Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stressed? Remember the Secret of the Bicycle


Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race -- Photo by Greg Conderacci

            Wanna be stress-free?
Sorry. Not possible. On the other hand, there are many ways to reduce stress.  I’m not talking about the stress that motivates us; I’m talking about the wasteful stress that just consumes energy and throws us off balance. 
You’ve heard many ways to fight this worthless stress: meditation, exercise, getting more sleep, single malt scotch…
            Here is one of my favorites that you may not have heard about: The Secret of the Bicycle.  I don’t mean riding a bicycle (which does work for me); I mean thinking like you’re riding a bicycle.
            In his great new book, Thank You for Being Late, Thomas Friedman writes, “There are some ways of being, like riding a bicycle, where you cannot stand still, but once you are moving it is actually easier…. We are all going to have to learn that bicycle trick.”
            Standing still on a bike is possible.  It’s called a “track stand,” because bicycle racers on a track use it as a tactic in some circumstances.  But it’s not easy.  And going backwards, which is some folks’ solution to stress, is almost impossible. Do that, and you’re asking for a fall. 
Yet, rolling right down the road…no problem. In fact, the faster you go, the more stable the bike. It’s called “dynamic stability.”  As Friedman points out, we don’t teach people this. But we should.
            What does this have to do with wasteful stress?  My argument is that a major source of stress is that we are not ready to go fast.
            A blogger buddy just shared a story of one of his friends who had to evacuate, unexpectedly, in the middle of the night in the path of the California wild fires.  He had almost no time to respond. Unimaginable stress. He lost almost everything.  His story is heartbreaking.
            And it reminded me of all the stressful “fire drills” I go through (on a much lower level, of course).  Why do I experience the worthless stress?  Because I am not ready to “go.”   I’m “off balance” because I didn’t take the time to prepare for a faster world.
            Most of the time, I can see the challenges coming at a distance – unlike the raging wild fire. I know when I have to go fast.  To use a homey bike metaphor, why didn’t I “pump up my tires and oil my chain”?  It would have made going fast so much easier…and less stressful.
            Often, the world offers a simple trade: spend a little time preparing and you get back a more productive, less stressful life.  It’s what the fast people do.
            When you need to go fast…will you be ready?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

John Fuoco: Living with a First Finisher


             
John Fuoco -- Photo by Andrea Matney
            John died Saturday night.
            It wasn’t unexpected.  He’d been fighting the cancer gnawing at his lungs for a half dozen years. 
            But to me, John Fuoco wasn’t dying. He was living. Cancer had many times pushed him to the brink and every time he had pushed back.  Long after others would have given up, John lived.  He lived through the unspeakable torture of countless procedures and chemotherapies.
            He lived to ride his bike, to treat hundreds of his patients, to attend his children’s weddings, to see his grandson born, to love his wife, and to inspire hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us. 
            Only a few days ago, he and I were swapping hopeful texts about riding together again this summer.  Now, we will, but only spiritually.
            Before cancer, John was one of the best ultra-distance cyclists in America. He won races stretching hundreds of miles. He rode among the best in the world’s oldest bicycle event, the 750-mile Paris-Brest-Paris. He held the record for riding across Pennsylvania.
            After cancer, he applied his incredible energy, strength, sense of humor, and discipline to defeating his disease.  Toward the end, he told me he was “failing,” a term of art in his medical profession. 
            To me, John never failed.  In his favorite long-distance cycling sport, Randonneuring, there is no “winner” or “loser.”  But there is a “first finisher.”  And that’s what John was. 
            In life, like on the road, he finished ahead of the rest of us.

                         

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keeping UP! -- The Four Kinds of Energy Every Board Needs


            Is your board running out of gas?
            Often, the key to a successful organization -- for-profit or non-profit -- is the energy of the board.   If you’re concerned that your board is low on “get-up-and-go,” check out this short blog post on the subject for the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Are the Energy Vampires Sucking Away Your Juice?

    Tune in to Peter Margaritas' video blog to hear our discussion about tips and tricks to boost your emotional and intellectual energy -- and fight off the energy vampires! See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucnfUqZyvK8&feature=youtu.be

Monday, January 30, 2017

Energy Rx for a Loooong Year


            
            If 2017 is shaping up to be a challenging year for you, here’s a chance to listen to a free podcast that features some helpful energy management tricks and tips.
            Peter Margaritis, author of Improv is No Joke (and host of the podcast with the same name) recently interviewed me about long distance bicycling -- and how its secrets apply to the workplace.
            We had such a good time, we’re planning two more podcasts after this.  Hope you enjoy it, too.
            You can find my interview on the website, on iTunes, or on Google Play.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Politics: The Energy to Show Up?


It’s been a big month for crowds in Washington: the Trump Inauguration, the Women’s March, and the March for Life.  What difference do they make?
            Clearly, each represents a lot of personal energy.  It takes juice to show up. It takes even more to move a country.
            New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks argued that the musical “Hamilton” might be even more powerful than the Women’s March because the show offers “a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.”
            Marketing guru Seth Godin blogged that growth comes “from activating people who are ready to be activated” and shared the chart below, demonstrating that, in the last election, the majority didn’t have the energy to vote.
            There are many sources of energy, but the deepest and most powerful pool is the “spiritual” -- based on vision, mission and values.  Throughout history, that’s the energy that’s moved nations, including and especially, this one. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year’s Resolution Dilemma: Will You “Pack” 2017 Tighter?


          I just listened to an interesting TED talk by time manager Laura Vanderkam.  Her message: there’s plenty of time in the week…we’re just not using it as well as we could.  Her conclusion: we could reorganize to pack more stuff into our schedule. 
            Maybe you’re thinking of doing that in 2017. 
            I don’t necessarily disagree with Laura.  But her talk illustrates the time manager’s dilemma: how do we keep cramming more “stuff” into an already crowded schedule?  Her talk completely misses a central issue: what if you don’t have the energy to exercise, take a class, read a book or play with your kids when you have the time to do so?
            One of her key points -- in a crisis, we make time -- supports my contention that we should focus on energy management over time management.  When we face a crisis, the adrenalin generates the energy we need.  Often, we “rise” to the occasion. But not everything is a crisis.  How do we generate more energy to get more done?
            There are lots of ways to do that, as outlined in my book, Getting UP! Supercharging Your Energy. 
            Here’s one idea, that marries both scheduling and energy.
            It’s not just time; it’s timing.  If we look at our energy flows, we can schedule tasks when we believe we’ll have the most energy to do them.  For example, we could tackle that important report first thing in the morning when we’re mentally fresh.  We could do the laundry in the middle of the afternoon when we’re in a post-lunch, low-energy food coma.
            As you make your New Year’s resolutions, if you’re worried about finding the time to do them…think energy instead!