Tag Archives: work life balance

Looking Through the Satirical Lense

Getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia that is life is just a fact.  We all find ourselves fighting the fires at hand, all too often taking the close in view and forgetting the big picture.  We make decisions based on what we see around us, what our environment demands.  We can find ourselves bombarded by messages of what is and what is not important.  Sometimes we lose sight of reality, of the things that truly matter.  And there in lies the value of satire.

A relatively unknown master of satire is back and has again provided a wonderful tongue in cheek look at much more than just the cycling community.  From the hipster to the hip hop culture, our marketing societies obsession with gear, brands, and “high-end” products, to our entertainment and music; everyone gets a turn in the barrel.

It is a gift really – the ability to bring a real, valuable, and sometimes uncomfortable message to what might be a less than receptive audience.  To make them laugh while opening their eyes – a wonderful skill.  Though the below are aimed at cyclist, the jabs apply to any group, in any situation.   Stop and think about it for a minute – is your car, your house, your hobby, the gear you demand, the gadgets you cannot do without, the labels on your clothes – are they really all that important?

Sometimes it is worth it to spend a few minutes and look at yourself, your surroundings, and your life through the satirical lens.  Who knows what you will see.

The latest offering from MC Spandex – “It’s Time to Get Dirty”

And for those who might not have seen the video that started it all, below is the 2009 classic “Performance”

In the interest of full disclosure – I do have a carbon frame.  It was so worth it…

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Born to Run…Both of Them

Word association.  The game, the foundation of some classic comedy skits, and the stereotypical tool of psychologists.  “Born to Run” … “Bruce Springstein”.  How can you not – seriously.  But now a new wrinkle has come into play.  “Born to Run” … “running barefoot”.  What?  Where did that come from?

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen is journalist and correspondent Christopher McDougall’s first book, and he nailed it.  Over the last year his book has quietly become an “it” book – the talk of water coolers, gyms, and many a shoe store.  Not only a fun and enjoyable read, the book is an anthropological history of man, of running, of evolution.  He introduces us to the Tarahumara Indians, to the sport of ultra running, to a cast of characters so colorful that they have to be real.  The lessons in marketing, consumerism and our buying habits are truly enlightening.  The phrase “eat like a peasant” will enter your lexicon.  And yes, it is about running barefoot. But in the end it is a story of people who love what they do – a simple and timeless story.

In our society, fitness and specifically running, is something that is forced.  As adults the idea is that we have to run for fitness, to offset our poor diets, or to look a certain way.  For our children it is equated with punishment, especially once they get into organized sports (run laps, gasers, “conditioning”, “two a days”, “run until you puke”, “no pain no gain”, etc.).  All the rewards of our culture are sedentary (extra food, sweets, relaxation, video games, computers, phones, sitting out drills, etc.).  The irony is priceless.  The Tarahumara Indians run early and often.  They want to run.  They run because they love it.  They reap the rewards in health and happiness.  In our society we are taught early on to hate running and exercise, and the results are all to often reflected in our societies relative lack of health and happiness.

Thanks to word association and Christopher McDougall it seems only fitting that “Born to Run” now prompts “love what you do”  or “bring the joy back into what you are doing”.  So why the Bruce Springstein “Born to Run” and what does it have to do with any of this, other than word association?  Well, if you want to see a great example of loving what you do and pouring every ounce of energy and heart into something, take a walk back to the days of MTV.

Now there is some motivation…get out there…we were all Born to Run…

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Living in the Moment – How I Spent My Saturday

A perfect fall day, great people doing something they love; for the sheer joy of it. No expectations, no timeline, no phones, no emails, no talk of work, no worrying about the kid’s soccer games, the office, house hold chores, the schedule or even time.  None of the myriad of issues we allow to dictate and dominate our lives. There just are not many better ways to be reminded of the timeless lessons in life – live in the moment.  Unload the baggage just for a few hours – you will be better for it.

Joe's-Fall-Dalles-Ride-062

No one spoke of stressful issues.  Nothing about work, what anyone does for a living, politics, religion, kid’s sports, the economy (well a couple typical jokes), or even training or races.  It was all fun banter – chatting about bikes, about trips on bikes, about family and mutual friends.  It was 80 miles of time spent with others enjoying the moment, enjoying the day, enjoying the ride, and sprinting for a few signs and racing up a few climbs.  It was not about a destination, it was about a journey.  So simple really, enjoying the journey and actually appreciating where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing.

So we chose to ride bikes. It is not the bike that made the day, it was the time spent with others doing what you love – doing something you have loved since youth. And for one special fall day we were reminded yet again why youth is wasted on the young. As adults and professionals, parents and spouses, these sorts of opportunities to “live in the moment” do not come along too often – you better be ready to embrace them.

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There is Another Option…

Sports offers so many examples and lessons – training, practice, commitment, focus, teamwork, and on and on that it has almost become impossible to find anything new.  To find a fresh idea that is actually of value.  In the spirit of redundancy, we can start with the age old “sometimes growth and future success requires sacrifice”.  Ah, what a boring old classic.

And now we will leave behind the predictable path.  Sometimes growth and success requires sacrifice; it requires one to willingly walk away from the safe situation that is at hand and move in an entirely new and unproven direction.   No, this is not another “practice makes perfect” diatribe.

I was recently reminded of a very powerful passage written by Johan Bruyneel, the team director for the US Postal and Discovery Channel cycling teams – the man behind Lance Armstrong and his 7 Tour de France victories.  His book “We Might as Well Win” is obviously based around cycling, but has many valuable leadership, business and life lessons.  It was the below passage that struck a cord (italics added for emphasis):

“In the end, of course, that impulsive move to quit was what left me free to take up Lance’s offer to run his team. Following my heart in a direction away from the guaranteed money of my contract changed my life. Gave me a chance to make my dreams come true. Gave me enough money to retire whenever I want. Gave me my friend, Lance Armstrong.”

– Johan Bruyneel in “We Might as Well Win”

Dare I say we have all had the debate – the “sure thing” versus the “what might be”, the known versus the unknown.  It is never easy, and the age old advice is to always follow your head, to think it through, to never make a rash decision.  But the pull of the heart is never far away.

Eventually that someday just might come when the heart is right, that logic and reason need to be put aside.  Sure it is a tough decision to answer a calling, pursue a passion, to follow your heart.  Some might call it irresponsible or reckless.  The friction in following the heart only increases as we get older – family, mortgages, responsibilities and financial obligations are all very real sources of friction.  However, are they really a reason for ignoring the heart?  Or are they a convenient excuse to not take that one special chance, to really and truly follow your heart?

Maybe we will not end up in business with a once in a lifetime global talent.  Maybe we will not rise to the absolute pinnacle of our profession.  Odds are we will not become independently wealthy.  But maybe, just maybe it will work out.  Maybe we will win.  One never knows until they try.

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Stop worrying about the neighbor’s yard

“Don’t be angry, don’t be sad, and don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had.”

Stephen Stills

We have heard it many times over the years, the all to common theme “there must be something better out there.”  At no time has it been more pronounced than in recent months.  Call it dissatisfaction with reduced income potential or earning, increased pressures and expectations, forced or preceived needs to change fields, firms or roles.  Many have felt that their current role is lacking, that there are better options.  However, these are anything but normal times, and maybe it is wise to remember that the grass is not always greener elsewhere, that the past might not have been that great – holding what you have and maximizing the opportunity at hand might just be the right move.

How much is missed by the never ending pursuit of what might be next?  Of course there is a time and place for moving on, for turning the page, for searching out “the next great job”.  Owning your career and professional growth is critical and something that you must always manage.  However, being in a constant state of wonder about what might have been, or what might be, is not a foundation on which success is built.

The time, energy, and above all opportunity cost of being in a constant state of interviewing demands payment.  In the end, that source of payment is drawn from either your current employer, your professional reputation, or from time with your family. There is only a finite amount of times one can go to the well – eventually the cost becomes unsustainable.

We have said it many times before – interviewing and finding the right opportunity is very similar to dating and getting married.  Eventually you have “played the field” too much, your reputation as a “player” preceeds you.  In the professionl world being a job hopper is still a flag.  In the good times being “diversivied” or “well rounded” were somewhat accepted.  Now it is all about minimizing risk, and a lack of consistency and sustained superior performance is a concern no matter how you might “explain” it.

In the final analysis maybe, just maybe it is worth knuckling down and giving your current job/career focused attention and commitment – they are paying you after all.  It might not be as bad as you think it is, the past might not have been as great as you remember, and everyone else might not have it quite as good now.  Some even say hard work and performance is still rewarded.  Give it a shot.  Stop worrying about everyone else’s yard and tend to your own – you might find things get better.

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When One Door Closes…

…another opens.  And so goes the classic saying – mostly.  It has become the mantra of the optimist, the choice phrase of the reassuming friend or colleague, the chant of anyone in the midst of change.  It is the battle cry of those facing unforeseen challenges or difficulties.  However, what is often overlooked is that Alexander Graham Bell did not end the sentence so abruptly – there is more to his sentence; more value to be gleaned from the entirety of his message.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” The real power of the message lies in the second, less known half of the sentence.  Many times we become creatures of what was, thinking of the “good old days”, of when things were better, when uncertainty was at a minimum – when we were comfortable.  We become focused on what was, not what will be.

While it is easy to recite the mantra of “when one door closes, another opens” it is absolutely critical to remember and force yourself to recite the rest of the sentence.  “We often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which was opened for us”. Dwelling on what was is not moving forward.  Turning the page quickly and with finality and commitment is the only way to realize, to “see the one which was opened for us”.

We have heard it too many times from too many clients – a fondness for what they had and an expectation that the future should look like the past.  Sometimes the doors that open will look a lot like those of the past, but often times they will not look like anything you have seen before. Familiarity does not equate to opportunity.  Remember the past, but dwelling, comparing, and using what was as a benchmark for what should be leads only to frustration.

It is the power of the entire sentence that is of such importance for anyone that has had a door close in a professional, business, or personal setting.  We see many accomplished professionals struggle when the career takes an unexpected turn, when the door closes on their current role, on their office, on their industry.  Changes also come on the personal front and doors can be closed unexpectedly with great cost on a host of levels.  Every person in every generation has had doors close and doors open, it is the nature of things, the course of life.

When a door is closed, it is closed – moving forward is the only viable option.  Realizing that the door is closed is half the battle, accepting that it is closed and moving forward is the other half. The closing of a door is an opportunity.  It is an opportunity afforded by a forced change.  Embrace the opportunity and seek out the doors of opportunity that lie ahead.   Don’t take it from me; take it from Alexander Graham Bell.

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Okay, so I took a vacation

I am not exactly sure when it happened, but my best bet would be somewhere in the mid to later 90’s.  For any of us that view ourselves as driven, successful, motivated, serious, professional, committed, or any of the other classic buzz words one could choose, it became taboo to use the “v” word.  Yes, the vacation word – the admission that you had the audacity to step away, to relinquish the blackberry and connectivity, to consciously choose to not be accessible.  Make no mistake,  I am not talking about “stepping away for a long weekend”, or “having limited access to phone and email”.  No, I am talking about the full blown week plus of purposely turning off the cell and not taking the laptop.  Totally checking out AND doing it while in the continental United States.  

I feel as if I just went through confession.  I admitted to violating the rules of our hyper drive society.  My goodness, I did not even look, listen, read, or hear any infotainment/news for seven wonderful days.  Clearly I admit a degree of torn loyalty and personal conflict about the decision.  This is hardly the time or environment to be taking time away.  Business is tough for everyone.  The economy is – well the economy.  People are loosing jobs, money is tight, dreams have been shattered and fortunes lost.  None the less, I did it.  I went on vacation.  A serious no contact vacation for an extended period – an entire week.

And what happened you ask – nothing, and I mean that in the best possible way.  The team in the office carried the load with no problems.  Clients understood because I had set the expectation.  The sun rose, the winds blew and the economy hummer, or rather sputtered, along without me being “right there”.  It was truly an enjoyable week.  It was also a very serious lesson in life and business, health and happiness, ego and worth.  Everything, absolutely everything will continue to happen.  Life does go on.  It goes on with or without you, and it goes on with or without me.  The ego does not like that so much – humbling stuff regardless of who you are, what you have done, or how important society tells us we might be.  

Here is the truly guilty piece – it was nice, fun, and above all relaxing.  Relaxing in a way that I have not found in the Islands of the Caribbean, in Europe, at resorts, on the slopes, or on any previous “vacation”.  It was a deep to the core sense of peace, of rest, of finding the inner self, of discovering a lost sense of self and family.  Ironic how that week had me in the high desert of the Mojave.  There is truly a reason that indigenous cultures have traditions of people going into the desert to challenge their faith or to come of age.  There really is something about those areas.

So there it is.  I admit I did it, I took a vacation and I am better for it.  There is value in not being “on” or “available” all the time.  I view it somewhat as one could view advertising.  Sometimes the results are quantifiable – so many views of a marketing piece by so many people results in a certain percentage of business.  And sometimes it just cannot be quantified – everyone knows it is working, but it just cannot be broken down to an exact number.  Same goes for taking a full blown vacation.  You cannot do it all the time, and you certainly cannot do it every time.  However sometimes you have to do it because, well it just simply works.  Not sure why, not sure exactly how, but it just does – you come back a better person on all levels.

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A silver lining – somewhat

So maybe Eric Idle was onto something when he reminded us to “always look on the bight side of life”.  There is certainly some validity to that whimsical piece of melodic advice, and one I have come to embrace and share with others as the situations around us have all become a touch more challenging.  

Over the course of the last several months I have had the pleasure to work with several clients who have embraced the “opportunity” afforded by the economic environment.  They have taken time away from their professional careers – either by choice or by circumstance – and truly reflected on where they have been, the successes they have enjoyed, the price they have paid, and the legacy they have left to date.  For some it has been a chance to recharge, to reaffirm their overall commitment to their path and their profession, and they could not be happier.  

For others, this pause has given them arguably their first chance to ever really stop and think, to reflect on all aspects of their professional and personal life.   They have realized that there might just be a need for adjustment.   There is nothing wrong in either scenario, but it is certainly a very healthy, wise and sophisticated aspect of ones life journey to pause and reflect, to adjust and grow.  

We are seeing and helping folks find their passion, their calling.  Sometimes it is a reaffirmation of their past. For others it is starting on an entirely new path.  We are seeing families become reconnected, or at least better connected. We have listened to others realign their personal and family goals.  Place different values on different things, to realize some things are more or less important when viewed through a different prism.  We have seen folks regain their physical fitness, awaken the dormant athlete, or further their professional education. Of course there are real world challenges confronting everyone during these times, and by no means do I advocate a fanciful assumption that all will be well without some serious action.

However, I can say without question that the opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and above all take long overdue action on one’s lives goals has been one constant silver lining to the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the economy for the last six months.  Many would not have asked for this “opportunity”, or at least not have requested that it arise quite in the fashion that it has, but many are grateful for the chance to really tackle some core issues – issues that all too often were lost in the noise of our day to day lives.  They have been given a gift of time.  

It is refreshing and encouraging to hear from those who have embraced and taken advantage of this “opportunity”, this gift of time.  It is a theme I have shared with many a client, take advantage of this gift.  How it was given to you is not the issue – the fact is that you have the chance – take advantage of it.  In the immortal words of those comedic geniuses Monty Python – always look on the bright side of life!  

(Whistling slowly fades away)

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Sometimes…it’s just not going to be easy

Being a fan of a fringe sport requires a certain level of odd commitment, both as a participant and as a spectator.  We cyclists seem to have a shared reserve of “odd commitment” on which to draw.  Yes, I am one of those guys you see on the road in the cold, rain, sun and heat racking up the miles and loving every odd minute of it.

The Amgen Tour of California is a true world class event bringing together many of the very best cyclists in the world – a truly impressive field.  The unique thing about professional cycling is the very close contact the fans have with the athletes – literally you can walk in and among them both pre and post race.  It is as if NASCAR allowed fans into the pits or baseball allowed open access to the dugouts and locker rooms.  Truly an amazing thing to see, world-class athletes going about their sport/job – for good or ill it is all there for you to see up-close.

This year’s tour just ended Sunday after 8 days of racing.  It started with 3 straight days in Northern California in absolutely horrible weather conditions.  Make no mistake; riding 100 miles day after day in the rain and cold is not just uncomfortable, cold, wet and exhausting, it is flat dangerous.  Multiple riders left the race this last week with broken ribs, collarbones, hands and arms, not to mention countless cases of road rash, bruises and general fatigue and illness.

However, in spite of it all, they were there, day after day, and as the race wore on and the miles racked up, the weather started to improve, the roads dried and the sun shone.  The fans went from a few thousand die-hards along the course to hundreds of thousands lining the roads.  In the course of a week I saw the riders power through the tough days, racing for the love of the sport, and because it is their job.   But there was also the knowledge that there would be an end to each day, and that maybe the next day would be a little better. 

It was quite the lesson in life.  Rain or shine, warm or cold, good day or bad, as a professional you have to go out and do the job day in and day out.  Sometimes we look at others with envy thinking that to do their job and live their life, it must all be gravy, even when it is “tough”.  However, life seems to have an ability to deal everyone tough periods on the road of life’s journey – literally and figuratively.

Often we have to go through periods at work, in our training, and frankly our life that are less than pleasant.  It is easy to bag it when it is tough – just mail it in for the day, week, or longer.  However, remembering why we are there, the commitments, the ultimate goals, will carry us through those periods of struggle.  In the end, it is just part of life’s journey – there are simply stretches that are just gonna suck.  We are the only ones that control how we handle those periods.  We can surrender and lose, or we can lean into it and win.  It is our choice – always has been – always will be.

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Love What You Do

Over the years as a personal coach and recruiter I have been asked countless times what it is that separates the special few, those truly “successful” people from those who just never quite separate from the pack.  Ironically, it is often a simple matter of who is truly doing what they love, what they are passionate about, vice those who are grinding away in the day-to-day battles of modern life.

Now of course success is a term open to a host of definitions.  I always leave that definition at the discretion of the individual – only you can determine what success means to you – it is an extremely personal issue.  What I do believe we all can agree on regarding success, is that it does include an overall level of personal happiness, including professional success, health, fitness, and family.

Before you read any further, I have to ask that you put your possible college football biases aside, at least for the next few minutes.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have no vested interest in either Notre Dame or USC football, the respective universities, or their head football coaches.  I do not know either man and am not commenting on anything beyond the context of on field results of late, and specifically comments made during recent interviews conducted of both coaches by 60 Minutes.  Whew – that was painful.

The role that attitude, that passion for one’s career plays was yet again reinforced while I was watching an interview just this Sunday with Pete Carroll, the head football coach of USC.  Not only was his raw enthusiasm and love of his job, his university, his players and community on display, but the contract drawn by one simple question from the reporter;  absolutely incredible.   Of course, the fact the USC has been on a dramatic upswing while Notre Dame’s struggles on the field brings things into sharper focus.  Again – just a statement of fact – nothing more.

The following is the exchange that really struck me:

“One of your rivals, Charlie Weis, the coach of Notre Dame, said on this program, on 60 Minutes that all coaches are miserable. You miserable?” Pitts asked.

“No. I never have been miserable,” Carroll replied. “I keep thinking day-to-day, that somethin’ good’s just about happen, you know. And so, that mentality, whether I’m in a game or coachin’ in the midst of the season, I don’t know how to think otherwise. And that doesn’t take you to misery.”

As I mentioned earlier, I have no vested interest in either program.  Truth be told, I am a proud alumni of the University of Illinois. I had the unique privilege to witness the fruits of Pete Carroll’s passion and love for his career as USC absolutely rolled the Illini in the Rose Bowl last year. That said, after seeing and hearing his passion as a coach, especially when compared to the views of Charlie Weis – it is no wonder USC is such a successful program.

It is then I realized that yet again, success is often determined by combining one’s passion and love with one’s career or other goals.  Successful people love what they do.

The passion one holds for their career surely plays a role in the level of deep-seated happiness and success one enjoys.  Grinding through the day-to-day activities required in our highly competitive world will more than likely result in professional success – promotion, financial reward, and recognition.  However, true personal fulfillment and happiness AND professional success comes when one is able to combine their passion and their career.

In almost every case when one meets highly successful people – in sports, business, public service, the arts – they all seem to share a genuine love for their chosen field.  They exude an enthusiasm that infects those around them.  They have energy, a confidence that seems to make everyone better.  Truly great leaders have a passion for their organization, for the mission, and above all for their team.  They draw people to them, instill a sense of confidence, and impart a common vision that produces a level of power far greater than the individual members of the team possess alone.

I have yet to ever think of one example of a highly accomplished person who has said they hated, or even disliked what they did; that they have “gutted it out all of these years”.  Yes, there are tough patches, there are facets of every career that are less than fun, but on the whole, the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Clearly, hard work and dedication were critical, but they all share that genuine passion and love of their chosen path.

Just as it is important in our professional life, passion is just as critical in one’s pursuit of fitness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  It is certainly not an accident that those who are committed to fitness and health always seem to “find a way” to exercise and eat right, to rest and relax, while those who are often “too busy” just never quite change their behaviors.

Clearly we live in a world grounded in reality, or at least we should.  Passion alone is not an enabler.  It must be coupled with ability, education, talent, drive, dedication and a relentless work ethic.  However, all of the above traits and behaviors less a personal level of passionate attachment might allow one to achieve a goal, but it will not truly bring a deep sense of personal fulfillment and happiness.

As the above quotes illustrate, and the relative current success of each program reinforces, there are two clear paths, that of misery and that of passion.  The question is, what is it you are passionate about, and are you pursuing that passion?

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