Shoot for the stars: you may miss a rep on occasion, but there’s always next week

Today, I missed a rep (and set) on squats today for the first time ever. You could say that I successfully completed two sets at 205. But it was that third set, which I hadn’t originally intended to do, that got me.

I had done 2×5 at 205, working toward my third set of five. I got two reps in, then on the third one, I squatted down, then tried to get up, and all of a sudden, the bar was sitting on the rails.

Of course, there’s a business metaphor for this. It came in the form of an admonishment to me some years ago – someone said “shoot for the stars, even if you don’t make it, you’ll have gone a long way.

As an old guy, I have to be careful about the weights I lift. Inching up brings perils with it. Still, a couple of weeks ago, I managed to deadlift 3×300 lbs. The big numbers no longer scare me as they once did.

Today, I did one set and two reps more than I originally intended. I’m going to shoot for 250 on squats for at least a couple of reps, before the end of the year. I’m very confident I’ll get there. I’m really happy with the kind of training volume I’ve been doing.

A low-bar position on the squat puts more stress on your glutes and hamstrings, and less on your quads and knees
A “low-bar” position on the squat puts more stress on your glutes and hamstrings, and less on your quads and knees (from Mark Rippetoe, “Starting Strength” pg 55).

By the way, one of the perils of squats is NOT hurting your knees. One of the reasons why there’s a big discrepancy in what I can squat, and in what I can deadlift, is because I had been doing squats the wrong way, and I was fighting a case of patellar tendinitis.

But there’s a right way to do squats (the “low-bar” variety) that puts more of the work on your glutes and hamstrings, and goes far easier on the quads and the knees. My knees actually feel better once I start lifting the heavier weights with good form.

See Mark Rippetoe’s book “Starting Strength” for details, or check him out on YouTube.

Your Body’s Power to Adapt

Strength-Training-Push-Pins

This is an amazing story. In short: man falls off roof, and has both tibia bones shattered. Lots of pins surgically implanted in leg bones. Man begins strength training. Natural bone growth pushes pins out of both legs. Man enters powerlifting competition and deadlifts 600 lbs. Within a two year period.

Here’s the article: http://startingstrength.com/article/barbell_training_as_rehab.

Here’s a current video/podcast: https://youtu.be/TWN2t4WHxxs.

His bones and muscles responded to the training, to the extent that bone growth pushed the pins and hardware out of his ankles and into the soft tissue. Within seven months of training, his bone growth, driven by the stress of a linear progression, had compromised the hardware in his left ankle. “I could see where the pins were protruding and beginning to poke out, just under the surface of the skin,” says Brian.  The hardware in his left leg, which was supposed to be a permanent, lifelong addition to his body, was removed via surgery four months after beginning the Starting Strength program.

Pins were removed from his other leg shortly thereafter.

Strength training, in a regular, disciplined program, captures and maximizes your body’s power to adapt – to injuries, to stresses, to training – we have amazing recuperative powers built into us. And that works in any stage, almost any situation in life. If you can focus and put your mind to a thing, God has built into our human bodies and minds the kinds of resources we need to recover from major traumas (much less, the day to day troubles of life).

If “personnel is policy” …

john_before_and_after
Very happy about this, and working for better things.

If personnel is policy, then biography matters, and work ethic matters, and character matters. Without going into too much detail at this point, I want to talk about the transformation that I’ve undergone in the last 18 months or so.

The photos nearby tell a bit of the tale. The photo on the left shows me and my belly in July 2014. That was a natural development, the result of being married for almost three decades, raising six kids, working, eating the typical American diet. The photo on the right shows me about a month ago – 20 lbs trimmer, while having added a lot of muscle. (Which means that I lost more than 20 lbs of fat!)

What the photos don’t show is the sorrow and grief I experienced when my wife died in June 2015, and that I experienced for much of the year afterward. I started walking a lot to try to ease the pain – I have always walked a lot – but there was no easing the grief except through time, and even that has its ups and downs.

I joined a gym in October that year. For a while I worked out in the evenings; after a few months, I switched to 5:00 am workouts. There are fewer people in the gym during those times, and it’s easier to stay on a regular schedule.

More recently, I’ve been on a kind of “Younger Next Year” plan – working out or doing some form of walking and jogging six days per week. According to the authors, “six days a week” is the only way (and the best way) to maintain and even improve your quality of life as you enter into your 50’s and beyond.

Nothing comes easy in life, it seems. Still, it is possible to say with Tennyson’s Ulysses:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

“Love Genuinely”

“Who loves ya baby?”
“Who loves ya baby?”
In the beginning, a business starts with an idea. And if you’re a typical entrepreneur, you develop a love for what you do that drives you on.

For example, maybe someone you know can’t unflutenate their wasteng. Everyone knows a flutenated wasteng is bad news. It causes pain for those afflicted by it, and so you work to develop a process that unfluenates wastengs to a stellar degree. Your process genuinely is the “quick and easy” way to unflutenate wastengs.

In the midst of the time and energy that you put into developing this process, you develop a real love for it. And you can’t wait to tell the world what your new process will do for them.

This is where content marketing comes in.

For a time, your first customers are your first love. And they feel the love, to be sure. You can’t wait to be with them, and they can’t wait for you to come around. They subscribe to your materials, and refresh their inboxes constantly while they wait for news of your next offering.

But then, over time, a business starts to take its customers for granted. Maybe the first generation of entrepreneurs, who loved the business, move on, or pass away, and another generation of leadership comes in and changes things; later, yet a third generation comes in and loses all memory of the first love that drove the business on.

This would be bad news indeed.

But it gets worse. The third generation of leadership, who has not only lost all love, but has lost all memory of the love, hires some high-powered sales and marketing executives to figure things out. These individuals may be proficient, but they don’t have the love for the customers that drives them on. They don’t have the love for your process.

Two things are needed for Love

According to Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and now globe-trotting business guru, the most important thing you can have in business is “authenticity”.

The most powerful thing you can do is, well, be real. As in not phony. As in grappling, sweating, laughing, and caring. As in authentic.

That works in real life, but of course, when you talk about search engine optimization (SEO), it seems as if Google is looking for that sort of genuineness in its current search algorithms.

A second concept was articulated by Steve Jobs in this 1993 Wired interview:

To design something really well, you have to “get it” You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

What does grok mean? According to Wikipedia, the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein originally coined the term grok in his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land as a Martian word that could not be defined in Earthling terms.

Quoting the novel:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science…

To return to our example above, you and your customers share the ailments associated with fluenated wastengs, and you work with all your might unflutenate them. You have more than empathy for such sufferers. You love them.

The real joy is when customers love you back: advocacy is considered to be the Holy Grail of social media. Customer advocacy can really help you multiply the return on your efforts. It takes all of the above to a new audience and leads to word-of-mouth praise, online and offline.

The 2000-person Twitter “speed bump”

Speed BumpIt took me a while to figure out the Twitter “speed bump”.

Once you get to 2000 people whom you’re “following” (or somewhere in that vicinity), Twitter won’t let you follow more people until your ratio of following-to-followers comes to within about 10% (I don’t have the precise numbers, and the way Twitter works, they’re not important).

My understanding is that this “speed bump” was put into place in order to inhibit spam accounts. That’s fair.

I had found that following people was a good, though imprecise, way to get followers.

The “speed-bump”, which everyone encounters at that “following 2000” level, does have a workaround, and that is the “unfollow” feature. You can do that one or two at a time, or you can use one of a number of tools, including “justunfollow” and “manageflitter”, that let you locate and unfollow the people you don’t need to follow any more.

So for newer Twitter users, just be aware that the speed bump exists, and it can be gotten over. In the last several days, I’ve unfollowed several hundred accounts, which has freed up space for me to follow new people.

Like the “speed bump” that slows down traffic in the parking lot, if you take it slow and resolve to get over it one axle at a time, the “speed bump” is no more than just a minor annoyance.

I’m @johnbugay

Out of a corner: “Learning a lot”

Jim Fixx's Second Book of Running
Getting out of a corner
I used to be a runner. I don’t run anymore, but I still walk, because I’m a lot heavier now than I was when I was 20. I’ve still got good, pain-free knees, and I’d like to try to keep them that way. But one part of my methodology seems to be the same now as it was then: whenever I wanted to learn how to do something, I bought a book about it.

That’s how it worked when I started running. I wanted to know “the right way” to do things.

Back then, there was a “Complete Book of Running”, by a writer named Jim Fixx. As the graphic nearby shows, Fixx then went on to write a “Second Book of Running”. Here’s the problem, though, as he stated it. If you’re going to write a “complete book” of something, there ought not to be a need for a “second book”. Thus, his foreword carried the title “Out of a Corner”.

He needed to explain the need for this second book in the light of his first. That’s how it worked then, and that’s how it works now. I need to explain my way out of a corner.

One of the first things I did, upon entering the ranks of the “available” (in a business sense), was to start a blog, “Learning Eloqua”. After all, that’s what I do. In another part of my world, I’m a team-member of a highly-regarded and widely-read theology blog, Triablogue. I’m accustomed to waking up at 3:00 AM and pumping out a fully-developed, well-thought-out blog article by 4:30 AM.

But in the process of “Learning Eloqua”, I stumbled upon (can’t get away from it) a lot of other things that I needed to learn. I stumbled upon Twitter, and through Twitter, I have been tripping over things left and right.

One of my deepest sorrows (in a business sense) is that, by the time I figured out that I needed an Eloqua certification, I was no longer in a position to get one. So it was to my great joy that a similar kind of certification, a HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification was available for free through Hubspot’s website. (HT: Brenda Stoltz at Ariad Partners).

Now, in this case, “free” doesn’t mean “cheap”. There are nine hour-long video lessons, and a 50-question test (which I have not yet attempted) in order to become certified.

So far, I’ve been able to bring myself up-to-date with web (keyword) optimization, blogging (in a business sense), and as I write this, “social media”. On tap are “content with a purpose”, “the anatomy of a landing page”, “the conversion process”, “closing” and “cultivating delighted customers”.

Looking at Eloqua’s Topliners community, I can still see that there are many gaps in what I (and apparently many others) still need to know. But I’m nudging things forward.

The bottom line is, I’m still “Learning Eloqua”, and I still hope to work with that blog. Lord willing, I’ll have an opportunity to work for an Eloqua-using company, on an Eloqua-using team. But if not, wherever I go will find me “learning a lot”, in a mode of continuous improvement.

Back when I was learning to run, there were a couple of “running” songs that would go through my mind. “Running on Empty” and “Running Against the Wind”. Sometimes it still seems like that. Some things don’t change.

Keep on moving forward, in spite of the obstacles.

The value of doing one thing at a time

Lately, I’ve been at a loss in this respect, but I found this HBR article to be very helpful:

The Magic of Doing One Thing At a Time

The author’s point:

when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.

But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour….

When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew.

I’m hoping to be able to get back into this type of mode.

 

The long view: don’t let the perfect to be the enemy of the good

Ronald Reagan In His Own Hand
Ronald Reagan thought out and thought through his own policies

I don’t remember exactly when, and I don’t remember the exact words, so I can’t provide a citation, but some time during all the rancorous politics of the 1990’s, George Will made the comment that for as much as conservatives disliked (and worse) Bill Clinton, he hadn’t done [or wasn’t going to do] any long-term damage to the Republic.

Now, I was a person who absolutely hated the Clinton presidency. He was so obviously a liar and a scoundrel, it was a travesty that a man like this should become President of the United States.

But after Will’s comment had a chance to sink in with me, I knew he was right. Having a President like Bill Clinton enabled the opposing forces within the Republic to coalesce; we had the small conservative revolution of 1994, and the Clinton presidency was largely neutralized, by forces that the founders had built into the American system some 200 years earlier. See Federalist 51, for example: “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.” This is not a fool-proof system, but this principle continues to function properly in our day.

The notion that that, whatever political forces were in the ascendancy at the moment, opposing forces would coalesce, works for both sides of the political spectrum. George Bush, who had promised a “humble foreign policy” but eventually posited “the Bush doctrine” of “preventive war” – was mightily opposed, first in the congressional elections of 2006 – the Democrats made a mighty surge to win back congress, much as the Republicans did in 1994 – then in the 2008 Presidential election, when McCain was called “Bush 3”, to elect an articulate spokesman for their own causes, Barack Obama. And we’ve seen the effects again even during the Obama presidency, as the Democrats tried to do too much, and various Republican and right-leaning movements coalesced to bring the Republicans back into power in the House of Representatives.

* * *

In my lifetime, I have seen several schools of thought among Republicans as to “how to elect a Republican president”. Richard Nixon articulated the view that, as a Republican candidate, you should “run as hard to the right as you can to gain the nomination, then run as hard as you can back to the center in the General Election”. He did this, and it worked for him. Now, he had some problems of his own making, but those problems don’t necessarily negate the validity of this political strategy. In 2004, Karl Rove posited, and Rush Limbaugh popularized, the notion that we should exclude the center – and expand the right as much as possible, so as to create a right-leaning majority. Of course that seems to have worked for Bush in 2004 – but somehow Bush, Rove, and Limbaugh had promised too much, damaged the credibility of the party, and the backlash of 2006 and 2008 soon followed.

* * *

Now the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein has published a somewhat lengthy analysis of the Republican presidential campaign so far, specifically addressing the question “Why is a party that leans so far to the right poised to nominate a candidate whom many conservatives deeply distrust?” He concludes:

For many Republicans, [no alternative to Romney has] crossed the threshold as a credible president. … [No one of them] has emerged organically from the ferocious antigovernment backlash that emerged during the final years of George W. Bush’s presidency and then erupted early in Obama’s. None of the heroes of that movement—from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin—felt ready to run in 2012, either because they were too young or too recently elected, or both. Other veteran Republicans potentially attractive to those voters also passed, including Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Republican voters were left to choose from a field filled by an older generation that many of the newer activists view with suspicion. “In the next primary election, whenever it is, you’ve got a real group of potential candidates who are truly conservative and pro-growth,” says Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, a leading economic conservative group. “It is an evolution. Republicans went bad, and now [the movement] is getting better, and it’s going up through the House and Senate, but it hasn’t produced a national leader yet.”

I would disagree with Brownstein that it was an “antigovernment backlash” that happened in 2006 and 2008. Nevertheless, we are at a point at which we may be left with Romney the nominee, and even maybe a “President Mitt Romney”. Which brings me to my point. Neither a Romney presidency nor an Obama presidency in 2012 is going to do long-lasting damage to the Republic. The system of government set up by the founders of this country is a pretty good one.

* * *

There was another school of thought on “how to elect a Republican president”, and that was Ronald Reagan’s way. Reagan had lost an election to Gerald Ford, but meanwhile, he was hard at work. A “Goldwater” Republican during the late 60’s and early 70’s, Reagan was a person who took the time to think through how conservative ideas and principles ought to play out in the real world. It was his thought and his policies that led very quickly (within 10 years) to the demise of the Soviet satellite of nations and eventually the Soviet system of government. And it was his economic attitude and policies that enabled the US economy to recover from the stagnation of the 1970’s to become the growth engine that it had become through the 1980’s and 1990’s and beyond.

From this perspective, it’s very hopeful for Republicans to have names like Christie and Ryan and Rubio and Jindal in some high-profile places. Ron Paul has, and articulates, some good ideas, but the weaknesses of his libertarianism (and his personal weaknesses) are very evident. Sarah Palin may have been a pretty candidate who espoused conservative principles, but she was just a “stopper” and a window dressing. The real heavy lifting of the Republican party will need to be accomplished not by someone who merely claims the mantle of Reagan, but by someone who can genuinely do what Reagan did, and that is, to think through the problems of the day, and understand how best to solve these problems with the best of conservative principles.

The American System not only allows for that, but indeed, it encourages it.

The Heart and Soul of the Reformation

The concept of “the righteousness of God” was at the heart and soul of the Reformation. Not only, “how is God righteous?” but “how can we, sinners, be righteous before a perfectly holy God?” That’s the question Martin Luther wrestled with. It’s the question that was at the heart and soul of the Reformation, and it’s the subject I discuss in my latest post:

The nature of the “righteousness of God”: Martin Luther was right