What’s old is new

On a long drive back to Chicago from the East Coast over the holidays I was in search of my next major race.  The big goal of 2019 was to complete the Leadville Trail 100 Miler in under 30 hours which was accomplished.  While that was one of the most fun experiences of my life, I didn’t want to try and repeat the race in case the outcome wasn’t so successful or in the event the event that the overall experience was less than I had remembered. 

The race was so much more than the outcome.  The race was the people in my crew, the familiarity of the scenery and the drive to do something hard.  All of the things I wanted to experience again.  All things I want to experience every day.

As I searched for my next big race, I ended up on the Leadville signup site much like I did a year ago around this time.  And much like a year ago, I pulled the trigger and signed up for the race across the sky.

Eight month to prove to myself I still have the grit to prepare for the race and improve on my 2019 performance.

Phases of Collecting

Collectors go through many phases before they get to the final phase where they quit the hobby.  These phases normally start with a slight interest in a topic and then a well thought-out first acquisition.  Soon, they learn how one brand or model differentiates from another.  This is the feature differentiation and usually the quality differentiator. 

Collections start with what one can afford and then become mainstream and then the need to differentiate arises. 

Next you land in the land of rarity. How few were made? How few exist?  How hard is it to get? 

Eventually we end up collecting something so rare, obscure and outlandish that we are the only ones who can appreciate it.  Depending on how fast you reach this level of collecting, you either become a savvy and differentiated collector or find yourself acquiring collectibles that are appreciated only by you. Probably not an issue unless you decide to liquidate your collection and have issues finding a buyer.

The Meritocracy of Halloween

Halloween is the greatest holiday ever made!  It is a time that, as a child you have an opportunity to believe in the impossible.  You can be yourself by assuming somebody else’s identity.  It is a day to be free of constraints that you’ll inevitably take on as you grow old and jaded.  And best of all, everybody around you will reward you for your creativity with candy!  This is a meritocracy that I can truly get behind.

The Excess We Need?

In collecting watches I often find myself looking at water resistant specifications of diving watches and comparing 100M water resistance to 300M.  For anybody who has bought a sports car, it is the same comparison of 385 horsepower to 400.  For running shoes, the Nike 4% Vaporfly presumably deliver greater performance than a 3%… if that were a thing.  In reality, most of us will never be able to push the limits of our devices as they were built to do.  Does this mean we should dismiss these largely aspirational limits from our consideration or do they serve a greater purpose in our minds? 

This is of course an individual decision around what will make you happy as a collector, aficionado or participant in an activity.  Is more than we need the definition of luxury, of excess, of lack of self-control?  Are we simply suckers for great marketing is the hunt the hunt part of the experience?

Whatever your view, there is little chance you haven’t compared product features that you didn’t really need but ended up purchasing based on a subtle differentiation that resulted in greater satisfaction in the process or ownership experience.

Suck Less: Do the Simple Things Right

During this weekend’s Patriot’s eighth consecutive win this season, it became clear that the Patriots are consistently good at not being bad.  Now, for any Patriot haters in the reading audience, I have no intention in turning you into a fan.  If you haven’t been able to embrace greatness after 20 years, you won’t do it now.

My point is, the Patriots played well enough to win against the less-than formidable opponent in the Cleveland Browns.  With this said, the Browns have a ton of talent but made too many silly mistakes.  They turned the ball over on three consecutive offensive plays and had 13 penalties versus the four for the Patriots.  While turnovers aren’t completely avoidable, penalties largely are.  Bad teams need to suck less and they will win more.

I associate this with running.  I completed Leadville faster than many better runners and it had little to do with my athletic ability. Instead, I took less time at aid stations (2-5 minutes and 8 at one station) and never stopped to catch my breath on uphills.  MOVE FORWARD was my mantra and it worked.

It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we do the easy things right.

Recover Harder!

Recovery is as important an element as is training for long-term success.  This is the case in sports such as running and in business. 

At the beginning of our careers, hobbies, passions or sports, is easy to be swept away dedicating dedicate every ounce of our energy to one goal, success!  We want to be the best and the one item we feel we can control is effort.  Working more hours, running more miles  and subscribing to the NO DAYS OFF doctrine shows significant results in our early days.  I for one, prided myself on taking just nine vacation days in as many years early in my career and attributed much of my success to this unshakable work ethic.  I did the same as I prepared for my first marathon. 

My nine year job definitely led to burnout and I was very injured during my first marathon having ingest Advil like candy. My problem was that I needed to recover, not work nor train.

Recovery is when we rebuild, muscularly and mentally.  It helps us reset for the next big push. Now, after a big project, deadline, race or presentation, I schedule downtime to reset for the next big thing.

Start Strong!

Much like I referenced in the Speech Day article, it is important to set a good tone from the outset in every event you do. I’ve found this to be true for public speaking, running ultra-marathons, competing in wrestling or MMA and hosting meetings.  The tone that starts the event will often carry through to impact the overall event and its outcome.

When runners start races too fast or fighters open a bout with an onslaught of strikes, they spike their heart rates and need a moment to bring it down before reaching a steady state.  When meetings start on a negative note, it will be difficult to shake that tone through the rest of the meeting.  This is why it is so important to do the right pre-game activity entering the event with the right mindset.

Before races or speeches I listen to comedy shows, get out my first wind and take on the event.  Before difficult meetings I make it a point to complete something rewarding to enter the meeting with a positive and productive mindset.  Whether you realize it or not, you’ll convey a mood that will persist, may as well make it a good one!

The Day of the Speech

Coaching people for public speaking opportunities is one of my favorite elements when it comes to professional development. There is nothing better than seeing somebody positively influence an audience, generate energy in a room and possibly even change lives for some of the attendees.

During speech preparation process, my job is to answer questions while creating minimal anxiety.  Most importantly, the day of the speech the less advice, the better.  Before somebody steps on stage, the hay is in the barn – time to block out all distractions and execute!

An hour before the talk I recommend three things:

  1. A confidence-building activity that gets you a little winded such as wind-sprints, shadow boxing or pushups.  This will raise your heart rate and then allow it to smoothly recover.  You don’t want your heart rate to elevate for the first time when on stage.
  2. Deep breathing and meditation. Block out everything and focus on the way you’ll take the stage and the first words that will come out of your mouth.
  3. Your first sentence.  I don’t suggest memorizing speeches except for the first line.  Stick the landing on the first line and you’ll flow from there!

Public Speaking – Fear No More!

“Public speaking is the leading fear for all humans everywhere”.

Source: Some guy on some stage.

I can’t validate the accuracy of this adage but it is likely that people, in general, fear lack of acceptance, inadequacy and failure on both a proverbial and physically big stage. 

There are a number of ways to improve your public speaking from taking a course, hiring a coach (I suggest Ben Decker of Decker Communications), joining a club such as Toastmasters or studying a lot of great TED talks are all ways to gain confidence with such a task.

There is no reason to fear public speaking when you do the proper preparation and have strong subject matter expertise.  With that said, like with any other talent, it needs to be trained and honed to gain true mastery… or at least escape the self-sentenced prison of terror you occupy at the mere suggestion of addressing a crowd.

The best part of massive group communications is to be able to connect with the masses and pass along great ideas via positive vibes.  If you help just one person see the world slightly differently, your time was well spent!

Integrity & the cover of The New York Times

I was once told that if you are making an ethically difficult decision you should ask yourself if you would be comfortable  with that decision being printed on the front page of the New York Times.  I call this the Times Cover Principle.  While few of us are influential enough for the Times to use our likeness in the effort to boost circulation, the sentiment is a good guide for decisions both in and out of work.

The Times Cover Principle helps you gauge a few things.

  1. At the time this was shared with me, the NY Times had a very broad circulation. 
  2. Readers of the periodical span all walks of life and many have large and influential networks.  
  3. Journalists who write for the Times are historically not sensationalist but rather want to share a balanced story with the readers.

If your possible course of action doesn’t measure up well to this scrutiny, it is probably a path not worth taking.