Aside

This week’s email featured an essay from Harvard Business Review by Umair Haque on leadership called “How and Why to be a Leader (not a Wannabe).  I enjoyed reading it, especially because Haque touched on the subject of love and leadership, something we’re a little too afraid to talk about in the “business world.”  This is what he said:

Leadership — true leadership —is a lost art. Leaders lead us not to a place — but to a different kind of destination: to our better, truer selves. It is an act of love in the face of an uncertain world.

Perhaps, then, that’s why there’s so little leadership around: because we’re afraid to even say the word love — let alone to feel it, weigh it, measure it, allow it, admit it, believe it, and so be transformed by it.

….We’re afraid, you and I, of this word: love.  Afraid of love because love is the most dangerously explosive substance the world has ever known, will ever know, and can ever know. Love is what frees the enslaved and enslaves the free. Because love, finally, is all: all we have, when we face our final moments, and come to know that life, at last, must have been greater than us if we are to feel as if it has mattered.

The old men say: children, you must never, ever believe in love. Love is heresy. Believe in our machines. Believe in operation and calculation. Place your faith in being their instruments. Our perfect machines will bring you perfection.

I believe lives as cold as steel will only yield a world as cruel as ice. I believe cool rationality and perfect calculation can take us only a tiny distance towards the heart of what is good, true, and timelessly noble about life. Because there is no calculus of love. There is no equation for greatness. There is no algorithm for imagination, virtue, and purpose.

Even a perfect machine is just a machine.

If we are to lead one another, we will need the heresy of love. We must shout at yesterday in the language of love if we are to lead one another. Not just to tomorrow, but to a worthier destination: that which we find in one another.

It’s often said that leaders “inspire.” But that’s only half the story. Leaders inspire us because they bring out the best in us. They evoke in us our fuller, better, truer, nobler selves. And that is why we love them — not merely because they paint portraits of a better lives, but because they impel us to be the creators of our own.

Asking for Help

In my leadership program we’ve all been given the challenge of asking for help in the two months between retreats — to stretch out of our comfort zones and ask for assistance in situations where we might not normally be inclined to do that. And also to notice how we feel about asking for help as we do this.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m terrible at asking for help. Interestingly, so are many of the other people in the class.  And the reasons are all strikingly similar…

We are having trouble asking for help because we don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. We have pride in our competence, we don’t want to admit that we might need help.  We’ve been taught to be independent and that there is shame in being needy.  We don’t want to be a bother to others or we believe ourselves unworthy of being helped by others.  We don’t want to take their valuable time or think we might be asking for too much. We may worry about rejection. We hire help, but we often won’t ask for it from the people closest to us. And sometimes we just don’t know what to ask for.

A 2008 study found that people routinely underestimate by 50% others’ willingness to help them.  In short, people are more likely to say yes to requests for assistance than we think they are.

I’m trying to remember that asking for help can be good for me and for the person I’m asking.  Asking for help creates connections and broadens possibilities.  I might learn something completely new or experience a new perspective. And asking for help gets easier with practice.

I’d welcome your thoughts on asking for help… it is easy or hard for you and why? Do you have any good resources on asking for help?

Should I Run with a Broken Toe?

In the past few months I have been astonished by the number of people who have found my blog while searching on some variation of the question “can/should I run with a broken toe?”  They’ve  flipped through various posts on my blog and then…. what?   I’m guessing that they’ve gone out and run.  Because runners, we’re a predictable bunch…

So I’m dedicating this blog to providing an answer to the question above. Here in one convenient place.  With all kinds of caveats: I am not a doctor.  I have no special training, other than my running coach certification.  I speak only from experience.  And even then your injury may be different from mine.

My story:  Last September I fractured my middle toe by jamming it into the bed leg.  I was 95% sure it was broken at the time.  An x-ray later revealed that the toe bone closest to my foot was broken diagonally from corner to corner, more or less.  The toe swelled and part of my foot and toe turned black and blue.  I elevated and iced.  And I took ibuprofen and aspirin and ran/walked the Chicago Half Marathon on it two days later after, yes, googling for the answer  to the question “can I run with a broken toe?”  I buddy taped the toe to the one next to it for the race.  Yes, it hurt to run, but by halfway point it was fairly numb and I was able to pick up speed.  Running was actually less painful than walking.  I iced after the finish.  I did not seem any worse for the wear after the race, and so took the better part of two months off to recover.  I saw a doctor, who confirmed that it was broken.  I did some walking and ellipticizing during that time to maintain my fitness, probably too much.  And in December I started back to running gradually, but not gradually enough.  Soon a calf injury followed, and I returned to the doctor, who decided it had never fully healed and was termed a “nonunion.”  After a failed experiment with a bone stimulator, I wound up having toe surgery in March to create a fresh break and screw the bone together.  With doctor’s permission, I started running again in May while doing physical therapy and am now back to being able to run/walk 3-4 miles slowly as of the end of June.  I still have some pain when I run and some stiffness in the joint, which is likely from the screw and so the doctor is debating a second surgery to remove the screw.  So 10 months later, I am still a long way from where I was last September, but finally beginning to feel like a runner again.

So, can you run with a broken toe?  Yes, of course you can, especially if you have a high tolerance for pain.  But should you run?  I would say no.  You are better off taking 6-8 weeks off and letting the fracture heal and staying off your feet as much as possible.  I know, I know it’s only a toe!  I know, I know, you’ll lose your fitness.  You can’t possibly… Blah, blah, blah.  But you’d be surprised how important toes are for walking, balance, driving and so much more.   In my case, the doctor thinks I damaged the fractured bone ends by too much physical activity, which resulted in the nonunion.  So it seems that the less activity and motion to which your toe is subjected, the more quickly it is likely to heal.  You’ll also minimize the possibility that you’ll suffer other injuries from favoring your injured toe. In my case, I know I had significant calf pain in the injured leg from a shortened gait — even when walking.

So what DO you do when you’re injured.  I was not able to bicycle without pain, but I could use the elliptical for 30-45 minutes.  It’s a good time to do core work and upper body exercises.  And don’t forget to reduce your calorie intake, while making sure that you’re getting a healthy diet with plenty of vitamin D and calcium.  See a doctor and take his/her advice. Wear stiff soled shoes to help support your toe.

Oh yes, and did I say “see a doctor and take his/her advice….”  Do that — before you run again.

Here’s to Those That Matter!

I’ve had some time to think this past week and have a lot swirling in my head.  I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write however, perhaps because a head cold is clouding my brain.

So for today, I’ll just post this reminder to turn off that internal (or external) voice of judgment that might be telling you who or what you should be or do or say, and instead to just be true to yourself — and ever grateful for those who matter in your life.

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A Runner’s Evolution

Today’s blog is borrowed from John Bingham’s No Need for Speed which I read recently. If you’re a beginning runner, especially if you worry about being slow, I definitely recommend Bingham’s books. I especially like this quote:

“As I set new goals, conquered new fears, and overcame new doubts, I became a new person. I was no longer the person who sat inside on cold mornings. I was not the person for whom comfort was the sole objective. I wasn’t the person who was controlled by the circumstances of my life…. What happens when we untie the ‘nots’ in our lives is that we can see beyond today and begin to imagine a different tomorrow. As you see the obvious changes in your body, you also begin to see the less obvious changes in your soul. When you untie the ‘nots,’ when you become fully engaged in the process of becoming a better athlete, you can’t help becoming a better person. You find, without realizing it, that you’re NOT afraid to change, learn and grow. You learn to look past all the things that you can’t be to those few that you can. As you learn to accept your limitations as an athlete, you’re less afraid to accept other limitations in your life. Your unique combination of talent and motivations, discipline and dedication, become the tools with which you build the person you most want to be.”

In my experience, new runners go through stages of evolution — that affect both the body and the mind. Pushing through old limitations, testing boundaries, and taking on new challenges. Standing shivering and expectant at the starting line waiting to find out what is possible on the journey to the finish. And knowing that the person who finishes the race, may not be the same person who started it.

What else has changed in your life since you started running?

Time for Some Naked Runs

So it’s my 8th week back to running since my toe surgery on March 1st and recovery continues to be slower than I’d like (of course what I’d like is a nice 10 mile run, so it’s all relative).  Today I ran a full mile for the first time.  Which is to say that I ran/walked four miles of 00:15/00:45 intervals, so by the time I was done, I had covered four miles, and run one of them.  Even I can do that math.

I realized while I was out today that I’m spending way too much time looking at my Garmin and stressing about how slow I’m going.  I play little games with the watch, as in “Gee, Mile 1 was 14:40, wonder if I can make mile 2 14:30″… and so on.   And I realized that I’m totally in my head, not enjoying being out there, and treating these runs like an unpleasant chore rather than enjoying getting back to it.  I use my watch to track my distance, but inevitably when I look down it, it’s the damn lap pace that taunts me — reminding me how unbelievably slow I’m going.  So during my run today I decided to leave the watch at home next time and run naked (without it).  This is completely new concept for me… I’ve always had my trusty Garmin, and before that, my trusty Polar.  But here’s what I realized that helped me make the decision.

1. I know where the quarter-mile point is where I usually end my warm up and start running.  I know approximately where the 1, 1.5, and 2 mile points are from my house, where I turn around for 2, 3, and 4 mile runs.  I don’t really need my watch to tell me this and if I’m a few tenths off, does it really matter?

2. I’m working on increasing the distance that I’m running.  My next step is to switch to 00:20/00:40 intervals and then work my way through 2, 3, and 4 mile runs. It really doesn’t matter how fast I’m going.

3. Whatever my speed is right now, it’s much more about how fast I’m walking and not how fast I’m running, since I’m still walking the majority of the time that I’m out there.

Of course, I won’t be completely naked (gadget free) since I’ll still have my interval timer and my music, but I’m actually looking forward to see what it’s like to run without the Garmin and free myself from the pressures of time.

Happy running!

 

Our Agreements

I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.

Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults.  Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.”  We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations.   Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.

The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
  • Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I have work to do on each of these.  For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others.  I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way.  And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming.  I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me.  And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!