Archive for March, 2010
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Today is March 17, the one day when everyone is Irish – St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, there are a lot more people living in America who claim to be Irish then there are Irish people living in Ireland. They celebrate by drinking beer, eating corned beef and cabbage, wearing green, and drinking green beer. Oh, and drinking beer until they turn green. Since only the Irish get to do this, everybody else becomes honorary Irish for the day. That way we all get to drink beer, not to mention Irish whiskey. (Even those of us who don’t like the taste of either.)
Paddy o’Flaherty used to stop into the same pub every night, and he’d always order three pints of Guinness. The barman said, “You’d be better to order them one at a time so they don’t go flat.” Paddy replied, “Ah, but they aren’t all for me, you see. I have a brother in America and another one down in Australia. I drink a Guinness for each of them so I can remember the good times we’ve had.
One day Paddy comes into the pub and only orders two pints. The barman says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Paddy. Which brother did you lose.” “Oh, it’s nothing like that. They’re both fine. But the doctor says I have to stop drinking, so I didn’t order one for meself.”
Beer – It’s good for what ales you. Or so we hear.
Snakes. Why Did It Have to be Snakes?
Historically, there’s perfectly good precedent for everyone being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick himself wasn’t born in Ireland. He was a Welshman who went to Ireland to convert the heathen. Apparently “heathen” is the Irish word for “heather” and St. Patrick converted quite a lot of green heather to church property or such. He was also known for convincing wealthy women to become nuns, another important source of green for the church. All in all, St. Patrick clearly had a gift for the green.
St. Patrick is renowned for driving the snakes out of Ireland. Some cynics point out that Ireland never had native snakes. But so what if they weren’t native? Just because the snakes refused to wear loin cloths and ceremonial feather headdresses is no good reason for discrimination.
Perhaps someday I’ll be known as the man who drove the aardvarks out of California. It’s not that I meant to do that; it’s just that I had a few unfortunate casualties during my grand quest of teaching the aardvarks to fly.
Despite everything being green, St. Patrick’s Day is not the same thing as Earth Day. That’s celebrated on April 22, and is about making things grow; I’m not sure beer is even involved. They’re both green holidays, though, so any confusion is understandable. Then there’s Arbor Day, but that’s usually in April too. So March on to the beat of a different bodhran on St. Patrick’s Day.
His head bowed, the brewer foreman comes up to Mrs. o’Flaherty and says, “I’m so sorry about your son Paddy. I’m afraid he drowned in a vat of beer.”
“Ah, the poor laddie; he never had a chance!”
“Well,” says the foreman, “I’m not so sure of that. He did climb out three times to visit the bathroom.”
No matter how important your work, or how engrossing that role-playing game, sometimes you need to take a break. Otherwise you might end up like poor Paddy. Grab a brewksi or some green tea, put on some Irish music, kick up your feet and relax. Or dance a jig. Or get together with some Morris Men and try not to break anything with your sticks.
Dublin or Nothing
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
Travel is broadening, especially when you visit a place renowned for its potatoes, soda bread, and beer. Why not fit a visit to the Emerald Isle into your schedule? I recently had to turn down a job interview with an online poker developer in Dublin, but I very much regretted it. I would have liked to visit Ireland, see the sights, and catch some music. A bit of gamboling, but no time for gambling.
Incidentally, despite the rocky soil, there is no true rock music in Ireland. Since the Irish traditional music influence seems to creep into everything else, all they have is sham rock. Clover line, don’t you think? Don’t worry; it will grow on you.
Until next year, then:
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Guest Article by Fleetwood
A few weeks ago, Private Fleetwood submitted this answer to a Rank 2 Warrior assignment, “Describe Yourself.” This was intended as one of the easier assignments – Pick five keywords that describe yourself, then discuss how they fit you and what they mean for your future. Fleetwood turned it into something much more, and we thought it deserved a wider audience. Here is the story of one Warrior Hero. We hope it will inspire others as it inspired us. – Corey and Lori
Noun – What Am I?
- I am a Leader. I am bold and brave and take action when it is needed.
- I am a Listener, seeking to understand.
- I am a Teacher and want to help others learn.
- I am a Follower if you can show me a better way.
- I am a Friend and will be there when you need me.
- I am a Free Spirit and seek my own way.
- I am a Loner and need time to myself.
- I am a Student, always ready to learn.
- I am a Lover and will Fight for what I love.
- I am a Gamer and love to play.
- I am a Writer and need to create.
- I am an Artist and want everything perfect.
- I am an Innovator, seeking new things, new ways, and new ideas.
- I am a Slacker when I’ve lost inspiration.
- I am a Provider and bring home the bacon.
- I am an Explorer and want to look around and see.
- I am all of these things.
This was by far the most difficult assignment that I’ve had. I’ve been coming back to it and pushing it off again for the better part of the year. It all boiled down to the fact that I could not describe myself using only on noun. I thought about it and finally, after much soul searching, sat down and started to choose one. But I realized that I could not pick simply one. In the past I have received praise for changing the nature of the assignment and doing what is right for me. While in school I was often penalized for such actions, the Way of the Warrior has encouraged me to follow my own path. So that is what I ultimately decided to do for this assignment.
Adjective – What Drives Me?
The Adjective that best describes me is Curious. I love learning and understanding how things work. This is the fuel for my desire for Adventure and Exploration. I am a warrior and not a wizard, however, because I like to do things with my knowledge, and because I have a broad, rather than deep and focused, range of skills and interests. This is why I decided against a Ph.D., and a career in research. I had to pick one part of one topic and spend my time doing research. I wanted to learn a wide variety of things that would be useful in everyday life.
My Greatest Skill
By far, my greatest skill is my resourcefulness. I am a problem solver by nature, and I get my greatest joy by solving problems, especially those problems that can help others. When faced with a problem, my mind, almost automatically, begins to think of ways to tackle it. I get great pleasure in figuring out and then implementing solutions. This is one of the reasons I am thinking of not pursuing a career in management consulting. Too much time spent on analysis and recommendation, and not enough time spent on implementation and execution.
My Greatest Fears
When I was younger, I never would have believed that I would sort out as a warrior. As a child, I would have thought I would have been a wizard. As a teen, definitely a paladin. But as an adult, I am not surprised that I sorted as a warrior. Leadership is very important to me, but more important than that is the struggle I face to be honest with myself and maintain my integrity. I have fears, that as a boy I would have thought would have excluded me from the ranks of the warrior class: fear of confrontation and fear of success. But as a man, I have come to realize that it is not your fears that define you; it is how you deal with your fear.
Despite being a warrior, I am afraid of confrontations and I tend to avoid them. This fear has caused me great hardship in the past, as I avoided breaking up with girls I did not like, avoided talking to my parents and avoided situations where I would have been much better served to act with boldness and integrity. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to value the importance and necessity of confrontation, but I still get nervous before a difficult conversation. And every once in a while, I put one off longer than I need to. Luckily, my internal integrity/guilt regulator comes on and pushes me to do the right thing.
Unlike many people, I am not really afraid of failure. I am not afraid of making mistakes, nor do I fear failing. I understand that we learn best through failure, and I have gained most of my life experience through doing things incorrectly. Being willing to take some risks and accepting that failing is a normal and natural part of life has pushed me and shaped my character in ways I can’t even imagine. I know that as long as you keep trying, you haven’t really failed. What I do fear, however, is success. For whatever reason, I am unwilling or unable to let myself be really successful. Time after time after time, I get to a level of success, only to self-sabotage myself and fall back down to nothing. This cycle has repeated itself over and over during the course of my lifetime. But each time it happens, I allow myself more success than I did the last time. Each time I see that I am capable of success and I am capable of achievement. Each time I learn skills on how to deal emotionally with success and how to manage the fruits of my success. This past year was quite difficult for me emotionally, but I believe I am back on the upswing. On my last cycle, I achieved more success than I ever thought possible, only to realize that I had based some of my personal philosophies on unsubstantial things. This time through, I think I am on a more solid base and I have a partner to tackle the journey (my fiancee). I am going to try again to get a career in the space industry and see how it goes. I don’t know if I have quite gotten over my fear of success, but I am definitely not as afraid as I used to be.
My greatest weakness is procrastination. I push things off that I think are going to be uncomfortable. It is a very bad weakness, the contrary force to that great warrior trait, initiative.
I have, however, been able to overcome procrastination to a certain extent. I’ve found that motivation seems to be one of the key drivers to help me overcome procrastination, as do reminders from my fiancée about things that need to be done. However, it seems that the best way for me to overcome my procrastination, is to just do it and not think about it.
Motivation and Goals
Goals have been a great way to overcome my procrastination. Stating clear goals and them breaking them down into manageable chunks (a skill I learned in MBA) makes it easier to take care of business. Indeed, one thing I realized during this assignment is that if I turn my goals into problems, I can think of creative ways to solve them. I did this recently when I was trying to help a friend work on her resume. I really had no idea how to even begin. Then I thought about the problem as an opportunity for creative problem solving. I turned the problem into a “creative problem” and thought about what steps I had to do to solve it. I came up with a good plan and worked it until completion. Since I started this assignment, I’ve been thinking of all of my tasks, as mini-projects. I’ve been doing a fair job of getting things done, but I still see that there are tasks I’ve been avoiding. After reviewing this section, I’ll try again to think of my tasks as problems that need to be solved.
Confidence from my MBA
One of the best things that I learned during my MBA was how to work. There was always far too much to be done, but you still had to do it. During the last week of the first quarter, I had three exams and two essays due in 5 days. After that week, I realized that I can just sit and work and get things done.
That skill/feeling/knowledge has helped me out time and time again, not just during the rest of my MBA career, but every time I have a difficult project to accomplish. If it wasn’t for the discipline I learned at school, it is doubtful if I would have advanced as far in the School for Heroes as I have. I am very grateful for the pain that I suffered, because it has made me a better warrior.
Slicing and Dicing
One reason I tend to put things off, is because the job seems too hard or difficult. That’s when cutting it up helps. If I can’t do the whole thing, I slice a piece of it off and do that. I am in the middle of a project that I figure is 3 hours – calling back leads. In order to apply some motivation, I pulled out the best leads and made a mini project out of it. I still have the bulk to call, but at least the most important ones have been taken care of. I’m in the middle of another project now, also callbacks, and its really dragging. Its only an hour project, but maybe I will apply the same logic, and cut it down into two or three mini projects to help me get it done.
Reminders from My Fiancée
Nothing helps like a friendly reminder from my beloved. She helps me keep on course. I love her very much.
Just do it!
Nike said it best. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just do it. I pinch my nose, and just dive right in. I often find that just by starting a difficult or uncomfortable assignment, I become motivated to continue. I try this now when I wake up in the morning. Instead of deciding whether or not I want to wake up, I just get out of bed. Instead of spending time feeling how difficult it will be to call people on my list or deciding what to say, I just dial the number and put the phone to my ear. Once they pick up, I start talking. I just do it.
I think what this means is that I have problems and difficulties, but I have the means to overcome them. I have never taken a systematic analysis of myself in this light. In school, we would often conduct SWAT analysis of companies – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, but this is the first time I’ve ever done it to myself. I see now that the problems I have are actually quite common in most people. Weakness and fear usually hide in the dark places of our mind, but airing them out in the light lets us see them for what they really are.
In truth, I didn’t realize that I could use my skills to deal with my weakness. Part of my procrastination is due to the fact that I think I can’t do something because it is too hard (lack of confidence), or because it seems too painful (fear of confrontation). But through completing this assignment, I realize that I have far more personal resources and personal strenght than I ever though possible. I think that I will be okay from here on in.
I have been working on this one assignment in some form or another, for almost exactly one year. It was the first Private assignment I started, and the last one I completed. I began actively working on this assignment about a month ago, and in that short time I have experienced a personal revival. Thinking about my strengths and weaknesses together has allowed me to use my strengths to combat my weakness. In the last month I have accomplished a great deal, both at work and in my private life. I’ve turned all of my tasks into problems that needed to be solved. Instead of worrying about what a bad planner I am, I turn plans into problems to be solved, and then solve them. I had the answer all along. I just had to be willing to find my own way.
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
The Winter Olympics are among the few sporting events I make a point of watching. Since I don’t have a TV, I was able to catch all of the action on the internet. To me, the Olympics are about much more than gold, silver, and bronze medals. The Olympics are a chance for each of the athletes to step out on the biggest stage of their careers and try to put on the best performance of which they are capable.
So I was very happy this year listening to the commentators on various performances, because they focused on what really matters to these competitors. Time and again I heard them announce a score, then say, “That was a personal best,” or “That was her highest score this season.” Only one person or team can win an event, but all of the competitors have the chance to transcend themselves when it most matters. They have that one chance to show the world their personal best.
One Moment in Time
“Give me one moment in time, When I’m more than I thought I could be, When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, and the answers are all up to me.”
Whitney Houston performed the theme song for the 1988 Summer Olympics, “One Moment in Time,” by Albert Hammond and John Bettis. All of the quotes in this blog are from that song; I still can’t listen to it, or even read it aloud, without tearing up with emotion. When I find myself being ordinary, or lazy, or not giving 100% to a task, I try to remind myself that I could be wasting the one moment in time where I had a chance to excel.
Much of life seems to come down to a few defining moments. We remember the truly special “bits” from feature films and from our own lives. It might be a few lines of dialogue, or the moment when you fell in love, or a few seconds when disaster struck. Those few moments are the ones where we go beyond our daily patterns and rituals to be part of something extraordinary. And those are the moments – good or bad – we most remember.
No Pain, No Gain
“I broke my heart, fought every gain, to taste the sweet, I face the pain.”
Nike sold a lot of shoes with their slogan, “Second place is the first loser,” but I think that’s a… well, loser philosophy. If you don’t win, you’ve failed. And failure is devastating. Or is it? Maybe there’s another way of looking at the notions of success and failure.
I’ve written before about Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” in which she talks about fixed and growth mindsets. A person with a fixed mindset thinks that they are either talented or not, and that no amount of work will change that. Those with the growth mindset see each challenge as an opportunity to grow, learn and improve.
For people with the growth mindset, being the first loser is a stimulus. Those athletes will recommit themselves to the hard work, practice, and study that they need to improve. At the Vancouver Winter Olympics, I saw countless examples of athletes dedicated to the growth mindset. When Apolo Ohno was disqualified in one of his last races, he said, “I guess I just need to skate faster.” Ohno is the most decorated athlete in Winter Olympics history with eight medals, but he knows that he needs to keep working and keep improving to stay one of the best.
The Best to Be
Each day I live, I want to be
A day to give the best of me
I remember watching previous Olympic skating competitions and seeing skater after skater fall during their programs. Some of them became contests of making the fewest errors. This year was different; there were some minor errors, but few falls that I saw. The results were based on difficulty, skill, and beauty of the performances rather than on who survived.
I particularly liked the attitude of Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. In her short program, she attempted a triple lutz / triple toe loop combination, but ended up doing a triple-double instead. When asked about that after the performance, Mirai stated, “I think I made a wise choice.” She knew that she didn’t have the speed to pull off the second triple jump, so she downgraded it and went on with her performance… beautifully. Many skaters in the past would become so upset at failing one part of their skate that it affected everything else. This year, the skaters seemed immune to self-doubt; if they made a mistake, they made sure they skated everything else perfectly.
When Mirai completed her long program and moved up to fifth place, she seemed as delighted as if she had won the entire competition. Her object at this – her first Olympics – was to skate the best she could and let people know that she is the future of figure skating. She certainly did that with a personal best score. Mirai Nagasu did not need to stand on the award podium to be a winner – She was the fifth winner, not the fourth loser, in that event.
Figure skating has always been an event in which who you are matters as much as what you do. In that sense, Mirai might not have had any chance to win the gold medal. But she came to Vancouver to show what she can do, to gain some recognition in the eyes of the judges and the audience, and to experience the thrill and the pressure of top-flight competition. She succeeded in all of those.
And, by the way, the event winners all deserved their places on the podium. Their performances were fantastic – Kim Yu-Na flawless, Mao Asada successfully doing the first three triple axel jumps in women’s Olympic competition, and Joannie Rochette of Canada skating a beautiful, sultry program that was both artistic and athletic.
Speaking of pain, Joannie’s performance was all the more remarkable in that many competitors might have cancelled their entry. Her mother passed away from a sudden heart attack just two days before Joannie’s first program at Vancouver. Rochette considered dropping out, but said, “All my life, my mother wanted me to compete in the Olympics. She was a very tough woman, and taught me to be tough.” Instead of giving up, Joannie Rochette performed in her mother’s honor and did so magnificently. She found a way to channel her sadness and turn it into two strong, joyful performances.
No Time for Less
“I’ve lived to be the very best, I want it all, no time for less.”
Shaun White came into the Olympics as the favorite to win the halfpipe snowboarding competition, and he came prepared to win. In an interview, he talked about the many times he fell while practicing his tricks for the event. Snowboarding is scored on the best of two runs. Shaun fell during his second qualifying run, but it didn’t matter since he had the highest score of all competitors on his first run. In the final, his first run again beat both runs of every other competitor, so he didn’t even have to complete his second run.
So how did he react? Did he back off and do a relaxed, casual victory lap in his final run? Not at all. Shaun White came to Vancouver to show that he was the best – and the hardest worker – at his sport. In his final run, Shaun did a 3-1/2 revolution – 1260 degree – stunt that no other snowboarder has even attempted. He did it perfectly, but that’s almost beside the point. White showed what he can do under Olympic competition pressure, his fall in the preliminaries completely forgotten.
What about you? Are you willing to settle for second best? Somewhere back in the pack? Those might be realistic short-term goals as long as you treat every race as a chance to do better, to extend your personal best. The lesson I see in top competitors in every game and sport is that they keep coming back. Whether they win, place, or fail in a particular competition, they keep coming back, and they keep trying to improve. Yes, even the winners consider their victories to be just one more milestone. They want to do even better the next time and to win more often than anyone else. Winner, bronze medalist, or back in the pack – They know that there is always more to learn and more chances to grow, improve, and excel.
Winner for a Lifetime
“You’re a winner for a lifetime, If you seize that one moment in time; Make it shine.”
In the end, it is not whether you win or lose, nor whether you come home with a medal or empty-handed. Each moment in time is defined by whether you can show the world your Personal Best. Few of us have the opportunity to perform in the Olympics, but we all have many opportunities to put on the performance of our lives and to find the best within ourselves.
Are you up for the challenge? It lasts a lifetime.
“Then in that one moment in time, I will be free.”