Master Stroke

Since age 24, I have always maintained an exercise program. For several years I lifted weights, before deciding push-ups and sit-ups get the job done in a lot less time. I jogged until I was 30, then put 10,000 miles on a Schwinn AirDyne bike. In 2001, I went back to running. As age 50 crept ever closer the past few months, my body complained often about recurring aches and pains. I sensed Father Time was telling me to find another way to stay in shape.

So I decided to take up swimming and, given my desire to do it right, enrolled in a 10-week training class at the YMCA. Upon arriving at the first session five days before my birthday, I discovered the other 12 participants all have been participating in this program for at least a year; several are former competitive swimmers. I also learned the sport of swimming is a lot harder than Michael Phelps makes it look. After 20 minutes – having ingested, I’m certain, more than a safe amount of chlorine and feeling I was close to hyperventilating – I told the instructor, “I don’t think I can do this. Running is so much easier.” She politely said: “Yes, you can. Give me three weeks and you’ll be swimming laps with everyone.”

Tomorrow is that three-week mark, and while I’m still not good – that’s me bringing up the rear in the beginner’s lane, struggling to figure out how to take a breath during freestyle and sitting out about every third rotation – I’m starting to get the rhythm of swimming. Looking down the road to August 18th when this session ends, I have a clear vision of signing up for the next one and spending many more days in the pool.

The lesson here is this: Implementing something new and important – whether it’s business strategy or personal development – doesn’t come without a large dose of learning, a big serving of frustration and a giant piece of humble pie. The key is to put one arm in front of the other, keep kicking and breathe calmly. Looking in the mirror each morning and channeling your inner Stuart Smalley helps too: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”


Bountiful Feast

Yesterday during a phone coaching session with one of the franchising groups I facilitate (our monthly lunch-and-learn discussion), someone commented they’re awaiting the economic turnaround to occur before making a big decision about an opportunity for their business. This person suggested there is too much uncertainty right now to commit without knowing when things will get better. I responded they might want to consider ordering off that menu now in order to position themselves ahead of everyone else when a better day arrives.

You have to eliminate inertia to achieve results – in business or boiling water. While this is not the time to spend lavishly at five-star restaurants, it’s also important not to be paralyzed by fear and eat TV dinners. The objective, during high-flying times and periods of hunkering down, is to improve the bottom line. If you’re like most businesses, you’ve carved all the fat out of expenses. That means the only way to improve profitability is to increase sales, and with your customers in a similar dollar-menu mindset, you’re going to have to take market share from competitors in order to enjoy your desserts.

During economic expansion there’s room for everyone at the dinner table… and the feast is extravagant. Today, it’s a blue plate special… and there aren’t as many place settings. To ensure you don’t go away hungry, you need to be assertive and show up early while others are standing around waiting on an invitation. Eventually, everyone will be clamoring to get inside the most popular establishments; you’ll already be there dining on the delicious entrée.


The Year in Review

Counting down the Top 10 Things I learned this year:


First Things First – During a coaching session one of my clients was describing the challenges he faces in his start-up company. Like many, he struggles balancing all the stuff on his plate. My response: “That’s why I’m eliminating things getting in the way of my success.” There will always be more to do, and most of us focus on what we enjoy, not necessarily what we need to be doing. I recently gave up my position as a columnist for an industry magazine, mutually agreed to end a long-term coaching relationship and decided not to renew a consulting contract. What will you let go of in 2010 to free up extra hours in your schedule?