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Category: Life

Life lessons from running

I originally published this on Medium a few years ago…

I run in local races for the t-shirts, not to be competitive. This means I accomplished my goal just by registering, and frees my mind up for more important things – like finding life lessons. Here’s what I’ve managed to learn in the course of several years of running.
Don’t be out front at the start — Being in the lead means that you’ll be everyone’s target. They’ll all try to catch and beat you. It’s better to be following until it makes sense to lead.
Put in your best efforts when the going is hard– I generally hold my pace on flat ground, and when I come to an uphill, that’s when I let the dogs out. Anyone can excel when things are easy. It’s excelling when things are tough that make us winners. Few runners will try to keep up on a climb, but many will run you to the ground on the flats.
Follow your own inner voice — In April of 2009 I ran in zero drop shoes for the first time. Being willing to go against the norm, and stand up to strange glances and skeptical expensive-shoe runners has enabled me to decrease my per mile time by over 1 minute.
Avoid negativity— Stay away from heavy breathers, gaspers, and foot slappers, and anyone else complaining too much. Just being in close proximity to someone not enjoying themselves will suck the will out of you.
Never outpace your smile — Find something else to do if you can’t enjoy the experience
Take in the sights — I get bored within a half mile of the start and start to look around. My honey does the same thing. After a race we talk about landscape ideas, nice paint color combinations on houses we see, and birds spotted along the course. Life’s too short to stare at the back of the person in front of you.
Encourage others — It’s common to see spectators on the sidelines clap and shout encouragement to the runners. I often do this from the course for competitors I see struggling. It lifts them up as it lifts me.
It’s not all about you — A few years ago I was in the lead group in a 5 miler. Someone up front stopped running, and bent over, gasping for air. I changed direction and went to him. I found out he had asthma. He assured me he was okay and said he had his inhaler. He thanked me for stopping and I resumed the race. About 20 runners passed him without a glance. My time overall wasn’t impacted in the longer 5 miles of the race and I already had my t-shirt.
Know who your competition is — As I near the end of the race I apply my keen eye to the runners ahead of me. I am looking for others who appear to be in my age group. If I see any, I do all I can to get ahead of them before the end. If I only have younger or older runners in front, my final sprint will be defensive to keep people my age from passing me. I’m racing people who are scored with me. I’m not racing the whole field.

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Applying lessons from one area of life to another

power plant

I took singing lessons last fall at the Cape Consevatory. It was at the request of my wife. I’d been taking ukulele lessons prior to this and would often play and sing some of my favorite songs. It was a loving request she made, based on not being a fan of my voice venturing across the entire range of sounds a human can make while singing the same song over-and-over.

I also run. I thought about the singing lessons as I was on a 4-mile run along the canal the other day. Running is boring. My mind wanders. I solve problems. I identify birds. I take inventory of my body parts. As I worked my way mentally up my body, I noticed how labored my breathing was. Could it be that I’m getting old and have asthma? Or was it something I could impact to make better?

My inhales were in my chest. Where it seems to want to be. I placed my hand on my stomach, and consciously inhaled to make my hand push out. A few breaths later I wasn’t winded and my pace picked up. Singing lessons helped me run better. Maybe I’ll try singing loudly on a run. Or not.

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PMOs – focus on your project managers

Ensure that the majority of the processes your PMO requires provides a benefit to the project manager, and not just to the PMO. When we provide project managers with a useful tool as our primary purpose, then the secondary purpose of extracting useful information for a PMO’s use in monitoring and controlling projects will be easy.

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Burn your process documents

Finding and keeping the right level of processes, while respecting that all projects are unique is a challenge everywhere I’ve ever worked. Unless the project management team is focused on one specific category of projects (like deploying a similar application for multiple clients), trying to define processes everyone must follow is bound to fail. If there are exceptions to the process, then the process shouldn’t exist in the first place.

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