Quarterly Insights 2019, Part One

Quarterly Insights 2019, Part One

Today’s insights are a vulnerable deep dive into topics I wasn’t sure about discussing. After much thought and discussion with some of my closest friends, I decided to go ahead with it in the hope that many of you will be able to relate to my struggles, gain some perspective, and learn more behind why at RNT, it’s way more than just the physical. Mastering the mind is just as important, and one which I’m working on more and more. It’s all a journey, and the more we can learn from our mistakes and struggles, the greater improvements we can make to facilitate further impact. I’ve also recorded a podcast (episode 71) which you can find a link to listen at the bottom here. I’d love to hear from you on your thoughts, but first, let’s dive in…

I was in an autorickshaw with my dad in Mumbai when the driver took a risk with a turning, snuck in front of a moving car, and just about managed to avoid crashing. While ‘near crashes’ are not uncommon at all in Mumbai (you only need to experience the traffic and driving standards out there!), this one felt very, very close. So close that the driver turned around and said something to us in Hindi.

I turned to my dad to ask him what he said, and his answer was:

‘You always need to keep moving forward. Stay still and you’ll get hit’

I pondered on that statement for a while as we drove, and asked my dad what he thought of it.

He said, ‘many young autorickshaw drivers have a dream to make enough money to leave and start something for themselves. Their tenacity, hustle and drive is quite something, and they see driving an autorickshaw as a game to develop the killer instinct that may or may not carry them through their path.’

As we arrived at our destination, we tipped him an equivalent fee of the journey with the hope he’ll be able to double it again in the future. He expressed gratitude, and then drove back into the sea of traffic to take another step forward to his goals.

I’m writing this piece from Sorrento, with the hills on one side, and the sea on the other. A perfect location to be introspective and reflect on my first quarter of 2019. As I write down my key learnings, the scene in Mumbai was number one on the list. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the simplicity of his statement, or maybe it was because it triggered me to think about the metaphorical consequences: getting hit and being forced to slow down.

It’s certainly a mix, and you’ll see why as I dive into the my most recent insights here…

1. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

This month I read a book by Robin Sharma where he describes the enlightening story of a highly ambitious, driven and type A personality trial lawyer that experiences a heart attack in the middle of the courtroom, which then triggers him to rethink his actions, quit his job, sell his Ferrari, and become a monk.

I’m not a monk who has a Ferrari to sell, but I know I’m very much the classic type A personality who struggles to switch off and slow down. I struggle to reign in my intensity of work (because it never feels like work!), and I flirt with burnout and exhaustion on a very regular basis, as I’ve written in previous Quarterly Insights. It’s an interesting paradox because I love what I do and what RNT is striving towards so much so that my passion is often my greatest weakness. I feel I have a duty to maintain this intensity, and up till last month, I thought I was indestructible.

Then it happened. The wake up call. The message from the Universe telling me to slow right down. I’d been over the speed limit for far too long without a camera in sight, and I thought it’d stay like that forever.

Of course, I got flashed, fined and forced to stop. I collapsed. I was on a string of weeks and weeks of 16 hour days when my body told me no more. As I packed up my laptop for the day, I noticed my legs aching, body temperature rising, and an increasing feeling of wanting to be sick. Nothing happened just yet. But at just before 5am as I woke to use the bathroom, I crashed onto the floor. Twice.

I was shocked by what happened, and shocked that I was no longer the indestructible person I once thought I was. This was a big speeding fine, and I was in denial of receiving it.

As the ambulance took me to the hospital to run some blood tests, I insisted on taking my laptop with me. ‘Why?’, the paramedic asked. ‘I’m on a mission’’, I responded. This was the denial phase, and so I sat in the waiting room for hours writing content in an effort to continue taking a step forward towards the goal. It continued in the afternoon, as I justified to my close family and friends that it was all for a greater cause, and that if I put the work in now it’ll pay off in the future. All potentially true and valid statements.

But that evening as I was eating dinner, it hit me. I needed to sort myself out. What if that future never arrives? What about now? What about the journey?

If we want to help as many people experience the life changing benefits of what focusing on the physical with RNT can do, I have to help and take care of myself first. The driver of the car. I needed to go to speeding school to learn that 70mph was the limit. I needed to learn that you can only get away with 80 to 90 mph for short periods of time, and when the camera sign approaches, you need to hit the brake pad.

Life was teaching me an important lesson, and I needed to tame the type A within me. I still train hard, eat well, and stay in good shape year round. Where I go wrong is burning the candle at both ends, forgetting boundaries of working hours and environments, and losing myself in this one, all-encompassing domain of my life.

It’s been nearly months since, and while I’ve not exactly taken my foot off the gas, I’m slowly learning. I know this will be a journey and transformation in itself, and to start, the only way to do so is to take small steps.

My small steps may sound minimal, but two events come to mind here. The first is with a friend of mine who’d asked if I wanted to go for lunch and climbing with him on a random Thursday. My first thoughts were ‘no, I have work’, and ‘no, that’s almost an entire working day’, and ‘no, I’ll fall too far behind’. And honestly, my first answer back to him was exactly that. Then I realised what I’d done. I was falling into the classic type A trap. I sent another message saying ‘screw it, let’s do it’. I decided to take the afternoon off, and I felt great.

The second was with Nathan in Sorrento. It was 4pm on a Monday during an afternoon power session of work when I said to him we should call it a day now and go into town. This was a Monday – the supposed busiest day of the week! So we shut the laptops down, switched off, and enjoyed the evening.

The lessons for myself in these two events are in the creation of boundaries, the power of saying no to the demon on my shoulder, and remembering that enjoying time for myself is critical.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of months now, and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey of self-mastery, self-awareness and challenging myself in ways I’m not used to.

I heard on a podcast with Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, that the hardest thing a type A driven personality can do is say no to their work and take a nap instead. But that’s exactly why they need to do it more. A few months ago I’d have laughed. Now, I couldn’t agree anymore.

2. Enhancing Self-Awareness Through Journaling 

It’s now been five months since I’ve started journaling, and the power of writing in a journal is compounding every day.

In my top 20 things I learned in 2019, I spoke about it being an outlet, and a tool to unleash your thoughts onto paper.

My more recent experiences of journaling have been different. More introspective, more insightful and a tool which I’m using as a self-awareness mechanism. If I had to theme this Quarterly Insights edition, it’d be this exact topic. And a big contributor has been the change in journaling style.

I’m purposely trying to use it to gain a better understanding of myself, what I truly want, where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and how I can live better. As the autorickshaw driver said, if you’re not moving forward you’ll be hit.

What I’ve noticed in my recent journaling is five part, and I’ll go into each one separately.

– Dealing with lingering thoughts

For a classic overthinker, my mind’s always racing with different thoughts. The habit of worry is something I’m working on, and improving on as the days go by. What journaling can do with lingering thoughts, whether thinking of the past, present or future is help you understand why they’re lingering, what benefits they may be serving, and what the thoughts are trying to teach you. Through journaling, I can explore these thoughts in a ‘deep dive’ format, and in doing so I can have a better understanding of why it’s happening, and what, if anything, I need to do about it.

– Neutralising emotions around situations

Understanding the law of duality in 2018 is arguably one of my greatest lessons in recent times. Journaling has taken this to a completely new level. The ability to neutralise my emotions, charges and feelings around a situation has allowed me to see the opportunities in potentially negative events. Perception is reality, and I’d really encourage people to try this. As a simple example, on the way to Sorrento our plane was delayed 35 minutes. A year ago I may have got stressed, annoyed and kicked up a fuss. This time I didn’t bat an eyelid and thought it was a great opportunity to continue my flow of work I was in. What’s important to note is this works on a spectrum, and the same applies to positive events. Instead of letting my ego get attached to the positive and riding with it, I now always humble myself before anyone or anything does (sometimes too much I put myself in the ‘pit’ – another danger in itself!)

– Catching bad habits

We’re all a product of our habits and thoughts, and it’s incredible just how many of these aren’t serving us in any form. This past quarter I’ve caught myself writing on multiple occasions about poor habits that I’d fallen into the trap of. At the start of 2018 one of my goals that I’d adhered to for a long time was to stop scrolling on Instagram, and only watch the stories of my close friends. Recently, I’ve noticed myself on the scroll more, and falling into the comparison syndrome that’s so prevalent with excessive social media usage. The interesting part is I noticed myself feeling ‘off’ and more anxious once the scrolling started, and luckily the introspective journaling meant I was able to stop it in its tracks a few days in. Mastering thoughts and habits are a constant work in progress, and the best we can do is heighten our level of self-awareness to facilitate an environment of mastery as much as possible.

– Vision and strategy

A lot of my journaling drifts in business strategy, ideas, and actions to implement. I love coming up with ideas, but I love strategising how to execute the idea even more so. Ideas without implementation are nothing, and journaling has helped me hone in on my 80/20 list of ideas, pick the most valuable, and get to work. When no one else is around and the world is asleep, there’s nothing more fun than writing the strategy for an idea that you believe will help take you to the next level.

– Exposing my weaknesses

Through journaling on business strategy, I’ve noticed key holes in myself that need to be addressed. Ever since I made a significant change in the structure of the business back in September, we’ve been able to push forward and impact more lives at a relentless pace. At the same time however, the growth has exposed my strengths and weaknesses very clearly. I’ve really tried to explore these and figure out solutions on how to fix them, and it’s starting to come together. We hired our first person last month that’s not a coach, and this role is an exciting one that’ll help fix flat tyres, add news ones, while installing turbocharge rockets at the right times.

How you journal will be individual to you. The way I do it is two part. The first is before bed, where I write my three key aims of the next day, so my brain can subconsciously prepare during sleep. The second is upon rising, where I spend 5-10 minutes on the areas I’ve explained above in freestyle writing.

When speaking to Nathan this week, who I encouraged to start journaling when beginning his NOMAD lifestyle, his style is completely different. He tells his life in a story every evening, and this works for him.

There’s no right or wrong here, and I’d highly recommend everyone to try this age old forgotten practice. I procrastinated for months in search of the best way to journal, but I found out quickly that the best way is your way, and the key is to just start writing.

3. The Art of Toggling

At the start of this year, I was advised by two good friends of mine that I should track my time spent working. I’d never done this before, so I was willing to give it a go. The rationale was that if I tracked my time, I’d be able to objectively measure what areas I could ‘dump, delegate or automate’ to free up bandwidth in order to work more effectively. It goes with the saying, ‘what you can’t measure you can’t change’.

It started the old school way of writing in a pen and pad as I went through the day. After a week though it became a little cumbersome, which was when I was introduced to a software called Toggl – an absolute gamechanger! I’m now able to put on a timer on my laptop, categorise my work into different projects (e.g. Content Creation, Client Management, Strategy, Finances, Marketing, Admin etc.), and track exactly what I’m doing. Every week it produces reports to analyse my working week, and it’s in this data I can track where I need to improve.

It goes beyond that though. It’s gamified working. Each week I’m fighting to be more productive and clock less hours while still achieving my core objectives. It’s also taken my level of self-awareness to new heights. I’m more conscious of what I’m doing, and every time it comes to typing a new task into Toggl and starting the clock, I question whether it’s the best use of my time, or whether it should be outsourced and/or delegated. It’s an interesting mindset, and one that’s already paying dividends. It’s helping me to see the bigger picture, understand which holes need to be filled, and how I can free up my time to take things to the next level.

When looking for the root cause while journaling about my collapse, I decided to study my Toggl reports and look for any important data. What I found was that I was not only clocking an insane number of actual working hours each day, but I was spending far too much time on tasks I didn’t enjoy (administrative tasks). Great insights, and it’s created a domino effect of change within myself, how I operate, and has ultimately led to some big decisions that will hopefully pay fruition in the coming months.

Tying the Trio

This quarter’s insights are a little different to the norm. Instead of writing ten, I decided to go deep on three that all revolve around a theme. The first quarter’s theme has been about exploring, flexing and strengthening my self-awareness muscle. I’ve learnt a lot about myself recently, and as I close off this piece while watching the sunrise from the hills of Sorrento, I’m reminded of the simple tranquillity and inner peace that comes from being in the sun, by the sea, and surrounded by nature.

The autorickshaw driver said if you don’t move forward you’ll get hit. And I agree, life is all about consistent forward momentum. Stagnation is the enemy. But I’m also learning that forward momentum at 100mph is difficult to sustain. It’s taken me this far, and I know that if I want to serve in the best possible manner, I need to change the tyres regularly, top up the gas, and never miss my own MOTs. I need to slow down.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Sorrento with RNT coach & digital NOMAD Nathan, and in an effort to slow down, we decided to go to a local traditional Italian restaurant for some homemade pasta and meatballs, and a bottle of local Sorrento wine.

When we got back to our hotel, we decided to pour another glass and hit record on an episode, and see where it takes us. We both ended up discussing some of our Quarterly Insights, while reflecting upon some of our recent struggles and areas we’re working on in our lives.

The podcast can be found by searching ‘RNT Fitness Radio’ on your preferred podcast platform, or directly below:

 

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Akash Vaghela
akash@rntfitness.co.uk

Akash Vaghela is the Director of RNT Fitness. He specialises in transforming the bodies of City executives, CEOs, actors, physique athletes and regular people who want to be in the best shape of their lives. Akash has written for T-Nation, Elite FTS, Flex UK, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, MensXP, the Square Mile, Muscle Monsters, the PTDC, Advanced Coaching Academy, and Ultimate Performance.