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Monday, 9 December 2013

Home Again

A week and two days have passed since my last post. It was a great week where I met some inspiring people who are doing great work. One such person is the owner of Start of Happiness with a value packed blog about finding happiness in life. Well worth checking out. The owner lives in the neighbouring suburb so I'm sure there will be some good opportunities to philosophise over a decent coffee which Sydney has no problem producing.

We had my mother staying for a few days this week who is a primary school teacher. She was visiting Sydney for a reading course through Macquarie University. My mum is on the verge of retiring and it made me think that life is a journey of learning and even in retirement so there's so much to be learnt and experiences to be had.

The fitness regime was on the back burner for the week as I was driving Mum around for a few days and I also wanted to spend quality time with her and with my son and wife while 'Mimi' was visiting. Mimi is a name that my mother came up with because she didn't want to be known as 'Gran' as it sounded too generic and old! I once would have got anxious about not training for another week. A few years ago I'd be training for the next triathlon. These days I'm not racing but I find I bounce back fairly quickly and a 2 week hiatus is great for all minor injuries and inflammation to heal or subside. My workout on Saturday felt great and I saw the familiar faces in my gym. I didn't feel like I had been away for a few weeks. It sure did yesterday though, and today.. However, active recovery is the best approach so I returned today to pick up the bar again along with my love-hate favourites the pull-ups and dips. I tend to rotate my other sets but stick with a default handful which I do every session unless due to a particular injury which is rare.

So, in between gym visits we visited Balmoral beach which sure was beautiful. Ollie and I went swimming. Ollie assured me he can swim but as we approached the water his confidence dropped. Upon hitting the water he yelled "Daddy, I can't swim!". I was expecting this, as a repeat of our previous swim about a month ago so I swirled him around for some 360s at waist height and he loved it. A quick lunch of fish and chips followed and a stroll to our favourite coffee kiosk for takeaway coffees and a babycino and marsh mellows for Ollie.
Balmoral beach

Ollie wanted to copy his Daddy
The glare is "too bright!"
Speaking of coffee, it was time to grind a week's worth of coffee. The bean from Bulletproof coffee is the business and I ended up buying an oversize bag on line which I'm enjoying a great deal. The quality is great and it clears out the brain-fog even more if combined with some good quality grass-fed butter and MCT oil. I'll talk some more about my fitness experiments in an upcoming blog.
Grind time!



Today I took a leave day and we started our Christmas shopping! The only way to keep Ollie happy was to hire the car below for a small fee per hour. He loved it and showed no interest in running away when he could cruise in his car. He was easy to find too in the department stores as I just looked for red flag #2 above the aisles!


 Back to the office tomorrow where I've got some big goals to smash, a midweek catch up with a buddy at a newish Mexican joint near the CBD and another Christmas party to finish off the week. I should mention I attended an end-of-year party last Friday at the local bowls club which sure was fun.
Trying to avoid send the ball in the gutter at pace




Friday, 29 November 2013

A week in Asia

I'm on my final day on my round-the-world sojourn. I'm sticking to me weekly updates routine and I'm a day early this week compare to a day late last week so it all balances out!

Last week I spent 3 days in Seoul of which I wrote about two. On Wednesday I visited a national cancer centre I was fortunate enough to meet a prominent oncologist of whom my company is collaborating. As I work in research, physicians don't expect a sales pitch from me so I do find that physicians are generally welcoming as it gives them a chance to discuss their research. As always, I try to live an extraordinary life and to improve the outlook of those around me. I organised a 'photo-shoot' with the physician and study coordinator which I believe they enjoyed and made them feel appreciated!

After some careful planning I took my long-haul suitcase with me to the hospital and at the end of the day took a taxi directly to the airport.  It turned out to be approximately half way between my hotel and the airport so it made sense. Like Japan, a taxi trip from the CBD/downtown in Seoul can be an expensive exercise. The alternative 'airport limousine bus' is a good alternative for about 15 bucks.

From the taxi  - en route to Seoul Incheon Airport


The flight with Asiana from Seoul to Shanghai was a smooth and pleasant 2 hours. The flight was only about two thirds full so I had the luxury of two empty seats next to me. I watched 2 episodes of "Elementary" with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu which was easy watching. I powered through some emails on the iPhone while offline all batched and ready to send when I logged into the hotel wifi.

Shanghai airport immigration was smooth and efficient and I quickly got a taxi, probably older than me, to the Shanghai Hilton. The check-in staff were friendly and upgraded me to a deluxe room on a high floor for no apparent reason - no complaints!


The 2 days at the office in Shanghai were busy in working through my email backlog with success , a few meetings, a 1:1 with my boss and a team-building lunch of fresh freshwater crabs which is a special occasion in China.

Today I have most of the day spare in Shanghai so I'm writing my blog post one day early and then will walk around the peaceful gardens opposite the hotel and will explore some of the lane ways in the area. Although Christmas is just around the corner back home, buying gifts from the western malls makes no sense and the prices are comparable if not more expensive than back home in Oz. I'd prefer to take the day by chance and see what I find. Perhaps I'll see something to buy as a gift for my family. If not, Godiva chocolate at the airport is always well received by my wife and a little toy for my son is always exciting for him.
Hairy Crab season in China!

Ready to go!

Lunch!

It's been a great two weeks of travelling around the world on business. I always enjoy connecting with team-mates, locals in the general public and other fellow global workers. I had a chance to catch up on my long queue of podcasts stacking up on my iPhone plus a few books that I picked up on my Kindle app. I think I'm currently reading 5 books on my Kindle app which is probably one risk of not carrying physical books which tends to limit the number of books you carry in hand baggage!

Regarding fitness, the gym schedule has taken a hit but I know that I'll return to routine back in Australia. My nagging shoulder injury continues to remind me I need to do some remedial work on it and book in with my sports physician to finally get it fixed after 12+ months.

The next post will be written from the "war room" (home office) in Australia.

Monday, 25 November 2013

26 November 2013: Round The World ticket

Well, I'm 2 days late with my weekly blog update but was travelling over the weekend between Boston and Seoul via Heathrow. Actually, I could have updated the blog while on a 4 hour transit in the T5 BA lounge but prioritised some work emails that demanded my attention.

It's a daily challenge to prioritise what should be done next. Although I enjoy strategising, it can become draining when there are many competing priorities. To put all into perspective, I usually think about what I would like to have completed by the end of the day and by the end of the week. If I keep the daily and weekly goals in perspective, it contributes to reaching monthly goals in work and life in general.

I'll probably write a lot about email over time but one thing useful is to avoid opening my inbox first thing in the morning, or last thing at night unless I plan to spend the next hour, or 8 hours being sucked into the latest demands. For example, reading email right before bed almost guarantees an 'urgent' request will come from a colleague in the USA which I then need to respond to. Even if  plan to respond in the morning, it often plays on my mind which makes it difficult to sleep. Colleagues have said the same thing about emailing and  late night teleconferences.

It's a fine balance to achieve a good level of responsiveness to colleagues when at the same time, maintaining good mental health and clarity. Pushing back makes one appear unhelpful but can also make people realise they need to plan their own workload more carefully and give colleagues adequate time to respond. I see those who are praised for 'going the extra mile' and working 12 hour days to please everyone but I wonder, at what cost to that person? I have won a few of these awards in the past but I have my doubts about whether it was worth it.

What I have noticed in recent times is that if I'm firm and clear in my actions without making excuses, people are generally understanding and adjust their approach or planning.

So, having said all that, I haven't yet described the past week. As per the title, I'm currently on a Round The World ticket on business travel to Cambridge - Boston, Seoul and Shanghai. The journey to Boston was a long one with stop overs in Los Angeles and Dallas. There were some tight connections but I didn't miss any flights and my luggage made it!

One thing I'm constantly reminded of is that maintaining an optimistic attitude will often see you through challenges. For example, my flight arrived into LA an hour late, which put me on borderline of being at risk of missing my flight to Dallas. Therefore, my connection was 'flagged' as fast track which meant I was given an orange card which ensured I got the express lane for all queues through LAX to the gate for the Dallas flight. If we had landed say 20 minutes earlier I wouldn't have qualified and would probably have been at more risk of missing the flight with the regular queues!

Another situation arose when I checked into my hotel in Seoul. They didn't have my reservation even though I had a print out from my travel agent with CC guarantee. I maintained a calm attitude and was friendly to the staff. While they 'looked into it' I bought a coffee from the hotel lobby cafe. The check-in attendant came over and apologised and upgraded my room, included full breakfast and checked me in 2 hours early! SO, it reminded me that a solution is usually at hand and there's no need to panic or make a big deal over it.

Travel tip, at the immigration line, always take the foreigner line closest to the nationals line. Invariably the nationals zoom through and they then open up the checkpoint to foreigners which is where I was standing watching closely with a grin - straight through!

Another tip, collect suitcase from the carousel before exchanging cash, using the toilet etc. I had someone take my case in Australia and waited all day at home for them to realise and return it. The same thing happened to a colleague recently so it made me realise how often people don't check the suitcase they just picked up. My case it clearly labelled but it doesn't stop some people! So, stand right near the conveyor belt where the bags emerge and watch for your case closely!

Right, other notes from my visit to Boston. Jet lag is a curse and as always I'm in a daze for 2-3 days and wish I could be more on my game when I need it most. As usual I had travelled furthest (from Australia) so was the most jet-lagged. Nevertheless, the meetings were productive and I was able to contribute to a reasonable degree.

These days, in global, matrix work environments where people seem compelled to jump whenever an email arrives, no matter what level of importance the message may contain. I find that, particularly younger folks, are competing to be the most responsive and often, indirectly the most pedantic. If a team member doesn't weigh in on every single email or (non) issue, they may be perceived as a slacker.  Some are ready to learn new methods of becoming more productive and proactive rather than scrambling in a constantly reactive state. Others don't "get it" and feel compelled to please everyone and tow the company line. It's interesting that the most successful and wealthy people tend to be disruptors who do not conform to corporate culture.

I'll write more on productivity in future posts. I write this post from Seoul, where I'm sitting in my hotel room looking at on a street scape that is sub zero in temperature. I have a meeting with a supplier at 2PM and have yet again a backlog of emails to get through. However, I have an important project task due by Friday and wish to complete at least 80% of it today before getting sucked into the next round of emails. 10 years , or even 5 years ago I would have kept on responding to emails. The problem is , the cycle never ends. These days I set the Out of Office when I'm travelling and decline the meeting invitations. At the end of the day, the metrics speak louder than not being responsive to some minor emails. If it's urgent, people can always call but the funny thing is they hardly ever do, so it can't be that urgent.

Finally, I finally got in a workout at the hotel gym last night. I did some squats, bicep curls, plank, kettle bell swings, triceps press, chest press on machine (similar to bench press). I also did some interval training on the treadmill for about 8 minutes. Having not run for months , I didn't wish to overdo it like I often do when returning to an activity after a hiatus. Now that I'm on the wrong side of 35, I find I don't bounce back so quickly for the next 48 hours. The good news is that I still find I can improve my fitness dramatically if I keep at it in a systematic way. Although non-trainers think trainers work out for fun, it's often not the case. I don't always look forward to the workout but nearly always enjoy it once I get started or at least when I'm finished. When I'm lacking motivation, I'll project to how I'll feel when I complete the workout - the buzz of it - and it motivates me to keep going.

Well, a lengthy post today and I have work to do. But, to maintain my productivity, I'll go outside and grab a coffee and will try to take a photo from the rooftop bar as it's quite a nice day outside, despite the cold!

PS: the rooftop bar had restricted access until 5PM so, no photo opportunity!



Sunday, 17 November 2013

17 November 2013 : Rainy days

So, it's been a week since I posted and it rained a lot. I also caught a cold but took wifey's advice and eased back on the work-outs at the gym. The one work-out I did complete almost saw me stuck under the bench press when I vaguely put to many weights on the bar and nearly crushed myself. Needless to say it was embarrassing but it was the best and only sit-up I did all week. No broken ribs or visible bruising but I learnt my lesson to take more care!

My job has me travelling for the next two weeks on a round-the-world ticket which will take me to  Boston, Seoul and Shanghai. Although the timezone variations will be  challenging I always enjoy the uninterrupted time on the plane where I can truly think deeply without interruptions.

So, from my mobile office at 35000 feet I plan to clear out my inbox to "inbox zero" status and get through a back log of tasks sitting in my "to be actioned" folder in Outlook. I must say, adopting the inbox zero approach to my corporate life a few years ago really improved my productivity and sanity, where I don't keep revisiting an migraine inducing inbox full of everything from spam to urgent requests.

In other news from the past week, I kept an eye on the gluten summit which kicked off on Monday and ran some very interesting presentations. As I'm gluten sensitive, gluten research is a topic very relevant to me. I'll probably buy the access pass as it's a good collection of material that I'll steadily work my way through.

Carb levels have not been so good this week but manageable. As I didn't work out so much I avoided 'carb backloading' too which is something I learnt from DH Kiefer's research on athlete.io

As I'll be away for 2 weeks, I spent some quality time with my family on Sunday at our favourite restaurant. As we are experiencing heavy rain in Sydney we didn't make it to the beach. When we do, it almost feels like a mini-vacation and I feel much more rested for it!

I also received confirmation from a podcaster that I'll be featured on his podcast this week. I'm very excited about this and will provide the link once it goes to air.

Well, time for some precision packing to get me through the next 2 weeks. I'll pack my gym gear, heavy coat for northern hemisphere fall and will update again on "the road".

Saturday, 16 November 2013

10 November 2013

Well, after many months of thinking about blogging and a few dabbles over the past few years, I've relaunched my blog. Previous blogs focused on a single theme but I found it was too easy to drift off topic. For example I competed in triathlon for a few years so I began a blog but when I stopped competing the blog also ran out of puff. Actually, the blog ran out of puff long before my competing did.

I also started a blog when my wife and I moved to the UK for a year but that never got momentum either. These days I'm back in Sydney, Australia and happy to be home!

So, this leaves me here, after a few false starts, some minimal blogging experience and considerably more subject matter to blog about!

The new blog domain Fit Busy Dad aims to encompass three major concepts that I consider important in my life. They are in no particular order but fit happy Dad sounded best as a domain name.

The fit part is important as it's my 'backbone' to optimal performance. If I'm not fit, or trying to get fit - to use the old car analogy -  I'm not firing on all cylinders.

Busy, which I'll feature in more detail in subsequent posts. Essentially. I have a full time job that involves teams across multiple time zones and a fair whack of travel required.

Dad speaks for itself, in that I'm a father of one wonderful boy with a little girl on the way! I'd list family too but I believe that's all part of being a good Dad. Being a father is very important to me and being a great husband is equally important in order to support my growing family.

My mission is to combine fit and busy and Dad to make it all work to be productive , supportive to my family and other readers and to make a difference in this life. Although there are many Mum or Mom blogs I haven't seen so many Dad blogs out there.

Incidentally I read a great blog about how to avoid being a fat Dad here.

So, a central tenet of my blog is a function of the whole name - by staying fit , managing multiple responsibilities and by being a Dad, I'm very busy! Therefore, I could argue that I don't have time to blog but perhaps it will help me, and others, be more productive and effective. I do actually cringe a little when I say "be effective" after watching the dystopian sci-fi "Oblivion" which I watched somewhere 35000ft above the Earth on a recent business trip. If you have seen it, or plan to, you will understand.

There are many things I wish to wrute about in the future. Topics will include health and nutrition including paleo & primal, balancing family responsibilities with fitness demands, adding value to the world by helping other busy parents and non-parents alike and leveraging the good that the universe offers to those whose eyes are open to it.

Other things of interest that I dabble with are systems to ease people's busy lives through building powerful habits and automating tasks in life to free up time for more productive pursuits. I'm also interested in interviewing people who have interesting stories to share which may lead to some podcasts.

My goal is to post once per week with perhaps some additional posts when I have additional material to share mid week before I forget! If there are certain challenges you would like me to discuss then please leave a comment in a constructive way and I'll be happy to consider!