Fitness & Product Management
OK I get it. This is not the typical post you'd expect. Selfishly I'd like to use a single post to indulge another passion of mine. But definitely more than that, I have a few more goals in mind:
Experiment a completely new post type and see how y'all respond
Convince you that they do surprisingly intersect quite well
Recruit like-minded those of you who are also passionate in both and let's chat!
Finally fill out that "Fitness" menu item on the sidebar!
Rest assured, we'll resume the "typical" categories next week!
What Do You Mean by "Fitness"?
I don't mean anything too specific. To some it means body building or sculpting. To others it means any types of exercise or activities they enjoy and do often. Or even more broadly, it simply refers to a healthy physical condition.
For me it's all of the above. As an introvert from the inside, I have always loved to keep moving since I was an infant. I grew up playing all kinds of sports (and was really good at none). As I grew much older, I started falling in love with working out, and since have long developed it as my daily habit. Through all these different types of physical activities, the one thing in common is that there's always specific goals behind them. With basketball I wanted to be like Mike (Michael Jordan, see reference), with jogging I wanted to lose weight, with lifting I want to build muscle and look good.
So define it as you'd like while you read on!
So, What's The Connection?
There are two:
Being health and fit help you become a product manager
You should manage your fitness/body like how you manage your product
Don't believe me? Please read on.
Fitness Makes You a Better PM
Plenty of scientific researches show that regular fitness activities generally boost your energy, happiness, and even how your brain functions. Obviously when you're more energetic, happier, and thinking better you do everything better. Including doing the tough duties of a product manager for sure.
But there's more that I personally experienced. Here to share:
Sense of Accomplishment: sometimes when you're frustrated at work, it's good to shift your focus on accomplishing something else, before returning to the challenges at work, more confidently.
Mindfulness: especially if you pick the exercise / physical activity you enjoy, you are much more present as you do it, which magically rescue your mind from the rabbit whole of the work problem you're stuck at.
Discipline: Getting fit or being good at any sport requires high level of consistency, persistence, and disciplines. These qualities you develop through fitness activities can well be applied to the day to day job of a PM.
Manage Your Body Like a Product
More than the benefits, there's in fact a lot of overlap in the principles of how to best manage your body in fitness vs best manage a product like a good product manager. Let me elaborate:
Define Vision: you set a vision as the north star for where you see your product is going in the long term, why it's the ideal state (for the business and your users). You do the same for fitness! What do you dream to be accomplishing? A movie star / super model physique, to dominate your sports and win the championship, to complete a ultra marathon, etc. That's where you start: know where you're headed and why it's important
Create Strategy: once you have a vision, you create a strategy - the high level game plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be. In product, it includes what you will build and when, how you enter and compete in the market, partnership, pricing, etc. In fitness, it might be how you will train, what you eat, how much you rest, the coaching you need, partners you work with etc.
Set Goals: you then break it down into tangible goals - what exactly do you accomplish within specific timeframes. You might have heard the "OKRs" (see Measure What Matters by John Doerr) which is frequently used by product teams for goal setting. It's no different in fitness. You will need to set short term goals to help you move toward your long term vision. E.g. lose 5 lbs of weight in a month, finish at least one 5 mile run by end of March, 25 consecutive push ups after 2 months of training etc etc.
Execute with the Right Team and Tools: product managers don't work alone. The build the right team and use the right processes/tools to execute and accomplish the goals. The right team includes not only the core engineering, design, data science teams but also cross functional partner teams like sales, marketing, legal, and so on so forth depending on the products. The right processes/tools including the meeting cadence, tracking/visibility mechanisms, and frameworks for day to day decision making. In fitness you don't do it alone either. You get support from your friends and family, you get help from a personal trainer or coach, and you use tools (e.g. fitness tracker band and software) to help you do the right thing and stay on track.
Measure: "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it" by Peter Drucker, the management guru in the 20th century. Very true in both product management and in fitness. In addition to your goals (which should be measurable), what are you key metrics? If your goal is to lose weight, you'd better measure your body weight at the right frequency. If your goal is to complete a marathon, you will have to measure your running distance along with the time to complete and your average pace.
Iterative Feedback Loop: In product, we apply agile methodologies by delivering in iterations, learn (from user/market response & metrics), and adapt. Because rigid long term project plans without the flexibility and course corrections no longer works in the ever changing world and the markets. In fitness, don't expect one set-in-stone plan to help you achieve your goals. You learn the principles, pick starting point to begin, measure how your body responds, and adjusts accordingly. E.g. your goal is to lose weight and you set an initial caloric deficit goal. After trying it for a month you're not losing a single pound, it means it's time to cut your caloric intake further. Or perhaps you've been training at a given intensity and it has worked well for 2 months until you hit a bottleneck. It could mean your body adapt to it, now you have to up your intensity to keep seeing the progress.
So, the Key Take Aways?
Alright, I know not all of you are as enthusiastic about the fitness topic as I am. If you read my blog, I believe chances are you are likely passionate about product management. So here's what I "hope" you'd take away:
You'd be surprised how much what you learn in product management applies to many other aspects of your life. (It's a good profession to be in!)
As you pursue your next goals in product (be it find your first product role, launch a new product, or get promoted etc.), don't over look two (arguably more important things in life): your health and your passion.
Like (or dislike) this article? Leave a comment below or contact me!
Also love fitness of any kind? Let's do connect and PLEASE leave a comment below or contact me!