What Losing 40lbs Taught Me About Business

August 14

Last year, I lost 42 lbs in six months, and it was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  As a result, I learned plenty of invaluable lessons.  Not only did I learn more about myself and how far I’m able to push my body and mind, I also found that many of the lessons I learned helped me to push my business to the limit as well.

Here are a few of the different lessons I learned.  I hope you find them helpful, whether you’re trying to lose weight, get in shape or expand your business:

Bad habits sneak up on you

I wasn’t always fat – in fact, most of my life I was underweight.  It wasn’t until I started working in an office that I gained weight, at a pace of 5-7 lbs a year over six years.  It sounds strange, but the fact was I didn’t even notice (I mean *really* notice) that I was overweight until about four years in.

Business habits can be the same way.  Taking a shortcut here or cutting corners there doesn’t affect you immediately and might not seem like that big of a deal in the short term.  But in the long run, these compromises and bad habits could come back to haunt you years in the future.

Your environment is a catalyst

Losing weight isn’t easy – especially when you’re first getting started.  In general, the people who are most likely to succeed are those who receive motivation from their friends, family members and colleagues.  For me, I found it hugely motivating to post weekly status updates on Facebook tracking my weight loss and to “check in” on Facebook whenever I went to a gym.  The number of “Likes” I received for each post kept me motivated, even when I felt like giving up.

Unsurprisingly, the amount of support you receive as a new business owner plays a role in your success as well.  Think about it – wouldn’t you be more likely to stick with a project if you received support and encouragement from your contacts, rather than derision or skepticism for pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams?!

Passion matters

It’s always been difficult for me to find passion in exercising – it has always seemed monotonous.  That all changed when I discovered kickboxing.  I’ve always been a fan of mixed martial arts and Batman, so I took up this activity that got me started on losing my first ten pounds.  From there, excitement took over – making exercise less about fulfilling some arbitrary quota and more about exploring my newfound passion.

Like kickboxing, SEO is another passion of mine, which is why I’ve been so successful with Single Grain.  If I had started a business based around some other profitable field that I wasn’t as passionate about, there’s no way I would have had the level of commitment needed to push through the hard times that come with any new startup.

Anything can be overcome

Losing weight is hard.  If it was easy, you wouldn’t see nearly as many overweight people in the world today.

But just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.  When I was losing weight, there were plenty of days when I was tired, starving and out of energy – but I kept going.  It wasn’t easy and it definitely wasn’t always fun, but I forced myself to stick to my decision that losing weight was more important that taking the easy way out and remaining overweight.

Obviously, the same thing goes for businesses.  Starting a company isn’t easy, and even as you go on and become more comfortable in this role, you’ll face new challenges.  You need to get past this.  No matter what field you’re in, you’re always going to be facing struggles, so you need to learn how to endure and get used to it!

Proper planning prevents poor performance

For me, planning ahead was vital to my weight loss success.  If I didn’t plan ahead, I found myself tempted to take the easy way out by compromising on unhealthy foods “just this once.”

As a result, my plan became: A protein shake when I woke up, go to the gym, have a whey and oats protein shake for a snack, eat fruit for lunch, enjoy a late afternoon protein shake, eat an early dinner and finish off with a casein protein shake before bed.  It took me a while to get this routine perfected, but once I had it, I stuck to it daily for four months because it did a great job of minimizing my hunger.

In business, the odds are good that you won’t create a perfect business plan and execute your company’s launch flawlessly from the start.  However, you can plan ahead and focus on creating proper structures – including hiring practices, management structures and how day-to-day tasks will be handled – so that you can thrive and grow over time.  You may need to refine your structures over time, but eventually, you’ll come up with the right recipe.

Invest early in the right tools

After a few months of working out and dieting, I found a few mobile apps that helped keep me on track.  I used an app called Lose It! for counting calories and a program called Jefit to monitor my weight lifting stats.  Because I had these tools in place, I was able to check my stats daily, weekly and monthly in order to understand what was working for me and what wasn’t.  Seeing my numbers improve also helped to keep me motivated when I felt like quitting.

In the same way, I’ve found that having the right tools in place has made a major difference in terms of team productivity at Single Grain.  At first, I noticed that, as we hired more employees, their input wasn’t increasing our company output (as in, the client load we could handle) as much as I’d hoped.  After careful observation, I found that staff members were being bogged down by remedial tasks and internal communication problems – both of which I was able to resolve with the use of tools like the Basecamp project management program and HipChat’s group communication system.

Be persistent

I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to lose weight today!”  Well, technically I did on January 7th, 2011 – but the real story is that I’d been trying (and failing) to lose weight for years.  I’d tried home gyms, dieting, personal trainers, running and more throughout the years, but each time, I’d stick to something for a few weeks and give up when things got hard.

Eventually, I learned that it takes around one month to form a habit.  As soon as I discovered that, I shifted gears and attempted to find something I could stick with consistently for just four weeks.  For me, that activity was kickboxing (where an hour class burns nearly 1,000 calories).  Not only was I able to make this a consistent habit in a way I hadn’t before, I was having fun while getting in shape at the same time!

The same thing goes for startups.  You’re going to fail; that’s a fact.  However, you have to keep going and keep learning from your mistakes.  It took me nearly six years of failed ideas and thousands of dollars lost before I was able to start a successful business, but the moral of my story is that if you’re persistent enough, you’ll eventually succeed.

Treat yo’ self

Strict dieting and eating low amounts of calories over time slows down your metabolism, which is why it’s so important to take breaks!  In the beginning of any weight loss plan, your breaks should be less frequent, but over time, you need to establish some “cheat days.”  On my cheat days, I’d eat so much pizza, ice cream and candy that I’d feel sick – and you better believe I was ready to get back to dieting hard core for five days straight!

When you’re starting a business, it’s a given that you’re going to have to put in long hours and do whatever it takes to get your business off to a good start.  However, over time, this can lead to burn out.  And since burn out has the potential to seriously impact your productivity, it’s important that you find time to take vacations, get away from the computer, drink yourself silly and go buck wild!  When you find ways to release your energy apart from building your business, you’ll find that you’re much more creative and productive following your time away.

An object in motion stays in motion

At first – after being out of shape for so long – it was hard for me to get in the habit of being active.  I’d go to the gym for an hour and be so tired that I’d need three hours of couch potato time just to recover.

Over time, though, I adapted and I found that changing up my activities kept me engaged and active.  Instead of just weight lifting, I’d go hiking, biking, kick boxing, rock climbing – really, anything that would break up the monotony.  As I added in these activities, I was surprised to find that I had more energy – not less – even though I was working out more than ever.

I’ve found the same principle to be true in my business as well.  When I invest time in creative thinking, I tend to have even more creative ideas.  As a result, I try to change things up and work from coffee shops half the week in order to change my environment regularly.  Staying active keeps me engaged and helps ensure that these trends continue.

The first push is only part of the battle

Our culture tends to glamorize weight loss, when really, it should be putting the same amount of focus on maintenance.  I’m proud to have kept my 40 pounds off for over a year, but I’ve known plenty of people who are so caught up in losing weight that they don’t take the time to plan how their lives will be difference once this initial push is over.

For me, I’m still on a diet, I still count calories and I still go to the gym 5-6 times a week.  These activities are necessary for me to keep the weight off, in the same way that adopting good business practices is necessary to ensure that Single Grain thrives in the long run.  Starting a business can be an exciting time, but it becomes pretty obvious when you aren’t in an idea for the long haul!

Strive for perfection

Perfection doesn’t really exist, but you owe it to yourself to try and get as close as you can.

My weight loss has always been a series of challenges.  I’d meet one mini-goal and then use the momentum that created to propel myself forward to the next one.  And even though I’ve reached my weight loss goals, I’m still trying to put on muscle and get a six pack.  I’m not quite there, but wanting to get as close to perfection as I can keeps me motivated.

In the same way, just because you’ve built a successful business doesn’t mean that you’re “done.”  There’s never a true “done” – it’s just time to work on doubling your success.  By setting a series of small goals for your business and focusing all your efforts on hitting them, you’ll be able to maintain the motivation necessary to reach even higher heights.

Of course, keep in mind that every person and every business is different.  The things that I described above as having worked for me may not be as effective for you, but the important part is that you try.  Applying the lessons listed above to your own life and measuring the impact on your life should help you to reach your goals – whether you’re trying to lose weight, build a business or hit some other major milestone.

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27 Comments

  1. Elliot says:

    So very proud of you Sujan. Thanks for sharing these lessons with such multi-layered relevancy.

  2. Bobby says:

    Great story!

  3. D.B. Ericcson says:

    Wow, I love reading your blog, it’s inspirational. It’s great to see your journey.

    I hope I’m not being to forward and seeing as how you’re a Ryan Gosling fan like me, I have to ask are you single?

    You can be my sexy Indian boy *wink*

  4. Fantastic story, really enjoyed it more than I expected and your relation to business would win you an A in the fun times of high school English!

    Adam

  5. Beryl says:

    Great post Sujan! Informative and inspiring. Just goes to show that ‘how you do one thing is how you do everything/.

  6. Carrie says:

    really needed to read this today. thanks for sharing.

  7. Mili says:

    Super inspiring! =)

  8. Clare says:

    A great read. Inspiring and soon as I’ve healed from recently surgery I’m going to get out there and kick some ass. Well done darling x

  9. Determined Dieter says:

    Thank you for a great and inspirational story! I really needed this right now! I am in the first two months of an attempt to lose at least 80 pounds! I have already lost about 20 pounds, but I have much more yet to lose and it is not getting easier! You have helped me find my determination to stick with this and not give up! I did not grow up overweight, but like you, I gradually gained pounds from a lack of exercise and from spending too much time at my desk working on the never-ending lists of projects and tasks… Thanks again – I CAN do this and I WILL do this!

  10. Ajay Chopra says:

    Great job Sujan, both in the gym and with your company. The point is that some overweight people like me know all these things but still can’t do anything with themselves. Trying to lose 90lbs … feeling motivated to hit the gym today.

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  12. DJ Johnson says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m trying to change my work habits to make myself more productive in my job; I’ve found losing 30 lbs over the last 7 months to be easier to fundamentally changing my orientation towards work and time management. My four-week challenge starts today!

  13. Julie says:

    Thanks for this and well done. I am 7lbs into my 20 lbs weight loss plan. I, like you have tried everything under the sun and spent a fortune trying to lose weight for the last 12 years. It was a chance encounter with a £5.00 air glide machine on eBay that fixed me. I stuck it in front of my TV, even though I don’t watch it very much. However, it is working and as the weight has dropped so has my appetite. My enthusiasm and excitement at my new shape is keeping me going. Best wishes. X

  14. nalls says:

    good one here sujan. wanna loose weight too.

  15. paul says:

    Hey Sujan, way to go! Your experience parallels mine. I’ve lost 50 pounds and now the next challenge is keeping it off. You are so right about maintenance–the lost art of weight loss! And I love how it’s taught you so many useful business lessons.
    Stay lean!

  16. Mike Harrop says:

    Hi,
    Nice photo of you on the right.
    One or two things I don’t understand.
    1. The chap in the “perfection” photo, unless of course it was sarcasm on your part, does seem totally over-beefed, as though he’d taken hormones or something. His muscles are compressed, over-dimensioned, rounded and feminine (nothing wrong with that, of course, but maybe it’s not what he was looking for). He will need at least 300 hours of stretching and elongation to bring him back to something vaguely resembling long, lithe, supple, sexy and male. And no compression or weights during that time. That will probably get rid of the handles at the waist too. His stomach seems strangely lumpy, as though some of his intestines had been displaced, whereas everyone knows that an elegant stomach should be slightly concave and smooth – just look at any classical ballet dancer – or Indian deity, for that matter.
    2. Why do you “shake” protein. If you leave it alone on your plate and eat it in small pieces, you will exercise all sorts of essential body parts and saliva glands and slowly extract all sorts of elements that swallowing a liquid straight to your stomach won’t do.
    3. Why are you always hungry ? Are you not eating the right breakfast and the sort of food mix that will release slowly all morning ? This is especially strange since you were skinny as a kid. What unclicked your psyche ? If you can beat this hunger aberration, then all the rest is easy.
    4. When you have “cheat days”, who are you cheating ?

    Otherwise all the support elements you mention were superbly described. Thanks for an enjoyable read.

  17. Kathy Ewing says:

    Finally, readable, no-nonsense (realistic), and HONEST remarks & advice……..without all the ridiculous hype. Well done!!

  18. Francisco Quintero says:

    Thank you very much for the motivation Sujan. I was not sure on starting a business but now i am. Thank you.. Frank

  19. cheryl says:

    Great inspiration…and lessons….well done!!!

  20. Rekha Shah says:

    Wonderful inspiration.
    I’ presenting my speech in ToastMasters on your determination to loose those extra pounds.

  21. Ervin says:

    Do you have a spam issue on this blog; I also am a
    blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation; we have developed some nice practices and we are
    looking to swap methods with other folks, be sure to shoot me an email if
    interested.

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  23. Hi Sajan

    Another great post and congratulations on the transformation, I didn’t think at first the top left picture was actually you!

    Amazing the difference and I bet you feel great as well!

    Cheers
    Stuart

  24. Stuart McLeod says:

    Apologies – Typo *Sujan

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