Yesterday I hit a long-anticipated milestone in my weight training. I squatted 200 pounds on my back. This personal record (PR) came after a week of work successes that shows no signs of slowing down, and I feel GREAT.



Over the last few weeks, I hadn’t had a lot of victories. I definitely haven’t been hitting multiple wins at once. Lately, I struggled with finding more work opportunities – especially in the UX sphere. Likewise, I had been putting in work in the gym but not breaking through to PRs. Then over the past two weeks, I changed some things and blammo! The changes directly facilitated successes. Being an “out loud” processor, I knew talking it out was the best way to understand what worked. Even better, writing it out could help me in my next slump. Shout-out to Mick, my business coach, who listened and advised me. Hat-tiips to the GIF creators who helped me say it with pop culture.

Two Strategies

Big Number

Sometimes, reaching for a big number is really motivating. Saying, “I will squat 200lbs on my back” or “75% of my work will be UX Consulting” might focus my efforts and help me map out strategy. If I know I’ll achieve something big, I can also suffer setbacks and still push forward. I can make sacrifices knowing the height at the summit of achievement. Sometimes, though, I can get too much in my head about it and the air around my summit goal will seem thin and dangerous.
Jake Peralta says "Eyes closed, head first, can't lose" on Brooklyn 99

Small Increments

When the big number enervates more than energizes, though, I need to take ramp up slowly without having a specific number in my sights. If I look at the big number, I might get in my own way and lose confidence. Sometimes I need to just pick up the bar, see how it feels, add a little weight, and pick it up again. If I don’t do the math and obsessively evaluate my progress, I could completely outstrip my expectations.


Doctor Who says "That's not supposed to happen"


Yesterday I inadvertently took my fear out of the game. As I was ramping up the weight, I made an error in my plate math. I put 20 more pounds on the bar than I thought I had. Oops! Then I squatted it just fine. When I realized my mistake at the next increment, it gave me a real confidence boost! Only NOT KNOWING the numbers made it easy. As I look forward, specifically to picking up new skill sets, maybe I’ll start with what I know and learn incrementally.

Do the Work

I did not want to go to the gym many times throughout the last few weeks. I worked on slow tempo squats that take so much longer and are so much harder to do. I did high-volume sets that fatigued me. I did heavier sets that pushed me to my limits. I evaluated my stance to work with my anatomy instead of fighting how my hips, knees, and ankles work together. That required feeling awkward and uncomfortable as I retrained the pattern. I needed to build in the muscles and mindset in order to get to my goal. Even when it’s tough, keep at it. Do the little things, the annoying things, and the hard things. Not every week will be a PR week. Some days the barbell throws me around and not vice versa. Some meetups might not be fruitful. Some contacts don’t pan out. DO THE WORK ANYWAY.


Titus Andromedon says "But I already did something today!" on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt



Resist Obsession’s Narrowing Focus

Part 1: Don’t work on just one thing.

I haven’t been exclusively or obsessively back squatting. Working on the lift I’m trying to crush is important. So are doing related lifts and other areas of fitness like balance, coordination, and flexibility. I have been doing front squats and goblet squats, but I’ve also worked on Olympic lifts. I’ve been tackled mobility work through yoga, myofascial release techniques, and resistance-based rehab drills to improve my stability across my range of motion. I’ve continued working high-intensity interval training to keep my conditioning from slipping while I focus on lifting. It’s a good thing  because all the OTHER work in the gym helped. Instead of stripping out everything that isn’t UX-focused to make more of that kind of work for myself, I’m going to keep my feet wet in print, logos, and websites. After all, they inform my perspective on UX. It all comes together to make me better.

Part 2: Don’t think the rest of your life is irrelevant.

My great week in business gave me confidence to test myself in the gym. My personal projects for fitness, with my family, and in my hobbies build creativity, resilience, and confidence. Those positive things inevitably help me with business. I can’t neglect my entire being and be a good creative, a good entrepreneur, or even a good person. Exercising, cooking, traveling, singing, crafting, and eating are not irrelevant pursuits.

Liz Lemon sits in her slanket on the couch and sings "Workin' on my night cheese!" while she enjoys a slice of said cheese.

Take a Risk and Try for the Goal

All the training in the world won’t actually make me lift the big bar. I have to stop training for a moment and put myself to the test. Likewise, I need to bite on that amazing project and bid the job that stretches me.

Winston sings "It's time to try defying gravity" on New Girl

Ah, but with risk comes possible failure. In my family, not following through on your commitments was a cardinal sin. If you gave your word, you came through. I know that I won’t leave a client hanging or turn in sub-par work, so why am I still afraid of failure? After all, if I get in trouble, I can always do more research or talk to my contacts. It was easier when I was an employee at a company full of people I could talk to. However, I have lots of great relationships with former colleagues and networking partners. I can get some help to fix the issue and hit the big number in the end. Fear of flaking is just slowing me down.

Listen to Intuition

At my gym, we lift weights regularly in the CrossFit classes as well as in the Barbell Club. Every time a one-rep max test was programmed, I had either missed those days, or had other goals so I went lighter. I tested my PR when I wanted to, not necessarily when someone else wanted me to. That’s not to say I won’t listen to a coach’s encouragement. In fact my coach did tell me to test myself a few days ago, but I had to feel ready to pick up the bar. That’s okay. Pushing when you’re unprepared could get you hurt. Getting hurt costs a lot more progress than going slowly does.

I will go back and point out another idea about the intersection of building a better me and building my business. Sometimes, entrepreneurs can wear their life defeats as a badge of honor. Each time a relationship ends or a hobby is dropped so they can focus on their work, they explain it as necessary sacrifice. Whatever it gets them, I DON’T WANT THAT. The voices that glorify that attitude are out there. I am not going to listen to them.

Leslie Knope on Parks & Recreation