New Year, New You… With a Little Help From the Terminator

With the arrival of 2014 comes the inevitable New Year’s resolutions (NYR). Global research shows the number 1 NYR each year is “Lose weight.” And judging by the steady increase year-on-year of worldwide obesity rates, I think it is safe to say that the NYR strategy is not working.

Maybe time to try something different?

We can always learn from a champion, someone who has reached the pinnacle of their field, be it in sports, music, the arts, or any walk in life.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Long before Arnold dominated headlines for his Hollywood career, his political career as governor of California, or his affair with a domestic employee, he was a world-champion bodybuilder.

Considered the greatest of all time, he is still the only man to win seven world titles! He is in essence a true success story and self-made man. He emigrated to the US from a small village in Austria, with not a word of English or more than $50 in his pocket. He became a star, married a Kennedy, and built a multimillion-dollar business empire. Putting all the negatives aside, clearly we can all learn something from Arnold.

During his bodybuilding days, he was once asked what the secret of his success was. And within his answer lies a gem of wisdom that we can all apply to our lives and certainly our business careers:

The reason I win is simple and you can see it in any gym in the world. Most guys in the gym go and stand in front of the mirror, and admire themselves and admire their area of strength. Let’s say they have great arms. So they stand and stare at their arms in some form of self-worship. Yet I am the complete opposite. When I look in the mirror, I look for my weaknesses. I study where I am weak. And then I go and train those areas as hard as I can, to make them into strengths. And that’s why I win. I am my own worst critic, and I am constantly taking my weaknesses and making them into strengths.”

This is a metaphor for life. All of us have the tendency to “play to our strengths,” admire in ourselves what we are good at and just accept what we are weaker at. Rarely do we take the time to assess ourselves, and actually focus on our weaknesses. Yet this is what champions do. They focus on their weaknesses, and in doing so, turn them into strengths!

So, for 2014, here is a new way to approach the question of NYR and how we can really make a difference. In our lives and in our business.

Let’s start by standing in front of the mirror — both figuratively and literally. Take a hard look at ourselves. As a human being. As a person. As a business leader. Let’s not admire what we see, what we have accomplished. Let’s be our own worst critics. Let’s focus on our weaknesses, and making them into strengths in 2014! Here are some ideas.

Physical: Is 2014 really going to be the year you get your health in order? Remember, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Here’s a new idea for you: a couple of 50-plus execs who also happen to have among them a sports physiologist, a US Military Special Forces commando, an Olympic coach — and all of them super-fit, organizing a life-changing “Executive boot camp” that will run for 10 weeks from Feb. 1 and is guaranteeing a new body by Easter. Why not sign up with experts who will motivate you? Put your money where your mouth is!

Business. All of us have skill areas that are gaps. My personal one is in financial analysis, having “grown up” in the marketing side of the business. We all have strengths and weaknesses in business. What are yours? Why not sign up at AIM (Asian Institute of Management) or Ateneo for a class where you can improve? We should never stop being students, and stop learning! And we have world-class education options right here in our own backyard.

Personal. Stress management is an ongoing issue for so many. Some manage stress well, and some do not. If this is a weakness, let’s try something different. Perhaps take a yoga class two or three times per week, such as at Beyond Yoga which has multiple branches and only employs certified instructors.

There are many more such examples across every realm of life. The bottom line is, make 2014 matter. Make it not “just another year” but the one that changes your life. Take a page from Arnold’s philosophy — stand in front of the mirror and study where you are weak, and need to improve. Focus 2014 on those areas. And make this year the year of your personal championship.