Sunday, May 31, 2009

Midnight Express

This morning I ran my second, dusk marathon. My first time was in the Standard Chartered International Marathon in Bangkok, in 2007 where I set my first sub-4 hour personal record.

The Sundown Marathon, on 30 April featured two races: the 84km ultra-marathon (at 7pm) and the marathon (at midnight). I saw several of my triathlon buddies do the 84km: Grace, Victor, and Freddy – they were amazing! Personally, I think the ultra-marathon (more than 42km) is highly challenging to the body and I would rather take on an Ironman triathlon than a pure running race. I respect those who attempted it, as it requires strong resolve, determination, mental resilience, and a positive mental attitude to complete the distance. Last year, I completed 52.5km of cross-country terrain for the MR25 Ultra-marathon – because I wanted the exclusive t-shirt badly – and it was worth it!

I crossed the finish line just before 4am, an urgent limbo-rock executed beneath the 4-hour bar. Although it was not my best time, I was relatively pleased with my performance considering I did not walk and it was 5 weeks after Ironman China. I paced with Francis Tan, a twenty-something, and regular podium finisher/age-grouper in the Olympic distance triathlon. We hit the 21km mark happily around 1:52, and that was when we were challenged by our enthusiasm and humidity. Francis slowed down, and I kept going using the runners in front as my motivation. The Sundown Marathon route was interesting, covering much of the eastern part of Singapore; with enough slopes and bridges to keep you fully engaged. Francis completed his first marathon in 4:25. Good job, mate!

Congratulations go out to market-researchers, Reeves and Wee Ching for completing it according to their quantitative expectations (okay, timings). I would encourage you to consider doing this annual race, which attracted 6,000 runners this year. The orange T-shirt is a keeper.

Lessons Learnt: Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote in his 80-page book ‘The Dip’ (2007) about moments when our motivations flag. He called this the Dip. He wrote that, sometimes, quitting could be useful – before you hit a dead-end. Although Vince Lombardi wrote: ‘Winners never quit. Quitters never win!’ quitting can be a means of preparing for bigger things ahead. My friend, Matthew (an Ironman triathlon finisher) decided to call it a day near the halfway mark, and sensibly so. There is no sense in doing irreparable damage to your body when it communicates to you on a physical and intuitive level; there is always another race. He is determined to go below the 5-hour mark at his next assault at the distance, and I believe he will. There are benefits for knowing when to quit and when to stick to your guns.

Photo of medal by Maurice Lee

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Catch Them Doing Right: The Real ‘300’

My schoolmate from junior college, Sivasothi demonstrated Spartan-like qualities when he, single-handledly, helped free 300 entangled horseshoe crabs. This rescue, on 27 May, at Mandai Besar mangrove took about five hours; needless to say, it must have been a back-breaking job to work through the 100-metre long abandoned net. Ghost nets are a major threat to these alien-like crabs (which I think were the initial inspiration for the Cylons's spacecraft on the hit television series, Battlestar Galactica). 

Kudos also goes to members of the Nature Society Singapore Horseshoe crab research and rescue team, who scour Kranji mangroves on a quarterly basis to release these trapped marine creatures as well.

Read more on HabitatNews about this amazing rescue.

Thank you, Siva for doing the right thing!

By the way, selfless naturalist, Siva is passionate about Macs, Web2.0, cats, cycling, teaching, natural history, and life in Singapore. This avid mountain-biker, recently participated in the Ride of Silence. I strongly recommend his educational and adventurous blog:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Magical Moments: The Wizardry of Oz

Oz Pearlman has been a professional magician for over-10 years. His warm personality and natural charisma make him an audience favorite. Combining breathtaking magic, incredible mind reading, and audience-driven comedy, he delivers an unforgettable performance.

Oz found his magical calling after he witnessed the performance of a cruise-ship magician, when he was young. He then immersed himself fully in the art of magic and entertainment – a quality that has him also excelling in triathlons and marathons. Oz has honed his talents over the course of thousands of performances at venues ranging from the cozy living room to the packed auditorium. These include performances at restaurants, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, colleges, holiday parties, corporate events, and TV commercials/appearances.

Most notably, Oz starred in his own Off-Broadway show in New York City, WatchMagic. His show enjoyed critical acclaim and enjoyed three sold-out runs.

Oz was in Singapore last year to deliver a lecture for magicians of the local ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM). The local fraternity of magicians eagerly snapped up his lecture notes, and original magical tricks as a testimonial of his lecture.

On the sports front, Oz excels in endurance sports such as ultra-marathons and Ironman triathlons. He qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and completed it with a remarkable timing. He is very generous with his responses and he will reveal how he has achieved so much in a short period of time in both sports and his profession.

Full name: Oz Pearlman

Age: 26

Status: Single

Profession: Professional Magician & Mindreader

Years in profession: 4

City of Residence: NYC

Years in triathlon: 2 years

Pet peeves: People cracking their gum, or chewing loudly

Hobbies: Running marathons and ultra-marathons, reading science fiction and magazines
Enrico: Walk us through your active lifestyle. You work internationally, and are an avid sportsman. How do you do it?

Oz: I normally train 6 days a week, mixture of cycling on an indoor-trainer, running, and calisthenics. When training for Ironmans in the past, it would be anywhere from 2-6 hours per day. When training for marathons and ultras, it's more like 2-3 hours per day. I work primarily at nights and weekends, which allows me the flexibility to train during the day.

E: When taking on these challenges, how do you maintain your work/life/family balance?

O: I am single at the moment and have no kids, so the family balance isn't really part of the equation, yet. As for work, it's the show business lifestyle.  

E: How does an active physical lifestyle tie in to your work as a professional entertainer, as well as a leader?

O: I think that, it factors in positively, in terms of me being on my feet for many hours while working while also maintaining a good energy level and looking good. 

E: What made you do Ironman? How many years did you train before you qualified for Kona? Was that in Ironman Wisconsin?

O: It was another challenge and sounded quite crazy at the time. I trained for about 6 months before doing Ironman Wisconsin. It was a wet and somewhat miserable day, but I managed to get 3rd place in my age group and qualify for Kona. I was never really into triathlons, nor am I now. A little gear-intensive for me, but I enjoy the actual races. The swim starts are very exciting, and I love the energy of the other athletes. 

E: What did you do to prepare for Kona? Which sacrifices did you make?

O: I didn't do anywhere near the preparations I should have. 6 days prior to the race I ran the Westchester Marathon and managed to win it for the 2nd year in a row, but my time was nothing special. About 19 miles into the race I had a sudden excruciating cramp in my quad and it led to me slowing down considerably. I had been on pace to break a 2:30 and instead ran a 2:41. When I arrived in Hawaii, I did my first, outdoor bike ride in over 6 months. This was 4 days before Ironman Hawaii! [Sticks out his tongue]. Throughout the week, I did a bunch of swims in the morning with all the other athletes: great energy and a lot of fun.

E: Why the Ironman triathlon? What started you on that?

O: It just seemed like such an insane goal and so I decided to give it a shot. Then, once you actually train for it and do it, you realize it's not nearly as hard as you would think. The real suffering for me was during long ultra-marathons that I find much more challenging. That's not to say that the Ironman doesn't have its own moments of pain, but I quite enjoy the swim and find the bike laborious and long. However when you're really hurting you can just coast. When you're hurting during a 100-mile run, there is virtually no way to make it go away.

E: What is your strategy for racing? Is it ‘all or nothing’, or ‘one step at a time’, or ‘be the best’?

O: I like to go in with several goals. Sometimes it's to get a Personal Record (PR), sometimes to win the race, and sometimes simply to have a good race and enjoy the experience. That's what Kona was for me in 2007. Staying healthy is always high on atop that list. At the moment I am injured for the first time in nearly 3 years, so it's quite humbling. It makes me value all the great training and races I've had recently.

E: What mental skills/anchors do you use once you really start hurting  (in a race) and the grizzly bear climbs on your back telling you to just walk or quit?

O: I look back at all the other difficult races and really grueling training sessions I’ve done. As I think about that, I tell myself that this pain doesn't compare to how tough that was and that the "down" feeling will pass and things will get better. I try to micro-manage the race and only think to the next step and not look at the race in its entirety. That is, breaking it up into more manageable pieces and focusing only on the next objective at hand

E: How do you stay motivated to repeat similar challenges once you have ticked the box, i.e. Ironman triathlon World Championships in Kona?

O: That's a tough one as I am always looking for the next challenge. There are a few races on my to-do-list: Badwater, Western States, Spartathlon and Comrades; to name the major ones. Repeating races I've already done isn't as big of a priority. 

E: How did you decide to become a professional magician, and creator of magical illusions?

O: I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I moved to NYC and began a job with Merrill Lynch working in their IT department. Simultaneously, I started to perform at events throughout the area and start to build up a clientele. Part of that effort was spent in meeting influential people, as well as event planners and catering companies that could book me out consistently. After two years at my day job, I made the decision to pursue magic full-time. It was both a life decision and financial one. Since then I've grown my business yearly and love my lifestyle. It has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, meeting so many interesting people; and also train for the races I've competed in.  

E: And that was how we met in Singapore – at a gathering of magicians! Now, performing magic professionally is an unusual experience, isn’t it? What lessons as a self-directed leader do you bring into your profession?

O: It is important to be willing to hustle and work hard. Nobody will make things happen for you, so you need to go out there and do it for yourself. Market yourself well and don't be afraid of an offbeat approach. Either be the best at what you do, or do something different than those around you. 

E: What was your proudest moment in magic? What have been your major achievements?

O: I don't know about a proudest moment to tell the truth. There have been many performances and lectures where I've felt absolutely amazing and the audiences have shown me a lot of love. As an entertainer you feed off that energy in a way that, otherwise, you would rarely get to experience. 

E: How has Ironman training and racing benefitted you?

O: Ironman training allowed me to build up a very solid base and training foundation. By being regimented about my training, I learned how to push myself to the limit. Also, I used to use a heart rate monitor (something I may start doing again) and this was integrally linked to Ironman training. As an objective indicator of fitness, there is no better method in my eyes for keeping track of your workouts and how effective they are. 

E: What’s next on the list of ‘to do’ or ‘to conquer’ list?

O: I was supposed to be running Comrades Marathon in South Africa next week, but alas luck was against me. After the Boston Marathon, I had a pain in my left shin that I, initially, thought was a stress fracture. After getting an MRI it was determined to be a stress injury with the bone swollen, but not fractured. If I can recover soon, I intend to run the Vermont 100-Miler in July. After that, I will prepare for the fall season and trying to PR both at the marathon and 50-mile distances. I'd like to get as close as possible to cracking the top-10 fastest American times at the 50-miler ever. 

E: What is your philosophy towards life? The host of ‘The Amazing race’, Phil Koeghan wrote a book ‘NOW – No Opportunity Wasted’. What is your take on that?

O: My philosophy for now is one of a healthy work/life/race balance. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. When one thing becomes too much of an obsession it is never healthy. I try to remain positive no matter what is thrown at me, and always to learn from my mistakes. As for wasting opportunities, there are always two sides to each coin. Missing one opportunity can open the door to another, simply have to keep your eyes open and remain focused on your goals.

E: How do you maintain a healthy business when trying to give 110% towards training, and other matters?

O: There are obviously some sacrifices. For example, on weekends where I travel to races, I tend to miss out on work. I've been known to do some crazy juggling of schedules. The past two years after running the Chicago 50 Miler on a Saturday morning, I immediately rushed to the airport and flew back to NYC in time to perform at events each of those nights. Little did the people I was performing for know that those mornings I had run 50 miles in 5:31 and 5:41, respectively [grins widely]. 

E: What methods do you use to monitor the onset of fatigue/flat spells/de-motivation during training for such events that come down to you performing at your best on a single day?

O: I try my best to keep things consistent, such as my diet, hydration, bathroom usage and sleep. When over-trained and feeling burned out I will listen to my body. If I need a day off, I rest or do cross-training instead. I am not a mileage junkie where if I miss a day, I beat myself up over it. It can be very depressing to put months into training for an event and then just be "off" on game day, but it happens to everyone. Learning from those instances is the important part, and allows you to appreciate even more those days when you are "on" and kicking butt.


1) Immerse yourself fully in new ventures, and work at mastery (Personal Mastery is one of the disciplines for a Learning Organisation - attributed to Peter Senge).

2) By being regimented about your training, you can learn how to push yourself to your limits.

3) Either be the best at what you do, or do something different than those around you. 

4) Missing one opportunity can open the door to another.

5) When one thing becomes an obsession, it is never healthy.

6) Break things up into more manageable pieces, and focus only on the next objective at hand. 

Oz Pearlman has been busy recently, gearing up for two national TV appearances and a lot of promotion for his upcoming show on 25 June. His website is at

Photos and logo credits: Oz Pearlman.

© 2009 Enrico Varella &

Reproduction of material from any page without written permission is strictly prohibited.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Magical Moments

Oz Pearlman has been a professional magician for about 10 years. His warm personality and natural charisma make him an audience favorite. Combining breathtaking magic, incredible mind reading, and audience-driven comedy, he delivers an unforgettable performance. He has starred in his own Off-Broadway show in New York City, WatchMagic. His show enjoyed critical acclaim and enjoyed three sold-out runs.

On the sports front, Oz excels in endurance sports such as ultra-marathons and Ironman triathlons. He qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and completed it with a remarkable timing. He trains 2-6 hours a day, races in 100-mile marathons, and can run a blistering 2:41 for a marathon. Read about how Oz has achieved so much in a short period of time, in both sports and as a professional entertainer.

Morpheus Dream

Here is the first MTV video I appeared in; even playwrights must get outside of their heads to get ideas. I was a stunt-player for the outdoor scene: It’s just me in my denim blue jeans, a huge load of sand, and duct-tape. I had a challenging time in my private sandlot, visionless and wrestling with the elements. Method acting? Well, when your friends ask you to help fulfill their dream, you can’t say no; plus, it was the director’s vision. My lack of vision and her film vision – what an oxymoron! Well, I always believed to never deny somebody a shot at his/her dream. Even Apollo Creed offered Rocky Balboa a, once-in-a-lifetime, shot at the big title.

Here is the YouTube link of the Singaporean band, Morpheus Dream. These guys love music, play their instruments well, and their songs have interesting lyrics. This video, Silence was taken off their self-titled album (2000). It was directed by the talented, Karen Chai.


I enjoyed the rolling credits (literally) as actor, as well as the resident psychologist. It was all in the CD sleeve. I hope you will enjoy it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Master of the Brand

This is an extract of an actual e-mail (dated 14/5/2009) to Dr Lau Kong Cheen, Brand Consultant with Temporal Branding. I shared my thoughts with Dr Lau after I read his colleague’s (Dr Paul Temporal) article: Barack Obama has offered the world a master-class in brand creation, says Paul Temporal’. Dr Temporal is an author of many books on branding and marketing including the bestselling Asia Brands and…I urge you read the article, as well as others on their corporate website.

[That was a catchy and spot-on title. President Obama IS, INDEED, a master-class in brand creation!

The man-in-the-street can easily chant his mantras of ‘Hope’ and ‘Yes we can’. This is, interestingly, akin to ‘Malaysia Boleh’ or the melodic ‘Malaysia – Truly Asia!’ promoted successfully by the Malaysian Tourism Board. He has succeeded as described by Guy Kawasaki in ‘The Art of The Start’.

I am pleased Dr Temporal covered President’s Obama’s VALUES. These are intangible, yet intrinsic to the operating system of a leader. Values support beliefs, which in turn drive behaviors of worth. President Obama’s book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ focuses on values, and a clever mechanism for wordplay. Isn’t it audacious to be hopeful? Dr Temporal identified readily the values of honesty, openness, integrity, professionalism, passion, patriotism – all complemented by a powerful brand personality – that of Obama: approachable, caring, understanding, warm, firm but fair, visionary, cool and cosmopolitan.’

Understanding the Target Audience: This was a clever device of modeling Dr Martin Luther King of his historic and stirring, ‘I Have a Dream...” speech which involved reinforcement by repetition. Rhetoric then assumes anthemic status and proportions. President Obama’s brand message was clear: ‘I connect with your pain, and we will ease your pain.’

An Overarching and Empowering Message: I agree that pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘ours’ carry the shared value of commitment (and identity through involvement and participation).

Multiple Touch: I summarise this as ‘high-tech, high-touch’ instead of ‘low-touch’. To reiterate, it is ‘think digital, act analog’.

Merchandise is still an effective spoke in the Marketing Wheel. A slogan, website address, or symbol goes a long way. Consumer commitment is in using the product. Interesting, we still applaud those who were revolutionists and revolutionary marketers (think T-shirts with Martin Luther King, ‘Che’ Guevara or Einstein).

President Obama has cleverly connected with Generation Y with the many online mechanisms and tools. I agree that the ‘Powered by Hope’ has aligned itself with Powered by Google or similar leading software. Although Nokia boasts ‘Connectivity’, President Obama is actively ‘plugged in’ into the community’s pulse and spirit.

More values identified: ‘Barack Obama has used these established techniques to attract friendship, loyalty and trust and to create a compelling and attractive image that few can resist.’ Values become important when these are violated or transgressed. Even though they are abstract definitions of emotional/rational things, they take on a new life when somebody does not comply with another’s values. That is the value of values, be it brand values, leadership values, value disciplines or shared values.

President Obama is the Man; and he is the Brand.]

Dr Lau Kong Cheen, Brand Consultant of Temporal Branding comments: ‘Values are important because it drives personality and personality drives behavior. That is why brands, particularly corporate brands need strong values to drive the personality exhibited by its respective touch-points. And for you a Leadership Guru, you train people to exhibit behavioral changes that are consistent to what these personality dimensions invoke. President Barack Obama is a leader with key values that many Americans can relate with because they are truly relevant to them.’

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ghost to Ghost Hookup

Bill Gates wrote a book, ‘Business at the Speed of Thought’ (2000) which received mixed reviews, although most of his ‘predictions’ came through; except for the ‘paperless’ economy. In this digital age, a plethora of business transactions (B2B, B2C, B2G) are completed with a point and click of a mouse. The Internet has shifted our personal paradigms and constitutions of how we think, feel and behave. For example, this blog is based on ‘push-button’ publishing. I can edit my postings, as and when I like, so my mistakes are minimized, and accuracy of content is enhanced.

How would you initiate that pace of business? Since we can travel at supersonic speed, blink our eyes in a fraction of a second, and utilise fibre-optic cables to transfer information at light-speed, therefore we have the capacity and capability to do business with velocity and instantaneously. Yes?

You must have heard of English author, Enid Blyton? No? Wiki it up. Among Blyton’s many splendid books for children, I enjoyed in particular, her series of books Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. In this highly engaging series, lead-detective Jupiter Jones, conceptualizes the Ghost-to-Ghost Hookup for gathering information rapidly.

What is the Ghost-to-Ghost (G2G) Hookup? Essentially, it is applying mathematics, specifically, Geometric Progression. It is the power of multiplication. Jones suggests that if each person identifies five persons to locate a piece of information, and these five people, in turn, identify another five persons each to seek this piece of information, the coverage would be wider, and the hits more certain. In today’s language, we call this ‘multi-level marketing’, ‘viral marketing’, ‘networking’, etc. Online technology and tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, allow these to happen. It becomes a case of ‘seek, and you will find’ in an accelerated fashion. Of course, with search engines like Google, we can also trace and track lost friends, relatives and colleagues with the right combination of words.

This is my suggestion for active networking: Combine the G2G Hookup with 6 Degrees of Separation (6DOS), and you will get an exquisite way of linking up with people whom you have lost touch with: family, friends, school-mates, ex-colleagues, alumni, and many more. 6 Degrees of Separation proposes that we are not more than six persons away from whom we want to meet. Plus, your friends could be my friends. You will enjoy breadth and depth of your relationships. From a marketing perspective, you will attain wider coverage, reach, and connectivity. Cast your network net far and wide.

Meanwhile, stay high-tech, and high-touch!

Simply The Best

‘Where legends are made, and reputations are formed.’

This was the narration for the television documentary, Simply The Best (Saturday, 12.00pm, Mediacorp 5). I had returned, today, from a heat-infused 140km bike ride, and caught a glimpse of Joe Montana’s biography. The famous football player for the San Francisco 49-ers played from 1979-1992, and is now a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer. Then, the focus shifted to the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, on the Big Island. Our first interview on this blog was with Dave Low – he is from Honolulu.

Ironman (triathlon) started as an argument as who was fittest: swimmer, cyclist or runner. On one fateful morning of 18 February 1978, 15 people swam 3.8km, rode 180km, and ran a full marathon. The three disciplines were based on three existing race already in Honolulu, Hawaii. Today, thousands of triathletes compete in more than 20 Ironman distance races to qualify for about 1,500 slots in the world championships on Kona each year. Both Dave Low and Craig Holland have completed Kona. Next week, we will feature Oz Pearlman a professional magician and ultra-marathoner who completed the race in Kona, too.

What would drive normal people to do an extreme endurance sport, be it an ultra-marathon, swimming the Amazon River, scale Mount Everest, complete an Ironman or Deca-Ironman (ten times)? Perhaps, they are normal people leading abnormal lives? Or, is it amazing people living normal lives? Dr Kua Han Wei, a Singaporean completed 10 Ironman races over 10 days and is world-ranked for his achievements in endurance sports.

Congratulations to our Singapore Women’s Everest Team ( for making the summit to Mount Everest this week! On 20 and 22 May 2009, the NATAS-SWET created history when they scaled the highest peak on earth at 8850m: Joanne Soo, Lee Peh Gee, Jane Lee, Lee Lihui and Esther Tan.

Simply awesome! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letting Them Beat You Occasionally: A Coach's Journey

Craig ‘Fox’ Holland resides in beautiful Nelson Bay, Coastal Beach Village in New South Wales, Australia. He represented Australia in both the Olympic Distance as well as Ironman distance in the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 2005. He is the holder of many age-group triathlon awards. Since 2004, Fox has coached dozens of executives on how to start their training for biathlons, triathlons and endurance races. He has helped his students and neophytes realise their personal dreams of completing their first triathlon, open water swim, marathon, and Ironman triathlon. He was an aircraft technician in his previous life, and now has two businesses as a International Management Consultant/Trainer, as well as a Home Reservations business. 

Craig Holland and Enrico Varella were in Nusa Dua, Bali for this interview. We were seated on deck-chairs by the swimming pool, watching the waves plough the shores mercilessly. His skin showed a crispy, sun-kissed tan, of having spent three weeks surfing 6-foot waves. As planning and coincidence had it, we met up with him and his family (wife, Sue; sons, 16-year-old Cameron and 11-year-old Mitch). We chatted about his 10 years of working on projects in Singapore, his  admiration for Bruce Lee (whom he finds most inspiring as an athlete), and his yearning to compete again in triathlons (although he indicated that he might race Ironman Western Australia this year). 

Seizing the day, this interview was initiated with mobile technology since we were nomadic executives.

Enrico (EV): What are your professional views of coaching?  

Craig Holland (CH): I believe coaching should be personalised to the individual needs, with goals set higher than the coachee's expectations. 

Quite often, we set goals that under-estimate our true potential. I'm don't mean un-realistic/un-achievable goals, but challenging enough to make the coachee exceed their limitations, physically and mentally.  You want to put/see that sparkle in their eyes where the coachee actually thinks…

Yes, maybe I could do it...

Wouldn't it be great if I did?

I think it is possible with more dedication and refinement.

If they can do it, so can I.

Why not?

I'll show them.      

EV: What are your personal views of coaching?
CH: Coaching should be a two-way relationship of trust between the coach and the coachee. The coach has to be willing to loose to the coachee at times to achieve a win in the long term. The biggest compliment to the coach is when the coachee becomes more skilled at the practice than the coach. This reminds me of your favourite Zen saying: 
"When the Student is ready, the Master will appear." Correct?

EV: That is correct, Grasshopper! What is your experience with coaching executives, internationally?
CH: I have been involved with coaching executives internationally for the past eight years in Australia, Asia, The Middle East and Africa. Whilst there is a large diversity of cultures between the Countries, we humans "yearn to learn" and are willing to listen and change behaviors if they can see the benefits. It is important to identify the improved skills and how they will change the coachee' s work/life harmony. 
EV: When does it work best?

CH: When the coachee has not had the chance to learn bad habits. When the coachee has the time/infrastructure and support systems in place to allow them to practice, refine the skills with continuous guidance/feedback and reassurance. It also helps if the Coachee has constant exposure to experts/masters in the field to model excellence. Seek out what the best do and learn from them.  

EV: When does coaching get challenging?  
CH: When the coachee does not see improvement in their performance immediately and they become de motivated. Loose focus. When the coachee wants to change but does not have the support of their supervisors.

EV: How do you measure the impact of coaching?  
CH: It is important to initially identify the coachee' s skills/abilities and then set sub-goals/milestone/challenges for them to achieve along the way.

EV: How do coaching triathletes tie in with your coaching of adult-learners and executives?
CH: You need to believe in yourself, and have the right mindset. When coaching executives try to get them to believe they do have the capabilities/talents to achieve. I often use stories of athletes I have known/coached that could only dream of taking on a triathlon or Ironman. But with
perseverance, dedication and guidance they have climbed their mountains.   

EV: Which are two of your best coaching stories?

CH: I have many great success stories involving both business and sports.

One recent success story involved working with Nokia.  I have been responsible for training Nokia Manager's in the Middle East, South African and Asia. It is a Leadership program with an emphasis on Psychological Profiling, Coaching and Change Management with three post-course virtual Coaching Sessions. One particular Manager was very stressed out about their failing relationship between his Boss and work colleagues. They stated that they had no work/life harmony and that their relationship with their partner and young child was also suffering and that they never had time to exercise or play sport. The Doctor had also commented about their raising blood pressure.      

After working with the Manager we discussed issues about their individual personality preferences, their staff's/Boss’s personality and management style and what work/life harmony would they like to have? Over the next three months the Manager implemented many changes, such as instigating regular focus groups between themselves and work colleagues, prioritized their work commitments, did not Micro-Manage staff anymore (which gave them more time for other duties). They had also joined a local gym with their partner and were dedicating time to watch their children play sport one night a week and on the weekend. Their Boss had noted the changes and the Manager had recently been offered a promotion.  

Another Coaching Milestone occurred whilst I was working with a fellow trainer called Enrico Varella in Singapore.  One of my hobbies is competing in Triathlons, Olympic and Ironman distances.  Enrico was a very dedicated bodybuilder and athlete, however he could not imagine swimming, riding and running in a one event, let alone competing in an Ironman race. After much coercing and convincing him that any one can do it as long as you are willing to put the work in, he started to train for a short distance race. Over the next six months I would send words of encouragement and training programs but he seemed to have hit a plateau. So, the next trip I was in Singapore we linked up for a run after one of our workshops.  

The goal was to complete a 10km run. We aimed to run along the East Coast of Singapore for 5km then turn around at the halfway point and run back. After about 2km, I noticed he was taking it very, very easy and lagging behind. I asked,  "What are you waiting for, a taxi?" You have the ability and fitness to make the 10km easy. He informed me that he had only run 10km, two other times but very slow. 

So I set him a challenge: he was to turn at the 5km mark and run back to the start point, I would run 5.5km and chase him to the finish. Enrico would run 10km, and I would run 11km all up.  Last one back had to buy dinner.   We got to the 5 km mark and he turned for home, I bid him farewell and headed for the 5.5km mark.  As I ran off I noticed his pace had increased considerably. So I gave it all and ran as hard as I could. With 1km to go I had closed the gap to within 100 metres and started to yell out, "I'm coming."  Enrico lifted the pace like a man possessed. I reduced the gap to 20 metres and backed off to allow him to cross the line first very exhausted. He had run a PB, the fastest 10km ever for him.

Since then he has gone on to complete 7 Ironman races and is highly recognised throughout Singapore for his rapid progression and dedication towards training. Sometimes we have to set ourselves challenging goals to stretch and achieve our real potential. Sometimes we need to take a loss to have a win also. Well done Enrico, it was a pleasure buying the dinner. You are an IRONMAN!

EV: Thanks a million, mate [shakes his head in disbelief]. What was it like to qualify, and complete Kona?

CH: Fantastic, the whole journey was very fulfilling. It was a sense of achievement and closure. After all the years of hard training and sacrifices made by my loved ones and myself, it was nice to achieve the goals I had set.

EV: Do you think triathletes need coaching?  
CH: Yes, definitely. There is so much to learn about the sport. I have a different coach for Swimming, Riding and Running. Other aspects that need attention include nutrition, equipment selection, mental aspects, (mind control), race tactics, tapering before a race, post training and race recovery, physiology, maintaining work/life harmony and most important of all, your loved ones.    

EV: How can triathletes get on a coaching program?

CH: There are many different means available for triathletes these days, ranging from triathlon magazines, the Internet, online coaching, tri clinics to personal coaches. I think it is important to seek out a coach who you respect and is able to tailor the coaching program to suit your individual needs. You need to be considerate of your work, family, mental and physical situations, and adaptable enough to adjust the program accordingly.

EV: Thanks, mate for the interview.

CH: You’re welcome. So, how is your training for Austria coming on…?

EV: Let’s see…

Ironman World Championships 2005, Kona, Hawaii – 10 hours 38 min

2002 Forster Australian Ironman – 10 hours 32 minutes

2005 Forster Australian Ironman - 10 hours 2 minutes

Australian Defence Olympic Triathlon Championships - 2 hours 2 min 35 seconds

1st place: Fuji-Xerox Singapore Open Water Swim 2006 (1.5km)

1st place: Fuji-Xerox Singapore Open Water Swim 2007 (1km)

2nd place: OSIM International Triathlon (Singapore) 2007, 45-49 years

And many more!

Craig Holland provides Leadership Training and Motivational Coaching to develop your peak performance mentally and physically. He can be contacted at

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