…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

Self-improvement

Shucking Responsibility

I am continually amazed at how fatally committed most people are to not taking responsibility for the things theyhis_fault actually do.  I am working through an acute lesson in personal responsibility.  I run a service contracting business.  I depend on my workers to execute tasks in the field with varying levels of self direction and supervision.  Sometimes they are tightly supervised.  Sometimes they are operating purely on the honor system.  Recently, we implemented a “Trust but Verify” experiment with GPS tracking in the vehicles.  There handwritten logs remain the foundation of routing, tracking, invoicing, etc.  however, we were spot checking the GPS  reports.  Some anomalies appeared.

One crew had been having a series of seemingly small, unrelated quality and consistency problems.  Several revisits.  Some minor customer complaints.  Some morale issues.  Here is where my responsibility enters.  I had grown somewhat complacent on the routine work, and did not supervise tight enough.  Also, when the morale issues cropped, I should have made some personnel changes right away–Once these things set in, they never improve.  One day the end of day reports seemed strange, so I went through the GPS report.  There was as significant deviation from the planned route.  The handwritten report clearly stated that the crew had serviced a customer, with specific details, but the truck had gone in the complete opposite direction.

I went back a couple of days and found similar problems.  There are several significant problems here. Largest of which is that we have contractual obligations to our customers, for which we charge them, and they pay, money.  Not to mention missed service calls create real maintenance problems.  Secondly is theft. These guys were expecting to be paid for time they  spent driving around in company vehicles, burning company gas, and using company equipment to do who knows what.  Third is the operational cost.  Operationally, we now need to back track, spend valuable time to re-service those customers, address the growing problems, explain why they weren’t serviced properly the first time, assure them that the issues won’t continue.

A couple of conversations with the crew members verified they had in fact gone off route.  Bottom line, I fired a belligerent crew leader, and put a junior guy on notice, who  later ended up leaving of his own accord.  One would think, that would be the end of it.  I was extremely upset, an d spent two weeks going through the accounts and properties cleaning up the outright skipped calls, and addressing myriad issues with the work that was actually done.  The truth is that I should not have been surprised. I had warning. Also, I had not dug deep enough into the work  that was being executed.

The guy I fired has repeatedly made it clear over the ensuing weeks that he feels wronged.  I am incredulous.  He did  what he did.  He knows what he did.  He knows the work he  lied about, and he knows the standards they did not meet for the work the did do.  I have not had a big discussion about it since then.  I did not outline every single problem in detail.  Perhaps that is what he requires–Some people will only admit to what you lay out the evidence for.

This was a failing on my part in many ways.  I do not know that I could have headed the situation off entirely, however the extent of the damage could certainly have been mitigated.  There has been a cost in terms of customer satisfaction.  By acting, I have been able to get ahead of a good bit, though not all, of it.  The one fellow would have likely had to go.  And he would likely still feel that, though he did these things, by some calculus of entitlement, he was the wronged party.  I find it amazing.

The real shame here is that this fellow won’t learn.  Though financially I took a big hit, I have enough  goodwill built up with our customers to recover. However this fellow has a wife and kid who depend on him, but he will absolutely, in so many areas of life, not accept responsibility.  The same things keep happening to him, different people, different details, but it’s always their fault.  How can he progress without ever addressing his role in his mess?  How many of us go through the same cycles, in varying degrees?  The same stuff keeps happening, yet we can never quite find the key to unlock the problem.

That does bring cause for self-reflection.  He did what he did.  But what is it that I actually did or failed to do?  To what extent does this incident reflect my own dysfunctional cycles.  Clearly I am flawed.  My company isn’t the next Berkshire Hathaway.  It’s not even the largest, most successful by any measure or scale.  Nor is my personal life a flawless, shining example.  My day-to-day is fraught  with dysfunctional patterns and cycles. It does give me pause.

In the larger perspective, the past two years or so have been eye-opening to me in terms of just what a large segment of our population are not prepared to function in the world.


Refocusing

I have taken some planned, and some unplanned, time off since completing (read: finishing) Ironman Florida.  In that time, I have had time to reflect on what I want to explore in this blog.  My focus isn’t going to change so much as it is going to narrow.  Heretofore, my focus has been on Warriorship, and in the past 12-18 months or so, specifically on the training aspect of Warriorship.  However, it has occurred to me that all of that really begs the question.

The question seems to be more accurately–How do we actually make things happen?  or What is the mechanism of Manifestation?  These seem to be the questions that go the heart of Warriorship.  The Warrior’s key role is to act.  The question then is, What does it mean to Act?  How does one actually Act?  What is it to transform a Thought, Concept, Idea to  an Action?  and What is involved in Action impacting the larger Reality?

Training and Warriorship remain ideal forums for exploring these questions.

Join me on this new leg of exploration.

–Jalal


Augusta Quickie: quick notes from Ironman Augusta 70.3 2012

panoramic shot of Ironman Augusta 70.3 2012 pre-raceTo start, it was a great race.  The weather was virtually ideal (for the race portion, at least).  Had some great camaraderie on the run, and after the race.  The hotel stay was decent, though sort of far.  And, most importantly, I met my goals in relation to prepping for Ironman Florida.

  • The weather was ideal, partly sunny to overcast for most of the race, with moderate temps.  Whereas last year the temps were hot, and then it rained off and on for the run.  It did rain this year, but only after the race (for most of us).
  • I stayed in the Comfort Inn on the west side of town–somewhat far from the venue, and not the hotel I had hoped to get initially. But they did a good job, and it worked out well.  As it turns out, the hotel I wanted, that did such a great job last year, didn’t do quite as well this year (some friends ended up in that one)
  • Evidently Augusta is becoming a popular race, and all the cheap rooms were gone early.
  • On the run I linked up with a football coach from the Atlanta area and we helped pace each other through the second half.  In the final three miles or so, we linked up with another fellow from Florida, whose legs were still fresh, and he helped us with the final push for the finish.
  • I finally linked up with my training partners, who it would seem, had put me on ignore going into the race.  Ran into them on the shuttle back to get our stuff from transition.  Was certainly a boon over last year, where I flew solo the entire event.
  • Goals:    My main goals were to practice pacing for Florida–primarily to not let the bike hurt.
    • I also was able to confirm my nutrition strategy for Florida.  Nutritionally, with “Special Needs” bags, I should be good to go.
    • My cardio was bullet proof this race.  At no point was I sucking wind.
    • The area of weakness was muscular endurance.  On the bike and the run, it was my muscular endurance that was a limiter, not my cardio.
    • This is a good thing (I think) as it would seem that muscular endurance is an easier fix in the weeks before Florida.
    • Another piece in the nutrition/endurance aspect was my emphasis on muscular hydration.  I had zero cramping issues–Success!
    • Flexibility and too much plasma hydration remain limiters, especially on the bike.

Some quick thoughts on the race.  I’ll sit down and pound out a more thorough race report in a few days.


No Purpose

Zen calligraphic depiction of Mu

There is no purpose to my training.  There is no real end-goal to all of this.  People ask why I train.  Last night the question came up with one of our surrogate daughters (as I call them).  This time it was in the form of  “Why do you triathlons?” We were discussing Ironman.  The answer was “Because it was the next step”–Which doesn’t really answer her question.

The question of Purpose implies in part a practical purpose.  My training and competing does have some practical side benefits.  There are several very real real-world reasons I train.  However, these are not compelling enough in themselves to justify what I do.  Therefore, in honesty they are not Why I Train.

I have asked this question before.

Training has many practical benefits.  I have actually needed it in the real world.  Survival is a huge  one.  General health.  Improved mental functioning.  Ability to keep up with my kids.  Respect amongst my peers.  Social outlet.  Fun. Improvement in my other purposeless activities (rock climbing, camping, hiking, fishing).  It is a tool on my spiritual path.  But none of these, even surviving the coming apocolypse, is really compelling enough.

I’ve been reading the “E-Myth” Series of books, by Michael E. Gerber.  In E-Myth Mastery he tackles this question of Purpose, Passion, and Vision (his distinctions).  Gerber concludes that once something is reduced to purpose, practicality is attached, and the original vision is killed.  This is something experienced in business all the time.  Artists talk of how earning a living from their art, killed their art.  I am going through this in my business right now.  My artistic vision has been compromised by the practical needs of operating a business.  Consequently, I find my passion waning.

Walking back to the soccer fields last night, approaching from above, I was able to look out over the whole complex spread out under the lights.  I was struck by the sheer numbers of kids working hard at something, which, for most of them, will yield no practical results.  There will be no soccer scholarships for most.  Most will not play on the top state and national teams.  Even for those who play on top teams, or make their competitive high school squads, the real practicality of it all is hard to define.  There are much better ways to finance a college education than pouring all the time and money we do into sports.  We put a massive amount of effort and resources as a society into sports.  All of which only yields “practical” results for an improbably narrow slice.

Why do we do this?

I believe it is a primordial longing that compels us.  Our obsession for sports embodies a longing for a Human state lost thousands of years ago.  I’ve talked about how the Warrior class developed as human society became more organized.  How the Warrior class is an embodiment of some of our most powerful Human evolutions.  The Warrior is a link between Civilized man and Natural man.  We long for this connection.

There is no Purpose to my training.  I am compelled by a calling from time before Reason, a root deeper than Purpose.


Your Brain on Exercise: Brain Training

Brain on excercise: Brain Training

Brain Training

Neurogenesis.  The process of the brain producing new brain cells.  This was believed for decades to not exist–Despite case-study evidence to the contrary.  At any rate, this is the first step in reprogramming your brain.

For the Warrior, neurogenesis provides a unique opportunity to reprogram the brain.  Exercise contributes to neurogenesis–it induces the growth of new brain cells.  This is great because we are already training and exercising.  New brain cells are already being generated.  However, this is not enough.

New brain cells alone will not make things different.  These are raw cells that need to learn stuff.  They can learn what you already know.  Or you can program them with new information, habits, behaviors, reactions.

Bottom line:  New brain cells need to be programmed with something–this can be negative habits or new, positive behaviors.

Your move.  You’ve got these new brain cells.  What are you going to program them with?  You need to consciously decide what learning, what habits, what behaviors you’re going to expose these new brain cells to.

You can pick up a new book.  You can take a class.  You can Meditate.  Meditation, with its own effects on the brain, seems like a great way to double-down.  You can continue your old, bad habits.

Your move.


An Odd Benefit: Logistics of Training

Scott Herrick, talks about the necessity of keeping your supply train running smoothly during training, especially for Ironman.  Here, he is referring to all the myriad activities which are necessary just so you can show up each day, ready to train.  Washing training gear, washing water bottles, buying food, preparing homemade concoctions, resupplying worn gear, shopping, scheduling training, bike maintenance–the list is long–and then, doing all these things well in advance.

There is a training effect from wrestling these decidedly non-training tasks into place.  Whereas, being in the best shape of my life is definitely a boon for my general health, well being, and balanced mind-state, the supporting activities are also a boon for the pure organization of my life and my mind.

Simply being forced to think about fitting all the pieces together, and the ensuing effort to fit them together, has made my life in general more organized and simplified.

This has been a progressive adaptation.  Much like muscular development:  I started out small, adapted, increased intensity, adapted, and progressed.  Beginning years ago with a gym program, then getting increasingly back into running, then layering on triathlon, then longer distances of triathlon and more races, now Ironman, which I consider a separate category due to the unique pressures of its training.

I am more thoughtful about my commitments.  I am more organized.  My day-to-day activities are streamlined and simplified.  I have been forced to actually abide by my MIT task-management philosophy.  My mental state is clearer.  Not to mention, my laundry not only gets washed, but even folded.

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–Jalal

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60 Mile Ride, Warrior Training?

Yesterday I was scouting out a new 60 mile bicycle route for the Crew.  What was supposed to be a ride punctuated with map checks, became a mini Warrior-Up session.  This weekend I finished installing a new wheelset, exchanged my 8-speed Hyperglide for a 9-speed, new chain, new rear shift cable, and adjusted my bar-end shifters for the new set-up.  Saturday night all seemed well.

Everything started out well enough.  The route starts out the first 10-15 miles or so sharing the same roads of other routes we ride.  I had to conduct a couple of map checks, to verify intersections, etc., but all was well.

Before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped shifting to the big chain ring.  I made a pit stop in Rutledge, GA, made the field adjustments, and proceded. Then the front derailleur began dropping my chain to the outside.  Several roadside adjustments later, and I had that under control.

By adding time to the ride, my water began to get low.

Then, in the second half I couldn’t shift to my lowest gear.

Later in the second half, I couldn’t hit the #8 sprocket.

Then the #7 sprocket.

I stopped the check it out. Clearly a couple turns on my cable nut would square it away.  I succeeded in up-shifting to my 12 tooth #1 with a completely stretched out cable, and the one nut on the whole bike I couldn’t adjust with my new onboard multi-tool.

Warrior-Up time.

I had to ride it out like that, hills and all.

There were at least two hills I considered dismounting and walking.

Eventually, the school parking lot where my truck was parked was in sight.

It didn’t kill me.

I’m glad it happened–now.  We don’t want to have to Warrior-Up every training session.  Once in a while, we need a little extra suck–those sessions where one thing after the other, after the other, goes wrong to really test and stretch us mentally.