Sessions Has Been Acquired!

February 20, 2014

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On February 8, 2011, just after leaving Boxee, I wrote the following email to a close friend and advisor.

I want to build and lead a meaningful business (meaningful in terms of its mission and scale) and I want my next 10 years to be about creating something that matters.

My instinct right now is to build expertise in health, wellness and behaviour change. And if I cast the vision bigger, I’d like to create a workforce of ‘lifestyle coaches’ — an entirely new industry that exists to help people to do what the healthcare system doesn’t empower them to.

This is the seed from which Sessions grew.

When we started Sessions at Rock Health, I did all the coaching and Ben sat beside me watching, learning, and turning our frustrations into product features.

We started so manually — calling people, asking them questions, and listening to hundreds and hundreds of stories about people’s lives and their universal struggle to build the best version of themselves.

We learnt that we had two challenges: to build a product that actually worked and to make sure people loved it.

Through everything, we held true to that, and the time we spent with Sessions members reinforced that we’d made good progress towards our goals.

Late last year, we were introduced to MyFitnessPal. From the first call, we knew we’d found kindred spirits — MFP’s founders Mike and Al spoke about MFP members in the same language we did. We could see they cared and were listening to their users. Most of all, they had built something that tens of millions of people loved.

That’s why we’re so excited to share today that Sessions has been acquired by MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal represents an opportunity for us to scale up our vision drastically.

As of this month, the Sessions team is joining MFP in their San Francisco office. Though our program is going to have to be reimagined for MyFitnessPal’s 50MM+ users, our mission and vision remain unchanged.

We’re thrilled to be their first acquisition.

For me personally, this is a big step. The feeling isn’t ‘you made it!’. Instead, it’s a feeling of satisfaction that we’ll be able to keep working on something we love into the foreseeable future.

MFP is a continuation for us, an opportunity to build the scale and reach of Sessions way beyond what we originally conceived.

Starting a company is hard. Selling a company is hard.

For long stretches Sessions has been an incredible grind. Pushing a boulder up a hill you can’t see ending is a fair description. The fear, the uncertainty, and the constant motion have required all of my will to maintain.

I am fortunate that I haven’t had to do it alone.

To Ben, you’ve been a star. Steady, never down and better every day. You should be proud of what you did. Most people’s first companies don’t turn out like this. For having faith and taking the leap when no-one around you understood, you have my eternal admiration.

Glennie, from the day Clare introduced us, you always felt like one of us. Your energy, your compassion for everyone that Sessions touches, your relentless positivity… we needed those to succeed.

To Sessions members, we learnt everything from you. For taking our calls and emails and messages while you cooked dinner for the family, snuck out at lunch-time or got ready for the weekend, thank you.

To our investors — CraigJoshuaRobert and Niki — we could not have done this without you. Thank you for your support, counsel and friendship. You gave us the fuel we needed to get this far.

To Halle and the Rock Health team, without your kickstart, none of this would have been possible.

To my mentors John, Daniel, Jeremy and Stephanie. Thank you. You’ve known all the ups and downs of this past two years and when things threatened to come apart, I relied on your help to keep them together.

To the Elephants, we did good. There’s much more to come.

To my friends and family, for the love, advice, couches, money and care — you know who you are and how important you’ve been.

Most of all, to Jules. Thank you for trusting me, for being super-humanly patient and for never resenting how much of me Sessions has demanded. Your encouragement on the hardest days made carrying on possible. You are smart, fierce, funny, kind and more beautiful than I can comprehend. I promise you this will all pay off. I love you.

This is just a start. All the hard work is still ahead of us.

The journey is just beginning.

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Writings Elsewhere #3

November 16, 2013

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Review of the Nike Fuelband SE.

Changers Interview Series #1 with Dick Talens from Fitocracy.

My all-time favourite runs.

My 17 Essential Fitness Habits.

Checking in on Sessions members many months later.

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Writings Elsewhere #2

October 23, 2013

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I’m writing more and more elsewhere. Some good examples:

The World is Fucking Insane - My all-time, most-read post.

The World Is Fucking Insane: An Update - In response to the flood of comments, emails and tweets.

Please Don’t Disintegrate: A Letter To My Friends - This one has been building for a few months…

The 7-Minute Man Stretch - Love doing this one at the gym.

Mastering the Vegetable Habit - The simple hack I use to eat a lot of veggies.

Revisiting the Dreaded Beep Test - *Spoiler Alert* I got a 12.1…

An Ode To San Francisco: The Eleven Park Loop - One of the best runs I’ve ever done.

Seven Simple Ways To Be A Better Tennis Player - Tennis is my current favourite sport, this one’s to help my friends get better.

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I’m posting at the rate of about one decent article/week and really enjoying it.

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Writings Elsewhere

August 19, 2013

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I’ve been experimenting with Medium and writing more on the Sessions blog, hence some quietness here.

To catch you up, here are the things I’ve written recently:

  1. What We’ve Been Working On At Sessions (August)
  2. Too Much Smoke, Too Little Fire: Wearables in 2013. (August)
  3. A Great Watch For Athletes: Observations of a Nike Fuel Millionaire. (August)
  4. The Digital Health Blitzkrieg (August)

I’ll still keep posting here at, but I’m enjoying writing on Medium so much that it’ll be where I do all my drafts.

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The Elephants

August 10, 2013

“Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing.”
— John Donne

For the past five years, I’ve been part of a small group called The Elephants.

The Elephants gives me a system for planning, reviewing and improving my life.

Few people know about The Elephants but it’s undoubtedly one of the best things that’s happened to me. I want to share the Elephants’ system so that others might replicate and benefit from it.

The Elephants existed long before the name did. It wasn’t until I came across that Donne quote about ‘harmless, great things’ that I realised it perfectly described what we were trying to become: great without causing harm.

The Elephants’ system has five parts — the group, the start, weekly reporting, quarterly reporting and quarterly reviews.

The Group

The ideal Elephants group size is four people. Any bigger and you can’t get deep into things at the quarterly reviews.

The most critical factor in a successful Elephants system is the group’s composition.

You need to choose people you can trust completely. People with whom you could see yourself sharing things like:

  • Your bank balance.
  • Personal insecurities that you may not have shared with other people.
  • Doubts about your most important relationships.

The power of the group ultimately comes from its transparency.

Choosing people with whom you can be transparent is critical.

“It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”
— Abraham Harold Maslow

The Start

The first step for an Elephants group is to spend time on personal reflection.The goal here is to start articulating what you want from life, now and in the future.

By opening your personal aperture as wide as possible, you can build a more complete picture of who you are and who you want to be.

As a group, we did this once very early in the process, but if we were to do it again, the format would go something like this.

Day 1

Personal SWOT

Each person spends 1-2 hours alone, laying out as honestly as they can their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Each person then takes 1 hour to present their personal SWOT to the rest of the group. The group then spends an hour discussing it. While the presenter is speaking, people should take notes on questions or points of discussion to raise later.

The initial reflection should take 2 hours. The group presentation and discussions will take 2 hours for each person.

This process will therefore stretch 8-10 hours and take up most of the first day.

It’s important at the end of that first day to exercise and cook and eat together informally. That relaxed space can prompt a lot of meaningful discussion.

Day 2

10, 3, 1, 3, 1

Day 2 starts the same way, with 1-2 hours of personal reflection time. This time, the exercise involves setting out where you want to be 10 years, 3 years, 1 year, 3 months and, 1 month from now.

Start at 10 years and work backwards.

The way to frame the exercise is to start by writing: In 10 years, I will be <enter your age in 10 years> and I will…

The categories in which you’ll need to answer this question are flexible, but as a starting point, consider these eight areas:

  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Environmental
  • Professional
  • Intellectual
  • Financial

Once again, each person will present what they’ve outlined to the group and a discussion will follow. Each presentation and discussion should take 45 — 90 minutes.

The best way is to decide on the order of presentations is to pick names out of a hat at random.Going earlier in the day means you get better alertness from people. It’s also important to be heard. Make sure everyone’s phones are off and in another room. Check them between sessions.

Once all discussions and presentations are complete, each person should take 30 minutes to review their 10, 3, 1, 3, 1′s and make any necessary notes or amendments to them.

Video Recording

The final stage of the first group weekend is for each person to record to camera their 10, 3 and 1 year goals.

Your 3 and 1 month goals should be written down and shared with the group.

Once this is done, you’re ready to begin.

Weekly Reporting

The most important habit of The Elephants is consistent weekly reporting.

Every Sunday, each person should share with others how their week went.

The format of this is completely flexible. You can write a chronological journal, summarise by sub-heading, list bullet-points, just hit the most top of mind things…

You’ll know what works as you start doing it.

Mine end up being chronological journals of 6-800 words.

I’ll usually scan my sent emails folder, scan my calendar and then write about everything that’s been on my mind.

I always make an effort to mention how my health is and how my relationship’s been for that week.

For a long time we used a private WordPress with comments enabled for weekly reporting but switched to Google Docs with comments because of better security.

It’s important also in the header of the weekly report to record your progress against your quarterly goals.

The group should hold each other accountable. If an update’s not done by Tuesday, people should be jumping on the person who hasn’t done it.

The key here isn’t so much format, it’s consistency. You should start the weekly reporting part of The Elephants even if you haven’t got your Elephants group ready. It takes a while to become a habit and a while to find your rhythm.

Quarterly Reporting

At the end of each quarter, you prepare a report on the previous quarter. The starting point for this process is to read back through the past 12 weeks of weekly reports.

You’ll be shocked to see how much happens in 12 weeks and how much your field of importance shifts week to week.

You’ll inevitably look back and say, “I can’t believe I was so worried about that!”

12 weeks gives you a really good stretch of time to look at your progress.

The quarterly report format is flexible, but here is what mine includes after about 20 iterations:

  • Slide 1: The quarter’s headlines. 5-10 of the biggest events/issues/topics for the previous 12 weeks. For example: a successful fundraising, a team retreat, 3 days at the Australian Open.
  • Slides 2-4: Month-by-month breakdown of the quarter in dot points.
  • Slide 4: A breakdown of time spent by city, presented in a pie chart.
  • Slide 5: 12 photos to summarise the quarter (I just scan my Instagram history for this one).

  • Slide 6: My daily Fuelpoints for the quarter. This might seem trivial, but it operates as a good proxy for both my physical wellbeing over time and a leading indicator of my mood.

  • Slide 7: My progress against the previous quarter’s goals.
  • Slide 8: My goals for the upcoming quarter.
  • Slides 9-12: My updated 10, 3 and 1 year goals.

Again, format matters less than consistency. Just do something. Try and improve it each quarter. After 5 years, you’ll have something good.

Quarterly Review

Quarterly reports get done in the first fortnight after each quarter. Once done, they get presented to the group for review and feedback.

Quarterly reviews are the hardest part of The Elephants to maintain. Over the years, we’ve done ours in Sydney, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Adelaide, Darwin, Los Angeles, New York, hiking on the Sunshine Coast and on Skype. You basically have to do whatever it takes to make them fit in to everyone’s schedule.

Quarterly reviews are straightforward. Draw names from a hat to determine order. Then present your quarterly report to the group for an hour and then discuss for an hour.

Ideally, at each quarterly review, each person records to camera their 10, 3 and 1 year goals, though we’ve been bad at this as a group.

The more of these reviews you do, the more natural they become. The more you share, the more other Elephants know what to respond to. The more time you spend together, the quicker you can get right to the core of the issue.

At their best, quarterly reviews have the effect of resetting you.

You walk in with one perspective and leave with a completely new one.

Quick Recap

To summarise, here’s how The Elephants system works:

  • Pick your fellow Elephants carefully.
  • Spend meaningful time in the beginning doing the SWOT and 10, 3, 1, 3, 1 exercises and getting feedback on them.
  • Do weekly reporting, including progress against quarterly goals.
  • Do quarterly reporting, resetting your goals for the upcoming quarter.
  • Present and discuss your quarterly reports, preferably face to face, and record to camera your 10, 3, 1 goals.
  • Repeat.

A Personal Note

Outside of Julia and my family, The Elephants is the most powerful guiding force in my life.

I have had to reinvent myself many times over on the journey from middling Brisbane Law student in 2006 to where I am today.

I’ve had to make difficult, counter-intuitive choices.

I’ve taken risks I didn’t want to, putting my trust in the group’s alternative judgment.

I’ve had to live on the edge of discomfort as I’ve grown and learned fast.

For all these things, I credit the constant push and support of the Elephants.

I have the group as backup when a hard decision needs to be made.

I have 5 years of regular planning and review now, which gives me a better sense of who I am. The consistencies, the weaknesses, the anxieties and the constants.

It has not always been smooth keeping the group together. There have been falling outs, disagreements and lulls in engagement. Life gets in the way, people miss reports and reviews, things get out of sync.

But on average, we all make the best effort we can to keep it going and each quarter it gets incrementally better.

The Elephants started as 4 people. We’re now 3.

One of our founding members died in 2009 in tragic circumstances. As a group, we have never quite recovered from his loss. Apart from the chasm he left behind in our hearts, he also acted as the glue between us. Evening out our collective imbalances, squashing the irrational dreaminess we sometimes fall into and fearlessly pushing us where we were most vulnerable.

He was an engine for all of us, someone who inspired us to do more when more seemed impossible.

A large part of our continuing commitment to The Elephants is a commitment to him.

We miss him everyday. But through the Elephants we never lose contact with him. His energy continues on, and as we each succeed in our own way, we honour his legacy.

Without him, the Elephants wouldn’t exist.

He would be proud of what it has become. He would have been 32 today.

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Taking The Long View

June 5, 2013

I tweeted yesterday that my new health goal is to lose 1 pound in the next 10 years. I was serious. I’m about to turn 30. 10 years from now, I’ll be 40. If I’m a pound lighter at 40 than I am today, that’ll make me a statistical miracle. I’m about to enter the [...]

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Health With A Ten Year Horizon

May 16, 2013

A friend recently shared with the world his latest health goal. “I’m going to lose 30 pounds in 15 weeks!” he wrote, surging on the adrenaline rush of a good deed done by his future self. This is the framework by which most people make health decisions. Inches off your hips in days. Lose 10 [...]

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Keep Your Eye On The Ball

May 8, 2013

The single-most useful piece of tennis coaching I ever received was just six words: “Keep your eye on the ball”. This advice would seem obvious, but for anyone who’s played tennis, it’s a remarkably hard thing to consistently implement. There’s a big difference between consciously keeping your eye on the ball, focussing on its tiny [...]

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Why You Should Ignore the NY Times and Keep Stretching

April 6, 2013

There’s been a growing chorus of people advocating against stretching before a workout. The crux of the argument is: It doesn’t prevent injury. It impedes performance by reducing strength . It doesn’t reduce muscle soreness. Mistake One: Not Warming Up The mistake people make with the argument is that they interpret ‘don’t stretch’ as ‘don’t warmup’. That’s [...]

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Exercise Routines Are Seasonal, Behaviour Is Not

January 25, 2013

You don’t see many people pumped on Aerobics, Bowflex, Tae-Bo or Thighmasters today. Even recent fads – Shake Weights, Toning Shoes, Vibrating Platforms – are already on the way out. Our fitness fads of the moment are TRX, Crossfit (“I did 1000 reps!“), Zumba and Barefoot Running. It’s likely they’ll fade with time too. People [...]

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