October 4, 2011
It’s been awhile since I have had time to blog. First it was a new job and finding my way around, then the broken toe and the recovery process, and then just the usual drama when associated with raising teens…
I’m taking a break week between jobs. It wasn’t that I wasn’t satisfied in my last job; it was truly that a better opportunity found me. Because I believe that I will cultivate more positivity with the newer opportunity, I made the change. And I got a week to relax, rejuvenate, and blog…
Over the prior two weeks, I wanted to be sure that I had left my old gig well, completing technical reports, effectively transferring knowledge and information, and reinforcing the positives with my many wonderful colleagues. Although it probably looked “effortless” to those around me, it took time, effort and was quite stressful.
Being the data junkie that I am, I was delighted to see that the effects are measurable. When I reviewed my heart-rate (HR) results from my regular Sunday runs (which are essentially the same week-to-week, 6.8 miles in about 1 hour exactly), clear differences emerge when reviewing time spent in each HR zone over the duration of the run:
Three weeks before my last day –> Normal:
The week before my last day –> Redlined:
The week after my last day – Relaxed:
The more detailed data shows that normally, I am running about a 9:00/mile pace, and get near 7:00/mile pace at the end of the run when I sprint the last few hundred yards. Even though my heart was working harder when stressed, I was actually going SLOWER. When relaxed, my heart was working less and I was going FASTER (just a little).
It proves the point that too much stress is a very bad thing AND it shows that my normal isn’t actually that far from my relaxed. Isn’t that cool?
I am looking forward to my new job, but I hope I can find a little more time to blog.
March 28, 2011
I just returned from the USA Nationals Cheerleading Competition accompanying my daughter’s high school cheer squad to their first national competition. I am very proud of this team because they have accomplished so much – they now have national experience and a national ranking!
I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the team coach who taught these girls new skills and helped them achieve this new level of excellence. In addition, she truly deserves a medal, because she never got a break from the 24/7 supervision of the team and did not need earplugs. As a chaperone and assistant, I found herding the team of 18 girls (walking, buses, and planes) to warm-up/compete at the arena, to attend team dinners, and to have downtime at Disneyland very tiring.
There were early mornings for me to ensure that brown bag breakfasts and lunches were purchased, bagged, and ready before the start of daily activities. Incongruently, there were late nights for the girls so even after I had retired there was still much commotion and energy in my shared hotel room. Thankfully, I slept with earplugs…
At the annoucement of the team standings and finalist selection, the din of hundreds of cheerleaders cheering for each other in an arena built for excellent acoustics was more than my aged ears could take. Thankfully, I had my earplugs…
I’m not sure is possible to put 20+ girls/moms in close proximity during extended travel and NOT get a stream of incessant whining. Thankfully, I traveled with earplugs and could use them when I wasn’t specifically on duty…
My long view advice to future chaperones/assistants – carry earplugs because they are survival gear!
Congratulations to the girls! Thank you for the opportunity to share in your accomplishment!
March 5, 2011
Buddy taping is the act of allowing one stronger to support the weaker — a short-term aid to gain long view capability.
Buddy taping can be applied to:
- a young sapling to help it grow
- an injured finger/toe to allow it to heal
- a new recruit learning the ropes
- <your suggestion here>
This week was a buddy taping week…
As I started my new position this week, I relied heavily on others around me to educate me in the current needs, deadlines, and technology of the organization. The tasks and opportunties that have emerged energize me, but I still need the help of others until I get my bearings. I am grateful for the generosity of my new colleagues. 🙂
To solidify the buddy taping theme for the week, I injured my baby toe in a running accident. It was wet and muddy on the trail that I regularly run and I slipped on a muddy incline slamming my foot into a rock at the bottom of the section. My baby toe took the brunt of the force. Poor baby toe…all black and blue and swollen. 😦 But my injured toe made it the 2.5 miles back to the car without too much complaint — then it set up!
Do you buddy tape when you need support?
February 23, 2011
I cannot believe that Dannon finally pulled La Crème yogurt (my favorite!) from the marketplace altogther. I have chased it from store-to-store, letting out a gleeful gasp everytime I found it again in new and different store (only to have it disappear again): Safeway → Target → Nob Hill.
Now appearing in the yogurt aisle of my supermarket is a plethora of brands of “Greek” yogurt. I have tried many and to me they just do not measure up in creaminess and texture. I am hoping that creamy comes back in style and I will eventually find something that I like as much as La Crème.
Not to trivialize the major transition facing my consulting practice clients, this loss of my favorite yogurt helps me to understand why shuttering my year-old business, Process Confidence, has been so wrenching. Even though I am extremely happy and excited about my decision to transition back to full-time professional employment (a great opportunity!), for my clients, my sudden unavailability is a similar involuntary loss.
Over the long view we will both get beyond these transitions…
I am grateful to my clients for making my consulting business a success. I enjoyed helping each one achieve process confidence. I cannot believe how much I learned in the past year about the practice of consulting in general, accounting (taxes), marketing, and sales, all while practicing the technical skills that I know best. Thank you!
I continue to wish all of my clients process confidence even though I have embarked on a new adventure.
February 14, 2011
In Blue Feet, I declared my goal to run barefoot/minimalist! This weekend, I ran a local Valentine’s Day 10k in my Vibram Five Finger (VFF) shoes. It was a triumph of training and perseverance.
Even though I pulled up my mileage a bit faster than I probably should have (from a training perspective) – my feet are still a little stiff today – I am thrilled with the how I felt running. I was relaxed and comfortable for the entire race AND I turned in a faster time this year (48:05) than last (49:35)!
The efficiency in my stride manifests itself in reduced heart-rate – my average 144 bpm enabled me to be extremely relaxed and comfortable. See inset chart of heart-rate/pace. (Note: I briefly forgot to stop recording data at race end…and the distance on the heart-rate monitor chip is improperly calibrated for the VFFs…)
The hardest part of the race was the ½-mile section of sharp gravel that forced me to focus on every foot placement to avoid pain/injury to my feet. I successfully negotiated that section at what seemed like a slightly slower pace than the other sections, but the GPS trace suggests that I maintained pace through the entire section!
My long-view perspective on all of this: goal → execute (perseverance) → enjoy!
It is about how you feel!
Perhaps I should have titled this post, Red Feet?
February 10, 2011
In Linked Segments I worked hard to be succinct. In doing so, I actually squeezed the life right out of the blog post! Rather than rework it directly, I am attempting to metaphorically add milk, stir, warm, and thus reconstitute the soup rather than a leaving a congealed glob of condensed puree. :*)
I have worked with technical project teams spanning a few to many members . It’s easy to work with a few members – priorities and progress are easy to update – it occurs naturally in the hallway, across cubicle walls, and informal team meetings. It gets more challenging when there are more than about five (5) team members AND when one (or more) is not co-located – the fluidity declines to the viscosity of……..condensed soup!
I could make a list of many reasons why it becomes harder, but I believe the primary one is that with greater visibility (more team members) there is a tendency toward declining informality. Members feel pressure (internally?/externally?) to share only polished work stemming from personal struggles to maintain control and dignity (see my reference to Roger Martin’s work at Technical Complexity). So sharing frequency declines – we wait for members to fully analyze their data, prepare a slide deck, and then present at the next team meeting. These effects mitigate the efficiency and productivity gains of larger groups, because they slow progress down.
Gaining trust and reciprocity that facilitates frequent informal exchange is much easier in smaller groups because protective cliques form readily in small groups. Yet, gaining trust and reciprocity is not impossible in larger groups; it just requires forming a protective tribe – really. This is where the newer ESSP (Emergent Social Software Platforms) have a role. For example, in mid 2008, I began participating in Seth Godin’s online community, Triiibes. I was blown away at how effectively Seth created a large online community that allowed each of us to grow professionally – no polishing required. My blog post On Triiibes celebrates the 1st anniversary of that community and the value that it created — truly amazing!
Two of the very best primers on the subject of forming a tribe:
- Great Boss Dead Boss by Ray Immelman (note: although the title is unappealing, it is an excellent book!)
- Tribes by Seth Godin
When I realized that large organizations (agri-business, pharma, and medical research) were beginning to use larger work groups to increase efficiency and productivity (segment and specialize) I felt compelled to crystallize my most important insights. Unfortunately, my efforts to distill the essence left a blog post with the consistency of solid goo! I hope this greater context makes Linked Segments more readable. :)
My long-view message:
- Team members need to feel protected and valued.
Better? Your feedback is welcome and appreciated!
February 1, 2011
I received two unrelated but tantalizingly connected links today in my email inbox:
- One claimed that there is an economic emergency caused by a lack of initiative (Poke-the-Box by Seth Godin)
- The other was to Google’s new application (ngrams) for trending the frequency of words appearing in books from 1800 to now.
How could I resist trending initiative (along with self esteem) over the long view?
From 1800 to 2008 there has been an explosive growth in the occurrence of the term initiative and then a decay starting about the 1970’s. Interestingly, there is concomitant growth of the term self-esteem during the same period that initiative begins its decline. Hmmmm….
January 24, 2011
I feel that I must add to the Tiger Mom discussion…
When I read the WSJ article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior by Amy Chua, I had an immediate negative visceral response. I was simply aghast after the snippet on the actions that Chua took to get her 7-year-old prepared for a piano recital.
Although I didn’t read Chua’s book, I collected more information by soliciting two of my very successful Chinese-American friends and by reading other related blogs/opinions/comments. I learned that there is a range of behaviors within the extreme parenting advocated (described? lamented?) by Chua. Both of my Chinese-American friends agreed with some of Chua’s observations but not all. There is also a range of reactions to the behaviors. Many kids became successful (as shown by the statistics) and some became scarred for life (see opinion by Lac Su who also wrote a book on Tiger Mothers).
What I have realized is that parenting methods derive from parenting priorities, whether stated explicitly or not. What you choose as your priorities determine your methods and your metrics. There can be endless argument in favor of differing priorities, but as a parent, you get to choose the investment priorities in the extremely complex and multi-fauceted task of raising a child.
If you narrowly focus on a few factors (academics and music) you can achieve success in those domains, but potentially at the expense of other factors. David Brooks make an excellent case for the value of social factors in his NYT piece, Amy Chua is a Wimp.
Amy Chua deliberately chose academics and music as her priorities for teaching her children. Her metrics were GPA, class rank, and recital success (piano or violin only). By her own admission, her methods were often shame, humiliation and coercion. To her credit, her daughters succeeded in both of these domains.
With two teenagers of my own, I have deliberatley chosen:
- Impart the ability to make good decisions, and
- Create a caring and generous soul.
The metrics for my priorities are much more difficult to quantify and my primary method is to capitalize on teachable moments. The jury is still out with regard to success because my children have not reached matriculation.
I have given and continue to give both my son and daughter opportunities in diverse environments (social, music, academic, domestic, athletic, etc.) trying to amplify what interests them while providing them safety in the background. Although I do require a minimum of proficiency across all domains, in their early years especially, I supported just trying stuff with a minimum level of commitment. My kids tried languages (Japanese!), music (flute and piano), and many sports. Even though my husband would have liked our son to play baseball, our son found his soul in soccer. I dreamed that my daughter might be a swimmer, but her passion is cheerleading. By allowing them to choose, we have nurtured self-directed drive for accomplishment. I never tell my son to practice his soccer footwork, but I do have to tell him occasionally that it’s driving me crazy and that he needs to give it a rest.
Like Brooks, I tend to think that the trickiest stuff to learn is the social factors – there is no road map or easy measurements. Yet the next generation will have to navigate a more complex world than we live in today, thus it is super important to ensure that my kids be fully competent in this capacity. Disallowing media, sleepovers, and friends avoids the issue and does not allow for development, so it is imperative (to my husband and I) to thoughtfully allow all of these complex interactions to ensure that they achieve excellence in social collaboration without becoming lost.
To that end, my husband and I hold fast to the, “trust but verify” method of teaching. We give our kids sufficient rope to try stuff (what friends they will choose, what media they will consume, and how they spend their leisure time), but we pay very close attention to what they say they are doing and the congruence to the signals that they send. We don’t allow them to go just anywhere, we require knowing: the who, the what, the where, and the when, of their choices and then we observe. For example, does their style of dress match the social situation they told us that they were attending? If stuff does not match, we hold them accountable taking each breach as a teaching opportunity.
My kids hate reading books or writing essays on the subject of scrutiny, but we have found that such methods instill the required reflection for incremental maturation. One time after a particularly egregious transgression of trust, I required my daughter to read with me, girls gone MILD by Wendy Shalit and then write an essay on selected themes from the book. Her essay was excellent and I know that it made a difference from the perceptible changes than manifested.
To Chua my priorities and methods might look like over-indulgence in media, friends, and leisure, but the reality is instilling my priorities in my kids is just as excrutiating as instilling her priorities in her kids, mine are not as visible.
Thus, after much reflection, I do respect Chua’s priorities; I only question some of her specific methods (she also questions them in her memoir, but not necessarily for the same reasons). Specifically, I object to the strategy of extreme shame, humiliaiton, and coercion because it does not scale effectively. When I consider the parenting arms-race, if everyone were to adopt this superior method, it would stop being superior simply because not everyone can be 1st in their class — the necessary escalation goes up considerably with increasing competition. Can you imagine the consequences if every child had to withstand escalating levels of shame, humiliation, and coercion to be 1st in their class when by definition only ONE person could achieve that pinnacle? At some point it crosses the line from instilling discipline to abuse. It’s a slippery slope…
Everyone agrees that parenting is hard. Depending on the age of the children, it can be physically hard, emotionally hard, or psychologically hard, and there are no days off. My long view advice on parenting:
- Know your priorities, act with intention
- Be deliberate in your method, understand how your tactics scale
- Love and nurture because children are our most precious gift.
In the end, only the children can truly decide if the job we did was proper. I guess I’ll find out in a few years…
Can you articulate your priorities?
January 7, 2011
A few years ago, I had to sit out a local Valentine’s Day 10k because I sprained my ankle and couldn’t run. Because my friends ran, me and my black-n-blue puffy ankle went and cheered them on. One thing I learned while watching all those runners is that unlike elite runners, very few recreational runners have a beautiful gait. I couldn’t help but wonder how mine looked…that observation planted a seed:
Do I have biomechanical gait errors that could be corrected and that might improve my running and potentially reduce future injuries?
Having flipper shaped feet (very wide toe area and narrow heel), I am challenged to find shoes that fit comfortably enough to allow my toes sufficient freedom. Currently, I wear orthotics to reduce bunionization (due to insufficient toe freedom). Last year, I saw some folks running in the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) and I was intruiged enough to buy a pair…
As you might imagine, I immediately loved my first pair of VFFs even though they are really UGLY. I am as comfortable walking in VFFs as I am with my orthotics. Although my family doesn’t want to be been seen with me in VFFs, I LOVE them. I wear them everywhere; it’s like going everywhere barefoot but without the acute (puncture) risks! When I first bought them, I was sure that I’d NEVER try running in them, until…
I read Born to Run (McDougall). The concept of barefoot running to improve my gait (and potentially reduce injuries) by improving biomechnical feedback seemed sufficiently compelling that I wanted to try it (remember the seed?). I immediately LOVED how running felt in my VFFs (more relaxed and much more comfortable). Then…
I discovered that I did Too-Much-Too-Soon (TMTS) by acquiring the dreaded newbie barefoot runner Top-Of-Foot-Pain (TOFP). So….
I learned about TOFP on the web, realized my overzealousness and went back to my running shoes. While I healed, I again walked aroud in my VFF’s everywhere until there was no more pain. Then…
I purchased Jason Robillard’s The Barefoot Running Book, to figure out how to get back to that wonderful feeling of minimalist (VFF) running (his running 101 guidance is also on his website) and hopefully learn to improve my gait. Jason recommends that one start very SLOWLY in wholly bare feet because the biomechanical feedback is even more sensitive than in VFFs. He recommends barefoot running on a track: slowly, with very little mileage. So….
I have now run twice (less than a mile) wholly barefoot at my local junior college track. Jason is correct, you feel much more barefoot — who knew that the blue track had a honeycomb surface underneath the rubber? (I can feel it!)
My running gait barefoot is indeed much better (more relaxed, more comfortable, and more joyful), but my real goal is to habitutate my brain to run with this gait even with with my shoes.
Because I just cannot see myself running any real distances barefoot because of the threat of acute injuries – poison oak, puncture, etc., my goal is to be able to run my regular (shorter) routes by spring in my VFFs, but improve my gait enough to be able to half-marathon much more comfortably by mid-summer in shoes. For now, I have blue feet and a friction spot (not quite a blister) to show for my effort, but a commitment to improve. My long-view position on barefoot running:
- Use barefoot running to harness the highly sensitive biomechanical feedback of my body to improve my gait.
- Habituate to the improved gait with running shoes.
- Do no harm – be wary of the perils of barefoot running: TOFP, puncture hazards, latent poison oak leaves on trails, etc..
- Prevent injury and preserve my love of running – strive for relaxed, comfortable, and joyful runs forever.
Jason reminds us, “barefoot running is about feeling, not thinking.” Does your run feel good?