A Parent’s Gift

“To trust who our child is, and not who we think he should be or what the world wants him to be – that perhaps is the single greatest gift a parent can give. Faith in our child’s destiny, in the destiny of her soul – that’s the one ingredient that will make the biggest difference in our parenting.”

– Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open

Mud Run

Yesterday I had a few unexpected free hours and wanted to do a trail run. We’ve recently had a 8-9″ of snow and I love the trails under snow, so I geared up for cold and wore my studded shoes (short machine screws drilled into the rubber soles with the screw heads providing excellent traction on snow/ice).

With a little extra time available, I decided to drive south of Denver to the trailhead for the Colorado Trail. I ran 3.1 miles up the trail then back for a total of 6.2 miles (10k distance). The trail here is not really trail but a packed dirt road, and despite recent snow storms by the time I got there the road was unfortunately not snow-packed. The sun had done its duty and melted everything, leaving nothing but mud.

What could I do? I ran with my studded shoes in the mud.

With studded shoes it was better to run in the squishy mud on the left than the drier hard pack on the right

What I learned today:

1. Be prepared for any conditions, especially psychologically! I was disappointed and even a bit frustrated for a while, but then realized how much fun I was having in the mud. Conditions will undoubtedly be different than expected, at least part of the time.

2. The studs on my winter running shoes, intended for snow & ice, work very well in squishy mud. I did not slip once!

3. I liked these sign posts. I wonder how long they exist? I’m sure it’s not the entire 486 miles of the Colorado Trail.

Nice mile markers. According to signs these were donated by the Boy Scouts.

Sunday Morning

Scott Adams, who invented the Dilbert comic, mentions this in his book ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’ the difference between wishing and deciding.

It’s a key difference, because once we decide, we begin to take action. Wishing tends to start in the mind and stay there.

Deciding involves looking at the cost of pursuing that wish – financial cost, opportunity cost of not doing something else, etc. And then internally agreeing to the cost and moving ahead.

I’ve discovered that 10 minutes early Sunday morning, while the house is asleep and all is still quiet, I can pull out a pen and paper and write down my wishes. Just writing them down makes them feel different. It catalyzes a process that puts thoughts into action and leads to a decision to do – or not do – something that otherwise would float around in my mind.

I find I’m more energized (and happier!) because I’m less frustrated. Despite a demanding career and a busy life I’ve dropped the feeling of dread that life is passing me by. I’m able to put my most important wishes into action because I took time to prioritize and decide.

I don’t think everyone struggles with this. I envy those who do it naturally without much effort. They seem to just know what they want and it’s already prioritized and they’re able to just go. I’m very curious how others manage.

Wild Geese

This poem from Mary Oliver caught me in a moment I was feeling deep anxiety – over work, over life, over whether I’m doing it right.

Tim Ferriss called attention to this in one of his 5-bullet Friday messages, but I only saw it weeks after that particular email came out.

I recognized Mary Oliver‘s name from another poem The Summer Day, particularly a line I stumbled across in 2015 and have carried around in my memory ever since, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Wild Geese jolted me out of my anxiety and returned my attention to a larger perspective: that our wide world and the even more gigantic universe is flowing always, and I’m but a tiny speck in all those machinations. (Why is it so easy to lose track of that?) More important, Oliver’s words reminded me even though I’m a small speck I do have a place, and I only need to walk outside and look around to feel that flow of energy, and relax into it.

Daily Mantras

I will have a good time!

Attitude is EVERYTHING.

If it’s not what I want, I don’t say it.

It’s easy for me to change.

Words are previews of things to come.

I’m a doctor of human relations.

I am in the people business.

I am genuinely interested in other people.

I will ask a lot of questions today!

“Tell me more.”

I have an advantage.

I will watch the tone of my voice.

People are as interested in me as I am in them.

I’ll fake it ’til I make it.

I will speed up by slowing down.

It’ll come to me.

I will look for the good.

I will do more for everybody when I do more for me.

I will be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering general.

What I see is what I’ll get.

Repetition is the mother of skill.

I will act, not react.

I’m a money magnet.

The Last Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time you’ll do something.

For instance, the Bolder Boulder Memorial Day 10K Run is something I’ve done for 21 years, and the last 10 of them have been with my son, Cole. Sometimes we run together, sometimes he runs with his mom, but each year after we’re done we have some time together at Folsom Field. Here’s a photo from 2019:

In 2020, the Bolder Boulder didn’t happen due to the pandemic, and instead they offered a Virtual Bolder Boulder. I was into it and had some fun with that.

This year, in 2021, Covid-19 has again impacted the Bolder Boulder but instead of a virtual event, this year’s course has been divvied up to choose from 1 of 6 routes each in a different town, and time slots are spread out over 3 days. I signed up to run one of the courses on Sunday morning and keep up my streak of participating in every Bolder Boulder since I moved to Colorado in 1999.

But I will not be meeting up with Cole at Folsom Field afterward. I’ll run solo this year and he’ll maybe come support, but he’s not planning to run, and there will be no post-run celebration in the stadium. He’s leaving for college this fall, so that photo above was likely the last time we’ll be at Folsom Field together, after having done so for 10 years. There was no way to know, in 2019, that was it.

On one hand it feels sad, like something lost. And it is emotional, to be sure. During my training run this morning, I felt pangs of loss deep in my chest as these thoughts came and went.

On the other hand, tonight Cole and Quinn and I cleaned up after dinner and instead of retreating to their computer games or digital drawings they both wanted to watch a movie. We made popcorn and lounged on the couch as we have dozens and dozens of times over the years.

There was no other place on Earth I would rather have been tonight, than laughing out loud with my kids over a Netflix movie (The Mitchells vs. The Machines, three big thumbs up!) not knowing if this might be the last time we would ever do this together. And savoring every moment of it.

Make a Little Light

Been a while since my last post. But my commitment to this blog is about attempting to capture the experiences as I move through this life. Mostly for my future self to be able to look back. (If others reading this blog derive some benefit, that’s cool too.) And these experiences only captured if I actually write.

The trick is putting all the emotions in order and making sense out of them through words. For example, today I’m sitting home alone, because there was a possible exposure to the coronavirus in my germ bubble, and I don’t want to meet anyone else until a negative test confirms there is no risk of that. I’m listening to a Spotify playlist that my son shared with me. Missing him and his sister and their youthful, playful energy that must be restrained in these complicated days of Covid-19.

Cold temperatures outside, fire in the wood stove inside. And a wild flurry of emotions have rampaged across my mind and heart all morning.

Thoughts of work and the extraordinary growth we’re going through — and all the challenges that come with that territory.

Thoughts of my son who is writing college essays and building a self-portrait that will be foundational as he figures out his own life. And wondering what are the best ways to me to support his growth and coming-of-age.

Existential thoughts of who I am and how I fit into this complex world – big with 7 billion people yet small in a universal context. If my life force is snuffed out, a few people around me are affected but the world keeps moving. While I am alive, a few people around me are impacted but the world keeps moving. What, then, can or should I do to improve the world? Do I even have a responsibility to improve things?

I believe the answer is yes. My duty is to make a little light, right here where I am, in any way that I can. I’ll do my part, you do yours, and the interconnected web of our positive pushes will make a difference against. But we have to be very intentional about it.

At the workplace, I influence the people who work with me. And they influence the colleagues, customers, partners who interact with our company.

At home, my kids will absorb every remark and every moment I spend with them. I can build them up or tear them down, and they will bring their experience of me into their future networks of relationships.

There is a lot of darkness out there. Incredibly difficult circumstances, injustices, crises of giant proportions, and people carrying deep pain.

I’ll combat that today by making a little bit of light, here in my world, right where I am.

Virtual Bolder Boulder

Happy Memorial Day! The unofficial start of summer feels very different this year, but we should still celebrate and acknowledge our American heroes who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. And this year, let’s also remember our present-day heroes, from those stationed far away to the ones in the hospitals and also at the corner grocery.

Under non-COVID circumstances I would be running the Bolder Boulder 10k road race with my kids today. In lieu of touring Boulder’s streets in close proximity with 50,000 of our closest friends, the Bolder Boulder organizers are encouraging a Virtual Bolder Boulder – one in which we all do our runs separately.

In my house we took this idea one step further and created a scavenger hunt to amp things up a bit. We created a loop that is 2.07 miles and starts and finishes at the same location at a local park. Three loops is 6.2 miles – the 10k!

Just follow the chalk arrows. For the scavenger hunt there are 6 baggies tucked away along the course. Each baggie contains a hand stamp to prove you found it.

You know you’re near a hand stamp if you see a number like this on the ground. Wherever there’s a number, there a hand stamp hiding nearby.

It’s a gorgeous day for running!

Limited Resources

Here’s a map of the world my kids gave me for my birthday. We are using stickies to mark all the places in the world we’d like to visit. Mine are pink, Cole’s are green, and Quinn’s are blue.

Now here’s what my life looks like plotted out by weeks. Each column is a week. It’s easy to see how finite my life is. If I assume a 90-year life span, I’m just over halfway through. There are a lot of “white” weeks ahead of me, but also a lot of “gray” boxes that are behind me. What will I do with the time ahead (especially knowing 90 weeks is just a guess, no one knows their expiration date).

JdLifeWeeks

Such limited resources (financial and time) for all the places I’d like to see! It makes no sense to keep putting things off. Now is the time to act. It’s also the reason to eat healthy and exercise every day — so I can keep mobile and continue to pursue my dreams.

People Over Things

I’m going to link this blog post from Vitaliy Katsenelson. The gist is ‘what would you do if you knew you had 6 months to live’. He shares some great insights – ones I hope to act on even today with my kids.

In the post he cites the story below, which is what I really want to share even if you don’t click over to Mr. Katsenelson’s blog. It’s the first-person story of Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old (same age as me) professor who has only six months to live – he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Here is an excerpt:

Once, about a dozen years ago, when Chris was seven years old and Laura was nine, I picked them up in my brand-new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible. “Be careful in Uncle Randy’s new car,” my sister told them. “Wipe your feet before you get in it. Don’t mess anything up. Don’t get it dirty.” I listened to her, and thought, as only a bachelor uncle can: “That’s just the sort of admonition that sets kids up for failure. Of course they’d eventually get my car dirty. Kids can’t help it.” So I made things easy. While my sister was outlining the rules, I slowly and deliberately opened a can of soda, turned it over, and poured it on the cloth seats in the back of the convertible. My message: People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing.

I’ve been thinking recently how easy it is to be selfish and material, especially in America. I’m watching out for my own well-being, helping my kids through school and hopefully to college and off on the right foot in life, planning for my retirement, outlining travel trips I want. I contrast this with friends who are constantly reaching out to me and others, checking in, asking to make plans, willing to set aside their own needs, actively seeking ways to bring comfort to others. They embody the social support that makes us feel connected and loved.

Then there’s the video made by my daughter’s middle-school teachers, each self-isolating at home, and one of them edited a series of 30-second clips of each teacher recording themselves saying hello to their students. So evident how much these people love their kids! They exemplify prioritizing people over things.

So, too, do the brave health care workers who are out on the front lines taking care of sick patients, like my friend Brian who is a hospital physician in Philadelphia. People are more important even than personal safety.

Today’s daily blog post from Seth Godin challenges us to consider what our principles really are. “What makes it a principle is that we do it now, even though (especially though) it’s hard.” If my principles value people over things, what am I going to do today, even if it’s hard even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, to live that?

Closed Eyes, Open Eyes

I close my eyes. I think about everything that’s most important to me: family, friends, home, career, music, etc. Then I imagine that it’s all taken away. How does that make me feel? I quickly realize that what I already have is so much more important than what I don’t have. I realize how fortunate, successful, and happy I already am. Then I open my eyes. My life might not be what I consider “perfect”, but it’s already pretty great.