Monday, August 17, 2015


There has been a lot of buzz this weekend from an article in the New York Times examining the work environment at Amazon. I have been lucky enough to spend the last 12 years of my career at an organization that excels without having to treat is people like a commodity, nor playing against their desire to experience life outside of the work that they do. The culture of an organization is directed from the top. The article portrays Jeff Bezos as a man driven to succeed, using analytics ruthlessly in his pursuit of excellence. Managers at Amazon, taking the lead from that example, are said to be ruthless in their drive, brutal with their feedback and uncaring about the personal lives of those who work for them. (As an aside, Forbes columnist George Anders posted a more nuanced interpretation of Mr. Bezos' history.)

For the last 6 years, I have been responsible for leading a team of people at my company. It is very tempting to employ a win at all costs attitude, especially as a new manager who was very successful as an individual on the team you are now managing. Early in my career as a manager I had very little empathy for the work life balance of my team, or even of my own for that matter. We all want to be leading the world into new frontiers, however it is just as important to be leading our family and enjoying the time we have here on earth.

As I've matured as a manager, I've found that by allowing people the freedom to experience the moments they want to experience with their family I've inspired them to put in the extra effort to cover those times. By allowing a young father to attend his daughters Kindergarten holiday concert or to rush home and help his son with a sprained ankle, they will then repay that with loyalty and effort beyond what could have been accomplished in that little time used for personal time.

Our company has a saying, "Work is not a place you go, it is a thing that you do." I think that's an interesting distinction, but I prefer a slightly altered version.  Your work is not who you are, it is a thing that you do. I've come to realize that life is about experiences, not things.  Whether those things be what you earn or what you create on the job, they are not our purpose for being here. We are meant to love, to experience beauty, to share our lives with those who are important to us. So when I read this story about Amazon, I appreciate their ability to provide me with a ball pump delivered to my house in 48 hours because that ball pump allowed me to play volleyball in the driveway with my daughter.  I feel badly for the person who missed out on those experiences to build that very platform.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Everything is Everything

Like many people, I like to ponder the meaning of life. Why are we here?  What is it all about? This post is certainly not going to answer those questions, but I want to get down some of my thoughts on approaching that question.

Today I was listening to Marc Maron's podcast and his guest was Jason Segel. Their discussion was very interesting as Mr. Segel proved himself to be a bit deeper than what you'd expect from a comedic actor. In fact, he made it a point to mention that he had never aspired to be a comedic actor at all, but just found that he was good at it and went with it. He struggled with the concept that he wasn't doing any "worthwhile" work, until he was approached by people who told him stories about his TV show helping them through difficult periods of their life.

This discussion led to him talking about difficult periods in his life and the thought that even when things are going really well, there are times when a man isn't satisfied. Interestingly enough, Mr. Segel's most recent movie addresses that very topic. He plays David Foster Wallace during a time in his life where everything is seemingly going as well as he could imagine, but sitting in that moment Wallace was not satisfied.

We all go through these moments where we wonder why we are where we are. You set goals for yourself to achieve, to succeed. But if the meaning behind those goals isn't solid, then the achievement is hollow.  You work hard to build a career, to get a promotion, to move up the ladder. What happens when you are up the ladder? The essence of a person is not their achievement, but the kind of person that they create while achieving. 

Unfortunately, many of us don't make that connection until we've already spent a lot of effort towards the hollow goal. That doesn't mean the time has been wasted, but it forces us to put a perspective on how that formed our self. Self is more than achievement. Self is the sum of the parts that include that achievement.  Self is how you define what is worthwhile.

I think often about who I am and who I'd like to be. I don't know if that picture is fully formed just yet, but its certainly a lot more clear than it was twenty years ago when I was making critical decisions that started me on the path I am on today. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Windows 10 First Impressions

I have been a Mac user for the last three years.  I should probably say that I've been a very happy Mac user for the last three years. Before that time I'd always been a Windows user.  Of course, I had Windows machines at home and at work during that time as well.  Like many people, I was very disappointed with the changes in Windows 8, so most of my secondary machines were running Windows 7. I'm certainly not one of those to say "Oh how I missed the start menu, please bring it back!" but I found the Metro screens difficult to work with and counter intuitive.

During the last couple of weeks I've reached the end of the 3 year warranty on my MacBook, so I brought it into Apple to get a few little issues fixed before it expired. While I've had a few issues with the MacBook, Apple has always done an excellent job of fixing them quickly.  This time the laptop needed to be sent out for service so I was without it for a couple of days.  I took advantage of that time to install Windows 10 on a spare laptop and test it out. My initial impressions are very positive. The interface feels much more intuitive than the previous instances. The graphics are beautiful, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on things because I'm not using a touch screen.

Now, I am going to wait a few weeks before I order my next laptop. Some of my Apple guru buddies are hearing rumors of a MacBook Pro refresh next month, so I'll wait to see if that happens. I most likely will not be switching back to Windows, but I'll be much happier if I'm forced to use Windows 10 in certain situations.

I'm going to go through an update install tonight and use it sporadically for the next couple of days, then I'll share my thoughts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New beginnings

Its been a while, but here I am.  Life goes on but I haven't been writing about it. This will be a new beginning. The plan is to write everyday, though it may not be posted here everyday. My wife and I also have a blog at which I'll be using too. Here and there and maybe another place or two, but writing every day.

Consistency and the creation of habits have always worked for me. Unfortunately most of the time they have worked in a negative direction. Though if you read this blog back, you'll see that it can work positively as well. I'm working on developing that consistency and create a habit out of writing. Once that habit is formed, I'll work to focus that on something productive. Hopefully along the way I'll learn a few things and share them with anyone who happens to read this blog.

So here is the beginning of the new beginning.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Letting the Fat Guy Beat You

Unfortunately, I've let more than just my blog lapse in the last year. After all the hard work that I put in, losing weight and gaining fitness to run a half marathon, I fell into a slovenly pattern of laziness and poor eating. I can spout a lot of excuses about stress and moving house, but at the end of the day there is no excuse. I let the fat guy beat me.

Its hard to process the feelings that have been running through my mind recently.  There is a lot of negativity and disgust. There is also a lot of fear. I imagine this is what an alcoholic or a drug addict feels when they relapse, because in effect that's what I've done.  I've relapsed into my bad habits. Eleven months ago I ran 13.1 miles; now I'm getting winded walking up two flights of stairs.

There is only one way out of this. One day at a time. Accountability has never been my strong suit. I know how to get things done, but even after doing them for over 18 months I was still susceptible to the same pitfalls that led me down unhealthy roads in the past. I'm not going to dwell too deeply on those today, as the wounds are still very sore. But today I'm reaffirming my will to overcome them.

I've been working up to this moment for a while now. Its not like I've ever actually given up on being healthy. In my mind I've kept making plans, setting goals for myself for some race in the future. I even started a hash tag on twitter called #teamreboot. When the time came though, I never took the actions to achieve, I stayed in my lazy little box. Several times I took the first steps, but didn't follow through on steps two through... well, through infinity. That's the point. There need not be an end. There needs to be a change in lifestyle.

So today I've stepped up again and tried another start. In the spirit of true honesty, this was inspired by some dark feelings. I have a group of friends who are running marathons today at Disney World. These were people who started focusing on running because they saw what I was accomplishing. I'm super proud of the work they've done, but seeing them achieve this goal made me look at myself with disgust. Instead of wallowing in those feelings, I am using this as a catalyst. Today I started Couch to 5K again. If I think about how far I've been, it hurts to be where I am, but I also know that I've done this before so a lot of the uncertainty is gone. There are going to be battles ahead, some that I will win and some that I will lose. I will take each one as it comes and strive to move forward in a more positive direction. The fat guy may have won this time, but I've beaten him before and I will conquer him for good.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My First Half Marathon Race Report

Its hard to start this report with anything other than ... Wow! I set an esoteric goal for myself to do something I thought was impossible by my 40th birthday. I started running and then this goal just formed itself into this wonderful opportunity to run a half marathon just 6 days after my 40th. The timing, the location, everything worked out and all I needed to do was put in the effort and get it done. What an effort it was. As I sit here now, two days later sipping a margarita, my mind is torn between two opposing thoughts. The first, just overwhelmed with the fact that I was able to pull this off. The second, yearning to do it again!

Lets start with a recap of the events and then I'll try to put my deeper thoughts into words. My in-laws and my own mother live in Palm Beach County Florida and this race, the A1A Publix Marathon and Half Marathon in Ft. Lauderdale on President's weekend gave me a great opportunity to bring the children down for a visit and have some support at the race without too much disruption of their schedule. The kids were off of school Friday and Monday, so we added one extra day to drive down to Florida on Thursday. I was able to take a few days off from work as well and the plan was laid. We drove down to Florida on Thursday and we'd return Monday. I reserved a hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday night for my wife and I to stay, leaving the girls with the in-laws so I didn't have much to worry about Sunday morning but to run.

We clean up pretty well I think.
We made great time driving down on Thursday, ran some errands on Friday and spent time with my wife's family. My mother in law planned a surprise birthday party for my father in law on Friday night as his 70th is next month. He was caught completely by surprise and everyone had a great time.

On Saturday my wife and I headed down to Ft. Lauderdale and checked into our hotel. I think this spot might have been one of the hottest on the strip in 1967, however it hadn't been updated since then. That's what I get for choosing the cheapest hotel I could find in the area of the race, but we wouldn't need it for that long. Plus, it did have a really cool dockside restaurant. We got checked in, enjoyed some conch fritters and coconut shrimp overlooking the gorgeous yachts come and go and waited for a friend to show up to take us to the expo.

This was my first real race expo and it was pretty cool. We picked up our race packets which were loaded with free stuff and then walked around to browse all the vendors. My wife bought me a magnet for my car, but I wouldn't touch it until the next day. No reason to jinx myself! We had a lot of fun checking out all of the things you can buy to run with, and all of the silly gadgets they were trying to sell, from sleep juice to magnets. Then we went off to meet a couple of more friends for dinner. Had a great dinner with some fantastic friends and returned to the hotel to hit the hay by 9. I slept pretty well, considering, only getting up twice during the night. Of course, the alarm went of at 3:45.

What's a beach race without a sand castle?

Now, the hotel might have been a dump, but it was super convenient. Not only was it right across the street from the race finish, but the shuttle busses to the start were parked not more than 100 ft. from my hotel room door. I got up and dressed and was out the door at 4:30 and onto the first shuttle to the start. My wife opened her eyes long enough to take a quick picture of me before I headed out the door.

Now, you'd think because this race was in Florida that it would be warm. Of course not! This was the coldest day of the year, with the temperature at the start only 45. I didn't mind the cold so much, but there was a lot of wind coming off the ocean. I decided to wear my jacket and check it at the start, which in the end was a good idea because I needed it.

I got on the bus and found a couple of co-workers who were also running so we headed out together. Because my company is headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, there were a number of people I work with who were running. I wore my company shirt too and it got me some recognition along the way.

As we waited in the cold for the start, I was anxious but not nervous. Most of the fears that I'd thought I might have had for race day morning just weren't there. I'd hydrated all week and my body felt good. I had 4 packs of hammer gel and I ate my honey stinger waffle about an hour before the start. I talked a lot with my friend about starting slowly and made it a point to continually remind myself that I'm going to be passed a lot in the early miles and that I shouldn't worry about it.

Finally the time came and we headed into the start corral. It was packed! More so than any race I'd been to, even the Peachtree. I made my way towards the back, but I stayed with my friends. I just kept thinking to myself that this is my race, not to worry about what anyone else was doing. It took us 4 minutes from the gun to make our way to the start line. I hit go on my Garmin and started running.

Instantly my friends (even the slower ones) were off in front of me. I made no effort to try to keep up, just settling into my pace. I tried to relax and just let my body warm up and settle into a pace. My plan was to keep the first few miles above 13 minutes and then see how my body felt. I was going a little quick in the first half mile, but I settled myself and just let it flow. I hit the first mile at 13:15 and wasn't even breathing heavy yet. I chatted with some of the people around me as we made our way towards the beach. The sun wasn't up yet and it was chilly, but we weren't hit by the wind that we'd find as we got to the shore. There were a lot of run/walkers around, so I was passing and being passed and just generally trying to maintain.

Around mile 2.5 we hit the only significant hill of the day, a bridge over the intercoastal waterway onto the barrier island where we'd run the rest of the race. As I got to the top of the bridge I felt really strong and at that point I knew that today was going to be ok. I used the downhill to let my momentum carry me and sped up past a lot of the folks I'd been pacing with the first couple of miles.

Slow and steady was the name of the game for me. We headed north on A1A and around mile 4 headed into a park that was just beautiful. The ocean was on one side and then we looped across to the intra coastal, with yachts and beautiful homes lining the race course. Water stops on the course were plentiful and I grabbed a cup at each one, never drinking a lot but just enough to keep me from feeling dry. The hydrating I did all week really paid off for me. We exited the park around mile 6 and I realized that I was almost half way done!

The wind really picked up at we continued north along the beach. It was a headwind from the right. At this point the faster folks were coming back from the turnaround and I always enjoy watching them run by. I saw the fastest of my co workers and gave him a shout. I was really pretty cold at this point but was buoyed by the thought that we'd have a tailwind on the way back. We hit the turn around at mile 9 and I was struck thinking about how good I felt. I picked up the pace a little bit, but then backed off a bit, remembering some of my earlier long runs when I felt the same way and then crapped out before the end.

The sun was up now and the wind was at my back. I passed mile 10 and started to really think about the finish. At this point I started passing some of the people who were fading a bit. At mile 11 I took my third gel and my mind was doing flips. I hadn't hit any of the landmines that could trip me up and I realized now that this was it. 2 miles and nothing was going to stop me.

I passed mile 12 and I started to get emotional, the smile on my face wide and goofy. Tears started to well up and I started to run faster. Every time that I felt like crying I just ran faster because I figured if I was breathing too hard I wouldn't cry. Would you believe I ran the 13th mile in 11:38?!? My legs were burning, my lungs were gasping, my heart was pounding but I was happier than I could imagine. Just past mile 13 as we were heading into the chute my wife was there screaming for me. I smiled and waved and started to break down.

I crossed the line, stopped my Garmin and started to sob. But it didn't sound like sobbing, more like a seal barking and I thought I was hyperventilating. I quickly gained my composure and was handed a medal. I grabbed a bottle of water out of a bucket and looked up to see a group of my friends standing there cheering me on. They hugged me and slapped my back. Then my wife came up and I nearly collapsed in her arms, except that I was soaking wet and it was freezing!

If you've read my earlier posts, you knew that I had very little expectations about my time. I'd hoped that I could finish around 2:45 but I'd fully expected to be closer to 3 hours. When I checked my Garmin, it said 2:46. I was ecstatic with that time. My official chip time was 2:46:49. More importantly for me, I'd run the entire way, save for a few yards at each water station where I drank some water or ate a gel. I never wanted to take a break. I pushed myself hard to the very end and I dont' think I could have gone faster in this body. At the end of the day, what more could I have asked for?

Now, a couple of days removed, I still can't think of much that I would do differently. The day went as well as I possibly could have hoped. For my first half marathon, I couldn't be happier. When my wife handed me my phone after the race, I was even more overwhelmed by the messages of support waiting from Twitter, Facebook and texts. Friends and strangers, fast and slow all wished me well and congratulated me on my accomplishment. I proudly wore my medal for the rest of the day and I'm already thinking about what the next challenge is going to be.

I know this post has gotten kind of long, so I'll just wrap up with a brief thank you, to everyone who's read these posts, who's sent me wishes and who have laced up and run themselves. This has been one crazy gratifying journey for reasons well beyond the personal accomplishment and I assure you, its only the beginning.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Things I Love About Running

Last spring I became aware of an event on Twitter called #runchat. Its an hour long moderated Twitter chat where a great community of people answer questions posed by the moderators, share thoughts, encouragement and laughs. Since most of my Twitter followers are from #runchat, I'll assume that many of you already know that. 

The group of people that I've met through runchat have been some of the most supportive and knowledgable I've met. From back of packers like me to folks who run ultras and even running luminaries like Bart Yasso. To me, runchat has become a place to recharge and share my love of running with people who aren't going to roll their eyes and say "oh there he goes on about running again."

This week in honor of Valentine's Day, the runchat blog is hosting a contest and I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring by listing out the things I love about running. 

So here goes, a list of what I love about running

  • I love that running is hard and that I continue to do it!
  • I love that there is no coasting when running. You can never just stop working at let gravity or momentum take over. You must work to move.
  • I love the quiet time, the time to process my thoughts, the time to appreciate the changing leaves, the mist rising over a field on a cold morning and to not think at all.
  • I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after each and every run. 
  • I love how my legs feel strong again, how hard my calves and thighs have become again.
  • I love the self realization that comes during those tough runs, when you have to dig deeper than you thought you could, or even when you fail.
  • I love the community of runners, the support and encouragement that even a slow guy like me gets from everyone.
  • I love being addicted to something that is not destructive.  

Obvious to anyone who has read my blog, running has played a huge role in my recent transition and as I approach the milestone ahead of me next week, I have no intention of changing that role.