Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Time to Run: A Beginner’s Journey Training to Run 5K

I manage to run a 5K. About 3.1 miles. While it was a physical challenge and well beyond my initial capacity, it was by no means an exhausting one. It took me two months of training. It was more a mental and organizational challenge rather than some quest of willpower.

I research it, set the parameters and followed a plan. Over 2 months, I did 23 training sessions that culminated in 35 minutes straight of running.

Here’s the story of why and how I started training to run a 5K. I’m a total beginner. The journey towards this goals has been a rewarding one I want to share.

The Power of the Weekly Review: Why and How You Should Do Yours

I have been doing Weekly Reviews since May 2013. I have now done around 150 total in some form. This act has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve done to improve how I live. Each week I have a record where I check-in and gaze forward.

A “Weekly Review” is a set period each week where you take a look at the past week and scan towards the week to come. You examine your weekly accomplishments, record your analysis in writing, and visualize a plan for the week to come. It’s simple but powerful.

The core benefit of a Weekly Review is closure and thinking forward. First, you clear out your mental garbage and whatever else is lingering from the previous 7 days. You celebrate a few accomplishments. You recognize where things doing go well. You tell the story of your week. Second, now that you have some closure, you think about the future. You prepare for the week to come by visualizing what you want your next week to be.

Everyone will have different elements they want to include in their weekly review. My weekly review has evolved over the years. It went from focused on time analysis and goal track to a more holistic approach.

How you do yours will depend on you and your current needs. You need to make it a habit, and you should be flexible as you adapt your weekly review to your situation.

In this post, I’ll take a look at what is a Weekly Review, how to do yours, some of its benefits and provide my Weekly Review template.

How I Tracked a Year in Time and What It Meant

I tracked 27% of my time last year. For over 50% of that, I recorded the actual task or project I was working on during that time. Overall, I have 2341 hours and 44 minutes of total time logs and 1305 hours and 1 minute of task-tracked time logs.

So, from this tracked time, what have I learned?

On a high level, I learned that it’s important to be aware of what you are doing in the moment. For me, to track my time is to be conscious of that time usage. Verbalizing the activity you are working is a powerful way to stay mentally on-task.

Time cannot be “saved” and reused later. Time does not wait. It unwinds. At the end of a year, we have all accumulated 8760 more hours in a life. Much it is passes without engagement or becoming present-in-the-moment.

In my case, after a year of time tracking, I became much more engaged in my time. I am task focused now; my time tracking requires it.

In the end, I can also go beyond this general statistic on a year of time. So, where did my time go in 2015?

My 2015 Annual Review

As 2015 closes and 2016 starts, it’s time to draw together the lines of my last year and prepare some sketched out trajectories for the year to come.

Comparatively speaking, 2015 was one of the best years of my life.

This follows a series of great years from building my first successful personal business (2012) to a year and half of startup travels (2013-2014). I’ve rarely had a year of regrets in my life. Instead, I’ve structured my adult life around a string of personal and professional challenges.

2015 was not much different, except that my challenges came with a bigger opportunity and larger impact radius.

In order to close off each year and aim at the year to come, I decided I want to do my own Annual Review and share it publicly.

I will answer 3 questions in my 2015 Annual Review:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go so well this year?
  • What am I working toward?

Techstars in China in 2015: The Promise and the Progress

2015 was the first, full year for official Techstars activities and business in Greater China. It was a year full of challenges but also many great acheviements. As we look forward to 2016, let’s take a look at the progress we have made in Greater China in 2015.

The Promise: Helping Startups Get to the Next Step

In November 2014, I gave a short presentation at a meetup in Chengdu about my vision for our programs in China. After sharing some info about each of our programs like Startup Weekend and Startup Next, I concluded with a promise: In 2015, we would bring at least least one company from China to the United States. It was a bold promise all things considered, and many at that meetup probably thought we would never deliver.

Across all of our events and programs, this remained our defining objective: help entrepreneuers take the necessary steps level up their startups and businesses.

I’m proud to say we achieved this goal at least once this past year through one of the “graduates” of our first Startup Next in Shanghai: PartnerGo. I’ll share more about their story later.

In brief, 2015 was the year we launched official operations for Startup Weekend and Startup Next in Greater China. This began under the banner of UP Global and a very clear initial mission. Having achieved our initial objectives, namely sponsorship goals, it morphed into a larger strategy. With the acquisition of UP Global with Techstars, our mission joined theirs, and we were given the opportunity to delivery more awesomeness with the Techstars Accelerator team.

Like our review from June, let’s take a look at our top achievements from the past year.

A Year in Reading: 2015

Reading is one of my most engrained habits. I love to read, and I read everyday.

At any given time, I’m reading about 3-5 books actively. I try to read at least one fiction and one nonfiction at a time. I enjoy reading long books on historical figures and try to study about two or three major figure per year.

I read for learning. I read in order to gain experiences. Through reading, I have been able to learn much. I also reading as a way to lower my stress and help me sleep better.

In 2015, I read 47 books, according to my 2015 reading tracking. I even read one book twice (“The Martian”), so you might round that up to 48.

This past year I read a lot of great books. So, if you are considering a book for 2016, which ones would I recommend?

A One-Way Ticket, Destinations Undecided

A one way ticket assumes no way back, only a finality of departure and the edge of uncertainies to come.

“How many one-tickets have you bought in life?,” I asked a fellow traveler.

“None,” they responded. We had been sharing the typical travel dialogue of where have you been and where you are going. After, we had meandered into the profounder meaning of what a true “one-way ticket” meant.

Over beers in a Colombian beachside, we were talking travel logistics. It somehow carried the deeper implications of a life philosophy: roundtrips vs. one-ways.

I have purchased a few one-way tickets in my life. Each was a point of decision. The most significant was the first one-way ticket to Europe.

There have been other one-way tickets for me since. Yet I largely divide my time, travel and life between roundtrips and one-way trips.

When you pick a departure without an obvious return, you have made a decision. You turn your back on your old horizons and stare into the new.

Time Tracking = Conscious Time Usage

I obsessively track my time. I track my time in order to be aware of the task I am doing at that time.

It’s not about knowing where my time goes, though that’s an awesome side effect.

For me time tracking is being conscious of my time; being mindful of what I am doing at a certain moment.

The conscious act of setting a task and starting the timer frames my usage of the subsequent time.

By timing a task, I am aware of my time.

On Writing: Find a Topic That Pulls You, Then Just Write

Writers like to set goals: word counts, daily posts, time spent writing, pages completed, etc. These objectives seem like a good method to getting your writing done.

Unfortunately we rarely hit these goals. We suck at goals, especially when we set a goal without creating a routine to reach it.

Even worse, when we don’t hit our goals, we end up beating ourselves up. Negativity sneaks into our process. We doubt ourselves. We become the suffering artist.

Control Your Brand, Grow Your Business (Part 4): Partnerships and Business Development in China

Startup Lessons Learned Scaling a Brand and Community in China

China is notoriously one of the hardest business environments for foreign companies to operate in. It is often said business is stacked against outsiders. And it is.

Yet, as a market, China holds huge potential for many growing international companies. You can’t exactly ignore one of the largest customer bases. It is a a customer segment that is growing and spending.

For many businesses, China growth is a key assumption in their overall growth plans. Inevitably for many multinational businesses, the Chinese can’t be ignored forever.

In Mainland China, we’ve been working to develop our programs over the last year. Originally under UP Global and now as Techstars, we have been navigating Chinese culture and startup situation to grow our community programs, like Startup Weekend and Startup Next. Hard fought victories come with lots of entrepreneurial lessons learned.

In this four part series, our main focus as been about how to control your brand and operations in China. If you can’t control it, you can’t grow it. And, in China, control is not easily won.

In China, control is not easily won. In the first three parts, we looked at centralizing your business’s information, ensuring your business is in the right place and controlling your finances.

In this fourth part, we will look at partnerships. Control allows you to grow, and one of the most common methods for developing your business in China is partnerships.

Partnerships are a key driver of most successful, foreign companies in China. There are a lot of good examples of this. Companies like Coursera and Uber have used partnerships to help get their businesses started and leveraged their partners’ existing distribution networks to scale and grow.

In my view, it’s very, very difficult for foreign brands to survive and thrive in China without good partners.