Thursday, October 17, 2013

When Do I Need Help?

Today I made an interesting observation to a colleague.  I commented that when I had gone from being an associate professor to a full professor, I had felt that I actually needed more mentoring as a full professor.  When I was an associate professor the goal was clear--get the publications I need (and do whatever it takes) to be full.  Once I became full, the next step was not as clear.

In a similar vein, in my position now, the first six months were characterized by just getting information.  Learning.  Accepting.  Understanding.  Taking things in.  As I move forward my goals are much less clear.  Now that I have settled in and put out the first few fires, what do I want to do strategically.  What is the path I want to set?  What really matters?

Those questions are much harder to answer.  It is ironic that sometimes (to quote just the title of a book that was recommended to me by my leadership coach) what got you here won't get you there.  In other words, I need to find new skills and come up with new decision making processes to get to the next level.  (Perhaps a bit like Candy Crush?)

And there comes a point where others will be useful sounding boards, but I will really not have a coach or mentor.  I will simply have people around me who join with me in trying to achieve and who care about my success.  Some will just be sounding boards.  Some will be colleagues with whom I collaborate.  

We will see where this all goes. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Question from My Eight Year Old

My eight year old asked me a question this evening that really reflects how my home life has evolved in my six months on this new job.  Time was, seven months ago, when I was "just" a faculty member that most days I would wrap up between 5 and 5:30, be home my 6, have dinner on the table by 6:30, participate in getting my youngest ready for bed, and then have a bit of time with him--only to do dishes and more work afterwards.  And for the most part my "work work" at home came either very late at night or very early in the morning.  When my youngest was younger, he would tolerate my working (particularly on email) while talking with him or doing something else with him.  I didn't have to give him 100% of my attention.

In the time that I have held my new job (since April 1), I have worked later many days, but when I work later I tend to be "done" when I get home.  I do some work in the evening.  I do some in the early morning (particularly now that my youngest doesn't tend to get up quite as early as he used to).  The key has been that I have not had to make a choice between work and him while at home much in the past six months.  While being at work longer is disruptive, the pattern of not then making the choice of what to do at home clear to him has really taken hold.

So, this evening, I happened to be home early.  I had a meeting away from the Business School in the middle of the afternoon and decided to go home next.  That allowed me to have dinner on the table so we did not need to spend money on an unnecessary meal out before my wife and middle son went for his first livestock lesson as part of a 4H activity.  I told my youngest that after I ran to the grocery story, I could read extra to him.  We are reading a book that flows nicely and reads easily about a middle school kid playing football.  And this is a chapter book that is really holding my son's attention.

When I got back from the grocery story he was sorting rubber bands for his loom.  He really enjoys that activity and thought we could wait to read until he was done.  Not a bad idea.  However, when he was ready, he expected me to be ready.  I was working on an email or two and he asked me, "Who are you emailing who is more important than me?"  I was surprised to hear that but it did make me realize how different our rhythm of life has become over the past six months.  And while I may have fewer hours at home (particularly in a week like this one with two dinners and an evening class to teach) the expectation is that when I am home I am home.

Interestingly enough, my son's attitude actually matches my boss's attitude in two ways.  First, my boss claims that he doesn't carry much to and from work because he likes to separate the two.  I believe him for the most part.  And second he likes to always remind us, "More, Better, Faster".  My sons is super competitive and focuses on all three of those all the time.

So, maybe with my son and my boss sending the same signal, the key will be to continue to work on the question of how to get work done at work and have home time at home more of a reality while trying to balance things in my life.  Not simple.  But a good aspirtion.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The World is Run by Unbalanced People

Tonight, I served as the senior faculty member at a dinner attended by multiple junior faculty and the person who is serving as an executive in residence at the Carey Business School.  The person made an interesting comment that I really have to think about.  The comment was made in reaction to a question from a faculty member about career advice that our graduate students were seeking. The executive in residence said something to the effect of the notion that you have to be willing to lead an unbalanced life because the world is run by unbalanced people.  To be the best at something you have to be willing to work harder and sacrifice more and want it more than everyone else.

With that in mind, I face a challenge.  I just finished thinking for forty days about the combination of faith, fitness, and function supporting family.  I want to excel in them all.  I think that the person who was speaking tonight would tell me that I am crazy and that I can't have it all.  I guess the key question is when I will find myself put to the test.  Or perhaps I have already.

I am trying to figure out how to remain disciplined with my running.  It is getting harder and harder.  And there is a distinct difference between the running or physical activity I need just to stay in shape and the training I need to do to race safely and race hard.

I have already given up on my music for the time being.  I'm okay with that.  It is not the first time in my life that my music lost the battle to my running, my academic pursuits, and my future.  (I gave up on piano lessons in my senior year in high school for essentially the same reason--running and all.)

I may have to give up on other activities.

I may need to prove just how much I want to succeed in my career to make it work.

I am not sure about the cost of doing that.

At some point, I may have to do some soul searching to determine just how much it is worth.  I'm not sure I'm ready to grapple with that.

I hope it doesn't come soon.

But, I have to remind myself, that ultimately family has to win.  The key is how to support what my family wants and needs.

There are no simple answers.

But it remains my focus.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Where 40 Days of Discernment has Led Me?

Before I comment on the conclusion of forty days of discernment on the road to better, I want to talk about the race today.  I ran a 1:33:20 half marathon.  I can look at this one of two ways.  As a shortcoming, it is 1 minute 38 second off my main goal (his 7:00 per mile average) or 3:20 off my other goal (run a 1:30).  In a more positive light, it is the fastest I have run a half marathon distance anywhere other than on the NCR trail, and it was on a course that was challenging.  Either way, I was happy with the experience.  A main observation is that I ran the first 5.7 miles (according to the official time) at a 6:47 pace and then slowed down.  I clearly lost some speed on the uphills to get to Lake Montebello and then never recovered and ran the negative splits I hoped for.

I have a second story about the race situation that I think is worth telling.  People who are not runners wonder about the fellowship among runners.  I saw an incredible example of that fellowship today.  There were two gentlemen I kept playing leapfrog with throughout the race.  The one guy first encouraged me as I passed by him working it up the hill running along Linwood.  Later when he had a chance to pass me, I encouraged him back.  Then, we traded encouragement back and forth throughout the rest of the race.  I couldn't estimate the guys age but he was wearing a sweatshirt, which I could not imagine wearing.  The other guy was a ginger-haired kid who looked about half my age.  I didn't say anything to him until I came up on him for what must have been the third or fourth lead change on Howard Street.  At that point, I said to him, "Hey, we've been playing leapfrog the whole race.  What do you have left?"  He eventually passed me again, and I tried to keep him in my sights the rest of the way.  But he did beat me (as did the other guy I mentioned).  What was cool was what happened after the race.  The first guy I described, I was close enough to at the end that we just gave each other a fist punch with a congratulations.  The second guy was a different story.  When the race is done, the runners walk a distance between barricades, then turn a corner, get a heat blanket, get a water, and get the medal.  I forget where in the process, I met the younger guy, but he actually turned around to look for me and went out of his way to congratulate me (and I returned the favor of course).  Maybe he would have done just as well if I had not challenged him to see what he had left.  But I would like to think that challenging him made a difference.  The fact that he made a point to come back speaks to the fellowship among runners.

So, how does this flow into my end of forty days discernment?  The themes I had through my forty days focused on running, work, religion, and family.  If I aim for a little alliteration, we could say "Fitness, Faith, Function, and Family".  

What I would say is that I have to make sure I keep up my fitness, faith, and function and that keeping all three of these working well would help me support my efforts to have the best family life I can.  If I had a really cool graphic design, I would have a four pointed pyramid (like an old four-sided die from Dungeons & Dragons) with fitness, faith, and function as the corners on the bottom supporting family at the top--because family comes above all else.

To do this all well, I need to make sure that I focus on what matters via Peter Block's logic (and only on what matters--so this may mean doing fewer things), give it my all and accept no less or feeling like I am wasting the Gift via Steve Prefontaine's words, and realizing that I have most of what I need in me already if I just try to find it via the Gospel reading last week.

So, a new focus on finding what I need in me and focusing and giving it my all, will be what I hold moving forward.  

And, I will think about how far I have already come.  The last time I ran the Baltimore Half Marathon (2009 to be exact when I ran a 1:46:05) I could not have imagined saying anything to the two guys I spoke to during the run today.  Thinking about other runners.  Thinking about how they help me and how I can help them.  And thinking about the importance of the connection at the end of the race.  I can take this to the office--thinking about professional development and what members of my team can do for me as well as get from me.  I can take this to other running situations.  I can take this to my Sunday school teaching as I think about each child's needs and what I can learn from each child.  And, of course, I can take this to my family-thinking about what each member needs from me and I from them.  All in the context of doing what matters and doing it well. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 40

Today is the last of the days before the half marathon.  Tomorrow--whatever the temperature and whatever is going on with precipitation or not, I will run.  I am better.  I am ready.  I will run.  I will wear my watch but try to minimize the number of times I look at it.  I will take water while I run but mostly poor it over my head.  I expect not to take food while I run--I will eat early in the morning when I awaken.  I will just run.  And I will breath.  And I will enjoy it.

My bib number (see the picture to the right) is 10470.  I have not done a blog entry about a bib number in a long time.  In part, that is because I have not raced in a long time.  However, I figured that with the opportunity to have this as a moment of reflection on the last of the 40 days on the road to better, it might be a good thing to do.  Then, on race day, I can write about where my discernment has led me and draw this to a conclusion.

So, what verse did I come up with?  I had to stretch my imagination to find something that I liked in this case.  I came up with searching for a book in which verses 10 and 11 (4+7) from the beginning (0), so 1:10-11, would mean something to me.  I found Mark 1:10-11
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. 
And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
So, why is this relevant to me.  Jesus had just been baptized.   God was pleased with his obedience.  It is a sign that obedience is well rewarded.

I do not claim to have been obedient to everything in the church.  Nor do I claim to think that I am necessarily going to be well rewarded by God.  But I do believe in following instructions when it comes to training.  I do believe in doing things right when it comes to being ready to run.  And I do believe that if I do what I plan and I follow instructions, good things will come.

This carries over to other parts of life.  Following directions is generally a good thing.  I don't expect the voice of God to ever greet me when I follow directions.  I don't expect a gold star every time I follow directions.  Following directions should just be second nature.  A part of life. An expected thing to do.  But sometimes I need reminding.  And finding this set of two verses on the day before a race is a good thing to remind me of the importance of following a plan during the race and following a plan in life to maximize the probability of a successful outcome.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 39

This morning's run was supposed to be an easy 4 mile run just to get the legs to be loose.  Nothing major, now it is a matter of waiting, although I will sneak in a run on the day before the race.  And sometimes, to quote the song (for the second straight day I am quoting a song) from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Waiting is the hardest part."  Waiting the last few days before a big race is almost always like this.  Although this taper is not the same as any other taper I have ever done.  Waiting is still hard.

What I actually ran this morning was--nothing. I don't think that running with a resting body temperature over 100 is a good idea.  So, that makes this taper even more unusual than any other. 

That is an important lesson to teach my kids.  Waiting is important.  Patience is important.  Some things can take a while to become a reality.

One thing I had to wait for recently was to see what type of story was written about my combined Boston/Baltimore experience.  In the end, the part of the story that got the most attention was about my thinking about the eight year old who died.  Apparently that is an attention getter as this is the second time that something like this has gotten someone's attention for a story.  Even six months later.  I like the fact that my shoes got a mention.  But I had to wait more than a week to find out how a 30 minute conversation turned into an interesting story in the Sun.

This is also an important lesson to teach students and others I mentor or lead professionally.  Waiting.  Patience.  Making sure that everything is in place.  Then making a decision and taking an action.

Leadership is something that I have thought a lot about since I changed jobs and a lot since I have started the forty days to better.

I have looked at some changes in my leadership in the past six months.  I have talked to the people on my organizational chart a lot more.  (I was supposed to yesterday afternoon but instead went home to sleep.  My voice would not have been in good shape by the end of an afternoon of talking constantly.)  When I run meetings, I don't always sit at the head of the table any more.  I try to be part of the group, even if I am nominally the head of the group.  I also have made it a point to make sure that everyone gets a chance to express an opinion.  I have made it a point to follow up more quickly on things.  So many changes.

The book, The Answer to How is Yes, pointed out a term called social architecture.  It talked about things like choosing where to sit.  Choosing how to position the table.  Choosing how to show priority or equality.

I know I still have a lot to learn.  A lot to learn about leading.  A lot to learn about mentoring.  A lot to learn about helping others to achieve all they have the potential to achieve.

And the learning will probably continue for as long as I am in leadership positions.  This is not a once and done type of thing.  This is part of me for the long haul.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 38

Today I had a choice.  I woke up early enough to make the choice between going back to sleep to get some more rest or getting up to do a combination of running, work. perhaps baking.  In the end, I decided to take the day off from running.  My body is suffering from the sore throat and congestion I mentioned yesterday, and I need to give it every chance to heal itself to the highest degree possible before Saturday morning.  Yes, I will have to run the remaining two mornings this week.  But I plan to do no more than 4 miles on each of the two remaining days.  Just to loosen my legs up a little.  Just to make sure I am still getting into the running.  I won't improve my speed or cardio at this point.  And I could lose a lot if I were to fall and hurt myself or strain a muscle.  I just have to remember what the past 40 days and, in fact, all my training since Boston have been about--running the best half marathon possible three days from now.

The sleep also makes it more likely that I will make it through the day at work today without losing concentration.  It makes it more likely I won't feel the need to doze.  But I do always have the option of calling it a day early if I am really not feeling well.  

Life lesson?  I have to focus on making sure that I do what is smart.  That I improve.  That I take responsibility for me.  I don't often think of Michael Jackson songs, but this is a case where the song Man in the Mirror comes to mind.  Look at myself and make a change.

I can't change anyone else.  I can only change myself.

And if I change myself for the better, I hope and pray that will be better for those around me.  I hope and pray that will facilitate change that those around me need to make (if they need to make any).  I hope and pray that working together, each person being responsible for himself or herself, can work together for a better whole.  Making the world a better place for all.

But all I can do is improve myself.  Through 38 of the 40 days on the road to better, I have spent a lot of time thinking, a lot of time pondering, a lot of time reflecting.  I am pretty sure that as I reach the end of forty days of discernment I have a story to tell.  I have an idea of how to change my life.  I have an idea of what to do so that my life is better and those around me have better lives as well.  

And once I get there, all I can do is wait and see what happens.  Day by day.  Week by week.  Month by month.  Are goals met?  Is the change positive?  What can I do more or less of in continuing to build the road to better.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 37

Today's run was a 3x3200 workout with someone taking pictures for a story that is supposed to appear in the Baltimore Sun tomorrow.  The 3200 meter intervals were each run in 13 minutes or less (12:57, 12:56, 12:53).  With a somewhat burning sore throat and a small amount of congestion, I didn't think I would make it through the third one at that pace.  But I managed to.  I had a friend encouraging me and I dug as deep as I could to make sure that all three met the goals we had set together and run together over the past month.  It was an awesome feeling.

It was a lesson as to what it takes to dig deep.  Having someone nearby who cared about whether I dug deep certainly helped.  Having someone nearby who challenged me to dig deep.  Having someone nearby who was digging as deeply as me.  

This speaks to me about collaboration as well as about digging deep.  When it comes to running, it has been a wonderful collaborative experience ever since preparation for marathon number 1.  More collaborative sometimes.  Less collaborative others.  Right now, I am missing the constant collaboration I had for a while and running a lot of miles alone.  Still, I persist.

Collaboration is always more fun for me when I am being helped and challenged and that the person with whom I am collaborating is just as challenged.  (On that point, my fellow runner this morning may not have been exactly just as challenged, but he was working pretty hard.)

This can be done at work.

This can be done in volunteer activities.

This can be done in a marriage.

Each of them involves collaboration sometimes.  Each of them involves doing things on my own at other times.

On the alone times, I think about silence.  With so many meetings and so many relationships to nurture, silence can be good.  The other morning I commented about liking going out running and hearing the city awaken.  Just yesterday when I walked my dog before my run there were no cars.  And I thought of the song we sing at church sometimes, Sacred Silence.  A reflective time.  A serene time.

In that moment of sacred silence in my life, I thought of the Boston memories coming back to me one more time this past weekend.  I finally received my completion certificate and the record book.  It is an amazing document.  But all the memories of the day and what the experience has meant and continues to mean to me, and my story telling through blogging, and the definition of what matters in my life, came rushing over me again.

This time they passed quickly.  Helped by the moments of sacred silence I sometimes steal.  

But I realize, again, that in my life, the fact that I was there in Boston that day will always be a part of me.  I can never completely leave it behind.

It will affect me and ultimately all with whom I collaborate.  

That was a day when I tried to dig deep but felt I had nothing left at the end.  Today, I dug deep and had something.  I never want to feel like I have nothing left to give ever again.  There is always more.  And trying harder over and over again is what makes me who I am.  

I will still fail sometimes.

But it won't be for lack of trying. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 36

Today, I ran 6.2 miles at a decent pace just under 8 minutes per mile.  That was after baking two banana breads (easy recipe and needing to use up bananas) and making a pizza dough. Even the kids pointed out just how much bread we had in the house.  Some English muffins from the store, leftover chocolate chip and everything bagels homemade yesterday, and everything made this morning.  As a result, I will be able to take tomorrow off from making bread.

Then I walked the dog before I ran.  While I was walking the dog it was very quiet.  Barely even heard cars in the distance.  That silence was nice.  I'll expect to write more about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I want to reflect on the Gospel verse I heard at St. Pius X church in Towson yesterday.  Here it is (Luke 17:5-10):
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you."
Fr. Sam stated, although maybe not verbatim, that Jesus was essentially telling his apostles, you already have it in you, trust yourself.

What a message for me to hear as a person.  As a dad.  As a manager.  As a (hopefully) leader and not just a manager.  As a runner.  As a teacher.  Perhaps even as a husband, although that is the one that I know I have to work on the most to prove that I have what it takes and to prove that I can trust myself to know how to be a good husband all the time.

Now, I have heard the message of do what matters from The Answer to How is Yes.  I have heard that if I am not giving my all I am sacrificing the Gift, from Steve Prefontaine.   And I have yesterday's Gospel reading as guidance to add on top of that.

Tying the three together, the book by Peter Block tells me, "you have the power to make the world a better place."  Steve Prefontaine didn't say what anyone could necessarily do with "the Gift" but that by giving my all I could use "the Gift" to its fullest.  And now, "you have what it takes".

So how do I tie this all together as I move ahead.  

I have to realize I have what it takes.  I have to recognize what I have.  I have to make the most of what I have.

However, good outcomes are not guaranteed.

But satisfaction in life is.  Would this be it for everyone?

I can't say.  I suspect some don't look for such fulfillment.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 35

After ten days of running, I took this morning off.  My dog was happy as she got to go for a half-hour walk at 6 AM.  The skies look gray today.  Can't be sunny all the time, I suppose.  And while my stomach is now feeling better, the skies look how my attitude was yesterday as I slogged through ten miles at a relatively high temperature for October and my stomach was in knots for reasons that remain a mystery to me.  

Most of my reading recently has been for stuff directly related to work.  Yesterday, I had a chance to finish a book my 17 year old had picked up for me for Father's Day.  It was a book about Steve Prefontaine.  He was an amazing American runner in the early 1970's who died a tragic death in 1975.  The last chapter of the book began with a quote from him, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift."

That is a profound statement.  He made it, I presume, mostly about running.  However, it applies to so much.  I have been given many gifts.  Sometimes I feel like I have lived up to the call to give my best.  Sometimes, I know I have fallen short.  

As I look ahead, I want to focus on what the book that I have referred to many times in the forty days suggests (the book being The Answer to How is Yes).  It suggests focusing on what matters most.

If I focus on what matters most and giving my all--what more could I ask for.

What I struggle with is that a lot of things matter.  So sometimes choosing what matters most is a real challenge.

In addition, the people in my life around me don't always agree with me on what matters most.

So there will need to be tradeoffs.

There will need to be compromises.

But experience suggests that following the road to better to a place in which I am clear about what I think matters most and giving my all to what matters most will be fulfilling for me.

Then, I have to try to create an environment where each person around me can give what they feel is their all to what matters most and the world should be a happier place for all.

Of course, a final reflection for this morning is that I also have to realize that in the same way that I ask others to allow me to choose my focus and define giving my best, I have to allow that in others as well.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 34

I normally write after I run.  This morning, for the second straight morning, I am waiting to see if my stomach calms down enough to run.  Don't know what has been going on with the GI system for the past two days.  Certainly hope I don't feel like this next Saturday on the morning of the Baltimore running festival.

In any case, there is a topic I have been thinking about all week.  Thinking back to the old song by The Police that includes the lines "If you love somebody" (over and over again) followed by "Set them free."  Whatever the context of this in the song sung by The Police, I am thinking of this in terms of a child.  I was inspired to think about this because of an issue in Sunday school that I had a long discussion with Sherry about afterwards and eventually asked the Director of Religious Education at my church to help me with.

A well meaning parent, in a family in which both parents had described their child as very shy, wanted to volunteer in my classroom.  So, on the third Sunday of this year's Sunday School program, this parent was in the classroom.  The child acted completely differently.  The child who had been a little antsy became very antsy.  The child who while not volunteering a lot had responded politely when asked questions suddenly didn't respond to me.

Was this the first time I had seen a child act completely differently around parents than not around parents?  No.  I've been at parenting long enough to have seen this in a variety of settings.  

But in this case it was clear that the parent needed to let the child "be free." At least of the parent.  At least for one hour on a Sunday morning.  To let the child just be the child.  To see how the child would behave.  To see what the child would take away from the experience.  To see what the progress the child will make.

I am no miracle worker as a Sunday school teacher.

I am not perfect as a Sunday school teacher.

I am sure that some parents would find my conversational style with the kids unusual.  Some parents probably expect Sunday school to be a lecture (one-to-many in at least some educators' language) rather than a discussion.  While I want to have a discussion.  I want the kids to be active.  I may even choose (if the seats are set up to help this) to sit with the kids rather than stand at the front of the room this week.  

Is there a bigger lesson here?  For parenting--for sure.  In any situation, I have to assess whether y guidance is too much.  Whether my efforts to seemingly help may actually hinder my child's development.

As a manager and leader--perhaps.  When I am micromanaging but should trust my staff to do their jobs?  

In running--there is something about micromanaging.  Last night I wrote about being too analytical.  Too control.  Rather than just following my heart and legs.  So, maybe there is even a lesson here for running.

Fascinating--as so much of what I have written about in these 40 days on the road to better has been about how lessons from running permeate the rest of my life.  Today, I have turned that on its head and taken a lesson from elsewhere and linked it back to running.  Funny how life works that way sometimes.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 33

Since I started running marathons, running has become a very analytic activity.  What is my split at each 400 on the track?  What is my time per mile?  Am I too fast?  If I run too slowly can I make it up later?  Should I go a lot faster on the downhill or hold back?  How can I manage to keep anything close to my usual pace uphill?  So many questions.  Seeking so many answers.  And spending so much mental energy trying to find them that I often waste not only mental energy and concentration on the goal of finishing in the quickest time possible (while I worry about the most consistent time possible instead) but also physical energy.  And when I waste concentration and physical energy, I end up running times slower than I hope for.  I have commented numerous times in different settings about running with my head rather than just with my heart.  Running with a plan is not a bad idea.  But spending too much time and effort obsessing about the plan never got me a better time.  

So, today's lesson was about running with my heart rather than with my head.  This morning, I woke up after 4:30 and had to do dishes.  I anticipated being able to get out to run regardless--and hopefully got for five miles.  In the end, I ended up doing just a 2.6 mile run.  Nothing wrong with that.  A ran a ninth day in a row.  It is there, that I begin the thinking about running with my heart rather than my head.

And, so, we have another poem...

If I Had Run With My Head
If I had run with my head
Rather than with my heart
Things would have been different this morning.
My head would have looked at the analytic side.
My head would have said, "You've run eight straight days
Before today.
What would Coach Marie say?"
And I would have thought to myself about how Coach Marie
Taught me
And others in the Charm City Run training group
About the need
For rest.
My head would have looked at the analytic side.
My head would have said, "It is only nine days till race morning.
What kind of taper are you doing?
You are avoiding tempo, but that
Is nothing new.
But why are you running so much?
You won't increase speed.
You won't increase endurance.
Just ease up."
These things I have heard many times.
My head would have looked at the analytic side.
My head would have stopped part way through the systems check
Before the run.
Heart--ready to pump it up.
GI--not feeling so good. 
In knots for reasons I can't figure out.
My head would have said, "Why run?
When the body feels this way?
On top of all the other things."

My head would have looked at the analytic side.
My head would have said, "Isn't three strikes enough
To be out?"
But I am learning not to run with my head.

I feel much better.
I am learning to run 
With my heart and legs.
Two's company--and three's a crowd.
So the head gets left out.
And when I listen to my legs and heart.
The legs are always ready.
The heart whispers just two words,
That is why I run.
Build confidence--to complete things.
Build confidence--to work through things.
Build confidence--to keep going.
Build confidence--in those around me.
Build confidence--in myself.
Trust myself.
Trust my heart.
And no more words need to be said.
It was clearly time to run.

What I need is to take the attitude expressed at the end.  The attitude of working toward a goal.  The attitude of having confidence in myself and others. The attitude of trusting my heart.  And take that into the rest of my life.  On the road to better. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 32

This morning I could have chosen not to run.  In fact, at one point on Facebook, on the site of a friend who talked about her own tempo run and asked how many miles people were going, I commented that I may take the day off.  I didn't.  I ran a simple 3.2 miles.  Used to be--when I drove to join a group to run three or four times a week--that I didn't think that anything less than 4 miles was worth it.  Now, I run 3 or so on a regular basis.  Partly because I don't need to drive.  Partly because I feel like I just have less time.

The run came after doing some work, washing dishes, walking the dog, and making bagels (not in that order).  I paid for it with a little fading in the middle of the day but had a very nice class that I taught this evening.

What did I learn from my experience in the universe today?  I'd like to put in terms of a free form poem:

This morning I could have chosen not to run.
This morning I could have chosen not to go in a 3.2 mile loop.
This morning I could have chosen another 26 minutes of something else.
But if I had, I would have missed so many things.
I would have missed the opportunity to see the city come alive.
I would have missed the beautiful color of the sky before the sun rises.
I would have missed the opportunity to use my legs for more than I do the rest of the day.
I would have missed the opportunity to breathe deeply and fully.
I would have missed the uphills.
I would have missed the downhills.
I would have missed the sweat that runs down my face when I make an effort.
I would have missed the experience of engaging fulling all my senses in life.
And that would be sad.
This morning I could have chosen not to run.
But I didn't.
And life is good.

The key for me is that this is not just about running.  There are many choices I make in life.  I can choose to do or choose not to do many things.  I can choose not to engage.  I can choose to disengage.  But every time I make such a choice I miss an opportunity to experience life fully.  I should stop making such choices and engage fully in the life I lead with the people I have chosen (or been blessed) to lead it with.  

The idea of choosing to do rather than not do is not something to be taken lightly.  It is something to be cherished and enjoyed.  And the joy of the experience should be shared. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 31

Today's run was a simple 3.3 mile in between harder days run.  Nothing special.  Just sort of there.  Not that that was a problem.  Just a fact.

Before I ran I made two loaves of banana bread.  They were yummy.

Before I ran I walked the dog.  While walking the dog, I noticed the stars of Orion's belt.  That is one of the main constellations that you can see in the sky from my home when I am up before dawn.  I can't pick out many more than the belt and maybe a couple others.  I didn't study the constellations closely enough as a kid.

I was pleasantly surprised to see another Waldorf parent write a post about Orion on Facebook this morning.  She referred to Orion as strong and bright.  I didn't ask why she was either looking out the window or out before drinking her coffee (based on her post) but I did comment back on the beauty of the constellation.

The constellation is a symbol.  It may represent something that was real--or at least more real.  But it is just an image in the sky.  

An image is not a reality.  It may be close but it is not real.

This is in contrast with a comment I received later today.  After running my first all staff meeting including now close to 40 people in my office, I was approached by a staff member.  She told me that someone had told her before I came to my new position that she would find that I was the "real deal".  She told me that after six months she had to agree.  Not just speaking symbolically.  Not just an image of someone good.  But someone who really really is good.  

Why?  I saw something that was being imposed on the staff of my office, noticed that it was dysfunctional, and rather than simply saying, "We just have to deal with it," I took a pro-active role, brought it to a stop, and indicated that on my watch it would not continue until I had a chance to deal with those who were responsible for this particular activity to improve the process.  My staff likes being heard.  They like being valued.  The like having their work valued.  

What I find interesting is that I ask, "Well, who wouldn't notice?  What type of manager would not do something about it?  Who would leave their employees to feel undervalues, underappreciated, and marginalized?"  Apparently, there are other managers who might--or my staff member would not have had the reaction she did.

I am glad to be a "real" person to my employees who treats them as "real" people and is seen as caring about them. 

What I would hope is that all my friends and family would feel that way.

I know some do.

I know others sometimes do.

I know that others may question whether I am the "real deal" or not.

Coming back to trying harder that I wrote about yesterday, I want to try harder to make sure that everyone in my life can recognize me as the "real deal".

Will I succeed?  That, I cannot answer.

I can only strive to make it truth.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

40 Days to Better: Day 30

This morning, I ran what I can only describe as one of my most incredible track workouts ever.  I ran 4x2400 (that is six laps for each interval), with my friend Brian who is aiming for a sub-3 hour marathon.  We ran each of the six lap intervals at a 6:30/1600m (approximately a mile) pace.  It was a great workout with a wonderful sense of accomplishment.  

During the workout we had another Back on My Feet affiliated runner do the first 1200 of each 2400 with us.  He ran the same pace as us.  Brian commented on not feeling like he could possibly complete the workout when he woke up but realizing that we had planned the run for today came out.

While I didn't express exactly the same thing, I did note that after the large dinner I had at the Lebanese Taverna last night, the lamb still felt it was sitting in my stomach.  As a result, I didn't think I would be able to complete the workout either, but came out because we had planned it together.

This is a minor example of having to make the type of choice I described yesterday--between walking away and trying harder.  This was just about a hard workout, but nevertheless a simple run.  Still, it was a challenge that both Brian and I rose to meet.  

That is a lesson for me.  In things where I can complete a task myself, I can simply choose to rise to the challenge.  It could be running still.  (Although life is not all about running.)  It could be about work.  It could be about teaching.  Walking away in these cases would mostly be a disappointment to myself.  Perhaps to a supervisor or coworker or student.  That is not to say that I would completely discount these relationships.  I see my work as a fundamental part of me.  I see my teaching as a fundamental part of me.  And I see my running (particularly after getting a tattoo) as a fundamental part of me.

But there are many activities in life that take more than one person to complete.  Those include parenting, marriage, and friendship.  In many of those cases, both people need to rise to the challenge.  But in those cases, if I don't rise to the challenge and try harder than it doesn't matter if the other person does.  

Sometimes the goal is not as clear as a specific time in running.

I am lucky enough to say that I have been able to meet many of my running goals.  Sometimes, the goals is not as easy to reach as my running goals.  

But at the end of the day I have to remember that it is worth trying ten times (or more like one hundred times) as hard to preserve positive interpersonal relationships than to reach any running goal.

In the end, very few people will care how fast I ever ran anything (other than I ran Boston fast enough not to be near the chaos).  However, many people will hopefully remember me fondly when I am gone.  We have had numerous retirements/leavings in the business school since I joined and it is overwhelming to hear the respect that many of my colleagues have earned.    

That only comes from consistently trying harder rather than walking away.  

So, I go on the road to better attempting to consistently make the right choice.  But admitting that there have been plenty of wrong ones.