My Garmin watch thought I was dead. It bluntly listed my VO2 max as poor and was even nice enough to show me a graph of its decline. Technically, the maximum amount of oxygen my body can utilize during intense exercise (VO2 max) would have been ideal if I were 70 years old. Unfortunately, I am not near that age, and my VO2 max aligned more with those under house arrest. As if to rub salt in the wound, my Garmin watch also informed me that my training status was “de-training.” I didn’t know that was actually a thing, but it obviously wasn’t good. I felt like a slob, I wasn’t taking care of myself and things were getting worse. The last thing I wanted to do was enter my fifth decade on this planet in the worst shape of my life.
Something had to change, so I came up with a radical plan. In six months and in time for my 50th birthday, I wanted to completely change how I lived and transform my V02 max from poor to excellent. The ultimate goal was to be among the top 20% in my age bracket. My rough journey to achieving that goal taught me many lessons along the way. Surprisingly, a lot of what I learned isn’t just about physical fitness but applies to anyone running a business. Whether you are a CEO of a large corporation or an entrepreneur getting a first business off the ground, what follows is helpful to you. And I’ll gladly share it without you having to endure the extreme sweatiness and occasional vomiting that I did. In the following article, we will discuss:
- Why consistency matters
- How doing work doesn’t always produce results
- The difference the right employees can make
- Why data is important
ENTERING THE “DEATH LOOP”
The “death loop” isn’t just something that applies to some West Coast cities but also to our lives. I had entered it full bore as I let work, taking care of elderly parents, dealing with a friend’s issues and almost everything else take priority over my physical fitness. There are always things in life that have to be handled. But the problem was I had completely lost focus on my goals. Instead of prioritizing things, I just handled everything as it came up, with my physical fitness taking a back seat. The downward spiral continued as I exercised less and got more out of shape. I had entered the “death loop,” and getting out of it would be very hard.
The lesson: It is easy for a business to enter its own version of the “death loop.” The daily grind of running a business is often chaotic. And, just like in life, things constantly pop up that need immediate attention. However, not having a crystal-clear vision of and focusing on your brand’s goals will eventually cause it to slide into its own “death loop.” And the deeper your spiral down the loop, the harder it is to recover.
THIS IS GOING TO SUCK
After realizing my downward physical fitness spiral was having a serious effect, I set the ambitious goal of radically improving my V02 max. Sharing that goal with my mountain biking friends, they all told me it would suck, and I was in for some months of pain. There are no “hacks” or simple ways to increase V02 max. You can fall for clickbait on Google and YouTube, but really, the only way to increase your V02 max is to push your body at or near it. Then, you do that repeatedly until you pass out. Making such a radical transformation would not be easy. I had to embrace “the suck” and get to work if I wanted to make anything happen.
The lesson: There are seemingly endless stories in the media about how someone stumbled into making millions by selling goat milk soap or some other semi-useless product. Almost all of them gloss over nearly every detail and make the process look easy, but launching and running a business never is. Initiating change at an already established company can be just as hard. Getting out of the death spiral usually involves pain and hard work, but sometimes you just have to embrace the suck. Making positive changes in life or work takes lots of hard work. Sticking with those changes takes even more effort.
DOING “STUFF” DOESN’T EQUAL RESULTS
I have a friend who is very into physical fitness. She didn’t start her journey from inactivity to being extremely fit to take selfies in the gym or tone her posterior. Tired of feeling helpless during a serious stalking ordeal, she decided to “weaponize” herself through a mixture of intense guided physical training, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Krav Maga (which she credits with saving her life). I excitedly shared what I was doing to get her input and expertise. She bluntly informed me that my plan wasn’t really a plan. It looked good on paper, but in reality, I was “just doing stuff” that wouldn’t get any results. Thankfully, she took the time to change my training plan into a radically more effective one.
The lesson: There is a big difference between completing tasks on a to-do list and doing work that actually produces results. When things get hectic, the “default mode” for many of us is putting our heads down and doing work. But without thinking strategically, we might just be doing busy work (like I was) that doesn’t really move the needle. Working towards a goal doesn’t just involve having a plan but carefully evaluating it and ensuring our everyday work achieves the desired results.
CONSISTENCY IS EVERYTHING IN EVERYTHING
A lack of consistency was one of the biggest failures at the beginning of my physical fitness quest. I was too focused on having an epic ride on our Wednesday night mountain bike sessions. Going absolutely all out one day a week left me exhausted. I would either skip a day or put in lackluster training rides that left me floundering. My fitness-obsessed friend informed me that having one or two great workouts a week wouldn’t cut it. To make V02 max improvements, I had to focus on having multiple consistently good (not necessarily epic) rides throughout the week. She was right, and I made the most progress following her advice.
The lesson: Imagine if Ferdinand Porsche could only build one great car. Porsche wouldn’t exist as a brand, and Ferdinand would more than likely have been forgotten. The most successful companies thrive because they consistently know how to deliver good products or services. Brands that can only deliver excellence once or are all over the map in quality often fail. Consistency is the key to everything.
THE STRAVA BROS ARE ALRIGHT
The guys I ride mountain bikes with are an extremely competitive group. They obsess over the Strava app, always looking at the times of their runs. Then there are lengthy debates on where they could make up time or if the riders ahead of them on Strava’s leaderboard are on “cheater” e-bikes. One big surprise for me was that for such a result-focused group they are also amazingly supportive. None of them effuse praise just to be friendly or nice. However, if they saw me making progress, they told me about it and encouraged me to keep it up. For someone used to quietly handling everything in life on my own, their support made a huge difference in reaching my goals.
The lesson: The people you surround yourself with can make a significant difference in achieving your goals. This doesn’t just apply to life but to your business as well. Choose your employees, leadership team, mentors and everyone else carefully.
SHOW ME THE DATA
My lack of rugged good looks, age and miniscule social following will probably keep me from becoming a Garmin watch ambassador. But having this wonder of a device tracking all my training efforts, steps, heart rate, performance stats and a slew of other data was truly transformative to my fitness journey. Without it, I probably never would have known how far my V02 max was slipping. And I would have no idea how much progress I made to improve it. Guesses and hunches don’t have roles in physical fitness. Only cold, hard data can give a realistic picture.
The lesson: Data is king and not just for working out. As third-party data continues its march towards obsolescence, first-party data you gather directly about your customers is becoming extremely important. It will be vital to any marketing efforts and one of your brand’s most important assets. Not sure what we are talking about? Check out our blog post explaining the different data types and why the first-party variety is so important.
MY BIG ROOKIE MISTAKE
Increasing V02 max and physical fitness involves pushing your body to its limit and slightly beyond. Naturally, one would think doing this as often as possible is best. I made the rookie mistake of thinking the same way and tried to do five challenging rides a week. My body promptly reminded me that I wasn’t 18 and revolted. I had fallen for the classic rookie mistake of overtraining and paid the price. The time it took to recover from pushing too hard set me back and put a dent in my progress.
The lesson: Your employees are a lot like my body. That probably sounds weird and possibly violates some HR guidelines, but let me explain. Getting the most out of your employees sometimes involves pushing them forward. However, like my body, constantly pushing them beyond their limits will do more damage than good. The result is usually burnout and high turnover that can hamper reaching your goals. Know your employees and organization’s limits and respect them. Read our blog post on more management tips discovered through thousands of miles of off-road racing.
WE ALL NEED HELP
I hobbled together my first attack plan to radically increase my V02 max from Google searches and YouTube videos. It seemed like a good plan to me from the information I could gather then, but it wasn’t. I guarantee that if my friend never created a new training program for me, I would still be floundering around with the original one, making minimal progress. Her help and expert guidance were a big part of helping me to achieve my goal. According to my trusty Garmin watch that is no longer ashamed of me, my V02 max is now excellent and in the top 20% of my age group.
The lesson: I “winged it” for my initial plan, and it was less than ideal. Calling in the experts for anything important is always a better idea. At Kahn Media, we are a full-service agency with in-house teams skilled in content creation, social media management, influencer relations, digital advertising, experiential events, public relations and strategy creation. We can serve as your experts in these fields or as a complete turnkey marketing department. And we can do the latter at a cost that is less than hiring your own team. Contact us to see how we can help you achieve your goals.