Quarterly Insights 2020, Part Two: Ten Things I Learned In Lockdown

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Quarterly Insights 2020, Part Two: Ten Things I Learned In Lockdown

I don’t think anyone woke up on New Year’s Day of the new decade thinking we’d be here six months later. The 2020s have started in a way no one imagined, and it’s put the world in a social, political and economic tailspin.

At the end of every quarter I take a few moments to reflect on the wins, challenges and lessons. My first thought when writing this instalment was, ‘Where to start?’. There’s no one theme that sums up this quarter, so here’s ten things I’ve learnt in quarter two of 2020:

1. Only some can survive the dip 

Ever since I read The Dip for the first time many years ago, it’s been a book I come back to on a regular basis. I’ve been so influenced by the concept that two of the stages in the Process phase of our RNT Transformation Journey are named after it.

In anything you do, there will always be a dip. Once the initial honeymoon period ends, you have two choices: lean in or quit. Most will quit. That’s okay, and it’s normal human behaviour. Why put yourself through the pain of the dip for the potential possibility of a reward in the long term? It’s probably the sensible option.

Leaning into the dip is painful. The dips will come short and long, narrow and wide, fast and slow. But they’re everywhere in what we do, and it surprises me just how few are willing to embrace it. Shiny objects are everywhere in the world. Short term gratification is easy. Playing the long game and thinking beyond a few months or years is hard.

When external forces such as a pandemic lockdown happens, it can make withstanding a dip brutal. It can change your trajectory of thinking to quit for an easier route. My lesson learnt? Always lean in, but don’t be disappointed if others don’t lean in with you. It’s probably the sensible option.

2. Crossing the crossroads

Every transformation journey follows the same predictable path. If you’ve got our book, you’ll know that if you read between the lines, you can apply the principles to every facet of your life. The most relevant and useful application for myself is for our business.

Every day we use the framework of the five phases to guide us through. It’s mind boggling just how close the parallels between body and business are. With challenge comes opportunity. For last 6-12 months we’ve been in an extended consolidation phase deciding on our next move.

The big question to answer in this phase is always: ‘what type of investor do you want to be?’ I’ve spent a long time thinking about this at our consolidation crossroads. I’ve flipped back and forth between lifestyle solution and muscle builder for so long. A lifestyle solution is appealing, but I know the way I’m wired. I’d get bored. It took the challenge of Covid-19 to make me look at the business square on and decide what I truly want, and see the opportunity. I guess it’s now time to embrace the fluff!

3. Crystallising the Strategy

In the past 8 weeks I’ve only written one new article. I know I’ve had a book out but that’s low for me. After writing almost daily for so long, the start of this article took a lot of breaking down the cobwebs to get going. So why the hiatus? The majority of my morning magic time has been geared instead towards strategy, and understanding where we want to go. Answering the consolidation question was the first, hard step. The second step since has been to formulate the game plan in line with our vision.

The vision at RNT has always been two-fold. To create the best platform to get into the shape of your life, for life, while using the physical transformation as a vehicle for the greater good. At the same time, it’s to create long-term sustainable careers for the entire team involved in delivering this vision.

Getting to work on uncovering the strategy that will underpin this vision has been exciting. I’ve been analysing the different elements of our platform in detail to start building out the route we’ll be using for our investment phase. Prior to this quarter this vision often felt cloudy and blurry. All it took were a few internal changes to make us realise what we truly want and who will help us get there.

4. Adaptable 3Ss

Just over twelve weeks ago, anyone that prioritised their health and fitness had all their habits, routines and 3Ss (structure, strategy and systems) thrown out the window. Lockdown put everyone in a frenzy to begin with – panic buying, knee jerk reactions, and the question: how to train without a gym?!

Reflecting, I’m so proud of our team and clients for their reactions. While initially it was a shock, the level of adaptability has been excellent. It’s now been over 3 months since lockdown started and we’ve had more (socially distanced) photoshoots in the month of June than I can remember. That’s a testament to our clients having adaptable 3Ss, and well thought out, strategic coaching from the team.

5. We don’t need much

I’ve always lived a low-expense lifestyle. I enjoy the freedom it brings. I couldn’t think of anything worse than the stress of needing X amount to fulfil monthly materialistic hedonism. Each to their own, but I love not needing much and having low monthly living expenses. When everything shut down, furlough kicked in, and jobs became riskier, I know a lot of people who had to rethink their expenditure plans.

The idea of leasing the most expensive car with weekly Michelin restaurant blow outs while footing a bloated mortgage bill suddenly wasn’t as glamorous. What lockdown has highlighted is that it’s being able to do what you love in your work while having quality time with your closest friends and family that’s most important. That’s always been clear to me – but when it’s all you can do, it just reinforces everything.

6. The Last Dance

We’re all probably a bit Netflix’d out. In lockdown I’ve finished Ozarks and Gangs of London, started House of Cards (in season 2) and watched a fair few films – the top three being Ford Vs Ferrari, Founder and the Banker. Of all this, the best piece of TV I’ve watched was the Last Dance, a documentary covering Michael Jordan and the rise and domination of the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. If you’re someone who lives and breathes high performance, you’ve got to watch it. I took a lot away from it. I saw the power of a team spirit, culture and mentality that share a vision, and then make it a reality. The work ethic and ethos of Michael, and his ability to lead through his actions was remarkable.

More than anything, the documentary highlighted what you need to do to break through to the next level. High performance is a mindset. It’s not a status or economy. It’s not reserved only for those who are ‘successful’. It’s the strive for excellence and the drive to push yourself to the 1%, and accept nothing less. I recorded a podcast recently with fellow team members Kunal and Nathan to talk all about this:

7. Training drive is my key performance indicator 

When you’re riding the balance between performance and red lining, each of us will have one prominent KPI that will suddenly tank if you tip to the wrong side. Through tracking this more closely in the High Performance Coaching (HPC) I’m experimenting on with RNT Coach Nathan, I noticed this quarter just how strong a link my drive to train and my productivity, output, creativity and drive to work is. They’re intertwined but one thing is for sure: when I can’t be asked to train, I should probably back off my workload.

In lockdown for the first eight weeks I was training 6 days a week, running 6 days a week and never missing a beat. I was pumped to train everyday. Then all of a sudden, it fell apart. I should’ve noticed the signs when I was writing in my training logs – ‘super fatigued’, but I persisted only to be forced out by injury. At the same time, I was desperate for a few days off work, which I didn’t manage to take till a few weeks later. I now need to pre-empt it a lot better, and manage the two carefully to spot when the time to push and pull is.

What’s interesting during these HPC check ins with others on the team is we all have a different KPI. For some it’s sleep quality, others it’s structure in their day, and for some it’s increased snacking at night. All typically point to a pit stop to change the tyres before going around the track again!

8. Will black lives matter tomorrow? 

While the focus of the news is primarily on covid-19, lockdown and the impact of it all, there’s another bigger, deeper and more widespread pandemic that’s been brought to the surface in this quarter: racism. And for good reason. With awareness at its peak, I really hope we can turn awareness into action and accountability.

While it’s the major organisations and government that will need to come around, the individual still matters. During a candid conversation with diversity and inclusion expert facilitator, Bilal Khan, he spoke about the power of starting by questioning your own pre-existing beliefs, thoughts and ideas before anything else.

 

He argued that the micro can trump the macro if it’s consistent enough. If we start by reframing our own outlook, encourage the conversation between our friends and family, and keep this consistent over time, only then is there a chance for action. On the podcast, the big question we tackled was: if black lives matter today, will they matter tomorrow? That’s a difficult idea to grasp, but crucial if we actually want to see a change.

9. There’s something special about a physical book 

While audiobooks and Kindle are growing in popularity, nothing beats the feeling of holding a book in your hands. For ten years I’ve wanted to write a book. To have it published on 24th May, slap bang in the middle of this quarter of chaos, was special. It was the law of duality in full effect (opportunity <> challenge, win <> loss, etc.)

Opening the book for the first ten author copies is a moment I’ll never forget. Seeing the book at #1 of all Health and Fitness Hot New Releases, and in the top ten as a bestseller for a few days made the launch double special. Best of all, the Zoom party with over 100+ RNTers around the world celebrating the release along with our 3-year anniversary. It wasn’t quite the London and New York nightclubs I had in mind, but that’ll come once lockdown is lifted!

10. You can’t replace your barber! 

On a lighter note, and this one is probably more for the guys reading, but I’ve learnt just how much I miss my barber! Instead of trying to wing it and giving myself another step cut (after attempt one in early May), I’ve decided to be a permanent cap man to save the growing scruffy look!

Few things I’m excited for when restrictions are lifted:

  • Getting a proper haircut and beard trim!
  • Training in a gym. While home workouts are convenient, I don’t think it’s worth the convenience. I can’t wait to walk into a serious gym, soak up the atmosphere, apply my rituals and lose myself for 45-60 minutes in the iron.
  • Booking a trip abroad. I realised just how much I enjoyed this in 2019 – 10 trips in 12 months was my way of applying contrast to an otherwise rigidly structured, highly focused week. Philippines is top of my list!
  • Going for a steak. Having cooked up a decent number of steaks in lockdown, it’s now about time to see if I’ve got anything over Hawksmoor…

What will the rest of 2020 bring? 

I have no idea what the next 6 months have in store for us externally. I’m not sure what else the world can throw at us! Internally, we will continue to map out the plans for our investment phase. We are looking for mission driven talent to help us deliver on our vision, specifically more transformation coaches and a role which I’m particularly excited about: content manager. Content is such as an integral part of what we do – bringing on someone who can orchestrate all of our content and take it to the next level will be a game changer.

For the full JD and more opportunities, visit: www.rntfitness.com/careers.

Related Articles

To explore all of my Quarterly Insights I started in 2018, scroll through the Coaches Corner here.

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Akash Vaghela
akash@rntfitness.co.uk

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.