Category Archives: Organizations

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

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.

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 🙂

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.)

What is “Running Naked”?

In my career, I’ve helped a lot of teams change things they didn’t like about themselves.  To do this, I’ve encouraged them to “run naked.”

By “run naked” I’ve meant expose what they do and how they run to everyone else in their organization.

If you “run naked” two good things happen:

  1. Other teams see that you have nothing to hide, start to trust you more, and stop politically sniping at you.  I mean, if you saw a naked man fall down, would you want to hit him while he’s down?
  2. If you have to “run naked”, well, you damn well get yourself in better shape.  Who wants to watch a pot-belly run?

These principles have helped new teams, and old dysfunctional teams, start to seriously improve their performance, and raise the performance of their organizations.

Starting last June, I decided I wanted to change some things about myself as a person (not just a professional).  I’ve had some success over the past 12 months changing some things privately. 

But I’ve decided that what’s good enough for my professional career should be tried on the personal goals.  Therefore, I’m going to attempt to apply the “run naked” philosophy to my personal goals, and this blog is my attempt to be more public about those goals.

I encourage feedback, both negative and positive.  I will strive to be open in my posts (although I will keep some elements clothed to protect the privacy of others).

Lastly, I promise while I will philosophically run naked, I will not subject anyone to photos of me actually running naked.  Enjoy.