Unplugged: A Different Pace


Photo by Mark Baker

One doesn’t need to venture far from Madison to escape the self-created, always plugged in, move to the next scheduled activity, and “What else do I need to get done today?” world. In less than 40 miles, you slip from LTE to 4G to Edge service (and frequently NO service).  Perhaps not everyone sees Edge service as a bad thing.

The weekend before last, we escaped to the Little Sugar River Farm in Albany for our second visit this year. This time, I traveled there by bike. What a great transition from the hustle bustle of daily life to a serene getaway – 2.5 hours of solitude. The ride was glorious (see picture). The weather, scenery, and nature along the way—birds, smells of spring, scurrying rabbits, squirrels, and turkeys—reconnected my senses to the natural world.

A stop in Monticello brought back connections to times past. A grandmother and her granddaughter were selling VFW “Buddy” Poppies. The granddaughter was delighted to be the “Poppy Princess,” which she enthusiastically explained as, “You sell poppies, ride in the parade, and get your picture in the paper.” It was a pleasure to donate my two dollars.

Owner Frank Goodman met my arrival at the farm with a wave from the seat of his International Harvester tractor/mower. He was tending to what referred to as his “prairie restoration in progress” just inside the gate. The weekend was off to a good start.

While the weather wasn’t great, the skies did clear for a bit of biking. Unfortunately, the Sugar River State Trail was soft due to the recent rain and not conducive to skinny bike tires like it is when dry and more heavily traveled. Instead, we went off to New Glarus for a short local ride.

An expected highlight was the lunch we had at Cow & Quince in New Glarus. The food was exceptional, a true farm-to-table experience that included local asparagus, morel mushrooms, pork, gouda, and more. They are raising funds from local backers with a Kickstarter-style “Community Supported Restaurant” campaign. Good stuff—this Isthmus review captures it well.

Along the way to and from, we saw boys fishing in a creek, children biking to downtown Monticello, and a local bike rodeo event in New Glarus, as well as much local farming activity. The weekend connected me back to some of the simpler things in life I so enjoy.

When Monday dawned, it was back to my busy, plugged-in, LTE network world.

2014 Tour de France – Clean or Dirty?

It was with great pleasure that I watched “The Gentle Giant” Marcel Kittel win the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France this past Sunday. Vincenzo Nibali was crowned the overall race champion on the Champs-Elysées.

By Andrei Loas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrei Loas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The average speed for all 2,277 miles of this 101st tour was just over 25 mph. In 1984, the average speed was 22.25 mph. A 10% increase in average speed in 30 years is pretty impressive. This is even more so when you realize that the relationship between speed and power required is a logarithmic scale. That 10% increase requires approximately 25% more watts of power output.

Nibali’s Astana Pro Team has a checkered past in the doping scene, once providing a home for Alexander Vinokourov (2007) and Lance Armstrong (2009 comeback season). They now claim to be clean. Given the increase in performance times, is this plausible? Given the history of widespread doping throughout professional cycling, both revealed and still hidden, does it matter?

Weekly Download 14.14

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

What will they think of next? The Airdog is a Video drone that flies itself

Even in the most utopian workplace environments, conflicts arise. These 5 Questions You’ll Need to Settle Workplace Disagreements is a handy tool for finding a resolution.

  •  Question 1: “Are we arguing about intent or impact?”
  • Question 2: “What are our goals here?”
  • Question 3: “Are our priorities aligned?”people demand bikes and coffee
  • Question 4: “How are we defining success?”
  • Question 5: “What would you do in my place?”

To a bike geek like myself, there is no greater hero or villain than Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong in Purgatory: The After Life recaps his rise and fall and shows how life has changed for the super athlete now that he is no longer atop the podium.


Mindfulness and Happiness at Work

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

Meditation, enlightenment and the pursuit of happiness were once considered the purview of New Age gurus, yogis and hippies—those folks who were “out there.” Now, these concepts, often encompassed under the banner of “mindfulness,” are moving into the mainstream and are being embraced in the business world. Let’s take a look at who’s leading the charge and what they are saying.

“Mindfulness is a process of actively noticing new things.”—Ellen Langer

  • Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity. This Harvard Business Review article features an Interview with Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard. Her research on mindfulness has revealed that, “… by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance.” Langer links mindfulness to business practices and leadership at multiple points. Additional resources include her books Mindfulness and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.
  • Another excellent article from Harvard Business Review is Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life, by Harvard professors Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams. Here, the authors debunk some of the myths about work/life balance, but also show deliberate choices can help reconcile conflicts between the various roles and responsibilities we all have. They look at five major themes: “defining success for yourself, managing technology, building support networks at work and at home, traveling or relocating selectively, and collaborating with your partner.”

Here’s a simple tenet for balance and happiness that I keep in mind: know what you love and love what you do. Living to work is not a privilege that comes easy. What routines do you have that allow you to be clear about who you are and what you enjoy? For example, I enjoy the sensory aspects of cycling…the focus on breathing, cycling technique and being engulfed by the surrounding sights and smells. It helps me reduce the daily noise of work and focus on the important longer-term items necessary for success.

Taking the Sand out of the Gears

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

As an avid cyclist, I know how important it is to maintain my equipment so it will function well and contribute to a smooth ride. Usually that means a few turns of a wrench, regular cleaning and regular lubrication. When you’ve ridden through sand, however, extra TLC is required. Sand is particularly gritty and sticky, which can slow you down and cause excessive wear and tear on the chain and drive train. The remedies include a quick wash, a deep cleaning or replacing the chain. What you can’t do, as a responsible cyclist, is ignore it.

To make an analogy, it’s a problem when sand gets into the gears of our business processes, too. Consider:

  • What slows people down?
  • What creates inefficiency?
  • What is the opportunity cost of not doing something that we know we should do?
  • How much time do we spend coordinating and communicating work unproductively?
  • Do we solve problems as they arise or let them grow?
  • Are we trying to set up others for success or do we only set up barriers?

We’re people. In our daily work (and personal) lives, all of the interactions will create sand and gunk in our minds. It’s a leader’s responsibility to help create an environment where cleaning out the gunk and striving for a smooth journey is the norm. That’s not to say there won’t be bumps along the road. But if you set the bar high and lead in a manner that fosters respect and support, you won’t have to do it alone.

Learn more about a leadership “way of being” in Leadership, Discipline, And Garnering Respect. This brief article reflects on a speech delivered by Major General John M. Schofield, the Superintendent of United States Military Academy, on August 11, 1879. His words have withstood the test of time.