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Kirk's success story

From a 9-to-5 Desk Sitter to a Marathon Winner

Alan Nguyen
Alan Nguyen
With the third installment of the series, Kirk shares with us how he conquered the 42 kilometers mark in an International Marathon relay.
Table of Contents

Office work. 9-to-5 life. We all know how tedious it is sitting all day at our desk. 

Our friend, Kirk, seems to know the most. He has spent the last 20 years working as a product engineer and then a chief information security officer, so we can virtually imagine how much time he sits and how inconceivable the fact that his team won an international marathon is.

But he did, with a 2nd prize, after 8 months of rigorous training. Let’s welcome Kirk!


Hello Kirk, would you mind sharing your daily habits?


With pleasure.

Every single day, I try to keep track of my calories using My fitnesspal, read 10 minutes, avoid drinking coffee after lunch, write in a journal, and some other personal habits. I’m also trying to start meditating again. I had been meditating for 2 years straight until it felt like a chore and I took some time off. 


Awesome, it seems like most of your habits are related to health improvement. Any particular reason for that?


Yeah, there is actually. I often found myself in a bad mood like being stressed out or upset. I didn’t notice what was going on back then, just being grumpy with everyone. I knew it was a bad habit so I decided to change it. 

I was using Omnifocus to track all my big projects. The idea of using it to also track the habits actually occurred to me more than once, but I felt like the habits were going to mess up my work list, so I went ahead and tried out a few apps. 


That’s “How I met your app”, right? Did you notice any change after using the app(s)?


Definitely Alan. 

The most apparent improvement is in my calmness. As I told you, when I was stressed, I didn’t understand what was going on. Now, I know how to take a step back and think “Okay, I seem to be angry, what’s that about?” I begin thinking about the problem and the solution instead of just mindlessly expressing it. Now I will think to myself: “Oh I didn’t sleep well last night, maybe that’s the reason” or “Hey I’m experiencing symptoms of stress, what caused this?”

And this ability has helped me control my stress reactions and recognize the causes of my problems. Things do not bother me as much anymore. 

I use Headspace the app to meditate, and luckily I am able to connect with it. The narrator once told me that there’s no wrong way to meditate, so I kept trying!


Wonderful! Meditation is on my list too, but I’m never consistent with it, mostly because of the sleepiness. Anyway, besides meditation, you also did journaling, right? Does it relate?


Ah yes, I’m actually on day 250 of journaling. At first, I found it very difficult, at least more than meditation. I started with pen and paper, but my handwriting is bad and my hand would cramp up. It wasn’t fun... 

So, maybe 5 years ago, I downloaded an app called Day One to write journals. Throughout the day I make little notes to myself of what is happening at that moment (just like meditating), and at the end of the day, I collect the notes and put it in Day One. Once a month, I reflect on what I was doing at the time and what I was thinking. Day One keeps reminding me of past memories, so the “future me” will have something to read and continue the motivation I had back in the days.

I think the fact that I’m being a happier, healthier and more relaxed person contributed enormously to my success in my professional job. 


I’m truly glad for you, Kirk. During your journey, did you have any interesting stories?



Ah, 2 years ago one of my coworkers told me he was going to sign up to run an international marathon relay called Big Sur. It requires 4 people, each running about one-fourth of the track. He invited me and on that spur of the moment. Alan, I didn’t really know what I was thinking. I said “Sign me up!”. After that, I immediately felt a wave of pressure on my shoulder as I realized this was a relay marathon and the whole team counted on me. 

Side note, at that time I hadn’t run for 20 years. I WAS STARTING FROM ZERO.

So I made a habit to go out and run for at least 3 days a week. I slowly but gradually ran farther and faster each month. I can tell you that I am now running better than most of my friends. After about 8 months of training, we successfully finished the marathon in second place in our category, and it has become our annual ritual to sign up for it.  Since then I’ve kept the habit and it’s one of the habits that I take pride and satisfaction in doing.

Kirk after winning the first marathon in his life


That’s a truly motivating story Kirk. It that were me, I would have stopped dead in the middle of the track… Anyway, 21 habits at the same time is a big number. How did you go about managing them?


What made a big difference for me is to learn to depend on tools. In this overly technological world, people are opposing the dependence on devices, but I think that is not my case. I accept the way my brain is wired. I used to try to remember to do all the small stuff like running, meditating or writing in my journal, but I kept forgetting all of them, which frustrated me. 

The existence of apps like Habitify reminds me to go out and finish the things I set out for myself. I used it to create a system which in turn promotes advancement in my life and my career. 

Habitify stands out to be the all-in-one app that reminds me to use other apps. Now, instead of having to look at 20 things, I only have to remember opening Habitify to do 20 those things. It’s like a password manager - everything is in one place!


That’s a good analogy, Kirk. Thanks for sharing!