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Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 89

Tobias Sjösten on setting goals (or not), making & tracking progress, and creating habits

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 89. Tobias Sjösten of is on the show today to discuss all things goal setting, and to do some major myth-busting about the whole “new year, new you” concept.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Today we have a kick-ass return guest on the show, Tobias Sjösten. We both love nerding out on tracking progress and optimizing our habits and setting goals, so we had a kind of freestyle discussion about all of this. 

Tobias leads Athlegan, which is a team of passionate vegan athletes who are trying to change the world by helping more people become strong and fit vegans. He coaches, teaches, and brings people together to achieve this goal. Tobias enjoys lifting heavy weights and wrestling with sweaty men, competing in both powerlifting and Brazilian jujitsu. Tobias’ favourite vegan meal is Mapo tofu.  Enjoy our discussion. 

Hey Tobias, thanks so much for coming on the show. Nice to see you again.

Tobias Sjösten: Thanks. Great to be here. 

Karina Inkster: I’m excited. Yeah, it's been a while actually, since we did our last episode, I can't remember. 

Tobias Sjösten: It's pretty much two years I think now.

Karina Inkster: Has it been two years? I was going to say, I can't remember it might've been a year, but wow! It might've been two. A lot has happened in your world since then! You had a new kid.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, Max. He’s seven months old now.

Karina Inkster: Oh my goodness. How's that been going? Are you guys like, sleep deprived?

Tobias Sjösten: My wife takes the brunt of it, so she's struggling more, but I'm now on paternity leave for the next six months. 

Karina Inkster: Oh wow!

Tobias Sjösten: So I'm about to wrestle daily with the little monster.

Karina Inkster: And then how old’s your other one?

Tobias Sjösten: He’s turning four in February.

Karina Inkster: Turning four. Wow! Busy household, eh?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. And you know, Justus, he started to sleep during the nights and then we get the second one who does not sleep during the night, so we're looking forward to him growing up a bit more.

Karina Inkster: I know, I bet. So what else has been going on? You're heading Athlegan, you've got a lot of projects happening there. What's going on there, in that world?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, so I've started to take it a bit more seriously lately. So this year in June I registered like a proper company. 

Karina Inkster: Oh, sweet.

 Tobias Sjösten: And we're actually able to have our first employee now so that's that's going to be nice. 

Karina Inkster: That’s exciting. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. So the team is growing and I have so many people who are helping me out. Too many to mention by name, but yeah, that’s really making the whole thing work.

Karina Inkster: Yep. So you're doing coaching, you've got your Facebook group. Was there like an in-person thing that you were going to do, then the pandemic kinda messed that up?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. So we were trying to do a retreat kind of thing every year. So we started in Berlin two years ago now. Yeah. So the autumn 2018 in Berlin, and then we were going to do Edinburgh, Scotland this year, but yeah, this didn't really work out. But we'll do it next year, and then we're going to do more and more of that.

Karina Inkster: Got it.

Tobias Sjösten: And we are about to release our first app as well. 

Karina Inkster: I didn't know you were making an app!

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. So that's going to be very cool. So if you really like to get nerdy about numbers and diet and stuff like that, and tracking your metrics, you know, this app is going to check a lot of boxes I think.

Karina Inkster: Interesting because this is actually some of the stuff we talked about in our first conversation about inputs and outputs and goal setting and metrics.

Tobias Sjösten: That's gets me going, so. 

Karina Inkster: Well that's really cool. It kind of relates to what we're going to talk about today. I think today's going to be maybe a little bit more bullshit busting, but we're still talking about, you know, it being the beginning of 2021, people are setting goals, people are figuring out “what do I want to do this year?” It's been kind of an interesting 2020, so a lot of people I think are in kind of like renewal mode. 

Tobias Sjösten: Interesting is a good word, yeah.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, “interesting” is like in air quotes, right? So yeah, why don't we jump in? We were just kind of going to see what happens and talk about goal setting, a little bit of myth-busting about the whole “new year, new you” concept, which I think we're both on the same page on. Do you have an area that you want to start in? Like maybe the “new year, new you” concept?

Tobias Sjösten: One thing that gets me is like waiting ’til something happens like “the diet starts on Monday.” I keep hearing that, you know. This is Monday or next month, like the end of this month, you know, this is going to get started.

Karina Inkster: Yeah right!

Tobias Sjösten: And it totally gets me because like, if this is a goal that you want, like you want to lose weight, you want to build muscle, whatever and it's Thursday. You know, if it gets started now on Monday, you're going to have four days of a head start. 

Karina Inkster: Yeah. 

Tobias Sjösten: I don't know. I don't get it. So it’s this postponing of something that you really want. Why not just get started now? It’s, what is it, two days more, three days till New Year’s from now? Get started with the diet now if you want to lose weight. Don't wait until January 1st.

Karina Inkster: That's so true. Yep, so diet starts on Monday, goals start on January 1st.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, yeah, yeah. After vacation is usually a big one as well. You come home and you watch your videos.

Karina Inkster: That's such a good point. And I think also if you're able to create new habits, you know, before the supposed ideal time, they're probably going to be more bulletproof, right?

Tobias Sjösten: So that's a good thing ‘cause people think that they're going to start something, they’re going to run through it, then they're done, and that's it, like you're touching on now. Like, I mean, it's all about building habits. The first couple of weeks, you're going to fail so miserably. So many times you're gonna want to quit, but you know, it's all about failing and then learning from that, then getting back at it, then like building these habits over time. I think we touched upon that last time as well. We’re both fans of James Clear, right, and his habits formation. 

Karina Inkster: Big James Clear nerds. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yep, yep.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. I actually just read a book - I think I mentioned it before on the podcast, maybe once or twice. It was very interesting. You know honestly, it's one of those books that I feel could have been an essay instead of an entire book. So it was a little long-winded, you know, but the concept is interesting. It's called “Goal Free Living” by Steven Shapiro. And so it's kind of an argument for why we might be better off not setting goals at all, and I know there's different views on here.

 Like, maybe you should set goals, but just make sure that there's certain metrics in place so that they make sense. Maybe you should focus on habits, or maybe you shouldn't focus on goals at all. And I think part of the reasoning there is like, just ‘cause you achieve a goal, doesn't mean you're going to achieve happiness. So it's a little bit of this underlying, we're using goals as reasons to achieve happiness in the future, which may not even work, and then we're not focusing on what we're doing right now.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Yeah. It makes double sense if you think about like with weight loss since that's, you know, the theme now with New Year’s, right? So a lot of people, especially women I think, are obsessed with this. Like, “I want to lose eight kilos” or like, you know, nine, like they have a very specific number. If they just lose that, probably because, you know, at some point they weighed 9.7 kilos less than they do now, and they looked great, you know? So they know that they want to lose 9.7 kilos, and they're obsessed with this number, but I mean, weight, you know, it will stall. So when you're losing weight, you can lose it from many different sorts of mass, right? So losing nine kilos can look very, very different and varied in different scenarios. So that makes a lot of sense, not to focus on such a like concrete goal in that case.

Karina Inkster: Exactly. And I think part of Shapiro's argument in that realm, like especially relating to things like weight loss is if you're detached from the outcome, you may actually be more likely to achieve it, weirdly enough. Right? So he's saying like, people who are detached from fitting into a size four dress, for example, are more likely to lose weight because they're not going to be overly discouraged by a lack of progress, which is kind of inherent in the whole process at some point, Right? And so they might be focusing more on their immediate eating habits, or their workouts, or things that are happening right now, which ironically might lead to better results if you're detached from them.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense, yeah. I mean, now when I hear this, I can think back to my own, like last year I was obsessed with, I wanted to get the double bodyweight squat. Squats are my favourite exercise. So I was squatting very often,  and I was squatting heavy very often, ‘cause I wanted to like, you know, get close to that number, but I never achieved that last year. 

Then this year I started on a new program, “Average to Savage,” it's called. Since then, I've done some tweaks and everything, but the basis is that you have four or five weeks that you run a cycle and then you start a new cycle and you just, you go through these cycles. So I haven't really thought about like my maxes, except when I've gone to like a power lifting competition. I just keep running the program. And then a couple of days ago, I hit the double bodyweight squat. 

Karina Inkster: No way!

Tobias Sjösten: Without really thinking about it. Yeah. So…

Karina Inkster: Interesting! Well, congratulations on that because that's amazing. 

Tobias Sjösten: Thank you. Yeah, that was nice. 

Karina Inkster: But yeah, so that maps perfectly to this whole concept. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Yeah. 

Karina Inkster: Where are you on this kind of like scale almost? Do you set a lot of goals? Do you do more like themes or aspirations? Are you really focused on habits? Like what's your process right now?

Tobias Sjösten: Well, depends a lot on the area, I think. So like basics outside of the world of like vegan fitness I tend to break down my life into like, you know, relationships, my family, and like my hobbies and work and fitness and all of that. And then I try to make sure that I'm progressing in all the areas. I think that's the most important thing for me, to progress. Like if I would feel that, you know, I'm standing still, I know nothing will be happening for the coming 10 years, I would be a very miserable person. 

Karina Inkster: Fair enough! 

Tobias Sjösten: But I need to feel that I'm always progressing, like, can I get closer to my wife? You know, I see as my children are growing up, I'm getting stronger, you know. Whatever, everything needs to progress for me, somehow. 

And then the way I run Athlegan, right now, the company, I do set up goals. They're like, you know, concrete goals. Like we want to hit this number, we want to get that kind of engagement and so on, because I think it's easier for a team of people to get together. Like, you know, if this is the number we want to get, you know, that much revenue, we want to get this many, you know, engagements, whatever, it’s much easier to get everyone to work towards the same direction.

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point.

Tobias Sjösten: Otherwise I think like for my training and stuff, I'm more focused on the process. I want to focus on every week. Like this week, I'm going to focus on my hip position in the bottom squat, or like, you know how I put my hands, now I want to think about this. Or like, you know, trying to improve something.

Karina Inkster: Well, that's a really interesting point actually, and like anything else in fitness, the answer is always “it depends,” right? So you can't really make a blanket statement like “goals are bad, and aspirations are good," or whatever you want to call them, right. So yeah in every realm you're focused on progress. With the fitness realm, it sounds like it's more about process and maybe habits and systems, and then in other realms, especially when there's a team involved, and I agree with you on this, it makes more sense to have a concrete goal.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think we talked about this, inputs and outputs previously.

Karina Inkster: Yes!

Tobias Sjösten: So you can only like, you know, do one action right now. You can't really affect the results. So going back to the squat again, like I can only put some weight on the bar. I can do some squats now. I can't control whether I get a double bodyweight squat or not. I can yes, you know, do some sets, some reps now, and then, you know, a couple of days later I'll do it again. So that's the only thing I can control. That's my input. And then I do that for a couple, for some set period of time, four weeks, five weeks, something like that, then I can measure and I can see like, okay, so I did this and then I have this outcome. So the next phase I'm going to try and do this, if that makes sense. 

Karina Inkster: Yes. So can you, for our listeners who didn't listen to our first episode, and I am going to link to it in our show notes of course, but can you give a quick overview of the difference between inputs and outputs?

Tobias Sjösten: Sure. So I'll put it like this: it's an effect, impact that you want to make. And it can be, say that you want to become a millionaire, right? You can't just one day wake up and say, “Oh, I'm going to be a millionaire today.” 

Karina Inkster: Wouldn’t that be nice? 

Tobias Sjösten: That would be nice. But instead you have to think, okay, So I'll go to McDonald's and apply for a job, and I’ll flip some burgers. So I do, that for a month and then I check at the the end of the month, okay, I earned this much money. So getting to become a millionaire is going to take me, I don't know, 75 years,  if I save my money well. So, okay, so that didn't work. So what do I do next? I try to do a job here, I try to start a business there and like, you know, you can only do the actions like the inputs, ah, flip the burgers, try to start a business or whatever. You can't really control the outcome. So you do the inputs, you evaluate to see what kind of output you get. You compare that to your expectations and then you see what different actions you have to take, what different input you have to give the next phase.

Karina Inkster: Got it. Yes. So another example I assume, would be something like weight loss, where the output is the number on the scale. You can't just walk up to the scale and will it to show you a specific number, of course. So that's an output because you are not in direct control of that outcome, whereas you are in control of your inputs, like your diet, the number of workouts you do, length of time you walk every day, et cetera, et cetera. So is that kind of your approach to your own training then? You're focusing on inputs basically.

Tobias Sjösten: I think that's my approach to very much in life, actually.

Karina Inkster: Ah, okay. Interesting. And so when you do set goals, like with the business, for example, do you then translate those goals into inputs and habits and then make those the main focus?

Tobias Sjösten: So we have, within Athlegan, we have a weekly meeting. So every quarter we have these goals that we want to achieve and usually it’s like three or four goals, broken down into some KPIs, some metrics that we keep track of. And then every week we have a meeting and we have a look at what's ahead of us, and  how are we doing with these numbers, and then we convert that into actions. Okay so, we tried to do these stories on Instagram last week and they didn't pan out very well so this week let's try to do this instead and then we, you know, experiment and we learn, we get better and better over time.

Karina Inkster: Love that. So that approach could be used basically anywhere. I mean, you could have this goal, something that you want to aspire to, but then you got to break that down into your inputs, into your kind of shorter term habits.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, and I guess you have to take care of also like how you measure things. Like in the example of the weight loss, if you step on the scale and you see that, oh, I lost one kilo from yesterday. That doesn't mean, that’s not necessarily good, even if you do want to lose weight because that kilo, again, coming back to the question about, maybe we should clarify, because I guess, I don't know if you get this as well, but I like, I take some things for granted, which I really should not, and they are not super clear. 

So with a question of body composition, like your body consists of many different types of mass, like the most interesting thing for most people are like muscle mass and fat mass, right? You also have water mass, you have digestible mass, you have bone mass, and so, and some of these things change more rapidly than others. So if you're eating very little foods, you're starving yourself, of course, you're going to lose fat from that. But since you also probably taking in less carbohydrates, your glycogen stores, and thereby your water retention, will also drop, so you will also lose a lot of water, but you're also gonna lose probably a lot of muscle, depending on your training and protein. 

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Tobias Sjösten: So when you do like a diet, a strict diet for a week, you lose three kilos from Sunday to Sunday, step on the scale, and you're very happy, but a large part of that might be as water having gone away and you lost a lot of muscle, which is very hard to build. So that might not be the best thing. You should take care of how you measure these things that you hope to achieve.

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point, actually. Yes. So something like weight, like body weight is probably actually not detailed enough to be a useful measure, especially if you're somebody who strength trains.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Yeah. So this is a very crude metric. I mean, it’s one tool in the toolbox.

Karina Inkster: Sure. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. But another could be like, if you want to lose weight because you want to look better, I mean, step in front of the mirror.

Karina Inkster: Take photos, Yep!

Tobias Sjösten: Yep, yep. 

Karina Inkster: One of our clients actually recently illustrated the importance of taking photos because you know, if aesthetics is something that you want to work on, and we all want to look awesome, there's nothing wrong with that, then we see ourselves every day and these changes are so slow and gradual that you might not even notice things are happening. And so this client, I mean, if I look at her progress photos from just the last month, just four weeks, she looks very different. She has put in a lot of work. She has been very consistent with her workouts. She's in Sweden, actually. She's our second client, I think in Sweden, she's doing awesome. Anyways, she kind of felt like nothing was happening until she saw the photos and she was like, “Oh shit, wow! I had no idea!” 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, that’s cool.

Karina Inkster: So, that measure of like, you know, you date it, you take your photos the same way, same lighting. You keep everything else consistent. That's actually a pretty good measurement tool.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, for sure. It's really, really good. I mean then you're exactly measuring the thing that you want to effect. So it makes a lot of sense.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely.

Tobias Sjösten: And she might step on a scale on the scale and the scale says  like, nope, nothing has happened. You're the same. Meanwhile, she's been building muscle, losing fat, you know, everything's going great. But the scale, is not that great. 

Karina Inkster: Precisely. Don't even get me started on the scale. That's just a giant rabbit hole right there. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. 

Karina Inkster: So what about this whole concept? I mean, you know, people understandably are going to be thinking about what they want to achieve in 2021, what's important to them, you know, like all the aspects that you've mentioned. I mean, it's not just about business and training. There's also family and relationships, and a lot of that right now, especially with social isolation, it’s probably a little more difficult than usual, but a lot of people are thinking about what's 2021 going to be like? But there's a lot of bullshit out there about new year new you! Here’s a cleanse you can do, here's, you know, some personal development thing that you can do.

Tobias Sjösten: Am I allowed to swear on this program by the way?

Karina Inkster: You are. I mean, the podcast is called No Bullshit Vegan, so yes.

Tobias Sjösten: That's true. Well, you have the exclamation marks. Yeah. Okay. That's good.

Karina Inkster: No, absolutely. Go for it. But yes, let's dive into this whole concept. Do you want to just kind of give me an overview of like the “new year new you” and why it’s bullshit?

Tobias Sjösten: Well, I don't really know where to start with that. Maybe like, you know, this whole detox, and like cleansing and this kind of thing, how people are always looking for a shortcut, right. 

Karina Inkster: Right, right. 

Tobias Sjösten: I mean, I totally understand it. If there was a shortcut, if I thought there was a shortcut, I would go for it, you know, myself, for sure. 

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah me too. 

 Tobias Sjösten: But there really isn’t, and the way it might seem that there is a shortcut, again, going back to body composition, is that people could you know diet, you lose a lot of water, the scale says like awesome, and you see all these diets, keto, I’m looking at you. 

Karina Inkster: Yes!

Tobias Sjösten: Oh yeah. That' a big pet peeve of mine as well.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. You know what my pet peeve is with this whole concept is that it's in line with the what I consider the bullshit industry of personal development. I mean the whole industry is not bullshit. There's definitely some legitimate, you know, we can work on ourselves. We can affect our own happiness levels. Like there's a lot of legit stuff there, but it's in line with, you gotta be a different person and you're not enough how you are right now, which is kind of bullshit to me. 

Tobias Sjösten: For sure. 

Karina Inkster: And then you gotta wait until January 1st of course.

Tobias Sjösten: To get started to become your new self, your new self. 

Karina Inkster: Your new self. Exactly. Yeah. 

Tobias Sjösten: I mean, again it's the same principle, I guess like you want to start something new, run it through and then you're done, right, and that's not how it works. Again with habits it's like, you need to get in something, you need to learn how to create a new life and it takes time. I like to think of, you know, if you want to make a big change in your life, you totally can do that. But it's like, you know, steering a big oil tanker. So, you know, they can push on really hard and it goes like in the direction you  set it, that's the direction it goes. You can steer it, but you know, you have to really yank that steering rod, you know, until and it moves, you know, centimetre by centimetre. It's very, very, very slow. You just have to keep pulling and pulling and pulling, pulling until you, you know, you get a couple of meters to the left or right, or wherever you want to go.

Karina Inkster: Hey, that's a really good analogy, actually. 

Tobias Sjösten: Thanks.

Karina Inkster: Okay. So when you have a client then who is in the mindset of, okay, I got to do a complete transformation. I got to change everything about myself. Don't like how I look. Don't like my fitness level, you know, the list goes on, and they're really focused on these goal based outputs, let's call them. Where do you start in their reeducation process with someone who is like, I gotta be a totally new person yesterday?

Tobias Sjösten: Well, first of all, I think it's important to get them to realize that whatever they've been doing it’s not working for them, otherwise they wouldn't come to me. And that sounds obvious, but really, it's not. Like people would come to me, they want coaching, but they do not want to change their diet. They do not want to change their training. They do not want to change a thing at the time of their life. They want me to wave my magic wand and, you know, make things happen. 

Karina Inkster: Right. If only, right?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, making changes, it's difficult. It's hard. I mean, that's why very few people are super ripped because it's very, very hard to get super ripped.  I don't know if you've changed your clothing over the years, but I remember when I started wearing shirts, for example, like I would always be in my t-shirts or with a cap or something on, and then I would get a serious job and I put on a shirt and I felt so weird, like, this is not me. This is this weird. I don't want to pretend to be someone I'm not.

Karina Inkster: Right. 

 Tobias Sjösten: And not to leave the house in a t-shirt I would feel weird. Like, you know, I don't wanna leave the house like that. I want to wear my shirt. But making these kind of changes, it is discomfort. Like you have to push through that discomfort. That's something you have to accept.

Karina Inkster: So is some of it expectation management then around how the process is actually going to unfold? Like when, when this client comes to you, is some of what you have to do, like basically myth-busting about how the process is going to look for this person in order to get their goals?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. Okay. So set that expectation. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Yeah. That's a big thing. And also like breaking it down. I don't know. I keep coming back to the squats and I hope, I'm sure your listeners will excuse me, but with the squats, like if you want to coach the squats, you have a look at someone when they're squatting. Usually you see like, you know, 20 things that you want to change, like how they keep the, how they hold the bar, how they position the elbows, how they drop, how they push out the knees, you know, position, the feet and everything. But you can't just tell them like, Oh, you have to do this and this and this and that because that's going to overwhelm them and they won't do anything. So what you need to do is look at the most important thing. Like, are they about to kill themselves, right?

Karina Inkster: Are they about to crush their spines?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah! That’s not a very good thing. So let's put some, let’s first start with taking some weight off the bar you know, ok that’s a good start. Next let's look at how you brace your core before you drew yourself into a squat. So you take like the most important thing and you work down the list, give them one cue at a time, and then they work on that. When they've mastered that, then you go on to the next thing. 

And I think that's the same process that can be applied to any transformation, any improvement you want to make, whether it's like, you know, you hate your job, you want to, you know, improve your life situation financially or whatever. Or if you want to lose weight, lose fat, get into shape or whatever, you look at the most important thing, okay. Maybe you're having a glass of wine every night of the week. So that might be the big hitter. So let's remove the wine. We start with that, before you start going into like ok, should I take my creatine before training, or after training, before I go to bed? No, let's stop drinking a glass of wine before you, you know, are in front of the sofa every night. 

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah. That's a really good point. ‘Cause I think it's definitely moving in the right direction, but folks are still being basically what I consider brainwashed by large scale companies, commercial gyms, who only care about membership numbers, like all these kinds of things where it's basically like, you can become a new person overnight, if only you find the right program, you know?

Tobias Sjösten: Or buy this plastic to wrap yourself with before going to bed.

Karina Inkster: Exactly. Yeah. Or like this tea that you're going to drink for the next week and nothing else, or what have you. But yeah. So what you're saying is that's not going to lead to long-term results. You've got to do it one thing at a time. First you do the wine. Down the road you worry about whether you're taking your creatine before or after your workouts.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and it's sad. I mean, it's very cynical, this. People are suffering. People want to feel better. They want to feel sexy. They want to feel great and you know, feel well in their bodies. And then you have these people preying on them, and you know, using them just to gain some money. It sucks.

Karina Inkster: And now is the time that it's happening more than ever. So I think our listeners should be like extra vigilant this time of year looking out for, oh, the “new year, new you" kind of BS whether it's a training program or a personal development kind of course, or a cleanse or a product or what have you. I mean, it's true. They’re  preying on the population as unfortunate as that is. 

Hey, so going back to the goals thing though, you know, we've established that in certain cases, goals do make sense. At least we think they do, in the business sense, especially when you have a team. How do you set them though? Like, do you use your past performance to set new benchmarks?

Like, I'm kind of thinking about myself here. It's a little self-serving. It's like in 2019, I had a lot of business goals and in 2020, I tried not having any goals for my business. I did track things though. So I have a spreadsheet where I'm tracking like, you know, conversations with prospects, number of people who sign up, monthly revenue, et cetera. Interestingly, I mean the pandemic did have something to do with this, but my business increased by 60% this year by not having any goals. Part of that is just that there's a lot of people who need help now with working out at home and the pandemic and whatnot, but still. So now I'm thinking well, okay, what if I go back to setting some goals for 2021, having not set any for a year for the business, where do I even start? Like, what do I know is going to be a reasonable and interesting goal for me?

Tobias Sjösten: Interesting. I think again, what is the most important thing for you right now? And then my company, for Athlegan, I want to grow it into a proper business, you know? I want to build a team. I want to make a big change in the world. And for that, we need to generate more money. We need to have more money coming in so that we can realize all the projects that we have going on, make this app.

Karina Inkster: And hire team members and such.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, for sure. So like, you know, money is the lifeblood of any company. So that’s one of the most important things for us right now. So that's an obvious goal for us first off. On other stuff we want to spread our brand. We want to be seen by more people. So get engagement. Brand awareness is another thing. And then of course like when you set up, like these are the most important things for us right now, then you break it down into metrics, which is also very tricky of course. 

Karina Inkster: Yes.

Tobias Sjösten: But I wonder, that’s very interesting with your tracking. I wonder though, if you're not subconsciously have something in your mind, like if you're tracking this number, you see it goes up, it goes down. Do you think maybe you have subconsciously that's okay, this is going down. Maybe I need to do a little bit here?

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point actually, where it's not like an official stated goal that I have made public even, or like even set for myself. But yeah, I think you're right. If I hadn't tracked, it would be interesting to do an experiment, actually. I'm not going to because it worked real well. But if I didn't track, I wonder how things would have changed. Like would I not have been on the ball as much?

I mean, it was a big year for us because we hired our first coach, our second coach, Zoe, who is awesome. So, you know, I think my goals are very similar business-wise in growing the team and having more systems in place. So 2021, the goal kind of is systems, which is hilarious because we talk about both as these kind of like separate entities sometimes, but yeah, so like having the ability to bring on more team members, having a system so that we each can take time off and the business still runs with whoever is still on deck, you know? 

But yeah, you have an interesting point. I wonder if people could apply that to their training, even if they don't have specific goals, a lot of folks don't track anything with their workouts. They just track like when they did their workouts, which is great. I mean, that's kind of fulfilling just to be like, oh yeah, this is my month of workouts. Here's how it looks, right. But they're not really tracking what's going on within the workouts.

Tobias Sjösten: I used to have all my clients track everything and like, you know, do graphs of their progression and everything. But I mean, not everyone is there. Like for a lot of people, it's about building habits, getting into the gym, not feeling uncomfortable in the gym, you know, just getting into the habit and routine of doing something. And then once that is fixed again, like fixing the big issues, first of all, once they are in the habit of that, it's a routine. They just go like they brush their teeth, they go to the gym, you know, it's the same thing. Then we can start looking at optimizing their efforts in the gym.

Karina Inkster: So are you tracking things like habits then? I mean, how do the clients kind of feel like they're making progress, going back to this whole progress idea?

Tobias Sjösten: I have a program for weight loss or building muscle or gain gaining strength which has like a series of lessons that they go through. They need to learn how to be in tune with their body. Like, you know, eat until they're full, not eat anything more, cooking, preparing the food, like planning their food, shopping for their food, all these kind of things. So it’s like a series of lessons that they go through and learn as they go through the program. Meanwhile, I take care of a lot of tracking for them because I like my spreadsheets. I get to do that.

Karina Inkster: That's your thing.

Tobias Sjösten: Yes. So I have to say though lately, I haven't given humans like the human input output processing units, enough credit. I think humans, we have, I mean, there's things that we are very, very bad at, which is why science is such an awesome tool for us. Like, because we have all these biases that we fall into, every single one of us, which makes us very bad at interpreting the world and understanding the world, which is, you know, then we use the scientific method to understand the world better. 

But humans are really good at many things like detecting patterns, for example, which can be a bad thing as well. But detecting patterns, like you, if you're checking these metrics, even if you don't have a goal in mind, you don't do weekly reviews or anything by virtue of being a human with all the processing power, you have, you probably detect patterns and like, you know, you see things that need to be fixed and like subconsciously you know about where to apply your efforts.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Such a good point. And I think the same happens when people do start tracking their progress, especially with strength training, just because it's so easy to measure, but it works too for endurance sports, and I think that's why if the client is ready and interested. Now, so many folks are training at home, right? So tracking things like reps or the resistance band that you're using for a specific move or how long it takes you to do a certain workout. I mean, these things can all change. 

Sometimes we'll do comparison photos or videos, not of someone's physique, but of someone's form just to show them how far they've come in learning how to do things. You know, like, hey, this is the video you sent us last January of your incline push-ups looking not awesome, you know. now you're doing full push-ups with perfect form on the ground. Like, you know.

Tobias Sjösten: Awesome, yeah, I like that idea. I might steal that from you.

Karina Inkster: Oh, steal away, steal away. 

Tobias Sjösten: That’s brilliant.

Karina Inkster: It’s really good. So, I mean, if clients are sending you these things anyways, we're not doing this for every single move, but with really big ones, like squats, for example, you will appreciate that.

Tobias Sjösten: That's brilliant.

Karina Inkster: Especially if you can see that someone's going to really have a change in their form. 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. 

Karina Inkster: If there's things that you’ve got to work on. If their goal, like in this case of the pushup, we had someone whose goal was to do like proper on the ground push-ups with really perfect form. And so we tracked it and made a little video and kind of like the really slow physique process, you don't really notice, you remember like, oh yeah a year ago I was doing inclined push-ups, sure fine. But then when you see the videos right next to each other, you're like, oh shit, this is actually a big difference.

Tobias Sjösten: That's great. I mean, again, then you're tracking exactly what they're after. So I really like that. 

Karina Inkster: Right!

Tobias Sjösten: Nice. 

Karina Inkster: Exactly. So I think folks can use this whole concept of even if there's no big, scary goal or official goal, if you're tracking things that a) make sense and b) are important to you, then I think you have a really good point actually about maybe inherently you're adjusting and you're optimizing as you go along, right?

Tobias Sjösten: Well there's one psychological study that I really liked about pattern detection with humans, where they put a group of people, I don't know, 40 people or something, in front of a button with a light in front of it. So when they press the button, it was like 20% chance that the light would go on. Every single one of them said that they had found the pattern to press. Like if I press it hard here, and then I sort of to turn it a bit, then I press twice very rapidly, and then a long press, you know, then I can get the lights on.

Karina Inkster: Ah, right! 

Tobias Sjösten: And it was completely random, you know, but everyone found a pattern.

Karina Inkster: Hey, that's really interesting.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. People are really good at finding patterns even when they're not there.

Karina Inkster: Yes. And people are also really good at missing information. You know, like, when we imagine things that are going to happen in the future. For example, when there are aspects that we don't imagine happening, we just assume they're not going to happen, but it's basically just cause our brains didn't conjure them up, you know? 

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah!

Karina Inkster: So, and the pattern thing though, that makes sense based on our evolution and survival in the wild and, you know, finding food and avoiding predators and whatnot.

Tobias Sjösten: That's where everything comes from, of course. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. But it's not very scientific, hence the scientific method.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, I mean, that's a very useful tool, the scientific method. And I mean, you don't have to put on a lab coat on a stethoscope and, you know, mix different coloured bottles or something just to be a scientist. The scientific method is pretty simple. Like you form a hypothesis and you devise a way to test it. You do the test and then you evaluate, more or less.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Hey, so that's actually an interesting thing. So when someone, whether they're a client or someone in your circle, let's say someone in your Facebook group, for example, when someone has preconceived notions or they have certain beliefs about, you know, like detoxes work, detoxing is a legitimate thing. Which of course, it's not, what's your approach to, I kind of want to say educating these folks about how the scientific method works?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. So I, I used to try to educate these kinds of people. I mean, we all fall into this kind of thing. So I probably have my own things that others think I'm very stupid for thinking. 

Karina Inkster: We all do. Yes. 

Tobias Sjösten: Now I don't try to educate them. What I try to do is like show other people who might read this message in the Facebook group, that this is not like, this is not the way the rest of the world thinks. That’s my approach right now, because I don't think I will ever get through to someone, especially in a Facebook group. It's just going to be like, no, no, no, this is true. No this is true. No, this is false. So.

Karina Inkster: That's a really interesting point actually. Yeah. Because especially in social media communications, but even offline in person, generally folks are going to rationalize their existing beliefs versus changing them. So that's kind of cool. That's actually a really good idea. And that could be applied to veganism I bet. Just like veganism in general, right?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. When someone comes at me for, you know, to challenge, my beliefs, that's whatever, we have always eaten meat, and we need the protein, whatever. I never assume that I will be able to convince him, because it's usually a him. 

Karina Inkster: I knew you would say that.

Tobias Sjösten:  Instead I want to talk to the people who are listening and, you know, because they are getting their inputs from this, so. 

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point. I'm going to take that to heart because deep down, all I want to do is just argue. I have avoided this though, you know, especially in the last year, you know, for my own mental health basically. But I like that approach. Cause there's always folks, even if they're not commenting and being active themselves, you never know who you're going to reach with messaging.

Tobias Sjösten: Well I think there's some statistics saying that for every person who comments there's a hundred people who just read.

Karina Inkster: Ah, yes. I don't doubt that.

Tobias Sjösten: We have now in the group I think we're almost, we're close to 20,000 people. So I feel since it's my group, I mean, we're a team of moderators, otherwise I would not be able to do it myself, but I feel a responsibility when someone says something like this, which is incorrect, you know and might harm other people, to set them right, to set the record straight and show other people that, you know, this might not be the whole thing.

Karina Inkster: Well, you have a point, like if it's something that is actually harmful, then I think that's maybe a different situation from something that's just incorrect.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. We had a couple of people, you know, promoting colloidal silver in the group.

Karina Inkster: Oh!

Tobias Sjösten:  You drink the silver to cure, which is, of course, an awful plan.

Karina Inkster: I've heard of poisonings from things like that. I mean, that's like..

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s toxic. So yeah. That is an actual toxin.

Karina Inkster: Yes. An actual toxin. Yes. Unlike the ones we're supposedly getting rid of when we do a detox.

Tobias Sjösten: That's fun though, with detox, like it's so simple to just ask people what kind of toxin? What’s the toxin that we want to get rid of here? And in what way does our body already detox itself? 

Karina Inkster: Yeah. 

Tobias Sjösten: Cause they never have an answer. No, it's heavy metals, blah, blah, blah, or something. 

Karina Inkster: it’s very vague.

Tobias Sjösten: Very vague. 

Karina Inkster: So true. Hey, what is the next like six months looking like for Athlegan? Are you looking at building out the team more? Like what's kind of happening in the first part of 2021?

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah, so we're building a team. We have a handful of people who are working like, you know, half time or part time with Athlegan right now. So I'm getting a lot of help with that, but we want to put more structure, like you I think, more processes in place, like delegating things, making different people responsible for different aspects of the business. And then we have a bunch of projects that we are about to finish up; the tracker, the mobile app being one.

Karina Inkster: Oh, the app. Yes. I got to try that out for sure.

Tobias Sjösten: We have a lot of eBooks coming out as well that are going to help people with specific things they want to achieve, specific goals.

Karina Inkster: Sweet. That's exciting.

Tobias Sjösten: Yeah. 

Karina Inkster: So we obviously will link to your group and your website. Is there anything else that you would like to include in our show notes that folks can use to connect with you or learn more about Athlegan?

Tobias Sjösten: I think that the website and the group is great. One thing that I've thought about though, when we were talking about the progress photos: A month ago or something, I wrote an article, an in depth article about how to take progress photos, and the benefits of it, so that could be a good thing to link as well.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Let's add that for sure. We usually have a resources section or kind of like “mentioned in the episode,” so we'll add that for sure. 

Tobias Sjösten: Cool. 

Karina Inkster: I’ve actually never read an article on how to take progress photos properly. So this is very interesting. 

Tobias Sjösten: This is the only one you have to read. 

Karina Inkster: I know, I bet it is! Knowing how in-depth you are, especially with measurements and you know, spreadsheets and keeping track of things.

Tobias Sjösten: I wanted to include a downloadable spreadsheet, but I decided against it, so none of that. 

Karina Inkster: A downloadable spreadsheet. Maybe another time, there's always a time and place for a downloadable spreadsheet.

Tobias Sjösten: Right? Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Awesome! Well Tobias, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was great catching up and this episode is going to come out pretty soon. We're recording it just before New Year’s. So I'm very excited for that. And yeah, thank you so much. Great speaking with you as always.

Tobias Sjösten: Thank you for having me, and continue to keep doing an awesome show. Great job.

Karina Inkster: Tobias, you're awesome. Thank you so much for speaking with me. I would like to direct our listeners to our show notes at, where you can connect with Tobias and check out his new app and the article he mentioned in our interview. Thank you so much for tuning into the show and I'll see you in our next episode.

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