Common ground

story

One of the joys of being an athlete is telling stories.

From the everyday lessons and hilarious moments during training to epic fails and victories at races, as athletes we’re always ready to shoot the breeze about our experiences and listen to others recount their greatest hits.

These shared experiences render our differences irrelevant. Because of my athletic pursuits I’ve forged strong connections with people I would never have otherwise known. Had we met under different circumstances, we would never have connected on such a meaningful level.

Perhaps we would have been at odds on most issues and written each other off.

Endurance sports have taken me to so many venues where inevitably I meet people who share my passion. Facebook then enables us to look beyond the connection and realize the differences. Yet, our connection remains as long as there’s that passion and new stories to tell.

My recent dive into Crossfit has placed me among an amazing group of people who could be my sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, or even, dare I say, a grandkid or two.Yet, whether we’re in or out of the Box, our common love of CF breaks down generational walls, making room for everything truly important, like our distaste for burpees and thrusters.

The only time we ever diverge is when the rare 80’s tune is played to my obvious delight. \m/!

So, why doesn’t this work in the workplace? Too often factions form, controversy brews, and trouble breaks out.

This is the litmus test for shared passion and great team building.

When diverging personalities come together without a common ground, there’s potential for disaster. That’s when leaders need to act quickly to find a connection between people to build on. It can be done, but it takes hard work.

Some time ago I took over a team with a number of vacancies. Instead of merely filling these positions I created an overall strategy for building a stronger team that would connect on a deeper level than their jobs. When the team was assembled, I could tell it was successful from the outset. Lunch gatherings were as hilarious as they were instructive, conversations abounded, and the brainstorming fed a collective creativity that produced amazing ideas.

I built a team with the right people whose connection transcended the work we were doing.

Let’s face it, why would we spend our free time working out with or partying with people we didn’t connect with? Yet, so many people spend the better part of their week with strangers, and the less we have in common with them the harder it is.

As leaders it’s our responsibility to build teams, which means we must bring passion and connection into the picture before we do anything else. People will ignore a whole lot of differences between them when they are connected meaningfully. If all they have are their differences, then nature will take its course.

Step one is getting to know your people and writing down their traits, hobbies, and activities. Perhaps you could begin something extracurricular under the umbrella of your wellness program or as a conscious team building exercise. This doesn’t have to happen in secret. Your colleagues may even appreciate the effort and help out.

You must be a catalyst for change at work by drilling into what makes your people happy and resetting your team’s course, reminding them about their common passions. Along with this being great for business, it makes of one heck of a fun place to work.

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The art of science

Bowling-Soccer-3

Recovery is science wrapped in art.

So many people I know are Type A’s who dive headfirst into everything. There they are, entrenched in their work and athletic life, leaving little or no time to recover.

In order to achieve our dreams and live life to the fullest we must incorporate mindful recovery into everything we do.

Athletically, this is based in science. Nothing good happens when we workout. After an intensely satisfying session we’ve stretched, stressed, and torn our muscles, preparing them to rebuild stronger. The key is to give them time to rebuild and not just get right back into breaking them down again and again.

Professionally this is as much psychology as anything else. Weekends don’t count when you’re in it neck deep all week. Our responsibilities stay with us when we clock out, never too far away from our psyche.

A week ago, my friend Mario got a cold. That might not have been so significant except for the fact that this morning he’s running the Philadelphia Marathon.

Mario posted his concern on Facebook, worried that potentially a week sidelined by illness may derail his plans. The beauty of the post was that every single person who responded encouraged him to relax and stop worrying, that the recovery would do him good and that his goals were still well within reach.

I was one of those who provided words of encouragement, and I wonder how many others, like me, easily gave advice we would find difficult to follow ourselves.

So, how to break free?

As for work, I will tell you with complete certainty you cannot count on weekends to really recharge. In the case of a Monday through Friday schedule you simply must regularly schedule midweek time for yourself, not to run errands and catch up on life, but to do something you love to do.

Going to the dentist is not recovery.

And, those things you already do that you feel offer you respite, like spending time at home with family and friends, are all good, but you can take your recovery to new levels by trying new and different things.

See what the mall looks like on a Wednesday afternoon, visit a local town you haven’t been to in a while on a Tuesday morning, or, as I did a few weeks ago, check out the local bowling alley with your colleagues on a Friday afternoon.

The positive effects of true time off are rooted in the joy of playing hookey. There’s a dose of defiance and anti-establishment combined with our basic and often overlooked need to play necessary for this to work. You must fully embrace making a selfish choice in an environment that values selflessness.

Call it what it is – playtime.

Recently a number of coworkers have discovered a local playground they’ve begun visiting at lunchtime. The brief escape provided by a swing set and slide recharges them, and they return with energy, enthusiasm, and most importantly a genuine smile, armed to take on the afternoon.

You shouldn’t have to twist your own arm to recover. It should be as much a part of your week as work, working out, and life’s other obligations.

Let me know how you schedule recovery into your life, and if you don’t yet, let me know how you plan to embrace this wonderfully selfish pursuit and how it affects your life.

When you take time to recover, the science behind it will make you feel better. You however are the artist who must paint this important color into your masterpiece.

Gratitude

Vassar Farm

Year’s ago while running trails at Vassar Farm an emotional epiphany stopped me dead in my tracks.

It was November, the brilliant leaves carpeted the pastel trail ahead while several stalwarts clung to steely branches, painting defiantly bold-colored swatches against a stark, grey canvas. I stopped, engulfed in silent serenity but overwhelmed with emotion. I searched to make sense of the moment, but didn’t have to look far.

I was paralyzed by gratitude.

There was no mistaking it; appreciation had set in. It occurred to me how grateful I was to be able to do what I was doing in that moment exactly where and how I was doing it.

This perfect storm of thankfulness was inescapable. Up until that point I had been taking my opportunities and abilities to participate in athletic pursuits for granted.

To this day, Vassar Farm waits for me to return, reboot, and remember.

For 10 years, which was the length of our marriage, my wife Lisa lived with metastatic breast cancer. After her initial diagnosis and the 24-hour rule, we proceeded to live life, setting our own terms whenever and wherever possible. Every so often it occurred to us that despite her diagnosis, we had a really great life together.

And for that, we were grateful.

Even today, I realize that by circuitous routes, my girlfriend Kathy and I found each other in what otherwise may never have been the coinciding of two lives.

And for that, I am grateful.

So, let’s get to the point. When are you truly grateful at work? How hard do you have to look to stop yourself in your tracks and say, ‘yes, this is what I was meant to do’?

A friend posted recently that she was so grateful she chose the profession she had, and that she looked forward to waking up each morning. I fear that more friends, however, post the ‘can’t wait til Friday’ picture every Monday, just waiting until their time becomes theirs again.

True career gratitude has nothing to do with being thankful you’ve got a job. I hear that way too often these days, that people should feel grateful or lucky they are employed, as though a paycheck wipes out accomplishment, self worth, or peace.

In a crappy economy it is great to have a regular income, benefits, etc., but it doesn’t make everything alright.

Where is your Vassar Farm? Where is that place you go to or find yourself in that fills you with gratitude? This is a place you should seek with every ounce of energy you can muster.

Gratitude is the result of living an engaged life of purpose. One where you’re calling the shots and not paralyzed by the puppeteer’s strings.

It’s never too late to find your place in this puzzle called life friends. Get on with it.