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by Greta Van Meeteren

August 2, 2012

A slave to his spreadsheet

Joe Fang buys and sells computer networking equipment. His is also currently working on his house in Flagstaff, Ariz. He lives in Minneapolis, Minn., but is looking forward to retiring in Flagstaff. He travels there a couple of times a year to work on the house and enjoy the climate. Fang's son and his family live in Arizona. "They have fun in their back yard pool, and it was there that I finally learned to do flip turns. It was just wide enough to flip, push off, and then flip again. After a few sets of five turns, I got the hang of it," he says.

Initially, Fang was not successful in integrating the flip turn into his regular swims, and he does not like to give up time to accomplish something other than his distance goal. "If it doesn’t immediately contribute to support that goal, I have a hard time doing that task, even if I know it has a long term benefit," he says. By his own admission he is a slave to his spreadsheet, and adds that he has that kind of personality.

Fang started swimming to become active again. He always ran when he was in the Army. "In the Army, running was something I did all the time. I don’t think it was ever fun because of that," he says. His retail career caused him to run less and he gained a lot of weight. He did recognize the need to drop some pounds and be active, although his joints let him know pretty quickly that running was no longer an option. So he started swimming in 2004.

It has been a long road for him. At the start he was lucky to swim a length of the pool, but perseverance has paid off. “Initially swimming was staying alive while being in the water. I manage to go a pretty good distance now, but it’s been a journey. I swim to keep my weight down, manage my diabetes and I use it as a stress management tool. The physical activity really helps when dealing with stress. I am fortunate to be able to get to the pool for a bit at lunch and then again later to get the balance of my distance in, and get all the associated benefits from swimming."

Fang does not participate in meets. "I do not have the time or commitment for the routine of practice and meets. I do compete with myself every time I go in the pool to be faster, go a longer distance or some other standard. I record all my data and evaluate it looking for best times and distances. It keeps me motivated to continue on. For me it’s part of goal setting. I write it down, I measure progress and do the best I can to overcome failure.”

He considers himself lucky that he has a swim buddy at work; they swim together at lunchtime. Trying to join a group would not work for him with his errant schedule. Fang likes to wear an MP3 player, and “zone out.”

"Because I only learned crawl, that’s all I do. I could probably figure out back and breast, but fly just won’t happen for me. Too late for this old dog to learn a new trick," Fang states. "I work to burn calories and stay in shape. I consider myself successful if I get in 2-plus miles."

Fang joined GTD for motivation and satisfaction. GTD helps set and measure progress to his goal. "It’s been said if you don’t write your goal down and tell people about it, no one knows but you, so who really knows if you make it or not. GTD helps with all of that. And I can look back at a week, month, year, and feel good about the total!"

Fang's goal for 2012 is to swim 1,000,000 yards. He thought the number was cool, and with the extra travel this year, it is attainable.


  • Human Interest


  • Goal Setting
  • GTD
  • Biography