The art of negotiation

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a negotiation MasterClass held in Paris. I am happy to share some of my key learnings with you.

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a negotiation MasterClass held in Paris. The teachers, Laurent Combalbert and Marwan Mery, are two prestigious negotiators, famous for inspiring the TV show “Ransom”. I had already done some reading (Negociator will be available in English on Amazon very soon!) on the subject and this course has extended my knowledge on this fascinating topic.

I am happy to share some of my key learnings with you:

– I have always perceived conflict as a negative thing, tending to avoid it as much as possible in my personal and professional life. I now understand the difference between conflict and confrontation: conflict is simply the expression of a disagreement and as such lays the ground for a negotiation. Confrontation, however, is more aggressive – which is exactly why I dislike it. From now on I will no longer view conflict as negative !

– A successful negotiation is made of 80% preparation and 20% agility. Needless to say I will never again enter a negotiation without studying beforehand all the issues at stake, especially those that pertain to other party.

– During a negotiation, always be clear on the position, objective, and stake. They are completely different elements. If one focuses only on the position, one might end up losing the negotiation for lack of addressing the other party’s real interest.

This intensive 2-day class made me realize how we all tend to enter a negotiation the way we enter a sports competition i.e. with the belief that “the winner takes it all”. This is actually the reason why so many negotiations fail! Instead, we should all start by thinking about the other party as our “coopetitor” – a competitor with whom we wish to cooperate.

On a more personal level, I have learned that my cooperative attitude and my empathy are valuable assets and tools – as long as I work on managing my emotions and my lack of assertiveness. Indeed, they will enable me and my coopetitors to end our negotiation with the positive impression that we did all we could to reach a balanced solution.  

I truly wish to pursue this course, to gain more experience and expertise (there are 2 more modules I can attend). I am convinced that it will contribute to continually improve myself as CEO of Forever Institut and Forever Boutique – and also as a mother 😉 !

Suggested reading list for those interested (currently in French only):
– Negociator
– Négociateurs d’élite
– Devenir meilleur négociateur que ses enfants

Innover même en temps de crise

Durant la fermeture de Forever et le confinement, mon attention était initialement principalement dirigée sur les stratégies de survie et d’agilité. Mais une fois tout l’aspect administratif réglé et les pare-feu mis en place, ma petite voix de leader intérieure (qui a souvent la tonalité de mon père…) a refait surface. Je me suis rappelé l’importance de voir loin, de rester acteur de notre développement et toujours en accord avec notre valeur d’audace. Peu importe l’incertitude de la situation, il fallait recommencer à penser à l’avenir.

Nous avons la chance d’avoir une Directrice Médicale toujours à l’affût des innovations et prête à me faire partager sa passion pour l’esthétique. Juste avant la fermeture en mars, la Dr. Sophie Menkes était déjà convaincue d’un nouveau produit qui pourrait représenter un grand pas en avant dans l’univers de l’acide hyaluronique ; et nous avons décidé de ne pas brisé notre élan. A peine trois semaines après la réouverture, l’ensemble de l’équipe médicale a donc été formée à l’injection de Profhilo.

Les études cliniques démontrent que le Profhilo retend et réhydrate la peau en profondeur, en améliore la qualité, et restaure une certaine douceur aux traits sans pour autant agir comme un produit de comblement.

Je n’ai testé qu’une fois dans le passé l’injection d’acide hyaluronique et j’ai été sujette à une réaction inflammatoire qui, bien que transitoire, m’a plutôt découragé à retenter l’expérience. Lorsque la Dr. Menkes m’a parlé du Profhilo, et apprenant que sa formule ne contient pas les particules qui selon mon père étaient à l’origine de ma réaction, j’ai décidé de me laisser tenter. Le fait que cet acide hyaluronique n’agisse pas en volumateur m’a aussi séduit – en effet, je n’ai pas (encore) l’impression d’en avoir besoin.

J’étais donc la toute première modèle de la Dr. Debora Schivo à Forever Boutique qui, contrairement à la Dr. Menkes qui injecte a l’aiguille, a choisi une approche à la canule. Il faut savoir que le Profhilo se « dépose » à cinq endroits-clés du visage. Avec l’aiguille, il y a donc cinq points d’injection par côté ; la canule, quant à elle, permet de déposer le produit en ne faisant qu’un point d’entrée au centre de chaque joue, et la canule étant plus longue que l’aiguille, celle-ci se glisse sous la peau pour atteindre, tel un éventail, les cinq points stratégiques (regardez la vidéo sur le compte instagram de la Boutique!).

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les cinq points stratégiques

Je n’ai pas eu besoin d’anesthésie malgré mon niveau d’anxiété assez important (merci Dr. Schivo de m’avoir supporté !), mais l’application de froid sur chaque joue a permis de gérer la légère douleur. Ce n’est pas agréable, le produit brûle légèrement lorsqu’il pénètre sous la peau. Les endroits où le Profhilo a été déposé n’étaient pas lisses le soir-même (cela s’est résorbé en 24-48 heures) et le point d’entrée de la canule était sensible pendant deux à trois jours. Par contre, en repartant de Forever quelques heures après l’injection, personne n’aurait pu dire que je m’étais fait faire quelque chose au visage.

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juste après l’injection

Quatre jours jours seulement après le traitement, je trouve ma peau déjà plus lumineuse et uniforme; et alors que j’applique du fond de teint tous les jours (même en vacances, au grand dam de mon fiancé), je n’en ai pas appliqué ce matin, pour la première fois depuis très longtemps. Je suis par ailleurs persuadée que ces résultats sont d’autant plus beaux que j’ai suivi les conseils de mon père depuis le début du confinement, en appliquant le Discoloration Defense de Skinceuticals deux fois par jour, et le Serum Retinol de Alchimie Forever deux fois par semaine.  

J’ai déjà prévu ma deuxième (et dernière de l’année) séance de Profilho juste avant mon mariage, et je me réjouis alors de partager les résultats, qui seront cliniquement visibles puisque j’ai pris des photos en 3D.

Merci à toute l’équipe de Forever pour votre enthousiasme renouvelé et pour votre soutien quant à notre quête constante d’innovation. 😊

Infinie gratitude

Cette période de confinement met tout le monde à rude épreuve, pour différentes raisons. Certains traversent des épreuves familiales ou de santé, d’autres des difficultés financières ou organisationnelles. Personnellement, le moment le plus traumatisant pour moi a été d’avoir dû fermer les portes de Forever Institut et Boutique le 16 mars au soir et j’ai vécu les semaines les plus difficiles au niveau entrepreneurial que j’ai eu à vivre.

Etant désormais sortie de cet état post-traumatique de stupeur et de révolte, je réalise que cette période peut être une réelle source d’opportunité : pour certains, ce sera de changer de vie ; pour d’autres de réaliser que chaque métier, chaque maillon de la chaîne, compte – et doit être respecté ; pour d’autres encore ce sera de faire évoluer leur entreprise ou leur manière de vivre…

Personnellement, l’un des sentiments que cette situation inattendue m’apporte est une infinie reconnaissance et la réalisation cruelle mais nécessaire que je prenais trop de choses pour acquises, et notamment :

  • Ma liberté d’action : en tant qu’entrepreneur, on travaille tout le temps, mais notre chance est d’avoir une certaine flexibilité dans l’aménagement de son temps (dépendant des périodes bien sûr). C’était facile et presque naturel d’organiser des petits moments de bonheur spontané comme une verrée entre amis ou collègues dans mon bar habituel, à la dernière minute ; ou de m’offrir une escapade amoureuse ou en famille dans un coin de paradis… j’ai le privilège de pouvoir m’offrir ces plaisirs.
    Cette période m’a ouvert les yeux sur le sens du sentiment de liberté. Car en fin de compte, on peut le créer en nourrissant notre jardin intellectuel et en sachant s’adapter à notre environnement : j’ai découvert une nouvelle routine de retrouvailles avec mes sœurs, entre amis ou collègues, chez moi et en mode « virtuel », les joies d’une vie familiale renforcée (nous avons accueilli les enfants de mon fiancé) et le bonheur procuré par une vie malgré tout plus lente.

 

  • L’insouciance : j’ai probablement un biais suisse, car nous n’avons pas souffert d’attentats alors que de multiples pays ont été témoins de la violence accrue de ces dernières années ; mais mon insouciance passée – avec comme principales préoccupations celles de m’assurer que nos entreprises familiales fleurissent et que ma fille se développe bien – me manque !
    Depuis quelques semaines… je développe une autre forme d’insouciance, celle développée par la conviction fondamentale que l’épreuve rend plus fort. Elle alimente ma conviction que tout est possible, pour autant qu’on prenne ce que la vie nous offre, à chaque instant.

 

  • La dynamique du développement et des projets : j’ai grandi dans une famille d’entrepreneurs, nos projets nous ont toujours nourris et réunis. Quand l’état d’urgence a été décrété le 16 mars dernier, j’ai cru un instant que mon monde s’effondrait, que je perdais tout ce que j’avais investi en énergie et en sueur ces quatre dernières années… et puis mon père, le Dr. Luigi L. Polla, a eu ces mots qui continuent, plus de trois semaines plus tard, de résonner en moi : « Rachel, si on doit tout recommencer, alors ce sera aussi une chance, tu sais ; et on recommencera. Différemment, peut-être ; mais ensemble ». D’autant plus surprenant que cette dynamique de renouvellement vienne de la génération de mon père. Il m’a offert le plus bel exemple de résilience, a calmé mes esprits, et m’a permis de me relancer dans une perspective d’avenir.

Le confinement ne durera qu’un temps – plus ou moins long ; quand nous avons la chance d’habiter dans notre merveilleux pays, d’être entouré d’amour, d’avoir un toit et de jouir d’une excellente santé, il n’appartient finalement qu’à nous de nous apaiser et de décider de ce qui adviendra après.

sasha reine

 

 

 

Going Viral

Covid-19 seems to be in everyone’s mind and conversation… It has been a great opportunity to learn more about my team and business.

Covid-19 seems to be in everyone’s mind and conversation. What started as a “far-away” problem suddenly became an anxiogenic reality very close to us – even more so now that cases have been declared in Geneva. Being an optimistic and rarely anxious woman, I was not alarmed nor did I judge it necessary to act upon this situation. I felt however that my father took it very seriously and needed to be reassured. That is why I took things in hand at Forever; and I am glad I did, because this experience has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about my team and my business. What have I noticed so far?

First of all, that we are quick to lose our sense of judgement. Let me share an anecdote to illustrate this point. I entered our common room while one of our laser-hair-removal therapists advised her colleague to double-check her client because she had just come back from Mexico. The former, looking surprised, replied “but there are no cases of Corona virus in Mexico”! Actually, what her colleague meant was that the client’s skin might be tanned, and therefore react more strongly to the laser treatment. This did make us all laugh… even though it shows our brains function differently when we are preoccupied.

A very positive consequence of the Covid-19 situation is that – contrary to my presumption – it brought our team closer. We have all been more caring with one another, sharing good advice and news, asking whether we’ve taken our daily vitamin and echinacea supplements to boost our immune system. Those staff members that are less anxious naturally took it upon themselves to reassure their more hypochondriac colleagues.

Our clients have also been very grateful and appreciative of how thoughtful we have been in the situation, offering them hand sanitizers and Alchimie Forever’s Dry Skin Balm in every treatment room, reception, and waiting areas. The timing is actually pretty fitting since we have just launched our new packaging on this product. I told you I tend to always see the positive in life 😉

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Lastly is the first time in my life as a CEO I am confronted to the possibility of a major external risk to the business, challenged to find the appropriate dose of prevention and empathy towards those who are more scared than I am, without over-reacting and generating useless panic. I am finding the exercise extremely interesting and enriching, and my next read will be about crisis management. There’s still a lot to learn.

Happy & Sexy Countdown

In 5 months, my partner and I will be celebrating our love and commitment to one another; an outdoors wedding in tune with the summer solstice. Obviously, I want the whole experience to be as magical as in my childhood dreams: the sunset between the vineyards and the lake, the gathering, the dress, the music, the love declaration… And I wish to feel my most beautiful self, to honor and dazzle my man, our families and friends. Do you see what I’m getting at? 😉

chateau lacoste

So here’s my Forever beauty countdown program to get ready for the D-Day

  • Laser hair removal: already done!
  • D-5 months (now): start using Alchimie Forever’s Advanced Retinol Serum twice a week at night
  • D-4 months: laser facial with Picosure Focus to fade away brown sunspots and tighten my skin (I’ve already done 1 session, so 2 more to go over the next two months)
  • D-2 months: A light version of the Softlift , performed by my dad Dr Luigi L. Polla. A very subtle and natural way to enhance my facial features (cheekbones, jawline), reduce the under-eye circles and nasolabial folds, and most importantly generally rejuvenate my skin
  • D-7 weeks: Hyaluronic acid filler to plump-up my lips (not the ones you think; see my blog on the injection of the “other lips” ….)
  • D-6 weeks: Get a Hydrafacial Boost and start using the Pigment Lightening Serum of Alchimie Forever to complement my treatment
  • D-2 weeks: get a Hydrafacial Pamper to have the perfect skin tone and enjoy a little bit of pampering on top
  • D-3 days: my sister Cyrille has advised an eye-lash tint. Knowing me, for sure there will be tears! That way no mascara leaks 😉
  • D-2 days: a lymphatic drainage should help me relax and detox
  • D-day: my Forever Beauty program being over, I will get my make-up and hair done by Le Bal des Créateurs, the crème de la crème in Switzerland

I’ll keep a beauty journal to share my experiences, as well as before and after pictures. Stay tuned!

My key CEO-takeaways for 2019

I am sure you all know about the concept of “3 take-away messages”. I often use this method in my life, to synthesize and integrate the learnings of a class, a workshop, a book – any relevant experience really. So I decided to apply it to my 2019 business year as a CEO of our family business.

 

  1. COACHING rather than COPING

My first stress trigger was when I realized we didn’t start the year according to the set budget. I tried to cope by myself using various strategies, but by April, I felt powerless to reverse the trend. That’s when I entered panic mode. Luckily I had just started new coaching sessions.

In just a couple of sessions Eva Cruz guided me towards asking myself the right questions – which led me to find the right solutions. Much more useful than panicking! Most importantly, she helped me find my “WHY” – the famous Why of Simon Sinek. Since our coaching sessions ended, I feel like everything kind of fell into place. Even my anxiety level has reduced quite drastically.

Understanding the power of the right type of coaching at the right time, I tried a second approach towards the end of the year. I started Krav Maga with Thierry Colomb, a self-defense and productivity coach. These sessions help me feel more powerful and in charge.

  1. FACE rather than FEAR

This year I have really worked on my tendency to avoid difficult discussions. My coping mechanism was usually to hide in my “cave” (my office for example) rather than face them with trust and strength. It was particularly challenging for me to change this behavior, as it is rooted in my childhood.  But I’m getting there. And the most recent discussion to date I had with a dear colleague has been a relief for both of us; we were able to tell each other what we needed to move forward into a more constructive, and successful relationship. When I received a heartfelt thank you note for what I felt was a tough discussion, I realized how facing issues is key.

  1. ASK rather than ATTEMPT

Lastly, I realized how important it is to ask for help sooner rather than later. As a young CEO, I kept feeling that reaching out for help would hinder the image others would have of me. My eldest sister Ada and her husband have kept trying to change my mind about this. I don’t know if it’s their persistency or simply my growing maturity. But definitely, 2019 has been a year of calls or emails to the Chairman of our Board of Directors (Gilles Bos, a wonderful mentor), asking him for advice. Looking back – and ahead towards 2020 – I feel that I have grown because of this new and positive perception of the act of asking.

 

Photoshoot des #Pollasisters

Depuis 2013, mes sœurs et moi organisons des séances de photo de nous quatre. J’ai eu le bonheur d’offrir ma nouvelle maison comme décor de notre dernière séance en date. Ce fut un moment très privilégié car cela nous a permis de faire tout ce que j’aime avec elles…

Depuis 2013, mes sœurs et moi organisons des séances de photo de nous quatre. On joue le jeu, on se pomponne, on se met en scène, à chaque fois dans des lieux différents et avec un style particulier. D’un sacerdoce (je l’avoue, au début, je n’étais ni très à l’aise, ni très patiente), à un moment de partage joyeux et qui nous rapproche, ces moments ponctuent nos rencontres à quatre.

J’ai eu le bonheur d’offrir ma nouvelle maison comme décor de notre dernière séance en date. Ce fut un moment très privilégié car cela nous a permis de faire tout ce que j’aime avec mes sœurs… et je sais déjà que les photos nous rappelleront cette journée extraordinaire.

Cyrille, en charge de l’organisation de nos shootings (la pauvre, gérer ses sœurs dans ces moments-là n’est pas toujours évident !), avait prévu plusieurs tableaux :

  • Nous préparer ensemble dans mon dressing : choisir nos vêtements et accessoires pour la soirée, nous maquiller et nous faire belle. Ce fut la prise de vue la plus compliquée, d’une part parce que c’était la première (il faut toujours un tour de chauffe), et d’autre part car mon dressing n’avait pas une profondeur de champ nécessaire au cadrage. Note à moi-même: demander au père Noël d’agrandir mon dressing 😉
  • Cuisiner ensemble. Un menu tout simple composé d’une soupe, de pâtes et des tomates fraîches. J’adore recevoir ma sœur aînée lors de ses visites à Genève. Le fait qu’elle choisisse de loger systématiquement chez moi est un réel privilège qui redouble mon plaisir à préparer nos repas. C’était donc un tableau que j’ai particulièrement apprécié ! Surtout quand on rajoute la cerise sur le gâteau… à savoir du champagne.
  • Boire un thé chaud (eh oui ! J’adore le champagne mais il faut savoir diversifier les plaisirs) et bouquiner autour du feu de cheminée. J’ai été conquise par la maison car je la trouve magnifique, mais aussi parce qu’il y a une cheminée. J’ai donc eu le bonheur d’allumer mon premier feu avec mes meilleures amies (mes sœurs), et nous avons passé un doux moment à regarder les flammes danser dans l’antre de la cheminée.
  • Faire du sport. Le sport fait entièrement partie de nos vies ; même Cyrille qui n’était pas du tout sportive s’y est mise ! C’était donc assez naturel qu’on promeuve le fait de prendre soin de soi et de sa beauté, pas uniquement au travers des crèmes et des soins, mais aussi par l’exercice physique.
  • Enfin, profiter d’un moment de détente dans le jacuzzi… après l’effort nous avions droit à du réconfort. Le petit plus de ce moment ? Quand ma fille Sasha est arrivée et s’y est glissée avec nous pour inaugurer nos premières photos à cinq !

Sharing success

Saturday, it was Forever Boutique’s 2-years anniversary. What a journey! When I think back on all the work that brought us here, and all the energy that we have put in to make our business grow and bloom since October 6th 2017, I actually feel dizzy with amazement.

Early Saturday morning, in the train for Lausanne, I took a moment to reflect on the exciting day that was about to unfold… Forever Boutique’s 2-year anniversary.

What a journey! When I think back on all the work that brought us here, and all the energy that we have put in to make our business grow and bloom since October 6th 2017, I actually feel dizzy with amazement.

The idea of this Boutique had been gestating in our father’s mind for 4 years, but was finally created in 9 months. And just like a pregnancy, the experience was thrilling and exhausting towards the end; the “baby” developed slowly, its design taking shape progressively, until a few weeks before the grand opening when the anxiety of how it would really “look and feel” reached numerous peaks.

Admiring the scenery between Geneva and Lausanne – a landscape which is now an integral part of my business life – I realized that work, sweat, and tears were not the only reasons for our success; our capacity to work together as a family contributed a great deal. There’s the transmission of trust and leadership from the first generation to the second; the sharing of responsibilities between us 4 sisters representing the “next gen”; and the whole family’s support and desire to challenge one another with love, care, and respect, aspiring to make each other – and our businesses – flourish. The surprising beauty in all this, is that our family has actually grown too! Those colleagues who really share our values, work ethic, vision, dreams, ambitions, philosophy, and embrace them all as if they were their own – they are part of the “family”.

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One of these gems we were so lucky to meet is Marie. She has become my best friend, and my best business partner-in-crime. Our clients often ask if she is part of the Polla family; she may not be by blood, but she definitely is in spirit. She has my back and I have hers. What she has achieved over the past two years as CEO of Forever Boutique is amazing: she has given it a soul, a pulse, an aura. Marie has been exemplary in her commitment as well as in her positive and forward-thinking attitude. Today, our success is hers too. Trusting her with our “baby” is our family’s greatest achievement.

Marie, thank you for these 2 amazing years and the many more to come!

marie et rachel folles

 

Discovering a far-away culture

Last month, I spent two weeks of “business holidays” in China and Seoul. I had a wonderful time, even if it was everything but relaxing, and must admit that I fell in love with China. I think part of the feeling was due to the fact that I realized how uninformed we are when it comes to this fascinating country. Just two examples of what I wasn’t expecting at all: Chinese people are  welcoming once you take the time and heartfelt effort to engage with them; and the country is particularly clean – after the third picture of blue sky, I stopped… as it actually was “normal”.

I also fell in love with the complexity of the country: after these two weeks I have never been more convinced that life is never black or white – but rather made up of billions of shades of uniqueness (or blue, if you look at the sky)!

These considerations set apart, here are the main highlights of my trip there:

  • It is a far-away country, not only due to the kilometers which separate us. First of all, 99% of the people I met during my business meetings don’t speak English; communication, which is the basis of engaging in a trustful relationship, is truly challenging. Then, our culture and traditions are estranged, which makes for awkward moments, but good stories to tell!
  • Dimension is totally dissimilar: when I met one of my business contacts, she wanted to show me some of her franchises. Only two shops, yet seven hours later (more or less a full tour of Switzerland; here though we never left Beijing!), made me realize how dissimilar our sense of distance is. Another stunning example is that in my country and industry, we talk of a “chain” when we have 2-3 clinics and are considered as a major player when we generate over 4 million revenues; every place I visited in China or Seoul had 25 to 40 different locations, each generating tens of million in revenues. It is more than attracting, I must admit; but back home, I doubt that we, Europeans, have what it takes to conquer Chinese clients in their homeland!

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  • Time is money: in their view, it is ridiculous that a Doctor does the consult; they have “beauty consultants” trained for that, leaving the Doctors time to perform the acts and the trainings – where their real added value lies. We don’t work like this in Switzerland; yet I was intrigued by the concept and I am relentlessly thinking of how I could implement this here, without being untrue to our own culture and mentality.

I came home with many business ideas and meetings to talk about, as well as a multitude of personal memories. On this more personal note, my main highlight was seeing the astonishment in my daughter’s eyes. And discovering the card she bought and then wrote, telling me how proud she is to see me work hard for our family business. sasha-et-moi.jpg

 

Be Positive. Be Strong.

I have always loved running and used to run at an average 12km/hour. Until my injury, running was the only for of exercise I enjoyed – and I need to exercise to feel good. Having to give that up (or so I thought) made me feel diminished, and it took me quite some time to overcome that feeling. 

I am known as a positive person and I believe everything happens for a reason. Weirdly enough, eight months ago I fractured my right foot. More important and the physical pain, I was overwhelmed by how vulnerable this injury made me feel. I have always loved running and used to run at an average 12km/hour. Until my injury, running was the only for of exercise I enjoyed – and I need to exercise to feel good. Having to give that up (or so I thought) made me feel diminished, and it took me quite some time to overcome that feeling.

After what felt like an agonizing long time, I finally started exercising again this past weekend: 40km of bicycle, 7km of walk and 7km of running. I finally feel like myself again, especially due to my renewed capacity to run. These months were hard on me, but I learned a lot:

  • Don’t spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself. I did that for more than 2 months which was much too long! I wasted time and negative energy. The next time I have a setback I won’t let myself feel diminished…
  • Always remember that everything happens for a reason… Try to find that reason, and you will feel much better! This brings me to point 3…
  • Keep an open mind : once I took control of my life again I discovered bicycling and swimming, two forms of exercise I never tried for fear of being bad at it (biking) and a fear of water (which I overcame three years ago) (I was afraid of water until about three years ago). I am learning how to swim freestyle, with my mind focused on a single objective: soon I hope I’ll be diving! I thought I could only run. Now I enjoy three different sports and have a new goal – positive outcomes from this injury.
  • Be humble. Like my sister Ada would say: start with baby steps. Getting ready for 6km of mountain bike or 4km of running puts me in the mood. I know I will achieve more, but a 40km goal to start with is just too much!

Be proud. Every step is a step, even the baby ones. Celebrate them all. And keep going no matter what.