Monthly Archives: June 2007

Less is More (2 of 5 Rules of Change)

(2 of 5 Rules)

Ok, I now knew what I was changing: I wasn’t eating healthily. In order to get back on track to 10-12% body fat by November 2007 I knew I had to change my eating habits. But how? I got lots of advice from the web, from folks I knew, and from folks in the gym. I quickly learned there is no shortage of answers to changing your eating habits to ensure you lose weight. I will summarize them here:

Exercise at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes a day. But don’t expend more than 3,000 calories a week exercising to avoid decreased physical benefits. Drink at least 8 cups of water a day, but don’t drink too much or you’ll die. Try to eliminate fats in your diet by eating lots of low-fat foods such as salads and vegetable pastas, but eliminate as many carbs from your diet as possible by increasing the amount of protein you eat, unless they are indigestible carbs in which case you should eat as much as you can, and whatever you do, eat lots of fat, not protein. Did I mention drink at least 16 cups of a water a day? Eat three times a day without snacking in between to ensure you can maintain a good weight, but if you must snack, make sure you’re eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and low fat dairy products. This healthy snacking, provided you eat six times a day, is the best way to ensure you lose weight. And also, make sure you drink around 6 cups of water a day (although even that is probably higher than you need). Make sure you are consuming fewer calories than you’re expending per day. To do this, figure out how many calories you should eat a day, and then count how many calories you are actually eating, but strive to be an instinctive eater who doesn’t need to count calories. Don’t forget to use chia seed. And of course drink at least 1-2 gallons of water a day.

If you follow this simple weight loss plan, you will curl up in a ball, hold your knees to your chest, and start rocking back and forth while you cry. The resulting loss of appetite and energy expended from rocking will help you lose over 170 pounds in 30 days!

Oy! With all the conflicting information (some of it good, some not), it’s tough to figure out what to actually do. And this is typical of any time you want to change something: your choices (both good and bad) for what to do next are virtually limitless. How do I pick?

Easy! Less is More!

Newton Knew a Thing or Two about Rocks

Everything resists change. The first part of Newton’s 1st law, “An object at rest will remain at rest”, applies equally well to large rocks as it does to teams that need to change, or parts about yourself that you try to change. You may not like how your body looks, and you may not like how you and your team operate, but it’s easier to bitch about it than it is to change anything. Rocks like to stay exactly where they are.

But the second part of the 1st law applies equally well. “An object in motion will remain in motion”. If you can get the rock to move, it’s hard to stop it moving.

So the key to change is getting your rock moving, even if only a little.

That’s where “Less is More” comes in: Do one small, easy thing that will cause a quick change. Make sure the change is visible to the people who matter. And only do that one thing!

You don’t pick the hardest thing. You don’t pick the thing with the biggest bang. You don’t try to do multiple things at once. You don’t try to revolutionize the world. You don’t try to fix all the problems. You don’t go for a curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, knock-your-socks-off grand-slam home-run touchdown of a transformation. You don’t try to put in place an invisible architecture that will yield billions of dollars in savings in 4 years.

No! You pick the easiest way that will move your rock a little and you don’t let anything else distract from that.

Then, as Newton’s 1st law states, your rock is moving and will keep moving with much less effort. Pretty soon, if you keep making the next easiest change, the rock you thought would never move is destroying everything in its way as it barrels towards its destination.

Invisible Change Isn’t Real

That’s why when I start a new job I always make sure that I’ve made a small but very visible change within 100 days (some folks have heard me obsess about “the first 100 days” before – this is why). I obsess about it. I make sure my team knows we need to do that one thing. Sometimes I make people meet every single day to keep the pressure high. And I make sure it happens because I know the following things happen with change:

  • If you make one small but visible (to all stakeholders) change, your team members start to believe more change is possible (which is a self fulfilling prophecy), your supporters feel better about their decision to put you in that job (which makes it easier to make more changes), and your doubters start to feel scared and get out of the way (which make it way easier to make another change). And then you make another slightly larger change, but because of the first success, this one is just as easy. And soon, your rock is moving very quickly.
  • If you make a change quickly, but the targets of the change cannot see it, then their initial optimism wears off quickly: your team starts to lose faith, your supporters question their own decision to support you, and your doubters pounce on their prey. And your rock stops moving.
  • If you try to make a visible change, but it’s going to take a long time, then each day it gets harder to try and push the very large rock, your mental and emotional muscles get fatigued, your team starts to get tired, your supporters look for faster fixes, and your doubters pounce on their prey. And your rock never moves!

You Are Your Most Important Audience Member

If you’re trying to change something about yourself, like your weight, it should be obvious from the above that you are the most important person who needs to see a visible change quickly. If you don’t, your heart will quickly lose confidence, and, no matter how much your brain prods, you’ll revert back to old behavior.

But it’s just as important when you’re trying to change a team or organization. The change you make needs to be visible to you, more importantly than anyone else. If you lose faith, then everyone loses faith. And the best way to keep the faith is by seeing the miracle of actual change. Don’t forget to look for the change!

One Small Step For Art

So allow me to repeat: Less is More: Do only one thing, keep it simple, keep it visible, and make sure you’d have to be a moron to fail at this one change!

For losing weight, I picked one thing that (a) I could easily do and (b) I was pretty sure would quickly tell me it if worked or not.

As I mentioned last week, I had already been writing down what I was eating in a journal. The small change I decided to make was more quantitatively count what I was eating. That’s it. I found a (very useful) site called Calorie King that contains almost every food you can think of and gives you back the calorie count for free, and just started putting numbers into a spreadsheet based on what that site told me. I’d seen many times at work that just measuring something would cause people to change their behavior to optimize the metric: my theory was if I saw more accurate numbers for what I eat, my behavior would start to change, and I’d see a quick reduction in weight. Sure enough – soon I started to realize that the morning muffin would cost me over 400 calories, but the 2 bananas would be about 200. And I ate the bananas.

(Now I’ll be the first to admit, that my small step isn’t necessarily what someone else would pick, but that’s beside the point. I picked something I knew would work for me. We’re each different, and have different ways of doing things. I’ve seen people succeed with picking the small step of sending back half of every order they get in a restaurant. Pick what works for you, but make sure it’s something easy for you and visible to you.)

The results:

I started doing this on April 10th (167.2 lbs, 18.3% body fat). By April 24th I was down to 162.8 pounds and 17.5% body fat.

Close to 4 pounds and almost 1% body fat lost in 2 weeks. Hell yes, I was on to something.

But how do I keep it going? Rule #3: Evolution, Not Revolution.

(which I’ll continue next week …)

– Art

Help me raise over $5,000 to help people suffering from cancer

The Beauty of 10,000 Monkeys

A few weeks ago I said I’d come to realize the universe is awesome, and that I’m trying to see another aspect of that every day. Case in point, last night I was traveling back from Brooklyn into Manhattan, and while crossing the Williamsburg Bridge glimpsed out at the skyline.

And it’s awesome.

It got me thinking – no one planned that skyline — it happened organically. Sure there were zoning laws and some impassioned people who tried to influence the architecture, but in general it was commerce (and some say greed) that dictated how it was built. Think about it – People like Donald Trump (a man I don’t particularly associate with beauty) were part of it, and so were thousands of other (sometimes less than sympathetic) people. Yet, almost impossibly, a scene of elegant beauty rises before you as you cross the Williamsburg Bridge.

It’s the real world equivalent of 10,000 monkeys randomly writing Hamlet, only this time it really did happen.

Mankind produces things of great horror, sadness, and pain. You can see any of them without looking hard. But, if you look harder, you’ll find we produce amazing things that are way more than we ever thought we could create. For example, New York’s skyline, the view you see from an airplane descending into San Francisco airport on a clear night, or the amazing child that your goofball friends from college are raising.

Our ability to unexpectedly produce beauty through group effort is worthy of awe. And I feel grateful to be alive to feel awe for it.

Nude Numbers (#2)

Couple of changes to presentation this week. For reference, here’s last week’s data. As with last week, data is presented in SOAP Note format:

  1. I changed the graphs to break out the weekly trends into individual graphs. Some people found combining hours and miles in prior graphs confusing.
  2. I link to a PDF. Some folks found last week’s graphs unreadable on their computers. If anyone knows how to export from Excel to a visual format that works nicely embedded in a blog post, please let me know.
  3. Next week (hopefully) I’ll be adding targets in so I can quickly see how I’m tracking against plan. I’m awaiting electronic copies of the training plans for that.

Subjective Data

  1. I definitely didn’t feel as hungry this week, and my energy level remained high throughout the week. That said I feel that I grazed like a pig J
  2. I switched from Monday to Wednesday for my “day off”.
  3. I spoke with the Team Continuum coaches, and they advised me to back off on running distance for a bit (I want to peak on running in November, not September), so I substituted a spinning class for my pacing run (usually about 5 miles), and our long run was only 6.8 miles this week.
  4. Some unexpected activities (a memorial service) and some laziness (I slept in Tuesday morning) kept me out of the weight room.

Objective Data

Click here for a PDF version of my dashboard.


Well, couple of observations:

  1. Good: My running mileage is down as advised by trainers, but still on track for training plan. All my runs were strong this week, and I was able to speed up significantly for all splits.
  2. Good: I did get back on the bike, and got a good 56 mile ride in on Sunday.
  3. Watch: Increasing calories was a good idea, but I overdid it on the weekend and as a result weight starts to creep up. It appears that body fat is still going down though which is the goal. I’ll watch this closely this week, and if weight goes up but body-fat down, I’ll keep the calories where they are.
  4. Bad: I skipped weight room sessions on Tuesday and Saturday. That’ll be a focus this week.


  1. Watch calorie vs. weight intake again, but energy level was good so it seems like a good change.
  2. Get back in the weight room. I’m trying to hit about 2 to 2.5 hours a week in the room.
  3. Get copies of training plans so I can show targets.

Know What You’re Changing (1 of 5 Rules of Change)

(1 of 5 Rules)

In September of last year, I set my goal of getting to 10-12% body fat by November 2007. At the time, I was at about 20% body fat and it seemed reasonable (less than 1% per month). I had started working out again, and I knew I wasn’t an unhealthy eater. How hard could it be? My plan was simple:

  1. Continue working out, increasing the intensity to maintain the weight loss.
  2. Continue eating sensibly.

Well, it turns out losing weight is not easy (I now know that millions of people already know this). Take a look at the data from September through February and you’ll see what I mean:

The bars represent hours spent working out (blue is cardio, red is weight training). The green line is body-fat %.

If you look at the green (Fat %) line, I had some success early lowering body fat, but I plateau in December, and then start rising up again in January and February. To make matters worse, I kept getting injured, feeling weak, going up and down in energy levels. What the hell was going wrong!

In retrospect, it’s simple. I’d forgotten the first rule of change management: Know What You’re Changing.

“I Think” is the Enemy of “I Know”

When we’ve decided (or been assigned) to change something we’re often rearing to get going. Be it a professional or personal goal, “we think we know” what’s wrong, and we think we know the best way to achieve the goal. And we’ve failed before we started, because “we think we know” but we don’t actually know.

As with why Doctors Use Soap, when we’re excited about something (and hence emotionally involved) we tend to rely upon the subjective view rather than both subjective and objective information.

For example, above I wrote “I wasn’t an unhealthy eater”. Really? Well, I thought I wasn’t an unhealthy eater, but I didn’t know that.

How Do You “Know”?

So, how do you know? In a professional setting, you do three things:

  1. Write down how things work today.
  2. Identify the stakeholders involved in how things work today.
  3. Have them review what you’ve written down, and iterate until they agree that it accurately reflects what’s done today.

That’s it. You don’t try to change anything. All you want to do is get agreement on the state of the world today. Writing it down doesn’t need to be formal. A napkin can suffice, a whiteboard, a one page document, whatever. As long as someone else can hold it and read it without you around.

Amazing things happen when you write it down and review it with the people who are impacted. You discover hidden steps you didn’t know existed. You find people who you thought were involved that don’t actually matter, and people you thought don’t matter who are intimately involved. You find hidden bottlenecks and easy solutions you didn’t know about. And yet, so many people skip this step.

Knowledge is Humbling

OK, so it took me 5 months, but eventually I realized I’d made the stupid mistake of not first knowing what I was changing. I felt particularly chagrined because I’d often chastised folks on my teams for making this very basic mistake. Starting in February, I decided to change this. First, I started writing down what I ate. I did that for about 3 weeks. Here’s a quick sample:






8:00 AM

Cream of wheat

1.5 cups


11:00 AM




1:00 PM

Ham, cheese, MLT on roll

1 large


2:00 PM


2 cups


6:00 PM

Granola bar



7:45 PM

Ravioli & broccoli

1/2 package + 6 florets


5:15 AM




7:45 AM

Granola + 1 banana

1 cups + 1 banana


10:30 AM


1 box


11:30 AM




12:30 PM

Chinese food

Wonton Soup, + Peanut Chicken + Rice + Fortune Cookie


4:00 PM

Granola bar



6:15 PM

Granola bar



8:00 PM

left over indian food

1/2 naan, 1 c rice, sauce & lamb

It was nothing too formal, just quick notes and estimates of what I was eating.

Next, I identified the stakeholders. There were two: me and J (I now know that if you try to lose weight without the support of your partner, it’s a losing game).

Lastly, we looked at the data and between the two of us we realized that I eat healthy until I get to a big meal. Then I gorge myself. It isn’t exactly clear from the notes above, but the sandwiches, Chinese food and Indian food above were huge meals – easily enough for two meals. The reality is I was a part-time healthy eater with spurts of unhealthy binge-eating thrown in.

So, know “I knew” I wasn’t a healthy eater. I also “knew” I was over exercising (because I had data that showed that).

Armed with knowledge not just opinions, I had to move to the next step: Less is More.

(which I’ll continue next week …)

– Art

Help me raise over $5,000 to help people suffering from cancer

5 Rules of Change

For years I have advocated 5 steps for managing change in a professional setting. They are:

  1. Know what you’re changing.
  2. Less is more.
  3. Evolution, not revolution.
  4. Round wheels work.
  5. Iterate, iterate, iterate.

I believe if you follow these steps, you maximize your chances of being successful in any change endeavor (this is not the only path to success, just the one with the best odds). In the next series of articles I’ll talk about how I’m trying to apply them personally right now, and whether or not they work as well when I put my money where my mouth is.

As with all of these, your mileage will vary. I’d also love to hear from other folks other things that work to help them change things in their lives.

What’s Your Story?

Last night I attended a memorial service for one of J’s patients. J deals with death all the time. It’s the nature of her job and her field. Many people do get better from other cancers, but brain cancer still eludes most modern medical treatments. Still, this patient had really impacted J, and when she was invited to the service she felt both honored and nervous and asked me to go. I had never met the deceased.

At the service I learned a lot. I learned that cancer had struck down a woman in her early 40s, leaving behind two children, leaving behind a thriving career and leaving behind a distraught husband. But I also learned that this women left behind a community of people who felt in every way that having known her had left them as richer people. Listening to the service, I knew my life had lost a little by never knowing this woman.

Earlier in the day I had reconnected with an old friend. He told me a story of how he had recently met a fascinating woman in Africa in her late 70’s, and during their conversations he had asked her if she had any advice for him in life, anything she could tell him about what life meant. She raised herself up on her tip toes, stabbed her finger into his chest plate and, knowing she had his attention, said “when you’re about to die, someone will ask you the question, ‘what’s your story?’ And your answer… your answer had better be good!”

Sitting at this service I realized this 40-year-old woman that I never knew had a tragic story, but at the same time, a rich and beautiful one. She made those around her better people. She had raised beautiful talented children. She had a loving husband. She had a family that loved her and were loved by her. She had, in my mind, achieved a level of perfection in her life to which I can only hope one day to reach a part of. She had a story that I will take with me forever.

– Art

Help me raise over $5,000 to help people suffering from cancer

Coming clean…


One of the key principles behind running naked for me is admitting when you’re wrong.

G pointed out to me that in my original e-mail to folks asking for donations, I said the ride in September was “200 miles”.  In reality, it is “170 miles”.  I had my numbers wrong originally (as opposed to “marketing inflation”).  I have corrected this in past posts and on my website, but I’m coming clean about it here.

 If you have donated money, and feel jipped, let me offer you the following options:

  1. You may withdraw the money (although I hope not).
  2. You may feel some consolation that while it’s only 170 miles, my ass will feel at least 85% of the ancipated pain, which is pretty good.
  3. You may insist that I add the 30 miles somewhere during that weekend.
  4. You may suggest alternate punishments in the blog comments 🙂

Let me know!

– Art

Help me raise over $5,000 to help people suffering from cancer

Nude Numbers

I’ll post these on Mondays on my way to the Marathon. This is a view of the stats I track as I’m trying to change my overall health.

Subjective Data:

I’m probably being too aggressive in my calorie control, as I felt quite tired and weak on my Thursday spinning ride. My shoulder continues to nag me slightly, so I’ve switched to mostly core and leg work in the weight room to give it more time to recover. I didn’t get any bike time in this weekend because I was in Jacksonville all weekend and didn’t have my bike.

My running improved as I worked on my stride, and I’m starting to feel comfortable with my new, less pounding, way of running. My ten mile run on Sunday was actually ‘easy’ – jeez.

Objective Data:

Weekly Stats 20070618


Well, I recovered (mostly) from my shoulder injury and you can see that in the time spent back in the weight room. I did a 10 mile run on Sunday in 90 minutes, which I’m quite happy with. I’ve decided to adjust my calorie intake upwards a little to give me more energy during the week, so I expect that my weight will start to creep up a little. We’ll see.


1) Continue to ramp up running mileage. I’m cheating on the bike stuff at the moment given I spent most of the winter spinning, but I need to make sure I get some long rides in on the weekend to get my ass used to the seat.

2) Slightly tweak up my calorie intake – I shouldn’t fade in energy as the week goes on.

3) Get one long ride in this weekend.

– Art

p.s. I have weight and fat tracking back to last September if folks are interested, but only started breaking out the run and bike data four weeks ago.

Help me raise over $5,000 to help people suffering from cancer!

Why Doctors Use Soap

This is an article sharing some things I’ve learned getting stuff done.  The idea is to pass on techniques that I’ve found useful, and hopefully to get folks to share techniques they’ve found useful too.  Let me know if you find it useful, and I’ll do more of them.


The mess

What had the hell had gone wrong?  S was the project manager on a project for a new client at a company I used to work for.  The project, to build a new phone system for a major travel-agent website, was supposed to take 10 weeks and cost about $100,000.  The project was 1 month ahead of schedule, and was running about 25% below budget.  Users loved the system.  All measurements and metrics were heading in the right direction.  Yet when I was assigned the account and checked in with my client, she was not happy.  In fact, she’d begun to wonder had she made the right decision to choose us in the first place.

What had gone wrong?  Simply, S didn’t use soap[1], and it was costing him his client!

Why doctors use SOAP

I look for concepts in other fields that might help me get better at getting stuff done.  My wife is a doctor, and I often find myself looking at how doctors go about their jobs.  And it turns out there are lots of parallels between being a manager and being a doctor.  For example, let’s look at problem solving:

Doctor Manager
New patients or symptoms pretty much every day. New challenges or problems pretty much every day.
A lot of (often conflicting) data for you to look at A lot of (often conflicting) data for you to look at
An expectation on the part of your patients, managers, and administrators that you should get stuff right An expectation on the part of your clients, managers, and teams that you should get stuff right
Often not much time to make decisions Often not much time to make decisions
If you make a mistake, your patient may die. Um…

And suddenly the analogy breaks down.

The consequences of a doctor making the wrong decision far outweigh the consequences of most managers’ decisions.  Given that, you’d think that doctors have figured out some pretty good general ways to approach solving problems.

And they have:  They use SOAP.

What is SOAP?

The medical field has institutionalized a way to evaluate treatment for every patient; every doctor who is coming up with a treatment plan creates a SOAP Note.  Its’ a very simple concept:

  • S (Subjective): What subjective data can I glean about the patient. Does the patient say they feel depressed? Do they say they feel pain?
  • O (Objective): What do my tests show me? Blood pressure? Heart rate? Reflexes? MRI Scans?
  • A (Assessment): Using both the subjective and objective data, what is your assessment of what’s wrong.
  • P (Plan): Now, what’s your plan to make things better.

Doctor’s force themselves to always look at subjective as well as objective data.  They always explicitly assess the situation[2].  And they always form an explicit plan.  Go ahead and ask any doctor you know – they all do this (well, almost all, and almost allways as my wife would say)! 

Why?  Well it’s because as humans we have an ingrained tendency to either be too objective or too subjective, and that usually leads to bad things.

If you only look at the objective data, you miss potential symptoms your tests couldn’t detect.  You don’t find out that while a test shows a medicine is within tolerable ranges, the dose your patient has is making them throw up.  If you only look at subjective data, you get patients claiming pain, but only trying to score free drugs.  You need both to get a full picture of a problem before you assess and plan.  By institutionalizing this simple framework, the medical community has been able to significantly decrease its error rate.

How we’re biased differs depending on who we are, and how far we are removed from the people involved.  Some people tend to almost exclusively look at objective data[3], and don’t believe their peers if a spreadsheet says otherwise.  Other people tend to almost exclusively look at subjective data and ignore numbers screaming to them at their face.  I know you’ve met both extremes in your career.

Most people are somewhat in the middle, but will tend to look mostly at subjective data when the problem is emotionally close[4] and at mostly objective data when the problem is emotionally distant[5].

But to make the best decisions, we have to discipline ourselves to always look at objective and subjective data.  The SOAP framework is an excellent way to do that.  It doesn’t need to be very formal.  Doctors just follow the convention when they write notes on a chart.

How did SOAP clean up this mess?

So, getting back to S.  S had been trained (as most good managers and project managers are) to be on top of all his metrics.  He watched his timeline like a hawk.  He watched his budget like a hawk.  He kept “feature creep” (the tendency of “new ideas” to sneak into projects and cause timelines to expand) to an absolute zero.  He quickly assessed problems and made rational plans and decisions to keep everything running smoothly.   He had the “O”, the “A” and the “P” down pat!  But he didn’t take a look at any subjective measures – if the metrics were good, the project was good.

And this was costing him his client.  You see, everything was going swimmingly, except S wasn’t asking his client’s opinion enough.  His decisions were good, but his client would have preferred her team were actually consulted more about them.  Not that they would have decided differently, but the client wanted her team to feel involved.  And because her team didn’t feel involved, they were complaining about all sorts of little inconsequential things (like what format bug numbers should be reported in), because S had made a decision without asking them.

S and I sat down shortly after I got the account assigned (and poor S was forced to actually work for me) and I introduced him to SOAP.  For about 4-weeks, I actually made him present problems to me in that framework.  And S started looking for subjective measures.  He talked to his client and asked her not just about the metrics, but about how she felt.  What could be better?  And she told him[6].

Within a week, S was actively changing his behavior and the client was happier.  I got one of my favorite voice mails of all time: the message said “I don’t know what’s gotten into S, but be careful, or we might decide we want to hire him.”  By making sure he looked at both subjective and objective data, in a somewhat structured manner, S was able to drastically improve how well he managed both the project and the client.

How do you get honest subjective data?

In a business context, people are often trained to only give negative feedback objectively, and often will mask their subjective opinions in order to either spare you emotional discomfort or to avoid confrontation.  Guess what?  We’re human!  As a manager you need to expect this to happen, and not get frustrated when you can’t get feedback.

The best way to get real subjective data is to be open, always.  That’s hard (and while I’m trying, I certainly don’t succeed at it).

But here are some techniques for getting good subjective (and negative) feedback that I’ve had some success with in the past:

  1. First, ask for it. So many people don’t. Just ask someone how they feel, and be genuinely interested in their responses. Then, and this is the important thing, make at least one change in behavior based on what they say. It doesn’t need to be the issue they were most concerned about, just an issue. Over time, people will see that you’re listening and changing, and will open up more (guaranteed).
  2. Ask people “On a scale of one to ten, one being God Awful and ten being Awesome, how would you say we’re doing right now.” And then once you have an average (let’s say 7)[7], ask folks for ideas on getting from a 7 to an 8. You’ll be amazed what will show up as suggestions, and how you’ll quickly be able to figure out major issues of discomfort for a person or a team.
  3. Don’t ask if everything is OK; ask what could be better. The question “does anyone have any issues they’d like to bring up” will rarely get sensitive issues like “you’re not involving me enough in the project” on the table. On the other hand, the question “hey guys, any thoughts on things we could do to make life more enjoyable for folks on the project” (assuming it’s asked openly and honestly) will often bring up suggestions like “it’d be great if I could consulted the next time we have to change the user interface, because I could help you with …”.
  4. Everything else failing, it can sometimes be useful to have a 3rd party ask or survey for the feedback, with a guarantee that you’ll only get a summary of everyone’s feedback without identifying someone. That said, while this is what most managers of large teams or client organizations end up doing, I think it’s the least successful way to get good feedback (but you at least get some).

How I Use SOAP

For changing things about myself (to which, to be honest, I’m fairly emotionally attached), I tend to be more subjective than objective.  I often feel like I’ve worked out harder than I actually have.  I feel like I’ve eaten less than I actually have.  And so, I’ve tried over the past few years to bring more objective data to bear.  When trying to lose weight, I now track what I’m eating and measure it (in addition to weight).  I use a heart rate monitor to figure out how hard I’m actually working.  Sometimes I don’t like seeing the data (this week, my body fat is up…), but it helps me figure out how to keep things moving in the direction I want.

In business settings, I’m the opposite, and tend to like numbers too much. So, I try to step out of a spreadsheet and ask for opinions.  A former colleague of mine and I used to swap stories every 2 weeks about how we both would “walk the floor” for a couple of hours each week, just so we could chat and get a sense for mood.

But mostly, I try to constantly remind myself that every problem can be viewed in two ways: with numbers, and with stories.

[1]Now to be fair, in case anyone can guess who “S” is, S is one of the cleanest folks I know.  He may wear sweaters a little too much, but otherwise has impeccable personal grooming habits.[2]They also form a differential diagnosis, which is also useful to look at as a manager, but I’m not going to go into that here.

[3] I tend to tweak in this direction.

[4] An example of this is most parents report that their children are of “above average” intelligence, despite the fact that objectively this is unlikely.

[5] Examples of how rational people can make bad decisions based on only objective data (and no subjective data) because of their emotional distance from the topic abound, but can often be seen in action (along with several other factors) in decisions large companies make leading up to major disasters.  Usually quantifiable ROI will trump any subjective pleas for help.  See Union Carbide’s decisions leading up to the Bhopal disaster for example.

[6] For those who hear this and think “my god, how could you not ask someone how they feel!!!”, congratulations.  You’ve got the “S” down.  Now, how good are you about measuring things objectively?

[7] If you track this number, it can be a fun measure of team’s morale throughout a project.  Expect it to start high, go low in the middle, and go high at the end 🙂

Pain, Suffering & Financial Loss

I began my fund-raising work today.  So far, I’m at $250 of my $5,000 minimum (and my $10,000 big hairy goal).  Thanks to all who donated so far.

If you’re curious why I’m doing this, it’s because I’m a Student of the Cortez School of Management.  If you’re wondering, why I’m writing about it, it’s because I’m Running Naked.

I posted the following on my web-site:

If you donate money to Team Continuum, an organization dedicated to caring for people with cancer, you will force me to:

  1. Bike over 170 miles one weekend in September.
  2. Run 26.2 miles another weekend in November.
  3. Pay out up to $2,500 of my own money to match 25% of your donation.

Interested?  Read on for more.

The Details

You are included on this email because you are special to me…and I feel close enough to hit you up for money.  I need your help.  I’ve been trying to change a lot of things about how I live my life over the last year, including giving back more to the world that has given so much to me.

As part of this goal, I committed to raise a minimum of $5,000 by November for Team Continuum, a charity that cares for the immediate needs of cancer patients.  They do things like give gifts to children in cancer hospitals during the holiday season, help patients pay for travel to get treatment, and fund a nutritionist for a cancer center (Continuum Cancer Center) that did not have enough resources.  Most donations to other cancer causes support research that won’t really benefit people suffering today.  Team Continuum does an excellent job of helping fill that gap, and so I’m excited to support them.

How am I supporting them (and hopefully earning your support):

  1.  I will ride my bike from New York to Rhode Island (about 170 miles) in 2 days in September with 16 other team members raising money for the cause.
  2. I will complete the New York Marathon in November with over 30,000 other runners.
  3. J and I will donate $0.25 of our own money for every $1 you donate, up to $2,500.

Please sponsor me either to support me, or in support of someone you know that is battling cancer or a loved one that you have lost. All donations are tax deductible.

The Benefits to You!

Think about it!  If you donate to the cause you’ll get the following benefits:

  1. You’ll support an awesome cause.
  2. You’ll get a righteous tax deduction (with matching receipt). 
  3. You’ll be directly sponsoring a lot of physical pain for me – which (especially if you’ve worked with me) is something you know I deserve J.
  4. You’ll force Jenny and me to spend money as well!

It’s a no lose proposition!

How to Donate

You can donate directly by clicking here, or if you’d rather not donate online, send me e-mail and I’ll send you a form to print out.Lastly while $5,000 is the minimum, I’d love to blow that out of the water.  Whatever you can give, I truly appreciate your support.

How to Play Along at Home

You can track my progress on my blog:, where I will attempt to be transparent (Run Naked) on my progress. 

Thank you, – Art

When it rains, it purrs

I did my first group training run today.  It was a short run; 1 mile warm up, 1.8 mile race, 1 mile cool down.  I did the race in 14’20, which is an 8-minute mile pace.  I’m pretty happy with that — ya gotta start somewhere.  There were 3 people in the group today and I came in 2nd.

On the really cool side I’d gotten about a quarter mile into the race when the heaven’s opened and it started pouring rain. 

Not little drops; more like the Forest Service was dumping helicopters full of water on Central Park to put out a fire.

You could see people running for cover everywhere except for some runners.  They just started smiling and kept running.  And it was infectious.  I couldn’t stop grinning for the entire race.  I’m still smiling now. 

The rain didn’t stop the race, it just cooled me down and helped me run faster.  Now if I can just apply that philosophy to the other times when life rains all over me…

– Art Clarke
Help me raise $5,000 to help care for people with cancer!

Some Times Running Naked is Embarrassing

It is now official.  I am signed up for the New York Marathon, and have committed to raise at least $5,000 for Team Continuum (a really cool foundation that works to help care for current cancer patients, and does a lot of work at J’s hospital).

I’m going to post my training status here so people can see how I do.  And right off the bat, the answer is not good 😦 I injured my shoulder in the gym a week ago (bouncing a ball… when did I get old?), and couldn’t move my neck for about 4 days.  Net is my training fell off.   The good news is I feel better now, and was back at it starting last Thursday.  The first official group training run is tomorrow (6/12) and I’m looking forward to it.  I know I have a lot to learn about how to run.

June 4 – June 11

  • Miles ran: 8
  • Miles biked: 8 (really sad…)
  • Avg weight: 159.5
  • Avg body fat: 16.1% (crept up as activity decreased and those morning bagels caught up with me)

– Art Clarke
Help me raise $5,000 to help care for people with cancer!

Teachings of the Cortez School of Management

I mentioned in my first post that I have decided to change some things about how I live.  Well, here it is, the first public statement of those goals: I am going to achieve contentment through the pursuit of perfection.   Specifically I will approach perfection by constantly challenging my mind to learn, constantly challenging my body be in the best shape I can be in, constantly challenging my soul by seeking to share and create things that are valuable to others, and constantly challenging my spirit to be open to the awesomeness of the universe. Now, if you’re reading that paragraph for the first time, I imagine your initial reaction would be “Art, you arrogant prick.”  I’ll give you that it certainly sounds arrogant.  But please bear with me a moment while I explain why and what I mean.

When I was 14 I set a lifetime goal for myself: I will never be as poor as my parents had been.  It was simple and measurable.  At the time I had just moved to the United States, and I was able to compare our lot in the world to the average American.  You could say I suffered from status anxiety (although I certainly didn’t know the term at the time).  At that point in time (1988), our family (2 parents, 4 kids) made $23,000 a year, and it was the wealthiest I could remember us ever being.

This goal served me well for some time, guiding me to choose different options to achieve it.  But like running around Central Park, it had a flaw that wasn’t obvious to me at the onset.  It is (for a white male in America) too easily achievable.  My goal wasn’t (and isn’t) to be super-rich.  My goal was to not be poor.  By the time I turned 30, I realized as long as I stayed healthy, it would be trivial to not be poor.  I had thrown everything I had into work to achieve my big goal, forgoing so many things, and now having achieved the goal I felt so empty.  With this realization (coincident with a lot of stress in my job) a period of intense depression set in:  I hadn’t considered what to do next.  This was the darkest period ever in my life (and great thanks to J for helping me get through it).

I took some time off work.  I started smoking.  I travelled.  I read lots of books on philosophy, religion, spirituality, management goobly-gook, personal fulfillment and anything I could think of.  I saw a psychiatrist for a few weeks.  I spoke with friends.  Gradually I came to the conclusion that I needed a new raison d’etre, it needed to be aspirational but not achievable, and it had to be total: “Raison d’etre” because without it I wasn’t sure why I’d want to exist; “aspirational” because it needed to inspire me, but “not achievable” because it has to last as long as I live; “total” because I had discovered that my first goal, which focused solely on physical comforts, left me colder and more alone that I could have imagined.

And what would that goal be?  Well, having a Daydream for what I wanted, I applied the principle of Laziness: instead of trying to figure it out myself, I figured there had to be a shortcut.  I believed that I’m not the only person in the world who has faced this conundrum, and within the thousands (I think all parties agree at least 6,000) of years that humans have existed, surely there must emerge a common answer.  So I looked to people in history that I admire (and some people I didn’t even know existed but have come to admire).  And looking at it, I believe a common thread does appear.  People who are serious about changing themselves have all chased a form of perfection.  And that perfection has been consistent, be it Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah, Ghandi, Muhammad Sumohadiwidjojo, Mother Teresa, Aristotle, or thousands of others.  They have constantly challenged themselves (mind, body and soul) to be open with themselves, to share themselves openly with the world, and to be open to the mysteries, paradoxes, and unknowns that exist in the world (I’m sure other folks will disagree with this synopsis, and would love to hear your thoughts).  They were the original naked runners.

I’d gotten to this line of thinking by the end of 2004.  And, I did nothing.  I changed nothing about myself.  I just stayed lost.

Why?  For lack of a better phrase, I was scared shitless.

Let me break down why: I’ve always loved learning and challenging my mind.  But if I did an honest assessment of the other areas, I was coming up with consistently failing grades.  My body had taken a backseat (dear God, I’d started smoking!!!).  My soul?  Well, I “shared” in the context of my job, but that’s the closest I came to being a decent human being.  And openness to the mysteries in the world?  Well, I had earlier rejected (rather explicitly) every teaching of the Catholic Church I’d been brought up in, and had been thoroughly trained in the hard-science atheistic school of modern neo-liberalism and had a severe gut problem with concepts like God, spirituality, and anything outside the realm of eventual explanation by rational thought.  I was well short of any ideal of perfection, and any change I made would expose me to feelings of intense discomfort.  I was hove-to and drifting for many months, knowing change was necessary but doing nothing.

And then I decided to apply the Teachings of the Cortez School of Management to myself.  The teachings of Cortez School of Management are very simple.

Hernando Cortez was the Spanish man credited with taking over the Aztec empire[1]. He landed on the coasts of America with a crew that had been at sea for months.  He knew they had miles to march still.  So he took his crew and he told them of the glories they were about to see.  He told them of the riches they were about to make.  He told them of the celebrity they would enjoy once they returned.  In short, he gave them a dream they could believe in.  And believe they did.  They were so excited they gathered their gear and began marching that day.  And then, when they’d marched out of sight of the boats, he sent back some trusted men and to burn all the boats.  When his men found out they were outraged, but Cortez pointed out that all elements of the dream still existed, but now they had an extra incentive.  Their only option now was to pursue the dream!

The Cortez School of Management teaches two things:

  • 1) Dream big.
  • 2) Remove any options to back out of achieving the dream.

In work I’ve applied the principle several times.  I inherited a project management team at my former employer that had been referred to as “the biggest internal problem we have” by several folks on the executive management team.  I helped the team come up with a dream of being a well respected team by coming up with some great ideas we could implement for “4-week quick wins” to show the company we were for real (the dream).  And then I publically committing us to ship that list (and now there was no going back).  I even publically name each person responsible for delivering each win.  I thoroughly burnt the boats.  (Right afterwards, one of the team came to me in a panic because she thought she wouldn’t really have to do it.)  Well wow, did folks get that stuff done – there is immense power in publically holding people responsible to their commitments.  Within 12 months the team had a totally different (and better) reputation and attitude!

Another time, I wanted to grow my career outside of just engineering, but I was scared to do so, afraid I’d look like an idiot when I tried to present to business folks about technical ideas, or to technical folks about business ideas.  But I dreamed of being really successful; of wowing clients whenever I worked with them; of moving fluently between the technical and business worlds.  And then, I quit my engineering job completely and joined the sales team where the only way to succeed was to face that fear head-on with no opportunity to go back.  I didn’t take a half-step into the shallow end – I removed all flotation devices and jumped into the ocean.  And what do you know?  I learned to swim pretty damn quickly.

So, in late 2005 I saw an opportunity to apply the Cortez School of Management to my (failed) attempts to change my path in life.

My wife (J) was applying for fellowship programs and, while we were very settled in the Bay Area, I encouraged her to apply for the best-program regardless of geography.  Four choices emerged: San Francisco, New York, Houston and LA.  Cortez whispered in my ear and I decided it was time to leave San Francisco.  Leaving San Francisco would force me to quit my comfortable job and remove excuses to not change.  Sure, I could have quit my job and stayed in San Francisco, but I felt that would only force me to change jobs, not change everything about how I live.  I needed something that would force me to change everything.  I didn’t care about where we moved (honestly, ask J, I was even willing to live in Houston).  I just decided to burn the San Francisco boats (job, network, local favorite spots), and move somewhere new to start over.

Once I was in New York (July 2006), I couldn’t make excuses anymore.  And that was when I decided to embark upon this personal journey: I am going to achieve contentment through the pursuit of perfection.  By contentment, I don’t mean sloppy-drunk happy.  I mean content because I’ve changed all the things I could change, but genuinely accepted the things I can’t.  By perfection, I mean strive to hit the ideals laid out by the great people in the world that I respect.

To do this, I have to address my mind, my body, my soul and I have to approach the fact that spirituality is a biological fact that needs to be explored (if folks are interested, I’ll explain that later). And so I set these goals for the rest of my life:

  • 1. For my mind, I want to continue constantly trying to learn new things. This was the one area I felt didn’t need much change when I got to New York, but I still try hard to learn new things each day.
  • 2. For my body, I want to be in the best shape I can be in (see prior posts).
  • 3. For my soul, I want to create something that brings value to other people. So I started a company (because that’s part of what I know how to do) with some friends that is focusing on using the web, and outsourcing services, to deliver cheap easy-to-use services for small companies that eliminate lots of bullshit busy work for them ( And I’m starting to get more involved with charity and giving back (see future posts) to others some of the fortune I’ve had.
  • 4. And for spirituality, I’ve come to realize that the universe is awesome, and take each day to try to see another aspect of that (I’ll write about that in the future).

I know I’ll never be perfect.  I know that not all days will be a step forward.  And I certainly will never achieve near the level of perfection that the people who have inspired me achieved.  But I’m trying, and now I’m trying more openly.   It’s been way harder than I expected.  I feel more uncomfortable than any point in my life (but it’s a good discomfort).  The Cortez School of Management has certainly helped, but I’d be lying if I said on some days I didn’t wish there was a boat waiting for me on the dock to take me back to someplace less scary.

[1] OK, Cortez’s dream wasn’t really that good for the Aztecs, and many parts of the story are not factually correct, but such is the nature of metaphors.

Daydream, Laziness & Looking at the Negative

Let’s strip off some of the clothes by starting with my principles for Getting Stuff Done.

I believe that if you daydream, are lazy, and look at the negative, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

I’ve had good luck to date in following these principles.  They got me into a great college.  They got me my pick of jobs I wanted.  They helped me succeed at those jobs.  They helped me find the bravery to start a company.  And over the last few months, they’ve helped me lose 25 pounds and get back into good shape.

The principles are simple and I can’t claim credit for thinking of them (although I like to think the phrasing is mine).  Many folks have variants on the theme, and they do work.

Let’s break them down.  If you want to accomplish a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) then

  • 1) Daydream: Imagine what the world will look like when you have achieved your BHAG. Then STOP DAYDREAMING AND GET LAZY.
  • 2) Be Lazy: Figure out the easiest step you can take that will move you closer to your BHAG: Then THINK OF THE NEGATIVE.
  • 3) Look at the Negative: Ask yourself, if you take that step, what options are no longer open. If the trade-offs are not worth it, go back to Step 2. But if the trade-offs are worth it, TAKE THE STEP.

And repeat until your goal is accomplished.

Now, I mention these principles here because I’d like you to hold me to these principles if (and I will) I falter from my goals.  But before we get to that, I thought it might be helpful to give a real world example of these steps in action.

In July of 2006, I moved to New York City from San Francisco.  There were many reasons for the move, but in contemplating the move I decided a geographic change should coincide with several personal changes in how I live.  One of the things I decided to change was my body: I didn’t like my body.

I used to be in OK shape – never in “great shape”, but not fat and able to run and bike a little.  But I had allowed myself to get out of the habit of caring for my body.  Upon arrival in New York City I weighed about 188 pounds (I’m 5’11”).   I got winded walking up subway steps.  I didn’t like looking at myself.

So, I set a BHAG: I decided I wanted to be in good enough shape to run around all of Central Park (without stopping) by January 1, 2007.  That’s 6.2 miles in 6 months.

DAYDREAM: And I day-dreamed about it.  The thought of passing some other runners who were doing shorter runs was particularly motivating to me.

LAZY: Next, I got lazy.  What’s the smallest step I could think of?  Well, I figured I should join a gym.  That’s just money – there is no physical pain in signing up for a gym, right?

LOOK AT THE NEGATIVE: And I looked at the negative: What’s the negative of joining a gym?  I’d have to spend money, but I sat down and figured out we could afford it.  I’d run the risk of looking stupid and out of shape.  That was the real downside, but then I realized, I already looked out of shape!  So what if other people saw that too.

With that done, I committed to joining a gym, and by the 2nd week of July I was a member.

Time to repeat the process.   (July 15: 188 lbs, 25% body fat, 0 miles a week)

DAYDREAM: I still wanted to pass those other runners.  The dream still worked for me (when it doesn’t, it’s time to question if you’re doing the right thing).

LAZY: Alright, now I’m a member of a gym.  The smallest next step was to work out.  A little.  Not much.

LOOK AT THE NEGATIVE: Well, I was going to huff and puff.  Not much I could do about that.  Also, I could injure myself, but that just meant work out easy.

And I went to the gym and jumped on a treadmill for 25 minutes.  And it sucked.  But I’d committed to that step, and so I did it.  (I almost puked.)

Time to repeat the process.  (July 22: 187 lbs, 25% body fat, 1.7 miles a week)

DAYDREAM: Yup, still wanted to kick those other runners’ asses.

LAZY: Now I realized the next step was to go to the gym again.  No big surprise there.

LOOK AT THE NEGATIVE: That first time really sucked.  I realized if I tried to do this on my own, I’d start slacking off eventually.  The negative in just going again was I knew I’d lose motivation.  So, I tried to think of another step.

LAZY: And I thought, what if I join a group? That might help.  I used to spin a lot, so I figured I’d try that.

LOOK AT THE NEGATIVE: Well, for one I hadn’t biked seriously in 5 years; I knew my butt would hurt.  But I’d been there before, and knew the key was take-it-easy, so that was solvable.  The step looked good, so I committed to go to a spinning class the next Monday.

Time to repeat the process.  (July 29: 186 lbs, 24.5% body fat, 2 spinning classes).

You get the picture.  I did this for a few weeks, but then started to run into a problem.  Every day (I mean that, EVERY SINGLE DAY), I’d get up and go through the steps:

DAYDREAM: I constantly check the daydream.  (If the dream no longer motivates, it’s time to ask have you achieved what you actually wanted).  And in this case, I was so sick of huffing and puffing, so sick of being a fat ass, and so wanting to kick someone else’s ass, that I knew I had to keep at it.  But it was getting hard to keep getting up for a 6:30am spinning class.   I found I’d skip one in a week, then two (later I’ll talk about the importance of measuring progress). It was a trap I’d fallen into before.

LAZY: I thought about it for a while, and then realized a trick I’ve used professionally might work here.

Often I’d ask project managers on my teams to do a project-review meeting with me.  I’d invite all the other managers to watch and ask questions.  In reality it wasn’t that I wanted to review a project (trust me, those meetings are pretty boring).  But the prospect of meeting with their boss and the bosses of all their team members at a scheduled time, and a scheduled format, would drive the project managers to make sure they really knew their projects.  And they’d come prepared, which made the meetings even more boring, but made them better at their job.

I decided I needed a “project-review” mechanism for myself.  I needed a manager that I could report to who’d hold me to account.  My wife (let’s call her “J”) couldn’t do it; it had to be someone impartial.  And so, I decided to spend some money on a personal trainer.  Not to learn what to do, but to give me someone that I had to “report to” every two weeks and tell them how I did.

LOOK AT THE NEGATIVE: Well, there’s money (and in NYC trainers are expensive).  But I really wanted to kick those runners’ asses, so my wife and I sat down and figured out that (a) if we kept the sessions to once every 2 weeks to check progress and (b) if we cooked more (a hobby I used to enjoy) we could save a lot of money.  So, I committed to J that I’d cook more, and I signed up for a trainer for 8 weeks (to test out my theory).  In my very first meeting with him (let’s call him “G”) he had me lift some very light weights.  At the end, I went to the bathroom and threw up.

But I did it. And I kept repeating the process (August 19th: 183 lbs; 24% body fat, 2-3 spinning classes a week).

Did it work?


I did my first non-stopping loop of the Park on September 27th 2006, over 3-months ahead of target.  I even passed some other folks (not many).  It was awesome, but it made me realize I needed a bigger BHAG.  So, I decided on two things:

  • 1) I will get my body fat below 12% of my total weight by November of 2007. (Some folks have asked why I picked 12%; I did some research. Professional male marathon runners will be around 5-8% body fat. “semi-pro” athletes will be between 7% to 10% for a lot of other sports. I picked 12% as something I thought I could attain based on that).
  • 2) And I will run the NYC Marathon in November of 2007 (fully clothed J ).

And so I keep this process going.

In the interest of “running naked”, here’s how I’m doing to date (did I mention the importance of measuring.  The week in February was a cruise vacation I took where I didn’t have a scale):

Training Progress

As of June 1st, 2007, I’m at ~15.5% body fat (down from a peak of 25%).  I’m running an average of 10 miles a week and cycling an average of 45 miles.  I’ve signed up for the NYC Marathon and am training with a good group.

The point is I try to apply Daydreaming, Laziness and Look at the Negative to everything I do, including the other goals I’ll talk about in this blog.   It may give you insight into how I work, and my hope is with that you’ll help motivate me when I fall off track by suggesting I get back to basics.  And if the system also works for you, please steal the principles liberally.  (After all, I stole them to begin with.)