“You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool” – Richard Feynman
In the path to losing 20 lbs in 12 weeks, the first few weeks were the hardest – the mind resists the new habits, the muscles cry in pain from the soreness, the food cravings are stronger than ever, and the pressure to quit shows up a few times a day. And then the doubting questions: Why am I doing this? Will I get there? Maybe I am ok as I am. These were personal questions for me as I worked to lose weight and may be similar questions asked by leaders of established companies creating the new habits of innovation to transformation into the “new”.
Starting a new direction in life or business venture all-in can be scary and exciting at the same time.
Few periods of our life are more dreadded than “mid-life” – that time when society hits you like a ton of bricks, you realize you’re ‘over the hill’, and you’re meant to medicate with a red sports car.
Truly, what’s happening here is the evergreen series of doubts about the future, unique to only humans. Questions like, Do I still have greatness in me? Is there still energy to go all the way with this fight? Am I fast, strong and agile enough?” all loom in the back of our minds.
Reasonable questions and gnawing doubts for a mature, wiser and experienced mind. The naivety and invincibility of an earlier time are no longer. There are parallels to the mature midlife and that of an established company that has been around for several decades if not even a century.
Here’s my story about shedding 20 lbs in 12 weeks and it’s parallel lessons to business transformation…
A personal quest of my own, nearly 6 years ago, I stepped into my Mission Impossible. Having fought self doubts before and overcome them, like so many of us do, this mission felt different. The time to “crack the code” for repeatable transformation at established companies was a seemingly impossible undertaking. But all the roads I’d taken had led me here – there was no turning back – it needed to be done for my own sense of survival, purpose and meaning.
Three months into the mission…waking up one early morning during holidays with family, the father-in-law pokes at the gnawing doubt of a seemingly simpler matter – my weight and fitness.
“You aren’t the same man you used to be…you look like midlife is catching up with you.” Delivered with a wink to his daughter and my wife of two decades.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“How is your energy these days? You’re not as fit as you used to be!”
Deluded and in denial about my own state of fitness, I shoot back “I am totally good. Doing well enough for 30 minutes at the gym and to pay the bills.”
Lesson 1: Be honest with yourself. Most established business leaders can be in a state of delusion and denial about their true state of fitness towards true Business Transformation today. They’re doing well enough and paying the bills and checking the Corporate Innovation “to do” box. That’s like the frog who sits in nice temperate water as it slowly comes to boiling temp and gets killed in the process.
And so he shoots back the challenge. “Still much heavier than your younger days. Do you think you can lose 15 lbs in four months?”
“Sure I can.”
“Want to put some money on it?”
And so I started an afternoon of research and probing my own commitment for the challenge. I searched deep but quick – the commitment was there. Sick of the “old” and ready to reinvent to feel the “new”. I was going to do this myself – no personal trainers, no nutritionists, no dependencies on outsourced help. This was about my commitment, my discipline, my learning and my internal capability building – not spending money to build dependencies. Game on – I was ready for a transformation.
Lesson 2: Commitment from within. Many established businesses today spend significant time and money on innovation solution providers, technology providers and venture capital service providers. The capital outlay is there to check the innovation “to do” box but the commitment, discipline and willingness to transform internally is in question. Without true commitment and discipline, they too will be “toast” – the outcomes will speak for themselves – 75% of the companies on the S&P 500 today will no longer exist on the exchange in a decade.
There was nothing new here as to what needed to be done. It simply needed to be put into practice. The North Star equation was straight forward:
Calories Out > Calories In.
Three key questions:
- At what calorie out vs. calorie in deficit would I need to meet to lose 15 lbs in 90 days.
- What are the most effective ways to achieve maximum “calories out”?
- What is the optimized way to shed weight with “calories in”?
First, I got a handle on the deficit calories that I need to track daily. Next, I recognized that interval (e.g. high heart rate to medium heart rate over a period of time) and weight training (e.g. repetitions) were the key to weight loss. And finally, it wasn’t just about the calories in but the make-up of the calories in – macros (e.g. protein, carbs and fat).
My “EMERGENCY PARACHUTE” of getting a personal trainer and nutritionist (i.e “experts”) would be pulled if I wasn’t tracking to goal by Day 45. The 90 day target gave me a 30 day contingency in case I needed to adjust – not meeting the outcome was NOT an option.
Lesson 3: Simplify to the root drivers and set clear goals. Get to the root drivers and simplify what needs to be addressed to achieve specific goals – understand your equation. Many established company leaders set goals without truly reflecting and getting to the root issues that are holding their company back. Getting to the root drivers before setting goals is critical for success.
Next, I was ready for the technology tools that would help me monitor the calories intake and outtake. It was pretty quick to discover the best through a few conversations – knowledge is everywhere.
I sorted out my macros needed to reach my desired weight here:
I started monitoring my calorie in and calorie out here on an app:
I found a simple interval + weight training program online to get started. I paid about $40 for this.
Lesson 4: Technology is a tool to help you build your blueprints. Many companies who have been around for decades conflate technology for strategy and put their trust in tools instead of those who will wield those tools. Once the roots and goals are clear, then technology can be applied to achieve the strategic outcomes. Before that, it is a source of confusion, chaos and a waste of money.
All was now in place. I simply had to do the work.
The first month was the hardest – cravings, soreness in muscles, temptation to be lazy. It’s easy to give up but I knew I had to be consistent. I was committed to success – even as I was rewiring myself and my brain into new habits. I wanted the death of the “old” and the birth of the “new”. I was committed and the focus and discipline followed.
It was tempting in the first 4 weeks to get a trainer and employ a nutritionist. The progress at first looked slow but I knew I was on track by looking at the markers. I avoided these temptations and the reward was greater confidence in myself. I prioritized building my internal capabilities and paid the price of discomfort along the way. But every time I succeeded, I had rewired myself into higher ground – what was previously uncomfortable had now become part of my new comfort zone.
I not not only lost 15 lbs in 90 days but lost another 5 lbs the last 30 days for a total of 20 lbs over 12 weeks.
Lesson 5: Stay the course. Breathe through the discomfort into higher ground. Many leaders at established companies can become creatures of comfort – after years of perks, titles and decades of leading the status quo. Comfort is the enemy to progress. If established companies can embrace the discomfort while navigating the “unknown” as they do the work diligently to move to higher ground, and avoid the temptations for the convenient but harmful dependencies along the way, they have won more than half the battle to their transformation into the “new”.