Sunday, February 28, 2016

Get Back Up

My friend over at So What? I Run has inspired another blog entry.  Today, she posted about falling down a half mile into a six mile run.  But she got back up and kept on going.  I cheered her for that and then wanted to share a relevant story from my son's hockey team.

The hockey team had a frustrating weekend.  They played against a very physical team and thought that the other team was not being called for things that the boys thought should have been called.  The complaining is not representative of "falling down and getting back up again."  But, I would say that they were not whiny about it.  I don't know enough hockey to know what should have been called, so we will leave that part of the story here.

What does show falling down and getting back up again was they way they handled themselves in the second game.  In the first game, they were tied 3-3 near the end of the game.  A penalty was called so that the other team had a power play.  To the parents on our team, the penalty seemed unreasonable, but bad calls happen.  The other team quickly scored on the power play and handed our kids a loss 4-3/

They came back today and played hard in the first period (not letting the loss yesterday keep them down), but ended up down 3-1.  The level of play was not that different but the other team lucked out on things more.  The second period was also hard for the boys, and they were down 6-1 at the end of two.  Their coach gave them a rousing pep talk before the final period, and they came out and scored three goals early in the third period to make it 6-4.  While they had fallen behind, they didn't stay down.  The kept right on fighting through.  Near the end of the game, the goalie got landed on and was not comfortable staying in.  The boys coach went to an open goal situation and they scored another goal with less than a minute to go.  At that point, a tie would definitely have been a moral victory.

Unfortunately, there were more penalties called in the last minute that made the difference more than one.  But the kids fought hard.  They showed that spirit of not letting being down mean staying down.

My run today was a careful one after a tinge of pain in my left thigh yesterday.  But I also found what I needed in my run today.  I am so glad for that after spending many weeks in the fall running very gingerly after something went awry just before and during the Freedoms Run Marathon.

And the men who benefit from Sharp Dressed Man are working to find a way to not let being down mean staying down.

So, my friend, my son's hockey team, my own running, and the men who benefit from the not-for-profit I support all share one thing--a tenacity to not let being down mean staying down.  

Running is a Mental Game

Not everyone appreciates just how much of a "mental game" running can be.  I have a friend at So What? I Run who did not like her workout yesterday and posted that she needs to turn on her mental game. I know that feeling.  It is one reason I ran four marathons in a row between 3:14:01 and 3:15:59 and then came back 18 months later and was able to run 3:09:49.  Yes, there were a lot of hard trained miles in there as well, but it was in large part a mental game helped along by my running guardian angel who had run behind me for 22 miles but who came up to finish with me.

Yesterday was another great example of mental game--even at the training level.  I love to run quickly.  Historically, I have loved to run more quickly than I should for many workouts.  Yesterday was an example of control.  I ran 5.4 miles at almost exactly target pace alone.  I then ran 7.5 miles with a training partner without having to look at our watches a little bit on either side of the target pace but none ridiculously fast or slow.  All while chatting.  A little over half way through I felt something that was not just sore but was more "that hurts" in my left thigh. But I relaxed, took a little off the pace, and it went away.  Part of a long developed mental reaction to what can go wrong.

Then, when we parted, I ran the 5.4 miles home.  And I maintained right on pace.  No major slow down or speed up.

Another part of the mental game is staying hydrated.  One might think that is not mental at all but almost instinctive, but I need to remind myself to take little drinks.  Yesterday I did on a regular basis.  Next challenge--bigger drinks on a regular basis to be fully and appropriately hydrated.  And that is mental. Reminders.  Notes.  Get it done.

So, my friend's note is an excellent remind of the importance of the mental game.  Makes me think about my own mental game--control, reminders, not "good enough" but "as good as it can be," and seeking the goal of 55.5 miles in May.  A mental game is the only way I'll get there.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Simplest Things

I've written a lot about pursuing my dream--the Comrades run.

I've structured my thinking about helping others pursue their dreams--getting jobs and getting back into the swing of life, getting suits from Sharp Dressed Man.

I want to help the organization however I can.  I'm still trying to figure out how to do that other than helping them raise more money, get more suits, and get more people involved.

That said, I do also have career dreams.  I don't want to end my career ladder at Vice Dean.  I'm not sure where I will end up, but I do like having a vision, sharing my vision, and making people feel like they can count on me to facilitate them taking opportunities and running with them.  To achieve for themselves.  To achieve for the organization.  To benefit all who are in or served by the organization.

But along the way, I don't want to forget anyone.  Today, I had two really simple incidents that made me focus on never forgetting all of those around me--whether they are one level down on the organizational chart or on a completely different organizational chart--everyone matters.

In a lunch meeting welcome a new member of my leadership team, a long-time member of my team told me that several people have asked her if I am a real hippy.  You wouldn't think that from my current hair cut, but you may think it from my whole-calf tattoo.  People apparently ask because of how I come across as kind and considerate and having played electric bass in my church's worship band.  The person with whom I work tells people I couldn't be a hippy as I never smoked pot.  (Truth.)  But it is an interesting impression. And it speaks to the impression I have cultivated of being someone who truly cares about those I work with.  (In the same way I care about those I run with and those who benefit from any activity I'm in.)

This was after, not fifteen minutes earlier, when I was leaving a meeting, I saw a fellow employee from a different part of the organization who was trying to open a door that was a push out door that needed to be activated to open but had her hands full.  She looked like she was having a tough time. S I moved to open the door. In the end, she just about had it, but I did help her at least a little.  She gave what sounded like a heartfelt thanks.  I don't deserve much credit for that.  And I'd like to think that anyone would have done it.  But there is something to be said for not being so focused on just moving ahead--this was off to the side of where I was going.  There is something to be said for taking a few seconds out to redirect.  And there is something to be said for just giving a nice hello to someone who seemed a little flustered when she did come through the door.

It is events like the second that facilitate the impression that I give in the first.  It is that heart felt sense of "we are all in this together" that leads me to think that anyone can make the world a better place.  It leads me to think that even making the world a better place for one person a day (although hopefully more) makes the investment of time and effort all worth while.  And it makes me realize how lucky I am to have people around me who make me want to do that and who will keep me focused and hopefully keep me real even if I do at some point move to another level in the organization I'm in now or some other organization later.

I would not be where I am without the greatness around me--that inspires me to live to my fullest, do for others to the fullest, and be the me I was put here to be.

Thus I run strong.  I bake a lot.  I write a lot.  I share a lot.  And I hope it makes a difference to those around me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Beautiful Sunrise

Running on the morning of February 13, 2016.  The temps were low.  The wind was high.  I had an Under Armour cold gear compression layer, a hooded sweatshirt layer, and a windbreaker layer.  I had a hat.  I had a scarf.  I had two pairs of gloves.  But I did have just on layer on the legs.  I had a fuel belt with two stingers (that I ignored) and three bottles of water.  I had four sides of water during my run, but two of the three bottles froze and I was eventually thirsty for water by the end.  I haven't been truly thirsty on a winter long run in a long time.  I'm wondering if it was half psychological as it was as much about not being able to get water as actually needing water.  

I ran 5.35 to Christopher's Place.  I have not run straight down Greenmount the whole way to Madison that many times, but there was truly no one out this morning.  I think even the drug dealers felt it was so cold that they had to stay in.  I met my training partner and went to the Royal Farms on Key Highway before coming back.  It was so cold that the bridge that connects the piers that the two parts of the aquarium are on was closed due to ice.  Very much a surprise to me.

The wind when heading west felt like a wall to run against.

The most interesting part of the run was as we were headed back along the promenade from the Royal Farms to the Inner Harbor.  As we turned one corner, I looked back over my shoulder to the east.  The sky had multiple shades of pink at the horizon and then the dark gray/purple clouds above.  And what made this sunrise so amazing was not the clouds and the shades.  We have seen that on our early morning runs many times.  What was so amazing was the streaks that appear when snow or rain is falling from the clouds miles away and made it look like a fuzzy gray/purple color between the darker clouds and the horizon with the brilliant pink background.

The unfortunate thing is that we will soon enter daylight savings time and for a while we won't have sunrises that early.

But it is one of the most amazing things about running at that time of day consistently.

And the run was a great part of my pursuit of the the dream to complete Comrades.  One day at a time.   

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Meeting the Executive Director

Today, I had my first opportunity to meet the relatively recently named executive director of Sharp Dressed Man.  It was an incredible first meeting.  She has a background in interior design which led her to realize her interest in marketing and branding.  She has done a lot of work with not-for-profits.  She moved to Baltimore from the midwest and connected with Sharp Dressed Man through a combination of events for her husband and wanting to volunteer.  And now she has the goal of making Sharp Dressed Man the best organization it can be.

  • Working with partner organizations to send men as referrals
  • Working with other partner organizations to provide skills that the men need to re-enter the workforce (like job development) in addition to better clothes
  • Having a vision to expand the organization to other cities

I was able to provide several connections to help to move the organization along.  We will see where it goes.  I am looking forward to helping her directly and raising money for the organization. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Meaningful Comment

Today, I attended a breakfast speaker series that is run by United Way called In Their Own Words.  The speaker was the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.  At my level of donation to the United Way, when I get invitations to these breakfasts, I have the opportunity to invite others to accompany me.  So, for today's breakfast, I had invited three people I have mentored over time--my last MPH advisee, one of the full time MBA students who graduated last May and is still in Baltimore and continuing to look for a job, and one of my training partners for whom I am also  a mentor.

One of the comments from the speaker, which she attributed to former Governor William Donald Schaefer, was "people will not care how much you know until they know how much you care."

I thought that was quite a powerful comment and even shared my thought with my three guests by email afterwards.  I'm not sure that I could have come up with that catchy of a phrase by myself but it is certainly something that I try to live by.

What is most interesting is to think about my own evolution as I have followed my dreams over the years.  I can think about this both in terms of my running life and my academic life.

For my running life, I used to think it was all about how fast I ran.  How far I ran.  How much I know know about running.  That was when I ran alone.  And obviously to run with people, I have to match up with them in terms of paces and distances, but the people I have formed long-lasting running relationships with are those who know how much I care.  Those with whom I have a close personal relationship as well as matching up well for running. When I recognized the importance of those closer personal relationships, running became more than just running.  It became running and writing and mentoring and self-expression.  It became so much more in my life than just exercise.  It became a part of what defines me.  So now when I am trying to reach the goal of completing the 56 mile Comrades run, those I care about and who care about me stick with me, encourage me, and will be cheering me on when the race day arrives.

For my academic life, in the earliest grades, I thought it was all about what I knew.  And to the degree that I showed that I cared, it was usually tied to demonstrating how much I knew and how much better I was academically rather than just helping.  There came a time--starting in the sixth grade and continuing through high school--when I moved away from that.  Still, I had an unnaturally strong interest in making sure I was valedictorian.  Fast forward many years--and in my leadership today, I make sure to get to know people.  I spoke with a new employee in employer relations at the business school today and asked (jokingly) whether career services was what she always dreamed about.  I offered my vision of how student services should be there to help students when they need it but otherwise get out of the way of student success.  I spent a half hour speaking with her and it made an impression.  I talked strategically with two of my direct reports about what comes next for them and for the school.  I have invested in getting to know a ton about them to make the relationships more complete and more meaningful so that they we can succeed together given what we both know and the skills we both have.

Even with respect to Sharp Dressed Man.  Yes, it is great that I know people who might help the two who started the information and the executive director whom I will meet tomorrow to achieve the organization's goals.  But it all has to start from caring about the two guys who started it and caring about serving the men who are helped by the organization to motivate that relationship and build the trust and mutual respect to make this happen.

As I wrote on a social media post this morning.  The expression from the speaker is a set of words to live by.  And a set of words to lead by.  And as I wrote to my guests--I hope they see that in me as much as I see it in myself.  To use a cliché--actions speak louder than words. So, I will test whether my actions are perceived to show my caring for others to the degree I hope they are.