I ran five kilometres this morning. Four months ago I couldn’t run for a minute.
I used to visit the gym two or three times a week, repeat twenty or thirty minutes of cardio. Sure, I’d be sweaty and puffed out, but I couldn’t ever run. In the end, I’d blame my knees or my ankles and stick with exercise that had no impact.
Then, this winter I decided that I wanted to do some walking – I headed down to a local stretch of river and would walk three or four kilometres listening to a podcast or audiobook. Every time I would be overtaken by healthy-looking joggers and cyclists.
After completing some walking laps of Dorney Lake, I decided that I really wanted to run around it – but knowing how much I hated running, I needed a programme to get there.
Enter the NHS Couch to 5km programme – I started on June 8th, and graduated on 22nd August. I was short of the 5km, but it was within reach.
Now, I’ve ran around Dorney Lake on a 5km track a total of four times – slowly, but surely I plod my way round.
To me, it’s proof that miracles can happen…
I did a few things to help me get there:
Held myself accountable – a video diary, telling people I was on a journey made me accountable for my work.
Enrolled a cheer squad – one or two positive messages of support after each run was enough to lift my spirits.
Found the right tools – good shoes, good socks and some proper running tops made me feel like an athlete, even as I was learning.
Geeked out – Strava and some decent Bluetooth headphones kept me amused and entertained.
Enjoyed it – one of the best pieces of advice was to look up and out and the world as I ran.
As I’ve said on more than one of my videos, if I can do it, you can too. Take a few steps, run for a minute and before you know it, you’ll be running a five kilometre stretch.
I’m over halfway through the Couch to 5km programme, it’s the first time I have undertaken a fitness challenge like this one. I’m not a natural runner, so it has taken some effort to get here, but as I was running this morning, I was thinking about what I have learned so far on this journey.
It’s OK to reset, it’s not OK to give up – at the end of week one, I thought I had made a mistake. I was suffering with painful ankles and calves and I started to entertain that idea that I couldn’t do this. A bit of investigation and research and I came up with an alternative approach that reduced the pain and kept me going.
If you need to repeat a week, do that – whilst I was researching, I kept repeating week 2, making small changes each time to see what would work. I did week two a total of three times before I felt I could move on.
Take it slowly – a bit like lesson 2, it’s OK to do this at your pace and ignore everyone else. Watching other runners is fatal, they are all better than me – so trying to keep up with a pace that is anything other than mine is not a good move.
Reward yourself – I promised myself a new pair of cheap earbuds when I got to week 5 / run 3, two thirds of the way through the programme. It felt like a milestone to run 20 minutes, and so I treated myself to a prize. Now, I’m thinking about what to get myself at the end of week 9.
So far, the programme has been hard but the results have surprised me – in week 1 I struggled to run for 60 seconds and never thought I would get to run for 20 minutes. I have a way to go before I can hit 30 mins, and then a full 5km – but I’m confident with this programme, I’ll get there.
I’ve been a bit behind on my reading over the last few weeks, but this book fell into my pile as a ‘prize’ at a recent event and quick flick through had me immediately hooked.
Non Obvious 2018 is the latest instalment in an annual report of ‘trends’ that are researched and curated by Bhargava. What originally started out as an online-only report, has made the leap to a book and comes wrapped in some interesting extra chapters.
The book opens with a good explanation of what trends are, and how the author goes about researching, gathering and then curating the ideas for each year. It might seem counter-intuitive to provide a guide to writing your trend book, but the examples and process look fun and anyone can collate their opinions into a book. As someone who struggles to label ideas and projects, I especially liked the methodology that is used to name the trends, and the haystack method of collating information is easily transferrable to other fields of information.
The body of the book is the 2018 report, where Bhargava brings together 15 trends, each with supporting evidence. The 2018 report contains some excellent concepts, from ‘Truthing’ – the idea that people will search out truth based on personal connection through to ‘Manipulated Outrage’ – a perpetual stream of noise that is designed to incite rage.
Each of the trends is well described, with a short and the detailed summary and some good examples. At the end of the trend, there is a ‘why this matters’ section and some ways that you can use this trend to your advantage in business or in your product.
The book is backed up with some online resources, which can help find the articles cited in the examples and some exercises that can help with brainstorming your trends.
At the end of the book, there is a Trend Action Guide, a set of ‘go-do’ actions that can help you continue your thinking about the trends, as well as a comprehensive analysis of the trends identified in the previous books, which I thought was a transparent way of assessing accuracy.
Overall, I really enjoyed Non Obvious, the trends identified were both interesting and provocative. I found myself translating some of these trends into my day job and thinking whether there were opportunities for me leverage some of the thinking into the Customer Experience work I am doing.
The book is written in a very readable style, almost like a magazine or blog with short, snappy chapters containing sensible, relatable examples. I found it a great book for the commute where I might have to stop and start, and it was easy to plough through it at a good pace.
I’d highly recommend Non Obvious to anyone who likes to think about the big picture of the trends that are affecting all of us on a daily basis. The ideas and provocations included feel both accurate and interesting.
I’ve written before about digital detox, and the benefits that reducing electronic clutter and dependence on devices has had on my productivity, and mental health.
This weekend, I was interested to read a story that started in the tabloids about Simon Cowell, who has reportedly given up his mobile phone for the last ten months.
On the surface, this seems like a great story, but it got me thinking. Here is a successful businessman, taking control of his dependence on devices and looking after his mental health. Cowell says he spent a lot of his time ‘irritated’ at his phone and then annoyed at others using their phones while in meetings.
Simon Cowell is not alone, plenty of notable names have talked about detoxing from devices, but the truth is that these people can afford to do that.
Ditching your devices is the ultimate luxury – giving back time and privacy in one fell swoop.
I’m sure that I could ditch my phone if I had people around me that would use theirs instead.
The reality is that most of us run our lives ourselves, using our phones as an essential tool to stay in touch with work or friends, access goods and services and sometimes get entertainment.
However, there has to be a balance.
Its fair to say that there are definite issues with over-dependency on smartphones and tablets, data tells us that many people look at their phones within 15 minutes of waking up and work-life balance can be severely impacted by intrusions into leisure and rest time.
Solving this requires an investment of time and effort, but there are simple steps that you can take that will help.
Reduce the number of notifications and alerts that disturb you or break concentration. Switching off pop-ups, removing red ‘badges’ and uninstalling apps that generate alerts are good steps.
Schedule periods of time without your smartphone nearby. These unbroken times of concentration can drive high productivity.
Remove smart devices from the bedroom, to encourage better rest and sleep.
Carefully ‘curate’ the things allowed into your inbox so that when you do handle email, you are not processing pages and pages of ‘junk’ email.
All of these steps have helped me become way less dependant on my smartphone, and more aware of the people around me.
So, whilst ditching the smartphone may not be an option for most of us – we may be able to reap some of the benefits without creating a dependency on other people to do work for us.
It’s fair to say that Jordan Peterson is enjoying a ‘moment’, from academic to YouTube ‘person of interest’, there has been no escaping the coverage.
I bought 12 Rules for Life before my trip to New Zealand, and read it during the long flights, and in my hotel in Auckland.
As the title suggests, the book is divided into 12 chapters, each one titled with one of the rules that Peterson has devised. Largely speaking these are matters of ethics, and the author uses science, religion, philosophy and literature to make his case for each of the rules.
Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
Make friends with people who want the best for you
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
Be precise in your speech
Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
The overarching principle of the book is that every person has a basic instinct for ethics and should be able to find a meaning for each of these rules. The essays present a number of comparisons or examples.
For example, in the first chapter; “Stand up straight with your shoulders back”. Petersen gives a number of examples of social hierarchies, including the behaviour of lobsters as allegories for how people can (and should) accept the responsibility of their own lives. The lobster example is funny, and written well – although quite lengthy.
Overall, I found the book enjoyable. The ‘rules’ are largely common sense, and I suspect that the examples could have been stripped back to very short essays if the author was inclined. There is a fair amount of ‘grandstanding’ in the examples and language used – and some may find the depth of the examples a bit off putting.
In summary, 12 Rules is a self-help book for our age – the rules and the examples are sometimes old fashioned, but the underlying principles are sound.
This is the final part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life. You can read the rest of the series here.
After a break of a few weeks, we reconvened our Working Out Loud circle for our twelfth and final meeting on Friday. It felt familiar, and good to be back together as a group.
As usual, we opened with our check-in. After a gap of 6 weeks, everyone had a lot of news to share. Some of it related to Wokring Out Loud, and some was broader, but it was great to hear about what had been keeping everyone so busy. We had updates on travel, hobbies, business and leisure activities.
The break felt like we were starting afresh in some ways. The general emotion of the team was one of excitement; getting closure, hitting milestones and celebrating our journey.
Reflecting on our goals
At the beginning of the circle, we all set individual goals. Some changed and evolved along the way, mine included.
I felt a bit derailed towards the end of the WOL journey, business travel stole my time and I felt like I had let my goal slip out of sight.
My biggest reflection was that when I deliberately focus on WOL, then it works and brings benefits very quickly. Therefore, when things threaten to derail me, I need a stragey to create resilience.
When I think back to taking a three-week trip with a lot of travel, I should have reframed my goal, and had a different intention to keep up my writing habit and keep my goal in mind.
I know now.
Letters to the future
We discussed our letters to the future, with reflections, predictions and aspirations. It was wonderful to hear everone so focused on the future and what changes WOL had initiated.
I sent my letter to myself on futureme.org – for once, I won’t publish it here.
This one is for me.
Pay it Foward
We had a lot of discussion about how we would pay the WOL work forward. Some of our group have thought about joining another circle, or working on programmes to bring WOL to wider audiences.
We discussed how we could continue our time together. Our group has been productive and energising, and there is a sense that we want to continue meetings, with a set agenda for WOL ‘Alumni’.
Personally – I think there is no coincidence that I lost my way with my goal, at the same time as we slowed down our meetings. My #mutanfall group acted as a set of the most amazing accountability buddies.
It looks likely that we will continue as a group, and we’re working on scheduling those meetings for the future.
My key takeaways
The WOL circle has been a productive use of time – inspiring me to some different ways of working and adding the experience of reading the book.
The effort of Working Out Loud needs to be deliberate and focused in order to maximise the benefits.
I made some great friends through the process – and I think that anyone who gets into a WOL circle will have that opportunity as well.