Saturday, May 27, 2017

What's lost hopefully stays lost

In the past two months I have lost over twenty pounds. That's a touch over ten percent of my starting body weight. It's been a challenge; the first month I quickly dropped about a dozen pounds, but then cycling season started in earnest and I have to maintain a certain diet in order to compete.

Note that I don't cycle competitively; I don't race, don't even ride with other people. But that doesn't mean I'm not competing. Everything I do is a competition. I've learned to live with that reality. It's me. I don't like it, because it pairs poorly with my lack of self confidence and depression. In fact, I think it is a dangerous combination. But I compete, so I needed to up my diet to meet the needs of my lifestyle.

Here's the secret to losing weight: focus on the long view.

I've never been very good at this; it's why I struggle with pure project management. I'm a reactive individual. I like action, now, and want - maybe need - to have a conflict to resolve. Long-term planning is a struggle. Live for the moment is a mantra I totally get.

I sat with a friend at Starbucks one morning in early March. He said he'd lost a lot of weight by cutting his carbs down to less than fifty grams a day, pushing his body into ketosis. The "keto diet" is something I'd heard about. I spent that morning researching it and decided by lunch that I would do a modified "keto diet" for a month or so. My modification was to not just focus on the carb/protein/fat diet components. I now treat my calories like a budget.

Let me explain.

Losing weight is basically accomplished when you eat fewer calories than you burn. But it's not exactly that simple, in reality, because we all burn calories differently. It's hard to know exactly how many calories my body needs. I settled on a max of 1,600 a day, and in reality that first month I kept it at around 1,200-1,300. The weight came off easily. And early I did count carbs fairly religiously. But when I hit that first weight loss goal, I loosened up a bit. I looked at my 1,600 calorie budget, and now focus on getting the most bang for the buck. Think of it in terms of having money to spend, but only so much: in that case, you spend on high value things (rent, utilities, food, etc.), and if you have anything left over you can splurge a little. I also focused on not eating within three hours of bedtime, and I did some fasting cardio when I could.

I combined it with a push up workout: five sets of push ups throughout the day, the same number of reps for each set. The first month I could barely do twenty in a set; I can now do thirty five.

I don't know if I can keep this up. But I want to, because I want something in my life to be under my control. I cannot do anything about the whims of the world; work will progress according to the vision of others. My goals matter very little. My personal life is what it is; friends can meet or not meet according to their own schedules. I cannot ride my bike in the rain, cannot workout as I want when I'm on the road. Pottery is somewhat under my control, but the class is one day a week and I often miss because of business travel.

But I can control my diet. I can control my urges for more food. It's not easy, but it is something I can do, on my own, without needing anybody else to do anything about it.

We'll see if I hit my goal weight of 165. I have ten pounds to go to get there. But I have a goal, one that is within my control, and ... we'll see.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Empowerment vs Delegation

Once there was a man, and this man was viewed by a small number of people as special. He was a natural leader, and that challenged the social norms of his day. This man's message was simple - perhaps overly so. His brand didn't need refinement any more than new fallen snow does to a skier. He empowered his followers. When they got too clingy, he pushed them away just a little, creating the buffer needed to give them room to succeed. In the end, the man's mission was killed by those threatened by his power, which wasn't something the man himself actually sought.

The man was Jesus. I'm not super religious, not in the way most people are, but there is a great leadership example in Jesus. It is leadership through empowerment, rather than leadership through delegation.

Read this Dilbert for an example of the danger of delegation:

What isn't said in the comic's few frames is the utter hopelessness of being an empowerment leader - or follower - in a delegation-based leadership structure. There is this persistent belief that this is new, that only the "young kids today" need that constant pat on the back, that constant reinforcement. Yet as the biblical example shows us, the concept is hardly new. An entire religion was built around a man who did no actual, direct leading on his own. He delegated when needed, but mostly led by example, giving his followers the knowledge and power that they needed to move forward. Note I don't say succeed. Success is often so individually defined that it is impossible to lead and have everyone succeed in the way that they want. Usually the success that's achieved is the leader's success. It's a pyramid structure. Empowerment is round table. Sure, there's a leader, someone in charge who makes the decisions. But that person doesn't put herself above the others, doesn't consider herself more than an equal, for all that she wears the crown.

Empowerment isn't obstacle focused, but, rather, is about the objective. The end result is important, and the path more often than not is allowed to be individually defined by the team.

Go out today and empower your team, don't delegate. Follow the examples you are given.