Category Archives: leadership

Your action plan: using feedback to drive your career

I recently published this blog post on seeking career feedback. Once you’ve sought feedback, it’s time to make choices about what you’re going to do, share the plan with your manager, and gauge your progress as you work on it.

The negatives

If you’ve asked for feedback, listened, and recorded it, you’re ready to start creating an action plan. You now need to decide on the importance of each constructive piece of feedback. Here are some things to consider:

  • How many times did you hear it? The more times, the more important
  • Who did you hear it from? Worry more about your boss’s opinion than your peers’, and more about your peers’ than anyone else’s
  • When did they say it? The second thing is often the most important – people warm up with a gentle message, and often end later with low priority points
  • Is it a perception or a reality? Did you have an off-day, or an off-interaction that was out of character? Or is this a genuine flaw?
  • Do you think it is correct? Was it on your list?

I recommend finding the top five pieces of feedback, and sorting them from most- to least-important by considering the criteria above. You don’t want to work on too many things at once.

The positives

Don’t take positive feedback for granted. You can use the same techniques as you’ve used for the negatives to create your list of top strengths. Make sure you do this too: figure out your top five strengths.

Creating a Plan

You have a fundamental choice in creating a plan. You can decide to lean hard on your strengths and have them propel you further forward, or you can choose to work on the weaknesses so they don’t hold you back. The right thing to do is usually somewhere in between: focus on improving a couple of weaknesses at any one time, and work on using your strengths to their maximum potential.

One thing I’ve observed is that senior people are usually held back by their weaknesses. In part it’s the Peter Principle, and in part it’s the fact that everyone around them is pretty awesome, and flaws stand out. There’s definitely a point I often see where people get confused – they expect to advance  in their career because of the awesome competencies they have, and then suddenly they’re stuck because of their weaknesses. It often takes people a while to accept that a few things need to change, especially if they’ve never heard negative feedback before.

I’d recommend taking your top two or three negatives, and your top one or two strengths, and writing them down as the areas you want to focus on. Bonus points if you sort them into priority order. Now, you need an action plan. Next to each point, write key steps you’ll take to address that weakness, or showcase that strength. The more actionable, the better – it’s not that helpful to say “you’ll improve your public speaking”, it’s helpful to say “give three public talks in 2012, and seek actionable feedback immediately after each presentation”.  Try and use quantities, dates, names, situations, or other concrete points in creating the plan. Remember that taking action on weaknesses takes you out of your comfort zone – so the steps should feel hard, awkward, and uncertain.

Executing the plan

If you’ve got an actionable plan, I’d recommend reviewing it with your boss. At the very least, you’re going to look good for having taken career development seriously. You’ll probably also get great feedback on whether this is a good plan or not – and, again, your boss’s opinion matters.

Now you can go execute your plan. Good luck. Keep an eye on your progress: I’d recommend giving yourself a green, yellow, or red rating on each point every six weeks or so. Ask the people who gave you’re the feedback points whether they’re seeing a change – the door is open with them, and you should use it.

Of course, this is a process that never ends. You can complete the plan successfully, and there’ll be another plan ready to be created by starting over. Good luck, I hope you use feedback successfully in building your career.

Should you be a manager?

I recently enjoyed a conversation with our 2012 eBay interns. We discussed careers, leadership, business, and engineering. Someone asked me about career path: should I follow the manager or individual contributor path? It’s a great question.

The answer is it depends on what you’re passionate about, and ultimately that’ll be key in determining whether you’re good at it. Here’s my litmus test for the manager career track:

  • Are you passionate about leading people? If not, don’t become a manager. If yes, you need to develop people management skills: from growing people and helping them succeed, to delivering tough messages and handling challenging personal circumstances. You’ll need to spend much of your time working with people
  • Is having impact through others rewarding to you? If yes, that means you feel reward when your team hits its goals, the people around you solve problems, and your employees work together as team. If not, you’re someone who highly values personally contributing ideas, solving problems, or creating output (such as writing code)

There’s no right or wrong answer, and it isn’t black or white. You can be a good manager who still contributes personally, but realize its more about others than you. You can be a great individual contributor who’s passionate about helping others succeed; indeed, that’s a prerequisite of a senior individual contributor. But at the core, management is about leading others and being accountable for a team, and succeeding or failing based on their contribution.

How are you doing? How to ask for feedback

Listening to feedback can help develop your career. When you know what others think, you can make choices about what and how to improve, and learn and develop competencies that will improve your effectiveness.

Why Get Feedback?

I’d say nine out of ten people have a healthy self-perception. They’re good at things, and they know what they are. They’re bad at things, and they know what they are. The other one in ten fall in two buckets: thinking they’re awesome when they’re not, or thinking they’re terrible when they’re not.

Net, I believe that most people actually know what they’re good at, and what they’re bad at. It’s good to have your list: try writing down your top five strength and weaknesses as you see them. But do they matter? Does anyone realize that weakness? Is it preventing career progress? Are people talking about it? Are you worried about a flaw that no one cares about? Are you great at something that doesn’t matter?

To find out what matters, it’s important to know what others think. You’ll generally need to ask them – good managers will give you feedback at review time, the rest of the time you’ll need to ask. Most other people aren’t going to burst into talking about you. Asking them is a good career move: it shows you’re interested in learning and growing, that you care what others think, and you’re open to feedback. Set up a 1:1 meeting with a few people whose opinions you know you will value, you know can help you create an actionable list, and find out what they think.

Who do I ask?

Who could or should you ask? I’d definitely ask your manager – it’s their job to help you grow, be successful, and have impact. Their opinion also matters – you’re not going to get that key assignment or promotion without their help (there are no exceptions to that rule). I’d ask a couple of peers, and someone who’s junior to you too (which could be someone who reports to you). That’s five people – a good sample. If you want more, try an ex-boss, your boss’s boss (you may find out what the boss says to his boss about you), or someone you admire in another team but that you don’t work with daily.

Receiving Feedback

Never ask for feedback and argue with the giver that they are wrong. It doesn’t matter if they are – you asked for their opinion, which is a subjective view that makes sense in the movie that’s playing in their head. If you argue, you’ll look foolish, you won’t get any more feedback, and you’ve ruined the discussion as a career move. So, listen, write down what they say, say “thanks” frequently, and ask polite inquisitive questions that help you understand their perspective (don’t ask leading questions that show you don’t agree). Basically, don’t talk much.

You may have trouble getting people to be critical of you. It might take a few explicit questions to get them started, and you’ll need to show you’re thankful for the feedback if you want to get more. Try saying things like “I want to have more impact – and I know to do that I’m going to have to learn new skills. What skills do you think I need to develop?” or “If you were me, what’s the number one thing you’d work on changing?” or “What’s the biggest challenge you think I’d face at the next level or in your role?”. Keep your body language positive: no folding your arms, no furrowed brow, no looming over them and pacing around. They’ll be more comfortable in their territory – go to their office if you can. And be very genuine – people can spot a fake from a mile away.

Most of the time, this is going to turn out great. Most people want to help others. And most recipients of feedback know what they’re going to hear – since most recipients do have that healthy self-perception. So, hopefully, you’ll come away with a great list of positives and negatives, and hopefully they’ll be reinforced by the various people you speak to.

One last word of advice: don’t enter into this process lightly. If you ask for feedback, people are going to expect you to do something with it. You’ll score negative points if you ask for feedback and do nothing – people expect you to do something, and they expect to see some signs of life that show you’re making progress.

Next time, I’ll share some thoughts on how to use feedback to create a development plan.

6 secrets for successful small teams

Managing small engineering teams is fun. You’re close to the technology, close to team that’s writing code, and solving problems hands-on. Don’t get me wrong: it’s satisfying, rewarding, and impactful to manage large teams, but there’s nothing like being in the details and seeing a product come together. You lead a small team, by being an example that folks can follow; in contrast, you manage a large team. It’s different.

Here’s six things I’ve learnt along the way about leading small teams. This post was inspired by Greg Brockman’s 6 secrets for building a super team — Greg explained how to hire a small super team, and this is my sequel on how to make it world class.

1. Lead by Example

I’ve seen newly-minted leaders of small teams fail. One of the common reasons is they stop doing what they’re good at: being technical. And when they stop, engineers stop following them. Engineers want their leaders to be driving engineering, working on the hardest problems, and setting an example.

Great leaders of small teams are at least 50% technical, they spend more than half of their time writing code, creating designs, proposing architectures, doing code reviews, solving technical problems, or otherwise getting deep in the details. They know everything that’s going on in their team — they’ve got the right people working on the right problems, they’re driving the people at the right pace, they’ve holding people accountable for doing everything the right way, and they know the teams’ designs and code like they know their own. In the other 50% or less of their time, they’re passionate and focused on process, people, teams, and leadership — they have just the right amount of process to keep the team on track and happy, they’re managing their dependencies, and they’re spending time growing their people and team.

2. Set clear, simple goals, with clear, measurable metrics

You won’t be successful if you don’t know what success is. It’s surprising how many teams build a product without a way of measuring whether they’ve been successful, deciding when they need to be successful, or even without knowing where they’re headed. You should always start with goals and metrics.

Let’s suppose you’re leading the home page team at a major web company. You’re charged with leading a team of seven engineers, who together build all of the components on the page, and deliver everything from the platform pieces through to the pixels. You know who your competitors are, and you’ve got some great ideas on how to build a better home page than they’ve got. You’ve thought about this — you know that owning the home page means you’re the front door to the store, it’s your job to get the customers inside so that they can use all the products and features that the other teams have built.

I’m a fan of having two or three clear goals and objective ways of measuring them. You might decide that success is having the acknowledged leading home page on the web. How might you measure that? Here’s two or three ideas: first, you have lower abandonment than your competitors (lowest percentage of visitors who don’t click anything); second, you win a head-to-head taste test against your competitors at least 2/3rds of the time; and, third, your page is faster to load that your competitor’s. These are all criteria you can measure on a daily or weekly basis, and you can track them and share with the team.

If you want to create drive, fever, and passion in your team, consider setting a Bold Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) date. Decide that you’re going to have the best homepage by January 1. Put a graph up on the wall with the months on the x-axis and your objective, measurable success criteria on the y-axis. Every week, update the points for you and your competitors. Huddle the team around the graph, and work together to make success happen. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be in firing up your team, and getting creative ideas into the product.

3. Balance the portfolio

Small successful teams spread their bets. They have many small projects going on, and a couple of large ones. Importantly, the vast majority of the projects are impactful — they’re projects that are pushing the team towards their measurable goals. Good teams avoid doing work that doesn’t matter.

Why are small projects important? Well, first, they mitigate the risk if a large project gets delayed or doesn’t hit paydirt. Second, they give the team a real rhythm: every week there’s something new going out that moves the needle, and the team stays fired up and on track to their goals. Doing only large projects can be a death march — and it’s hard to keep teams fired up on one of those.

4. Meet the team

You have to know your team to be a successful leader. You need to understand the people who work for you, and customize your style to get the most from them. Some folks will need more advice, others will need to be pushed, some will rebel if you push, and some just need to know the goals and be given plenty of space. There’ll always be some conflict brewing, and everyone will have something on their mind that they want you to know — and the only way to find it out is to meet them regularly, really get to know them, build trust, and help them be successful.

I recommend a weekly 1:1 that’s at least 30 minutes, and not focused on the day-to-day. Ask questions in a 1:1, and leave plenty of white space in the conversation for the person you’re meeting to talk to you. Listen to what they say, and ask more questions that explore what they’re saying. Most importantly, be open and honest — say what you think, and it’ll likely work both ways. Conversation is key to being a successful leader.

5. Keep it simple

When the team’s small, you don’t need onerous process, too many meetings, or too much email. I’d recommend a daily stand-up meeting as the basic tool to stay in touch: go around in a circle, and ask each person to say what they did yesterday, what they’re planning on doing today, and anything that’s blocking them from succeeding. Buy some hour glass timers, and make sure everyone stays under two minutes. Don’t allow point-to-point conversation, the meeting is strictly for broadcasting information (the 1:1 or 2:1 conversations can happen after the meeting). Tell the team you will buy them coffee and food if the meeting goes over 20 minutes, and work hard to keep it under 15. Keeping it tight on time and high on information content will ensure you get good attendance and participation.

My hour glass timers. A large one tracks meeting time (20 minutes), and the two smaller ones are for individual speakers (2 minutes each) — one for the current speaker, and one for the next speaker.

When it comes to tracking a project, I recommend simple (and so do most of the people I work with). If it’s six to eight people, you can track projects with sticky notes, a whiteboard, and a camera for recording key information. I’ve also used a simple spreadsheet, where engineers can record the list of tasks that they’re working on and the time they will take, and the sheet automatically burns down the time remaining and computes completion dates. All the engineer has to do is keep the list of tasks in the sheet accurate, and the time estimates up to date, and the rest takes care of itself. In either case, simple is the key — very low overhead for the engineers, and pretty simple for the leader.

6. Keep it small

What I’ve shared applies to teams of 4 to 8 people that work for one leader. Beyond that, the team isn’t small anymore — you’ll find it nearly impossible to be more than 50% technical, and still get in the 1:1s and run an effective team. I’ve met a few people who can do it, but they’re usually super experienced or have super experienced teams.

We’ve all heard the stories of small startups with a few employees doing amazing things (think instagram or pinterest). It’s often because they’re lead by technologists, who’ve set crisp goals, spread their bets, kept it simple, and know their teams well. If you get your small team leadership right, your small team can change the world — and small teams do regularly change the world. Good luck.

Work, Life, Balanced: 5 tips

When I wrote my most-popular post so far, Fighting fit: Why you need to be in top shape to be a leader, I promised I’d write a future post about work-life balance. So, here are five things that work for me.

1. Do it and then forget it

One of my favorite sayings is many pebbles do a mountain make. One example is it’s hard to be productive, focused, and energized with a thousand small todos in your head. It’s hard enough having a few large things. Empty your head of the small stuff: do small things when you think of them, don’t file them away, and don’t have them hanging over you. This lowers my stress, gives me a warm feeling of having completed something, and makes life better.

A good example is an email. If you’ve read it, it needs a reply, and the reply is going to take a minute or so: just do it now. The cost of reading it, filing a todo in your head, finding it again, and replying is much higher. It’s an added stress, and it’s occupying valuable brain real estate that could be used wisely.

Where’d this idea come from? My favorite management book in the past five years is Getting Things Done by David Allen. From it I learnt this tip: if it takes less than two minutes to do, don’t defer it, do it now.

2. A work-free day

Pick Saturday or Sunday, and do no work at all. Don’t read your email. Don’t touch the computer. Don’t call anyone. Put work aside, do your best not to think about it. It’s not that hard — if something urgent comes up, someone will call you.

You’ll be surprised how good this makes you feel. You’ll have a great day, and you’ll be energized when you return to work on the next one.

3. Be consistent

Early in my career, I’d take it easy for most of a work milestone, and then crank up the all-night, weekend work to get things done towards the end. That worked for a while, but it’s not sustainable over a career.

I recommend consistency. Try and work the same hours, regardless of the deadlines and pressures. Put in a solid day, work hard from the start of a project, and keep on track all the time. If there’s less to do than usual, don’t work less: this is your chance to clean up email, documents, develop your career, or network. (This won’t always work — there are definitely times where you will need to work harder, but work to make those the exceptions.)

You’ll find being consistent burns you out less. It’s the right approach for the long haul.

4. Take a vacation

Your work wants you there for the long haul, and they give you your vacation so that you can relax, recharge, and come back energized. So do it.

Turn the email off — I actually remove the account from my smartphone. Turn on the “out of office” message on your email, and state you’re not reading email because you’re on vacation. Tell your boss your home phone number and your personal email address, and ask her to contact you there in an emergency.

Try and have one vacation per year that’s at least two weeks. It takes a week to wind down, and that second week is bliss. If you fragment it too much, you may not get the relaxation you’ve earnt.

5. Quality is more important than Quantity

Working long hours is a badge of courage. Strangely, using the hours wisely doesn’t have same status. It should.

I vote for using a sensible number of hours wisely instead of using a large number of hours poorly. Some of the most effective people I know work most days from 9 to 6, or 8 to 5, or 8 to 6. They think about what they want to achieve each day, stay focused on those things, and avoid meetings they don’t need to be in. They tend to also be the folks who are consistent in their approach — you’ll see them working to that timetable every day, most of the year.

Try relentlessly optimizing your day, give yourself a focus on quality. A good tip to get started is to write down the four things you want to achieve today before you start your day — and promise yourself you’ll do them before you leave.

Hope this helps you improve your work-life balance. Feedback very welcome.

Setting Your Goals: 5 Steps to Creating Your Future

You need a plan to reach a destination that means something to you. Where are you headed this year? What about five years from now? If you could dream, where would you be in ten years?

Here’s a useful tool that I use to think about my goals. Every six months or so, I take a piece of paper and write down my goals. I take a photo with my iPhone, and make it my desktop wallpaper — and then it’s there to remind me every day for the next six months. I’ll explain in this post how I think about creating the goals.

I don’t know where I learnt this approach, or whether I invented it myself, but I was amused to find the same idea on a lululemon bag recently. Not only do they make great yoga and sportswear, they give great advice. You should shop there, if only so you can read the bag.

Advice to live your life by. On a shopping bag from lululemon.

1. Two career goals

Step one is to create two career goals for the next twelve months. What do you want to achieve in the next year?

Everyone who’s working probably has goals in a system somewhere, but these should be more personal. What do you want to learn to do better? What characteristic do you want to develop? How do you want to be perceived by the people around you? Where should your focus be? How do you want to direct your energy?

My recommendation is that your goal should be a few words that mean something to you. A short phrase that triggers a longer thought. Something you can glance at and consume.

2. Two health, fitness, and wellbeing goals

You’re getting to know me through my blog, so you won’t be surprised by this section. I’ve learnt that the number one priority in life is health; without health, you can’t look after your family, yourself, or your career.

So, now it’s time to write down two goals for the next twelve months that are about you and your health, fitness, and wellbeing. Do you want to get to a healthy weight? Eat right? Get exercising? Sleep better? Fix your posture? Take tests to check on family conditions? Or do you want to take it something to the next level? How about trying my ten tips for being fighting fit?

3. Two personal goals

The final step for planning this year is to think about your personal life and capture two points. Do you want to travel more with the family? Take up a hobby? Switch off from work on the weekends? Call your friends? Make new friends? Help the community? Give your time to a cause?

4. This year, in 5 years, and in 10 years

Steps one, two, and three give you six points to focus on for the next twelve months. I recommend repeating them to create a five year plan, and again to create a ten year plan. I enjoy this part the most: thinking about the next year is a little tactical, but turning a dream for the future into goals for the future is fun. This is where you get to think about who you want to be, what success is for you in life, and what you want to be doing in your career after you’ve made substantial progress. I’d recommend thinking about your larger financial goals, your wellbeing, what success is for your family, and what your perfect career looks like.

While you’re writing this, think about coherence: is the one year plan leading to the five year plan? Five year leading to the ten? One year leading to the ten? Don’t be afraid to go back and make adjustments. You want your one year plan to take you roughly 20% of the way to your five year goal.

When you’re done, you’ve got 18 points on a page. I can fit this easily on a small sheet. As I said, I keep the points very short and consumable in a glance. Then it’s photo time, and time to make it your desktop background.

5. Refresh

Every six months or so, you should refresh your goals. Read the previous entry, and make an honest assessment of how you’ve gone with your goals. Copy over the phrases you still like or that shouldn’t change, and make a few adjustments where you need. Don’t get too unhappy with yourself the first time around — I started by writing overly ambitious goals, and I’ve learnt that it’s better to write down achievable goals that push me in the right direction. I don’t tend to change the ten year goals, and I rarely tweak the five year goals. I often make changes to the one year plan, but always in the context of asking: is this helping me get from today to my five year goals?

This is an enjoyable exercise for me, and an investment in thinking about myself. I hope you find it useful too. Let me know how it goes.

Fighting fit: Why you need to be in top shape to be a leader

People are surprised I lead a team of over 700 people and find time to stay in shape. For me, one isn’t possible without the other. And my advice to you is to take your physical wellbeing seriously if you want to have impact over the long haul.

I believed for a long time that my impact at work was simply the product of the quantity of time by the quality of how I used it. Quantity just means hours spent. Quality means what I spend those hours doing, that is, how effectively I use my time.  I’ve never met a successful person who doesn’t work hard and use their time effectively. And for you that means: work hard and smart, and you’ll have the basic ingredients for success.

But it turns out for me that this basic equation doesn’t work for the long haul. There are two other ingredients for me: physical and mental condition. If my physical condition is great — I am fighting fit— then I’m alert, less stressed, positive, less prone to illness, confident, balanced, and slower to burn out. Being mentally in top shape is critical too, particularly making sure I find meaning in what I’m doing, and getting the balance right between family and work time (a topic for another time). So, these days I’d argue that my impact at work is something like: quantity times quality times physical condition times mental condition (with some constants that I don’t yet understand). In this post, I’m going to tell you why you should stay fighting  fit too.

This is an entirely non-technical post from a primarily technical person. Take it with a grain of salt, and see your doctor before you take any of my advice.

Top 10 Tips for being Fighting Fit ™

Let me just cut to the chase, and tell you the top ten things that you can use to be fighting fit:

  1. Don’t eat wheat. Better still, don’t eat grains
  2. Avoid high sugar foods. If it has more than 10g of sugar per 100g of product, don’t eat it
  3. Drink lots of water. Aim for at least 96oz or 3 litres per day
  4. Get a decent night’s sleep. It feels to me like 8+ hours is the sweet spot
  5. Have a big breakfast
  6. Have a small dinner
  7. Work the big muscles with resistance training three times per week
  8. Stretch
  9. Do cardiovascular exercise
  10. Ignore the above nine items for just one day each week (and be perfect the other six)

That’s in priority order. The top six are all about nourishment, the next three are about fitness, and the last one is a rule that governs how to apply the others.

To be fighting fit, it’s 70% nutrition and 30% exercise. I’ve worked incredibly hard at exercise and weighed 15 pounds more than I do today. These days, I’m pretty much at my high school weight, stronger than I’ve ever been, and the difference is nutrition (and perhaps more focus on strength or resistance training).


Do you want to be 15 pounds lighter? Follow rule #1 and you’ll be well on your way. Don’t eat grains because they’re full of carbohydrates, and that causes insulin to spike, and the body to enthusiastically store carbohydrates as body fat. Same with high sugar foods like sodas. Instead, eat more protein, and healthy fats. I’m big on egg whites, nuts, avocado, meats, and so on. Try a salad for lunch, with plenty of chicken, turkey, or tuna.

Fats don’t make you fat. Fats are just an intense source of energy, and you need to avoid eating too much. Eat nuts, avocado, egg yolks, and other healthy fats in moderation. Carbohydrates are the bad news problem.

Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated, and your metabolism running efficiently. Everything I read says drinking lots of water is a good idea.

I eat a massive breakfast, and try and go easy at dinner (though I struggle to do that effectively). The rationale is that in the morning, I need energy to get through the day. In the evening, I’m going to bed, so there’s no sense in consuming a ton of calories. Try and tilt your plan in that direction.

If that’s all too hard, follow rule#1: don’t eat wheat. You’ll get somewhere, trust me.


Exercising is my passion. I hit the gym four or five days a week, run a couple of times per week, do yoga once a week, and add in some exercise at home (like mountain biking, boxing, jump rope, or agility work) on the weekends. It just plain makes me feel great, lowers my stress, and gives me space and time to think about ideas and problems that are important in life and work.

How do I fit all that in? Pretty simply, really: I just make it my number one priority. When I was at Microsoft, my motto was “I’m not canceling the gym for anyone except Bill Gates”. And I stuck to it and still do. My rationale is that the company needs me to be effective for the long haul, and this is what makes me effective. I’m happy to be at work any time I’m not in the gym.

I’ve learnt that to be fighting fit, you need to do more strength training and less cardiovascular exercise. The nice thing about strength training is you burn some calories while you’re in the gym, and then a lot more afterwards: your body is busy repairing and growing the muscles you’ve worked. Most cardio burns more per minute in the gym than strength training while you’re doing it, but then the burn stops afterwards. Focus on your big muscles: leg and butt, chest, core, and muscles that help you maintain a reasonable posture (given you likely sit around a lot in front of computers). Working those muscles burns more calories than the ones you see in the mirror (you can skip the biceps). Get a personal trainer, ask them to put together a strength training routine, and do it 2 or 3 times per week. The results will amaze you.

It turns out that exercising hard requires maintenance. Maintenance for me is stretching, and I use yoga as the key way to do that. Yoga is seriously hard work: it requires core strength, balance, and flexibility. I’m not good at it, but it’s helping me be flexible and loose, and that helps me stay fighting fit.

I like cardio, I love going for a run (that’s something I’ve been doing regularly since 1995). I also love riding my bike. So, I get out and do some. But strength training is the key: if you don’t have much time, skip the cardio and go do some strength training.


I try hard to be good for six days in every seven. I have no trouble doing that with exercise. But with food it’s harder. One day a week, I let loose. I do whatever I want, and that gives me willpower for the rest of the week.

This is really important for you: cheat every day and you will get nowhere. If you want to be fighting fit, be disciplined six days out of seven.

Final Thoughts

Personal training is a great investment. I’d recommend to you that you get a personal trainer: it makes strength training safe and challenging, and helps you learn about how to make yourself fighting fit. Getting some nutritional advice from a nutritionist is a great idea too; diets are the worst thing in the world, it’s far smarter to eat to a plan and enjoy the results.

So that’s my Fighting Fit plan to make you an effective leader for the long haul. Remember the basics: don’t eat wheat, avoid high sugar foods, get in some strength training 2 or 3 times per week, and cheat once per week. You will be a fighting fit machine in no time (and I look forward to hearing about your results).

Please don’t blindly copy my plan. Please talk to your doctor, fitness professional, or nutritionist. And remember that I am a computer scientist, so you should Read My Disclaimer.

An Afterword of Thanks

My trainer is David Macchi in the eBay gym. Dave’s awesome: he’s taught me hundreds of exercises, and got me working on muscles that help posture and keep me balanced. He’s also good on the nutrition tips, and pushes me that little bit harder than I’d push myself. We’ve also partnered together on programs to help get our technology team at eBay more active, and help charity at the same time. I’m working hard to spread the fighting fit message.

Cheat day, and focusing harder on nutrition, is a strategy I learnt by participating in a “12 week challenge” with the I Choose Awesome guys in Inverloch, Australia. Great guys, and I owe them a bunch of thanks for helping me explore more about being fighting fit. They also taught me some sayings:  “Nothing tastes as good as lean feels” and “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. You might need those sayings.

My trainer when I lived in Redmond, Washington, and worked at Microsoft, was Dirk Huebner. Dirk got me excited about agility drills, Fartlek training, and medicine balls. Another great guy to know.