29 August 2007

Ironman Canada 2007

Huddle asked me about my Big Room Speech being a motivator. Not so much any more -- my main personal driver is simply to "go fast". However, having the chance to stand up in front of a room of people and say that I love Monica, that would be fun. I didn't get my shot this year so I'll write it here instead!

Sweets, I really appreciate the massive effort that you put into my athletics this year and I love you very much!

My current location is Banff, Alberta and I'm riding intermittent wireless from a public parking area near the Bow River. Check back on September 10th for the first of a three part series. I've been running through the race, as well as, the year in my head for the last few days. I'll share ideas on: (a) the race; (b) the year; and (c) the future.

Many thanks for the pre-race good wishes -- I read them all prior to last Sunday and have managed to reply to (most of) you from Banff.

Monica pointed out that my race ended up mirroring one of my greatest triathlon fears. I found myself laughing (internally) as I had a personal moment, on my hands and knees, at Mile Eight of the run. As usual, the 'fear' was far worse than reality. Quite ironic that I had to get myself into life best fitness in order to self-detonate.

The most interesting aspect of the week was that, through a single blog entry each week, I created a change in the way other people saw (and reacted to) me. Three hours of writing each week was enough to tilt (a small niche of) the World.

Things are a bit backed up on the email. Expect replies to extend into mid-September.

Not (yet) a Hollywood ending but I'm a fan of French Cinema in any event.

gordo

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10 August 2007

True Limiters


The photo this week is a snap from this morning's lab testing. That's Mat working on my most recent lab test (we have lab coats but he seems more comfortable in a Jack Daniels t-shirt). We are at the very early stages and it's been a lot of fun for all the team.

Alan is going to write up some thoughts on Lactate Testing -- he's at two pages already -- you'll find the article over on his blog in a few days. He's got all our data so it might be interesting for you to review.

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I've made a few adjustments to my gear for IM Canada.

I've always wondered what difference it would make to have the _absolute_ best equipment available to me on race day. The good people at Planet-X offered to pimp my TT bike so I can transfer extra watts through to to the road. That's very much appreciated!

On race wheels, I'm likely to run the set of Xentis-TTs. Given that I thought a 23 was a 27 on my hill TT and they accelerate faster than a disc -- I figure that they will be the most efficient wheel set for me. The IMC bike course involves plenty of pace changes so I'll trade a bit of high-velocity straight-ahead aero to reduce power spikes on pace changes.

Probably the biggest change is that I'll not run a powermeter this year -- no post-ride data for you. I thought quite a bit about this decision and it feels right for me. With eight years on power, I'll use the Force (and my heart rate monitor) to guide me.

I'm keen for pace feedback on the run but haven't made a final decision on whether to run an HRM. My physiological testing has confirmed my 'feel' at various paces and I've raced that marathon course plenty of times -- the key components of (my) running fast in Penticton are pace, rather than effort based.

My buddy Chris McDonald set me up with some compression socks -- they don't match my speedo but you might see them on the run. My fashion choices amuse me and a bit of internal amusement can come in handy towards the end of the race. This might mean that I don't run my second choice socks... too bad as they _really_ entertain me.

Guess I can wear them to the pro meeting...

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Poker Pacing

Within our training group this summer, one guy has managed to lift his run performance much more than the rest of us -- Jeff Shilt. I asked Dr. J to share his approach for getting the most out of his run sessions and he wrote this week's Alternative Perspectives for us. This is a practical explanation of Lydiard's advice to always "come-back-faster-than-you-went-out" when running.

Jeff (gleefully) pulls large handfuls of time out of the more 'spirited' Lads in the back halves of his run and swim workouts. I believe that there is a material physiological benefit to training this way. Jeff has deeply ingrained a mind-body connection of always finishing strong.

Under stress, (I expect that) he will revert to the pattern of backing off early and finishing very strong. Many athletes think that they will be able to "race different than training". Under stress, you are very likely to revert to your most deeply held memories and patterns. This is why athletes that love high intensity training are at a disadvantage in ultra-distance racing -- they have little practical knowledge of the difference between easy/steady/mod-hard... to them... it is all "slow".

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Getting into Coaching

Mike Ricci, Mat and I cut our first podcast this week. Hopefully, I won't put you to sleep because I need to be more animated! We started recording 15 mins after a decent swim workout -- guess I was a bit flat. We'll need a bit of time to get it live -- this is all new for us.

I'll try to do better for you when we cut the "Going Pro" piece -- please email me questions that you have. I'll see if my buddy, Chris McDonald, will join me for that one -- he knows the raw reality of "living the dream".

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A reader sent me an interesting interview with Renato Canova -- the article provided interesting things to consider. Two of Canova's key beliefs struck me as particularly relevant:

(a) the need for change within an athlete's program -- the dynamic nature of athletic fitness across an athlete's lifespan; and

(b) the need to minimize fuel consumption at specific event pace.

Fuel consumption (and mix) is an essential consideration for ultradistance athletes -- it may go some way to explaining why the fastest athletes (defined as pace/power at FT) don't always win Ironman.

For what it is worth, for events over seven hours, I'd define race-specific fitness as power/pace at AeT and I'd measure how well-trained an ultra athlete is by calculating AeT power/pace as a percentage of VO2-Max power/pace. The more traditional benchmark is to use Functional Threshold, rather than Aerobic Threshold.

I'll let Jeff and Alan pick this up after we've reached internal agreement on the terminology that we'll be using at Endurance Corner. There are many ways to say the same thing.

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Recent Books

With my recent focus on Ironman Canada, my reading has taken a backseat -- however, I did have time to read an interesting book on running -- Run Easy by Ron Clarke. It was another one from Alan's extensive library -- likely out of print in the USA.

This past weekend, Mat lent me his copy of Lance Armstrong's War -- the insight into the cultural and social background of the pro peleton was the most interesting part for me.

Like Lance, I take note of the people that speak of me in public. They give me extra motivation to ensure that I do my absolute best to achieve my absolute best. If I am honest, then (for some reason) even the folks that merely mention me tend to fire me up. I've asked the Lads to _never_ _ever_ defend me in public.

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True Limiters

Alan and I were talking about performance the other day and he made the comment that one of the things that he liked about my philosophy was my view that genetics don’t play a large part in athletic performance. If a guy in our office thinks that I said that then I’d better clarify my position. I’ll do that in a minute.

Daniels talks about the ingredients for success in his book. His ingredients are: Inherent Ability; Motivation; Opportunity; and Direction. At the end of that opening chapter, he sums up that the ingredients essentially boil down to ability and motivation.

To clarify, genetics play a key role in how far (and fast) you’ll progress relative to others. However, your DNA plays much less of a role in how far you’ll progress relative to yourself. You’re ultimate achievement will be impacted far more by non-physiological factors than many think. [For the purposes of this article, I will overlook work on the role of genetic modes of expression in brain function.]

In a culture where motivation is driven (largely) from relative performance -- genetics will, therefore, play more of role in determining how close you’ll come to your Ultimate Potential. Why? Because many people are externally, rather than internally motivated.

What prevents athletes (or anyone else) from realizing their Ultimate Potential in a given field? I’ve watched many highly successful people over the last eighteen years and will share some observations on what truly limits us.

Resistance to Change -- I'm on record (somewhere) having said that I've never met a problem that couldn't be overcome by additional effort. That philosophy served me very well. I achieved an 8:29 Ironman and a couple of second places. I then spent most of 2005 nuked and used my same patterns to take me back to a 3rd place finish (22 minutes slower than my best). In order to move past my previous success (or even try to get back to it) -- I had to make simple, yet deep, changes to my fundamental beliefs about endurance

Ego -- in his blog, Mat writes about the challenges of training with guys that he knows are faster than him. He closes wondering if he will have the humility to let people that he "knows are slower" go up the road. I asked him if he really knew the background of everyone that he'll be racing in Kentucky. Keying off a stranger that's bent on blowing themselves up can be a dangerous strategy. I know a few guys that have made tactical decisions based on athletes that didn't even finish the bike leg.

Control -- training and racing produce strong emotions at times. Over the last month, I've cried when running well -- fitness is a strong drug and the emotions that result from the various chemicals that we release with powerful training can cause strange actions. I interpret most strong emotions as "power" -- some of my training pals interpret them into anger (or disrespect). That can be useful if you've got a hard interval to do but disastrous if you are 60 miles from home on an endurance ride. Probably the most talented guy that I ever trained with confided in me that he was simply unable to control himself when racing -- great for Half IM and shorter races but he never fulfilled his long course potential.

Financial Stability -- spending a good chunk of our lives working at our maximum capacity (and resting from triathlon) is the greatest performance enhancer a tired athlete can do for themselves. Like most stressors, you don't realize how much debt/poverty drains you until you've removed it (and recovered).

Recovery -- I write about this one a lot. I know athletes that have been watching their racing slow for multiple seasons, yet struggle to see what the cause might be. I also watch athletes coping with running injuries, adjust their programs by making everything "quality" and reverting to patterns that have caused happiness in the past (e.g. back-to-back IM racing). Some of these athletes are coached by the smartest people in our sport -- you have to wonder if people are considering the cause of chronic fatigue and injury.

Time -- for people that "get it" -- time is the ultimate limiter, much more than talent or genetics. Starting at 30-years-old, I might (just) be able to squeak out my genetic potential before my athletic capacity starts to wane. As well, there's only so much that we can take out of our daily lives to work towards a goal. I have a team of people that help me towards my goals.

Patience -- the final one is my favourite. Most people will leave the playing field before they reach their potential. By sticking around, you'll make less mistakes while the new entrants (clamor for their 'right' to) repeat your errors.

After all that, it comes back to Daniels. To perform best, relative you ourselves, ultimately we're limited by our motivation.

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I'll be offline from now until September 12th. I might publish, I might not. We'll see.

Many thanks for your support over the last year,

gordo

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08 August 2007

Mind Training & Investing


Our photo this week is Clas and me in 2004. We're on the boardwalk in Hilton Head Island, SC. Lots of good memories from that trip and I think about Clas quite a bit.

I wrote a short piece on my August training over at the Planet-X site. One error that I discovered this evening -- I ran an 11-23 cassette rather than a 12-27 // sometimes it's best not to know that you are overgeared for a TT. Amazing what we can do when we don' t realize it. I thought that I had a gearing advantage over the boys and that made the TT feel easier -- the edge was all in my head!

In a future article, or podcast, I'll be discussing "Going Pro" -- if you've got any questions that you'd like me to address then send them along via email -- I listed all our email addresses last time.

Sam's written another interesting piece for us on Alternative Perspectives -- it compares powermeters with flying an airplane.

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Investing
If you are thinking about buying assets in the next few months -- I'd pause and consider three probabilities...

a -- that your purchase will cost more in February next year
b -- that it will cost the same to make the investment in February next year
c -- that it will cost less to make the investment in February next year

For what it's worth, in housing, I expect that the worst that you'll do is pay the same price next year -- with yields low (in most markets) that, effectively, means that you will have saved money.

In our Scottish business, we've done very well locking in deals across the winter when conditions are uncertain. We did that with the tailwind of a strong liquidity environment -- with tighter debt markets, there will be attractive deals to be had for fully funded buyers. Within our property development joint venture, margins have started to expand again (after contracting for the last two years).

The press appear to have latched onto the fact that we are in a credit crunch. I don't see that. [Ed Note: Whoops! ECB injects e100 billion into the debt markets.] What I see is that we've moved to more 'normal' debt conditions with borrowers having to demonstrate ability to pay and offer security -- the numbers don't look like a crunch to me. There is a clear overhang of poor credits and marginal developments in many markets -- still, fairly priced, quality product in prime locations continues to attract good pricing.

I think that there is a decent chance that we'll move through our current, benign, conditions through to a real credit crunch. The global liquidity picture should be a bit more clear by early spring.

Greed continues to dominate fear in the markets that I follow. I'm overweight on cash and biding my time.

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Mind Training
I'm going to keep this as simple as possible because, I think, that we waaaay over-complicate mental skills training. Here's the way I see it...

First -- identify our habits and patterns
Second -- remove the "mind" from the playing field

Most of the literature that I real about sports psychology focuses on exercises and techniques to deal with Part One of the challenge. Create consciousness about what's going on upstairs. That is a powerful first step.

For me, what comes after that is shifting from being (unconsciously) controlled by our thoughts to (consciously) observing them. Personally, I don't hold much hope of being able to control my mind -- I merely want to observe it.

I think we all experience thoughts, patterns, habits that we'd like to change -- only a minority of folks seem to be able to pause (a fraction of a second) to gain control of the automatic response that our fears and habits generate within us.

That fraction of a second is the most valuable second in my life -- it is where I am able to achieve a handhold of control over my actions. That small element of control helps me with the many little decisions that, ultimately, form my reality.

It sounds 'new age' to state with certainty that I control my life, my reality. Is it really? Consider the opposite -- how many times have you experienced the complete lack of control over your destiny? Being controlled by automatic responses to people, situations, emotions -- having your mind click into autopilot leaving you unconsciously following along. I spent YEARS like that.

Coming back to athletics -- I found a great article in the archives to illustrate my point. Here is my 2001 Race Plan. I must have been pretty nervous because I considered just about everything! The Plan worked great but there's no way that I could have remembered all that stuff on race day.

Six years later, here's my race plan for August 26th...
Swim -- long strokes, peaceful mind
Bike -- smooth power, patience
Run -- hands up, ribs down, WIN

No prizes for guessing which race strategy is easier to remember. Six out of seven components are under my direct control for the duration of the event. The seventh is a reminder (to me) that racing is a test of will (at many levels).

More than being able to remember/execute. What I notice between 2001/2007 is that, over time, I have incorporated many of the "Phase One" lessons (of racing) into my life. I don't need to be reminded of them, they are part of my life. So when you are working through mental skills training; consider that the ultimate goal may be to get past the exercises.

In my life, the "not thinking" is often more valuable than the "thinking".

Cheers,
gordo

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06 August 2007

Daniels, Coaching, Camps, Clinics


Daniels Running Formula

Mat just posted Alan's article on Daniels Running Formula over on Alternative Perspectives. Alan had been asking me a lot of personal training questions over the past few days. Turns out, that he was using me for a Case Study. Alan's articles do an excellent job of explaining the technical side of our approach to coaching.

For more info you can contact Alan via email.
"alan" "at" "endurancecorner.com"

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Getting into Coaching

I've had several emails seeking advice for getting into coaching. I've asked my friend, Mike Ricci, to do a podcast with me. We'll answer all the questions that we've received over the last month.

If you have any questions that you'd like us to cover then please send them along via email to:
"gordon" "at" "endurancecorner.com"

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Camps

Jeff "Dr. J" Shilt is working on two Spring Camps. The camps will be based in Tucson, AZ. Pricing will be around $2,250 and will include everything but your airfare to/from Tucson.

Camp 1 -- March 22-30, 2008 -- this will be a balanced training camp with an emphasis on the bike. For athletes racing IM Arizona, we'll schedule an "honest" race sim ride on March 23rd and make sure the rest of the camp fits into your Peak Period.

Camp 2 -- April 19-27, 2008 -- this will be a bike-focused training camp and the stronger athletes will ride 400-500 miles across the camp.

Fitness -- as a guideline, you'll want to have sub-13 hour IM fitness and/or sub-6 hour Half IM fitness. I imagine that some of my speedy pals will turn up so we'll have two groups each day.

If you'd like more details then please send an email to:
"DrJ" "at" "endurancecorner.com"
Please include a little bit about your background and goals for the camp.

We're confirming a venue with a kitchen and meeting room // once that's done we'll be in a position to fix the price. We're capping the camp size at 14 athletes to ensure plenty of interaction between us.

There will be the opportunity to arrive early for the camps and receive supplemental consulting, season planning and physiological testing. If that interests then please include in your note to Jeff.

Jeff, Alan, Mat and I will attend both of these camps.

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Personal Clinics

We've started to take September & October bookings for personal clinics. If you're interested in a Personal Clinic then drop Mat an email to discuss what we can offer you in terms of testing/consulting.

"mat" "at" "endurancecorner.com"

01 August 2007

The Oracle


I've carried the picture above around for a few years. I added a quote, "Being There". For me, the opportunity far out-weighs the outcome.

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After my long run last Sunday, Monica and I headed to Santa Cruz for a final visit with Mark and Brant before Ironman Canada. It was a quick trip but I don't judge value added on the time that someone spends with me. Mark and I were together for about three hours and we probably talked about "me" for less than half that time. That's got to be a record for me!

Following my visit with Mark, I had two hours alone at my motel. I'd left my computer behind and forgot to bring any books. It was just me and my note pad. These thoughts stem from the catalyst of Mark's presence -- they may not necessarily be exactly what he said.

Over the last nine weeks, my fitness has benefited from "The Pop". "The Pop" is an unexpected increase in performance. I've been popping in all sports as well as the gym. While my training partners continue to improve, the sensation inside me is that I've improved at a faster rate. So I've been asking myself "why".

In order to understand the process of this year, it's important to backtrack a bit to September 2006. When I read that Peter retired, I figured that there could be an opportunity to work with Mark. So I dropped him a line -- then followed up via email -- then followed up via telephone -- then went to his Sport & Spirit Clinic in Austin. I told Monica that if I wanted Mark to help my world then I should probably make the effort to learn about his world.

When I came to Mark, I wanted help with two aspects of my athletics:

#1 -- that I would nuke myself again in training. Across 2003 & 2004, I did more training than just about anyone I know -- that year culminated with a nine-week ride across America and ten-weeks of IronSchool with Dave Scott's elite group. The overall process was "successful" in that I went 8:29 at Ironman Canada 2004. However... I knew that I would be unable to repeat that level of training again -- my body simply couldn't train at that level.

#2 -- that I would blow-up in a race. There are only a handful of races where I've let go and gone as fast as I can go. I've haven't won most of these races but they have all been deeply fulfilling. With my 2006 racing, I felt like there was a governor on my efforts. I wanted to learn techniques for blowing through self-imposed limits.

Here's the crux of what Mark told me -- I've heard him repeat it many times so I'm sure that he won't mind me repeating it here:
...here is the bottom line: you will have to do things very differently than you have in the past. And if not, the patterns will repeat themselves. This is usually the toughest part for all athletes, especially those who have achieved near perfection in their racing as you have done. You will need to shift the memories of what happened to your body when you trained hard. You will need to strengthen your self confidence on a very different level than you have been working at. You will most likely need to really look at your training program with different eyes and probably make some significant changes to that so that you not only avoid the burnout, but also maximize your genetics on race day.
When I read that (less than 14 days after Ironman Canada 2006), I understood what he was saying. However... I didn't really understand at all and, I expect, that a year from now I will probably have an even deeper understanding of what lies behind those words. I've saved the full email and refer back from time-to-time.

Following the Austin Clinic, Mark agreed to take me on and I made a commitment to myself to follow the Sport & Spirit protocol to the absolute best of my abilities. For those of you that have attended the clinics, that means the spiritual aspects as well as the physical training aspects.

Most people come to a mentor or a coach looking for help "to achieve a result" or "to remove a problem". The difference in my case was that I came to Mark looking for new ideas and a commitment to change.

Wanting a result -- versus -- wanting to change.

Most people seek experts to achieve a result yet very few people are willing to attempt change.

Thinking about it, there have been four key "change points" in my triathlon career -- in each of them I learned a tremendous amount from adopting a new approach.

end 1999 -- implementing Friel's book, The Triathlete's Training Bible

mid-2002 -- training closely with Scott Molina (we started working informally at the end of 2000)

mid-2004 -- joining Dave Scott's elite squad

end 2006 -- working with Mark Allen

I can assure you that I'm tempted, daily, to return to my old pattern of out-training everyone. Fortunately, I keep improving so that takes a lot of the pressure off!

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A lady that worked in Brant's office died last Thursday. She happened to be Mark's age so death and longevity were on his mind. Death is _always_ on my mind and never far from me (especially when I'm riding).

I wonder if longevity should be the ultimate goal for all of us -- I acknowledge that my opinion on this will likely change as I grow older! Within my mountaineering career, I came to a point where the risk of dying exceeded the benefit that I received from climbing. That's why I shelved my ambitions for any Himalayan expeditions.

Within triathlon, I've often told myself (and others) that any damage that I do to myself exercising is far less than the damage I was doing in my "old life" before exercise.

What happens when your "old life" becomes your previous triathlon life? What are you left with if you transcend the false gods of alcohol, money, work, sex, fame and... exercise?

I'm working on that -- last Tuesday, I was left with truth, love and meaning.

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Back to Mark & Brant...

I can't tell you specifically how, or when, my fears left but I do know that my self-confidence started to increase following my May visit to Santa Cruz. There's something about visiting Mark's house in Santa Cruz that always makes me feel great. I must have told Monica ten times that Mark's place is my gold standard for housing. Everything that I look for in a house is there (black cat, warm sun, wood burning stove, and high speed internet...). More than the physical stuff, you've got the man himself and the vibe of the place.

On that trip, Brant joked that I didn't really need to seem him -- that I should simply rub my hands against Mark and pick-up some speed that way. I settled for a hug and a few hours of talking.

I'd encourage you to find non-traditional recovery avenues... whether it is a traditional religion, philosophy, nature, family, small kids, pets or the sea.

There is power in small and simple things.

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I can't end this piece without offering up a few technical details. Mat's pulling together a Top Ten list from the over fifty (!) pages that I've written this year. Off the top of my head here are some of Mark's techniques that worked very well for me...

Pacing -- pace every set, session, week, block, trimester, year so that you are strongest at the end. If you are an athlete with poor pace control in single-session training then this is likely a KEY limiter for you in your LIFE (not just athletics) -- you are at risk for trying too hard.

Pacing was an easier lesson for me. I had some trouble in November/December but managed to figure it out. You have to let your ego "go" when you are getting dropped. The Lads were crushing me pre-July.

Recovery -- the main difference between my training partners and me lies in what I don't do. I do far less than them on my easy days (2 per week, every week) and my easy weeks (1 every second or third week). I have never had this much structured rest my triathlon career -- I am setting seasonal personal bests in every single sport as well as the gym.

Recovery has been a very tough lesson for me. I continue to take pride in my ability to out-train most people. I've had to shift that focus to being an eGrip poster child. I battle with the urge to do more on most days -- Monica's been a great help here.

The Rules -- I love to follow the rules. Once Mark made the fundamental points clear (heart rate cap; pacing; weight floor) -- it was easy for me to stick with them. Where I've been challenged is when he removes the limits -- when I "go fast", I am supposed to go as fast as I can. The removal of all limits results in a similar fear to #2 above.

Back-to-backs -- if you look in my peak run week (posted last time) then you'll see that the bulk of my run volume was done in two day windows where a challenging run followed a solid session the previous day. Whether you are running, swimming, cycling or Big Day Training -- this is a highly effective way for an experienced athlete to safely (and specifically) overload themselves.

Be careful -- it took me over ten years to prepare for that week of running you saw. I did a similar thing with my cycling this past week (22 hours on the bike over five days, ending with a 160-miler on Saturday).

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I'll end with two observations, Mark adds value to me by:

***Helping me identify my personal "not to do"s; and

***Supporting me with a protocol that addresses the personal weaknesses that I've identified.

It is human nature to seek people to tell us "what to do" and follow protocols that enable us to showcase our strengths. My experience is that a deeper level of success may lie elsewhere.

Cheers,
gordo

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