Achieving Unrealistic Goals

I’ve never been good at setting goals that I actually achieve. This is usually because I set absurdly aggressive goals that push me to go beyond what I ever thought was possible. I think this is a great thing in startups and in life to set a really high bar for yourself (and others) and then if you do fall short you’ve often gotten beyond what a “reasonable” goal would have been.

There are two examples in my personal life where I’ve actually achieved what seemed like an unrealistic goal. They both involve weight loss… once when I was 12 (ironically in order to play football) and the other time over the last 9 months.

You’ll lose ½ pound for every pound I gain

Early in my wife Marcia’s pregnancy she made an outlandish comment – “you lose a half a pound for every pound I gain while I’m pregnant.” I looked at her like she was crazy… don’t women usually gain like 30 pounds while pregnant?!?! How the hell would I lose 15 pounds in 9 months?!

For context, I’ve been claiming that I would get myself under 180 pounds since we met in college. That’s a good 12 years of claims with very little action. So I think Marcia saw her chance to challenge me, knowing how competitive I am. And, lets face it… I needed it. We had just come back from Europe with me tipping the scales at over 195.

But this time it worked! When Marcia gave birth to our darling little Claire Avery Segall on October 4th, I had dropped down to 177 pounds!!! I’d lost 18 pounds, which exceeded my goal of losing ½ pound for each of the 27 pounds Marcia gained. So what did I learn from this:

  • Interdependent goals – having a goal that’s supported by and accountable to someone else is key.
  • Good tools help – data, feedback, and tracking are all key to accomplishing and measuring anything.
  • Sometimes you need a little “luck” – take the speedbumps and use them as a chance to accelerate rather than slow you down.

Interdependent Goals

As Marcia was on her goal to stay in shape during pregnancy and only add the additional calories and nutrients needed, not excess weight, we were aligned in our goals. We could hold each other accountable to eating well and staying active. It was like we had a zero-sum amount of calories in the household, as she needed 200-300 more per day I needed to cut those out.

What’s awesome is that while she was helping me, encouraging me, yelling at me, I was able to return the favor. In the end, she met her goal of staying in shape and I met my weight loss goal.
The best part – when we ventured out with Claire 2 days ago, Marcia was already fitting into some of her pre-maternity clothing only 11 days postpartum (and I needed a belt for my previously tight jeans).

Tools that help

I’m a huge believer in the quantified self and my favorite company is Fitbit. I wear my Fitibit every day to track my activity and have the Aria wifi scale at home. (Note – if you love data driven behavioral change – check out Simple Energy, we’re hiring and you get a Fitbit when you start J).

I’ve found that turning the little everyday things into activities also helps. You’ll often find me strolling around downtown Boulder looking like a wacko as I have my Bluetooth headphones plugged into both ears taking calls. Or turning any meeting I can into a walking meeting is a great way to get out, get some steps in, and stimulate the thinking.

Sometimes you need a little “luck”

I was on track with losing some weight but not to hitting my goal when in September I got the stomach flu. Not keeping food in me for 4 days sucked, but on the plus side it jumpstarted my last 6 weeks of losing weight before Claire was born. I think this kind of “luck” is there for us all the time.

The really crappy (no pun intended) situations that are upsetting, set you back, or take it out of you can be the jumpstart you need to hitting your goal. I see this in startups and personal life all the time – those that hit their goals find a way to take the speedbumps as a way to decelerate and come out of the bump faster, stronger, and better.

So what have I learned?

  1. Being a dad is awesome… Being a dad and finally seeing the chart on Fitbit showing me in the “normal” weight zone for the first time is even better;
  2. Achieving unreasonable goals with the support, accountability, and tools to enable success is the best;
  3. Sometimes you need a little “luck”… or at least a mentality to turn the speedbumps into accelerators

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