in the time.

To learn more about these frameworks please feel free to follow and tweet me a message @JohnSBaybay or go to my website: square1coaching.com