Sunday, January 17, 2016

Racing To Decide

Decisions can be hard to make. Yet, we still have to make it.

We make decisions about our career, choice of work, relationships, finances, lifestyle, beliefs, and levels of comfort. Without deciding, we may be unable to progress further and employ leadership values like discernment and diligence. A clear goal (SMART) directs us to purposeful actions, and therefore, the investment of focused and guided effort.

When I left full-time employment to pursue my dream of being an independent corporate-trainer, I had to decide after making intense preparations. I had to completes my tertiary education (my first degree), hone my skill-sets and develop my expertise and confidence over-6 countries. Each decision led to more preparatory work and applications. I had to decide to make a bunch of mistakes to engage my penchant for success and failures. The fear of success is as jeopardising as the fear of failure.

Mental conditioning - learning how to develop patience, tenacity, endurance, persistence, perseverence - is as important in the decision-making process. We train our brain to visualise the future, imagine, recall key information, gain insights, develop foresight, and prepare for unpredictable events and opportunities. 

Some decisions are born of dreams, desires and wants. However, each is different in type, relevance and approach. By identifying what these are, and determining how important each is - we can begin be decisive of how we spend our time and expend our resources.

When I started running marathons, the Boston Marathon was not on my list. It was not even on my Bucket List. Subsequently, after many years of training and excelling in the 42.195km (26.2 miles) running format, I decided to challenge myself to earn a Boston Qualifier (BQ). My first BQ in 2011 led to more focused training. A second and third BQ in 2013 and 2015, respectively led to completing the Boston Marathon (Boston Strong) in 2014, and my next attempt will be on 18 April this year. Essentially, one decision led to another, buoyed by action (strategic training) and measurements.

Which leads me to ask myself: Which are my main races and expectations for this year? I may need a beverage to consider this? What will it be?
Leadership Lessons: Learn to decide: snap it (fast) or deliberate over it (slower). Do it by yourself. Do it with a team. Learn to agree. Know when to disagree. Above all, take action after deciding.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ruminations and Reflections

My latest acquisition: Small guy but he packs a wallop with his weapon - his Mind.
Be a Master of my life and events. Achieve and apply excellence in whatever I do.

These are some thoughts and actions for this year. No resolutions - as I don't believe in them. I am goal-orientated, and have found from my experience that these work better than wishful thinking or empty dreaming.

My Boston Marathon training is coming on, purposefully and progressively. I am into my third week, and have been capturing my workouts on Facebook for my friends and students to access. This evening, I ran a half-marathon distance in 1 hour and 49 minutes, 3-4 minute faster than I projected in my last 19km run three days ago. Each workout gives a 'sense', intuitively and scientifically, on how to approach the next. 

After this evening's 21km run.
Analytical thinking has consumed my mind for the past fortnight. I attribute it to my time spent with magicians recently. I have begun performing again for selected audiences, and resumed my study into the Magical Arts (not the dark type, as I am a good Jedi). I have begun dissecting illusions in print or production, and appreciated the thinking and motivation behind the creator. I have also begun practising and rehearsing specific routines for my commercial acts in 2016.

Like theatrical magic, I enjoy movie magic. I enjoyed 'The Force Awakens' and will watch it again on Wednesday. I am intrigued by the script, hidden 'Easter Eggs' and uncredited actors. Did you know Daniel Craig and a leading character from 'Game of Thrones' had bit parts in the new installment? What is more interesting are the various theories of who Rey is. I know that 'Rey' is gleaned from the English actress, Daisy Ridley. Ridley contains 'Rey'. Coincidence - I think not!

More theories abound, and we shall expound on them later. Isn't part of leadership about applying critical thinking, insights, foresights, hindsights and listening to perspectives (without judgement)?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year of Focused Discipline

I will begin this year's post on what is, oddly, an unusual theme: Discipline.

My goals for this year are to apply focused discipline, so as to deliberately realign my efforts to wards purposeful use of my efforts. How we spend our efforts - with a mindful goal - may then translate into results. The use of discipline can reduce inefficiencies, increase our professionalism and enhance our credibility.

Discipline need not be a painful thing. It can be reframed as being more structured, more organised, committing to goals, learning new things, doing new things, and doing what needs to be done. In terms of behaviors, it may mean committing to sleeping earlier, spending less time on social media, reading a few more books, doing in-depth research for a report, rehearsing more before a presentation, or eating better. It can be, as simple as, finishing what you began.

By focus, I will magnify the important, details, and the overlooked. I will pay heed to risks, pay attention to others, pay homage to those who need recognition, and paying it forward. It means using my three sights more: insight, hindsight and foresight. It may require that I use different lenses to identify perspectives, and consider then when making decisions.

Leadership Lessons: Awaken your leader within you - be it within your industry, business, community, profession and in your own consciousness and awareness. Be focused in how you sensibly treat others and influence them.

Have a splendid year ahead!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Leadership Lessons From 'The Force Awakens'

Spoiler-alert. That's it.

Here are some observations of my mind, from the distillery of my mind, culled from the past week. I watched 'The Force Awakens' on the third day of its screening, and I kept mum about the details with those who did not watch it yet.
My long-time and good friend, Elliot Lee surprised me with this complete set of plush (stuffed) toys from the world-class Changi International Airport, Singapore. I was gobsmacked as I did not make a single purchase to buy these character that I grew up with.
Many of my friends have concluded that I am Star Wars fan and geek. I may be, and I think I am. Perhaps, I am in denial asI have other distractions like my fondness for racing in marathons, triathlons, Ironman triathlons, magic and writing.
This was my 'costumed' debut at the IMAX 3D screening of Episode 4. I wore my Uni-Q-Lo tee-shirt that my friend, Nicholas Khaw bought me while he was in Japan in June. My dueling light-sabre and Jedi-belt are from Park Sabers - they do splendid work and craftmanship with these 'laser-swords'. I kept my 'blade' at home. Few people wore their costumes that evening (it was past midnight), but Nicholas and I brought our sabers and confidently carried them. 

I have begun 'sharing' my toys (for Big Boys) around. Like my library of books, I believe in sharing knowledge, wisdom and stories of my experiences. If teachers do not share, teaching becomes pointless. Material things are just that - immaterial, if these are not spread around generously. The intangible things matter just as much: friendships, sense of accomplishment, sense of purpose, generosity of spirit, consideration, caring, respect and passion. Share in your passionate pursuits, and our indulgent pastimes become more relevant to others, and they can relate to our quaint hobbies. We move from 'obsessive' and 'possessive' to 'enjoying it with others'. Just a thought.

Leadership Lessons Learnt: Be confident about what you are passionate. We tend to be very knowledgeable about our hobbies and subject-matter (related to our profession). When we talk about what we love or are familiar with, the words flow out smoothly and easily. Leadership is about making that first step, first move, first question, and first initiation. Take the initiative; take your initiative. Be pro-active, and may the Force (or Influence) be with you!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

For Sparta: Spartan Race Singapore 2015

The inaugural, Spartan Race Singapore was held on Sunday, 15 November 2015.

I bought a last-minute slot ( expensive, by local standards), and got the 2.00pm flag-off.

The event was well-organised, despite the 6,000 participants that ploughed through from dusk till late-afternoon. They were altogether 15 stations, or series of stations in the 6-8km route. The route was designed along the scenic Bayfront area.

I was in the lead for the two loops until I suffered two penalties at two stations: Monkey-Bars and Spear-Throwing. Each of my failures cost me 30 Burpees (with pushups and squat-jump), and these left me fairly knackered. I was happy to jump across the hot fiery coals just before the finish-line. I think I may be fifth or sixth, due to lost minutes.

I look forward to next year's edition, likely a 16km, however with more preparations in the following areas:

1) Join a CrossFit class to learn the specific movements required in Spartan Games.
2) Really strengthen my body in all planes (forwards, sideways and rotatory).
3) Achieve completions in  various WODs (Workout of the Day).
4) Perform run-push-pull-climb-run 'brick' sets.
5) Ensure complete recovery of my shoulders and rehabilitate. This is my Achilles Heel.
6) Lift heavier weights, and perform Spartan-related exercises.
7) More plyometrics (jumping and landing) in my exercise diet.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Endurance Events & Being In The Zone


When I participated in the Nanowrimo 30-Day Challenge, I wrote 50,000 words for an unedited story/novel in 30 days. If I missed a day, I had to catch up with twice the amount. Each session was described as hectic, and sometimes, being ‘in the zone’. Yet, I got it done despite he crazy self-imposed timeline.

Athletes have described being ‘in the zone’ as a trance-like state, where focus becomes pinpoint sharp, and performance feels effortless. It is distinctly different from ‘zoning out’, where focus is lost due to daydreaming.

Endurance sports and its requisite training sessions, demand that we activate our values of patience, tenacity, determination, persistence and resourcefulness. Long sessions require such values to complete long sessions for swimming, running and cycling.

Leadership Lessons: Just do it. Plot a time slot, and commit to completion. Do your best, and exhaust your time. Assess your results. Write first. Edit later.

Beat Your Best: The Time-Crunched Athlete


If you need something done, give it to a busy person. If you are time-crunched for a race preparation, you can do twice-a-day sessions. The current ‘haze’ condition and bad air quality has led to jettisoned sessions, or indoor-sessions. Nevertheless, with creative scheduling and workout design you can still save your race (and race fitness).

Upside: You can split a long run into two shorter sessions. For instance, a 21km run can be split into 10km and 11km sessions. I have done two hours of indoor-cycling on the turbo-trainer in the morning, followed with an evening o1-hour session. My legs, generally, feel fresher and I can opt for similar intensity, or higher. It is now wonder that elite swimmers train twice a day, 4-5 days per week. When I was training for my Boston Qualifiers (BQ), I sometimes did two sessions per day as my additional session in the ‘Run Less, Run Faster’ approach. I never exceeded four sessions of running, all done at tempo-paced. A second session may be shorter, and focused on slopes or off-road surface.

You can also integrate short (15-20 minutes) strength and core stability sessions. These sessions will shift focus onto rehabilitative interventions, muscle-rebalances, and developing functional strength. I end each aerobic session with balance-work (proprioceptive), kettle-bell training, and free-hand/bodyweight exercises.

Down side: You will have to wash another set of exercise attire. Also, be mindful of your energy levels. If need be, fuel up about 15-20 minutes before a session with Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum or Hammer Gel. I use a 645-ml serving bottle (26 servings). Hydrate throughout the day. I use ginger-tea to reduce post-exercise swelling and inflammation.

Leadership Lessons: Prioritise. Make important things important. Shift your focus to relevance and the necessary. However, chores still need to be done.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Valuing Oneself & Others

How do you measure performance and value your talents?
Have you 'actually' measured your value?

'Perceived value' translates into 'actual value'. That is why the best people are sought after by potential employers and executive search specialists. When these people value your skills, wisdom, experiences and competencies you get compensated more, are recognised and  valued even further. 'Pay for the best' is the truism when it come to employment and employability.

How do you appraise your value? How do you get valued like a precious diamond is assigned a price-tag, or your property/real estate is appraised?

Before your next performance appraisal, do a SWOT Analysis. Born of marketing, and used to assess the value of a brand, SWOT can be used to assess your valuable skills, and Unique Selling Points (USPs). SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. By identifying, in detail and exactness, your Strengths (abilities and capabilities) - you can project your Opportunities (including future value and potential). Your Weaknesses need to be reduced, and converted into competencies or your Threats increase to become your risks.

Do a SWOT Analysis before your next Performance Appraisal interview, job interview, or when updating your LinkedIn profile. 

Leadership Lessons: How do you value yourself? How do you value others? How do you answer questions relating to value, relevance and importance?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Currency of Wisdom

How do you actively develop your wisdom?

How often do you seek your wisdom of hindsight? That is, your inner-eye that helps you reference your future decisions with your past.

On the one hand, we experience self-talk like 'once beaten, twice shy', 'I should have listened to my gut feeling' and 'rash decisions'. On the other, you may have appreciated moments like 'Eureka!', 'my intuition talked to me' and 'I was fortunate/lucky'. We can attribute our success and failures to being acutely attuned to both our senses (sensitive, sensible) and our intuition (sixth sense, gut feel, instinct).

Learn From Your Failures
There is a truism that we can learn from our mistakes and failures. How exactly does one learn from disappointing results? Unguided, we may wallow in self-pity and become depressed. With the right internal lenses, we can filter out the emotions to attain the filtrate of 'good stuff'. These include lessons that we may apply at the next decision. What to avoid, be mindful of, cognisant about - we can apply this to our next business venture, relationship, and commitment. Sports-coaches remind us to write our thoughts and feelings while they are freshly-imprinted in our minds. We can review our results, and make adjustments in our planning and preparation for future attempts.

Learn From Your Successes
When you achieve a new milestone in your life, reflect over what you enjoyed about it. Ponder over how you would achieve your results and performance differently next time. Which values did you learn from your success? Humility, patience, consideration, respect, trust, care, and many more. What did you add to your character in your success? How can you build on your abilities, and expand and extend into your capabilities? Wisdom from our success can help us become confident to 'dream bigger for longer'. We can enter the realm of personal excellence and mastery, as such.

Leadership Lessons: How do you draw on your wisdom? How often do you convert to your currency of wisdom? How do you apply it to your decisions in business, socially, as well as in your personal relationships? Add to your wisdom. Observe, reflect, extract, from your experiences and use it for your learning and application.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Go Nuts With Your Nutrition



Stock Photo: Markus Mainka

I wouldn't say that I am a nut person, yet I do enjoy the occasional handful of these crunchy pieces of nutrient-dense foods. I also enjoy dried/desiccated fruits.

As an active endurance athlete, I use nuts as a supplementary source of nutrients. Here are how I eat them:

1) I sprinkle them over my raw salads. I enjoy pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, dried fruit and raisins. They provide a protein boost to the pigmented leaves. I, sometimes, spruce up my nut count if I eat my salad at home.
2) Drink water when eating nut by itself. It can dry your throat.
3) The easiest way to consume nuts is from a bag. Ensure that unused nuts are kept in a resealable Ziploc bag.
4) Although nuts and dried fruits can be refrigerated to ensure shelf-life, consume them as soon as possible. The refrigerator is a dehumidifier, and may cause precious essential oils from the nuts to escape. The same goes for coffee powder.
5) I enjoy nuts as a snack, especially when I feel peckish on a long indoor-ride. I get a mild feeling of satiety or fullness, whilst enjoying the energy from the oils. I have also raced with nuts in Ironman races.
6) Certain nut oils complement the essential and stable cooking fats (extra-virgin olive oil, butter and coconut oil).
7) I developed an appreciation for nut butters (mainly peanut and almond) after I ate some during my time in the Boston Marathon 2014. A trip to Trader Joes convinced me of the relevance of buying a prepared version, or a home-made, bespoke recipe.
8) Invest in a powerful blender/grinder and make your own nut butter flavoured with Himalayan salt, raw honey, bee pollen, berries, and other oils.

Nuts and the nut oils are a relevant complement to our dietary needs as serious athletes. There are many nut-based products you can create in your kitchen like health-bars, smoothies, and spreads.

Nuts can vary in pricing, source, agricultural treatment and preparation. The website 'NUTS.COM' incorporates the expertise of a dietitian to recommend simple treats and solutions for your nutritional needs. Check it out to learn more about healthier solutions about nuts, dried fruit, and other tasty treats for your energy, recovery, and racing needs.