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“How To Slow Down to Do More”, with Thomas Asseo, Co-founder of Fresh n’ Lean

I thought this was obvious but maybe not obvious enough. I take at least thirty minutes for lunch with no work around. This may be the French culture coming out, but in France, most take at least an hour for lunch (sometimes 2!) and don’t speak about work. To me, that’s over the top, but […]

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I thought this was obvious but maybe not obvious enough. I take at least thirty minutes for lunch with no work around. This may be the French culture coming out, but in France, most take at least an hour for lunch (sometimes 2!) and don’t speak about work. To me, that’s over the top, but taking time to truly enjoy my food and time without being bogged down by calls and tasks helps keep me on track.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Asseo, Co-founder of Fresh n’ Lean.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2011 my father went through a health transformation. He went from on the verge of unrepairable health to losing about 90 pounds and normalized blood pressure and cholesterol with healthy eating and exercise. Family and friends took notice and that’s when the idea for Fresh n’ Lean was born. At that time, I was just leaving a job after 4 years, and noticed the family start up could really use some help with administration and accounting. During 2011 I would help out a couple hours here and there, but that quickly turned into full time by 2012 as sales and marketing came into focus.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I believe that we live in a society where performance counts for a lot. Therefore, there is pressure on everyone to get results. In a workplace this trickles down from the top. There are deadlines and a sense of urgency to produce more efficiently, grow at a rapid pace, etc… It’s deeply ingrained that if we are not producing ‘more’ then we are not trying hard enough.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

I think rushing too often is bad for clarity. When you’re constantly in the thick of being rushed, you seldom have time to take a step back to gain clarity on your challenges or situation. A lot of times we’ll want to find a solution for a problem right then and there, and sometimes we just have to; but I’ve found this can cause tunnel vision and I might waste valuable time searching for a solution when stepping back for a little while and allowing the problem to digest can give me a better solution as well as less stress.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Going back to what I said above, if we slowed down, even for fifteen minutes and came back to the problem at hand, maybe we’d have a better idea than one that was forced. By doing this, it gives our brain time to process, and this in turn relieves stress. As research has shown, stress affects the body in negative ways. It disrupts our sleep patterns and leaves us feeling foggy and exhausted. It may be counterintuitive to slow down to be more productive, but in the long run it will leave us healthier, happier, with better results.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

One of the things I do that helps me slowdown is motorcycle racing. Maybe not for everyone! Though I am not literally slowing down, when I am going around the track at speeds up to 170mph, my brain doesn’t have much room to focus on the problems I need to solve at work. I must focus on the track ahead and be present in the moment. I think this gives my subconscious time to process other aspects of my life, and I find that after doing this, solutions come to me much easier.

Another activity I do is CrossFit. There are many mornings where I wake up with a dilemma on my mind and may want to rush to fix it, but I can’t because I’ll do an hour of strenuous exercise that commands my full attention. By the end I usually feel much more clear, calm and generally in a better place to deal with my dilemma.

Thought obvious but maybe not obvious enough, I take at least thirty minutes for lunch with no work around. This may be the French culture coming out, but in France, most take at least an hour for lunch (sometimes 2!) and don’t speak about work. To me, that’s over the top, but taking time to truly enjoy my food and time without being bogged down by calls and tasks helps keep me on track.

I’ve always been an animal person. I’ve found that being with animals is a great de-stresser. Your animal(s) doesn’t know the details of what’s going on in your life and isn’t worrying about your big presentation on Monday. All they care about is being with you in this moment and I think that interaction is very grounding. My interaction with my dog keeps me be present.

Music has always been one of my escapes. It’s been shown that different beats per minute can affect people’s moods. 60–80 beats can create a calm and relaxed mood while less than 60 can cause a depressed mood. When I’m high strung and need to take a breath, one of the songs I like to listen to The Beatles.

Drawing has been one of my favorite hobbies. It wasn’t until I started working at Fresh n’ Lean and putting in long nights and early mornings where I found that it was an outlet that grounded me.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

To me mindfulness is when you devote your attention to the present moment so that you can focus on what you’re doing without getting distracted. I find myself becoming easily distracted and getting pulled in nineteen directions at once. It’s so tempting to work on all of these things at once. I try to give myself one task and focus on it until it’s complete no matter what!

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

I think the best thing to do is to commit. We get bogged down with things we want to do and things we must do, and a lot of failure happens because of lack of commitment. That is not to say people are lazy or uncommitted, life happens and it’s hard to commit to meditating for twenty minutes a day. Whether that’s a reminder on your phone to take a step back on your phone or sticky notes on your laptop to stand and take a ten-minute walk at 12:30. Commit to it and drop what you’re doing. Make it a priority like a meeting.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

I like to take at least ten minutes out of my day to meditate.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

I’ve been taking a weekly yoga class for a few years. The teacher is such a funny guy and great at what he does too. He repeats a lot of sayings in different ways. Sometimes his voice is in my head when I need to slow down.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The future depends on what you do in the present.” — Ghandi. I think about that if I’m dreading an important task or talk.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would start has already begun. Americans have started to change their relationship with food and started to care deeply about what they’re eating and where it comes from. This is a profound transformation that impacts us on several levels.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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