If you're reading this, the world didn't end Dec. 21 (I'm writing this ahead of time, just in case).
I said last year that I was going to do two things: be more patient and get more face-to-face time with people. The more patient thing definitely happened. The face-to-face time thing, not so much, but there's good reason for that.
One thing I didn't know when I was writing last year's post was that I'd wind up managing five departments at the gym. I honestly thought when I signed on there in September of 2010 it would be a short-term job, but when it turned into a career proposition, I wasn't going to bounce around other low-paying retail positions until I found something I'm more passionate about. I took the opportunity and grew with it.
I had my frustrations, sure. If I hadn't needed a job, I probably wouldn't have gone there, and if they hadn't needed a manager, they probably wouldn't have picked me. I think it worked out really well for both of us, though.
But I'm back to news, now. It's where I want to be. And I spend a lot of time at home, and I drink a lot of coffee, and I laugh a lot.
The other big change this year was the addition of a black Lab called Rufus, a rescue dog we learned a lot from. Talk about an exercise in patience. This guy has torn up carpet, gone through a door, and in general came from the shelter with such an excitable personality and a really really bad case of separation anxiety.
He's been hanging out with me late nights, and he reminds both of us to play a lot.
I've already written about what's up for me in the coming year. Of the 12 things I gave myself to do in the year, I've implemented numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 11 and 12, all in the first 6 weeks.
I'm spending New Year's Eve into New Year's day working. While I've tended toward the quiet for the Flipping Of The Calendar the past few years (and, honestly, didn't even make it to midnight a couple of times) I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a quiet night news-wise; most of our work, I'm sure, will be in college football and pictures of drunk people with noisemakers looking happy. I'll be cozy and warm, with coffee, JB and the pup. I can't imagine anything else I'd need.
I used to get up early. Really early. 4:30 or so. Now I'm just going to bed at that hour. And I have to say I'm loving it.
It's been a tough transition; many naps, a cranky dog, and, well, it's only been three weeks and I'm not always real sure what day it is, but that's more an accident of shifting my weekend to Tuesday-Wednesday at the same time as shifting my sleeping hours.
I think we're good now.
I typically wrap up work between 3 and 3:30. At that point, I take the dog for a short walk (he's usually tired and cranky, but if we don't go out then, he'll be about 14-15 hours in between rest stops; it's for his own good, really).
There is nothing quite as still and dark and quiet as a dead-end suburban street as 4 a.m. approaches. Rufus seems nervous most nights – I'm sure the animal smells are different. Dogs and cats and squirrels during the day, but bats and owls and raccoon at that hour.
I get the coffee on, since JB rises at 4 – yes, she's rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as I'm getting out the last of the day's energy before going to bed – I do whatever's left of yesterday's dishes, and button up my to-do list.
It's at that hour that I come up with ideas. I'm really not flushing them out at that time (to be honest, I wrote this post the other day and scheduled it to go live at 4 a.m. on Firday, but I'm up pouring JB's coffee as it hits the site), but the blog post titles, the life changes I want to make, the items that make it to my "gotta go try this local place I've never been to locally" list, they tend to make it to my white board (which is 7' x 8', so plenty of room for it all) while most people are asleep.
Some of the ideas won't wait; I'll sleep a couple of hours and they're dying to come out. Others wait until a day off.
But while you're sleeping, I'm creating. That feels awesome.
Today is my final day working with the amazing team at Gold's Gym here in the Syracuse area; while we are two clubs, most of my time has been at the Dewitt location, where I joined as a member in 2005, before I went to work there in September of 2010.
I've worked with some weirdos in my time, but never a collection of eclectic, hard-working, smart people who are really good at their jobs like the folks who have been there for all (or, in some cases, most) of my tenure there.
I learned some valuable lessons there. Here are some that I think would be valuable for you, too.
Separate the personal from the professional. I've worked with some people who, shall we say, are not oh so operationally sound. As operations manager, you can see how that would create more work for me, and really, who has time for more work? But I can still really enjoy them as people. That's new to me.
Describe the why. If you show people why an objective is where it is, or show them why a process is designed for a particular workflow, it's amazing how quickly they'll catch on. Simply describing the what and the how allows too much room for error, and people will keep making the mistakes. Once you describe the why, people tend to get it, and, by targeting the why, they can offer alternative solutions that will be a better fit for your processes than they otherwise would be.
Maintain boundaries. So. Difficult. I was promoted to a management position during my tenure, which means that I went from working with a bunch of people to managing them. Yes, I was still working with them, but you have to draw new lines around friendships and be able to wield some authority or nothing gets done. Bonus points if you can do it without making people think you're a jackass.
Other boundaries you need to draw include when you're actually working. It's so easy to plop down in front of a computer and check your email, and the next thing you know you've spent three hours of your personal time at work, without being in the office. Want to burn out? It's an easy way.
To work with people, spend time listening and observing. I've worked with a wide variety of people who have a wide variety of things going on. With their brains (from body image to severe diagnoses of some mental illnesses), with their bodies (thyroid issues, knee issues, shoulder issues), with their families (kids in the hospital, severely overweight spouses who won't come to the gym even to walk, cousins who won't talk to the family); the list goes on. We don't always get to choose who our coworkers and customers are, but if you listen to them, you'll appreciate them for all that they are. And they'll appreciate you, too.
Most of the decisions you make are, in fact, yours. You probably wouldn't be surprised to hear that people have all manner of excuses for not coming to the gym, or for not eating right, and then having the gall to complain about the consequences. I'm not saying all the decisions they make are easy, and some of the peripheral consequences of some decisions are uncomfortable, but there's science at play in a lot of what we want. We know how to get there. You have to make the decision, and then you have to commit.
Learn. When I went to Gold's in September of 2010, I expected it would be a short-term position to get me through a short rough patch. I didn't want to short-change the company that had taken me on, of course, so I learned a lot about fitness and nutrition, followed trends, checked out niches, and self-experimented with various diets, supplements and exercise routines. It's been invaluable personally, and I think the gym benefited, as well.
Enjoy what you enjoy. The worst thing I heard in the fitness industry over the course of my tenure at Gold's came from a 40-ish year old bodybuilder. I saw him eating a giant vat of cold oatmeal. I told him where the microwave was, and he told me, "I don't eat for taste anymore." OK, I understand the occasional snack just to fill you up, but I can't imagine what it's like to not enjoy your food. I get that ultimately, food is fuel, but I can't imagine discarding the sensual aspect of eating.
Leave things better than you found them. I didn't hit every objective put forth for me. Not even close. But I think I helped get the club a little closer to where it wants to be from a business perspective.
As I head back into the news industry, I'll be returning to use the club as a member. I can't wait to see where it goes from here!
Today I enter my 36th year on the planet. At least in this incarnation; depends on your beliefs in that. Whatever, this is something of an existential post, but not that much.
Here are 12 things I'm going to do during the next year.
1. Read. I have a growing list, and I'm actually keeping it visible. 2. Pare back. I've dumped a lot of stuff over the past six months, and I'm going to continue doing that. The house will be cleaner, and I'll have less stuff I'm not using hanging out, taking up space. 3. Meditate. I find the older I get, the more easily frustrated I am, and the more difficult it is to bring myself back to center. 4. Write. I have a list here, too. 5. Save. My auto loan and most of my school loans will be paid off by the end of 2013. I will finally start tucking some money away. 6. Listen. It's still one of my favorite things to do, and I need to do more of it. To music, to audiobooks, to people. 7. Fast. I find great comfort in fasting Yom Kippur. I'll allow myself water and tea, but I'm going to fast monthly and see if that helps with the centering. 8. Make time. I've been pretty good about getting un-busy over the past six months; I expect I'll be making the right changes to give people time and attention. 9. Learn some home improvement. I think I've learned a lot this year. I've never been a tinkerer, but my confidence has grown a lot. I'm going to try to pick a project with more visibility than a door in the basement or a flat tire and give it a shot. 10. Visit a place I've never been. OK, I'll admit that my parents moved to a place I've never been and I can fulfill this just by going to see them, but I'm going to try to get to a few more, too. 11. Get more fresh air. I have changes in the works already that will give me more time outside. Even in a cold climate, that's important to me. It keeps my head a little clearer, and makes breathing easier. 12. Experience. If I'm behind a camera or tweeting an event, I'm not experiencing it. I've already changed a lot of what I do with social media, but expect that I'll do even less recording; there will be more commentary.
You know, one of the things that has come from the Internet is a whole bunch of people telling you to find your passion, then follow it.
I'm lucky in that I already know what my passion is.
I'm a writer. I write because I have to. Seriously. If I'm not writing a blog post, or tweeting, or updating my Facebook status, or composing emails, I'm writing something long-hand in a bound notebook, or I'm making mental notes that when the person I'm talking to walks away I need to scratch out onto a notepad, or I'm writing one-liners (or whole paragraphs) on my white board.
And yet...and yet. My career and my passion have diverged.
I don't really have any good excuse for that. I mean, sure, I have excuses, but none of them are any good. So, I don't know, maybe it's a job security thing. I need it right now. I'd probably be an emotional wreck if I didn't have a steady paycheck coming in.
I remember where I was when I saw this Monster.com ad during the Super Bowl one year. The room got really, really quiet.
It doesn't matter how much reading we do. If we're not performing our passions, they're fucking useless.
That project I announced last month is finally underway. It's not going to change the world, but it will change my life (because of its format) and it will, I hope, help change a couple of lives for the better.
It's a way to make my passion a little less fucking useless.
I don't know where it came from. I'm sure it has a little to do with the stuff I've been reading lately, but not a lot. I'm learning important things from some of it, but I haven't acted on a lot of that stuff; it's really just been information in at this point.
I was walking north on suburban dead-end street I live on, wearing comfortable shoes, shorts, a jacket and a baseball cap. My right arm was around the shoulders of the woman I love. My left hand held a leash attached to the black lab we rescued in January, who was alternately sniffing and urinating (you know, dog things). The sky was dimming, the air a little heavy with humidity but cool enough, by way of apology, to be comfortable.
And that was everything I needed. And I think it's everything I'm going to need. Ever.
I've blogged every weekday for the past month. It's definitely a way to get the juices flowing, but to be honest, it's hard to do great work every single day. Especially when I'm working a day job, enjoying my family, getting some rec sports in, pummeling two to three workouts a week, and doing whatever else it is I do.
So, in an effort to maintain a writing schedule but vastly improve the quality of these posts, I'm going to publish new entries on Tuesday and Friday every week, beginning next week.
This is a common practice among some of my favorite bloggers – people like Chris Guillebeau and Marc Ensign and Steven Pressfield and, if I'm kind, Julien Smith, whose work I love but he doesn't exactly write regularly (in fact, his regularly scheduled Friday post is coming on four weeks late).
Anywho, I hope you'll find the work engaging as we go forward. I'm excited to be able to dig down a little deeper, put a lot more effort in, and grow with you.
If I'm honest with myself, I'm feeling a little roots-less this week.
In mid-June, we took a final trip to the house I grew up in, and brought some furniture and family keepsakes back to Syracuse. My parents have, by now, made it to Charleston, SC, where they bought a house a couple of years ago. My dad has retired, and my mom will probably find 14 adjunct and distance positions so she can teach college students how to teach young kids until she's in her 90s.
On Saturday, we spent several hours packing up a moving truck in Minoa, because Frank, Nicole and their Small Man were moving to Ohio. This is the same Frank who wrote this piece about home a little over a year ago. [You should really take a few minutes to read that. You don't need to know him to feel it.]
After packing up on Saturday, they drove the 7-plus hours to Ohio on Sunday, only to turn around on Monday and drive all the way back to see Frank's dad before he passed Monday night. I stopped in at calling hours last night. There were smiles and friends and people and that sort of thing, the way it should be. Small Man, by the way, has been a fucking Buddha about the whole thing. I shared that story with my staff this week and got tears.
There's a reason the author of the Jewish mourner's prayer didn't include death. We need to remember to celebrate life.
I'm of a generation that has been taught that being busy is important in life. And I've fallen into that trap. I took on an extra role at work that added about 3 hours in front of a computer to my workday. I've said yes to a lot of organizations in my nine years in Syracuse. I've worked with 40 Below, Alchemical Nursery, Future Fund, Tapestry, several different recreational sports leagues, a poetry reading and a bunch of other stuff.
I'm paring back.
When the current seasons are up, I'm going down to one night of rec sports a week. I'll volunteer heavily with one organization at a time and give them a lot of my attention, rather than just squeezing them in (and I'll probably do some on-going thing, too, that requires a check-in here and there). I shed the extra role at work. Sure, it's less money, but now I'm working 8 hours a day instead of 11, and I don't feel the need to be attached when I leave the office. I'm going to start training and work on overcoming some fears (heights and such).
You can already see I'm writing more. I'm also reading more. I'm getting time at home and with friends. My calendar has more white space in a week now than it used to have in a month. I actually spend time each morning sitting out on the deck with a newspaper, a cup of coffee and the dog, leaving the technology inside.
And that's where I'm headed right now. Later, gators.
The products are sleek and easy to use (sleek is relative, I guess, since the first Apple my family used was an Apple IIe, which was basically a box on top of another box, and my first Apple was an LC II, which was the same box-on-box design, just bigger).
But since the resurgence of Apple, I've been a PC guy. For a third of the price point, I could get a machine that wasn't as cool-looking, but definitely handled everything I needed more than adequately.
When the first iPad debuted, it looked cool as hell. But my take on it then was that it was too big to replace my phone and too small to replace my laptop.
Over the past year or so, as mobile application development really started to do great things in terms of productivity, I've been seriously looking at tablets.
My life is Google-based. I've been using Android phones. But the Android tablets just aren't up to snuff.
When Apple announced the new iPad last week, the company dropped the price of the iPad 2, which priced it competitively with Android tablets, making it worthwhile.
I've been using the tablet for a few days now. I still have a lot of work to do to get myself set up; I use multiple social networks (and multiple accounts on some of them), I have an Apple ID that dates back to when the iTunes store first launched but isn't tied to an email address I use regularly. I have to learn a new software suite and get back to using the Apple keyboard shortcuts, which are different from the PC keyboard shortcuts.
I may need to pick up a wifi capable printer (that'd actually help us around the house anyway, since we have two smart phones, two PCs, an Apple, an iPod Touch and now the iPod, so our Dropbox accounts render irrelevant which device we're using).
Let me know your favorite apps so that I can give them a try.
Rufus is a 2-year-old black lab rescued on Wednesday from the CNY SPCA. He was there about a month – his family lost their home, and couldn't keep him.
We know he had a chocolate brother who was put down, but other than that, most of his history is stuff we're piecing together. This morning on our walk he stopped and whined when he saw a little girl getting into a car. Later in our walk we saw two girls on a sled (I'm guessing about 3 and 5), so I'm guessing there was at least one child around.
He came to us already housebroken and already with some good habits.
We're doing obedience school; we've already been to a class without him, and I like the methods we're learning.
I'd brought up the idea of a dog a while ago with JB. I grew up with cats, and JB didn't have animals growing up – her mom was too worried she'd wind up doing all the work.
2011 was an interesting year at work for me; I learned a lot about working with a team, and for the first time I've been placed in a management role. Reading Nate Green's post about his dog, patience and real problems confirmed for me that not only would a dog provide companionship (and yes, I know, "baby practice"), but also, for both of us, we'd learn to do things like go outside first thing instead of turning on our computers; we'd actually start going for those after-dinner walks we've been talking about.
It would be good for our physical health and our mental and emotional health.
We went to one rescue and had a lousy customer service experience. We waited a few days and went to the SPCA, expecting to meet a beagle or some terrier mix. Instead, Rufus found us. We took him out for a walk, and we were gone nearly an hour.
He weighs in at 75 pounds, so he's big enough to play with, run with, and to be a substantial cuddler.
A few things we've noticed in the few days he's been home:
Honesty. On Friday, his second full day home, we were both working late. Rufus had spent most of Thursday plugged up from his new food, and so when I got out of work I rushed home, hoping he hadn't loosened up in his crate and spent the day having to sit in it.
Well, he'd loosened up. But what he did was he figured out how to get out of his crate – not by opening the door, but by collapsing one of the walls by unhooking it. He knocked over the trash barrel, and he pooped in the house, but he did it in a very easy-to-clean-up spot and didn't track it anywhere.
When I walked in the door, the first thing I saw was the trash. He was waiting for me about three feet away, and we went outside briefly and then came back in to survey the damage. He knew he'd done something improper, and for the next few hours, he sulked with his head on the floor between his paws.
Simplicity. When we agreed to adopt Rufus, we picked up a bunch of stuff. You know, beds, collars, that kind of stuff. We also picked up some stuffed toys, a tug rope, a rubber ball, and a big bone with some meat-type stuff on it.
He might be adjusting to being neutered and to a new home all in the same week, but he wanted no part of the toys or the bones. I grabbed two simple rawhide bones ($2 each) on my trip to the grocery store, and he loves them. Won't put them down. In fact, he took one with him when we went out this morning, and he's been heading right to his crate to grab a bone instead of hanging out in the living room.