When I last saw Ken Blanchard, I hardly recognized him. We were both attending the 20th anniversary celebration of Berrett-Koehler publishers in San Francisco last year. I had known Ken would be there, but I did a double-take when I saw him. What has he done with himself? I wondered. So I worked my way through the crowd of authors, agents, publicists, BK staffers and BK fans to give Ken a hug and find out what he'd been up to.
"You look amazing!" I told him. "What have you been up to?"
He hugged me and said, "I finally got fit. I guess you could say 'I got religion'... the fitness religion. I'm writing a book about it."
"Wonderful!" I said. "Will you send me a copy? Whatever you've been doing to look so good, I want some of that, too."
A couple weeks ago the book arrived with a lovely note from Ken. I dove right in, eager to find out how the formerly chubby One Minute Manager had transformed himself into Mr. Fitness. Did it take more than a minute?
As I read, I found myself identifying with much of Ken's story. I, too, have struggled with my weight for many years -- trying diets and weight loss schemes, joining gyms but then not going, and making promises to myself, as well as public pronouncements to friends and family, that this time I was serious, this time I was really going to lose weight and get into shape. Only to discover that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions -- the road to obesity hell, in particular.
Ken tried all the things that people with weight problems try: diets, Weight Watchers, joining gyms, making commitments to his wife Margie and his kids that he would take better car of himself. Alas, to no avail. The years went by, and Ken's poor self-care habits took their toll: He looked pale and unhealthy, he listed to one side when he walked, limped like he was in pain, and huffed and puffed with even the slightest bit of exertion. Two hip replacements helped, but no surgeries can take the place of basic healthy eating, weight management, and exercise. Ken feared he was headed for an early death if he didn't mend his ways. At the rate he was going, his obituary was likely to read: "Ken Blanchard, death by cheesecake."
Who among us hasn't struggled to do what we know is good for us? It's not for lack of information -- we all know what we should do! It's a motivation problem, a self-management problem, a matter of discipline and commitment. And yet many of us show ample discipline and commitment in other aspects of our lives, but when it comes to food and fitness, our discipline and commitment seem to fly right out the window. Even the venerable Saint Paul had this problem:
"I don't understand myself. I want to do what is right but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate ... It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what's right, I inevitably do what's wrong." (St. Paul, Romans 7:15)
It's true that misery loves company, and when it comes to struggling with weight and healthy habits, I find it comforting to at least know that I'm not alone. If the talented and successful One Minute Manager and the venerable Saint Paul have trouble with doing the right thing, then at least I'm in good company.
But enough about the problem -- let's talk about the solution! Just what did Ken Blanchard discover on his journey to fitness? What can the rest of us Baby Boomers learn from a man who believed that it's never too late to change bad, old habits and replace them with new, good ones -- even in his 70s?
Ken and his coauthor Tim Kearin outline their basic principles: Have compelling reasons and a purpose; establish a mutual commitment to success; learn about situational leadership; develop age-appropriate goals; set up a support system to hold you accountable.
The most important message I got from their book is the value of enrolling others in helping you achieve what your commitment. Don't try to go it alone. We humans are social creatures, and we do much better when we surround ourselves with people who share our vision and values. If I were to summarize the primary message, I'd say: "No one can do it for you, but you can't do it alone."
(Photos courtesy Ken Blanchard Companies; used with permission.)