Can You?

Did Henry Ford practice yoga? He once chanted, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

Practicing yoga with my first class over seven years ago changed my life by opening doorways never seen. But not right away.

It took years of ‘doing it wrong.’  But doing it wrong (a matter of interpretation) was actually right. But the secret to yoga is that there is no ‘right’, that’s why it’s called a practice.

1. Finding Foundation

There comes a time in everyone’s journey (whether personal or business) that becomes defining.

After two years of practicing yoga, thinking mastery was underway, I got the flu.

In itself, it doesn’t sound serious. But my mother passed away with complications of the flu, and after being knocked flat for two weeks and weakened for two more, I was pretty low.

Yoga became the routine that kept me sane. It kept teeth grinding to a minimum. Held things together.  But now I’d missed 28 days of yoga.

I was the weakest I’d been in my life and the strength required for a power yoga practice simply wasn’t there, and I finally realized I’d been doing yoga all wrong. Muscling through it was my norm. Power yoga was a physical practice, but I had little strength.

Yoga is defined: union of breath and movement. In order to muster strength, breath had to lead. Breath had to pull me. I changed two years of practice in one moment.

Everyone has a defining moment. A moment that reveals or defines their core element of success. It’s been said that your core essence is revealed when every layer of success is removed.

NFL Quarterback, Drew Brees began his career with the San Diego Chargers, and in one play, his shoulder was destroyed. He could barely lift his arm to drink a glass of water. Then…he was cut by the Chargers.

Painful, humiliating rehab began.

He got better. In his attempt to rejoin an NFL team as a quarterback, he was rejected by the Miami Dolphins. The only remaining team that had interest in Brees was the New Orleans Saints. He was far from 100%.

But like a VC, or a portfolio fund manager, coach Sean Payton’s job is to envision what others can’t see. He saw a hobbled Quarterback who had fortitude and raw talent.

But coach Payton also saw the core elements missing from Drew Brees.

Drew Brees had incredible chest strength, and was muscling through his quarterback comeback. Payton, an expert at Quarterback physics and mechanics urged him to change his entire practice.

Quarterbacks threw with their arms. But the foundation for a good throw begins with legs and back. Brees, had weak back strength and promptly began working on exercises to develop back strength and added the metal consciousness of leg position while throwing.

Even though Brees was a college hero quarterback , it took a bad turn to find the foundation of his practice.

It also happened to me. Physically and mentally depleted, I admitted my foundation was wrong. I’d been muscling through it. Working hard, but not working smart.

I realized that breath (the foundation of a strong and balanced practice) had to lead me through everything.

Breath, is the foundation of yoga which allows every other door to open.

For NFL quarterback Drew Brees, finding his foundation (back strength, and leg planting) helped bring him to SuperBowl victory in 2010.

For Apple, finding foundation in design helped them become one of the most valuable companies in history.

For Southwest Airlines, finding foundation in fun + low price led them to become an industry stand-out.

For C3 Metrics, our foundation is data purity before modeling that data because garbage in = garbage out.

Finding your foundation idiffers for each person, company, and practice.

I became a “strong breather” in yoga, but with that foundation, my practice began changing in ways I never imagined. New foundation. Strong foundation. A foundation that could now do much more.

2.  Change the Way You Look at Things …And

One of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s most important themes is: “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”

What does that mean? It means that change occurs in the mind before it occurs in reality…

While spending a year on Cape Cod many years ago, I passed a 14 foot high boulder on my morning walk.

As a kid, this huge boulder marveled me. Every so often my sister and I would construct a make-shift ramp to help us ascend the glacial boulder despite the wet marsh grass and high tide. But it always called me, beckoned me. Even placing your hands on this majestic beast felt powerful and overwhelming.

Now as an adult with a daily yoga practice…it called me even more.

I walked past this pleistocene boulder in meditative state for months.

Upon reading the works of Wayne Dyer, I came across one of his quotes: “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”

At first I dismissed it, but research from Max Planck, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics, affirmed that a zen-like quote, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change,” was in fact scientifically true. Atoms, electrons, physics.

One morning I decided to look at that 14 foot high boulder differently.

I was going to get to the top, no ramp, no driftwood…just me.

As I walked around the boulder at its lowest, most accessible point, I became dejected by the wet green & brown muck that would surely send me falling or flipping. The steepest face where it was dry was the only way up.

I studied the high face intently. After ten minutes, I found the slightest divot five feet from an outcrop. In less than two minutes I was on top of it.

I was capable of more than I knew. Everyone is. You are.

The glacial boulder I avoided for months is perhaps similar to avoiding things in your personal life or business life.

The inner roommate in your head may say:

a) “I never really grasped this…I might ‘f’ this up”

b) “Nobody seems to have figured this out perfectly, so I’ll wait”

c) “Decision-makers don’t even grasp basic concepts…they’ll never be able to grasp this”

But yes you can. You can, if you change the way you look at things.

When you change the way you look at things…even Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Max Planck confirms that the things you look at change.

You are capable of more than you know.

After four months of ignoring my 14 foot boulder, I decided I was going to get to the top. I focused, I looked for the spot, found it, and conquered it.

When people saw me up there, they asked “how did you get up?”

“I changed the way I looked at it.”

You can make the leap from an error-prone, wrong way of doing things.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be a statistician. You don’t have to be a swami.

All you have to do is change the way you view your obstacle.

3.  “How Strong Do You Want To Be?”

After umpteen-hundred yoga classes spanning more than seven years, I never heard an instructor ask this question. How strong do you want to be?

When you discover that the toughest yoga instructor you’ve ever had overcame life-threatening cancer…you understand why she’s the most challenging teacher ever.

Why inflict pain? There’s a saying repeated often: “the yoga pose begins the moment you want to get out of the pose.”

Growth begins when things get uncomfortable.

When things get so hard you want to pull the cord and get out.

Comfort: is the enemy of personal growth.

Certainty: is the enemy of personal growth.

The very opposite of pain.


That four letter word exploding with subjectivity + emotion.

Pain defines us, because pain is inevitable. Those who survive, those who win:  discover how to embrace unjust pain. How to accept unfair pain. Inevitable pain.

Everyone seems to forget that Steve Jobs was kicked out of his own company. Unceremoniously. With disrespect. He created Apple. If it wasn’t for him, there would be no Apple. Imagine that pain.

But years later, he was asked back and saved Apple from near death. The pain of him being kicked out, however, defined him.

He embraced that pain. He rejoined Apple, in 1997 when the stock price was less than a dollar. Now, it’s $174 per share.

Comfort: is the enemy of growth.

Comfort’s opposite?  Pain.

How strong do you want to be?

The answer rests in how willing you are to play the game of life or business with pain.

In order to have the strength to overcome obstacles that will challenge you beyond normal imagination:  cancer, loss, whatever it may be…embracing pain and playing with pain is what gets growth.

As one elder yogi said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

Mark Hughes

Co-Founder, CEO C3 Metrics