Keep Your Commitments

On Monday, I did my 2nd to last training run before my 5k on Sunday, July 31st. I’ve typically just run the streets of San Francisco but on this day, I took a bus to the Embarcadero where the race will actually take place, and I basically ran the course. [1]

I started off pretty excited and found myself going a little bit faster than was wise early on, but settled into a good rhythm for mile 2. I was going at a decent pace coming into mile 3 and decided to see how fast I could really go. At one point I could see, up ahead, the building where I had started. I decided to commit to sprinting all the way to the end to really finish the run / practice race with the best time possible.

I took off and for the first 10 seconds it felt great. I’m pumping my arms hard and feeling like a fast runner. The my heart started slamming up against my ribcage, my arms and legs start to lose feeling and I started gasping for air. I kept pushing on. Almost there! I could see the building come closer and closer.

As I neared the finish line, I reeled in horror: I had identified the wrong building. The start was actually the NEXT building ahead. Demoralized, I slowed down and almost started walking. I had aimed to finish at this building and was nearly out of juice.

But then, something clicked in my head:

I had made a commitment to myself to sprint all the way to the finish line. I had made a mistake about WHERE the finish line was, but that DID NOT mean I could quit because I was tired.

So I pushed on. Ran as fast as I could through that last building, even if it was only a hair faster than walking. A speedwalking grandma could have lapped me. I crossed the “finish line” and spent 2 minutes panting and scaring the crap out of the family that was eating breakfast outside, next to the building. Whatever. The bottom line was I didn’t walk.

Why am I so obssesed with keeping my commitments?

Because without your commitments, you are nothing. When the going gets tough, are you going to bail out or grit your teeth and get things done? [2] How can you make a commitment to someone else – a business partner, a customer, your spouse, your children, your friends – if you can’t even keep your commitments to yourself!?

This is something I learned from Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He talks about winning the private victory before the public one. Keeping personal commitments are your private victory.

If you strive to always keep your commitments – two things happen:

1) You learn to only promise / commit to what you deliver. If you know you aren’t going to make something, you won’t lie to yourself and say you’ll do it – knowing that you probably won’t.

2) You gain confidence in yourself. When you bust your butt to try and keep a commitment – you strength your self-discipline and often grow your own abilities. You’ll know you’ve toughed out hard times and come through.

And when you do this enough and the people around you become aware of your standard for keeping commitments, you will gain their trust. When you look them in the eye and say “I’ll make sure of it” – they will breathe a sigh of relief and know that you are truly 100% committed and will go all the way to get the job done.

And that’s why you should keep your commitments.


FOOTNOTES [1] In the name of transparency, my time was 25:30 mins for 3.10 miles. You can see my time on Runkeeper. It actually turns out that I ran too far and that the starting point and ending point were not the same. But that doesn’t negate my point about keeping commitments. [2] There are times when you should not keep your commitments – especially when the conflict one another. For instance, I told a friend I’d come to her pool party this weekend, but because of my commitment to my startup, I can’t. This isn’t to say work should trump all. I would drop everything and go see my family if something important came up there. The point is that you should have your priorities straight and keep your commitments based on how important they are to you.

I believe most people break commitments they make to themselves simply because they don’t have the will / dedication to follow through, rather than a prior/more important other commitment they are holding to. Think smokers who resolve to quit every New Year’s and fail. Don’t make a commitment unless you plan to see it through.

This Girl Will Crush You – Mari Asp in Kick Ass Interview #6

Hey guys, I’ve got another great interview lined up – this time with Mari Asp, one of the strongest women alive. Born in Norway, she now trains with the Marine Corp in Pendelton Beach near San Diego and is a 5 time national champion and holds the world record in bench press for her weight class (330 lbs lifted at 123 lbs). Wow - I’m very glad to have her on the blog. Here’s what I learned:

  • how she structures her workouts day by day
  • the person who inspired her to return to competition after a series of serious injuries
  • the one thing she’s secretly afraid of
  • what it’s like to train & compete with the Marines Corps

I loved this interview – hope you do too!

1) In your email to me, you said you’ve done 3 sports for 2 countries. It seems like you do powerlifting now, so tell me more about gymnastics and fitness and Norway. How did you get your start in sports? What did you like about gymnastics and fitness?

At the age of 5 my parents took me to gymnastics, since I already knew how to do cartwheels – it was something I picked up on my own just playing around. I was a very active kid, sitting still was difficult so gymnastics was perfect. I loved it from day 1 and still do to this day. Gymnastics is the sport closest to my heart. It’s a tough sport, with a high volume of intense training that requires talent, patients, and lots of guts. Knowing the difficulty of it all, I have the highest level of respect for those who chose to do this beautiful sport of ours.

2) Is doing sports different in Norway vs USA?

Doing sports as a kid in Norway vs USA is a bit different. Unlike in the US, Norway doesn’t have sport teams at school. There are no high school or college teams. In Norway we have sport clubs where you are a member – training for a specific sport is done after school hours at the facility of the sports club. One of the clubs I was doing gymnastics for was Oslo Gymnastics club. When Norway is a small country with only 4.7 million people, many kids grow up in places far from a big city and it is limited with sport clubs to choose from. A sport like gymnastics that requires having a facility with all the equipment etc is far in between. A sport like soccer, on the other hand you will find pretty much everywhere.

3) You can bench 330 and hold the world record! That’s awesome. And crazy. What got you interested in lifting?

I was on the Norwegian National Team for Gymnastics since I was 13 but decided to retire 4 years later due to injuries. The following day of my retirement, a friend of mine from school who was training at an Olympic and powerlifting club and told me I to come with him and try lifting weights.

I did, and I bench-pressed 110 lbs that day, my first time ever lifting weights. 3 months later I won the junior national powerlifting championship. Today at 36, I am still doing it, thanks to the gymnastics training that gave me the skills, strength and ability to train hard and never give up.

Mari Asp in 2008. Her final lift is a world record!

Continue reading…

The Unreasonable Man [quote]

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

- George Bernard Shaw (Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics)


This quote rings in my mind when I start to feel doubt about doing something that I strongly believe is right but might be considered irrational, foolish or unreasonable. Adaptation is a smart strategy much of the time and when you enter a new environment, is often the key to staying alive. But at some point you’ve got to put your foot down and force others to conform to your principles and vision.

Remember, progress is up to you!

Next Game Comes Quick [video]

Can’t see the video? Click here.

I love Gatorade and though I haven’t tried G3, I assume when taken properly, it probably helps with recovery. I mainly share this video because of it’s final message: next game comes quick.

The thing about work, success and life in general is that it keeps going. It never stops. Get some work done? New work is on it’s way. Write a great blog post? Tomorrow it’s old news. Close a deal with a new customer? You’ll be fighting to keep an old one in a minute.

This isn’t to say you can’t make progress or growth isn’t possible, but that pacing yourself is important. Work in sprints, but make time for recovery, because it never ends.

Next game comes quick.

The Anatomy of a Great Email Introduction

I’m looking for people going to Burning Man. If you or anyone you know is going this year, please check out BurningManRides.com!

I’ve been making a lot of email introductions lately. Friends looking for jobs, entrepreneurs looking for partners/customers, and anyone seeking expert advice. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a lot of intros for my startup, which I promise to talk more about soon.

Everyone does introductions differently – sometimes it’s a one-liner, sometimes it’s a couple paragraphs. I personally don’t like doing short intros unless they’re looking for lots of people who fit a very broad criteria (eg: dog sitting startup looking for dog owners), in which case I’d be more likely to tweet the request or share on Facebook.

In general, when I want to make an intro, I want to maximize the chances that it results in an actual engagement. This means I won’t make an introduction on behalf of someone I can’t vouch for, and I only introduce them to people I know well and who are likely to follow up.

People have told me that I make good intros and I thought I might break down how I do it. There are lots of great ways to do an intro, here’s mine.

How Jason Does Email Introductions

Let’s go through each element one at a time…

1) Subject: This has got to be catchy. Sometimes I make it short and vague (if they’re a busy person and I’m trying to pique their curiosity). Other times I do a more straight forward “Steve meet Joe [starting a blog”. Gotta make sure they open the email in a timely fashion!

2) Quick personal chit-chat: I only introduce people that I know decently well and who knew me. In this case, it was more of a business contact, but I gave them an update on what I was doing and wished their business well.

3) Who I’m introducing you to: This is where I give the background of the people I’m making the introduction for. I usually try to highlight how I know them, (in this case I forgot to) and showcase whatever they’re doing in the best light possible. In this case I included links to show what these entrepreneurs were up to.

4) “The Ask”: Here is where I ask the person I’m reaching out to for something. I think it’s important to have a specific request in mind. Usually this ask is for advice, perspective, a meeting, a beta invite — just ask for something! In this case, I asked the guy for his perspective on their startup’s contests and whether it would make sense for them to sell it as a product to web publishers. [1]

5) Why I’m asking you: This is where I establish the background of the person I’m reaching out to – both for the benefit of the people I’m making the introduction for, and also to underline why I’m asking this particular person for help. No one wants arbitrary requests – this shows you’ve thought about this.

6) Flattery/Compliments: If I’m making the introduction, it’s because I like and respect this person and I think a genuine indication of my high regard for that person is really valuable. Buttering up your target never hurts =)

7) Fun sign off  or extra personal request: This is optional but I like to do it. I almost always add a PS in my emails because almost everyone reads them and you can add something tangential to the email, like a joke or an additional request. In this case, I’m asking if the guy I’m emailing knows anyone who are going to Burning Man.

—-

So that’s what I got. I think introductions are a super powerful thing – I’ve gotten a lot of benefits from a well-written introduction and I strive mightly to ensure that every introduction I make adds value to both parties.

What do you think? How do you do email introductions? Anything I missed or got wrong? Let me know in the comments.


FOOTNOTES [1] One of my friends just got back from an internship in Washington D.C. and one of his biggest complaints is that he’d get introductions to meet legit people, but they’d get there and no one really knew what the meeting was for. It was just a “hey you two should meet”, which tend to be really crappy.