Ep032: Maximize, don’t compromise -- Self-leadership and life lesson from the gym to your job [solo episode]

The TalentGrow Show podcast solo episode with Halelly Azulay Maximize don't compromise: self-leadership and life lesson from the gym to your job

In this short solo episode of the TalentGrow Show podcast, I share a personal story about how a lesson I learned at my CrossFit gym perfectly encapsulates my self-leadership philosophy and why you can apply it to your life and your job (and everything in between). I also mention my favorite Michelangelo quotation and hope you’ll be inspired to maximize, not compromise. Finally, I share the most recent iTunes review for the show – it’s pretty awesome!

Maximize don't compromise Halelly Azulay TalentGrow Show ep032
Michelangelo quote on episode 32 of the TalentGrow Show podcast

What you'll learn:

  • What is the connection between CrossFit, kettlebells, and Michelangelo?
  • What's Halelly's insight from her CrossFit workout that really matches her philosophy for getting better results in life and work?
  • How can you leverage this a-ha moment from the gym in your own life and job?
  • Why is Halelly so addicted to CrossFit?
  • Halelly's favorite Michelangelo quote


Listen to Stitcher
  • Learn more about CrossFit in general (and of course, consult your medical professional before doing any kind of new physical activity... I'm no doctor! ;) )
  • My CrossFit gym is Lyfe Fitness in Woodland Hills, CA, and they're pretty darn awesome. (The coach I mention in my story is Carrie, but all their coaches are great!)
  • Download the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them free tool!
  • Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ASTD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach. Contact me if I can be of service to your organization!

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was recently described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (doh - it's right here!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there. Do you have a bias against motivational speakers? I think I do. Sometimes they seem like they’re all fluff and that what they say is just a bunch of baloney and that there’s nothing behind what they’re talking about. I definitely, definitely don’t want to come across that way. So I just hope that no one ever describes me as a motivational speaker. But, I do have some motivation for you today, and it comes from something that happens to me and just happened yesterday at the gym and it made me think that I should record a little solo podcast episode about it

I’m Halelly Azulay and I’m your leadership development strategist and this is the TalentGrow Show. If you’re a regular listener, you know that most of my episodes are episodes that are an interview with someone else. But sometimes I do these little solo episodes where I get to share some insights with you and get you thinking in a one-on-one way, just you and me. So this is one of those.

So here’s the story and the lesson. So I like to go to a CrossFit gym. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried CrossFit but I think it’s an intoxicating, addictive – in a good way – kind of place to work out. And I’m not trying to sell you on CrossFit at all, but I’d like to tell you a related story to make a point. So I go to the gym and the way that CrossFit works is that it’s a group lesson, but you’re kind of there on your own, because you don’t have to do anything with anyone else and you compete against yourself, really. You know what your record is for a particular, let’s say, how much you can lift in a particular movement or how fast you’ve gone in a particular combination before. And you’re always trying to beat your own record. But there is a camaraderie and there’s a group aspect to it where you feel like you want to not look like a loser in front of everyone or you want to keep up with everyone else. So it pushes you a little bit outside of what maybe you’d do by yourself. Plus there is a coach who watches your form, gives you some tips and also sometimes pushes you to go harder, and finally there’s another part of it that I find very motivating, which is what the Rx is. Rx is like the prescription.

So the workout for every day is different, and there’s almost always some kind of a prescription for at least how much weight you should be using for whatever the movement is or the exercise is and it’s usually different for men and women. That’s sort of like your gauge for what’s ideal, like what you should strive toward. It’s not to say that you all should be at that weight, because in fact most people are not working at that weight. But it’s something to kind of, like a metric to strive for. And I’m a pretty competitive person and I like to push myself and I do like to lift heavy, so for me, I want to do whatever the weight is on the Rx and a lot of times I get frustrated if I can’t.

So yesterday, there was an Rx for one small portion of this really complicated, long workout that involved kettlebell swings and the weight that was recommended, the Rx weight for women for the kettlebell swings, was 55 pounds. Now, holy moly, that’s very heavy. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to lift a 55-pound kettlebell, but that thing just feels heavy to lift it off the ground, let alone swinging it over your head as I was supposed to for 40 times, 40 reps. So I told the coach that’s impossible. And she said, “No, you should try it. You can do it.” And I’m like, “Oh, come on!” Now, the most I think I’ve ever done in kettlebells was 35 pounds. There’s different bells and each one has a different weight on it. And even 35 pounds is pretty heavy, so some of the newbies are doing maybe 10-pound kettlebells, 15-pound kettlebells, 25-pound kettlebells and so I’m like, “Oh, yay, I’m so strong and I can do 35,” and so here I am with a 55 and I’m trying to lift. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to try it.” I couldn’t lift it over my head. I couldn’t swing it over my head; there was no way it was going to go. So even if I couldn’t do one rep, I definitely could not do 40.

So you know what I did? I went down to the 45-pound bell. And I used it for the workout, and it was really, really hard. But I did it! Now, I have never, ever worked out with a 45-pound kettlebell before, so for me, this was actually an amazing thing. I exceeded my maximum weight and I showed myself that I’m stronger than I thought that I was. But also in comparison to what coach said, I was like, “Dang, I didn’t do 55! I failed.” So it was this really interesting tension between going further than I want to or than I think I can and in the course of doing that, I am exceeding my previous record, even though I didn’t get to my intended goal. Like I didn’t meet that pie-in-the-sky goal of 55 pounds, I went farther than I’ve gone before. I am making progress.

So this reminds me of this quote I used to have in my email signature, always, attributed to Michelangelo. I don’t know if that’s something he really said – you know those things on the internet, you never know if they really said it. Supposedly Michelangelo said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” I love this! Because, it just encapsulates exactly what happened to me at the gym, and exactly what happens to me daily in running the business and what I try to inspire everyone that I work with to achieve, which is don’t second guess yourself. Don’t shortchange yourself, and don’t give yourself these excuses that cause you to underachieve. Don’t be mediocre. There is absolutely almost no upside risk to going for a goal that seems impossible. I mean, I’m not talking, like I didn’t try to lift a 100-pound kettlebell. But if I have only achieved 35 pounds and I was going for 55 pounds, it was outside of my reach – but not impossible. And I will get to it. And I went for it and I tried, but not this time, not yet. By going farther than I thought I could go, I helped myself go farther than I’ve been. And I’m ahead regardless.

Every time that you think about an important goal, if it scares you, it’s a good sign. And it’s not a time to recoil. It’s a time to try for it. Because the worst that can happen is that you’ll have tried and you’ll have learned and most likely, you will have achieved something that is beyond what you would have given yourself an opportunity to do, if you only worked on things that seemed within reach. So by reaching farther than your comfort zone and farther than what seems reasonable or achievable, you are stretching yourself into new realms and you’re creating new limits for yourself. You’re breaking through your existing limits and creating new limits.

So again, I hope that this inspires you and empowers you and I also hope that it does not come across as motivational speaker BS, because that’s not who I am and it’s not what I want for you. And I’d love to hear what you thought about this and how it helped you. If you’ve experienced something like this before, tell a story. What happened? And if not, if you intend on doing something and this causes you to maybe reach a little bit further, I would love to hear about how that went.

So keep in touch, go to the show notes page and put in comments, or tweet at me @HalellyAzulay or email me, Halelly@talentgrow.com. But I thank you for listening. I hope this has been a valuable short episode for you and until the next time, I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist with the TalentGrow Show. Make today great.

Hey, it’s Halelly again. Just wanted to make a couple of quick notes for you, I hope you enjoyed that episode. First of all, the show notes page is www.talentgrow.com/podcast/episode32. So this is episode 32 of the TalentGrow Show. And I just wanted to let you know that I just got a new review on iTunes from another listener of the TalentGrow Show and I wanted to share it with you. It’s such a fabulous review, I’m so, so grateful for it. And it encapsulates what I hope to really achieve, so Andrew Layman, if you’re listening, thank you for this wonderful review! Let me read it to you. He says, “What a wonderful podcast. I’m hooked on this as my drive time listening, because every show has productive, articulate guests, full of inspiring ideas for taking my and my team’s skills up a level. Halelly draws out from each guest key insights and directly actionable advice.” So perfect! And I’m really glad. This is exactly what I want for you. I want you to use your downtime productively, like when you’re driving or when you’re doing your exercise or walking your dog or washing the dishes or whatever it is that you do. In fact, I’d love to hear when it is that you listen to my podcast. I’m really curious to hear from you about that. But if you don’t mind, share something about why you listen, if you’ve liked it, because that helps other listeners – potential listeners, that is – make the decision to give it a try and hopefully also get hooked and like it and enjoy what I put out. So, this was a very short episode. In the show notes page, at www.talentgrow.com/podcast/episode32, is a place to leave comments. So, share it with others, leave me comments, email me, let me know what you thought, and make today great. Thanks again, check you later. Bye!

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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