Making Change Stick

 |   Microsoft NZ News Centre

TEDxTalk Nigel Parker
By Nigel Parker

Five years ago I stood on a stage claiming that Data is the New Oil and that every software company is going to become a data company. I felt like a fraud, I hadn’t experience this for myself and I didn’t have a big data set that I cared about. At the same time I was dissatisfied with my current state of health, I had gained weight, reduced activity, I was eating a bad diet and spending too much time in front of a computer. I had developed vertigo that was giving me the feeling of being slightly drunk. This went on for months but medical checks said there was nothing wrong with me. Something had to change.

Change itself is a pretty simple concept something stops — change occurs — something begins. The challenge is making change stick.

After my father’s sudden death in 2009 I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to follow in my fathers footsteps and let ill-health and bad lifestyle choices lead me into an early grave so I started running and eating better but pretty quickly things went back to the way they were before.

Being an engineer I looked into the formula for change — created by David Gleicher in the early 1960s and refined by Kathie Dannemiller in the 1980s.

Addressing my dissatisfaction with my state of ill-health and vertigo. I set myself an impossible goal that I was going to walk/run over 4,000km in 2014.

Nigel Parker - Health Goals

I got myself a treadmill to break up my work day, at first I couldn’t run a single km. Through practise I eventually could run 3km then 5km then 10km before I started running outside.

I could tell you that I achieved my goal and that would be the end of the story. But in doing that I wouldn’t unearth the grand idea that I discovered during the process.

What I discovered about myself during the process is that I like to justify my obsessions by defining them as flow. This gives me the permission to shut out the outside world and focus on being in the moment.

I have to ask myself at what cost? Am I committed to my goal or am I attached to it? Can I change or adapt when I face resistance or the environment around me changes?

I was tested in March of 2014 when I first came up against resistance in my pursuit towards my goal.

I developed a condition that many of you may be able to relate to.

I became allergic to exercise!

Every time that I ran my body heated up and I sweated, every time that I sweated I broke out in full body hives.

Through not listening to my body and exercising while I had a virus I had contracted an auto immune disease with no known cause and no known cure.

Chronic Urticaria

I cured myself through insight from data. I followed three steps:

  1. Track Everything — I had wearable technology that tracked my activity, sleep patterns and heart rate. I had wireless scales and used apps to log my food intake.
  2. Learn to Breath — I focused on getting outside my head. Being present in the present. I visited Dr Sven at the resilience institute who taught me about mindfulness techniques, heart math and how to sleep.
  3. Learn to Eat — This is probably the most important step. I treated my body like a science experiment. Resetting to a raw vegan diet and then reintroduced foods one by one, measuring the affect that each had on my body e.g. did the urticarial improve, did my ears go red after eating a particular food, did the food have an affect on my resting heart rate? Through this process I identified that I was overly sensitive to caffeine and that if I had caffeine when I ran it raised my heart rate to high levels that decreased my performance. At the time my resting heart rate was around 70 after a few years of being caffeine free and much fitter my resting heart rate is in the low 40’s.

It took me about thirty days from following the techniques above to completely cure myself of the condition. For those that are reading this and also suffer from the condition take a look at the natural urticaria treatment system. I took some insight from this work to help guide me on resetting my diet. Remember that everybody is genetically different and what worked for me may not work for you so you need to measure the affect that particular foods have on you and your body.

In curing my condition I spent a lot of time diving into the data, working with spreadsheets and a lot of manual processes and this led me to a view that we are drowning in a sea of devices and data. I know that the process that I followed isn’t something that most people would. The situation is only getting worse at times I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of data.

Nigel Parker - Data Overload

In a world of almost infinite devices and data we are losing time and attention and I thank you for giving me your time and attention to read this.

To that end I took my learnings that I had collected over four years and built a software solution that automates the collection process and provides me the insight that I need using a natural language interface.

We are moving from a world of knowing what happened and why it happened to predicting what is going to happen and what is needed to make it happen.

I can ask questions of my data using natural language and get back insight in the moment that I need it.

I tell myself a false truth that I don’t drink alcohol during the week. By asking the question of how many beers I drank during the week in the last three months I got a factual response. That Thursday in October I was on holiday with my family in Australia and we did some tastings at some local craft breweries.

It is one thing looking back and getting insight into what happened. The real magic happens when the system can reach out proactively and give me a nudge at right time and place so that I make different choices.

That Sunday afternoon in October just after I came back home from a weeks holiday in Australia the bot reached out to me proactively and let me know that I was stressed. At that moment I became aware of a pattern in my behaviour that I hadn’t noticed previously. I often get stressed and sick soon after coming back from holiday or trips overseas with work. With this new awareness I was able to understand what was going on and make different choices.

When the bot let me know that I was getting sick in June, I was able to listen to my body. Adjust my behaviours. Stop exercising and avoid the situation that occurred previously when I exercised while I was fighting a virus.

I released this project as free solution worldwide for others to use and provide feedback.

There is a lot of fear out there about a future of artificial intelligence where machines will replace many jobs that are done by humans today.

I think the future is more about symbiotic intelligence where human experience is augmented and enhanced by that of machines, ultimately making us better humans.

The technology I have created is invisible and magical, it speaks to me in a language that I understand. It gives me a nudge at the right place and right time to help me course correct, to adjust my behaviours, to help make change stick. Let me know if you pick it up and it helps you in your life.

Tags: , , ,