Sales Design

The One Thing You Need to Do Now to Grow Your Business

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

– Seth Godin

If you’re responsible for your company’s growth strategy, you probably already know how important it is to have a clear customer profile. When you have an intimate understanding of your customer’s wants and needs, you’re more likely to choose the right strategy to grow your business.

The constant socioeconomic shifts due to new technologies, cultural expectations, demographic changes, etc. also means customer needs are constantly evolving. Many companies have some sort of customer profile but the above shifts mean they might already be outdated.

The global pandemic is a prime example of major disruption that may have shifted your customer’s behaviours. In a very short period of time work-from-home became an employee expectation, and virtual offerings (e.g. classes, events, etc.) became the alternative for in-person activities. If a company didn’t catch onto this change in their customer profile quickly, they would’ve been left behind.

So wherever you are with your customer profile, here are three simple steps to get started:

1. Schedule Five Customer Interviews

As good as your business model may be, it cannot and will not survive forever…That means you must constantly gather information on shifts in your competitive environment, especially those that might affect the behaviour of your primary customer.

– From a Harvard Business Review article Choosing the Right Customer (2014)

That’s right. Just five interviews!

There’s research from the user experience space that shows that testing only five users reveals over 75% of usability issues. Discovering 75% of usability issues gives you a great head start on building the right solutions. You can get more insights from talking to more customers, but you’ll see diminishing levels of return on that time.

Let’s say you schedule five customer interviews for 25-minutes each. That’s slightly over two hours of time spent better understanding current issues customers are facing. It’s little upfront investment for reducing risk and clarifying your value proposition.

If you already have an existing customer base, you’ll have plenty of potential interviewees to choose from. I would suggest selecting those that you believe from your ideal customer base.

To know if a customer is ideal or not, imagine growing your business by 10x the number of customers. Would you want ten times more of that customer? If you answered yes, then you’ve identified a good ideal customer.

If you don’t have an existing customer base, you can invite people in your network for an interview. Think about people who are decision makers in their roles and the type of people you’d love to work with and provide an offering to.

If you’re a B2B company, I would suggest these five interviews to be focused on the key decision maker. If a VP of Sales is your key decision maker, focus on scheduling interviews with people with that title. Uncovering their pain points should be your priority above all else.

Step 1 is complete when you’ve identified your five customers you’re going to talk to. Once you’ve identified those folks, it’s onto Step 2.

2. Prepare Your Interview Questions

Your interview questions likely depend on your product and your relationship with the customer. However, there are some standard questions you can ask. I’ve modified these questions from Value Proposition Design by the Strategyzer group.

There are three key themes you’ll want to cover in your interview:

  1. Responsibilities
  2. Pains
  3. Gains

Responsibilities are the core jobs and tasks that the customer has. It may also include things that might not be in their job descriptions. Here are some sample questions:

  • As the [insert title], could you talk a little bit about the core responsibilities you have?
  • Outside of your expected responsibilities (i.e. your job description) what else do you have to take on? Is there anything that’s surprising you?

Pains are the main issues and challenges they face. The pains usually hinder or prevent the customer from executing a strategy or getting a job done.

  • What are some of the things that frustrate or annoy you the most?
  • What are some of the risks you’ve taken that you were worried about? Are they typically financial, social, or technical risks? Or something else?

Gains are what success looks like for the customer. They’re likely specific goals they need to achieve, or things that allow them to create an ideal environment to be successful.

  • What solutions or ideas really work for you? Why do you think those solutions work well?
  • What would make your life a lot easier? What do you wish you had right now?
  • If money or budget isn’t an issue, what do you dream about doing? What might you invest in?

The questions above should be more than enough to pull some interesting insights from your customers. It’s also important to trust your intuition. If something that your interview said piques your curiosity, you might want to ask a follow-up question to explore an underlying need or challenge that the interviewee has.

The conversation should take around 25 minutes. If you need more time and the interviewee is engaged, it may be appropriate to ask for another 5-10 minutes to wrap-up the interview.

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3. Visualize The Customer Feedback

Once you’ve run at least five customer interviews, it’s time to review and compile the information. The Customer Profile Map from Strategyzer is a good place to organize the information. In addition, in order to organize the information you collect, I suggest using a virtual whiteboard tool like Miro to visualize the map.

The Customer Profile Map from Value Proposition Design by Alex Osterwalder

For each section, I aim for about 12 sticky notes. Sometimes there’s more and sometimes there’s less. As long as you have about 8-12 data points, that should give you a good sense of the customer profile.

Once you’ve conducted five interviews, it’s time to compile the maps into one unifying map. This is where it’s helpful to use a tool like Miro. You can group the stickies into specific themes and create a holistic version of your customer profile.

Example of a completed Customer Profile Map.

Following the above steps will give you a good sense of what are your target customer’s key priorities. So go out there and interact with real customers! Here are a few more quick tips before you start the interview process:

  • Ask if the interviewee might be open to you recording the conversation. This will help you go back to the recording if you missed anything. It’ll also be an opportunity to share direct customer insights to your team.
  • Don’t spend too much time on the customer responsibilities/jobs at the start of the interview. Spend most of your time uncovering the pains and gains.
  • Have one person who is consistently at all your interviews. Ideally this is the project owner for this Customer Profiling project.
  • Wrap-up the interview by asking if they have any favourite resources that they follow or consume (e.g. books, magazines, blogs, thought leaders, etc.) on a regular basis. These are great resources for you to follow as well.

P.S. If you’re looking for help developing a customer profile, I’m happy to help. You can fill out this contact form to schedule a conversation.


Good to Great: The Hedgehog Concept

This post is part of a series on useful business concepts to help build more resilient, innovative companies in the world.

The Hedgehog Concept comes from Jim Collins’ bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.

In the book, Collins shares insights that his team gathered across five years of research to try to understand what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The research led him to 28 companies that outperformed the composite index of some of the world’s greatest companies including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Hedgehog Concept comes from an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity while hedgehogs simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea.

The research suggests that great companies are hedgehogs. They’re the companies that can see what is essential, simplify the mission, and ignore the rest.

How do we apply The Hedgehog Concept in our business? Collins shares the diagram below to help companies find their sweet spot:

  1. What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at).
  2. What drives your economic engine.
  3. What are you deeply passionate about.

It’s crucial to note that becoming the best in the world is not about willing your way to the top. Just because you had years of success with your core business, doesn’t mean you can be the best in the world. If the market has shifted and the competition pivoted years before you have, it may mean it’s time to make the difficult decision to go down a different path. Great companies were able to realize this sooner than the good comparison companies that Collins studied.

Finding the sweet spot for The Hedgehog Concept isn’t easy. According to Collins, it took four years (!!!) for the good-to-great companies to clarify their Hedgehog Concept. It’s an iterative process and one that will require dialogue, debate, testing, and analysis on what’s working and what’s not with your team.

The Hedgehog Concept is not necessarily a new concept. There are other ideas out there that are similar (The Blue Ocean Strategy, for example) but it’s an important one to bring to the table and have an honest conversation about in your organization.

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Sales Design

Start With Fun When You’re Choosing Your Target Customer

One of the most important things you’ll do early on when you’re designing a go-to-market strategy or launching a new offering is deciding on your target customer.

It’s an important first step because the customer you choose will also dictate how you build your product or service, and the way you market it.

At the same time, I know it can be a challenge to settle down on an ideal customer profile to work with!

If you’re launching something new, you might not have enough information about potential customer needs or you might not want to pigeon hole yourself to the wrong target audience too early.

That said, it’s important to start somewhere and have a hypothesis you’re willing to test. “Spraying and praying” your sales & marketing effort doesn’t work — especially when you’re limited in time, money, and energy.

If you’re having this type of challenge, take a moment and open up your favourite writing tool. I’ve outlined four key questions below to help you get closer to finding your target audience. This activity should take about 30-60 minutes of initial reflection.

1. Who will you have the most fun working with?

You might be wondering why “fun” is at the top of this list. After all, if you’re trying to build a business, and fun really has no place for something so serious… right?

I’d argue that elements like fun, creativity, and joy should be at the top of any important project you take on. In our adult years, we’ll spend more time with our colleagues, teams, and clients than we do with our friends or family (!!!), so why spend that time working with people you don’t genuinely enjoy spending time with?

When you ask yourself this question, an interesting shift happens. Instead of focusing solely on the industry, size of the company, title, etc. of an ideal customer, your focus shifts more to the type of person and organization you’d enjoy working with. In marketing terms, we shift our focus from demographics to psychographics.

When I ask myself this question, a few follow-up questions about my ideal customer emerge:

What are they like? 

What motivates them?

Do they care about the people around them and the culture they build?

Do they value integrity and creativity?

Is the work they do more than just a “job” for them?

Obviously it’s more challenging to find people with a matching mindset than it is to look up someone with a specific title or in a certain industry or company size. 

At the same time, we have more effective tools available these days to attract like-minded people. This blog is a good example of that. If you’ve read my piece this far, it’s likely you care about the same things that I do.

So take a moment to think about the people you might enjoy working with the most. Imagine you have five open seats around a table. If you were to form an advisor panel with these five customers, who would you want in those seats?

2. Who can you create the greatest impact with?

This question is all about the value proposition of your offering.

When you think about impact, what you’re really asking is whether your product or service will solve your customer’s problem. So it’s crucial you spend time developing a solid customer profile and understanding their pains and gains.

Here are the key questions to consider when you start this process:

  1. What jobs are they trying to get done?
  2. What pains are they experiencing?
  3. What gains are they looking for?

If you asked them about their current challenges or concerns, what might they say to the following questions?

  • What are the main difficulties and challenges you encounter? Do you have difficulties getting certain things done, or meet resistance with particular jobs for specific reasons?
  • What do you find too costly for your business? What takes a lot of time, costs too much money, or requires substantial efforts?
  • What negative consequences do you encounter or fear? Are you afraid of a loss of face, power, trust, or status?

On the other side of the ledger, what might they say to things that they want or desire?

  • How do current value propositions delight your customers? Which specific features do they enjoy? What performance and quality do they expect?
  • Which savings would make your customers happy? Which savings in terms of time, money, and effort would they value?
  • What would make your customers’ jobs or lives easier? Could there be a flatter learning curve, more services, or lower costs of ownership?

By going through these questions, you’ll likely get a better picture of whether your product or service will meet the needs for your customers

(For further reading about this topic, I recommend reading Value Proposition Design by Alex Osterwalder for a step-by-step process to create a strong value proposition for your product or service.)

3. Based on your experience, which clients do you understand best?

If you have past experience working in a particular industry or segment, this is a good time to think about where you can leverage this. You already have a good sense of what the challenges look like for this group and you might be able to achieve early success by targeting this group.

One thing I think about is the Blue Ocean Strategy developed by Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. Instead of fighting for a spot in a highly competitive market (i.e. red ocean) how can you create a unique offering where you create the demand (i.e. blue ocean).

By thinking about the combination of which clients you understand best and mixing it in with a unique offering, you might be able to create a blue ocean for your business.

4. Who would it be most profitable to work with?

Finally, take a moment to think about profitability. 

Insights here could come from your past experience working with different customer segments, research that’s publicly available, conversations with colleagues & peers, or anywhere else you can think of.

Industries that are experiencing substantial change or growth might be a good group to target as they often have unmet needs or opportunities where you can create a Blue Ocean Strategy around.

Profitability doesn’t just mean how much gross revenue you can generate with a customer base. If you have a customer base that’s difficult to work with, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time providing customer support or post-sale services that will eat into your profits.

Which clients will be the most satisfied with your offering just as it is? If customization is required, what parameters can you set so that you’re not modifying every last detail?

Putting It All Together

Whether you’re a leader in Sales & Marketing collaborating with your Product team to create a new offering or you’re an business owner keeping up with new customer demands, it’s important that you nail down the target customer first. I hope the questions above sparked some ideas and thoughts for you to further explore!

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that all of this is a balance, and the questions above should encourage you to establish principles rather than rules with who you work with. Principles help guide your decisions and are more adaptable than rules which tend to be more rigid. Regularly working with all parts of your business to keep your ideal customer profile will be important as well as major events or shifts in the market may change the expectations and behaviours of your customer.

What was most useful for you in this article?

What has worked for your business in deciding on a target customer?

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts below.

P.S. I’m running a workshop on Tuesday, November 10th at 12pm EST to help leaders frame any business challenge. We’ll use fun, interactive activities to help you figure out what your key obstacles are and how you can solve them. If you’re working on any BIG challenge or project, I hope you’ll join me there.

Sales Design

How to Reframe Obstacles as Opportunities for Curiosity

Space is a heck of a place to run into problems.

In the 1995 movie Apollo 13 there’s an iconic scene in which NASA Flight Director, Gene Kranz, (played by Ed Harris) draws a map of the Earth and Moon on a blackboard.

It had been two days into the mission when an oxygen tank failed aboard the spaceship causing an explosion in the main service module. Without the module operating, the crew had to move to the lunar landing module as a lifeboat.

In the scene, Kranz gathers the mission operations team and draws a map of the flight trajectory that the damaged Apollo 13 would need to track to return back to Earth safely. It was a simple map for a complex problem.

Over the course of the next five days they would have to navigate a series of obstacles that required the crew and the mission operations team to find creative solutions. Anything and everything was on the table.

Every time a new problem emerged, Kranz gathered his team around the blackboard to discuss the challenge around their central goal: get the crew back home safely.

Reframing Obstacles as Opportunities for Curiosity

It’s easy to spend a lot of time thinking about what’s going wrong or what could go wrong. But maybe there’s a better way of looking at obstacles? 

In fact, problems themselves can be an opportunity for creativity and innovation. When teams can gain clarity about the problem and break it down into questions to find answers to, we might just create the space for innovation to happen.

Here’s an activity to try with your team at your next (remote) meeting called Starting at the End.

It sounds obvious but one of the most forgotten steps when launching a new project is clarifying the objective. Even taking the first 30-60 minutes of a project to talk through these questions as a group can help clarify the direction and rally your team around a common goal.

Here’s the first question:

  1. Why are we working on this project or problem?

Take your time with this question. Beyond the obvious answers around hitting certain metrics or deliverables, there may be some deeper whys that emerge from you and your team that create an emotional connection to the problem you’re solving. Just like the mission operations team rallied around “get the crew home”, this will be your team’s core motivator.

  1. Where do we want to be 12-18 months from now?

Depending on the scope of the problem, you may want toggle with the timeframe here. Maybe it’s 6 months or even 5 years? Personally, 12-18 months is a sweet spot if you’re looking for a balance between an aspirational goal while also being focused on tangible milestones you want to achieve.

  1. Imagine we travel into the future and our project failed. What caused it to fail? What went wrong?

Now we switch gears. In the first two questions, we painted a picture about what success might look like, but now we want to look at the obstacles in the way.

Note that after you pose this question to the team, it’s natural that the energy in the room might dip. Uncertainty is uncomfortable especially if it’s a project you’re excited about. But it’s important to embrace this tension and make sure everyone in the room has a chance to share what they might be worried about before we move onto the final step.

  1. To reach our goals, what questions do we need answered?

This is the last, and the most important step.

Now that we have a list of challenges we might encounter, we’re going to reframe them into questions. Problems create uncertainty but interesting questions help activate curiosity.

Problems create uncertainty but interesting questions help activate curiosity.

Here’s how you’re going to phrase the questions: “How Might We…” 

How Might We (HMW) questions transform the mindset of your team by helping them consider  the possibilities. We’re all so wired to fix things, but what innovation needs is more curiosity and space to explore. Here are a couple of examples of transforming some existing obstacles & assumptions into HMW questions:

Solving a Big Problem? Consider a Five-Day Design Sprint.

The activity above comes from a process designed by Jake Knapp and John Zeratzky called a Design Sprint. In fact, it’s one of the first activities you’d do in the sprint to gain clarity on what you’re trying to solve.

Here’s what that process looks like:

  1. You spend the first day identifying your goals and mapping the current process for your key stakeholders. 
  2. On the second day you focus on ideating and unleashing your team’s creativity. 
  3. On the third day, you decide on the ONE area you want to prototype a solution for. 
  4. And by the time Friday rolls around you’re actually testing your solution with real clients.

Thinking five days is too short to prototype a new solution? Take this example of an insurance company that condensed 6 months of meetings & discussions to come up with a prototype in 5 days.

The best part is that not only are you reducing risk, you’re saving time. One of the characteristics of the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world we live in is that the rules change quickly. If your launch timeline isn’t reaching your audience quickly, the project itself may be too late.

How Are You Thinking About Problems?

On April 17th, 1970 – five days after the launch – Apollo 13 splash downed in the South Pacific. Although fatigued from dehydration, the crew was alive and in good condition. It was an amazing achievement given how dire the situation was only days ago.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out how to solve a problem but we do need a good framework to help us get started. If you’re just about to launch a project, give the activity above a shot and see if you can reframe your obstacles into HMW questions. Your team will thank you for the simple switch in the mindset from uncertainty to curiosity.

P.S. I’m running my second workshop on October 23rd for creative leaders (like yourself!) to bring more fun and innovation to solve your BIG problems. Registration is capped at 10 people and the last session sold out. So grab your ticket early and I hope to see you there!


How I Unpacked What I Really Wanted to Do With My Career

For the past few years, I’d had a nagging feeling that the work I’d been doing was not the work I was meant to be doing. I mean, I was pretty good at it and felt generously compensated for it, but it just never felt right. Maybe you’ve felt this before as well. 

After spending a summer of conversations and reflections, I’ve decided to commit to the pivot. I’m calling it the “commivot.” (Okay, maybe there’s a better word for it!)

As anyone who’s made a career pivot before knows, it’s scary. And just that much scarier when it means you’ll be venturing into the world of entrepreneurship.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.


This post is about the process I went through in deciding to make the shift. I’ve been working with an incredible career coach, Andrea Fruhling, Founder of Doubleknot Works, and with her permission, I’ve shared how we created clarity for my next big move.

For those of you who are thinking about making a change, I hope you find this post helpful. It’s a personal account of my experience but I’ve tried to explain the activities so you can do them yourself.

And even if you aren’t in the process of shifting, I hope it helps spark some ideas on how you can craft a career that brings you more creativity and fun.

First, a bit of context.

For a year, I’d been talking to my former employer about the idea of moving on from the organization. The role in sales I’d been in for a couple of years just wasn’t for me. It was scary to talk about it to my boss but she was incredibly supportive of the idea, and we discussed a timeline for my transition.

What’s that saying about plans? Turns out they don’t always go as planned.

Long story short, the timeline was cut short when I was let go in May. As those who have experienced a layoff know this, it’s not easy being let go – even if you’d been planning on moving on at some point. And for a couple of weeks I was licking my wounds and relied on my friends and family for their support as I worked through my emotions.

Deep inside, I knew this was the right thing. Sure, it wasn’t my choice to leave at that time (especially during a global pandemic!) but I was all-in now. I was pushed off the plank and now I had to learn how to swim on my own. As cliche as it sounds, it’s a liberating feeling when you know you have your own destiny in your hands!

Reflection #1: What do you do for fun?

I started to work with Andrea in June. I decided to work with a career coach because I knew the pivoting process wouldn’t be easy. I’d be facing resistance everyday as my “lizard brain” would make me look for the safest and comfortable option. If I was going to commit to this transition, I was going to need help.

One of the first activities we did together was sharing what I do for fun in different situations. Instead of approaching situations in my default way, what if I could make decisions and face challenges in a fun or innovative way?

We looked at all aspects of my life including approaching unemployment, work life, going to the gym, podcasting and blogging, managing my finances, and my relationships. I wrote down what I typically do in my default mode followed by what I’d do if I was approaching it in a fun or innovative way.

What feels fun, creative and innovative for you?

One of the first few questions Andrea Fruhling, my career coach, asked me

As I worked on this list, a few themes emerged about myself:

  • I like variety in challenges and learning something new in the process. (If someone paid me to be a student for life, I’d take that offer in a heartbeat);
  • I enjoy collaborating with other people to identify the root cause of a problem and developing potential solutions;
  • I love the early stages of strategy development – brainstorming, discussing and planning;
  • I enjoy working in small teams that have a high level of trust and collaboration;
  • I love learning and using my discipline (probably my greatest strength) to diligently work towards acquiring a new skill;
  • I enjoy work that’s more “project based” as I get to start fresh with a new challenge I can tangle with.

These realizations weren’t new. I knew many of these things, but it was helpful to write them out and see the patterns emerge on a Google Doc. To add to that, asking myself the question “what work will be fun, innovative and creative for me?” became a powerful question to guide my career planning process.

Inspired by my conversations with my career coach, I mapped out my career journey thus far.

Reflection #2 – Prioritize what matters to you

The second activity that was really useful was ranking my Workplace Attractors. These are elements of work that drive our sense of fulfillment. She walked me through the list below and asked me to rank them in a pyramid structure.

  1. Innovation (doing something new)
  2. Work Fit (finding work that fits my interest, values, etc.)
  3. Relationships (working in a group, interpersonal connections)
  4. Learning (opportunities for growth, professional development, new challenges)
  5. Contribution (sense of purpose and meaning and doing work that has meaning)
  6. Security (financial, having benefits, position security)
  7. Flexibility (time off for other needs and work/life balance)
  8. Recognition (being appreciated for what you’re doing)
  9. Responsibility (being trusted to take on responsibility)
  10. Location (physical space, healthy workspace)

After some back-and-forth, here’s what mine ended up looking like this:

What was surprising to me was how “Work Fit” landed at the very top of the pyramid.

In the past, I’d chosen to work for organizations because I believed in their mission. My first job out of university was in a small town in Mozambique doing microfinance work. I then followed that up working at a youth focused social enterprise. 

Making an impact (i.e. contribution) was an important part of my career story, but it turned into the only story I was telling myself. While I wouldn’t change a thing about my career journey so far, reflecting on this made me realize that I was sacrificing the other attractors for contribution.

So it makes sense that Work Fit now takes the top spot in my career search. I want to do work that lines up with my strengths and skill sets I want to develop. That’s not to say other elements are not important, but it’s important for me to prioritize the ones that will drive the most fulfillment in my next role. This will sustain enjoyment over the long term.

Reflection #3 – Connect emotionally with your path

The third and final activity we did was one that I’ll call “The Perspective Shift.”

Andrea asked me to set up my living room with three separate chairs. Each chair represented a potential career I was interested in. I’d been considering a wide variety of ideas including exploring design thinking, coaching/consulting, taking a mindfulness teacher certification, etc. 

As I sat in each chair, Andrea asked me to share how it felt being in that chair. Going through the process with each career option which allowed me to think about the aspects of work that got me excited. It also brought up potential questions I’d need to answer to better understand each option.

I have to admit, it felt a bit weird doing this activity. There were so many unknowns and it felt uncomfortable to talk about each career option when I hadn’t even taken the first step. Not to mention I’m in my living room talking to myself and a couple of empty chairs.

But looking back, I realized the point of the exercise was to feel what it might be like to commit to a path. We often ignore our feelings in favour of our thoughts. I’m particularly bad at this as I tend to over analyze and forget to trust my gut.

By visualizing what it might be like to go down a path, it helped me uncover a strong interest I had in a concept called design thinking. I didn’t know much about it but I knew it had to do something about using a process/framework for creative problem solving. Based on the “what I do for fun” exercise I had done earlier in this process, the idea of tackling different problems and understanding root causes got me very excited about exploring this topic further.

This is the real secret to life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

Alan Watts

In weeks following this activity, I took an introductory course on the topic from a leading design thinking agency in the world and started connecting with a variety of people who are in the space.

I was able to start answering the questions I had in my head about this topic and began to build more confidence that this was the right path forward. All it took was a bit of visualization and connecting with my gut feeling to get me started.

Three Key (+ One Bonus) Lessons

So there you have it – three reflections that helped me work through my commivot! There’s a lot that I shared above so I’ve summarized the key lessons learned below:

  1. Discover what your “North Star” is and remind yourself throughout the process. For me, it was about pursuing work that feels fun, creative and innovative. If you put aside making money, what might fun look like to you? If you could design your own role from scratch, what would you do?
  2. Do the Workplace Attractors exercise and stay true to the workplace attractors that are important to you right now. Be mindful of the “career story” that you’re telling yourself. E.g. I studied “x” so I have to be “x”. Many of the most successful people in the world started in a field that had no direct relation to the work they do today.
  3. Invest in a career coach. A good coach will be there to provide a framework, question unhelpful stories about yourself and hold you accountable to taking action. If Michael Jordan had a coach throughout his career, I’m pretty sure we should all have one too.
  4. Finally, be patient with yourself. Arriving at a decision to pivot took me time. Do the exercises, research your options and let your subconscious mind do work in the background. Build the courage to take that first step.

If you’re working on your own career pivot, I hope you found this useful. I’m happy to be a resource if you’d like to talk about it. Please feel free to reach me at

P.S. I’m running my first virtual design thinking workshop on Friday, October 2nd. (Yes, I’m putting my money where my mouth is!) If you’re interested in a simple process to inspire more creativity and collaboration at your next (remote) team meeting, I’m sure you’ll find it useful. You can learn more about the event and purchase your tickets here.

Personal Growth

A Simple Model I Use to Organize My Life Priorities

Like me, you probably learned about tree rings in elementary school. Every year trees add a layer of growth on the outside and develop a series of concentric rings. Over the course of their lives, these rings become identifiable layers that tell a unique story. Tree rings, aka growth rings, also help scientists understand climate conditions that each tree experienced; years that were plentiful with rain and sunshine produce thick rings and excessively dry and cold years produce thinner rings.

Nerdy fact: there’s even a word for the study of tree rings – it’s called “dendrochronology”.

To me, tree rings are a great metaphor for personal growth. There was a tough year that I was let go from a startup to another year that I met my incredible girlfriend who I’m now living with. We have great years and some lean years, and we do our best to play the hand that we’re dealt. Trees, in their own way, are very stoic; enduring whatever the environment throws at them without complaint or becoming overly excited.

The Tree Ring Model

As I contemplated this metaphor of tree rings and my life, I began to ponder what my tree rings would look like. More specifically, how can I use this image as a metaphor for my personal growth and life priorities? After some thought, I drew a model based on my current life priorities:

  1. Physical Health
  2. Mental Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Growth
  5. Wealth (Finances)


To me, where it all starts is with a strong foundation of Physical Health. With proper food, nutrition, sleep, and exercise, I’m able to maximize the capabilities of my body and put my best foot forward each day. The mind feeds off of the physical energy to help gain and sustain Mental Health. We often overlook mental health as it’s not something that is as visible like our physical health. Understanding your personal triggers, speaking with trusted people about your emotions, and taking the time to reflect in a constructive way are all important elements of ensuring you’re developing a resilient, positive mindset.

The next ring – Relationships – builds off of the stable and positive mindset to provide patience, understanding, and love to others. A study from Harvard tracked 268 graduates over 80 years and showed that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. Relationships and community make a tremendous impact on our happiness and our health. As social animals, we need it as it takes a major priority to nurture and sustain important relationships in our lives.

The average person will spend approximately 30% of their lives working. Yet many people work in jobs that don’t leverage their unique talents and interests. Growth is the ring which encompasses the work that I invest myself in and the learning opportunities I create in my life.

In Cal Newport’s fantastic book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he writes that developing your skillset and expertise is more important than “following your passion”. Passion is a mercurial thing but developing a skill will help you be in demand. Newport calls it the “craftman’s mindset” which requires years of dedication to a craft and creating a valuable skillset the job market will value. That’s what this ring is all about: constant learning and professional development of oneself.

As you invest in your career growth and develop new skillsets, success in acquiring Wealth will be a bi-product of that. With work that matches your long-term goals and market needs, you can find ways to build my wealth sustainably. When you look at some of the most successful people in our time from Bill Gates to Barak Obama to Oprah Winfrey to Warren Buffet, they all focused on honing their craft before they arrived onto the big stage.

Let’s Dive Deeper

So what does each ring mean on a day-to-day basis? I dug into this a little further to give more clarity to myself.

You’ll notice that I’m not getting über specific with some of these habits. I find that absolutes such as “never” don’t help when it comes to establishing a habit. Of course I’ll occasionally indulge in a sugary snack or have a drink with a friend. To me, these are helpful guidelines that ensure that I’m focused on putting the right things into my body.

Physical Health

The connection between physical and mental health is close. Mental health relies on strong physical foundations like a clean diet, quality sleep, and regular exercise. To start, here are the core habits that I focus on for Physical Health. Thanks to Dr. Rhonda Patrick for inspiring many of the key guidelines below.

Diet principles:

  • Eat a mainly plant-based diet.
  • Eliminate consumption of refined sugars and fast foods.

Exercise principles:

  • Engage in vigorous cardiovascular activity of at least 30-minutes once or twice a week.
  • Lift heavy weights 2 to 3 times a week for muscle growth & retention.

Lifestyle principles:

  • Reduce eating or snacking past 8pm.
  • Disconnect from digital devices by 9pm.
  • Be in bed and asleep by 11pm.

Mental Health

This is an area that’s currently my biggest challenge. I’ve dealt with anxiety and self-esteem issues in the past and still do to this day. I’ve read books, taken programs, and been mentored by some amazing individuals. The challenge still remains that changing your ingrained thinking patterns and habits is difficult. It often takes months and years of concentrated effort in making that shift.

Gaining control of my mindset and feeding it with healthy, positive fuel is a day-to-day grind. I have good days and bad. But there are ways to mitigate risk of mental breakdowns with some simple, day-to-day habits. In a way, the below list is the “mental flossing” habits that I try to accomplish every day.

Lifestyle principles:

  • Meditate every morning and evening for 20 minutes.
  • Read a text on Stoicism every morning.
  • Reflect every morning and evening by writing in a journal.
  • Arrange professional, psychotherapy support when needed.

When I combine both the habits of physical health and mental health on a consistent basis, I feel the biggest reward. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been interested in the ancient Stoic philosophy as a way to strengthen my mindset and manage my ego. Ryan Holiday’s writing in this space is highly recommended including his books Ego Is The Enemy and The Obstacle Is The Way. They’re both easy, practical reads about how many people in history have used Stoicism as a way to overcome their challenges and make a meaningful impact in the world. If you’re looking for texts straight from the Stoic masters themselves, I highly recommend this translation of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and The Tao of Seneca audiobook series.

Finally, there may be certain mental health challenges that are beyond your own ability to work through. In most cases those are rooted in deeper psychology and could require some support from a professional. I found this video from The School of Life to be helpful as a way to understand the objective of psychotherapy and how it might be able to help you.


Investing time in family, a significant other, and friendships are critical to long-term happiness. The aforementioned Grant Study from Harvard is a great example of how strong social bonds can shape our lives for the better.

Unfortunately, loneliness is becoming a real problem in our society today. A 2010 study of adults 45+ by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported that 40-45% of respondents said they regularly or frequently lonely. Nuturing strong relationships in which we care deeply for others and support their lifelong journeys will lead to a sense of fulfillment in ourselves.

While I don’t have specific “habit” recommendations here, it’s important that there are some guidelines you create for yourself around the candence and rhythm with which you see important people in your life. In the past, I’ve enjoyed organizing a quarterly “Gentlemen’s Dinner” with a handful of my close male friends or scheduled a weekly “date night” with my girlfriend. Setting up recurring events for those important relationships can help guarantee that you’re spending quality time with people that matter.

Finally, I also want to mention the importance of vacations as a way to disconnect from the day-to-day and strengthen the relationships with the people you care about. Don’t neglect the importance of taking that time away from work and truly recharging. You’ll come back to work with even more creativity, vigour, and energy that your colleagues would be thankful for. From a time & budget standpoint, don’t forget to plan 3 to 6 months ahead for these vacations as they do take some planning to make them meaningful.


I try to look at growth from a holistic sense which encompasses both my professional and personal development. Of course, my full-time job is a massive commitment in life and finding something fulfilling is really important. At the same time, feeling like that I’m growing within my current role at work and outside of it gives me immense amount of joy. In many ways this “Growth” section is the fuel of the fire that keeps me wanting to improve my life and continuously look at ways to level up the other rings in the model.

Here are few of the keystone habits that I try to incorporate with this ring:

  • Schedule in dedicated reading time every night.
  • Spend an hour each week learning a new skill.
  • Invest in coaching for a specific skill you’re developing.
  • Write your ideas and thoughts publicly (e.g. blog) or privately (e.g. journal).

One area that I’ve recently been investing more time into, is coaching. After experimenting through books, videos, online courses, etc. with limited experience (and budget) during my 20s, I’ve realized how much faster you can get to your goal with a smart, qualified coach at your side. I know, it sounds obvious, but hiring somebody to give me 1-on-1 coaching on a specific topic has almost always been worth the investment. Even with a limited budget, you can still get an hour’s worth of time with an expert to extract valuable information. If you’re looking to develop a specific skill, consider hiring somebody to support you (at least while you learn the ropes) so that you don’t get stuck figuring out early roadblocks on your own.

Wealth (Finances)

This is one that you can get pretty tangible with as financial wealth markers can be quantified a little bit easier.

  • Pay yourself first and automatically save a dedicated percentage of your monthly wages.
  • Invest in low cost, index funds for medium to long-term investments.
  • Craft a budget for each major priority in your life.

There are a ton of excellent resources out there on financial planning. A few books that I’d recommend reading include Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam, The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton, and Unshakeable by Tony Robbins. Across all the reading I’ve done around wealth building, the common message is simple: invest early, invest in low-cost index funds, and pay yourself first.

I’ve found that the hardest part is not necessarily the “technical stuff” like finding the right low-cost index fund provider – there are a ton of great options available today – but the behavioral change in managing my budget and saving more for my future. One tool that I’ve been using consistently over the past couple of years is YNAB (or You Need a Budget) which is a fabulous budgeting tool that’s helped me build a solid financial buffer and create visibility into how I’m spending my money each month.

The Problem with Models

All models are wrong, but some are useful.

– George E. P. Box

The Cynefrin Framework is a decision-making model which describes how systems and scenarios can fit into one of four types: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. For the most part, our lives and the interplay of our priorities are not a simple or a complicated system. They are most often complex or even chaotic depending on what’s happening in our lives. And while it’s convenient to have a model that helps us clarify priorities, our lives by no means are as cut and dry as the tree-ring model suggests. There’s constant interplay between priorities and some event might shift dramatically one week or month to another.

It’s for this reason that the goal of this model is not to maintain each priority in its “correct” ring but rather we accept that things will change and that we need the resilience and flexibility to deal with those changes quickly. We need an internal philosophy and approach to life that acts as the roots of the tree to make this model work. Personally, I’m exploring the work of the Stoics which happens to match my mindset in life quite well but yours will likely be different. Whatever it is, spend the time exploring your own vision and mission in your life so you have the foundation underneath your priorities – especially for when times might get rough and unpredictable.

Finally, thinking about my priorities through the lens of this model has been a huge help in knowing where to invest my limited time and resources. For example, when I budget for my monthly expenses, I categorize each budget item under one of the five priorities above. Since Physical Health is my biggest priority, I’m not afraid to fund it with the most amount of dollars. In essence, I’m starting to build awareness on putting my money where my mouth is as far as key priorities go.

So, what now?

I hope the model above provides just a bit of inspiration to create your own tree ring model. I’d imagine your version may have a different order in the rings or perhaps completely different priorities. Whatever you land with, the key here is awareness as that first step to realize what and who you truly value in your life. I also encourage you not to be stuck in your current situation. Imagine ahead at the next year, what would you like your tree ring to look like by then? Priorities don’t have to stay the same and if you want to change them, you have the power to make it happen.

As Jim Rohn once said, “if you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.”

Book Summaries

Book Notes | The Courage to be Disliked

By Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

ISBN: 1501197274

Year read: 2019

How strongly I recommend it: 10/10

This book is structured as a conversation between a young man and a philosopher. Over five nights they talk and debate the meaning in our lives through the lens of Adlerian psychology. I didn’t know anything about Adlerian psychology until this book but it struck a deep chord in me. If you feel like you’re struggling to find direction in your life or want to establish a clearer framework on how to live a fulfilling life, this book might be for you.


Don’t focus on what I don’t have. Focus on making the most of the equipment that I do have.

My past experiences and traumas don’t have to dictate who I become. I can have the courage to change my own life.

Don’t give myself the excuse that because “I don’t have this or can’t do this” that I’m incapable.

Adlerian psychology differs from Freudian psychology because it denies trauma as a deterministic event in one’s life. We have to deny trauma if we’re going to move forward from them. Not to forget it but to not let it prevent us from having the courage to change.

Being a part of a society means that having interpersonal relationships is unavoidable. We must learn to accept and deal with interpersonal relationships.

Problems in our lives emerge because we avoid or fail to deal properly with interpersonal relationships. And the truth is that we will get hurt in these relationships and will hurt others along the way too.

Knowing this, some people go as far as disliking themselves to avoid interpersonal relationships all together so they won’t get hurt. They give themselves an excuse to dislike others so they won’t get hurt.

Competition cannot be the core of any good relationship. A feeling of inferiority is healthy if that competition is against one’s ideal self rather than a comparison to others.

Part of the feeling of inferiority is accepting the “imperfect me” just as I am. When we’re learning something new – and we’re always learning – we must accept we are imperfect but that we are capable of changing that.

There are two objectives for behaviour: to be self reliant and to live in harmony with society.

There are three categories of interpersonal relationships: “tasks of work”, “tasks of friendship”, and “tasks of love”. We have no choice but to confront them when attempting to live as a social being. These, all together, are our “life tasks”.

One must not seek recognition or reward from others.

One must seek to separate tasks that belong to themselves and others.

The way to separate tasks is to ask yourself, “who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about the choice that is made?”

In addition to knowing who will ultimately receive the results brought about the choice that is made, one must allow others to experience the emotions that come with the separation that is created. You don’t and can’t own the emotions of the other person – that is theirs to experience.

It all starts by building horizontal – not vertical – relationships.

Having worth is about being beneficial to the community around you. Someone who is beneficial to their community is someone who has a concern for others, builds horizontal relationships, and takes the approach of encouragement.

The goal of interpersonal relations is to achieve “community feeling.”

If a relationship can breakdown just because you raise an objection, then it’s not the sort of relationship you should be in in the first place.

People who hold the belief that they are the centre of the world always end up losing their comrades before long.

When you feel like “I am useful to someone” it gives you the courage to live.

You can’t just build a horizontal relationship with one person in your life. Even one vertical relationship can seep through other areas of your life. You must have the courage to assert what needs to be asserted in all relationships in your life.

Self acceptance is about accepting “one’s incapable self”. It’s not about lying to yourself, but it’s also not about simply accepting the fact that you’ll always be incapable. You believe that you can change yourself but you’re not lying to yourself about your current abilities.

The key ingredient to changing your “incapable self”? It’s about courage. We don’t lack ability – we just lack courage to change what we can change.

Affirmative resignation (accepting what you are now but knowing you can change) doesn’t automatically lead to community feeling & contribution to others. The second key concept — confidence in others — is critical to recognize at this point.

From the standpoint of Adlerian psychology, the basis of interpersonal relations is founded not on trust but on confidence. It is believing in others without any set condition whatsoever.

“Doubt” cannot be the foundation of any relationship. Suppose you doubt your colleagues, friends, family, and partner? There’s no doubt they’ll detect your doubt in your voice, eyes, and demeanour. They’ll soon realize that you don’t have confidence in them. Building a positive relationship with that feeling of doubt will almost certainly prevent any deep relationship from forming. This is why we have to start with unconditional confidence in others.

Unconditional confidence is about making the relationship with the other person better and building a horizontal relationship.

The courage to overcome the fear of being taking advantage of comes form self-acceptance. We have two options: to believe or to doubt. If we’re aspiring to see others in the world as comrades, we only have one option that makes sense.

There are two objectives for behaviour: to be self reliant and to live in harmony with society. The two objectives of psychology that support these two behaviours is to consciousness that I do have the ability and the confidence in others.

For a human being, the greatest unhappiness comes from not being able to like oneself. The feeling of being “beneficial to a community” or “being use to someone” is the only way that one can feel like they have self worth.

Happiness is the feeling of contribution. You might never know how you contributed to someone’s life but that’s not important. All we need is the subjective sense that we were useful to someone.

The courage to be normal. This is what must be emphasized rather than the desire to be special.

Life is a series of moments. When we cast a dim light on the past or future, we’re forgetting to appreciate the beauty in what’s happening before our eyes.

If life is a series of moments and the goal is to dance in each moment, the objective isn’t to move forward to a destination in that moment. You’re dancing for the sake of dancing, enjoying it, and being present in that moment.

Life in general has no meaning. We must assign our own meaning to our life.

Adler’s compass – his North Star – is making sure we point ourselves in the direction of “contribution to others”. When we’re making a contribution to others, we’re going in the right direction.

Someone always has to start. Others might not be cooperative but that’s not up to you. I should always be the one to start.

The world is simple, and life is too.

Monthly Learnings

Monthly Learnings Roundup (December 2018)

Thanks for checking out the Monthly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, monthly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across last month.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming month. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You by Coach Tony

If you own an iPhone, this is a must-read article for you. So often we let the manufacturers and designers of our smart phones (who spend Billions of dollars to keep us hooked) dictate how we interact with our phones – this article helps you take back that power. Coach Tony does a great job laying out the steps and configuration from simple to complex. You don’t necessarily have to adopt all of the new configurations so it’s worth taking a look through the list to see which ones resonate with you first. If you like the first few configurations you make, try some other ones. Let’s shift the relationship we have with our phones one step at a time.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes that I enjoyed last month —

Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett & Glen Cordoza

This tome of a book is the holy grail for anyone looking to improve their mobility in athletics to day-to-day activities. I’ve been more conscious of my mobility of late after starting heavier weights for my olympic lifts. It’s become (painfully) clear that my lack of mobility in my hamstrings, calves, and ankles limit my ability to stabilize and be more explosive. With the help of this book and weekly stretch classes at my gym, I’m getting better. I’m also getting a better idea of how to better brace my spine for day-to-day activities and use “smashing” and “flossing” tools like foam rollers and acu-balls to loosen my muscles. There’s a long way to go before I can say I’m more mobile but I’m happy I’m taking the first step now in my early 30s.

Quotes that are inspiring me —

Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.

— Leonardo Da Vinci

Behaviour change of the month —

Time-Restricted Feeding

Based on recent research on mice, time-restricted feeding (TRF) has shown to lead to weight loss and lean muscle gain. There’s increasing science out there that your body performs important regenerative activites during a fasting period and we’re often short-changing this function when we eat later in the evening.

The gist of TRF is that you restrict the time of day that you eat food according to your circardian rhythm. A typical fast would begin at sundown and continue for 13-hours. So, if you were to begin your fast at 6pm, your next intake of food should be at 7am.

I’m trying it out for the next 12 weeks to see if TRF makes a difference in my biomarkers. It’ll be a bit of a shift for me as I tend to eat later in the evening (7-9pm) but I’m guessing this new rhythm will help me feel more rejuvanated in the morning & energized throughout the day.

Featured image by Hutomo Abrianto.

As always, thanks for checking out this Monthly Learnings Roundup.

Monthly Learnings

Monthly Learnings Roundup (November 2018)

Thanks for checking out the Monthly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, monthly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across last month.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming month. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

An incredible book on how to create and sustain personal and organizational change. I learned a lot from this book and exposed my blindspots about how real behaviour change happens. My biggest takeaway was that change of any sort involves three elements: The Rider, The Elephant, and The Path.

The Rider is our rational side – we analyze and commit to things that we can logically understand.

The Elephant is our emotional side – sustained behaviour change can’t happen unless we’re motivated at a deeper level.

The Path is our environment – where the change happens, who we’re around, and how we approach the change matters a lot. Building the right habits & surrounding ourselves with a “tribe” of similar thinkers helps make change stick.

I feel pretty strong on the Rider & Path side as I’ve read a lot of books about planning and habit building but I’d always underestimated the power of The Elephant. This book has opened my eyes to the importance of integrating The Elephant into all of my behavioural goals.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes that I enjoyed last month —

The Redeemed and the Dominant on Netflix

A documentary of the 2017 CrossFit games. These are some of the most physically fit people I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s motivating and inspiring to see them push the limits through an array of physical challenges. Even if you’re not into CrossFit, this will be a riveting watch.

Quotes that are inspiring me —

When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.

— Epictetus

Behaviour change of the month —

Be Spartan Ready

I’ve been reading up a lot lately about the Spartan Race and I’m currently in the process of training for a race in June, 2019. In preparation (and in the spirit of the aforementioned focus on engaging The Elephant in goal setting) I’ve made it a goal to “Be Spartan Ready” in seven-months time. Instead of focusing on losing weight or body fat percentage, my goal now is to train my body for a Spartan Race and be ready for any obstacle they throw my way. It’s a far more motivating goal and also has a specific outcome attached.

It’s a behaviour change for me because everything I do from here until June needs to be juxtaposed with the thought: will this help me Be Spartan Ready? The popcorn or candy because just a bit harder to stomach when I have a bigger, emotional connection to a goal I’m going after.

“ah-ha!” thought of the month —

Mental Health > Physical Health

I’ve been reading Stoic philosophy over the past few years and one thing that becomes clear as I learn more about this way of living is that the Stoics believed that mental strength and resilience were far more important that physical health or anything material for that matter. They believed that everything physical that we possess is on loan. You’re going to have to return it one day. Whether that be our health in old age or our relationships when our spouses or friends move on or pass away. The only thing you have is your mind and how you control your emotions to these losses.

I feel like I’m buying into this more and more. The one key strength that we can cultivate more of in all of our lives is mental strength and resilience. Even in everyday situations like a rude client or a critical colleague, if we can find a way to be more “antifragile” in our everyday, we can live a life of greater peace and contentment. So maybe it’s time to shift more of my focus to building my mental resilience than thinking and doing too much about my physical health.

Product or service I’m loving —


I was introduced to YouAte by my nutritionist. It’s basically a food-tracking app that uses photos instead of typing in cumbersome details about calories, macros, etc. It feels more human when it’s just a quick shot you need to take of your food. The quick snapshots allow you to visualize your eating patterns and identify foods that are “on path” or “off path”. If you go “off path” for a couple of meals in a row, there’s that visual stimulus that compels you to get back on track for the next meal.

The free version allows you to take unlimited photos with one caveat – you can’t access their social network of other users. You can, however, add someone who does have the premium version – in my case it was my nutritionist – so they can see your eating path. Super helpful when you’re working with someone directly to improve your nutrition habits.

Featured image by eberhard grossgasteiger

As always, thanks for checking out this Monthly Learnings Roundup!

Monthly Learnings

Monthly Learnings Roundup (October 2018)

Thanks for checking out the Monthly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, monthly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this month.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming month. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think by Tim Urban via Wait But Why

A classic blog post about why letting our “social survival mammoth” run our lives will lead to an unfulfilling life. Learning how we can tame our instinct to follow social pressures and norms and crafting our own ideal life is something I’m learning to do everyday.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes that I enjoyed last month —

Reverse engineered approach to human longevity by Peter Attia at MIT’s Whitehead Institute

Dr. Attia is well respected voice in the medical community for his insights around human health and longevity. This 90+ minute video gives a really good overview of his thinking around not just improving our lifespan but our healthspan (i.e. the number of healthy, productive years we live) and how we might go about achieving a higher quality of life. It gets pretty in-depth so if you’re a novice in this subject, you might get lost when he deep dives into a couple of topics. Either way, it’s a great watch if you’re curious about this kind of stuff.

Quotes that are inspiring me —

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

— Ian MacLaren

Behaviour change of the month —

Checking in: gaining 10 lbs of lean mass

Back in August, I wrote about my goal to add 10 lbs of lean mass in 2 months. I just want to share a quick update since then. My average weight back in July was 142 lbs with an average lean mass of 120.7 lbs and a body fat percentage of 14.9%. Today, my average weight is 151.9 lbs with an avereage lean mass of 124.3 lbs and a body fat percentage of 18.1%.

I must admit that this is not quite how I imagined this all to work out! Yes, I’ve upped my lean mass by 3.6 lbs but I also added 9.9 lbs of fat — clearly not good. There’s a couple of things that didn’t help.

1) I was consuming a lot of milk that my body wasn’t able to digest effectively. Specifically in Canada, all milk is pasteurized which leaves no probiotic bacteria to help with digestion and protein synthesis.

2) I needed a better strategy on the road. I was traveling almost half the month in September & October leaving me out of a proper, health “bulking” routine.

To me, this was a really good experiment and a learning lesson. Bulking up is hard (duh!) but only you can figure out the right strategy that matches your body. And it’s no wonder that people do this over the course of a one-month “sprint” because the amount of attention you need to put into your diet and exercise.

I’ll be experimenting again – likely in January or February – and will report back on findings then.

Product or service I’m loving —

S’well Onyx Traveler water bottle

I’ve been using this water bottle for my strength training workouts and it’s been the perfect companion. It’s got a wide base so it doesn’t tip over easily and there’s a bit of a rough texture on the outside which makes it easier to grip. The wide mouth also makes it easier to pour in electrolytes or other workout powders. It’s become a huge staple to my workout gear.

Featured image by Craig Adderly.

As always, thanks for checking out this Monthly Learnings Roundup!

Monthly Learnings

Monthly Learnings Roundup (September 2018)

Thanks for checking out the Monthly Learning Roundup. These bite-sized, monthly posts are designed to give you a quick hit of interesting learnings and articles I came across this month.

It’s a motley assortment of tips, resources, and links that will hopefully give you a bit of inspiration for the upcoming month. Enjoy!

What I’m reading —

When to work: How to optimize your daily schedule for energy, motivation, and focus by Jory MacKay (via RescueTime:blog)

I’m more conscious of late about leveraging my circardian rhythm to optimize my day. This article gives a great overview not just of your circardian rhythm but also two other daily cycles that affect your productivity. The last part of the article talks a bit about RescueTime’s product and tracking but I think you’ll find it interesting or maybe even worth a try yourself. Full disclosure: I’ve been a RescueTime user for 2+ years now.

Books, documentaries, or podcast episodes that I enjoyed last month —

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

This might be the best book I’ve read all year. It’s as honest and open of a memoir that I’ve read from someone as successful as Knight who shares his journey borrowing $50 from his dad to start, what later became, Nike. This book is one that anyone, anywhere – from a CEO to an intern – should pickup and experience.

Quotes that are inspiring me —

A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.

— William Shakespeare

Behaviour change of the month —


I’ve been underwhelmed with a number of task management/organization philosophies that I’ve tried in the past. They were either too cumbersome or just not robust enough for me to get enough value out of them everyday. I’d heard about the Bullet Journal in the past and decided to give it a shot in September.

I have to say, I’m really impressed with the flexibility and simplicity of the Bulletjournaling system. I like how it’s analog (e.g. you still use a notebook as your primary note-taking system) and easy enough to fit it into any part of your workflow. Maintenance time for this system is minimal too – just a morning/evening setup and a monthly “migration” protocol. Give it a shot if you’re looking to try a new way to organize your life effectively.

“ah-ha!” thought of the month —

In August, I published a post called A Simple Model I Use to Organize My Life Priorities which I was really proud to share with the world. I’m now realizing that the post and the model I share in it is missing an critical component – philosophy. Philosophy (or your approach to life) is probably the central piece to the model I shared. You can have many of the extrinsic things like good physical and mental health, strong relationships, and wealth, but what really leads to the “good life” is having a clear guiding philosphy to life. Without one, you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labour or really feel present with those around you. It’s a thought that I hope to expand upon on an updated version of the post!

Product or service I’m loving —

Google Keep

Google recently integrated some of their tools like Keep and Tasks to their Gmail interface. I’d never used either of them before but I’ve come to really enjoy using Google Keep. I use it essentially as a “bulletin board” for key links and documents I want to have quick access to. It’s way easier to track down a document than having to comb through the depths of Google Drive.

Featured image by Stas Knop.

As always, thanks for checking out this Monthly Learnings Roundup. Follow me on Twitter @peternakamura to see all the articles that I share on a daily basis.