Less is More (2 of 5 Rules of Change)
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.)
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 …)