Hiking in Flip Flops

hiking in flip flops

Yesterday our family went for a hike at one of our state’s fantastic parks, Hanging Rock State Park. After a leisurely picnic lunch, my wife and I, along with our children (9 and 6) packed some day packs, water bottles, and snacks, laced our shoes up, and set off on the 1.3 mile Hanging Rock Trail to the park’s namesake overlook. It was a challenging hike with a variety of terrain from well groomed rock paths to almost indiscernible steep climbs up rocky parts near the top. Jessi and I are experienced hikers and have climbed in all sorts of terrain all over the United States, so we were comfortable that this would be routine, even if we had to push through some tiredness for the kids. Nevertheless, we each carried a day pack, more water than we thought we needed, and a first aid kit.

What surprised me most as we worked our way up the trail was how many people were HIKING IN FLIP FLOPS! Now, I must admit that I had sandals on, but my sandals were closed toed Keen sandals designed for this terrain. The scene we saw over and over was much like the photo above – just ordinary bathhouse flip flops trekking up the rocky terrain, often with no water and no pack. I was appalled at these people’s ignorance and lack of preparedness, and fearful for some of them. I was just waiting for someone to come running down the trail screaming for help that their friend or family member had a broken ankle, severe cut, or dehydration.

Our day was great. The Hanging Rock overlook was beautiful and on the way down we chose a side trail that took us to the other side of the mountain and added another 1.5 miles to our trip. After we got done with our great day in the woods and our kids had survived, we drove into town and sat down to dinner and some well earned beers. As we recounted the day with the kids, the topic of hiking in flip flops came up again. We discussed with them that it is dangerous and even if you can do it, you are putting yourself at risk in an environment where injury or accidents can be magnified because of the difficulty of getting help. It shows a lack of respect for nature and your fellow hikers when you wander into the woods unprepared.

Today I got to thinking about this analogy to life. How many of us hike through life in flip flops in so many ways?

When we dive deeply into relationships that we’re not emotionally prepared for, aren’t we risking a nasty cut? When we buy things we can’t afford with credit we shouldn’t be using, aren’t we taking a chance of a sprained ankle with no way of getting out? When we take a job just for the title or the salary without any consideration for how it fits our abilities and strengths, aren’t we destined to get dehydrated and famished professionally? When we never say ‘no’ to our children and allow their activities to take over our family time and burn themselves out aren’t we walking the path of life without proper protection for our emotional selves?

I believe that the answer to all of these is yes. This is not to suggest that we should over plan and over prepare for every moment or situation in our lives. That can be debilitating. What I think we should do is think about what is happening in our lives and consider whether or not we’re prepared to handle the curve balls that life can throw at us? To my knowledge, none of our under-prepared fellow hikers yesterday were seriously injured on the trail. What I’m sure of is that most of them traipsing through the forest in their bathroom sandals didn’t maximize their opportunity. They got tired too quickly, ended with very sore feet at best, blisters and cuts at worst, and they were physically and mentally exhausted when they got back to their cars.

I’ve put myself in this situation emotionally and relationally before and every time I look back on it, there was an opportunity to take stock of the situation and consider whether or not I was ready to start down the path. Sometimes I thought I was and just took off, only to realize how woefully unprepared I had been, forcing me to either stop or turn abruptly to avoid troubles. Other times, when I’ve slowed down enough to think about the journey I’m about to take, I’ve realized that I didn’t have everything I needed for the journey I was about to embark on and either adjusted or delayed the plan. One recent example came as we were looking to buy a new car. We had DECIDED we were getting a crew cab pick up, a new one, and had even narrowed it down to 3 choices. We took them all for test drives and looked at financing options on each one. Every time, the numbers came back and slapped us in the face – you can’t afford this. Then the dealers inevitably showed us how we could – Just Lease It! Sure, you’ll be beholden to us to have a car payment forever, but we can get it into today’s monthly budget and you can have this new car!

Thankfully, we stopped before we ran down the trail of leasing a car in our flip flops. We decided to take another night and think about it. We talked about it and decided we just weren’t willing to get into a lease where we’d surely never own the car and inevitably just continue on with more payments when the lease was up. We took stock of whether we were prepared or not for this journey, and we weren’t. So we delayed the journey a bit and re-thought if it was the right journey to take. In the end, we ended up buying a used sport-wagon that we could purchase with a traditional loan payment we could afford for 3 years. We decided THAT was the journey we were prepared for, and it still was satisfying and met our needs.

We should all guard against the risk of unprepared journeys in our lives. By simply taking a few precautions, slowing down to evaluate the situation, and being as ready as possible before we set off, we’ll be ready for the rocky trails that we encounter in life. So put on some decent walking shoes, you never know how tough the path might become.

Advertisements

Work v. Passion

DSC_0178

Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel and champion of the working class has a now famous quote from his TED Talk:

“Bring your passion along with you, but don’t follow it – be happy first!”

What?!?! Don’t follow your passion? Isn’t that counter to everything we’ve ever been taught. Perhaps, but I think he’s on to something.

Recently, I served as the Camp Director for the Jay Bilas Skills Camp, an ‘old school’ camp that is focused on teaching the fundamental skills of the game of basketball. Preparing for the camp and then the three, 18 hour days in the gym reminded me that my passion is teaching – teaching and leading coaches, teaching young people the game of basketball, and teaching life changing lessons through sports. I know it is my passion because not once did I think twice about putting in the long days; not once did I ask myself ‘what are you doing here?’; not once did I wish I was doing something else with my time; not once did I wonder how much I was going to get paid for the work. I was all in, all out, for the entire camp…because it is my passion.

But my passion isn’t my job. Does that make me a failure? Shouldn’t I have a job at 39 years old that allows me to make a living following my passion? I agree with Mike Rowe on this point and say NO! That doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job and it doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard at my job. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not happy. I have a great job working every day with sports teams to help make their facilities more beautiful and engaging. I earn a good living and have a balanced quality of life. I have time to spend with my family and friends. And  I still have time for my passion. I don’t work in my passion everyday, but I do bring it along with me to my job.

Here is what I have observed about people who follow their passion (including me in the early stages of my career). They eventually burn out, they destroy their relationships, and they become imbalanced and dependent. The reason for this is that when you are working at your passion you don’t ever want to stop. You believe so much in what you’re doing or love your work so much that you’ll do anything to keep doing it. No amount of hours is too many; no request from the boss is unreasonable; no sacrifice is too large. I know, I followed my passion for coaching for 10 years and I have countless friends who have done the same thing. The road I was going down, and the road I have seen many others go down leads you to ignore your health because there isn’t enough time for silly things like working out and eating right. It causes you to ignore relationships with your spouse and family and often leads to divorce and loneliness because your job takes priority whether you want to admit it or not. It creates an emotional roller coaster where your happiness is ONLY tied to success in your job, often leading to addiction in an effort to find some calming or numbing place. Following your passion can be very dangerous.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t love what you do and be passionate about it. And I’m not suggesting you should abandon your passions. What I believe is that if you blindly follow your passion into a career, there are risks that you should be aware of and guard against. I also want to stress that I do believe that it is important to pursue your passions, even when they aren’t your job. If you love art, keep creating and sell or give away your art. If you love to travel, find a way to spend your available time and money out on the road. If you love music, keep playing as much as you can as long as you can. If you love sports, stay involved in youth sports or an adult league even if you can’t find the right job in the industry that makes you happy. And most importantly, whatever you end up doing for your JOB, bring your passion along with you, but be happy FIRST.

Slumps

fla2

This picture is what a slump feels like to me – a long path in front of me, no end in sight, no one to talk to, only the path to keep running. What I have learned about slumps, and what I am having to do right now as I go through one, is that all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on down the path in the moment you have right now.

Slumps come in a lot of different forms and in various parts of our lives. When we’re experiencing slumps in multiple parts of our life at once it can start to feel overwhelming. When only one area is going through a slump, we often think there is something we can DO to get out of it if we just work harder, push harder, focus our effort. The reality about most of the slumps we go through in life is that there isn’t much we can DO about them, we can only keep moving forward.

Life is pretty good right now. My wife and I feel like we’re in a real “sweet spot” in the parenting of our 9 and 6 year olds (if you haven’t hit these ages yet, they are the easiest to date). After a major physical wake up call, I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds in the last month and feel healthier than I have in a year. Spiritually and emotionally I feel as peaceful and tuned in as I can remember in my adulthood. Financially our family is stable and comfortable and we live in a great neighborhood with a lot of luxuries that many others do not enjoy.

Yet still, despite all of the good in my life, I’m experiencing a business slump. Almost daily I spend some time wondering why I’m on a cold streak of closing new business deals? I start to analyze what I’m DOING and questioning whether I’m working hard enough, making enough calls, reaching out to the right people, saying the right words. All of my insecurities revolve around some failure on my part to not DO THE RIGHT THING or enough of it. I feel like my business prospects are like staring down this empty path – no one to talk to or no one to listen to me, no end in sight, and no opportunities in view. It is maddening and disheartening. Sometimes I exacerbate the situation by trying to DO something else unrelated to work just to get the satisfaction of accomplishment. Maybe if I can successfully plan a family trip that will make me feel better. Maybe if I can get a good deal on a new car I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe if we moved to a new house the change of scenery would jump start things! It snow-balls quickly…

Here is the reality I recognized this morning as I finally sat quietly and examined my thoughts (crazy thoughts about uprooting my family in hopes a change of scenery would help)…slump-busting isn’t about DOING. Breaking out of a slump is about staying on the path, putting one foot in front of the other, and staying true to who you are and the values you hold true. Slumps are a normal part of life, family, sports, and business. Jon Doyle, from BaseballTrainingSecrets.com, said this about hitting slumps:

Most people actually think slumps are created by the hitter doing something wrong with their mechanics. However, what usually causes an ongoing slump is how the hitter is affected mentally.

I believe business slumps are the same. As I reflect on this slump I’m in, I realize I’m not doing anything different than I was doing 6 months ago when we had so much business coming in we couldn’t keep up with it. No, what I’m doing is allowing my focus from a business standpoint to wander to other solutions, looking for an action that will fix things. Like a hitter who starts by moving back a bit in the box to get a split second longer to see that ball, I started with trying to get the ‘feeling’ of winning a deal a different way and focused energy there instead of plugging down the path. As a hitter’s slump continues, they often make more and more drastic changes in an effort to break out of it until pretty soon they’re using a different bat, eating a different pre-game meal, and shopping for new cleats. All along, for hitters, and for me, the solution is in our head. And it isn’t a solution at all…it is just getting all of that other junk out of our heads and focusing on the moment we have right now.

So today I’m going to stop worrying about the details of that family trip that is months away; email those car dealers back and tell them I’m not buying after all; and I’m going to throw away those real estate listings on the coast that I’ve been fixating on for that past few days. Instead, I’m going to focus on staying in the moment with my clients which leads to meaningful conversations. I’m going to talk freely and without pressure to prospects about the value our company can bring to their projects. And I’m going to keep my mind and eyes open for possibilities for business and explore them when they come, not choke them when I see them. I know that less DOING and more BEING PRESENT MENTALLY will break this slump.

Friends

Brad and John

For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about friends this week. Perhaps it is because I’m longing for some time with two of my best friends who I haven’t seen in awhile. It might be because I haven’t been on the road with my colleague Brad (above), who has become a good friend as well as a business associate. Maybe it is because this week I got to grab a couple of beers with some guys here in Charlotte that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like, but enjoy spending time with very much and wish I could develop deeper friendship with. Whatever the reason, friends and friendship have been on my mind a lot lately.

I don’t really have a lot of friends. I don’t know if I’m different than a lot of people in this regard, but it feels like it. I’m not talking about Facebook friends or good acquaintances. I’m talking about real, true, love hanging out with and can share life with friends. My wife is my best friend, no contest. After that, I have 2 guys who I’ve shared everything in life with for over 20 years who know me better than anyone on the planet (maybe even better than my wife). From there, there is really only one more circle for me and there are probably 8-10 people in that circle and I call them friends. These are the people I WISH I could spend more time with, I make time to see as much as possible, and who can pick up a conversation the moment we’re together like we just spent all day together yesterday. These are the people I vacation with, travel with, and share free time with. These are the people I call, text, and email on a regular basis. These are friends.

Sometimes I feel bad about not having a bunch of friends. Sometimes I feel bad about not really wanting any new friends. Sure, relationships come and go in life and during certain seasons we become close with people because of work, or our kids, or being neighbors, or any number of reasons. Rarely for me, however, do these circumstantial ‘friends’ morph into true friendships, and usually, that is ok with me. But I still sometimes feel bad about not developing closer friendships.

There is a quote by Henry David Thoreau that my wife loves and is starting to grow on me:

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
                                                                                              – Henry David Thoreau

I know why Jessi loves it; as a military brat living all over the U.S. and internationally growing up, it was mostly her and her parents. As an only child, she was the only one that had to decide what to do or where to go and she went. Now that we have our own kids, the “waiting until that other is ready” part is a reality we can’t escape. But we still travel light and do things on our own and that allows us to “start today” more often than not. We don’t do elaborate group outings and multi-family vacations much, our kids aren’t involved in the typically ‘coordinated’ sports activities, and we don’t plan every minute of every weekend. So for us, it has become “a family that goes alone can start today.” I’m beginning to place a lot of value on this trait of our family. We have had some pretty neat experiences when we’ve decided on a whim to head out on an adventure. It has created a flexible, albeit somewhat isolated, way of doing life.

Now I’m an extrovert, through and through, so I don’t foresee a day when I become a hermit. As I grow older, however, I recognize more than ever that it is true friendship, with a few that you care about, that is really valuable. So, I will continue to commit and invest in those few friends that I have. And I may even be more open to the development of new friendships as they come up. For you see, while I may not see them as much as I’d like, I know that what A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh is true…

“Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.”