Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lean Startups and Bartering Relationships (Part 3)

C) Build A Business That Will Offer Value

You cannot get rich, unless you offer people something of value.

People are attracted to things that they value, thus, they will treat it as valuable. 

How will your business benefit another?

Conduct two measurements before you embark on your business: Do a SWOT analysis, and a Cost-to-Benefit (CBA) analysis. These will give you a fair indication of what to prepare for. 

If you are investing into a business, avoid parasitic processes where you have to 'work' for somebody else's pot of gold. If you do, ensure you are higher up in the process. You can build your team, but ascertain that those you 'lead' will benefit just as much in their near-future. Avoid annoyingly-obligatory sales processes, i.e. selling to friends and family, and the  familiar. 

If it is a skills-based business, ascertain your skills, experience and wisdom. Identify your Unique Selling Points (UPSs) and uniqueness. Clarify this question: What makes you different that we should consider engaging you? Avoid the lowest-price trap (reflecting poor marketing competency).

More to follow. Best of planning and preparation!

How To Be A Better Runner

How do you become a better runner?

Stay injury-free and improve on your weaknesses, is the simplified answer.

How do you stay injury-free?

By training within your limits (we have more physical limitations as compared to our mental ones), you can keep serious injuries at bay. Mild injuries may be unavoidable when you step up on intensity, prior to a race. Thus, my promotion of 'Run Less, Run Faster' is pertinent, if you are already plagued by persistent niggles and soreness. 

Your build-up to the race needs to be sensible and realistic. Give yourself SMART Goals, and be mindful of how well you can prepare. Thus, in your off-season you would do better to focus on lower-intensity, fat-utilising, pace. I recommend lower-heartrate running, swimming and cycling to enhance your 'aerobic engine'. Drink Bullet Coffee (or coconut-oil infused beverages before training on an empty-stomach) to engage your body's ability to tap into your endurance system.

Get quality sleep to recover fully and reduce stress. Eat 'clean' to assist your body to assimilate new body tissues. Eat all major food groups, and eliminate food that cause you allergies. Consume more antioxidants, protect and nurture your gut flora (bacteria), and be well-hydrated. Go 80:20 with your nutrition/meals, and treat yourself,occasionally, to some 'comfort food'. I am a fan of craft-beers after hard training, and appreciate indulging in my sweet tooth. Your fitness will assist you in your day-to-day activities; not just for racing and earning PBs. Focus on building an organic machinery that enhances your life, and promotes your sporting lifestyle.

Training-wise, be smart and enlist assistance in ensuring you optimise your efforts and structural abilities: running-gait, footwear, core-strength, muscular-strength, balance and proprioception, joint-health, and muscular weakness (critical point of incidence). Diagnose your abilities and do a SWOT analysis, and tap on your collective potential and work on reducing your weaknesses. Race occasionally, so as to familiarise with your race-pace (5km, 10km, 21km and marathon).

More of these will be covered in my new Ebook.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

10 Ways To Use Diversity In Fitness Development

What do you do when you get bored of your training and racing?

Motivation can wane through time, so we should be mindful when our enthusiasm and passion loses it fizzle and sizzle. Just as we can 'get our goose cooked', we can experience fatigue, boredom and lethargy. Over-training and over-racing can accelerate our sense of malaise. So, what can do to rejuvenate our interests?

1) Reduce training mileage, and maintain intensity (tempo, track-work, running up slopes).
2) Focus on speed and strength (higher intensity, strength-training).
3) Race in shorter events (add intensity and focus).
4) Participate in fun events (Colour Run, Illumination, mass yoga, Superhero Run).
5) Challenge different muscle groups (do CrossFit, yoga).
6) Take on challenging races that challenge different aspects of your fitness (Spartan Race, aquathlon).
7) Focus on your weakest area (swimming for me).
8) Take on harder terrain (ride on hills, off-road running).
9) Slow down and do fun activities (trekking, mountain-biking, wear a costume in a short run).
10) Do a team charity event to raise funds.

All it takes is to include variety, diversify your energies and interests, and learning new skills - and you will be confident with newly-discovered fitness and prowess!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lean Startups & Bartering Relationships (Part2)

In a continuing series on business startups and entrepreneurial ventures, we discuss the relevance of Relationships.

B) Bartering Your Way To Results

Bartering may seem like 'old school', yet it is one of the backbones of business success. The 'Law of Exchange' is as old as trading, sales, and reciprocity. 

One of the considerations of bartering is that it can be informal, and kept 'off the books'. Because, it is an 'exchange' of service-for-service, or product-for-product, or service-for-product, or product-for-service, you can be flexible with how you calculate your 'costs'. You can barter your editing services for a new business website for advice on accounting and submitting tax forms. You can barter a workshop on business writing for a participant's spot in a business seminar. You can trade your coaching services as a personal-trainer for accommodation in a residential-apartment overseas (when you are on vacation or a business trip). Write an feature article for a website, and in turn enjoy shared readership.  

Tied in to this process of bartering, is the Law of Reciprocity (as observed by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.). You can reap massive benefits by leveraging on professional and personal relationships (more on this later). This may also pave the way for co-branding, partnering, co-sponsorship, and alliances.

Leadership Lessons: Bartering is about exchanging, and not taking advantage of anyone. You can trade products, services, and even opportunities to maximise progress of your business and vocation. Consider how you barter sensibly and with sensitivity. Sometimes, paying for the service or product is much 'cleaner' and without attachments and encumbrances.

Lean Startups & Bartering Relationships (Part1)

Being self-employed, and a 'free agent' for the last 15 years, I have been asked questions pertaining to start-ups and sustainability. Here are my thoughts distilled over the years for those who are thinking seriously about taking that quantum leap of faith into self-employment. 

To start your own company, and launch it, you can start lean and still be mean. Key considerations are:

A) Have 12 Months of Salary

In case things do not work according to plan, you have a year's worth of savings to tide over your overheads. These include purchase of capital expenses (notebook, work-station, peripherals), operating costs (rental, staff salary, software,licenses, taxes), business expenses (transportation, travel, accommodation) and developmental costs (education, seminars, courses, books, DVDs, EBooks). Do your 'books' according to a simple plan of Input/Output, or Cost/Income. Learn about basic Accounting, if you will, as it is important to be compliant with taxation laws and enjoy prevailing tax reliefs and start-up benefits.

Now, this window of 12 months gives you an 'out', in case things do not pan out for reasons. You still have a sense of relevance and 'recency', as you have not been too long 'out in the cold'.

Leadership Lessons: Plan to succeed. Success comes with planning and working your plan. A 12-month bank of salary gives you an assurance that you can manage your current lifestyle or alter it. What endurance sports can teach us are values of patience, optimism, determination, persistence, and purpose. I used 'The Art of The Start' by Guy Kawasaki as a working manual, and it has useful orientations for business start-ups and entrepreneurial approaches. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Aiming For A BQ: Gold Coast Marathon 2015

5 July 2015, Sunday, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Australia. I crossed the marathon finishing-line in 3:17:43: Another Boston Qualifying (BQ) time and, hopefully, a shot at the 120th edition of the Boston Marathon.

I was, nowhere close to a 3-hour finish, and I was not expecting to do so. What with less than five weeks of run-specific preparation, I was aiming for a sub-3:25:00 finish (for my age-group). In my mind, a 3:20:00 finish would have been gratifying and cleansed me of the disappointment of my first-ever, DQ/DNF at Ironman Lanzarote in late-May.
Race Morning: I awoke a little later at 4.30am. The race was 7.20am. It was chilly, but with no sign of rain. I wrapped myself warmly up, and made my first cup of Bullet Coffee (coffee with coconut oil), a daily ritual for the past two years. I had a microwaved cheese-bun, a CrampFix salt capsule, and some water. I took some time to dress up, using a new silicon-based lubricant on possible chaffed areas. I used my Jabra-sponsored two-piece tri-suit (a norm at all my races), double-tied my laces, and adjusted the fit of my visor. I took the G-Link tram, which was free for runners and family, to the race-site.

Start-Pen: After queuing for a last pee-break, I positioned myself  in Pen A, which was for those who were aiming for 3:15:00 or less. Two pacers were there with blue balloons; they were friendly, but contained their excitement. If I were a pacer, I would be concerned about my end of the bargain – to lead runners to within their race goals. I swallowed a packet of Hammer Nutrition Gel with adequate water, and proceeded to warm up. I jogged slowly on the spot, to get my heart-rate up, and warm my muscles and raise my core-temperature. I stopped when a lady sang the Australian national anthem. I continued jogging until the countdown. No familiar runners were near me, so I was going alone.

When the gun went off, I jogged towards the start-line, activated my Garmin 910XT watch. I was mindful to keep my pace within my race-pace of 4:37min/km for the first kilometre. I set my watch to remind me of every kilometre (and pace) completed.

At the 2km-mark, I had to dodge deftly past runners to pee. I knew I was building up tension at the starting-pen and had to remove this distraction. Upon my exit, I told myself I had to recover time to get near the 3:15 Pacers. In the next few kilometres, my splits were hitting 4:30min/km and even 4:20min/km. From my experience, I knew I could not keep up with this pace unless I wanted to risk premature fatigue. After crossing the 10km mark (and overtaking a few Singaporean runners) in about 46 minutes, I held back my pace.
From then onwards, I used every subsequent 5km as my pacing intervals. When I crossed the 21km mark in 1:38, I knew I was on-target for 3:20:00. Whether I could hold this pace was a question-mark. So focused on my situation, that I did regular mental and physical checks: gait, relaxing my upper-body, hydration, fueling, foot-strikes, breathing, and more. Keeping sight of my pacers was crucial, if I were to secure a BQ. I never caught up with them, eventually, however I was just behind 400-500 metres behind them.
My strategy was simple: Hold a pace of 4:30-4:50min/km, throughout the race. Accelerate past runners when I can, especially on the slopes. My training on the Fort Road long bridge (in Singapore) gave me the confidence and competency to take on the last 10km worth of mild slopes that I was familiar with. When you can overtake runners, and consistently so, you are certainly in grand territory. However, with about 6,000 runners with a deep field of fast and strong runners, my ranking was about 463rd.

I was hoping to maintain 4:30min/km pace, however ended up with 4:40min/km. My last 2.2km was done at 4:30min/km. It was unpleasant, as I had to dig deep, and suffer the onslaught and assault of fatigue. I remember the words of Ironman triathlon champion, Belinda Granger: 'Prepare to suffer. Prepare to suffer even more!' What she meant was the race will test you, and you will need to push yourself as far as you intend to go. I assure you, it will hurt, or have a degree of pronounced discomfort.
I was elated, yet relieved to achieve my third BQ. Nutrition-wise, I drank a cup of water (only) at all aid-stations, four electrolyte capsules, and three packets of gels during the marathon. I did not walk at all, and I was pleased with that. I had achieved my goal of securing a BQ and getting my demons of disappointment off my back. I was only 54 seconds off my previous BQ/PB of 3:16:49. The difference between two marathons on the same course was narrow. Plus, my pee-break could have attributed to my perceived 'lost of speed'. In theory, I could have done a 3:15 and earned a new PB/PR. Nevertheless, I was stoked to achieve this performance with limited training period of six weeks. Most marathoners spend about 16-20 weeks to prepare adequately.
Training-wise, I was glad that the 3-4 sessions (only) per week worked well again. Seriously, the Return on Investment (ROI) was high for my training investment. My longest run was 28km split into two sessions. My short runs were 12km done at tempo, or time trial pace. My few running sessions with Andrew Cheong (a Boston Marathon 2012 finisher) were useful, even though I could not keep up with him at the end. My residual fitness from training for an Ironman gave me the aerobic base to do more intense run-specific workouts: no junk-miles, included cross-training and strength-building, and adequate sleep.
With this healthy performance, I look forward to Ironman 70.3 in Cebu, The Philippines in early-August; and Ironman Western Australia in early-December. Meanwhile, I will not run in any more marathons unless it falls within a 226km multi-sport endurance format.

I will report on my performance in Cebu soon. Let us assess how the ‘Run Less, Run Faster’ can be applied to long-distance triathlon. Onwards to finishing my first Ebook related to this field of endeavour. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Art of Precision Writing

Are you languishing in your language?
‘Precis writing’ is a tough skill to master. In effect, you summarise an article or essay into its key components. To do so requires critical thinking skills in analysis, convergent thinking, and synthesis. To encapsulate such thinking is to possess crystallised thinking, and applying your linguistic/language ability into a readable format.

How can you approach such skills?

Do Write Regularly
With the social media platform, write your thoughts on your postings on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Share your comments, instead of clicking on ‘Like’. Write with/on any media: prose, poetry, reviews, recommendations, comparisons, and feedback.

Create Useful Lists
Summarise with a list. Use PowerPoint bullets. However, write with at least three words. My favourite exercise is to create a Top-10 list. That is why bestsellers tend to use numbers between 5-9 principles. For example, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Eighth Habit, The Power of 3, and the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Formulate Your Opinions
What did you like? What did you dislike? Opinions are theories and they reflect our thinking at one stage in our life. Film reviews are the best. Write about your experience at a hotel through their Feedback page. Twitter challenges us to compose our thoughts, all within the 140-character, framework. Edit, by replacing, eliminating, words and phrases. Avoid shorthand that enhances confusions and wrong assumptions. Generation X may not understand enough of Generation-Y/Millennials’ language of brevity.

Review What You Wrote
Looking back, on reflecting, you can appreciate the wisdom of your hindsight, or the naivety of youth. There can be much to glean from previous thinking, and assess how far we have progressed. Use your vocabulary to your advantage and exactness.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

10 Things To Do When You Have 24 Hours Available

Do you frequently un-clutter your notebook, or update your Twitter account?
What do you do when you have 'spare time on your hands'?

There are only 24 hours in a day. It is a myth that we can save time, make time, call for time out, invest in the time, et al. We can do these with our relationships - initiate, engage, build on, explore, strengthen - and time is merely an expendable item. Once the moment is gone, it is, and was. If you have a few hours to a few days on your hands, how could you use it valuably. Prioritise your use of time, tasks, and relationships. [Refer to Steven Covey's 'Time Management Model' from 'First Things First' for guidance.]

Instead of sitting on our hands, we can do much more (effort versus results) with our time. These are lessons I learnt over the last few weeks. Do consider engaging in a few of them. Your results may be startling!

1) Start writing an EBook (Start with the first page; I completed two in a fortnight and ready-to-publish).
2) Give yourself an active-passive treat (sports-massage, read your books, have coffee with dear friends).
3) Clean your room (library, bathroom, shelves).
4) Do a short workout session (stretch, yoga, strengthening, balance, aerobic fitness).
5) Stick to your time-line (compress it all in).
6) Re-arrange something (wardrobe, library, kitchen, sports equipment).
7) Clean out your PC (eliminate out-dated information, sort out files, create more storage space). 
8) Learn something useful (about how things are made, simple skills, useful skills).
9) Post an article, share a link with your community, recognise somebody on the Social Media platform.
10) Rest or sleep if you must (especially if you feel fatigued).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Geek, Nerd or Fan?

Who is telling the truth? 
I am a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. More the former, as I do have a few pieces of figurines, a light-saber, and tee-shirts with Star Wars prints.

A friend of mine is a 'trooper' and is part of '501st Garrison', based in Singapore. He enjoys dressing up (cosplay) and appearing as the iconic foot-soldier in charity events. I admire his spirit of generosity, as he gets to troop and give back to society. He also plays Stars Wars Miniature game. So, is he a larger fan than I am?

I read that, in the Geek Hierarchy:

GEEK: Understand, create and fixes really cool stuff.
NERD: Understands and collects really cool stuff.
DORK: Confused by really cool stuff.
I am a Nerd in Star Wars. I am a Geek in Magic. I am a Dork when it comes to smart-phones and high-tech gadgets. But we can chat about slider technology, nanotechnology, and socio-linguistics.

Leadership Lessons: Which are you? Knowing oneself, and making that distinction is an important part of progressing and growing as a leader. Discernment, and the ability to make distinctions in details is a core skill of leadership, as are diligence and decisiveness. Think about it, and decide.

A Legend, Or Legendary?

In the fine company of Singaporean 'legends', who completed the legendary Ironman in Kona, Hawaii in the 1990's and early-2000's. I managed to do it in 2013, after eight years of attempts. 

What is a legend? Usually, a famous person who is deceased. Think of legends like Elvis Presley, James Dean, Steve Jobs, and other celebrities.

However, legendary achievements may create the reputation of  being a 'living legend'. Thus, the things that you do become something of legendary proportions. These achievements could reflect a defiance of your age, physical capability, and social status. The classic 'from rags to riches' and 'phoenix rising from the ashes' stories are such hyperbolic description of philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and wealthy people. Yet, these labels stick indelibly as they do, effectively, describe a person and their exploits.

I am not comfortable with the moniker of 'legend', however, it may suggest a person who has achieved greatness, or completed challenges that defy doing or attempting. Or worst, that was the last great thing that person did before succumbing to sloth, despair, or death. 

To have climbed Mt. Everest, or all Seven Summits; finished all World Marathon Majors; completed a deca-Iron distance triathlon (10 Ironman triathlons in 10 days); completed a Triple-Deca (30 Ironmans in 30 days); run 50 X 50km marathons over-50 days; these are examples of mega-achievements that earn the achiever the unofficial title of 'legend'. In the esoteric world of ultra-endurance athletes, there are many legends who have become iconic through their grand, unbearable, and unthinkable achievements.

To do something new, or seemingly impossible, might be your first step towards achieving personal greatness. If 'legend' means attain personal mastery or personal greatness, go for it. We have one life to live well, and living it truly and thoroughly may be one approach. Be legendary, be 'epic', and rise above your true potential. Enhance your capability, capacity and credibility. Be incredible, ultimate and super-human. To live up this superlatives and hyperbole is to continue to demonstrate values of leadership and relevance.

As my late-friend, Dr Winston Koh said: 'Life is not about how many breaths we take, but how many moments that take our breath away.'

Leadership Lessons: What are doing to become legendary? Who do you know who is legendary, and you can learn from them?