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What a Job Interview with a Pimp Taught Me About Setting Goals

Photo credit: Caitlyn Wilson

Photo credit: Caitlyn Wilson

In the late ‘90s and barely a year out of high school, I moved from a haunted Connecticut town to glitzy New York City with a few hundred bucks in my pocket and the wide-eyed dream of SUCCESS… whatever that meant. Like any young adult facing down an ever present threat of eviction and dwindling supply of ramen, I needed a J-O-B. So, when I saw an advertisement on Craigslist which read, “MODELS WANTED” and promised up to a thousand dollars a day, I immediately applied.

Desperation is the executioner of common sense.

In less than 72 hours, I waltzed into the lobby of a Times Square hotel sporting a freshly bleached pixie hairdo a la Annie Lennox with a résumé and a few amateur headshots in hand to meet my prospective employer. “Sam” loomed large at a glass table in the middle of the lobby bar, holding a flute of champagne with a well-manicured hand adorned by gold rings. Rhinestone cufflinks peeked out of a bright blue suit as he motioned for me to take a seat, offering me a bite from a plate of cheese while pouring me a glass of bubbly. Underage drinking at a job interview? Sign me up! I’d already realized that, once again, I’d sniffed out trouble without meaning to.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, the job Sam had on offer wasn’t exactly as advertised. Is anything? Still, I listened to his proposal, mulled over whether or not he’d kidnap me if I tried to run out, and finally, after decimating the brie, told him that I’d like to give it a think. Don’t call me, I’ll call you. Here are four lessons on goal-setting from my interview with Sam the Pimp:  

1. You’ve Got to See It to Be It.
Always have a clear picture of what it is you want… and don’t want. The main thing that saved my butt that day was my imagination- being able to see and feel the scenarios available to me. I pictured, in crisp detail, what would become of my life had I accepted the job with Sam as opposed to if I declined the offer and went back to where I started from, and since neither scenario was palatable, I was able to conjure up other options in my mind. I ended up taking a waitressing position a few days later at a swanky restaurant in downtown Manhattan and enrolled in a course at my dream university not long after that. That may not seem like much to you, but back then,  I would have been blasting Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” if I’d had the option.

2. Ain’t No Such Thing As Easy Street.
The easy way is usually the hard way. In hindsight, this is almost always the case. We live in an age of instant gratification, where most people insist on results in no time flat. This lazy attitude is one reason why things like fad diets, get rich quick schemes and diploma mills continue to flourish. Their simple promises are all too tempting in a society that focuses on the shiny prize rather than the process. If you want true, lasting success at a goal, you’re going to have to put in all the work by developing grit and resilience. If you choose the illusion that promises you the world for minimal effort, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll pay for it dearly to someone else’s advantage- like a pimp’s.

3.  Run Your Own Game.
Sam owned his time, his money, and his reputation. He’d also insisted that, if I accepted the opportunity he was offering, he’d assume the role of banker and boss, booking my appointments and pocketing my earnings.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you,” he’d said.
How often do we fall for that trap in life, expecting someone or something else to manage our future and assume responsibility over our outcomes in some way? We look to our higher ups at work to raise our salaries, inflate our titles, and tell us what needs to be done. We turn to our personal trainers and doctors to oversee our physical bodies, no questions asked.  We even rely on our gadgets to spit out the secrets to a meaningful life.
“Siri, how can I attain true happiness?”

Only when you assume full accountability for your life and your decisions while respecting your intuition and inner wisdom can you create the existence that you desire. Otherwise, you’ll be handing your power over to one kind of pimp or another.

4. Know Your Cheese.
We all have different motivations. When we set goals that aren’t truly in alignment with our values and motivations, we deny ourselves the energy to get much accomplished in our lives. Similarly, if we don’t know how we’re measuring our success at a particular goal, we’ll end up feeling shortchanged and deflated, as if we’ve been on the wrong path to begin with. As we move into the New Year, millions of people will set the resolution to get in shape and hit the gym. Some will go after this goal because they’re lonely and want to get a date, some will do it because they get depressed when they look in the mirror, and still others will do it because they have four kids, an awesome wife and sky high cholesterol. Name your cheese. Know your deeper “why.”

Since that day almost twenty years ago, I’ve often thought about my interview with Sam and the various trajectories life could have taken. Human beings in hot water are like sponges. We soak up our environment until it becomes a part of us and only later, much later, when we’ve been rung out, do we realize how much we’ve been shaped by what we’ve absorbed.

There are a million posts about goals and resolutions that will promise you the secret formula for a winning New Year. The truth is, you probably hold a lot of that wisdom within you from your own wild life experiences, and I bet you already know how to set and structure goals. Our goal-setting process is hardly ever the problem; we fail to reach our aims when we’re not clear on our WHY, when we overlook our history, when we forget what’s powered our surviving and thriving in the first place.

 When you know your “why” and your worth, baby, you’re that much closer to living the dream.

Happy 2017.

Listen, if you're having a really hard time figuring out how to execute a resolution or goal for the coming year, drop me a note at But, I really believe you've got this. You just have to spend a little more time with your inner wisdom and personal history than you may be comfortable with. If you liked this post- or hated it- leave me a comment. If you loved it, share the love. Thanks as always for reading! 



Tangram's August Fitness Inspiration: Cristina Bel Ascanio

Cristina is working it out! 

Cristina is working it out! 

My job as Fitness Specialist at Tangram means that I’m lucky enough to meet some pretty phenomenal women here in Singapore, ladies who balance full-on careers and families alongside gutsy and intense training programs. 

I’m constantly in awe of my clients. It’s truly inspirational to watch such strong progression and dedication on a weekly basis. Getting results in the gym requires hard work and real consistency. This is difficult enough for most of us, but try doing it after 10 hours at work or a sleepless night with two cranky toddlers!

Hats off to you ladies, you deserve to be applauded on so many levels. So, this month we're introducing a new feature here on the blog, highlighting some of the amazing fitness journeys we're fortunate enough to be a part of here at Tangram. 

This month I’d like to share one of my client’s stories, Cristina Bel Ascanio:

Cristina is a super committed lady. Despite working 10 hour days, 6 days a week in a stressful environment, she consistently comes to see me twice weekly at the end of her 10 hour shift and she’s never missed a session since we started training together over 8 months ago.

Cristina initially had very low energy levels and was highly stressed from work. She wasn’t sleeping well and generally felt quite lethargic. Cristina was very concerned with stubborn fat cells clinging to her midsection and really wanted to lose a few kilograms.

With training, we automatically noticed her energy levels improving. The exercise alone helped reduce her stress load and Cristina subsequently lost inches from her waistline. Her sleep has improved over time as has her overall strength and fitness. Although Cristina’s weight remains the same, her lean body mass has increased significantly giving her a lean and toned physique to be very proud of!

Stretch time!

Stretch time!

Cristina’s glory does not just lay in her stats; her ability to perform well over a variety of disciplines is really impressive. This super flexible yogi can really hold her own in muscular strength and endurance and also smashes a 10km run.

The benefits of Cristina’s multidisciplinary approach to fitness are that the various disciplines complement each other so that the sum of the parts are much greater than the whole. Yoga is her first love but, through consistent hard work in the gym, we have developed her core and strengthened the prime muscles of her upper and lower body to enable her to
really exceed at yoga and hold her body in positions she never dreamed were attainable.

Running was previously an activity Cristina didn't particularly enjoy but she’s worked hard at the HIIT components to her gym program, gaining speed and endurance along the way. She now enjoys running 10km along the East Coast parkway on her day off as the stamina she’s built in the gym makes running more about pleasure than pain.

So from myself and all the team at Tangram Wellness, WELL DONE CRISTINA!

You are a great example of a focused and disciplined attitude in the face of life's stresses.

High fives for all your hard work, Cristina! If you'd like to get in touch with Anna to see how she can assist you with your fitness goals, drop her an email at . As always, thanks for reading, and may you have a fit and healthy month ahead! 



A Resolution Recharge for Seriously Sticky Goals

It happens every year around this time: many millions of people across the globe vow- fireworks included- to turn a new leaf in the name of self-improvement, committing wholeheartedly to a fresh start. And then, around the second or third week of January, motivation begins to wane; the person they’d hoped to become eventually acquiesces to the comfort zone of where they’ve always been. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does to me! Every New Year’s Eve for over a decade, I’d vowed to quit smoking, only to feel more frustrated and beat down each and every time I failed. My list of resolution disasters continued to grow alongside my disillusionment and it was not until I changed my SYSTEMS that I was able to experience success with my goals. Here are my top 5 tips to give those resolutions sticking power:

1. Set SMARTER Goals
Many people make the mistake of setting half-baked goals like “lose weight” or “make more money”, often because they’re just not quite sure how to go about designing a success-oriented resolution. Give each goal you’ve set a real boost in potential by running them through a SMARTER checklist:
SPECIFIC goals are precise and answer the “who”, “what”, “when” and “where” questions. For instance, instead of setting the goal of “improve my health,” you would create a goal such as “go to the gym for a 45 minute strength training workout every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning and pre-plan and prepare my meals for the week on Sunday evenings between 6-8pm.”
MEASURABLE goals require quantifiable criteria to track your progress. How will you know that your goal is achieved? How will you measure it? Generally, it’s best to set up a system to record your progress for each goal, whether that’s a spreadsheet, journal or in an app.
ATTAINABLE goals are built on self-respect and self-efficacy. These resolutions are achievable because you’re willing to put in the necessary work they require, whether that’s building new skills, talking to the right people, or changing your schedule around.
RELEVANT goals have the importance they deserve in your life, and are given the space they require. Exploring the real reasons behind setting a goal will let you know whether it’s relevant or not. Do you really want to complete a triathlon, or do you merely admire triathletes?  Is making enough money to buy a sports car really important to you, or are you just trying to prove something?
TIMELY goals are made with a specific time frame in mind, often broken down into a few components. For instance, if your goal is to train for a marathon, you may set a goal of running 4 times a week for 16 weeks and signing up for a race on a specific date.
EXCITING goals are key- if you’re not enthusiastic about what you’ve set out to do, your chances of accomplishing it are going to be pretty slim. Dig deep to unearth your true reasons for achieving your goal, and imagine yourself finally attaining it. How does that feel? Does this resolution make you excited about your life?
REVIEWED goals keep you on target throughout the process. By reviewing your goals each week, you’ll pinpoint what you need to do in order to improve your chances of reaching it, and make any necessary tweaks along the way. For instance, perhaps you’ve set a goal of building muscle by weightlifting 4 times a week in the mornings before work, but your boss has made a shift change and asked you to come in an hour earlier. Reviewing your goals gives you the opportunity to edit and revise as necessary, rather than dropping the resolution altogether.
2. Get Accountable

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a behavior change specialist and regular goal achiever, it’s that success rarely- if ever- happens in a vacuum. A support team can make all the difference in how far you’ll travel toward your dreams, and contrary to popular belief, they’re not so difficult to build. With the proliferation of social media groups, buddy apps, fellowships and meetup groups, you can easily link to motivated people who are traveling along the same path that you are, and who will be more than happy to establish a mutual accountability arrangement. Hiring a professional accountability partner like a personal trainer, coach or therapist can also provide an incredible motivational boost. These professionals come armed with an ample box of tools and skillsets to keep you on top of your game. For some reason, we human beings will often choose disappointing ourselves over disappointing someone else, and for this reason alone, accountability can be just the magic you need to fuel your resolutions.

3. Measure Your Progress
As a component of SMARTER goals, creating a reliable tool to measure your progress will keep you thoughtfully focused day-to-day while minimizing feelings of overwhelm. There are many options for measurement, and one I’m particularly fond of is behavior change guru Marshall Goldsmith’s method of tracking and accountability in the evening, as covered in his latest book,
"Triggers." Instead of listing each specific goal in a spreadsheet, he suggests reframing the goal by asking, “Did I do my best to________?” each day, and then rankiing the answer on a scale of 1-10. Additionally, he mentions enlisting a reliable accountability partner to review this list at the end of each day and briefly talk over any pitfalls. I was impressed to learn that one of the most esteemed coaches of our time actually hires a coach to phone him each night to go over his spreadsheet! It only takes about 5 minutes, and the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

4. Put Your Money On It
If you want to put some real skin in the game, throw your money down! No one likes to lose money, which is why I recommend signing up to an accountability program like Stikk, an app that has users define their goal, set a timeline, and then put something at stake, whether that’s their hard-earned dough or their reputation through donating to a charity or a cause they vehemently oppose.  According to Stikk, using a commitment contract triples the goal-setter’s chance of success. If an app like Stikk doesn’t appeal to you, then consider parting with your beans by purchasing a service that supports your resolution. This could include a personal training or coaching package, a gym membership or a race entry packet for a 10km or triathlon.

5. Visualize the Future
Without a clear picture of where you’re heading, how can you reach your desired destination? Being able to clearly imagine where you’d like to be in the future, as well as the person you’re working to become, is paramount to effectively reaching a big goal, particularly if that goal may take years to achieve. I have personally been using visualization to reach my goals for many years, and now lead sell-out workshops on a topic that drives my own life.  Instead of solely visualizing the end goal, I recommend first writing down the steps required to the goal, and actually visualizing each component of the process. For example, ifyou want to open a business this year, map out what it will actually take to do so, from waking up earlier to meeting the perfect business partner or investor to landing your first client. What does that look like to you, and how does it feel?
While visualization isn’t as easy as “The Secret” would like you to believe- explicit action is required- numerous studies prove that having a clear picture of the journey ahead can make a big difference, and athletes are notorious for mentally rehearsing their sport to ensure a winning outcome. If you’d like to experience just how powerful visualization can be while letting the child within come out to play, come join my next Intention Board Session.

Unconvinced? Still need some time to procrastinate? Then check out my top 5 book picks to help you get motivated in achieving your goals.

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts by Marshall Goldsmith
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Getting Things Done by David Allen
Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill
Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

What systems have you created to ensure an awesome 2016? What goal gets you most excited this year? Are your resolutions still sticking? I'd love to hear from you! 


© Tangram Fitness 2013