Andrew’s Blog: 16kg’s That Changed My Life

My entire life has changed because of 16kg. This weight I am referring to is maybe not what you’d expect. It is not the weight I lost giving me the body I had always dreamed of (this aim is problematic for many reasons, but we will get to that later). It is not the combined weight of my children at certain ages. 16kg is not the amount of steak you have to eat to have your photo taken and placed on the “mega meat challenge” at my local eatery. It is the weight of my kettlebell, and that kettlebell has entirely changed my personal and business life. You can’t buy happiness. But you can buy a kettlebell, and for me, it is the same thing. 

Welcome to my blog!.

I’m an active person. Sometimes too active. I have pushed my body to its limits and asked it to do more than it is able. I have set myself unrealistic goals, given myself too little recovery time and done myself severe damage. When we think of being unhealthy, we often think of 3 of the seven deadly sins; gluttony, sloth, and greed. 

This seems to feed into this idea that the worst thing we can do is sit down and consume, and that’s sometimes true. However, it is important to acknowledge that putting yourself through too much is equally damaging. It is all harmful. I have managed to find a way to set myself regular, achievable goals, and it has dramatically changed my life. I want to share with you the secret. 

As business leaders, we are naturally target driven. We feel in competition with everyone, sometimes even the people in our team. I have certainly stayed later than everyone else, got in earlier than everyone else and asked more of myself than I would of anyone in my team. I told myself it was because I was the leader, the example, the person in charge. However, over time, I realised it was because I was trying to push myself too far. This realisation, combined with my family history of working to an early grave, felt like I had been struck by lightning. The way I was behaving was not long term. I couldn’t keep it up, and so I had to make changes to improve my life. The thing that improved my life was the kettlebell. And the kettlebell is not the tiny mechanism my wife rings when she wants a coffee, but the 16kg weight that has changed my life. 

I started to use the kettlebell in 2012, but with minimal strategy until I met StrongFirst Master Instructor Pavel Macek. Pavel uses the kettlebell daily. He used it to improve his flexibility, strength and stamina and said I could do the same. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “This will change you.”

First off, I didn’t believe him…I have grown up, as you have surrounded by the messages from companies that tell you you need to buy and keep buying things to make you happy, so the thought that I could get everything I needed from one purchase and hard work didn’t ring true. How could I get everything I need from the kettlebell?.. 

The truth is businesses rely on you feeling “ you are not good enough”. And have created multi-billion pound industries that produce pills, clothing, equipment, dietary supplements, shakes, retreats and gyms to keep you buying things that will not give you what you need. What I needed was a kettlebell and a lot of patience. 

Once I bought a kettlebell and started using it, I did not look back. I did not need to spend time away from my family because I had to work out for an hour at the gym. During the lockdown, I swung it every day, and I didn’t spend my time desperately trying to navigate work, homelife and exercise in an attempt to “have it all”. I discovered that you could “have it all”. You just have to readjust what that looks like for you.

This blog aims to share with you how to live a balanced life in a complex world. And the world is only getting more difficult and challenging to navigate, which doesn’t mean we should stop trying to gain balance, but we might have to try harder. That’s another reason why I love the kettlebell. I have been training to become a kettlebell instructor—more on this in the next episode. I love the simplicity. I love that all you need is a 16kg kettlebell to start, and you can engage in physical and mental work that will benefit your every day, every day.

There is a phenomenon called the “what the hell” effect. The “what the hell” is not, for anyone doubting the inflexion, an aggressive “hey, I’m walking here!” type of thing you might hear from a character from a film set in New York. Nor is it a “ahhhh, it’s just another bottle of wine, you only live once what the hell”. It is called the “what the hell” effect because it comes from working on something that you are surprised to find benefits something else. Like when you watch The Great British Bake Off, and you suddenly start asking questions at weddings like “is this Swiss or Italian meringue?” and everyone is very impressed with you, like that.

With the kettlebell, my “what the hell” effect came when I realised that doing my kettlebell practise regularly, because I had made it a part of my daily routine, had dramatically improved many other aspects of my life. The mental and physical differences were almost endless. I had better posture, I had more energy, I was able to dedicate proper, quality time to my family. I slept better, I had improved focus and was more motivated, I was better at hockey. But all that had changed was I stopped going to the gym and started working out, at home, with the kettlebell. What. The. Hell?

Who would have thought that simplifying things could improve your life? It is surprising, because like I’ve said before, it goes against the story we are told every day, that we need more to be happier, not less. You need more stuff, more experience, and as soon as you get it, you need the next thing to make you even better. So I stripped things back. I went from an avid gymmer to an at-home kettlebell practice-type person. Using the kettlebell daily has allowed me to gain perspective, taught me patience increased my energy and, most importantly, given me time back. 

As a business leader, I am sure you are struggling with finding balance. The truth is, we all are. The only thing more common than feeling like it is too much you have to do is believe that you are the only one struggling to cope. We need to start acknowledging the challenges and struggles we are facing and look to make things simpler. 

At the risk of sounding older than I am, none of us is getting any younger. Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean stretching yourself as thin as you can and then eventually snapping. Exercise should mean having something that you enjoy, that builds strength, not just muscle, and that allows you time to be you. 

I am inviting you to think about letting go of your ego. Let go of the high pressures that surround you in daily life and simplify. 

I was reluctant to give something new a go, so I know how you might be feeling. But I am asking you to give it a try, to let go of ego and competition and find something that will benefit your body, mind, work and soul. I have found the 16kg does that. 

Give it a go. What the hell? 

P.s. Check out my Ten Daily Habits Here 

Andrew’s Blog: Face Your Demons

Often I find that when I hear a voice telling me I can’t do something, it is my own. Worse still, I often find that I am the only one who can hear it.

I used to find wherever I went; my demons accompanied me. So much so in fact that I am surprised they didn’t insist on me purchasing them a plane seat when I was travelling. Maybe they were concerned for my finances? What they were not concerned about was my mental health. 

When it came to my work, my demons filled me with doubts, fears and insecurities so regularly that I might as well have put them on the payroll. My demons were persistent. They worked round the clock, evenings and weekends, with the enthusiasm that you could only dream of finding in a colleague. My demons were both incredibly loud and invisible, like an angry ghost. In this article, I am going to be talking about facing our demons. 

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed his nation as the 32nd President of the United States of America and said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

What Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t know at the time was that he would soon have to lead his country into a World War and die in office. If he knew how his presidency would end, he would have started it with those fateful words. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. 

Fear is an essential part of the human experience. Doubts are useful. The voice that said, “this seems scary, start running away.” was vital when the thing in question was a tiger. The little voice that says, “I’m not sure you can do this” was helpful when the “this” was fighting with a mammoth. The little voices that make us question an outcome before we do something are why you can all listen to this podcast today. Those little voices have allowed the human race and each individual that makes up the human race to survive.

Those voices can, however, stop us from doing something we really can achieve. We have been listening to our doubts and our demons to our detriment. Today we are going to start speaking back to them. 

Many of you reading will know why I do what I do. My journey to becoming the businessman, coach, husband, and father I am today has accompanied my demons. My father died far too young. He died too young because he was working too hard. Too much, too young. Both an incredible song and terrible reality.

My father had his demons, and when he passed away, I am sure some of my father’s demons started hanging out with me. There is no easy way to face them. There is certainly no easy way to deal with them, but nobody said it would be easy, as we have touched on before. Most things that are worth doing are difficult. The fears and doubts might be telling you to run away. I am telling you to stop and to face those demons that tell you; you can’t. 

 

If you have listened to the previous episodes of my podcast, you will know that there are four foundations. I believe you can build a successful business without sacrificing your health, well-being and personal relationships. The four foundations; do the work, no excuses, always ready and speak the truth are not without challenges, and if you are anything like me, they are not without a voice telling you your time is better spent elsewhere. My promise to you is I live and breathe these foundations. I have built my life upon them, but I have had to face my demons to do so. 

When it comes to doing the work, the first foundation, I have had to face demons that tell me I will end up like my father. The first step I had to take was to work out that I didn’t want to end up like my father, but I was on the same path as him. Once I had come to that realisation, I then had to summon the strength and confidence to put things that would allow me to change the direction I was going in. The demons that said I wasn’t strong enough to change had to be met with strength from me. 

I came across a quote by Joseph Campbell. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Your demons may tell you you can’t do something. Believe me, unless it is fighting a tiger, I reckon you can. Next time your demon tells you you can’t, I urge you to answer that you can. 

No excuses is the first foundation. An excuse is a demon’s press conference. It is the voice that says, “no, thank you and here is why…”. Again this is an instrumental quality when our lives and loved ones are endangered. It means we run away from fire, flood and creatures with sharp teeth. It is not good to be told by an inner voice that we might fail when we will not. If and when you hear that voice, I urge you to pause. Say, “thanks for showing up, thanks for trying to protect me, but I don’t need protecting this time.” and I hope that your demons, like mine, will be satisfied with this answer, even if it is only until the next time… Demons can be demonically persistent…

Being always ready is challenging when your demon is trying to prevent you from being so. Your demons might tell you that there is no point in being ready. It might tell you that there is no reason you should try and be ready. Again, at this point it is worth thanking them for the thought, but still aiming to be ready. I am certainly not the first person to say this and I’m paraphrasing the original quote, but here goes…” Courage is not the absence of fear. It is being scared and doing it anyway.”

The fourth and final foundation is speaking the truth. Telling the truth to yourself is difficult. Speaking the truth to your demons might feel almost impossible, and it is at this point, I would like to impart some wisdom I have learned from an incredible woman called Emily Eldredge. Your demons are trying to protect you, even now. They want your attention, and they want your love. When facing your demons, could you not do it with aggression? 

Fighting fire with fire is a phrase and not a good piece of advice. If you have ever accidentally left a tea towel on the hob when you’re cooking and, instead of getting a damp cloth, ran to get a box of matches, you will know this. 

When facing your demons, do not meet them with the fear they put in you. Meet your monsters with kindness. Thank them for their concern, but say you’re going to keep trying anyway. The success you seek in your business and in your life comes with its challenges; you don’t need to stand in your way. 

I think FDR was incorrect when he said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” There is plenty to fear, but we should keep trying, anyway. 

Andrew’s Blog: Ice Baths and Epiphanies

When something is working, we don’t often think about it. If the car starts smoothly, we don’t believe so: “Thanks, car, good work today. And thanks to all the engineers who have pushed this vehicle’s design forward and the workers who built the roads-”.

We do not, because we would be late for where we are going to and soon be thanking our clients for not doing business with us.

My point is When things are working, we don’t notice them. When things go wrong, we do. If the car doesn’t start, we are late and annoyed and probably swearing. If the lid of our takeaway coffee comes off as we rush to work, our fingers might get burned, and we might swear again. My point is that we carry around a lot of negative emotions with us and often far fewer positive ones. We notice when things go wrong, and we remember them. They affect us. They change our mood for the worse.

In the same way, a child carries their favourite soft toy with them everywhere they go, and we carry emotional baggage and daily stresses with such regularity that we might not even notice we are doing it. Until we are told to let go.

I’m going to talk to you now about a living legend. Wim Hof. Not only does his name sound like he should be a heroic character in a Terry Pratchett novel, but he is as brave and otherworldly as that, BUT he exists in real life. He is nicknamed the Iceman. Presumably, Iceman is the only name cooler than Wim Hof, so he was rightly awarded it. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. If you’re not a fan, it is probably because you don’t know who he is. That’s about to change.

Wim Hof runs half marathons barefoot, on ice. Wim Hof set the world record for swimming 57.5 metres completely under the ice. Wim Hof climbed 5,700 metres up Mount Everest wearing just shoes and shorts. Wim Hof has also changed my life. He didn’t get an award or medal for it at the time, so I will give it at least some of the recognition he deserves by talking about it in my blog.

A couple of years ago, I sat in a bath full of iced water whilst on a Wim Hof Method workshop. During the few minutes I sat surrounded by cold iced water during the day, I had an epiphany. Although this sentence might, rightly, make you question what sort of person would do that to himself voluntarily, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Like many good ideas, it did not feel like a good idea at the time. It felt like one of the worst. Your body goes into shock. Your brain, which is sending messages to your body, is screaming at you to “Stop doing what you are doing, immediately” like a panicked parent when you come into the room and see your child spreading jam on the sofa…

Your brain is there to protect you but, as we have mentioned before in previous episodes, with far fewer tigers roaming wild on our streets and the increase in supermarkets, things are slightly less “high stakes” in modern life, but our brains have been slower to adapt in some ways.

When I was in the ice bath, my brain went into panic mode. It assumed I was dying, and in a way, it felt like I was. It was reacting in the way it has evolved to do, to get me out of danger. The danger, though, as I have said, was not a tiger or a stampede of mammoths, it was an ice bath.

My breath quickened and got shallow. I began to tense up and became unable to focus. I was struggling. The man who was leading the exercise, Jacub, was trying to get me to focus, to listen to him. He was telling me to breathe, he was telling me to concentrate, but I couldn’t. Then Jakob said two words that I not only heard but was able to respond to. He said, “Let go”.

These words were able to cut through the ice. Let go.

It was a true moment of clarity. Shockingly so. Like when you accidentally wake up late and open the curtains thinking it’s the first thing, but the sun is shining brightly because it is the middle of the day. Let go. Two words changed my life from that moment on. Because you only notice when things go wrong, I was carrying years of pressure, disappointments and fears without noticing. I had with me, without my knowledge and against my wishes, been carrying more emotional baggage than you can carry in both arms.

So I started to let go.

The good thing about the ice bath is that when you’re out of it, your brain immediately rewards you for not dying. It floods your body with endorphins that say “HOORAY, YOU MADE IT” and then “DON’T YOU EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN, I WAS WORRIED SICK.” In that same way that as a worried parent, I have both celebrated and scolded my daughter for coming back from a party late, but in one piece.

I had started to let go. Not entirely, not of everything, but I started to let go. Like a sugar cube in a hot tea (which both works as the perfect visual for how “letting go” felt and the perfect drink to have after submerging yourself in freezing cold water) I was able to dissolve, to melt.

A friend of mine always starts her day by doing what she calls “swallowing the frog”. No, she does not seek her morning meal from reptilian sources. What she means is she starts her working day by doing the worst job on the to-do list. She gets rid of the thing that is hanging over her. She swallows the frog and gets on with her day.

Since the ice bath all those years ago, I have started having a cold shower every single morning. I suffer now, so I don’t have to suffer later. I shock my body and my brain, so I am alert and present. It is almost impossible to think of anything else when your body is in cold water. Your brain is focused. Your mind is clear. This is cold. This is unpleasant. But it will not last forever, and it will not kill me.

I have a two minute cold shower every day, and my life has dramatically improved because of it. This is not a fad where you are convinced to financially invest in the latest “must-have”. It does not take up more than a couple of minutes of your day. You have 1438 minutes left in the day to spend them however you please, but two minutes in a cold shower can change your life.

I went back recently to submerge my body in iced water, and something amazing happened. In just a few years, in the same bath, with the same coach, Jakob, I submerged my body in iced water. The difference? My breathing remained the same. There was no panic; there was no sharp, shallow breathing. I had, it seemed, through daily practice, managed to make my body behave the way I wanted to. I didn’t see the growth until I was back in the ice bath, but I had moved on from the scared person I was, surrounded by ice and trauma. I had let go.

When I take a cold shower, I suffer. When I am out of it, that suffering immediately stops. Doing it every day grounds me. It is one of the ten daily habits that I perform every single day. And I encourage you to do it too.

You know that phrase “come on in, the water’s lovely”? Well, this water is not. It is cold and will shock you. But do it anyway. Spend two minutes out of 1440 you get today to change your life. Breathe and Let go.

Thanks for reading my blog today. You can also listen to my podcast HERE