Everybody Needs A Nemesis (Not Just Superheroes)

Batman has the Joker; Spider-Man has the Green Goblin. Nearly every superhero has a nemesis. Who do you have?

nem·e·sis [nem-uh-sis]
1. something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.: The performance test proved to be my nemesis.
2. an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

If we want to achieve something, I believe you can better accomplish this if you have a nemesis to spur you on. In essence it’s a bit of competition, but the important detail is neither of you can “win”, or if one does gain the upperhand then it’s not for long.

I was prompted to write this after analysing the evolution of the relationship I have with a colleague1. Don’t get me wrong, we’re friends, but we do tend to “one-up” each other where we can, pushing each other until we reach an impasse. The latest “conflict” is based around both our efforts to lose a little weight, and in particular it’s about the having higher step-count on our FitBits. Obviously this is not something either of us can “win” – the counts reset every day, and ultimately we’ll both be better off. It hasn’t stopped us.

On her first day with the FitBit my colleague posted some big numbers. As a long-time user of the FitBit I felt a sense of injustice at this upstart trying to show me how it is done. So I promptly went out and logged a 10K walk, for 21K over the whole day. Feeling a similar sense of injustice that I stole her thunder on her first day, she went and logged 22K per day at the weekend. In response, these last few days I’ve tripled the average amount of steps I manage to log while at the office.

This battle of wills helps keep us both interested and focussed on our goals. Before it started I was beginning to get a little complacent in achieving mine.

A nemesis doesn’t even have to be a person. Is there a particular skill you just can’t seem to master? Perhaps a language you just can’t wrap your head around? A long-standing software bug you just can’t fix? Learn from it, and let your defeats spur you to keep trying until you succeed.

So a nemesis doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Use it as motivation, a way to improve and push harder to achieve something. I highly encourage you to identify your own nemesis.

  1. If you want to extend the superhero/comic nemesis metaphor further, this colleague would at one time have been considered my “protégé”. How very Jason Todd.
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FitBit Ultra [UK] Unboxing and Lightning Review

My FitBit finally came today! So like any good nerd, here’s a quick unboxing photoset:

So how is it to use? Couldn’t be more straightforward – I just dropped it into my pocket after setup! It really couldn’t be simpler; you move around and it tracks it. When you stop, and are within range of the dock, it syncs your data to the FitBit dashboard.

The great thing is it has a positive mental effect: you know you’re tracking your activity, so you’re naturally inclined to make yourself more active; you get badges/awards for reaching certain milestones – 10 flights of stairs, 5000 steps, etc. I did find myself thinking of more ways I could ‘level up’ as it were. I was probably helped by the fact I was working from home, which gave me more freedom to (for example) go for a walk at lunchtime, and take a few more breaks where I could just walk around the house, but in theory I might be able to manage similar behaviour at the office.

One part of the logging app (web or iPhone) which sucks is the food logging – essentially a food diary/calorie counter so you can offset your activity with what you’re consuming. The food database was pretty pathetic, and entirely US-oriented, and new foods can only be added through the website. There is hope though. The FitBit website lists integration with MyFitnessPal as “coming soon“. This is good, as the MyFitnessPal iPhone app is the best food diary app I’ve tried. Hopefully “coming soon” really is soon, because I’d like to track my intake, but the FitBit tracker is useless IMO.

I haven’t had a chance to test out the sleep tracking functionality yet, but will report back when I have.

In summary: the FitBit is amazingly simple to use, and likely to have a positive effect on my goals. The food logging sucks, but third-party integration promises to take care of that. Rating: 4 out of 5.

Starting the Year

Ah, it’s the start of a New Year. Outside the street cleaners are sweeping away the mess made celebrating the end of 2011. Inside are millions of people nursing hangovers, celebrating, and making resolutions (usually involving not drinking again!).

I already outlined a few goals I have for 2012, and I’m a firm believer in ‘start as you mean to go on’ and ‘measurable performance’, so I’m laying down markers on a couple of these goals already so progress can be measured.

Weight Loss

Screenshot of the Weightbot UI, showing my current weight of 18st 12lb

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with my weight. I’m under no illusion I am in an unhealthy place right now. I’m currently 18st 12lb/264lb/120kg. While this is well down from the peak of 22st/308lb/140kg I was in August, I need to keep this going.

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