Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Run, Business, and Dinner

This is a long entry.

Today, I ran at a time I do not usually run.  I ran in the afternoon.  In the morning, I needed to be prepared to take my two younger children to school.  The youngest had his third grade play today.  A play about Moses called, “The Child of the Nile.”  The school is not religious but does a lot with both Christian and Jewish traditions and uses the Old Testament as literature for third grade.

Usually my wife would have just taken them and I would have tagged along after dropping our oldest son off, but my wife and oldest left for Michigan immediately after the play. The oldest one auditions on two instruments for the School of Music at the University of Michigan tomorrow.   

After the play, I took my middle one for a call back for his visual arts audition at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Then I went to work.  Got about a half day of work in.  Picked up the kids and went to the Y to run.  At this point I would MUCH rather run outside.  And the temperature was right.  But with busy streets and many still un-shoveled sidewalks in front of people’s houses, I decided to take at least one more day to run inside.

Today’s run?  My now very familiar 8 min/mile pace for one hour.  So 7.5 miles to bring my total for 2014 to 170.7 miles.  60.2 of them have been in the Brooks Launch.  Definitely liking the shoes.

The run was uneventful, although I do have to say that it is much more exciting to people watch at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday than in the morning most days.  Not that any one person was particularly interesting.  Just that the number of people was so much greater that it made it more interesting.

Where does this put me? I am now continuing west on Pennsylvania Route 31.  I am really in between towns, having left Somerset (actually, my wife and oldest stopped at the Somerset rest stop today on their way to Michigan and ate a fast food lunch).  Having left town, the only real landmarks on today’s run were the Pike Run Church and the Laurel Hill Creek and a few ponds near a camp ground more or less just off Route 31.

A comment on work two days ago.  I mentioned that I had been asked to be the master of ceremonies for an event organized at the behest of the Dean but which the Dean could not attend.  I was given cards with speaking points.  Having been asked once to hold the cards while holding a hand held microphone, I now know why the Dean usually has a wireless microphone and will ask for one (or a podium) next time I am asked to emcee.  I stuck to the talking points to introduce the guitar duo that was performing.  What I enjoyed was the opportunity to adlib a little bit afterwards.

In particular, the guitar player who did all the introduction of the pieces played mentioned that the guitar was a very versatile instrument and was suited to many types of music.  I appreciate that.  As an easy start there is country, rock, jazz, and classical.  Then, within classical there are any number of genres.  As I sat in the front row and watched the musicians play, I thought about the how the guitar players played, what it said about their effort, and how business students who will turn into business leaders could take some lessons from the experience.

So, after giving the basic post performance “Let’s give the performers an extra round of applause” and before wishing people a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year and inviting them to the reception in the lobby, I reflected a little bit on the playing.  I first pointed out how much better they were than I had ever been.  I was sort of able to play some chords for camp-fire sing along type of songs at one point.  But I was not really very good. 

Then, I mentioned versatility, precision, teamwork, and second nature.  How do those relate do the musicians?  And how does that relate to business?

Well, not only is the guitar a versatile instrument but the musicians played a mix of Spanish and Chinese music (and perhaps one other).  The musicians were versatile as well.  When we train students in the business school, we hope that they are versatile in the types of business problems that they will be good at dealing with some day.  Some problems for which much time can be taken.  Some problems where decisions need to be made immediately. Some problems with very clear decisions.  Some problems with very difficult decisions that raise all sorts of ethical questions.  Some personnel questions.  Some financial questions.  Our students, particularly our MBA students, should be able throughout their careers, should be able to address them all.

Precision?  Well, watching the musicians play amazed me.  I have always been amazed watching guitar players. I got good enough at piano as a child to call myself a bit above a beginner.  But not really very good.  But I could imagine how pianists fingers move quickly over the keyboard.  I have always been even more amazed at the precision on a fret board with six strings.  How to know which fret to press down for which string and which string or strings to pluck or strum.  When our students go out and become business leaders some day, they will need to have the same level of precision.  Precision in their analysis.  Precision in their decisions.  Precision in their consideration of different options.

Teamwork?  Clearly, for the performing duo, their playing complemented each other quite nicely.  In business, we are training leaders at the business school.  But even leaders have to understand teamwork.  In my position, I have five direct reports.  But I am also one of nine who sit at the table with the Dean each week to discuss the school and make decisions.  I have to work with others.  I have to get others to participate in their teamwork.  And given that no one person knows everything to run the organization there is a need for a lot of teamwork generally.

Finally, second nature.  The musicians looked like the playing was second nature to them.  They occasionally had to look at the fret boards or at whatever music they had.  But generally they just glanced at each other, looked out to the audience, or appeared to be concentrating.  The key is that they could just play.  When we are training students, we do not expect them to “just know” or “just make decisions.”  But as the students develop in their careers they should evolve to a point at which they can make decisions that are second nature to them.  They should take the lessons we teach, their motivation, and their wisdom, and make decisions that should become second nature to them.

After thinking about that while running today, I came home and made dinner with my two sons who are home at the moment.  We had angel hair pasta; some garlic pressed and lightly cooked in olive oil; some of the water from cooking the pasta; the fat from cooking pancetta mixed with the olive oil and water; mixing in the crumbled pancetta; and then topping with some fresh ground pepper and Parmesan to taste. 

It was wonderful.

So, lots to contemplate today.  Family activity.  My running. Steady progress toward my 2000 mile goal.  Music and business.  And very good food.

Life is good.

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