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Create Moments of Victory

We make comparisons between business and sports all the time. We talk about hitting a home run, taking more shots, playing defense. But one of the challenges of business, compared to sports, is the rarity of the unadulterated victory. Whether it’s a friendly pick up game to a state title to the Olympics, winning a competition offers something pure and simple. A true win. Yes, the victory may be temporary – next round, next game, next season – but it’s still very real, very tangible. 

In business, there’s no agreed upon metric for winning. Market share? Revenue? Profitability? Customer satisfaction? Return on capital? You could make a case for any one of those, and there’s also no time frame for when to “call it”. We have to manufacture those win opportunities.

Making wins feel real

In technology, the launch date is a big opportunity to claim a victory. For startups, it’s the official launch on TechCrunch (or more likely today, ProductHunt). On a bigger scale, it’s the 2007-12 Apple keynotes, where the announcement is the key moment victory. Of course, announcements and launches can be flops so there is also risk there.  Continue reading…

Training Makes it Possible

training kung fu panda

(Reading via email? Click through to watch the videos)

Have you ever looked at someone who was really good at what they did and felt a little daunted?

Maybe it’s how they seem to easily make connections with new people, or design an amazing-looking web page over a weekend, or how they casually mention the 6 miles they ran before breakfast today.

It’s natural to feel intimidated by someone who’s really good at what they do and get a little insecure about yourself. It happens to me on occasion. But whenever I find myself falling into that trap,  I remember something I learned from 16 years of gymnastics: Continue reading…

FitChal #6 (Finale): Max L-Seat Hold

(Can’t seen the video? Click through to the post.)

Apologies for the delay, but here is the finale to my Max L-Seat hold challenge. In the month of July I packed up everything I owned and moved moved Washington D.C. from San Francisco. And that’s not an excuse, but just to say I didn’t get as much training in as I’d like.

In retrospect I should I have trained more abs. I did a lot of quads and triceps but core is what gave out first. Still, I was able to post a higher time for my L-Seat hold. About 50% more. Take a looksee.

Great Training Beats Great Equipment and Other Thoughts

A friend recently emailed me an old compilation video of myself as a high school gymnast. It includes clips from both training and competition and sparked a few thoughts for me that I thought I might share. Watching the video isn’t really necessary but I’ve included it below for context.

(Click through to watch the video if you’re reading this as an email)

  • Great training > great equipment:
    I switched to a new gym and a new coach in fall of 2001-02. It was my sophomore year in high school and I was working under a young Armenian coach named Levon (who I interviewed earlier this year). He really understood great gymnastics technique and extremely enthusiastic about making sure you made corrections every turn. Despite the fact that the gym was small and the equipment was old and rickety, but I improved tremendously – making the junior national team. Even after moving to a better facility the next year, and even better equipment at Stanford, I never experienced a greater improvement in my skill as a gymnast in a single year, than I did that year.
  • You rarely see the long road to excellence
    We often see other people only when they are at their best. Presenting at a meeting, pushing a finished feature, showcasing a portfolio. Rarely do we see the struggle, the mistakes, and the preparation that came before that performance. In the video, I repeat one move on the parallel bar, where I swing up, release and land with two arms on one bar. I do it over and over again – usually with an error. But if you just watched me in competition, you’d rarely see me miss it.
  • Nothing beats the thrill of performing at a high level
    Watching myself compete at the USA National Championships (the clips where I’m wearing a silver, red and blue uniform) bring me back to the excitement of competition and high level performance. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the concept of “flow” which he says is triggered by a “high challenge, high skill” endeavor. I think many athletes would find that a good descriptor for their experience when competing/performing. And I think this idea applies to careers as well. Finding work that you enjoy, fulfills a market need and that you can get really good at is so important – because it feels so good to succeed at something that is hard and that you are good at.

PS – The friend who sent me the video is Jamie Northrup, a professional stuntman and a former teammate of mine. You can see his stunt reel here.

FitChal #6 (Pretrained) – Max L-Seat Hold

Late last month I was hanging out with some of my old gymnastics teammates from Stanford. At their apartment, there were a pair of parallettes, and my buddy Nick challenged me to an L-Seat competition. Neither of us had done one in a while and we both gave it our best shot. I think he beat me by like 10 seconds —  and I wasn’t thrilled about it.

Much more than a balance exercise, the L-Seat uses chest, triceps, quads and abs to hold. I decided to make this month’s challenge an L-Seat competition and see if I can ramp myself up so next time we face off, I’ll smoke him.

Here’s my pre-trained test.