Fitness, Nutrition

Nutrition and Productivity

How Your Food Impacts Personal Productivity and Performance

I shared this information via webinar for my employer. What follows is the content of that webinar in it’s entirety.

Before we get started, I owe you some context. I’ve been a healthy living advocate since 2009, learning through trial & error and tons of research while training for triathlon and trying to figure out my bothersome digestive issues. I started writing and sharing my personal healthy living journey around 2014 and have enjoyed coaching others to live their healthy best since then.

I’m passionate about helping people live their healthy best because I don’t want anyone to live their golden years like my dad did. He suffered all thru his 60’s with debilitating heart and lung issues in large part because of the choices he made about his health as a younger man. I’m convinced that no matter our age or health now, making simple lifestyle changes today will make a big difference in how we enjoy the rest of our life. So that’s why I do what I do, and why I’m presenting today.

But I get it, so this doesn’t seem like a thrilling topic to discuss. Before you lean back in your chair and just tune out until its finally over and collect your wellness points, give me a chance to share an unconventional performance hack that will make you better at your job. And the truth is, implementing some simple tips I’m about to share can dramatically improve your health and the quality of your work – and get this – without exercising or starving yourself! How does that sound?

Your Health is YOUR Job

Think about this with me for a minute. You have a job. You need it. You have to show up every day and give your best effort at your job, because if you don’t there will be trouble. With me? You won’t let yourself fail at work because you need the job and others are counting on you.

  • Job requires focus, consistency, and effort: You are focused at work; you do what needs to be done. In your work, you have proven that you are capable of focus, consistency over time, and hard work.
  • How healthy could you be with this mindset? What if you took even 1/2 of that focus, consistency, and effort and applied it to other areas of your life? Would you be a better spouse, parent, friend? What would your health look like with this kind of effort? I talk to people all the time who are good at their work, but their health is not so great. They don’t have time, or they are too tired they say. I say Baloney.
  • No health = No work: Listen, you need to take care of your health as if it were part of your job. If your health fails, can you work? If you are overweight, stiff, exhausted, or frequently ill you know your ability to take care of your loved ones is reduced. In other words, to be your best at the roles that are most important to you, you need to optimize your health.

“But I’m just a desk jockey”

I know what you are thinking. “But I’m just a desk jockey.” My health doesn’t really matter because I only need my brain to do my work. “Where’s the donuts?”

  • You have one chance: Please take your health seriously. You have one life to live, one chance to make an impact on this world, one chance to leave a lasting and positive legacy for future generations. Don’t be held back from being your best because you chose to be lazy with your health. You are better than that. And you know you can do hard things, because you prove it in your day job.  So treat your health like your job. There is your #toughlove
  • Many rewards & benefits to healthy living: Your body and mind will reward your efforts and your work will improve as well. You’ll be your best at life AND your job. There’s a ton of healthy living benefits including: boosts confidence, improves mood/ outlook, reduces stress, improves memory, strengthens immune system – you’ll also have more energy & strength, a healthy body weight, better sleep, and mental clarity to name a few.

Now that you are all fired up about the importance of taking care of your health, let’s drill down to look at nutrition and its impacts on your work performance.

Problem: Work Performance is impacted by food

Have you ever felt any of these symptoms during the work day?

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Reduced ability to think clearly
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Depression
  • Decreased productivity

These symptoms are all consequences of a poor diet. Chances are you’ve heard the old adage “you are what you eat.” The idea is that everything you eat affects the way your body functions and performs. When you eat healthy, your body processes the nutrients and maximizes them for optimal energy and performance.

Think of it this way; Your mind is a muscle. It is a professional athlete in the business world. Like all pros, you need to take care of yourself, recover, and be fueled properly.  When you are tempted to neglect your nutrition, consider the following ways it will impact your personal productivity and performance.

Poor nutrition is a primary contributor to these work related issues:

  • Productivity takes a hit: Science tells us that a typical high carbohydrate breakfast of cereal, toast, muffins, juice impact brain function – particularly mood and comprehension – and not in a healthy way.  High carb foods release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. High fat meals (such as cheeseburgers & drive thru breakfast sandwiches) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy. We can’t perform our best when our brains are starving for nutrients. The energy crash or grogginess definitely impacts productivity.
  • Self control goes out the window: Don’t make a big work or life decision when you are hungry! Hunger can kill productivity and make you “hangry.” Our body converts food to glucose, which provides the energy our brain needs to stay alert. Consuming foods with a high glycemic index value cause blood sugar levels to spike. These spikes send your energy through the roof for a short time, then it’s crash & burn. Not only have you lost energy, but you will quickly be hungry again. This vicious cycle is how we get fat – eating the wrong foods for “energy” only to crash and burn, get hangry and repeat. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.

When you are hungry your stomach releases the hormone ghrelin. Research has found that this hormone impacts impulsivity and decision-making capabilities. That means when we’re hungry, we are more likely to rush a decision, snap at customer or co-worker, or respond irrationally to a situation because we are at our lowest point in energy and self-control. And when deciding what to eat, all you can think is “gimme food now!” French fries and candy bars are a lot more appetizing when you’re mentally drained.

  • Exhaustion kicks into daily life: Dietary patterns and food choices can also influence nighttime sleep and recovery. To all the caffeine junkies out there I say resist the urge to consume that late afternoon cup of coffee or soda, because the caffeine will last 5-6 hours after you drink it putting a damper on your sleep quality. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to jitteriness and anxiety, distracting you from work and interfering with your sleep schedule. If you lose too much sleep, no amount of caffeine will be able to make up for your mental fatigue. At the same time, caffeine dependency can cause withdrawal symptoms if you miss a day. I’m not saying that coffee or caffeine is evil, just be mindful about your consumption. Also know that eating that big meal before bed can wreck your sleep as well. This is like telling your body it’s time to fuel up and keep going, not wind down to rest. Try to target 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime.
  • Low blood sugar wrecks performance: Almost anything you eat will raise your blood sugar in some way. So if your blood sugar gets too low, you’ll need to eat something if you want to achieve your optimal performance. However, not all foods raise blood glucose in the same way or in the same amounts. Foods higher in the glycemic index, like candy bars and white rice, will cause your blood glucose to spike, then crash shortly thereafter. Low glycemic index foods, like oatmeal and most fruits and vegetables, will provide a steady release over the course of hours.

By the way, you can find GI charts online- there’s also one on my website. Generally speaking, the more processed the food is, the higher the GI value and lower performance value. To be clear, carbs are not the enemy as some fad diets claim. It’s the quality of carbs that counts. The glycemic index is one way to measure the quality of the carb. Another simple way is to check ingredients. Eating real food in its most natural form is best, so look for foods with the fewest ingredients, as that usually means it has been less processed and stripped of its nutritional value.

How To Optimize Performance With Food

So that was the bad news. Now let’s talk about what you all came here for – how to optimize performance with food.

First let me say that we should never assume that better information will motivate us to change. For example: Most of us are well aware that scarfing down a processed mixture of chicken bones and leftover carcasses is not a good life decision. But that doesn’t make chicken nuggets any less delicious. Am I right?

Awareness is a helpful first step, but what we really need is an action plan that makes healthy eating easier – along with a mindset shift regarding the way we think about food. But before we talk about the mental side of healthy eating, let’s review some strategies to optimize performance with food.

  • Substantial breakfast of varied nutrients: Start your day off right with a substantial meal, full of proteins and complex carbohydrates. Eggs and whole wheat toast are a solid bet, or oatmeal with fruit & nuts. Breakfast is the fuel you need to start your work day, so don’t skip breakfast. Target a mix of the major food groups such as:

Fruits and vegetables: Fresh or frozen produce is best. You can also have fruit and vegetable juice or smoothies. Just make sure that the label says “100 percent juice.”

Whole grains: These can be found in certain hot or cold cereals, crackers, or bagels. Look for whole grain as the first ingredient.

Protein: Good examples for breakfast include eggs, peanut butter, lean meat, and plant proteins like nuts and seeds.

Dairy: Try skim milk, plain yogurt, real cheese, or cottage cheese.

  • Plan ahead and pack your lunch: Spend a little time at the beginning of the week preparing. The more you can do upfront, the less you have to do as the week rolls on. I do meal prep on Sunday – it takes about an hour for the whole week. I bake chicken breast, cubed sweet potato, and spinach egg cups. I’ll cut up melon or pineapple too. I keep lots of bananas & apples, baby carrots, whole wheat bread & wraps, and raw nuts stocked as well. 

Hard boil some eggs for grab & go. Eggs contain choline – a nutrient that improves memory and reaction time while providing a nice slow energy release to your system.

When you have easy to grab food on hand you are better equipped to make the right choices and stay productive. Banana is an excellent mid morning or afternoon snack choice.

Low glycemic foods like lean protein, rolled oats, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens can help you think clearly.

Sandwiches on whole grain breads, pitas, or wraps are a good choice, particularly when paired with spreads like hummus and fillings like tuna, sliced eggs, or lean meats like turkey or chicken. Salads pack well too if the dressing is kept separate from the leafy greens. Bring small containers of chopped veggies, almonds, granola bars, bananas, and apples for additional snacks during the day to keep your brain and body humming.

Packing your lunch not only ensures that you have the types of food you need, it also helps to avoid the temptations of skipping meals, hitting the vending machine, or joining coworkers for unhealthy fast food.

It also pays to plan ahead. Nearly a week’s worth of packed lunches costs the same as one lunch out.

By the way, the best way to avoid junk food is to not bring into your home. I would eat a bag of cookies every week if they were in my house. The solution is to simply not buy them. When planning your grocery run, scratch off the junk food. You will thank yourself later.

  • Graze instead of skipping meals: Eat like a Hobbit. Breakfast, Second breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper. HA! The point is don’t save up for lunch and stuff your face. It’s better to graze steadily throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels even… as long as you choose healthy options. When you’re busy at work, it’s easy to skip meals in an effort to squeeze out more productivity. Don’t do it! Skipping meals will hurt you later in the day by lowering your energy and productivity.

Also, you may think that skipping meals will help with your waistline, but it won’t. Your body tends to compensate for the missing meals by lowering metabolism, storing fat, etc. Truth is, when you fuel with the right foods on a regular schedule you won’t feel starved at all. In fact, you can actually lose weight while eating more!

  • Budget caffeine: If timed right, coffee (and other forms of caffeine) can improve your performance in the short term, when consumed in moderation. Consider gradually shifting to decaf coffee after lunch, so you don’t interfere with your sleep cycle. Tea is another decent form of natural caffeine, but I highly recommend avoiding caffeinated sodas and so-called energy drinks. Most are a toxic chemical cocktail that will do your body more harm than good.

Drink More Water

  • Wake up. Hydrate: Sleeping dehydrates you. I have a big drink first thing in the morning (20 oz at least) to relieve dehydration, start my digestive system before breakfast, help me feel more full before I eat, and wake me up. Drinking more water is among the best bang-for-your-buck healthy eating tips.
  • Drink then eat: Drinking a big glass of water before every meal will help you to eat less because you will feel more full.
  • Handy water bottle: Have a water bottle with you at your desk or work place all day. Drink from it often. Target ½ your body weight in ounces of water consumed every day.
  • Color check: Be aware of your urine color. Clear to light yellow is good. Darker yellow means drink more water. Beware that certain medications or vitamins will discolor your pee for a few hours, so don’t freak out about that.

  • Listen to your body: Have a headache or feeling ‘hangry’ (aka: hungry/ irritable/ angry)? Drink a big glass of water first. Give it 10 minutes to see if it makes you feel better. Many times it will. The headache is your body telling you that you are dehydrated.
  • Other drinks are NOT water: Please do not replace water with soda, sports drinks, coffee, alcohol, juice, milk, etc. Your body needs water. While some juice, milk, wine and plain coffee may have some health benefits, MOST drinks are filled with artificial and chemical ingredients that do more harm than good.

Productivity Boosting Snacks

  • Target a mix of carbs and protein: An ideal snack for productivity should contain a mix of both carbohydrates and protein. Your brain and central nervous system run exclusively on carbs (sugar) found in foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, milk and yogurt. You need protein such as meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and seeds to sustain energy and fullness longer.
  • Apple & peanut butter: One of my go-to 3 pm snacks. Super simple and easy.
  • Hard cooked eggs & fresh fruit: Another option here is egg cups – baked in muffin tin. I add chopped spinach to sneak in another veggie serving. Perfect for grab & go. Nuke them for 30 sec.
  • Trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruit): Use pre-packaged trail mix with caution. Many have chemical additives, sugars, etc. Read the label. Make your own mix.
  • Yogurt bar (natural granola, trail mix): Yogurt can be tricky. Most flavored yogurts are full of added sugar. Look for minimal ingredients.
  • Real cheese & whole wheat crackers: Triscuits are a good cracker choice – minimal ingredients. Real cheese is healthy in moderation. Processed cheese is really bad. Kraft, Velveeta= skip
  • Smoothie bar (yogurt, frozen berries, banana, almond milk, spinach, peanut/ almond butter, etc.): Not all protein powders are created equal. In fact, some have a mile long ingredients label that reads like an alien language. Read the label. As with all food labels, if you don’t know what the ingredient is, or you couldn’t buy it on it’s own in the store, think twice about eating it. That said, Shakeology is my favorite.

Solution: Mindset Matters

Science, facts, and food lists are great, but they do little to change behavior. What we need is to change the way we THINK about food and our relationship to it. There is no escaping that we behave according to what we believe. So the first thing to do is think about what you believe. Do you believe that food impacts performance at work and life? Do you believe that you can kick bad habits and replace them with healthy ones? The answer is YES! Yes you can. Maybe the following mental floss will help you ConQuer Your Mind.

  • Determine your “Driving Force”: What is your driving force? What is your personal compelling reason WHY you want to eat healthy, break bad habit, start healthy habit, change a behavior? This is key, because if you don’t have this firmly ingrained to your mind, you will more easily quit when the change gets hard…and it surely will. Lack of a driving force is a main reason resolutions fail.
  • Take Baby Steps: Don’t try to fix everything all at once. You will fail. Instead, take baby steps. Small, reasonable goals are helpful. Make it a habit, then move on to the next step. For nutrition, maybe start with drinking more water. Then maybe replace soda or energy drinks. Then add more movement to your routine. One baby step at a time. Be consistent over time.
  • Think “Replace” instead of “Cut”: One of the big problems I have with diets is they are always cutting something out. Telling you what you can’t do or have. We don’t like being told we can’t have this or do that, especially when it comes to food. So dieters eventually cave for the thing they can’t have, get depressed that they failed, and quit. Instead, I want you to simply replace. Drink water instead of soda, eat whole wheat bread instead of white, choose a fresh fruit instead of a candy. This is a mental exercise to change the response you have to a natural trigger that launches your bad eating habit. For example, say it’s 3:00 and you are dragging, or maybe just finished a stressful conference call. These are triggers that might normally make you reach for a sugary snack or soda as a “pick-me-up” or stress reliever. You recognize the trigger and instead go for an apple or get up and walk around, have a big drink of water, etc.
  • Fuel vs. Friend: One of the hardest mindset shifts to make about food is this. Food is meant to be fuel. You are a highly complex machine that requires the right fuel to perform optimally. When you feed your body what it needs, it will do amazing things for you. Conversely, when you eat junk, your body responds poorly as we’ve already discussed. But we like to use food as our friend. The one who comforts us when we are stressed, bored, tired. The one we celebrate with when things are good. The problem is that in these instances, food is a lousy friend. When we go to food for comfort, to relieve stress, or to celebrate, we choose poorly, consume mass quantities, and are left with regret, digestive issues, and tighter pants. I’m all about enjoying food, but I’ve learned that changing my mind about food has been a game changer for my health. Over time you will find that the benefits far outweigh the consequences. For example. I’ve not had soda for over 20 years because I realize my body does not respond to it very well. I don’t even miss it. Same with fast food. Once I realized that it messed up my guts and made me feel bad EVERY TIME, I quit eating it. We can ALWAYS do better than traditional fast food.
  • Be Accountable: Ugh, accountability is too convicting. Perhaps, but it works. Especially if you regard it in a positive way. It’s meant to help you not punish or condemn. Lack of accountability is another main reason resolutions fail. Truth is, we are far more likely to stick with our goals and healthy habits when we share them with others. So tell others your plan and ask them to hold you to it. Better yet, get others to join you in your healthy pursuit. Post you plans & goals, along with your driving force, everywhere. Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results. By the way, I almost always have a small group of people in a virtual or online accountability group because we know that we are better together. If being in such a group sounds interesting to you, connect with me separately for more info.

So there is the plan. Since you now believe that food not only impacts your health, but also your work, you are inspired to take action, right? I’ve given you a simple 5 step plan to follow and laid out ideas for foods you should be eating. Enjoy!

Resources & Content credits

First is my personal website where I share all kinds of healthy living content. Find articles about breaking bad habits, healthy eating, fitness tips, exercise programs and calendars, recipes, etc. Next is my favorite healthy eating site. Here you can learn how to eat real food without counting calories or starving yourself and still lose weight. Hundreds of recipes too. The rest of the list are others sources I used to help me research this topic. I don’t agree with everything in these articles, but they were very helpful.

Fortitude, Personal Development

Productivity Habits for High Achievers

If I have learned anything in my 20+ years of project management experience, it’s that there is always room to grow and improve my skills as a PM. Some of the best things I’m learning about being a successful PM didn’t come from college, expensive seminars, or even on the job training. What I’m about to share with you are several simple habits and tips we can adopt to maximize our productivity on the job and in life. Since we are all managers of ourselves, these tips can help us be better no matter our profession.

Set the environment to be productive

A quick internet search for “most productive work environments” will provide more than you need know about the pros and cons of every conceivable variable in your work space so I’ll just offer a few suggestions. The point is to minimize the distractions that keep you from focusing on your work.

  1. Since your optimum work environment is based on your personal preferences, try to personalize your space to suit you.  Display photos, inspirational quotes, or a trinket to help remind you of why you are working so hard and to offer a bit of encouragement when you look at it during a stressful time.
  2. Consider lighting. Most agree natural light is best, but if you are stuck under fluorescent lighting, try adding a lamp to soften the light at your work area. You can work better when you aren’t squinting all day from uncomfortable lighting.
  3. Your chair is important. Sitting at a desk all day is bad enough on our body. I’ve heard it said that desk work is as bad for your health as smoking. Get a comfortable chair, try a stand up desk, incorporate Deskercise into your day, and stretch your legs occasionally.
  4. Neat or messy work area? I’m not sure it matters, and everyone defines messy differently. I’ll say that if you struggle to find what you are looking for, then you need to tidy up. Remove items from your work area that you don’t use regularly, and make a sensible filing system. When organizing your files and work area, consider this question, “If I died tomorrow, would someone else be able to pick up where I left off and find what is needed to continue my job?”
  5. Temperature matters too. If you are too warm or cold at your work area, you will use precious energy to manage your comfort instead of your work. Dress in layers and use a personal fan or space heater handy if you need it.

Stop time wasting activities

We all have unique time wasting activities. Find a way to make the activity efficient, delegate it to someone else, or eliminate it. One example for me is social media. Mindlessly scrolling the news feed for “quick break” can end up being 20 minutes or more without realizing it. One trick I do is to kill my news feed on my work computer to eliminate the temptation. For work tasks that seem cumbersome or inefficient, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this a task I must do, or can someone else do it for me?
  2. When is the most convenient time for me to do this task?
  3. What value does this task add? If it’s not valuable, change it to make it valuable, or stop doing it.

Take notes

Write down the pop up thoughts to clear your mind and get back to it later. Sometimes these thoughts are important reminders to do something, but you are in the middle of another task. By writing it down, you free your mind from it, and guard against forgetting about it later. If I’m away from my desk, I’ll add a note or reminder with alarm on my phone. It feels great to clear my head of these pop up thoughts so I can focus on the task in front of me.

The 3 D’s of email

  1. Delete. Our inboxes get filled with worthless mail. If I don’t recognize who it came from, or the subject line is not related to my work, it gets deleted immediately. But first I mark it as spam and have my email service block them from sending me more.
  2. Deal with it. Some work related mail can be dealt with in 2 minutes or less. Those should be done upon reading, otherwise you are just wasting your time to close the email and reopen it later. Just reply and be done with it. Make your reply thorough so you don’t create unnecessary back & forth with the sender.
  3. Defer it. This is the hardest one for me. If I let it, answering email could fill my entire day, every day. To get any of my other work done, I must simply defer some email to a time that fits my day. I do this by blocking out time in my day specifically to handle email. This way, I only handle the email once and it’s done. This strategy helps me fight the urge to react to the “ping” when new mail comes in. When the sender realizes sending urgent email is not getting the desired response, they will call, or meet in person.

-Don’t be a slave to your phone

Unless I’m aware of some mission critical activity taking place after my normal work hours, I simply do not answer the phone. It can wait until morning. In my experience, there is often very little that can be done after business hours anyway. Everyone else is closed, so no action of consequence can be taken until the next business day anyway. Behaving this way teaches others how to respect your time, and your family will thank you.

-Own your morning

In my opinion, how you manage your first waking hours of each day has more impact on your personal performance and productivity than anything else you will do all day. This is the time before the phone calls, team meetings, and the barrage of email, reports, and decisions due throughout the day. Early morning is your time to take care of you so you can best take care of your other responsibilities. Use this precious time to renew your mind, workout, and fuel your body for the day ahead. Keep reading for more details.

-Read & reflect

High achievers read to learn and they take the time to process what they are reading so they can take action on what they learned. Choose any topic that interests you, but it should be for your personal and professional development. Read something that encourages you to be a better human; a better leader, employee, boss, project manager, etc. I like to read long enough to capture an idea to reflect upon. Then I write about it in my journal. The writing exercise grounds me. Thinking and writing about what I just read helps me to process what I read, remember it, and hopefully put it to action right away. I spend about 30 minutes a day on this activity and am convinced it yields the greatest return in my personal productivity for my time investment.


High achievers understand the importance of their physical health. Let’s face it, if we aren’t healthy, we can’t be our best. Ignoring your physical health may not seem like a big deal today, but it will in the future. You need to build healthy habits now to increase your probability of a long, healthy future. Spend some time to exercise first thing in the morning. Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise, 3-4 times a week is all you need. While some will say you must do this or that exercise, but I recommend that you just get moving. Get your heart rate up, break a sweat, and challenge your muscles. It will help clear your mind, reduce stress, and rev up your internal systems for the busy day ahead.

-The secret weapon

We have all experienced the energy and motivational slump that occurs in the mid-afternoon. Our mornings typically go by fast, but once lunch is behind us a couple hours it seems extra hard to tackle another pressing task. The reason we struggle at this time of day may not be what you think. Unless you are disciplined about how much water you drink throughout the day, it is very likely that you are dehydrated. The secret weapon to revitalize yourself is simply water. A decent rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For me, that means by 3:00 p.m. I should have drank at least 60 oz of water. Trust me, this works. The sluggishness we feel, the headache that we blame on staring at the monitor, and the irritability we sense is not from “that guy” but from your body telling you that it needs more water. Stay hydrated and plow through your afternoon with vigor and clarity.

 –Create margin in your calendar

Have you ever experienced a work day when everything went as planned? Me either. Despite our best efforts to not double book ourselves for meetings, or to tackle that complex issue right after lunch, the day of a project manager is routinely hijacked by the unplanned, the interruption, and the hair-on-fire crisis. The days can be stressful and frustrating to say the least. That’s why it’s so important to create margin in your calendar. You must block out periods of time in your day and week that are reserved for important tasks. These are closed door, leave-a-message, I’m-not-available-right-now times so you can do your vital task. Block out the time for whatever it needs to be, but you must schedule it. Maybe you need an hour to catch up email or return calls without interruption. Maybe you need to focus on the budget report. Maybe you need to get a workout or eat a healthy lunch. Block it out on your schedule. Here’s what I’ve learned by doing this:

  1. The margin greatly reduces the stress of work. I feel more in control of my time and energy.
  2. I am more productive and produce higher quality work faster.
  3. Work “emergencies” are resolved better when I have uninterrupted focus to handle them, versus trying to multi-task.

While there are lots of good ideas here, I recommend trying just one or two at a time to start. Get those firmly ingrained into your daily/ weekly routine before moving on to the next one. Taking on too much at once is a recipe for failure and discouragement. What are your tips and tricks to optimize your personal productivity? Encourage us with your comments below.

Fortitude, Personal Development

Failing Forward

failing forward

I like to read books. I read to learn much more often than I read for an entertaining story. Sometimes I get through a book that really speaks to me. Failing Forward is impactful to say the least. I highly recommend it for your personal development regardless of age, career, personality, etc. You can benefit from the encouragement in this book. However, if you aren’t likely to read the book, maybe you can read my notes on it here along with some personal commentary from my experience.

First let me just say that fear of failing is a big deal for me. I’ve struggled with it my entire life. I was the kid that was so afraid to try something new because I didn’t want to fail at it. I sure wasn’t going to let anyone see me fail if I could help it. I would first study, watch, analyze the thing, play my moves over and over in my head until I was certain that I could do it and do it well. If not, I would practice in secret until I got it down, then reveal to all that I could do it as if it were no big deal. I captured the story about learning to ride a bike in a short video HERE. Kinda funny.

The issue didn’t disappear over time just because I supposedly grew up. In fact the mindset of fear and aversion to failure just grew deeper and more difficult to overcome in some instances. I’m certain that my fear to risk has stunted my career and limited my potential as a leader. But not all is lost my friends! This old dog is still learning, still working on me so I can be my best for those people who count on me the most. If you can relate, keep reading and I hope you find some inspiration and encouragement to fail forward.

The following is taken directly from Maxwell’s book. It’s a summary of my favorite lines. 203 pages reduced to one short list. You’re welcome.

15 Steps to Failing Forward

  1. Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people. The difference is their perception of and response to failure. No matter how difficult your problems, the key to overcoming them is not changing your circumstances, it’s changing yourself. Changing yourself is a process that starts with a desire to be teachable.Three-feet-from-gold
  2. Learn a new definition of failure. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison  Regard failure as the price you pay for progress.
  3. Remove the “you” from failure. James Allen – “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thought.” People who don’t give up keep trying because they don’t base their self-worth on their  performance. Take responsibility for your failures, but don’t take them personally.
  4. Take action and reduce your fear. Don’t wait for motivation to magically inspire you to act. Just do it. Exercise, eat right, love sacrificially, kick a bad habit, whatever the thing is, DO IT without motivation and then it happens. Your motivation comes AFTER you do the thing and makes it easier for you to keep on doing it. act into feelingYou are more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action. So act! DO whatever it is that you know you should do.
  5. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. “Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit.” – Paul J. Meyer “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of our responsibilities.” – Sire Josiah Stamp
  6. Don’t let failure from outside get inside you. Failure and success is an inside job. conquer2The battleground is between your ears. If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first. “Handicaps can only disable us if we let them. This is true not only of physical challenges, but mental and emotional as well…I believe real and lasting limitations are created in our minds, not our bodies.” – Roger Crawford.
  7. Say good-bye to yesterday. You will not be able to be your best today until you say good-bye to yesterday. Today may be your day to turn the hurts of your past into a breakthrough for the future. Don’t allow anything from your personal history to keep holding you hostage.
  8. Change yourself, and your world changes. If you are not happy with your job, your family situation, or life, look at what you can change in yourself before trying to alter your circumstances.  “The circumstances of life, the events of life, and the people around me do not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am.” – Sam Peoples Jr.
  9. Get over yourself and start giving yourself. A major cause of negative thinking and poor mental health is self-absorption. Generous people are rarely mentally ill. If you tend to take yourself too seriously, give yourself and others a break. Recognize that laughter breeds resilience.
  10. Find the benefit in every bad experience. trust_the_processWe tend to overestimate the event and underestimate the process. Every fulfilled dream occurred because of dedication to a process. To achieve your dreams you must embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you’re not failing you’re probably not really moving forward. Journaling is good for this.
  11. If at first you do succeed, try something harder. Risk must be evaluated not by the fear in generates in you or the probability of success, but in the value of the goal.
  12. Learn from a bad experience and make it a good experience. Ben Franklin – “The things which hurt, instruct.” Your attitude toward failure determines your altitude after failure. When a person has the right mind set, every obstacle introduces him to himself. “Learning is defined by a change in behavior. You haven’t learned a thing until you take action and use it.” – Don Shula
  13. Work on the weakness that weakens you. Take a sober self-assessment. Real success lies in experiencing fear or aversion and acting in spite of it.

Top 10 Ways People Get in Their Own Way

Poor People Skills Learn how to get along with other people. Period.

A Negative Attitude Learn to make the best of any  situation.

A Bad Fit Sometimes a case of mismatched abilities, interests, personality, or values can be a major contributor to chronic failure.

Lack of Focus People lacking focus are not too busy, but have priorities out of whack.

A Weak Commitment The last time you failed, did you stop trying because you failed, or did you fail because your stopped trying?

An Unwillingness to Change If you resist change, you’re really resisting success. Learn flexibility, or learn to like living with your failures.

A Shortcut Mind-Set If  you continually give in to your moods or impulses, then you need to change your approach to doing things. Set standards for yourself that require accountability. Suffering a consequence for not following through helps you stay on track.

Relying on Talent Alone Adding a strong work ethic to talent is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It’s explosive!

A Response to Poor Information “Expect only 5% of an intelligence report to be accurate. The trick of a good commander is to isolate the 5%.” – General Douglas MacArthur.

No Goals Many people don’t have goals because they haven’t allowed themselves to dream. No dream= no desire. If that describes you, then you must look deep within yourself to determine WHY you are on this planet. Once you know that, you’ll know what to shoot for.

14. Understand there is not much difference between failure and success. Having a sense of purpose is the fuel that powers persistence in the midst of adversity. “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” – George Washington Carver

15. Get up, get over it, and get going. It’s what you do after you get back up that counts. Nothing of value is achieved without taking risks. Winning usually follows losing.

  • Finalize your Goal
  • Order your plans.
  • Risk failing by taking action
  • Welcome mistakes
  • Advance based on your character
  • Reevaluate your progress continually
  • Develop new strategies to succeed

You made it! You read this far because this subject struck a chord with you. Or maybe because you are determined to not read the whole book, but wanted to get the high points. Either way, mission accomplished.

Fitness, Personal Development

Snooze Now, ConQuer Later

I can remember taking ‘power naps’ in college. At very random times of day, I would just lay down for a few minutes between classes. My posse back then often did the same. We’d say, “I need a 10.” It was our code for nap time. Just 10-20 minutes is all that was needed. I remember feeling so much better afterwards. Naps really work. I steal one every now and then these days, but its not my habit. Maybe it should be. A quick glance through history books reveals a long line of influential nappers. Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Thomas Edison were all known to take naps.

Their decision, it turns out, is backed by science.

Napping and productivity

The benefits of getting enough sleep are widely acknowledged, but why choose naps instead of catching more Zs at night? The simple answer is that it makes the second part of your day as productive as the first. About an hour after waking is considered our most productive time. Even if you consider yourself a night-owl, chances are your cognitive abilities are sharper after some shut-eye. It is more than common sense. It is science.

In a review of the many studies conducted on napping, Dr. Catherine Milner and Dr. Kimberly A. Cote find a host of productivity-related benefits. Napping improves reaction time, psychomotor speed, vigor, and vigilance. In one [study}(, participants saw their ability to complete additional tasks improve post-nap and in another, retirees saw improvements in episodic memory, visuospatial abilities, and general cognition. Yet another study on memory found that working-aged people were able to perform recall tasks better after a nap when compared to drinking coffee. The nap doesn’t need to be long: even a six-minute micro-nap improves declarative memory.

Napping and learning

Sleep is known to help consolidate memory and contribute to learning, but some scientists say the same benefits can be reaped from naps. Dr. Sara Mednick looks at how sleep impacts learning. In a 2003 study, she found that a 90-minute snooze is just about as good for learning perceptual skills as a full eight hours. Even better, the power of a nap adds to the learning potential experienced during regular sleeping hours.

Participants who napped in addition to their regular sleep schedule experienced “improvement, such that performance over 24 hours showed as much learning as is normally seen after twice that length of time.” The research suggests that if you’re struggling with complex learning tasks, a nap can help.

Napping and health

We know that getting enough sleep is important for overall health, but there is also evidence that napping, in particular, is a healthy habit. A 2016 study by the European Society of Cardiology compared the health of 386 patients with arterial hypertension to see how napping might impact their health.

Those that took mid-day naps had lower blood pressure and anatomical evidence of less blood pressure related damage. Napping was also associated with fewer medication prescriptions.

The benefits extend into real-world results. In a longitudinal study of over 23,000 healthy people, nappers had a much lower rate of coronary mortality. Those who napped occasionally had a 12% lower coronary mortality rate, while those who napped often had a 37% percent lower rate.

Towards a culture of napping

Napping is becoming popular because it is easier to coordinate than a full eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted shut-eye at night. Work hours are long and time with our families is precious. A twenty-minute nap can be slotted in between meetings or a longer snooze can take place over lunch, leaving free time at home to be spent on hobbies or with loved ones.

In China, public napping is commonplace. “It’s nothing unusual,” Chinese journalist Lorraine Lu writes. “If you get tired, you just put a cushion or pillow on your desk, lay your head on it and rest for 15 minutes.”

Aside from the workplace, subways and even Ikea are fair game. The same is true of several other Asia countries, and the afternoon siesta is a time-honored condition in many Spanish-speaking nations.

Though the United States is yet to catch up, some companies are coming around to the idea of corporate nap time. A 2011 poll found that 34% of respondents were allowed to nap at work and hundreds of sleep pods are popping up in offices, hospitals, and schools around the country.

If you aren’t one of the Americans already taking naps, there is no time like the present.

*credit belongs to Erin Wildermuth and the team at for doing the heavy lifting on this article


Performance Enhancers You Need Now

People everywhere are looking for an edge. We’ve heard stories of the illegal performance enhancing drugs athletes have taken to get ahead of their competition. Doping scandals in cycling, steroids in baseball and football, and all kinds of crazy stuff in bodybuilding are what most of us think about when we hear the term “performance enhancers.”

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to be tempted by performance enhancement though. Have you seen the ads for magic potions you can take to boost your energy, stay alert longer, improve mental clarity? These products are marketed to you and me – regular people who feel exhausted and just want to keep up with the demands on our time and energy, let alone excel at our roles of spouse, parent, worker, weekend warrior, etc.


If you are like me, you aren’t likely going for illegal substances to keep sharp, but maybe you’ve been tempted to pop a pill or take some elixir to gain the edge you desire.

Well, I have some good news weary friend! We don’t need illegal substances, controlled substances, or so called energy potions to help us through our busy days. We can be our best by incorporating a few simple disciplines into our daily life.



We need to rest. 7-8 hours of sleep per night is recommended. You are laughing because that hasn’t happened for you in a long time. But why not? I challenge you to review your schedule and see where you can change your routine to get the rest you need. Chances are, you don’t need to watch that late game, movie, or TV drama. If you are just vegging in the evenings, I suggest cutting that short and going to bed. I wrote earlier about HOW TO SLEEP, and if you are looking for some rest for your weary soul, I covered that topic HERE.  Bottom line is that if you want to be sharp, you need to rest. Schedule it in your day like any other important appointment.


I’m willing to bet you don’t drink enough water. Most of us don’t. There is a simple way to know if you are well hydrated. Look at the color of your urine. The more clear it is, the more hydrated you are. Being hydrated wards off common headaches, grumpiness, and a long list of physical ailments that keep you from being your best. Proper hydration = better performance.


“I don’t have time to exercise!” Baloney. You don’t have time to SKIP exercise. Regular vigorous exercise is so good for you. It’s a natural mood booster, gives mental alertness & clarity, and actually energizes you for the day. Morning or mid-day exercises will help you power through your work day like nothing else. Besides, what good can you be in your most important roles at home and work if your body is a wreck and you are sick all the time? Take care of your body, and it will take care of you – and enhance your performance.

Balanced Diet

“Ugh. You had to mention food.” Yep. Food is fuel and your body is a finely tuned MACHINE. The fastest way to get physical results in your shape is through proper nutrition. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to follow the latest fad diet or starve yourself or spend a fortune on fancy produce to eat healthy. What you need is to eat reasonable portion sizes, more veggies, less cake and beer, and you will be shocked at how much better you feel. When you feel great, performance is enhanced – naturally.

BB Performance

OK, so there is this one thing. Sometimes we could use a quality supplement to our healthy lifestyle. I found the Beachbody Performance line to be just that. With real food all natural ingredients, these supplements taste great and help my body perform optimally.


Personal Development/ Journaling

You’ve got to feed your mind and soul as well as your body. Taking time daily to read and reflect on something positive and encouraging (hmmm, the Team Quadzilla blog…) will go a long way to keeping you sharp and performing your best. The inputs to our mind dramatically impact our mood and attitude.  I find great encouragement in journaling. It doesn’t sound very manly, but let me tell you it is super healthy. If you want to leave a positive legacy for the next generation, I encourage you to journal your thoughts, prayers, fears, dreams, and happenings in your life. Those who come behind you might be encouraged by your writing. Journaling also helps to clear your head, reflect, and focus your mind for the day. It’s an exercise worth doing daily.

So there you have it. Nothing earth shattering here, but that’s kinda the point. Healthy living is not supposed to be complicated. We still need to actually DO these things though. Start with one and move on from there. You want to be your best and many others are counting on you as well. Maybe these simple reminders will inspire you to make a change today.