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Robert Prol Posts

A solution searching for a problem

I blogged for a bunch of years. The topics covered work-life balance, project management, careers, or whatever random thought that fell from my head through my fingertips. Having a writing practice is fulfilling. It helped me become succinct in my communications which saved me lots of time for other stuff.

I stopped blogging because I was interviewing for a job and a few people told me that the blog may hurt my prospects. I disagreed, but pulled the blog down anyway. The job wasn’t worth ending my blog.

My next writing practice was to write a daily (work days) project management haiku. I did that over a year. Many people asked for a book so I chose my favorite 48 haiku, added some business lessons, and published it.

Now that I have this blog back online, I search for what to write about. I have lots of ideas, but want to make sure they satisfy some criteria I’ve been penciling into a list. I want to write about fun topics that are relevant to most people. Life isn’t all work, and I take a lot of time to enjoy the buffet of life. This includes lessons learned along the way. This is an example of the types of blogs I won’t publish. At least not again. There should be a point, not just a ramble. Maybe next time.

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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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Tendency toward complexity

Foggy beach
DCIM101GOPRO

One of the challenges that we face in project management is that systems and processes tend to become more complex over time. An example of this how the PMBoK has increased from magazine thickness at it’s inception, to a regular book thickness today. Yet like any skill set, project management itself becomes more of a commodity over time.

How do we find the right balance between useful processes and too many processes?

The complexity /

Of your over-blown systems/

Kills effectiveness

Get your copy of the almost best selling book of project management haiku – click here.

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