Category Archives: blogging

Year in Review 2017

I will always look back on 2017 with fond memories. A lot happened personally and professionally and I wrote about a lot of it here on the blog. My blog is for documenting things in life so I remember them both here at the end of the year and for years to come. Leaders are readers, they’re thinkers, they reflect on how things are going according to their game plan. I need a tool like this blog to remember all the things that happened. I want to look back on the year and see if my family is telling a story of love, that my business and brand is reflected in my life, I want to tell a great story not for the sake of showing off a great life but rather to think deeply about my values and hopefully to inspire others to think deeply. We are better together.

2017: Becoming A Media Company

The past 363 days I have wrapped my mind around becoming a media company. So much of my time and effort is spent building my next career as an exercise and wellness specialist. Any business needs to brand, advertise, and market themselves but a service business like personal training especially lends itself to getting content and media out into the world to sell your services and build a business. In late 2016 I came across two entrepreneurs who would inspire my transition to a media company. Gary Vaynerchuk is the one who coined the phrase and Casey Neistat is the vlogger who gave me a vision of what I could do with video to tell a story. These two people were in my head every day in almost every decision I made in 2017 to take my brand to the next level.

This review isn’t about Gary and Casey; it’s about how they inspired the foundation of my brand. As most of you know I’ve hung up my arborist gear – no more climbing trees with chainsaws and running brush through a chipper. A significant part of me misses this manual labor, leadership, and productivity. But I was made to work with people to improve their health and their livelihood. I absolutely love what I do and I’m getting pretty good at it. Of course there’s room for improvement (more on that later) but I am confident in where the brand is at and where it’s going. Let’s get into the details.

Instagram

My second biggest accomplishment in 2017 was establishing my Instagram feed as a story about exercise and wellness. The Instagram account is a big deal because I went from personal posts and “any cool Instagram-worthy pic” to focusing on adding value as an exercise specialist and building an audience that expected this type of content. It was a strategic first step because it’s a platform I was already using and it’s a known network for this type of content. Numerous people asked what was behind the notable shift in content. I posted to Instagram numerous times per week, sometimes numerous times per day. It always feels good to put a plan together, execute well, and see the results.

Newsletter

Instagram was a win, but my number one accomplishment for 2017 was establishing a weekly newsletter called From The Training Desk of Hans Schiefelbein. As much as I believe in the power of social media, email is still a bedrock of our communication. We all have email and it’s still our primary means of subscribing to new information. Every week I read a lot of articles that help me in my career and so I thought ‘why not take that information and share it with my audience?’ I read a handful of newsletters each week and two in particular were the inspiration for my newsletter. Jocelyn Glei writes about ‘notes on work, life and creativity in the Age of Distraction.’ Chris Bowler writes a longer newsletter but the content is right up my alley: ‘a newsletter focused on cultivating the discipline and joy of living with intention.’ I took these two newsletters and realized I can take my content that I read each week and curate a newsletter that brings value to my readers. If you want to get a weekly update on what has my attention from a health and wellness point of view, I invite you to subscribe to From the Training Desk.

Love This Book: Vlogging

One of the mindsets I learned from Gary was testing new media. While he didn’t get into the details of his tactics, he constantly talked about ‘testing new platforms’, new side projects, new campaigns and themes in his work. In late 2016 my church announced that the entire year of 2017 was going to be dedicated to going through the Bible again. We had done a series called “Eat This Book” in 2012 and this year we’d be doing it again, this time in a four-part series through YouVersion (Bible app) which included embedded videos from Tim Mackie’s Bible Project. I naturally gravitate towards journals, devotional plans, and year-long studies like this so I was immediately asking what this would look like for me. I knew the church would so some social media around it but I wasn’t too hopeful it would work or ‘be a relevant part of the project.’ At the same time I was pondering the work of Gary and Casey and I landed on the idea that I would post a weekly vlog as I go through the Bible readings and subsequently reflect on what I was taking away from the series. This was an ambitious project. Again the goal here isn’t to recap the entire project but I’ll say this: I learned a lot about vlogging. It was a difficult project and in fact it fell apart in the fall and I couldn’t pick it back up – that’s a big regret of mine. But I also self-imposed a restriction on my vlog: I wanted to film, edit, and publish to YouTube end-to-end with an iOS device. The reason for this limitation was that I was thinking ahead to a health and fitness vlog and I wanted to be able to train other trainers on how to most efficiently use social media to improve their brand and tell their story. One of the downsides of this is the quality may be a little less than if I’d use a DSLR and also I now gravitate to Apple products and can come across as a ‘fan boy.’ But I’ve fully come to terms with the idea that you have to set boundaries of what you’ll be about and where you’ll say ‘no’. I can’t be all things to all people and I have chosen to be the resident expert on using iOS devices to build a health and fitness brand. I love this decision and I’m excited about building an iOS-only platform.

Training: HIIT and weight management

As an exercise specialist I’ve built a solid reputation for designing challenging and creative workouts using high intensity interval training (HIIT), namely the Tabata protocol. One downside is that I’ve experienced a handful of people at the club say that they don’t want to train with me because the intensity is too high, “I could never do that.” So then I have to go back and remind them that I train people to reach their goals, not mine. But if the eye-test is a downside to HIIT training, the advantage is that research is still on my side. Not only is HIIT safe for advanced and novice clients alike, it’s good for weight loss which has been a focus for a few clients in 2017. As my career develops HIIT training and a focus on weight loss continue to be where I spend most of my time. I’ve established an expertise with the exercise side of the equation but anyone who knows about weight loss knows that a bigger part of the equation needs to be nutrition. Which leads me to my next section…

Training Daily: The Year of Nutrition

So far I’ve reviewed what I did in 2017 but one of the most significant take-aways from the year was realizing what I need to do in 2018. This year I’m going to take my nutrition education and implementation to the next level. You’ve heard me talk about becoming a media company last year. My Love This Book vlog was really a testing ground for my next project as a fitness professional. I’ve decided to continue vlogging with nutrition as a storyline. In November I started filming Training Daily as my new media project, a vlog (for those that don’t know that’s a video log). The idea is this: Training Daily documents my life and career as a personal trainer which will include everything I do on any given week working with clients and maintaining my own fitness. Season 1 of Training Daily will focus on nutrition including the pros and cons of various diets, weight loss strategies, and all the recipes and tips that come with that progression of my career. I’m very excited to vlog this year and it’s so satisfying to look back on 2017 and see how so many things in life contribute to this decision to start Training Daily and take this media company to the next level.

A Few Highlights of 2017

A lot happened in 2017 and I documented a lot of it on the blog. It all started with starting in 2017. I created more than ever and had a giant focus on tech and health. I got Apple Watch Nike+ edition which got me thinking about my love for the original sport brand: Hello Nike! Speaking of running, I ran my fastest half marathon, fell in love with TRX again, and helped a client lose 45 pounds! It was a good year.

Happy Holidays

This week between Christmas and New Year is a special time. I’m finishing this post at the Java House in Cedarburg visiting Katie’s family for a few days. I’m ending the year with a satisfied soul that has a healthy anticipation and even eagerness to start 2018 with an ambitious plan. A great life can be achieved by anyone who’s willing to reflect on what has happened, make your adjustments, and put together a game plan for the next year. I encourage you to be intentional with your reflection and intentional with your plans and I believe good things will happen. Merry Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year.

Taking mnml for a Test Drive

It has been an adventure keeping up with the work of John Saddington aka 8Bit (and formerly Tent Blogger). Yes, I’ve known John for many many years. He’s inspired me from a publishing perspective on many different fronts. John is all about blogging. He’s been doing it every day for over 15 years. Today I want to tell you about his latest project, mnml. MNML is a macOS app that is specifically for posting on Medium.com. John sent me a demo version so that I could review the app. While he sent me this product for free, I would not endorse it if I could not fully get behind it. I love mnml! It reminds me a lot of Desk, the macOS app for publishing to WordPress. Software can be a funny thing. I enjoy keeping up with certain developers and trends but not everyone is like me. So that’s why this review is here. I believe writing is essential to a personal pursuit of a healthy life. I also believe leaders (at all levels) benefit from publishing their words to the world – whether it’s on a blog, though an email newsletter, on Facebook, or even on Twitter (micro-blogging). Medium is still new to me (I’ve started a new publication called Tech Trainer) but it has so much potential. It’s very fun to see the great headlines about writing, productivity, and life-hacking. If you post on Medium or want to start this summer, pick up mnml so that the tech gets out of the way and you can focus on the words, not the details of publishing.

teaching technology

For the past two years I developed a plant health care program at H&H Arborists. It has a certain level of complexity and organization to it (what good programs don’t!). Additionally it increases our efficiency while minimizing mistakes in the field. This week I trained a co-worker on my workflow for the plant health care program. Josh picked it up right away and was not only eager to learn but also went looking for ways to improve it. He immediately recognized why I used apps and the workflows that I did. Earlier this week I presented a new social media strategy at Pinnacle Health + Fitness. It was easy for me, was well received, and we’re seeing progress already. Yesterday one manager had already drafted his first few blog posts. This morning the owner took steps to implement his department into the strategy. 

I love coaching. I’ve become the resident expert in both of these situations and it’s easy to apply my skills and ideas to improve our business. Technology is often the common thread in my workflows. I spend a lot of time in tech and when I can apply it to business, it hardly feels like work. I’m constantly asking the question “how can we do this most efficiently.” With the plant health care, I had to think ahead to when I wouldn’t be with the company anymore. Could I put together a system that an average non-tech person could take it over? Could I create a system that minimized mistakes even with multiple employees involved? Could I create a system that would scale from $40,000 in sales or $400,000 in sales? 

Each time I build a product, strategy or even a simple workflow I gain experience for the next project that will end up on my desk. Sometimes I have to sacrifice time on the front end just to gain experience to get the project out the door. I learn from what went well and what could improve so that I’m more versatile when the next problem presents itself.

Gathering the tools

I am part of a book study through the mens ministry at church. We are reading a book called Simplify by Bill Hybels and this week was about identifying your life verse from the Bible. At first this seemed like kind of a cheesy thing to do, then I started to embrace the idea. But each guy in our discussion at Barriques concluded the same thing: one single life verse would be hard to identify; a verse for this “season” seems more applicable.

Along that same vein, I believe true professionals are constantly adjusting the tools they need for certain seasons, certain projects. I wear many hats throughout the week. Mostly I’m training clients. But I’m also writing, reading, conducting interviews, leading and attending meetings, creating marketing materials, and cranking through email. I am fascinated with how people work, especially the creative and successful ones. And while I could write about how I personally get all these things done, today I want to write about what tools I use for professional development, specifically reading.Turning Pro

I hoard books. My Kindle (app) is loaded with many books I haven’t read yet, but they’re on my list. I sort through tens of blogs each week. I have extensive Twitter lists that keep me in the loop with my areas of interest. All these things help me grow professionally, but every once in awhile a new book comes across my desk that is different. Last week, my friend John was quoting Steven Pressfield from his popular book, Turning Pro. This book has been on my wish list for years. I didn’t purchase it because of the afore mentioned hoarding of books. I convinced myself that I needed to finish a few more books before purchasing another to sit on my Kindle. But something clicked with one of John’s blog posts. I realized the work I was doing at Pinnacle was setting me up to dive into Turning Pro. I read further on John’s blog and learned that he was starting a digital book club around Turning Pro. And I was hooked.

Last week I purchased the book and I’ve had two nights to dig into it this week – it’s fantastic. It will be difficult for a handful of reasons, but I know this is a tool I need for this season of my life. I’m continually amazed when things in life are put on hold only until the “time is right” and things fall into place. I’m so excited to learn from this book and to “go Pro.”

How about you? Are you picking up some tools for this season of life?

10daysbetterblog 08 Goals

I have had goals for my blog for a long time. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. But this time I’m working through the same process I take my clients through for their exercise and fitness goals, namely the SMART methodology. My SMART goal is to write one great blog post each week through the month of March. This meets all the criteria for this methodology. 

A couple notes. First, I’ve created a calendar item to get this writing done, including time to do any relevant research. Thursday mornings are where I will get this work done. Second, when I get this writing and work done, it will be great. Unlike my NoWriMo project, I won’t settle for posts that just got the thing posted; it needs to be something I’m proud of. 

First post goes live tomorrow. 

10daysbetterblog 07 Analytics

Gotta know your reader. I know this to be true, but when I look at my analytics I see that I’m telling a different story. It’s a good one. It’s me. But it’s not where I want to go (right now), or at least it’s not the primary shotry I want to tell.

Today’s assignment for #10daysbetterblog is to look at the analytics of our blog and reflect. Here’s a quote from the assignment:

“You see, when you know who your reader is (and what they are interested in) you can begin to tailor content to their specific tastes and needs. You are beginning to create a consistent audience which is a powerful mechanism in today’s digital economy.”


I am humbled by the page views, but there are other posts that I want to rise to the top of this list. I want to talk about goals, fitness, wellness, struggles in the fight to stay fit, and people’s stories of success as they pursue their health. My most popular blog posts have a special place in my heart. I’m using this feeling as motivation to write better in 2015 for the story I want to tell. Quick post today to get this assignment done. It’s late on Friday and I have to get to the family. I’ll have some time this weekend to flesh this out and create a plan.


Analytics: boy, proof in the pudding. Lots of work to do.


10daysbetterblog 06 About Page

Ah yes, the About page. Vitally important yet highly ignored. Day 06 of #10daysbetterblog continues the pruning practice from day 05. This static page on a blog needs to be clear but it also needs to be accurate, up-to-date. When I navigated to my about page, I was pleased to notice mine was fairly current. I don’t like the font size or the size of the pic at the bottom. And I need to add some more of my best writing and some easier calls to action. But this should be kind of fun and easy to do. 

When I reflect on my page and compare it to others’, it’s clear to me how important experience is for this page.

  • What have I done?
    * How can I paint a picture of what I do and what I can offer you or your company to pursue your health?
    * Am I putting a good (great!) foot forward?
    * Am I viewed as an expert?
    * Am I perceived as capable of helping you pursue your goals?

As John says, this should be one of your most viewed pages. It deserves frequent time and attention. Updates should be fairly regular, and reinvention should be considered every six to twelve months. And with that, I’m happy with the adjustments I made – font, a better pic, and some links to my favorite articles.

10daysbetterblog 04

On day 4 of my blogging workshop, the instructions are simply to reflect. Kind of interesting because as I opened John’s post for the day, I was looking at my Desk app and the three blog posts I logged. They have the same name with different numbers (of course) at the end, so they looked bigger to me. They looked organized, part of a series, a project, a story. I had a feeling of purpose and direction which is a primary motivator for me as I take blogging to the next level. I need this consistency. I need challenge and this confidence.

Then interstingly enough as I sat in my chair for the fourth night in a row to write this blog, I thought about yesterday’s post and the importance of the physical space. I won’t always blog like this, but the idea that “it’s about 8:30pm, work is done and I need to check in with the workshop. I’ve got my glass of water and I’m ready to write…” That was kind of a cool feeling. Great writers show up to write, pretty much on a daily basis. It doens’t mean it will all get published. But the act of writing is a discipline. Boy, is it ever. I haven’t refined my discipline here yet. But that’s why I’m reflecting. 

In this short closing reflection, I conclude that no matter what the rest of the workshop topics may be, I will write my tenth post having established a game plan for the year. I will have a direction, storyline, and monthly goals. I have goals for family, fitness, faith. I need to have goals for my writing. Reflection done.

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10daysbetterblog 03

This is day 3 of a blogging workshop I’m doing with my friend John Saddington.

My optimal writing environment is a coffee shop. I have a local one (coffee mugs are pictured in the sidebar) two blocks away from my day job as a personal trainer. During sections of my day I scoot over there for my writing. I love window seats, but when I’m writing I usually need to bury myself a little deeper into the cafe so I don’t stare out the window. My drink of choice is either a red-eye or a half-full Americano.

After I get my drink and my table, I need a few minutes to clear my mind. A quick check of Twitter, a quick glance of my notebook of items to do for the day so that I can try to keep those things from creeping in as distractions to my writing. Headphones are a must. I love the buzz and chatter of a coffee shop but (depending on the topic) I typically need music where I don’t know the words, often instrumental music to zone into my writing.

As far as the content, I am pushing myself lately to produce an outline first rather than just writing on the fly. I go on tangents. I lose my direction. I confuse even myself, the writer. Not good. This sounds much more professional here than what usually happens. I’m working on a better workflow. I do light editing while I write but I have certainly found that if I can get a draft done, walk away for a few hours or even upwards of a day, then come back to it, I can edit a lot more and get the piece in a better place to publish. I guess this is all part of the deal of becoming a better writer.

As I said yesterday, I have all the tools to blog. I could write on any computer, I could write in TextEdit, Evernote, or the web version of WordPress. But thankfully my writing process is enhanced with my 2011 MacBook Air and Desk. My Mac is an absolute dream to pull out of my bag and open up. Desk is clean and fully functional for my workflow as a blogger. I appreciate how opening Desk is exactly what writers should be doing – sitting at their desk. For decades, writers have pulled a chair up to a physical desk, pulled out paper, a typewriter, then a computer to do their writing. Today we write in apps. And when I open my digital Desk, I’m a writer.

10daysbetterblog 02

I’m on day two of a writing workshop, technically a blogging workshop. Day one was about my goal for 2015. Today the question is this: Why do you write?

I write to collect and publish my thoughts

Well, first I write because it helps me collect my thoughts. I’m a writer, it just doesn’t always go public. I process life when I write it down, analyze it a bit, and try to make adjustments to my game plan moving forward. And adding to waht I talked about yesterday, it also helps me feel like I’m moving things forward; I’m contributing to society, not just consuming everybody else’s stuff. Writing helps me learn, grow, and (hopefully) help people. And that second part, helping people, is really the second part of why I write.

I write because people are dying

This will sound harsh: I write because I don’t want people to die. Strong words. Let me explain. I was having dinner with my friend Jon Swanson last winter when he and his wife were driving through Madison. We started talking about me growing my health and fitness business and he asked the “why” question. “Why are you starting this business?” My answer didn’t satisfy him. He offered this: “You don’t want people to die.” He’s right. 

People are dying for many reasons, but heart disease is the leading cause in the United States. As an exercise specialist, this is a huge opportunity to help. I won’t save anyone by writing a blog post and getting a few hundred people to read it. But if I can cast the vision for a healthy lifestyle and provide tips, support, and challenges for people to pursue that lifestyle, now I can start saving lives. Keeping people from dying is a negative spin on why I write. There’s a positive, too.

I write because health is something everyone wants

There is a story around health and fitness. If it were a pill, everyone would take it. But there isn’t a pill. It takes work. And this work is made easier (a) with some science to tell us what to do, and (b) a team to join us in the game. People can relate to fitness. Either they had a good or a bad experience. Either way, they want it and I can walk them down the road. I write because I want to bring people to an undertanding of the importance of their health and then I want to empower them to take ownership it.


I’m glad I wrote this out. I think about it all the time but I’ve never put it into words. Thanks for the challenge, John. And thank you, kind readers, for another few minutes of your day.