Fit at Last
LOOK AND FEEL BETTER ONCE AND FOR ALL
By Ken Blanchard, Tim Kearin
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2014 Polvera Publishing and Tim Kearin
All rights reserved.
A Joint Commitment
Think about an exciting story. Doesn't it always have an interesting character who wants to make something important happen in their life, but first has to overcome conflict to accomplish the goal? Well, the interesting character in this story is me. What I want to accomplish that is important is to become fit again so I will feel better and live longer. To do that, I have to overcome conflict—my past patterns of behavior and how I dealt with the ups and downs of life.
As I tell you my story, I'm probably going to tell you more about the ups and downs of my life than you want to hear. Why? I've found that a lot of people think that because I've been fairly successful in my life, everything has gone along smoothly and all the breaks went my way. This was not always the case.
I was born in 1939 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. My mom was a very nurturing person. Unfortunately, one of the ways she nurtured us best was by feeding us. If we were happy, we ate. If we were sad, we ate. If we were worried, we ate. Whatever happened, we ate. One of the ways Mom self-actualized was through the food she gave my father, my sister, and me. As I grew up, I used to fantasize about being locked in our local Jewish delicatessen overnight. I can smell a piece of cheesecake a mile away.
Given that reality, you might ask—with the pattern of eating I got from my mother and my love of cheesecake—why I wasn't obese. Actually, the first 25 years of my life, even though my mom fed us well, I was pretty fit and exercised a lot. But it didn't start out that way.
I was born with flat feet. In those days, the belief was that kids with flat feet wouldn't be able to live normal lives in terms of exercise and activity, because they would get tired and need to rest. My mother accepted that belief and continually was watching that I didn't overdo things. That worked until I was six years old, when my dad put a basket in our basement and I fell in love with basketball. It became my passion. I would shoot by the hour. I led our elementary team to the city championship, played in a number of different leagues in junior high school, broke the junior varsity scoring record my sophomore year in high school, and was cocaptain of our league champion high school team my senior year. What did that mean in terms of my fitness? I was in good shape. I used to run cross-country in the fall to get ready for basketball season. So fitness and weight control were not a problem the first 18 years of my life.
When it came to choosing a college, I decided to go to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I tried out for the freshman basketball team there and made the squad, but since I had not been recruited by Sam McNeill, the coach, he seldom played me. I remember one night when we were playing Auburn Community College in a small band-box gym. They played a two-one-two zone defense that made it difficult to score except from the outside—my specialty. Our starting team was struggling so I got off the bench, kneeled by Coach McNeill, and said, "Put me in, Coach. I could break up this zone in my sleep. After all, I have the hottest hands in the country." He laughed and started calling me "Hot Hands" but still didn't play me much, although we became good friends.
Rather than realizing the potential of gathering more splinters on the bench, I decided not to go out for the team my sophomore year and instead became a cheerleader. You might think that would have been good for me, with all the gymnastics. Wrong. In those days, cheerleaders didn't do gymnastics—and since we were the only co-ed school in the Ivy League, we weren't allowed to have women cheerleaders. The only criteria for being a cheerleader was (1) you had to drink and (2) you had to know a lot of people. I qualified on both counts, but it didn't do my fitness any good.
During my senior year at Cornell, Coach McNeill was promoted to varsity coach. He asked me to help coach the freshman team because we had kept in touch and he knew I understood the game. This was a thrill for me and got me reenergized about basketball.
The summer after my graduation in 1961, Margie and I began to date. Our romance blossomed that fall as I continued my studies at Colgate University, where I began a master's degree program in sociology while Margie was finishing her senior year at Cornell.
In June 1962 after I had completed my first year at Colgate, Margie and I got married. We spent the summer honeymooning at a well-known canoe tripping camp in Algonquin Park on Canoe Lake in Ontario, Canada. To get a snack, you had to walk uphill five miles or canoe three miles. So I returned to Colgate in probably the best shape of my life, weighing 167.
That didn't last for long, though—Margie was a great cook, and working on my master's thesis required long hours sitting in the library. My basketball coaching did help prevent a complete downward spiral, as I was asked to work with the freshman team at Colgate for the 1962–63 season.
When I was nearing completion of my master's program, I told my Student Personnel Administration mentors at Cornell that I was ready to become a dean. They suggested it would be better if I first got my doctoral degree. Through a former professor at Cornell, I was accepted into the doctoral program in educational administration there. That began my three-year Ph.D. journey.
Basketball was still a major interest, so as a player-coach I organized a team that was sponsored by Hal's Delicatessen in downtown Ithaca. We competed all over central New York against other town teams made up of former high school and college basketball players. We even got to play the Cornell freshman team as the preliminary game to Senator Bill Bradley and his Princeton Tigers' last visit to Cornell in 1964. They opened the doors for the game at 6:00, and by 6:30 they had the largest crowd in the history of Cornell: over 10,000 people poured into our arena. So all those fans had to watch our preliminary game, which we won.
While I continued to play ball, I didn't go at it with the vigor that I had when I was younger, and I began to gain weight. Why? With Hal's Delicatessen as the sponsor of our team, my fantasy of being locked overnight in a deli unfortunately began to become a reality. Hal's had the best cheesecake imaginable.
One thing I was proud of, though, was that I put my head down and made it through the doctoral program, including my dissertation. While I was doing that, Margie completed her master's degree in speech pathology—her undergraduate major—and gave birth to our son, Scott, in August 1965.
When I was working on my dissertation our last year in Ithaca, I didn't have time to coach or play for Hal's Delicatessen team and started to get a little pudgy. Even though I didn't play for the team, I still visited Hal's on a regular basis to make sure all was well.
My pudginess continued as I finally entered the world of work. In the fall of 1966 after nine years of college, Margie (pregnant with Debbie), Scott, and I all headed to Ohio University where I had landed a job as assistant to Harry Evarts, dean of the School of Business Administration.
Let me take an important detour from discussing my fitness journey. When I joined Dean Evarts's staff, he asked me to teach a course in the management department. I had never thought about teaching—all of my professors in graduate school had said if I wanted to work at a university, I needed to be an administrator because I couldn't write. As a faculty member, if you didn't write, it was career damaging. The rule was "publish or perish."
Harry said he didn't care about all of that. All he knew was that he wanted all of his deans to teach a course so they were really in tune with the students. Paul Hersey had just arrived on campus as the chairman of the management department. Harry put me in his department and Hersey gave me a course to teach. After teaching for a couple of weeks, I came home and said to Margie, "This is what I ought to be doing. Teaching is fun."
Margie was quick to respond, "But what about the writing?"
I said, "I don't know, but we'll figure something out."
That fall I heard that Hersey taught a tremendous leadership course, so I came up to him in a hallway in December 1966 and said, "Paul, I understand you teach a great leadership course. Could I sit in next semester?"
Hersey said, "Nobody audits my course. If you want to take it for credit, you're welcome." And he walked away. I thought that was something because I had a Ph.D. and he didn't! And he wants me to take his course?
I went home and told Margie about the conversation. She said, "Is he any good?"
I said, "He's supposed to be fabulous."
"Then why don't you get your ego out of the way and take his course?"
So I took the course, wrote all the papers, and found it to be a great experience.
In June 1967 after the course had ended, Hersey came to my office and sat down. He said, "Ken, I've been teaching leadership for 10 years now and I think I'm better than anybody. But I can't write and they want me to write a textbook. I'm a nervous wreck. I've been looking for a good writer like you. Would you write it with me?"
I almost laughed out loud when he said "a good writer like you."
Why not? I thought. We ought to be a good team. He can't write and I'm not supposed to, so let's do it.
That's exactly what we did. We wrote a textbook entitled Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. It recently came out in its 10th edition, and I think it sells more today than it did in the 1960s.
When the book was published, I went to Dean Evarts and said, "I quit."
He said, "You can't quit because I was going to fire you. You're a lousy administrator!"—which I was. We agreed it was a photo finish between him firing me and me quitting. But that launched my career as a teacher and writer at age 30, with a few bumps along the way.
Why did I take a detour to tell you all this? A lot of people think that when you are successful, it means you had a plan when you were young, set your eyes on the target, and just kept moving toward it over the years. I haven't found that to be true. In fact, John Lennon said it well: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." My ups and downs in life were not planned but were an important part of my journey.
How was my fitness at that time? Although Paul Hersey and I played in a city basketball league together, I wasn't in great shape. Working on the textbook was more demanding than working on my doctoral dissertation.
It was during that period I joined Weight Watchers for the first time to get some support for eating properly and losing weight. It helped, too, until Margie and the kids and I moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1970. I was asked to play a major role in the educational administration department at the University of Massachusetts as well as work with school systems along the East Coast. Those activities, plus writing and teaching, sidetracked my fitness program again as I regained the weight I had lost and then some. I soon found myself hovering around 210 pounds. That wasn't good, to say the least, since when I was playing basketball I never tipped the scale over 175.
Discouraged, I wondered if I'd ever get in shape again. But finally, in 1974, I got serious, rejoined Weight Watchers, and got my weight back down under 190.
In spring 1976, all of Margie's and my hard work paid off. She earned her Ph.D. in communications, and I was promoted to full professor and given a one-year sabbatical leave, which we took in San Diego, California. We found San Diego to be a very healthy, exercise-friendly environment. I started jogging with Margie, even ran several 10K races, and kept myself in pretty good shape. Realizing that "summer in Massachusetts is two weeks of bad skating" and that San Diego probably has the best weather on the planet, it was not hard for us to decide to stay put and not return to Amherst at the end of the year. We began working with Paul Hersey, who had also moved to San Diego to launch the Center for Leadership Studies.
In 1979, Margie and I decided to start our own company. That turned out to be quite a year. My dad passed away in February, Margie got spinal meningitis that summer, my sister Sandy died in October, and Alan Raffe, a local CEO who had helped us start our company, was killed in an airplane accident in December. I'll never forget holding Margie on New Year's Eve as we hoped we would safely enter the next year.
The year 1980 did end up being a special year. In November, Margie and I met Spencer Johnson at a cocktail party. He was a children's book writer. He had coauthored, with his former wife, Ann, a series of kids' books called ValueTales. Margie met Spencer first, hand-carried him over to me, and said, "You two should write a children's book for managers. They won't read anything else." With that, The One Minute Manager® was born. We signed a publishing contract with William Morrow in January 1982, and the book was launched on NBC's Today show on Labor Day that year. The book went on the New York Times best-seller list the next week and stayed there continually for a few years.
Prior to the instant success of the book, I had maintained a good exercise and eating program and was feeling proud of myself. Then suddenly the phone was ringing off the hook, and I was traveling around the world spreading "the word." My fitness program took a dive once more as I did not watch my eating habits, did little exercise, and began bulking up again. This motivated me in 1985 to write The One Minute Manager Gets Fit with Margie and our longtime friend Dee Edington, who was the director of the Fitness Research Center as well as professor and director of the Division of Physical Education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
During the writing of the book, with help from Dee and prodding from Margie, I got myself back in good shape. My weight was under control and I was exercising regularly. We even held a wellness seminar for top managers at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. That's when I first met Tim Kearin. He was working at the nearby Hughston Clinic as their fitness director. Tim was recommended by the president of Callaway Gardens, Hal Northrup, to do the fitness evaluations and consultations for our program there.
I immediately connected with Tim, not only as a professional but also as a human being. In fact, Margie and I were key encouragers in convincing Tim and his wife, Sharon, to move to San Diego the following year. But even after the inspiration of The One Minute Manager Gets Fit and our Georgia seminar, when Dee went back to his research and Margie decided to stop bugging me, I gradually gained weight again and stopped my regular exercising.
You might be saying, Come on, Blanchard. I'm sick of hearing about this yo-yo weight and exercise thing with you. You write about motivation, you speak about motivation, and you even wrote a book about fitness. Why couldn't you keep your commitment to your commitment and keep on going with your fitness journey?
My first response is a defensive one. "So who are you, Mr. or Ms. Perfect? Everything you say you'll do, you do? Give me a break. How many New Year's resolutions have you broken? If you can't think of any, you probably lie about other things, too."
My saner intellectual response is that there are three levels to change.
1. Knowledge—this is the easiest thing to change. All you have to do is listen to someone or read a book about something and you'll have new knowledge.
2. Attitudinal—this is more difficult to change than gaining knowledge. Why? Because attitude is an emotionally charged bit of knowledge. Now you feel either positive or negative about something you know.
3. Behavioral—this is the toughest thing to change, because you have to do something. I don't know a smoker alive today who doesn't know, at a knowledge level, that smoking is not good for them. Most smokers also have a positive attitude toward giving it up. But try it behaviorally if it's been a longtime habit—it's not easy. The same goes for me in curbing my childhood eating patterns and maintaining a good exercise program.
My longtime friend and colleague Fred Finch put it well when I told him about my fitness journey. I said, "I just need to get better organized."
Fred was quick to reply. "Ken, you're the most organized person I have ever met when you want to do something."
I knew Fred was right. At the knowledge and attitudinal levels I was ready to make a change, but not at the behavioral level—at least not completely. I would think about it at the beginning of every new year and would call Tim to start a workout program. But then, as usual, I'd get too busy and go on the road, and the workout program would fall by the wayside. This was discouraging, to say the least. Tim would encourage me to keep going, but after a while he would get discouraged, too, and move on to greener pastures—clients who were committed to a regular fitness program. I would rejoin Weight Watchers several more times and start going to the meetings, but then I would let my membership lapse and let that go, too. I felt frustrated that I was only interested in being fit, but somehow not committed to it.
Excerpted from Fit at Last by Ken Blanchard, Tim Kearin. Copyright © 2014 Polvera Publishing and Tim Kearin. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
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