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Patrick McCrann's Blog

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For some folks, getting fit is its own reward. For others, fitness is just something fun. For folks like Steve Kamb, fitness is about changing the world…one nerd at a time. A self-proclaimed “nerd who likes to be active,” Steve has spend the better part of the last few years helping average everyday folks change their lives through fitness. He’s well on his way to building a Rebel Army of folks dedicated to making fitness a part of their daily lives, and more importantly — in sharing that fitness with others.

As part of my pre-release for my forthcoming book Train to Live, Live to Train: The Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle, I am profiling people who have built a remarkable lifestyle of fitness. In Steve’s case, his tireless work to bring peak fitness to the everyman through content and community have laid the foundation for something pretty amazing. Read the interview below or skip over to Nerd Fitness and check it out for yourself.


What was your fitness background as a child / young adult?
I’ve always been an active person, even as a little kid. I tried to play every sport imaginable (baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, street hockey, football), and then whenever I wasn’t playing organized sports, I was running around my neighborhood with my friends playing capture the flag or manhunt, skim boarding on the shores of Cape Cod (where I grew up), or having Nerf wars in my basement when it rained out. In high school I ran cross country for a year, played basketball for two, tennis for two, and golf for four.

What is your primary sport of choice right now?
I don’t play nearly as many organized sports now as I’d like to. I’ve played in a co-ed kickball league over the past few years, which has been a great competitive outlet for me lately. It’s funny: I always plan on just having fun at kickball games, but by the second inning I’m laying out for foul balls and sliding headfirst into home plate. I guess I really do miss competitive sports.

Other than that, the majority of my physical activity comes from my three weekly weight training sessions in the gym, long walks around Atlanta, and as much golf as I can afford to play. I’m getting ready to start taking Capoeira (breakdance fighting) lessons, and I like to hike or rock climb as well.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started this new lifestyle/fitness journey?
Looking back, I wish I could tell the “younger me” how important my diet would be for success. I spent four years in college working out like crazy, drinking protein shakes, reading muscle and fitness, doing whatever possible to pack on some pounds and be less skinny. I just didn’t know any better, which is why I failed to gain more then 2 pounds in the four years.

Now, I know that diet is at least 80% of the battle. I make sure first and foremost that I’m eating properly or else I know that my time spent exercising is like treading water. Now I can pack on weight or muscle (or slim down) just by making a few key diet adjustments.

What led you to pick your focus on “nerd fitness?”
After graduating college, I decided to start a fitness website dedicated to folks like me: nerds who like exercising or want to start exercising. I’m a nerd, I love writing, and I love helping people: starting a blog just made sense to me.

I know fitness can be intimidating and overwhelming, so I set out to create a site that made things as simple and enjoyable as possible for guys and girls to get started down the path to a healthier life.

I get a lot of questions on how I’m a nerd exactly. Well, I’ve built computers, I love Harry Potter, I quote Lord of the Rings frequently, I read probably two books a week, and I play lots of Halo and online games. I also love to exercise and stay active. I figured there were others out there like me, so I tried to create a new niche in the fitness world.

So far, so good!

What larger change do you hope to effect with this focus?
I realize this sounds corny, but I really want to change the world. Initially Nerd Fitness started as a blog for nerds to gather and talk about video games and get tips on how to be more healthy. Nerds could come read about Star Wars, learn how to do a push up, and then tell their friends.

For the first year, that’s all Nerd Fitness was.

However, since I started focusing on building it into a more of a community (called the Rebel Army), I’ve realized that Nerd Fitness has become something much bigger than just me writing a few articles. The message boards are filled with people who offer up tips, motivation, and support. I’m constantly inspired by the stories of success from readers, and I’m really excited to see how things go over the next few years.

Watch out world, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is growing stronger…

What has been the hardest part of your transition to this new focus?
The hardest part to me is realizing that I’m no longer writing for just a few dozen people. I started writing for myself, my friends, and a few nerds who stumbled across the site. It’s now evolved into something far bigger: it’s incredibly exciting, humbling, and also terrifying.

I’ve had to learn that everybody’s a critic – and usually a poor one – on the internet. Although the cases are few and far between (and usually without merit), I’ve had to learn to ignore the people who don’t support the cause and concentrate on those that do.

Life’s too short to deal with people who suck.

How have you structured your day to make fitness both possible and a priority?
Since quitting my day job June to focus on Nerd Fitness full time, I’ve actually found it tougher to make fitness a priority – I have a tendency to work all day and night, skip meals, and wait until the last possible moment to exercise because I’m excited about an article I’m writing or an interview I’m doing (like this one!).

However, I constantly remind myself that daily exercise is not only crucial for me to feel balanced and in control, but now it’s part of my job! After all, we can’t have an overweight, out of shape guy running a fitness website, right? I tell myself that I have a whole community of people who count on me for inspiration, just as they know their exercise and hard work inspires me. I don’t want to let my team down.

How do you balance your passion for fitness with other elements of your life?
I’ve come to realize that balance is so incredibly important: work, exercise, and life are the three areas I try to make time for each day. I’m struggling with scaling back the work, but I take time each day to exercise, go for a long walk around my neighborhood, and hang out with my friends (usually by playing Xbox or grabbing a drink with them).

Fitness is important to me, but I try to keep everything in perspective – I still drink beers and eat pizza on the weekends, I still stay up way too late some nights, and some days I miss workouts. That’s okay – as long as I do my best, have some fun, and help others along the way, I’m a happy man.

What are your top three tips for other folks who might be considering following in your footsteps?
Be unique. I spent nine months publishing five articles a week on Nerd Fitness before finally realizing that I was writing stuff that could be found on any other generic fitness blog out there. After coming to this realization, I really embraced the “nerd” part of the site, started producing two solid articles a week instead of five mediocre ones, and things really took off after that.

Write about things that you are truly passionate about. If you’re starting a blog with hopes of turning it into a business, I’m guessing you also have a full time job. If that passion isn’t there, those long months where your readership isn’t growing and you’re not bringing in any money can become painful.

Because I was so passionate about helping people getting in shape, I had no problem working a full day at the office, going to the gym, and then coming home and working on my site until two in the morning. I did this for a year and half before making a single cent through Nerd Fitness.

Lastly, do what you can to include everybody, whether it’s a community to join or a cause to rally behind. Nerd Fitness started as a blog for me to write fitness tips, but it’s become a community of people who are all fighting against the same thing: obesity, nerd stereotypes, and a life without passion. I try to write about “us” instead of “me.” People will support a cause that they’re a part of – those folks will be your biggest fans and your most vocal supporters.

The way I see, I’m just one of thousands who are trying to level up their lives – I just happen to be the guy that brought everybody together.

What’s the “next big thing” you are up to?
Now that I can work from anywhere, and I’ve never been out of North America, I’ve decided it’s time for a quarter-life crisis. I’m getting ready to embark on an Epic Adventure all over the globe. I head to Peru to visit Machu Picchu at the end of October, and I plan on moving to Australia or New Zealand at the beginning of 2011 for a few months. After that? I have no freaking clue.

I’m also hard at work on my next fitness e-book, a strength and muscle building book for busy guys looking to bulk up and get stronger the right way while still doing all of the other stuff they love.

How can others follow you / find you online to support your efforts?
For starters, you can email me at steve@nerdfitness.com, and say hi!  Let me know if there’s anything I can help ya with.

Secondly, you can sign up for free blog updates by joining the Nerd Fitness Rebellion (http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-rebel-army-newsletter/).

Lastly, if you’re looking for a fitness guide on how to lose weight and get healthy without needing a gym membership – check out my Rebel Fitness Guide (http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/rebel-fitness-guide/), my first e-book for sale through the site.

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bookshelf spectrum, revisited
Creative Commons License photo credit: chotda

Auth Note: To celebrate the November 5th launch of Train To Live, I am giving away some of the key books that changed my personal game.

As an entrepreneur in the online community space, I spend a lot of time doing things that don’t make traditional business sense. I’d like to claim some amount of personal responsibility for our modest success, but I think a lot of things have just fallen into place. Hard work is key, but timing is everything.

I am often asked what lead to the sea-change in how I approach starting and running companies. I have done a lot of self-evaluation; I have compared start-up mode to launch mode; I have even gone as far as to dig up my old notes from 2007 to read what was going through my head.

While I have certainly bounced all over the place, there is one constant through it all…one simple activity I did a few times a week that influenced my work, my focus, and my strategy. What was this critical thing? Reading.

Not just glancing at articles online or zipping through links in Twitter, but really reading a book. Sitting down with an author and letting them give you several hours / several hundred pages of their ideas–in totality–is a rare thing in our 24/7 digitally driven world. I was fortunate to come across several key books, each of which affected me in a unique way. Together they have guided me more than any one adviser, and have influenced almost every strategy meeting or decision.

As I continue to work towards the launch of my new book, Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle, I am reminded of the power of the written word to truly change the way we interact with the world. If my book can help just a small handful of people re-think their approach to being an endurance athlete, it will have been a success. I know not everyone will accept my proposal that organizing the other 80% of your life outside of your athletic endeavors will transform their ability to train and reach their potential, but having the chance to

To celebrate the November 5th 24hour launch of Train To Live, I am giving away some of the key books that changed my personal game. To be sure this list isn’t exhaustive (I read a lot) but they represent some of the core books. They were also in my house, meaning I could actually give them away. A sign, to be sure!

To “earn” your copy, please respond in the comments below with a quick description of something unconventional you did that changed your training — or life — for the better. Be sure to mention the book you’d like to get and the hardcore judges panel (Me + My cat Daisy) will announce the winners at the end of the week (by October 15th).

Note: I have several early release copies of Train To Live available for review. I know that some of you have requested versions, please use the contact form on my blog and I’ll reply accordingly. Thanks!

ReWork by the posse at 37Signals — They guys make creative work fun by helping you focus on what really matters. A short book of essays designed to help you really challenge your personal and professional status quo.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by the inimitable Seth Godin — I am only halfway through this book right now, but it’s already made my short list because Seth has capture just how dramatically the world has changed in the last 10 years…and gives you a road map to find (or create) your own success.

Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Working Less by Sam Carpenter — A book dedicated to finding and mastering the underlying systems of the world around us; part manifesto and part guidebook, this treatise in the right hands can unlock the power of a systems mindset and enable you to apply it for great leveage. I personally don’t think approaching everything as a system is the best way to go, but using the concepts in this book have enabled me to streamline basic areas of my life to enable maximum creativity in other spaces.

Smart Start-Ups: How Entrepreneurs and Corporations Can Profit by Starting Online Communiites by David Silver — A bit more educational than the other books on this list, in that I could see it being used in a college course on entrepreneurship, this text represents some early thinking in the online space around communities. It doesn’t have all the answers for where we are now (it changes so fast these days!) but it absolutely gives insight to the power of communities and groups connecting online.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb — A random book for the list, as it’s largely a philosophical examination of the world around us and how it works. While his focus starts in economic terms, it quickly gains scope to include the world around us. His singular premise on how unique unexpected events change life as we know it is one of the strongest calls for pushing the envelope as a business leader that I have ever heard.

Remember, you have until Friday 10/15/2010 to reply in the comments below with the unconventional thing you did that changed your training/life/overall game. I will announce the winners on this blog and provide instructions on how to get your book copies at that time. Thanks for playing!

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MS Runs the US

One of the biggest components of building your own “endurance lifestyle” is being able to operate on your own schedule. For some this means being able to exercise and race whenever they want, but for the lucky few, they are able to use their fitness to bring attention and focus on an issue that they are most passionate about. I discuss this concept in my forthcoming book Train to Live, Live to Train: The Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle, as I think an important part of our fitness journey is finding a connection to “something” bigger than just endorphins.

But enough about me–let’s learn more about the amazing Ashley and how she’s changing lives one run at a time…

I had the good fortune of interviewing Ashley Kumlien last week. She is a one-woman, country-crossing, game-changing ball of energy. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Ashley is running across the US — approximately 25 miles per day — to raise awareness and funds to fight Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Ashley’s mother, Jill E. Kumlien, has been fighting MS for 27 yrs. It is Jill’s continued zest for life in the face of her adversity that has inspired Ashley to RUN:

  • 20-30 miles a day;
  • for approximately 6 months;
  • while running from San Fran, CA to New York, NY.

I was able to get about 15 minutes with her between interviews and her post-run recovery somewhere in western PA, and I learned:

  • What inspired her to take this incredible journey;
  • How she recovers from all the running;
  • It’s possible to have a sense of humor after 3,000 miles of running;
  • Her plans for a relay run across the US in 2012 (you’ll be able to participate)A

You can listen to the full interview here online, or you can download it here.

If you live in/around New York City, you could drop in on the Finish Line event at City Hall, hosted by Montell Williams. I am sure it will be an epic event, but as Ashley notes it’s only a small step of many that need to be taken to fight MS.

If you’d like to learn more about Ashley, donate funds, view her pictures, donate funds, follow her virtual map, or donate funds (get it?), please use the links below.

Web & Elsewhere:

———————
I am curious to know what your passion is outside of exercise. What journeys are you contemplating? Please share with us in the comments below!

Become a Fan of Endurance Lifestyle Design on Facebook to join the conversation and check out my free Fit Life eBook for more insider tips.

Thank you so much!

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ELD Book Cover

 

With the launch of my new book coming in less than two months, I am getting pretty pumped to spread the word about what this book is really about.

First, let me be clear that the fundamental premise of the book is pretty simple. We can all be much, much fitter than we are right now if we can structure our lives in such a way that allows us to get the best possible training in at the right times. Not the most training all the time. Not a slave to the job or other commitments. This is about purposefully building a lifestyle that will integrate your passion for endurance sports with all the other things that are most important for you.

 

This book is not for you if…

  • …you are looking for a list of cool workouts;
  • …you want to be come an endorphin-monk and train away the rest of your days;
  • …you want some top-secret short cut to the top.

I have to be honest and say it’s not really a book, it’s more of a manual. After the introductory section of the book I move right into outlining strategies that you can use in your own life. I have included several case studies to show you how other folks get it done on a regular basis. There are even several worksheets to help you get the ball rolling right away.

 

I have worked hard to make sure the book is ready-to-use, and I feel that I am pretty much there.

 

As we build to the launch of the book in November, I wanted to recap some of what the book is about (above) as well as collect and share some of the information I have already made public about the book itself. In addition to the links below, consider downloading the FREE Fit Life eBook as an interim-resource until the full book comes out in November.

 

Thanks and enjoy!!!

 

~ Patrick

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Art of Non Coformity Book

 

Just Released on Amazon here: Art of Non-Conformity Book

 

I follow about 20 folks online, mainly because the vast majority of folks out there aren’t doing new, inspiring stuff. My top 20 do, and for their efforts, documentation and sharing I am truly grateful. Chis Guillebeau, the author of the brand new rt of Non-Conformity Book and chief architect of many a world-domination plan via the AONC online empire, is one such inspirational character.

 

This book captures the core tenets of Chris’ philosophy, which center around how to live a remarkable life. He’s carving his path by traveling to all 192 countries (as recognized by the UN) and using those experiences to connect with others. His advice via the unconventional guides he has published over the last three years. With topic ranging from World Domination to the Frequent Flier Ninja and the all-encompassing Empire Builder, Chris has you covered.

 

And now, thanks to the miracle of book publishing, you’ve got a guide that doubles as your passport to a world of remarkable living. An absolute must-have read for folks looking to change their lives in today’s digital age.

 

Enjoy…I’m off to buy my copy…

 

~ Patrick

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Majestic White Heron
Creative Commons License photo credit: PacoAlcantara

What will your creation become?

Time for another business post folks. This one was written on the flight home from Ironman Louisville, one of my annual pilgrimages to support the amazing folks on Team Endurance Nation.

After a few hours of checking up on by business reading, which mainly consists of sifting through my contacts via Twitter and checking in on the key blogs I follow, I am beginning to get a little disenchanted. If I open another email from another expert selling me a $1000 program to creating the best blog ever, I might just keel over.

I have to wonder where such a swath of experts were hiding, mere years ago, until the advent of Twitter and social networking. I am not personally overwhelmed by the information available 24/7 on the web, but I struggle daily to make sense of the people who are involved.  Who to follow? Who to listen to? Who can help me?

I have come up with a simple criteria I use when navigating the expert-o-sphere. I simply ask: Is this person trying to sell me something or teach me something?

If you are selling, then I take what you have to say with a grain of salt. And the higher the price of what you are selling almost instantly lowers your value to me.

If you are teaching, then I am interested. The web is a good place to make money (see selling above) but it’s also a platform for educating, sharing and creating change. These elements don’t preclude making money, but they do require a fundamentally different approach to communication.

Why Selling vs Teaching?
Well, I had to start somewhere. Seriously. But it’s also because I am looking for role models and leaders in my personal and professional quest online. Having been at the online entrepreneurial game now for five years, I have learned that the quick fix stuff never really works as well as you’d like it to. If the web is full of information, then the most important people to me are the ones who are going to help me to learn and to put my learning into action.

Someone who sells just drops by via email, or maybe by phone. Think 30-second dating. The teacher, on the other hand, is there consistently. Whether it’s daily or weekly, s/he is putting out thoughtful content that challenges me to be better as a person and as a professional.

This isn’t to say that the person teaching won’t, at some point, try to sell me something…but if they have already taught me something then I will be more likely to purchase from them.

It All Comes Down to Building
At the end of the day, I think the real power of the web is to connect people and ideas and to reduce the barriers for further exploration. There are few, if any experts out there. There are lots of opinions, and that’s a good thing. But the most powerful experiences are where dialogue and information sharing improves our collective understanding of any given concept.

The folks who do this well are what I call “builders,” people who are creating online communities of people able to access high-quality information. The next step for these folks is to create the opportunity for their followers to connect with each other, driving the process forward exponentially faster.

I think of Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris, Derek Sivers, and Cal Newport as a few of the powerful voices that affect how I work and live. These people generate ideas and food for thought, but aren’t (yet) building online communities for their many followers. I think that’s going to be the next iteration…and you can get a jumpstart on these thought leaders by building out that community on your own.

If you are looking to succeed online today, I think it’s important to consider yourself a builder, not a seller. A teacher, not a marketer. Take a personal long-term view on your content and how you build relationships online. The longer you play the game, the more likely you are to win.

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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 27, 2010


YOU ARE AN IRONMAN
Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

~ Patrick

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underneath a star
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaeWALK

Greetings from my summertime weekend base of Cape Cod, MA. This is our hot weather escape, where we crash with my outlaws (the in-laws) for almost every weekend of the summer. It’s a great chance to unplug from the hustle of everyday and tune into the things that really matter: the kids, our family, the kids, relaxing, and above all else…the kids.

It’s also a great chance for me to reflect on the business side of things, as I typically am not working overdrive after a pretty solid week. This post is part of a series, a weekend Sunday Store Update Series, where I write about the small business side of ELD.

Book CoverMost of this summer has been dedicated to the upcoming launch of Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle. The hard copy is done and is being converted into a nice PDF format. The audio case studies are done. I am working on the launch site and a few other videos to put into the higher-value packages. Many of you have pre-ordered the book (thank you!) and I promise I am working to get it to you as soon as possible…thanks for your support!

Ten Hours A Week SystemStrangely enough, this past week saw a massive uptick in the number of copies of my Competitive Triathlon in 10Hours A Week product. Even though it’s August, it appears quite a few of you are already beginning to think ahead to the winter and next season…good for you! The 10Hours System is a great way to build out a functional training cycle that instantly fits your life and keeps you focused on the other things (like kids!) that really matter. Remember that if you are buying the kindle edition you’ll want to email us to get the download too as the planning spreadsheets and free bonuses aren’t included from Amazon.

2008  CalendarI am considering a four-week long season planning session for September, the $100 Season Planning Group.

It would be a 28-day exercise where a small group of you work with me to walk through the 10Hours concepts and build out a full season for 2011. Each week will feature a conference call by me as well as a set of “tasks” to complete. You’ll be able to interact with the other members of the group and, by the end of month, you’ll each have a complete roadmap for 2011 with some really solid ideas on how to best manage your time for maximum fitness.

If you are interested in this concept, please post a comment below or leave a message on Facebook. If we have enough interested folks I’ll put up a registration slot later this month…I’ll try to keep the first class pretty small so I can be sure to meet all of your needs.

As always, thanks again for tuning in and have a great weekend!

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Wired man


Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

As a Type-A personality with an exercise addiction, I not only have a ton of things going on in my world…I want to be good at all of them. Not just good, but the best that I can be. I know this is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

One of the most challenging elements of trying to excel in multiple spheres is being able to balance your commitments across the board.  From personal to professional, and social to athletic, there are tons of different things you could have going on at anyone time. Learning how to manage these multiple areas is critical if you are to be remotely close to your best.

Here’s a not-so-quick review of how I manage my universe; I’d appreciate your feedback and comments at the end on how you do it (or how you suggest I improve my approach). Thanks!

The Problem
Mainstream planning approaches follow the notion that specificity solves the action dilemma. As initially drafted by David Allen in his seminal work “Getting Things Done,” knowing the Next Action is what frees the individual from thinking and puts them into doing.

Please note: This is not a knock on the GTD system. I have actually used it in the past on my personal management journey, and it is a quantum leap ahead of most other ways of working.

From personal experience, however, I know that the more detail I have or create doesn’t necessarily lead me to the right answer…or to any kind of action at all. The majority of my work is creative: writing, recording, editing, etc., and I have found that lists of things to do around my creative tasks only constrain and distract me from the actual work I set out to do.

Instead, the focus on exploring details became a huge time suck in and of itself. I worked hard to make sure I had the 25 steps to publishing an article in place; I reviewed the list. I put it into my planner. I assigned tags to relevant steps so I could batch phone calling in step 8 with my other phone-related tasks. I toggled items on and off the list as I progressed.

There was only one problem: I wasn’t any closer to having a written article.

I had essentially built myself a beautiful list of new stuff that now required management in addition to needing to write an article worth of publishing. I had also discovered that having a list to manage, for the Type A personality, is as addictive as crack cocaine. Not good.

Focus on What Matters, Details Are Secondary
When it comes to Type-A folks looking to succeed in multiple areas, I think it’s far more appropriate to focus on the big picture stuff. These are the action items that, when accomplished, will enable you to remain successful in all of your focus areas. If you are truly Type A, you’ll be able to hit all of the micro-steps to be successful as you dive into the project / task.

Let’s revisit the article publishing example. Making a list or process around the creation of an article ultimately takes away from what needs to be created:

  • If you review it from a linear perspective (Step A happens before Step B, then Step C), you place an inordinate amount of importance upon the sequence of your work instead of the content of the work.
  • If you have a list it’s easier to check off the easier things to show progress (create an outline, draft a tagline, etc) instead of doing the hard creative work that actually _is_ progress.

Instead of diving into a series of “article creation steps,” I have found it’s far more productive for me to keep a list of things that interest me, gathered as a surf the web. When I need to write something, it’s as simple as going to that list and finding something that interests me / syncs with my other priorities (marketing, events, etc). I dive in and start writing.

In other words, without the seminal act of writing the article, or at least starting to write the article, none of the other tasks really matter.

Of course, there’s a process here but it’s not one that I need to write down or check off:

  • There’s the collection of info / ideas as I surf.
  • There’s the picking of a topic based on relevant criteria.
  • When I write, I create a quick outline and then fill it in.
  • When I publish to the web, I do some content editing, fixing for SEO, adding images, etc.
  • Finally I make sure to distribute the final product through Twitter, Facebook and more.

You might consider this a list of activities, but for me it’s more of a weekly ritual that I go through. Putting it down on paper only serves to distract me, taking away from my final goal — a really good article.

When Details are Important: Confusion & Outsourcing
Details become important when there’s a lack of clarity or experience. Perhaps it’s a new task, one that you’re not sure how to complete. Or maybe it’s a very important task, say closing on a new home, that you want to get 100% right the first time.

Details are also important when you want to outsource any given task to someone else. I have a whole chapter on the concept of outsourcing in my forthcoming new book Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insiders Guide to Creating the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle (pre-order here). Basically your goal is to take something you normally do, give it to someone else, and make sure it’s done as well as if you had done it.

Aside from the instructions below, when it comes to outsourcing remember that the best time to do it is when you are (A) familiar with task, (B) know the desired outcome, and (C) are going to be able to monitor the results.

Here’s a quick list of how I suggest you prepare a task to be outsourced.

  1. Complete the task yourself, ideally several times.
  2. Break it down into a detailed list of steps.
  3. Test your list as you complete your task again.
  4. Create a screencast of you completing your list (I use Jing).
  5. Outsource the work for that task by presenting the list and your movie.
  6. Check on first results with great detail.
  7. Follow up at regular intervals.

I frequently get asked about outsourcing and when to make it happen. It’s very simple for me:
At the end of the day, if you can break a task down into clear, succinct steps, odds are you don’t need to be the one doing it. Outsource it.

Properly outsourcing a task is a skill you will need to develop.  It takes times to get good at it, but in general if you can master this skill, it will in turn allow you to focus more on the big picture items you need to be successful at in order to maintain forward progress in your multiple spheres of influence.

The Creative Opportunity
While getting things done is fun, and on some level rewarding, your ultimate goal should be to create value. Value is calculated differently according to your industry, focus, and goals, but  I think a general definition would be: Value is created when you have made something new, unique, or useful.

Simply put, your time is better spent involved in things where there is a lack of clarity, for therein lies the opportunity to create value.

My Personal Planning Process
So, how actually should you plan? Ultimately that’s up to you, but I will share my basic process here. If it helps you out, great. If you have feedback, please put it in the comments below.

I recommend a very simple system which identifies your critical spheres of influence and allows you to track activities across the year. This is essentially a big picture view of all the projects you are managing. I typically work with a rolling three month window, as that’s about the average time from inception to completion for most of my projects.

Macro Level Planning

You can see I have modified an Excel spreadsheet to track each area by month. Under each month put the big picture items. For example, launching a new book is a big process. There are big chunks like proofreading, sending to production, and launching on the web. Each of these might fall under a separate month.

Using this sheet, I can see how those activities stack up with the other things I want to do in my other areas of influence. This has really saved me from over-committing (and consequently under performing) on many occasions.

The next level down, after the macro-level looks good, is to break each area down into weekly tasks. Again, on a weekly level as this is a good time frame for most tasks. Anything more granular really can get off track and derail the entire project. As I progress from week to week I can move tasks or cross them off as they are completed.

One sphere sheet

And that’s it. I review the macro level sheet once a month, and the weekly sheets at the start of every week. I don’t keep a traditional to do list, as this keeps me from having a million and one other small tasks to manage that affect my ability to create.

When you get into doing your work and wanting to manage your multiple spheres of influence, I encourage you to take a step back and look at all you are trying to accomplish.  Use this perspective as an advantage to getting more important and creative work done, the work that is going to help you succeed across the board.

Good luck!

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Discipline

What side of the river are you on?
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things that you can do as an individual looking to reach a new level of performance, be that on a personal or physical level.  But setting goals isn’t always the only way. Leading bloggers like Leo at Zen Habits and Seth Godin on his regular blog have recently brought their cognitive powers to bear on “goals”, and I want to explore that concept from the perspective of endurance athletics and our focus on lifestyle design here at the ELD Blog. Student first, teacher second…so let’s see what we can learn!

So first, over on Zen Habits in his post entitled “the best goal is no goal,” Leo talks about about not setting goals.  Instead, he suggestes living more passionately and focusing on the now…exactly where you are…and making the most of that. I think that’s a very powerful message, and it strikes me as one that is also somewhat advanced.

Case in point, even though I train and race triathlons and marathons just like many of you, I haven’t followed a training plan in years.  Instead, I use my experience to sync my daily schedule with my goals. This allows me to dial in a workout that both builds my fitness and is fun for me to do.  So, I benefit from that because I’m a more experienced athlete and coach than the average bear.  But, I still have goals.

I think that the type of no goals that Leo is talking about is something that we can all do in various spaces of our life.  I think his primary motivation, and I could be wrong, is that too many people spend a lot of time creating and managing lists of goals and things to do, and that management time sucks the life out of the desire to do things and also sucks your ability as well.

I suffer from the problem myself, and am working towards a much simpler management system. Because the truth is clear: You simply cannot do all the things you need to do if you’re spending your time managing the things that you need to do. Release yourself from this vicious cycle and instead focus your energy on what you can do with what you’ve got!

On the flip side, Seth Goden in the “Problem with Unlimited” talked a little bit about setting goals and what that meant in terms of limits.  So for example, his point was if you said you can only — if <Garbled> maxes out at 1,000 pounds for a bench press, then the odds of someone hitting that limit are pretty high because it gives them a goal to aim for and they can work towards it.  So, from Seth’s perspective, goals are more easily attained when they are defined.

To extrapolate this then, for endurance sports, just setting a goal is powerful because the odds of you reaching it are much higher now that you’ve actually physically stated it. It is worth considering that in Seth’s case he’s talking about external goals being set and achieved as opposed to intrinsic or internal goals. If you can have a defined goal and one that is perhaps even public, the odds of you hitting that goal are much higher than if you had not.

I think that the truly tough conversation is to define whether or not you are setting the right goals? Are you setting challenging goals that are really going to push you to achieve your limits? Are you in charge of achieving these goals or is your success dependent upon others?

Whether or not you subscribe to the “no goals” or “goals as new limits” approach to managing your progress, we are all on that same path of trying to find new means of having a breakthrough performance — whether it’s on the playing field, in the workplace, or at home. At the end of the day, the approach that most resonates with you will ultimately be the most effective.

So which are you:  No Goals or Goals Are New Limits to be Reached? Tell me in teh comments below!

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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 20, 2010


YOU ARE AN IRONMAN
Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

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underneath a star
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaeWALK

Greetings from my summertime weekend base of Cape Cod, MA. This is our hot weather escape, where we crash with my outlaws (the in-laws) for almost every weekend of the summer. It’s a great chance to unplug from the hustle of everyday and tune into the things that really matter: the kids, our family, the kids, relaxing, and above all else…the kids.

It’s also a great chance for me to reflect on the business side of things, as I typically am not working overdrive after a pretty solid week. This post is part of a series, a weekend Sunday Store Update Series, where I write about the small business side of ELD.

Book CoverMost of this summer has been dedicated to the upcoming launch of Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle. The hard copy is done and is being converted into a nice PDF format. The audio case studies are done. I am working on the launch site and a few other videos to put into the higher-value packages. Many of you have pre-ordered the book (thank you!) and I promise I am working to get it to you as soon as possible…thanks for your support!

Ten Hours A Week SystemStrangely enough, this past week saw a massive uptick in the number of copies of my Competitive Triathlon in 10Hours A Week product. Even though it’s August, it appears quite a few of you are already beginning to think ahead to the winter and next season…good for you! The 10Hours System is a great way to build out a functional training cycle that instantly fits your life and keeps you focused on the other things (like kids!) that really matter. Remember that if you are buying the kindle edition you’ll want to email us to get the download too as the planning spreadsheets and free bonuses aren’t included from Amazon.

2008  CalendarI am considering a four-week long season planning session for September, the $100 Season Planning Group.

It would be a 28-day exercise where a small group of you work with me to walk through the 10Hours concepts and build out a full season for 2011. Each week will feature a conference call by me as well as a set of “tasks” to complete. You’ll be able to interact with the other members of the group and, by the end of month, you’ll each have a complete roadmap for 2011 with some really solid ideas on how to best manage your time for maximum fitness.

If you are interested in this concept, please post a comment below or leave a message on Facebook. If we have enough interested folks I’ll put up a registration slot later this month…I’ll try to keep the first class pretty small so I can be sure to meet all of your needs.

As always, thanks again for tuning in and have a great weekend!

225 Views 0 Comments Permalink

Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 13, 2010

YOU ARE AN IRONMAN


Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

 

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

 

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

 

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

 

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

 

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

 

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

~ Patrick

273 Views 0 Comments Permalink

Discipline

 

What side of the river are you on?
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things that you can do as an individual looking to reach a new level of performance, be that on a personal or physical level.  But setting goals isn’t always the only way. Leading bloggers like Leo at Zen Habits and Seth Godin on his regular blog have recently brought their cognitive powers to bear on “goals”, and I want to explore that concept from the perspective of endurance athletics and our focus on lifestyle design here at the ELD Blog. Student first, teacher second…so let’s see what we can learn!

So first, over on Zen Habits in his post entitled “the best goal is no goal,” Leo talks about about not setting goals.  Instead, he suggestes living more passionately and focusing on the now…exactly where you are…and making the most of that. I think that’s a very powerful message, and it strikes me as one that is also somewhat advanced.

 

Case in point, even though I train and race triathlons and marathons just like many of you, I haven’t followed a training plan in years.  Instead, I use my experience to sync my daily schedule with my goals. This allows me to dial in a workout that both builds my fitness and is fun for me to do.  So, I benefit from that because I’m a more experienced athlete and coach than the average bear.  But, I still have goals.

I think that the type of no goals that Leo is talking about is something that we can all do in various spaces of our life.  I think his primary motivation, and I could be wrong, is that too many people spend a lot of time creating and managing lists of goals and things to do, and that management time sucks the life out of the desire to do things and also sucks your ability as well.

I suffer from the problem myself, and am working towards a much simpler management system. Because the truth is clear: You simply cannot do all the things you need to do if you’re spending your time managing the things that you need to do. Release yourself from this vicious cycle and instead focus your energy on what you can do with what you’ve got!

 

On the flip side, Seth Goden in the “Problem with Unlimited” talked a little bit about setting goals and what that meant in terms of limits.  So for example, his point was if you said you can only — if <Garbled> maxes out at 1,000 pounds for a bench press, then the odds of someone hitting that limit are pretty high because it gives them a goal to aim for and they can work towards it.  So, from Seth’s perspective, goals are more easily attained when they are defined.

To extrapolate this then, for endurance sports, just setting a goal is powerful because the odds of you reaching it are much higher now that you’ve actually physically stated it. It is worth considering that in Seth’s case he’s talking about external goals being set and achieved as opposed to intrinsic or internal goals. If you can have a defined goal and one that is perhaps even public, the odds of you hitting that goal are much higher than if you had not.

I think that the truly tough conversation is to define whether or not you are setting the right goals? Are you setting challenging goals that are really going to push you to achieve your limits? Are you in charge of achieving these goals or is your success dependent upon others?

Whether or not you subscribe to the “no goals” or “goals as new limits” approach to managing your progress, we are all on that same path of trying to find new means of having a breakthrough performance — whether it’s on the playing field, in the workplace, or at home. At the end of the day, the approach that most resonates with you will ultimately be the most effective.

 

So which are you:  No Goals or Goals Are New Limits to be Reached? Tell me in teh comments below!

293 Views 0 Comments Permalink

29tipscovermini.png

 

As  many of you know, I appear in several other places on the web outside  of this blog. One of these areas is a relatively new community called  Marathon Nation (www.marathonnation.us).

 

This is an online community for everyday runners lookingto have  breakthrough performances without injury, sacrifice and ridiculous  training protocols. We’re crazy about running, but we aren’t crazy  runners. Get it?

 

Anyway, we just published our first free eBook, 29 Tips to Transform Your Run (more here).  It contains over 50 pages of insight and guidance on a variety of  different ways you can improve your running. Some tips are  fitness-oriented, other pointers are motivational; one or two might be  downright controversial…but they have all helped at some time, in some  way.

 

If you or someone you know are looking to become a better runner, please download and read a copy of this FREE eBook. Even if just one of the tips helps, it could  mean the difference between an average season and something much more.  And besides, it’s free.

 

If you have feedback or tips of your own, please find me online over on the Official Facebook Page of Marathon Nation.

 

Thanks for your support!

 

~ Patrick

309 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, tips, marathon, endurance, run, 5k, coach, ebook
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