Archive for the ‘Lessons from the Road’ Category

When You Exude Positive Energy, It Will Come Back to You in Racing and In Business

April 12, 2017

My friends love to hear my stories about my “good karma” experiences, and they have been asking me to write a blog about them.  This is that blog, and it features some of my favorite stories from last year or two.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think

When I lived in Cincinnati, I drove more than 45 minutes each way to shop at Costco.  I was there almost every week because I was buying food for my cooking classes and my personal use.  I knew all the staff there, and they knew me.  They were like an extended family.  I knew about their health, their families, their hobbies and so many other things.  I loved that.  When I moved to Kansas City, I found a Costco much closer to where I live.  I’d been shopping at this same Costco for more than a year.  One day, I got into the checkout line with 180 eggs and a bunch of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean protein.  The gentleman checking out my purchases looked so familiar.  I knew that couldn’t be. Then he says, “You’re from Cincinnati, right?” I tell him I am and ask how he knows that. He smiles and says I used to work at the Springdale Costco where you shopped. I was nearly in tears. I knew who he was.  It was Gene, one of my favorite team members at Costco.  I was so glad to see a familiar face from home. I ran around to the other side of the conveyor belt and gave him a huge hug and kiss and told him to tell his wife I said hello.  I asked how she was doing and he told me she is a manager at another Costco in KC and her transfer to that store is what brought them to Kansas City.  He asked me, as he looked at my purchases, how marathon training was going.  I told him it was in full swing and going well, all while holding back tears of joy.  I had been clicking my heels and saying, “There’s no place like home!” since I got to KC. That day my Cincinnati home came to me.  Now I wait in line for Gene even when there are shorter lines.  He is my KC connection to fond memories of home.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think Part 2

I was flying home to Cincinnati to race and visit friends.  It was the day after Delta’s computer system crashed.  Lots of flights were delayed or cancelled.  My flight was scheduled to leave on time, but I got to the airport very early anticipating long lines.  As I’m waiting in line, I notice the Delta agent looks familiar.  But I know I’ve never seen him at the KCI airport.  He asks me, “Where are you going?” I tell him home to Cincinnati. He says your driver’s license says you live here. I reply with a smile, “You asked me where I’m going…not where I live.” He then asks where I lived in Cincinnati. I said Burlington, Kentucky. He smiled and said I used to live in Oakbrook and worked at CVG, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport. That’s why he looked so familiar. He had checked me in on flights numerous times when I lived in Cincinnati.  As I headed to the gate I said, “Please take good care of my bag. My racing gear is in it.” Imagine my surprise when it was first off the conveyor. Here’s why…Vince had priority tagged my bag.  It was treated with VIP status.  Bless his heart. This is what I love about Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky people…hearts of gold and we take care of our own.

A couple months later, I was heading home to Cincinnati to visit friends and relax…no racing on that trip.  I had hoped to see Vince when I checked in, but he was not there.  As I was waiting for my flight I decided to take a walk around the gate area.  At one of the gates (not the one for my flight), Vince was checking people in for their flight.  I was so glad to see him so I could thank him for taking such good care of me and my bag in August.  I walked up to him and said, “I know you won’t remember me, but can I give you a big hug?”  He looked a bit puzzled, but said it was fine.  I went on to tell him that he had priority tagged my racing gear bag to Cincinnati a couple months ago and it arrived safely and first off the conveyor.  He smiled and said I know exactly who you are.  We used to be neighbors.  I smiled, gave him another hug and headed to my gate so happy that I could thank him in person for what he did for me and his kindness.

Once a Runner, Always a Runner

After leaving the Cincinnati airport with my priority tagged bag, I headed to Avis to pick up my rental car.  Art (who I’d never seen before) greeted me and asked me if I had a reservation.  I told him I had one and had a free upgrade to my reservation.  Art told me that due to the computer issues with Delta, many people rented cars when they couldn’t get flights out of Cincinnati and their fleet was depleted. I said that the upgrade wasn’t an issue, I’d be happy with any car that had a big trunk since I had to pack my large suitcase due to having a lot of racing gear.  He asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I told him I was and asked if he was a runner too.  He said he was in his younger years.  I smiled and said, “I bet you were fast!”  He said he was.  I laughed and said, “Me…not so much!”  We both laughed about that.  Once he got my paperwork done, he told me he got me the best car they had left but he was having them wash it and clean it out since it just came back in service.  He wished me good luck on my race and told me to run like the wind.  I thanked him for the good luck wishes.  When the driver pulled up with my rental car it was a full size car with a huge trunk…much nicer than what I’d expected.   Runners in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky also take care of their own.

Share Kindness and It Will Be Returned

One night when I came home from work and a run, I didn’t feel like cooking dinner.  I told my dad we were going to a grocery store down the street to make salads for dinner from their salad bar. As I was waiting for my dad to finish his salad creation, a lovely older woman asked me, “How do you get to the checkout? I’ve never been in this store.” I told her I’d walk her there and told my dad to please follow when he was done. As we were walking to the checkout lane, I asked her if she was from the KC area. She said she wasn’t.  I said, “This is a lovely store, but there are grocery stores here that are much less expensive.” She said she knew that, but the roast she was buying was on sale. She got in the checkout line in front of us and the young man ringing her up asked her if she had a store loyalty card. When she said she didn’t, he asked her if she wanted to apply for one. She told him she didn’t have a need since she was from out of town. I asked him, “Can she get the sale price on that roast without a loyalty card?” He said she couldn’t. I asked him to please use mine. When he was done checking her out, he told her she saved $33 with the store loyalty card. She nearly had tears in her eyes when she hugged and kissed me and thanked me. It made my day!  In the midst of all the violence, hate and political rhetoric, we must not forget that we are all human beings and a little kindness goes a very long way.

You Never Know What You’ll Learn When You’re Being Friendly with Strangers

I went to packet pickup for the Rock the Parkway Half marathon last week. I was fifteen minutes early and the volunteers weren’t allowed to hand out packets until 11am when packet pickup officially opened. So, I walked to the Garmin booth and started talking with Brian. We talked about local and national half and full marathons that we loved and other things running geeks talk about. During the conversation, I mentioned that my Garmin Vivosmart HR+ was acting up and not tracking my runs and walks this week. He told me Garmin’s headquarters had a customer service center where I could walk in and get help. I didn’t know that. So I headed to Olathe, Kansas which is about 10 minutes from where I was picking up my race packet, and Clint took extraordinary care of me. He looked at my activity tracker and realized it couldn’t be fixed. He then went and got me a brand new one to replace my old one, for free!  He then set it up for me and synced it to my phone. I have always said that Garmin’s customer service is as good as Disney’s. And this is why I constantly tell people that I can’t imagine owning any other brand of GPS/running/fitness gear than Garmin. I tell them when it comes to quality and customer service, I think Garmin is the best!  My new tracker works great and it’s a more recent model so it has some features my old tracker didn’t have.  I’m really enjoying the new features.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

What goes around comes around in racing, life and business.  People respond to your positive (or negative) energy accordingly.  When you are kind to strangers and co-workers, they will be kind in return.  When you are helpful, people will be helpful in return.  When you show you care, people will care about you in return.  Racing, life and business are simply about the Golden Rule.  Be golden and you will have shining moments and amazing experiences like the ones I’ve shared in this blog.


Life’s About Changing, Nothing Ever Stays the Same in Life or in Business

January 17, 2017

One of my favorite Patty Loveless songs is “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye.” The refrain lyrics go like this:
Mama whispered softly time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing nothing ever stays the same
And she said how can I help you to say goodbye it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to cry
Come let me hold you and I will try how can I help you to say goodbye
At no time in my life has this song ever hit home more than in the last few years. The latest goodbye happened on January 17, 2017. I had to say goodbye to one of the greatest loves of my life…my nearly 19 year old cat, Sheba. It was heart breaking. This was a heart ache that was different than what I had with my other cat that passed away three years ago. Cleopatra went into full kidney failure. She could barely walk. She looked at me as if to say, “Help me go. I’m ready.” It was painful, but the decision was one that was obvious. But Sheba wasn’t ready to go. Her heart and mind were with me, but her tired body was not. She was dropping weight and her colon had gotten to a point where it could no longer evacuate on its own. Laxatives and drugs were only a temporary solution before an enema was needed. The procedure was invasive and exhausting for Sheba. After a while, the enemas stopped helping for more than a few days, and my vet and I had the conversation that all pet lovers dread. I told her I needed some time to say goodbye to her and she agreed that was fine. I spent the next week being a helicopter mom. I loved on Sheba every waking moment I was with her. She would look at me with love and adoration and my heart would break that much more. Finally, the time came. I was a mess. I’m still a mess. Fortunately, I have a job I love that is a great distraction from the pain and friends across the globe sending me love and support and trying to keep me busy. And through all my losses, I go running.
During this week, I thought about many of my friends that had recently suffered other kinds of heart breaking losses such as being let go from their job after 20 years, the end of a long marriage and the passing of loved ones…both two legged and four legged. I kept thinking about the song lyrics and how I could help them to say goodbye to their losses, and more important how I could help them recover from their broken hearts. This blog is a small, but sincere effort to help do that.
Sheba was perfectly healthy prior to my move to Kansas City. The move nearly killed her. Dogs deal with change. Cats don’t. After her passing, I realized the last three years of my life had revolved around Sheba and her rigid and constant medical needs and medication schedules. All of a sudden, that disappeared. I had all this time on my hands and a sad sense of flexibility and freedom I hadn’t had since I moved to Kansas City. As I try to recover from my grief, I am now focusing on a very different future and actually focusing on what I want and need for the first time in a very long time. If you follow this blog, “Lessons from the Road,” you know running is my center…my go to activity when it all goes wrong or things in my life are off center. A run is my go to activity because it’s “me time” and a time where I feel at peace and centered. I thank God every day that I’m able to run and go to this place with my mind, body and spirit.

So what does this have to do with business?
People can be like cats and not deal with change well. But like the song says, life’s about changing and nothing ever stays the same. How we deal with that change is what sets us apart.
We can be consumed by our losses and let them paralyze us. In the workplace, losing our jobs or seeing people we care about lose their jobs can make us feel angry, unappreciated and feel so many other ways that are natural when we’re in shock or in crisis. Losing clients or bids on prospective new business can make us feel exhausted and cause us to second guess ourselves. But we cannot let these feelings keep us from moving forward. Life is about changing and it’s about relentless forward progress. When we dwell in the past or stop moving forward, we stop living our best, most productive lives.
I’m not saying we cannot mourn and grieve for our losses. We should do that. But we also, in our grief, must try to focus on the future and the positive things we want and need to achieve going forward after our losses. We must remember our joy and not just our sorrow. The joyful things remind us that we are still here…living, breathing, growing, evolving and thriving to be the best we can be for ourselves and those around us.

Mourn your losses, but don’t forget to rejoice in the opportunities and adventures that lie ahead! Wishing you a joyful, exciting journey.

Finding Your Center and Where You Fit In Is a Blessing in Racing, Life and Business.

January 1, 2017

For those of you that follow this blog, Lessons from the Road, you know I write about life lessons I learn while running and how those lessons relate to business. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog talking about my transition and the struggles that I experienced after moving to Kansas City to care for my father after my mom passed away. (If you missed that blog, you can find it here: (Many that read Life and Business Are a Journey said I should warn you that you will most likely need a tissue. You’ve been warned.) This blog picks up where that blog left off.

To give you some background, prior to moving to Kansas City, I spent 25 glorious years in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. I knew exactly who I was there. I was the owner of several thriving small businesses. I was the “parent” to two healthy cats. I was surrounded by the love and support of amazing friends and neighbors every day. I was inspired and challenged to be the best I could be by my clients. And last, but not least, I was a runner. These things centered me. They were the core of my soul. I lost my center when I moved to Prairie Village, Kansas where my father lives and I grew up.

My experience in Prairie Village and Johnson County (the county where Prairie Village is located) was the opposite of my experience in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. I found the people in Prairie Village and Johnson County cold and unwelcoming. Making friends, something that had always been easy for me in every other city I’d lived in as an adult, was nearly impossible. I felt isolated…something I’d never felt before. It was disconcerting. But sometimes in our discomfort, we find the silver lining. This blog is about that silver lining and the incredible journey and learning I experienced this year.

When I lived in Cincinnati, I wanted to qualify for three running groups called the Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. Qualifying for these three groups had been on my dream list for many years. These groups don’t focus on how fast you run. They focus on your endurance…lots of races in short periods of time. I always tell people I’m built for endurance, not for speed. So this goal was realistic for me. However, this is a goal that takes a lot of time and training. In Cincinnati, I put it off. I didn’t want to take time away from my friends and busy social life to do the training and racing needed to qualify for these groups.

But in Kansas City, I didn’t have that issue. So, in November, 2015, I created a training and racing plan that would help me qualify for all three groups in 2016. I ran 24 races in 2016…most of them were half and full marathons. To put that in perspective, I averaged seven to nine races a year in Cincinnati. In the spring, I qualified for the Half Fanatics by running four half marathons in 37 days. In the fall I qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents by running three full marathons and three half marathons in 60 days. Basically, I was racing most weekends and training constantly when I wasn’t working. It was relaxing and rejuvenating to be working toward such a big, long-time goal. But during this endeavor, I achieved something far greater…I found my center and sense of self again in a city where I have never felt at home, even when I was a kid growing up there. And that journey was one of the most joyful ones of my life. Here’s how it transpired:

I went home (or what I consider my home) to Cincinnati to kick off my Marathon Maniac and Double Agent qualification process. The race was a half marathon I’d done several times before when I lived in Cincinnati. It poured the entire time, but it was a summer downpour, so it actually felt nice because it was so hot and humid that day. I met some friendly people on the course and had a good time in spite of the less than ideal weather conditions. To me, that’s part of racing. You take what Mother Nature gives you and you suck it up. Racing is a metaphor for life…you take what life gives you, and you suck it up.

In September, I ran the Patriots’ Run, the first of the three qualifying marathons. I met a couple of Marathon Maniacs prior to the race and learned a lot! I learned about other races I’d like to run in the future, and I learned a great deal about the race I was about to run. They were so friendly and welcoming. They were also from out of town. Patriots’ Run is a unique race because it’s a one mile loop. It starts at noon and ends at 9:11pm because it is a race on September 11th to honor those that died and served on September 11th. For some, a race like this is intimidating or unappealing. The heat can be daunting. The tedious course can be a huge deterrent to many. For me, neither was a factor that would prevent me from running it. I loved seeing the same people over and over again as we cheered each other on to the finish of either the marathon (26 laps) or the ultra marathon which consisted of running as many laps as possible in nine hours and eleven minutes. During the last eight miles, I caught up with one of the Marathon Maniacs I’d met prior to the race. Thomas was my saving grace. I was starting to slow down from the heat, and it was nice to have a running buddy for those final eight miles. We talked about life and our families, and we talked about how he qualified for the Maniacs and my goal of doing so in the coming 60 days. As we talked, I found out he was running the Des Moines marathon which would be my final qualifying race for both the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. He shared a lot of great information that only someone that had run the race before would know. At the end of the race, I was greeted by my dear friend, Mel, the only close friend I’ve made since I moved to Kansas City. She had run the 5k earlier that afternoon, gone home to clean up and came back with her lap top so she could work while I completed the last few miles of my journey. She cheered Thomas and me on for the last 4 laps, and she was waiting at the finish line with a high 5 and a cold protein shake. Flanked by two wonderful, supportive people, it reminded me of my days back home in Cincinnati. It was joyful.

In October, I was at church and a woman came running up to me and said, “Pastor says you’re a runner, and I need to meet you!” I had never met Alicia before because I go to the early service and she and her family go to the late service. As we talked, we realized we were running the same marathon, Prairie Fire, the following weekend in Wichita. She had only run two marathons and one of them was Prairie Fire which was in her home town. She was looking to beat her fastest time and asked if I would pace her. I told her I would. For 26.2 miles we talked about everything you can imagine…family, work, life and our experiences with the Johnson County culture. It was girl bonding at its best! She was a fabulous tour guide on the course, pointing out all kinds of things only locals would know. It was great. While she served as the docent, I focused on our pace and making sure she achieved her goal. She did. And it was so great to share that moment with her. Her parents were at the finish line to greet us and congratulate us. It was heart-warming. I was beaming with joy and pride for my new friend.
A week later, I would run my final qualifying marathon in Des Moines. Two of my dearest running friends, Pam and Tony, had signed up for that race too. We met many years ago at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati through the Runner’s World Challenge. We ran that race together and ran many more races together after that. They knew how important this race was to me. It was great to have them there for support even though we wouldn’t be running together because they are much faster than I am, and I was taking this race at a much slower pace than usual due to running a marathon the previous week. One of the other benefits of Des Moines was it happened to be the reunion race for the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs. Because I was a Half Fanatic, I was able to attend the reunion meeting. My new friend, Thomas, was there and we sat together and caught up on running and racing. During the reunion meeting I felt welcome and centered. I was surrounded by people that love running as much as I do. Many had run marathons or half marathons (or both) in all 50 states! I was surrounded by kindred spirits…it was like a family reunion where you liked everyone in the room. I felt at home and centered.

The day after the reunion was race day. Pam and Tony met me at my hotel and we walked to the start line together. We wished each other well, knowing they’d finish long before I would. The race began and I was off to achieve my big goal. After the pack of runners spread out, I settled into a comfortable pace. My body felt beat up all week from the marathon in Wichita, but that morning, it was feeling fabulous. I was grateful for that and being able to run my usual pace from previous years…for however long it lasted. As I found my comfortable pace, I ended up in a pace group with a bunch of very friendly runners. It was great to talk and run. I have not found the runners at races in Kansas City to be friendly. What I was feeling at Des Moines felt like home. It was like running with my running partner or my running group friends. It was similar to the comradery I was used to at races in Cincinnati, where we knew no strangers and everyone we met on the course was family. It was joyful. At mile 17, I couldn’t keep the same pace and dropped back from the group. Not long after that, I heard a familiar voice. It was Thomas. Once again in the final miles of this race, we were running the same pace. It felt good to run with a buddy and it made the miles go faster. We picked up a couple Marathon Maniacs during our final miles and we all had great conversation and a wonderful time on our journey to the finish line. As we turned the corner for the final mile, Tony and Pam were waiting to run me in like they’d done the previous year when we ran the Kansas City marathon. At the finish line, once again, I was surrounded by friends and lots of support. We all walked to the Marathon Maniac booth so I could have my photo taken with the sign that said I’d just qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. I was beaming! My long-time goal had been achieved. But the most rewarding part of the process was the journey itself…the people I met, the friends I made and the things I learned.

So what does this story have to do with business?
Just like in racing and life, in business we often have to redefine who we are and find a new comfort zone. At one point in our personal or business life we may feel at peace with ourselves and our work environment. Then one day or over a period of time, that can all change and we find ourselves isolated and off center My advice to you, if you experience this, is to be like a true endurance athlete… keep going and don’t stop moving forward. Often in life and in business, we don’t fit into certain situations, social groups, community cultures or careers. The key is to keep looking for a place and people that feel like home in our personal lives and our work lives. Home is where your heart is, and that’s not always where you currently reside personally or professionally. Remember while you search for what feels like home, keep your eyes and hearts open to new challenges, wonderful new people and better days ahead.
Wishing you a healthy, happy 2017 and a joyful journey to find who and what centers you.

Helping Someone Reach the Finish Line Is One of Life’s Great Rewards

May 24, 2016

Recently, I ran the Trolley Run in Kansas City. It’s a four mile course that’s flat and fast. This race started like any other. I was running alone, enjoying a beautiful day with 10,000 other people and supporting a great local charity.

I was about 2.75 miles into the race and feeling great. I was running at the fastest pace I’d ever run. As I powered up a slight incline, I saw a young woman just ahead of me that seemed like she was struggling a bit. I told her she was looking great and to keep up the good work. She replied, “I have no idea why I signed up for this!” At this point I am beside her, and I asked if this was her first race. It was. That was my cue that I needed to pace this young woman and get her to the finish line. I introduced myself and she told me her name was Claire. And from that moment on, we were on a mission together to finish the race strong.

I told Claire, “Follow my lead. Relax your arms. Breathe slower. I will pace you to the finish.” She had no tracking technology, so I told her we were coming up on mile three and she’d be fine. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I noticed after about a quarter mile her arms relaxed, her breathing slowed and she was in her zone. I kept talking to her and telling her where we were each quarter mile. At 3.65 miles we were about to make the final turn to the finish line. I looked at her and said, “This is where you shine. Give it all you have. Run as fast as you can. You can do this, and I will see you at the finish line.” She started to run like she had fresh legs and took off as we high fived each other. She finished about 10 seconds in front of me. It was joyful to watch her finish and see her sense of achievement.

At the finish she turned around and thanked me. “None need,” I told her. “You did this all on your own.” She told me when I started to pass her, she was about to start walking because she didn’t think she could finish. I knew better when I saw her. She just needed a little encouragement and a little coaching. I hope Claire runs other races in the future. She now knows she can do this on her own.

The following week, I was scheduled to run the Independence Half Marathon. I had been coaching one of my clients to run this race for the last three months. On race day, I saw her waiting for the race to start. This was her first half marathon. The pre-race jitters were obvious and natural. I had told her that for a first long distance race, your goal should simply be to finish. But I know this client. I knew she had a time goal in mind. So, I said, “You know the ultimate goal is to finish, but I’m guessing you have a time goal. What is it?” She told me 2:20 to 2:30. I was a bit surprised. During one of our conversations she mentioned wanting to run a half marathon in two hours. I found out that was a long term goal, which is good. There was no way I could pace her for a two hour half marathon finish. Knowing her goal was a finishing time I could pace easily, I told her she could run with a pace group or I’d be happy to pace her if she would prefer that. Her eyes got big and she said, “I’d love for you to run with me! Are you serious?” I told her it would be my honor.

Like many new long distance runners, she shot out of the starting line like a rocket. I gently encouraged her to slow down and let me set the pace. I told her not to let the excitement and adrenaline get the best of her since we had 13 miles to go. I was able to get her to settle into a good pace. My job was to keep her entertained and focused, especially in the later miles when fatigue can set in and your head can get in the way with negative thoughts.

We took a couple of walk breaks due to her asthma, but I made sure she got back on track after she caught her breath. At mile 11, we were greeted with an uphill climb and some serious headwinds. She was feeling some fatigue, which is to be expected. I told her to envision the finish line and getting that big 1.1 pound medal. (Yes, it really did weigh more than a pound as the race director had advertised.) She continued at a slower, less energetic pace. Then, she saw her running partner, who was not racing that day, holding up a sign with her name on it. That was the last push she needed. We rounded the corner to the finish line and I said, “Go! Give it all you’ve got!” She took off and I ran just a few seconds behind her so I could watch her finish and see her being greeted by her husband, daughters, parents and running partner. She looked at me and said, “We finished in 2:18!” I smiled and said, “Of course you did! I knew you could do this all along. Congratulations on a job well done and finishing your first half marathon.” She hugged me and smiled as she looked at her huge medal. This race happened to be the weekend of my birthday. I can’t think of a better birthday gift than to share a moment like that with someone I care about and have coached for months.

After both of these races, many of my friends commented on how selfless it was of me to “sacrifice my race” for these women. My reply was that it wasn’t a sacrifice in any way. It was a joy and an honor to run with them and witness their feeling of accomplishment…a true runner’s high.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

Statistics show that people often leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated, uninspired and lost with no guidance. I have heard many young professionals say that they wish there were people willing to mentor them at work. Others say they wish they had someone at the office that had their back.

The message here is simple. Mentoring and being a good cheerleader is crucial in racing and in business. If you see someone that shows great promise but is struggling a little or needs a confidence boost to get ahead and reach the finish line at work, step up and help them. Be a leader. Be a good pacer. The time you invest to help someone achieve their goals will be time well spent. It’s a reward that costs you nothing but a little time and effort. But it’s a reward that has far more value than money. To me, there is nothing better than watching someone succeed. And if I can play a tiny role in that success, that’s even better.

So, look around you at work and when you’re out and about. You never know who you will inspire and how that inspiration can help lead someone you know or a total stranger to achieving something special that could change their life and their perspective forever.

Life and Business Are a Journey…You Don’t Always Know What Lies Ahead

March 13, 2016

Two years ago, on March 13, 2014 my mother passed away. The original plan was for my father to move to Cincinnati to live in my home with me, but the stress of that move was sending him to the cardiologist and the ER on a weekly basis. He didn’t want to move. As an only child, I did what was right. I moved to Kansas City to live with my father who was terrified to live in the house alone. I sincerely felt the move to Cincinnati would kill him, and I wasn’t about to lose both my parents in less than a year. I know the statistics.
While still in shock over my mother’s death, I sold my home, donated almost everything in the house to charity and got on a plane with my beloved cat, Sheba, to take care of my dad. That year was filled with loss. I’d lost my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra, about six months before I lost my mother. I was leaving my clients and friends of 25 years that were like family to me. I was leaving my neighbors that were like family for the last 25 years. I’d lost my center.
As those of you that follow this blog know, I write this blog based on things I learn while running. When I moved to Kansas City I spent the first four months at the vet every day trying to get Sheba stabilized. The stress of the move nearly killed her. Losing her would have nearly killed me. She is my child! Our vet did a wonderful job of getting her stabilized, and I finally felt things with Sheba were under control. I am her center.
My dad’s health improved during that time too. There were no more trips to the cardiologist or ER once I moved in with him. His recent annual physical was the best it’s ever been. His doctor says I’m the reason for that. As a health coach, I make sure he eats right and exercises every day. I am his center.
With Sheba and my dad stable, it was time for me to focus on getting my center back. Running has always been what grounds me. It brings me joy, peace and helps me stay healthy.
What I didn’t know was that the streets of the town where my dad lives are steeply graded. Running in the road, which is what I did at home in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, tears you up! After running in the road for a few months and feeling beat up, I realized something was seriouly wrong. I found a great Active Release Techniques chiropractor through the one I used back home. Marty got me put back together. It took months, but I was able to run as he helped me heal the damage I’d done to my body. Running started to be comfortable again…joyful again. It was a blessing. He was a blessing.
Yet I still wasn’t inspired to write a blog. I knew it had been a long time since I’d done so, but Kansas City wasn’t inspiring me. My dad’s neighbors certainly weren’t inspiring me like my neighbors back home did. Nothing I saw on my runs captured my heart…much less captured it enough to inspire me to write about it. I wasn’t meeting people at races that inspired me either. Frankly, running in Kansas City left me utterly uninspired…until March 12, 2016.
I decided to run the Westport St. Patrick’s Day race in honor of my mother. It’s a four mile race. It was the perfect distance because I suspected I might be in tears for the entire race. But tears weren’t what my mother had in mind for me.
Here’s what happened:
Race morning, I get out of my car and a friendly young woman sees I have a race bib on and asks me where packet pickup is located. I told her I was there yesterday and it’s hard to find. I told her I’d walk her there. As we walked and talked, I found out she’d signed up for the race the week before with a friend that had bailed on her that morning due to being sick. So, she was completely untrained to run the four miles and was going to have to do it by herself. “No way! I will run with you and pace you for the four miles,” I told her. She had only run a 5k quite some time ago and had trained for that race. But I knew with the fact she was young and fit, she was up for this task…even though she hadn’t trained. Amanda did fabulous. We took a couple of walk breaks but averaged a 10:33 minute/mile and finished in about 43 minutes.
She knew I was dedicating this race to my mother and she apologized for slowing me down. I smiled and told her it was an honor to run with her and we made my mother proud. She thanked me and my mom for getting her to the finish line. She told me she would have walked more of the race if I hadn’t been there to push her.
My mother didn’t know a stranger. She made friends with anyone she met. That day, I honored my mother’s memory in the best possible way by making a stranger my new friend.
So what does this story have to do with business?
Life and business are a journey. Sometimes the road is bumpy and throws us curves. Sometimes the road is smooth and easy. Life and business journeys are about the paths we take and the people we meet along the way. When we open our minds, bodies and spirits to new things and new people, we open our lives and our businesses to new possibilities and opportunities. Those possibilities and opportunities can be joyful and life changing in very positive ways.
It was a joy to run with my new friend, Amanda, and pace her for a PR (personal record) at the race! She said I was a blessing to her sent by God. She was an angel on earth and a blessing to me sent by God and my mother. Without Amanda, that race would likely have been filled with pain, loss and sorrow. Without Amanda, I most likely would have cried the entire four miles. But because of Amanda, my new friend for life, I found inspiration, purpose and joy. She was my center that day.
My advice to you is to mourn your losses…in life and in business. But in that process, open your eyes and your hearts to the joys that can be part of those losses and you may find your inspiration and your center again. You may find a new friend too.

In Times of Trouble, Help Is on the Way If You’ve Built a Support Network

July 6, 2011

I’ve written blogs about my neighbors being my “crowd support” when I’m out running or cycling as I train for marathons and triathlons.  I’ve written about how they honk, cheer, shout out and wave to show their encouragement of my efforts.  But never did that support mean more than recently, when my home was flooded.

During the worst of the torrential rains, my driveway had more than 8 inches of standing water in it.  The driveway drain couldn’t keep up with the constant deluge of water.  I had two small pumps connected to hoses draining the driveway water to the street, in addition to the main drain, but that still wasn’t enough.  Seeing the water coming into the garage and knowing it would eventually come into the house, I went outside with a bucket and started bailing water in the lightning and thunderstorms with the sirens blaring. No, that wasn’t wise or safe, but I figured if it was my time to go, I was going to go trying to save my home.

Once the sirens shut off and the storms passed, my neighbors came out to assess any damage to their homes.  When they looked around or drove by, they saw me taking water to the street in a bucket.  Within minutes, an army of help showed up.  Neighbors I knew and ones I’d never seen before came with pumps, hoses, extension cords and buckets.  Within an hour there were 7 pumps, 10 neighbors and lots of buckets.  The damage to the house was significant.  But nowhere near what it would have been if everyone hadn’t shown up to help.

For those who know me well, they know I’m very logical, very determined, but not particularly emotional.  But on that day, as I looked at all those people who came to help me save my home, it brought tears to my eyes.  Their kindness was overwhelming.  It made me realize more than ever how fortunate I was to have such an extensive and caring support system, including support I never knew I had.

The next day, I went to thank my neighbors with a note and a little gift.  My next door neighbor, who had three family members helping for more than 5 hours, said, “You are the picture of courage.  Most women, would have seen that water and thrown up their hands and given up.  But not you.  You got out there with a bucket, determined to drain that water no matter what it took.”

So how does this story relate to business?

In our business lives, we have support systems…some we know and some come to our aid in times of trouble because it’s the right thing to do.  The key to having a great support system is relationships.  If we don’t cultivate relationships in good times, the support won’t be there in hard times when we need it most.  Often, I think business professionals are so focused on their day to day jobs and goals, they forget to look at the bigger picture.  And the bigger picture is that you don’t reach your goals all by yourself. It takes the support of others, whether that’s staff, vendors or strategic alliance partners, we rarely accomplish great things all on our own.

The other thing we must remember is that courage and determination are critical to our survival and success in business.  You can build the foundation for a great support system, but if you don’t exhibit leadership, determination and courage people will be much less likely to follow you or come to your aid.

So the next time you’re sitting at your desk, completely focused on the task at hand…look around you.  See who you can count on if things get tough.  And if you don’t see anyone, it’s time to start building your support network.  Get up from behind that desk with determination and start the relationship building process today so that support will be there down the road when things get tough and you need it most.

Anything Is Possible with the Right Tools and Determination…in Racing and in Business

May 3, 2011

It’s human nature to set goals for ourselves and to constantly strive to be better…whether in racing or in our professional lives.

For runners, the goal is to push yourself to be faster and set a new PR (personal record) at every race and in every distance.  This year, my goal was to break 4:30 (four hours and thirty minutes) in a marathon.  My best marathon time was 4:41.  Now shaving twelve minutes off your marathon time may not sound like that big of a challenge, but it is.  And I knew if I was going to achieve my goal, I was going to need the right tools because desire and dedication alone, wouldn’t be enough.

I had set my previous PR last year with the help of the Runner’s World Challenge and their training program.  So this year, with a new goal in sight, I went back to the experts who had helped me the previous year.  This year, Runner’s World had a new set of training programs.  These programs were custom designed to help you achieve specific marathon finishing time goals.  So, I purchased and trained with the Break 4:30 program.

I was diligent in my training.  I did all the workouts and met or exceeded all the pace goals for each workout, but still I wondered if I had what it took.  I knew my mind and heart were up for breaking 4:30, but I wondered if my body was up for it. On May 1, at the Flying Pig marathon, I got my answer.  The answer was YES!

This year’s Flying Pig was my sixth marathon. Traditionally, I feel good for the first 17 miles.  But somewhere between mile 18 and 22, my body starts to feel fatigue, my pace slows and it’s my heart and mind that get me to the finish, often setting a PR in spite of my fatigue.  This year was different.  I felt strong the entire race…so strong, I ran a negative split (a faster second half than first half) and my last mile of the race was a 9:31 pace, nearly 45 seconds faster than my average pace for the entire race.  I crossed the finish line in 4:27:25.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not only had I achieved my goal, but I did it feeling strong the entire time.  That was truly an accomplishment.

So how does this story relate to business?

First, to achieve success in business, we need the right tools.  Those tools can be equipment, financing, strategic alliance partners or just simply being willing to ask others for help.

Second, we need to have our heart and head in the race.  When either of those call it quits, we are likely to fail.  Sure, there are times where it’s no longer wise or feasible to continue on. This economic downturn certainly showed many companies that lesson.  But how many of those companies just gave up without a fight?  More than I think we’d like to admit.  Some just got fatigued as the miles of their journey got longer and harder.  They just didn’t have the determination to continue on and they called it quits.

So the next time your journey becomes long and hard and you think you can’t go on due to fatigue…think again.  Take a deep breath and dig deep.  Reevaluate your situation and attack it with everything you have.  I think you’ll be surprised what you can do when you’re fully engaged in the race and determined to achieve your goal.

Home is where your heart is, in racing and at work.

June 17, 2010

People’s passions lie where their hearts lie.  And where their hearts lie, their loyalties lie.  This is important to keep in mind in racing and in business.

I was recently profiled by Runner’s World for a story on their web site as one of the magazine’s Runner’s World Challenge participants.  One of the many questions I was asked was, “What is your rave run?”  For those who read the magazine, they know each month Runner’s World features a person’s rave run.  Usually, this run is somewhere very scenic, even exotic.  My answer to this question was neither of those things.

My rave run is a neighborhood about a mile away from my house.  The scenery isn’t what makes this my favorite run.  It’s the people who live in the neighborhood that make this run so special for me.  Over the last several years, these kind, friendly people have watched me train all year long for marathons and triathlons, and they have followed my progress.  They are the first to slow their cars down so they don’t “buzz” me when I’m running or cycling.  They thoughtfully yield the right of way to me so I don’t have to slow down my pace.  They high five me, shout out encouragement and wave as I make this 2.5 mile loop over and over again.  When it’s sweltering hot, they ask if I need my water bottle refilled.  When thunder starts rumbling, someone will often stop and ask if I want a ride home. When it’s freezing cold, they tell me my dedication is an inspiration.  But the reality is that they are my inspiration…like crowd support during a race.  And that support helps my performance.

The reason this neighborhood is my rave run is because even though I don’t actually live in this neighborhood, it feels like home.  A place where I know I’m always welcome.  A place where I feel comfortable and at ease.  A place where I’m surrounded by caring, friendly people who support my efforts on so many levels.  This neighborhood is a very special place to me.

So how does this story relate to business?  When employees, vendors and others we work with feel at home, they feel a loyalty to us and our businesses. They are also more motivated to perform at their best and go the extra mile.

Many people leave their jobs to go elsewhere because they don’t feel welcome, appreciated or respected.  Companies lose good people every day because of this and that costs them time and money.  Yet it would seem so simple to prevent this by treating their business associates like neighbors and making them feel at home.

If you want to be someone’s rave employer or rave vendor, you just need to go the distance to make sure they know they’re welcome, appreciated and part of your workplace neighborhood. It’s amazing how simple kindness and a little support makes such a huge difference in the way people feel.

I encourage you to be a good, supportive neighbor to those you work with.  You have my word you will reap the benefits in a very special way by filling people’s hearts, fueling their spirits and creating a sense of community.

An incredible journey creates a new family.

June 9, 2010

For me, one of the best parts of any journey is the people I meet and the things I learn.  That was never more true than when I ran the Flying Pig marathon this year as part of the Runner’s World Challenge.

One of the many benefits of the Challenge was a special forum that only Challengers could access.  In this forum, Challengers could exchange information, ask questions of the Runner’s World experts and other Challengers.  Over the training period of 16 weeks, we got to know one another very well.  We learned about each other’s personal stories…our families, work lives and running history.  We also learned about our goals for the race and why those goals were important to us.

Race goals varied, including setting a personal record (PR), running a negative split (running a faster second half than first half of a race) and not hitting the wall.  The wall is this crazy thing that many marathoners hit between miles 16 and 22 where their body basically starts to shut down (a little or a lot) and it can be very painful.  Marathoners have to work through this experience to get themselves to the finish line.  Once you hit the wall, the journey to the finish is as much mental as physical, if not more mental.

Prior to the race, Runner’s World had a number of events for Challengers to meet the editors and fellow Challengers.  This was amazing.  It was so great to be able to meet the people I’d grown to know and feel had become part of my family.

Family is an interesting thing.  Family can be genetic or by marriage.  But families can also be made up of people who share common bonds, passions and experiences.  And the Runner’s World Challenge helped me build a whole new family.

On race day, I got to run with some of my new family members.  Pam was running with her husband Tony.  They’re a married couple from Illinois who trained together.  Now that’s family!  Pam was running the half marathon and Tony was running the full marathon…his first marathon.  I had noticed in the forum that Tony and I had similar finishing time goals.  So when we were at one of the pre-race events, I asked him if he’d like to run together.  He thought that was a great idea.  Our finishing time would help Pam pace for her finishing time until she had to split off from us, so we all agreed this would be fun and a good strategy.

On race morning, the gun goes off and it’s lightning, thundering and rain is pouring down on us.  But we’re family.  We stick together and support each other.  We know this is not going to deter us from our goal.

Since Pam and Tony were from out of town, I felt my job in the family was two-fold.  First, to be a good tour guide and point out some of the beautiful aspects of the course.  Second, since I was the most experienced of the three of us, I was also the pacer.  My job as pacer was to make sure we didn’t start out too fast and kept an even effort so our pace would average out to what we needed to finish in our goal time.

Pam and Tony’s job in the family was to keep us all focused on something other than the race and how our bodies were feeling.  They kept the conversation lively and constant.  When you’re running 26.2 miles, this is a luxury and a joy.  I’d run three other marathons prior to this one.  The most recent one, I ran 19 of those miles all alone.  There wasn’t a single person running my pace and there was no crowd support on that course.  So, having the support of our new family on this race course really made a difference for all of us.

Pam left the family and went out on her own about mile 8, which is where the half marathon and the full marathon split off.  Tony and I continued on together.  We talked about all kinds of things…our common weight losses, our families and friends, life…you name it, we talked about it.  The miles flew by.  About mile 15, one of our other family members, John, joined us.  He brought a whole new dynamic to our family journey.  John’s job was to get the crowd excited.  The Flying Pig is known for it’s outstanding crowd support.  But John made it even more outstanding.  As we’d run by crowds of supporters, John would yell out, “We can’t hear you!” and the supporters would go wild.  It was incredible and quite inspiring.

About mile 20, Tony was starting to fatigue a little.  He told John and I to continue on and he’d see us at the finish line and the after party.  We knew he’d be fine because Tony and I had talked about this prior to the race that if anyone needed to drop back a bit, the others would go on ahead.  So, John and I continued on knowing Tony wouldn’t be far behind us.  About mile 22, John was ready to kick it into high gear.  I wasn’t ready for that quite yet.  So, I told John to go ahead and I’d see him at the finish line.  He took off, and I could see him ahead of me for part of the remaining 4 miles.

The last four miles I ran without any family members, but that was okay.  Because the spirit of our bond filled my heart and gave me the energy I needed for that final, fast push to the finish.  As I crossed the finish line, I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy for all of us and what each of us was about to accomplish.

After the race, we all celebrated at the Runner’s World post-race celebration.  We exchanged stories and experiences and rejoiced in each others journeys.

So, how did it all end up for my family members?  Pam set a PR.  Tony achieved his goal finishing time and his first marathon PR, John is one step closer to running a marathon in all 50 states and I set a PR.  Some of our other family members we didn’t run with, Vanessa, finished her first marathon in an impressive time.  Tammie ran an impressive marathon and pushed herself hard.  And Steve, not only ran an impressive marathon, he did something he had never done before…avoided hitting the wall to run a strong, very fast race.

But those accomplishments, while exciting, aren’t what all of us remember and can’t stop talking about.  What is most important, is how we each played a key role in helping the other achieve their goals.  We formed a bond that cannot be broken and now have a new, extended family.  We shared a very special, remarkable experience together that ties us to one another.  And we hope we will all have the chance to run together again in the future, as a family.

When I started the Runner’s World Challenge journey, my goal was to utilize the tools of this program to improve my running and hopefully set a PR.  But what I got in return far exceeded that.  I met incredible, inspiring people who challenged me and I challenged them.  We formed a common bond through a unique experience that we shared for 16 weeks and will continue to share for a lifetime.  And that was the best part of the journey and something we will all treasure forever.

Help From Others Can Get Us to Our Goals Faster in Racing and in Business.

April 12, 2010

I’m a big believer in asking for help when I need it. I don’t think we can do everything we want or need to do on our own. And I have found the insight and expertise of others will save us time, money and effort in reaching our goals, if we are willing to ask for help.

This became more clear to me than ever during a recent race. I have run the Heart Mini Marathon for four consecutive years. It was the first race I ever ran and it got me hooked on running. Each year I’ve run this race, I’ve improved my time a little bit, which I was pleased about. However, this year, I wanted to improve it a lot! To do that, I knew I’d need some help.

In January, I signed up for the Runner’s World Challenge. One of the main benefits is that you get a customized marathon training program designed by Bart Yasso. Yasso is the Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World and he’s run more than 1,000 races, triathlons, biathlons and eco-challenges over the past 28 years. He also happens to be my running hero. So, having an expert like Bart Yasso helping me train for my next marathon was a dream come true for me.

As I followed the training program, asked questions of the Challenge experts (including Bart Yasso), I started seeing significant improvement. It was exciting! But often in racing, just like in business, things go well in training but don’t always convert to success in the final implementation and execution. So, the Heart Mini Marathon would be my chance to take my new training for a test run…literally.

On race day, I lined up in the corral with all the other runners. As I made my way to the area where I thought I wanted to start, based on the pace I hoped to run the race. I noticed a couple of guys with a stick and some balloons that read 9:45. This was the pace they planned to run the race and it was also the pace that would get me to the finish line in my very aggressive goal time. I approached these two guys and said, “So you’re pacing this race?” They replied they were pacing the Flying Pig marathon and taking their pacing skills for a test run. I asked if it was okay if I joined them. They said absolutely!

In racing and business most people have strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths in racing is endurance. One of my weaknesses in racing is pacing. I tend to start out too fast and then lose momentum. My hope was that running with a pace team, I’d avoid this because they’d make sure I ran at a consistent pace. They did! Not only did they help me run a consistent pace, they paced a little faster than 9:45. What that meant was my finishing time for a 15k (9.3 mile) race was more than 8 minutes faster than the previous finishing time. Now, if you’re not a runner, that may not sound like a lot, but it is. It’s almost one minute per mile faster than my previous personal best. To put that in business terms, that would be like completing a major project more than a week early.

As we crossed the finish line, I couldn’t thank the pacers enough. I was so grateful for their help. And I was equally grateful to Bart Yasso and the other experts at Runner’s World who designed such a fabulous training program that helped me push myself to a goal I would have only dreamed of a year ago.

You may think the point of this story is the importance of asking for help when you need it. It is. But it’s also about showing gratitude. While seeking expert advice to help you reach your goals is a good strategy in racing and in business, it’s also important to thank those who help you achieve those goals.

Always remember, while you may cross the finish line in racing and in business by yourself, there were others who helped you get there. You should never be too busy to thank people for their time, expertise and willingness to help you. And sometimes thanking people once or twice, just isn’t enough.

The next time you reach a goal, think about the people who helped you achieve that milestone. Then, pick up the phone, type an email, send a hand written note or whatever you feel is appropriate to let those people know how much you appreciate their help. Then, take your gratitude to the next level…and when someone asks you for help, don’t hesitate to give it.