The Cubs Win World Series: Enjoying The Moment and Letting the Processing Begin

Standard

 

cubs_world_series_Fly_the_W

The Cubs are World Series Champions! Honestly, part of me never thought I would be able to say that. But after watching this 2016 season unfold part of me thought I had a really (really) good chance to finally type those words and say them out loud. And, well, it happened. It actually happened.

What an amazing and gut-wrenching game it was. But, of course, it couldn’t happen any other way.

I’m still buzzing, floating and taking a moment to enjoy, reflect and soak it all in.

This one is special for sure. After running around the house waving the W flag, I sat on the couch in a daze as my son Calvin looked at me wondering if I was okay, which I think was very similar to how I looked at my Dad in 1984, and 1989 when the Cubs won the division.

But this was different. This was the World Series.

So I looked back at him and said, “Yeah, Daddy’s just fine. I’m sure you don’t fully understand what just happened. And that’s okay. But one day you will. And I hope we can share that moment together, just like we’re doing right now.”

So as I sat on the couch watching the post-game celebration thoughts rushed though my mind…

I’ve always known that my love for the Cubs is about more than just the game. This moment is about so much more.

It’s about the people in my life who taught me how to play and love the game and love the Cubbies.

It’s about all those great moments I’ve shared with family and friends during games that makes this win and this team something I’ll never forget.

So many memories and emotions racing through me. Wow! This one is for you dad and all the others watching down on this most glorious and historic night as we all Fly The W!

It’s about seeing what we can learn from the moment too. What did this historic feat teach us about winning, losing, expressing emotion, persevering, building a community, building a team, leadership, the importance of celebration and much more?

As I shared in my No Sports for Year experiment (yes, I’m glad I didn’t pick 2016 to do that experiment!), this historic moment has many other great learning moments that can be applied to other areas of my life. So I’m processing it all and wrestling with thoughts and ideas as I put together what I’m learning. And I look forward to sharing what I’m learning with you.

Until then, I’m letting it all wash over me as my son and I sublimely hum “Go Cubs Go” together and watching on the television as Chicago erupts into glorious celebration two thousand miles away.

 

Spread the love...

What I’ve Learned In 5 Years At Walgreens

Standard

walgreens5yearsredcouch

I recently celebrated five years at Walgreens, and as part of this career milestone employees are given a ceremonial 5-year pin and the team gathers around as managers and colleagues say a few words about the milestone and the employee’s accomplishments and contributions to the company. At Walgreens, this pin holds an important cultural significance as employees in the stores and at corporate proudly display their pins for 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years of service.

As part of the ceremony, there’s an opportunity for the employee to say a few words. And leading up to my anniversary I started to reflect on what I’ve learned.

It’s been an amazing ride these last five years as I’ve had the opportunity to build an employee community and collaboration program from the ground up, and do it with the help of, and in partnership with, a lot of talented and remarkable people who have influenced and changed me in profound ways. (If you’re wondering why my pin is on a mini-red couch in the photo above, read more here.)

So for my “5-year pin” acceptance speech here’s what I shared as I reflected on what I’ve learned these last 5 years.

I’ve learned…

  • How to take risks
  • How to persevere
  • How to believe in myself
  • How to make and grow partnerships
  • How to lead
  • How to succeed
  • How to fail
  • How to learn from my mistakes
  • How to deal and adapt to change
  • How to manage through ambiguity
  • How to inspire
  • How to be patient
  • How to be assertive
  • The value and importance of seeing a situation from both the 30,000 foot level while still executing on the ground level
  • How to learn from the past
  • How to cast a vision for the future and then execute on that vision in small manageable steps
  • How to be present in the moment
  • How to build a team
  • How to be part of a team
  • How to teach others
  • How to lead leaders
  • How to make something out of nothing
  • How to strategically experiment
  • How to believe and trust in other people
  • How to challenge others
  • How to challenge myself
  • How to grow and mature as a strategic communicator and a thinker

It’s amazing what you can learn in five years, isn’t it?

Spread the love...

My Three Words For 2016: Models. Relationships. Present.

Standard

Yes, it’s that time. It’s time to work out loud again and share with you my three words for 2016.

Models

Reflecting back on my experiences in 2015 many books I read talked about mental models and the importance of being aware of how they impact my worldview and how I interact with those around me, so I’m aiming to be more aware of the mental models that drive my daily decision making, impact relationships, determine my career path and shape my worldview.

I learned that some mental models are helpful and some hold me back, so I’m simply aiming to first be aware of what my mental models are and then make the changes I need to. I’m excited to move ahead with this new perspective and see what I discover about myself and my mental models in 2016. To track this goal I’m doing some journaling and writing exercises.

Relationships

One thing I became aware of in 2015 was that I didn’t have the relational breath and depth that I wanted. It wasn’t always easy and I struggled to make adjustments to having a second child and continue to work at being a dad, a husband and my own person. It was struggle to make sense of and figure out how to balance all those relationships, new experiences and new phases of life. Towards the end of the 2015, I felt a desire that I needed to be more intentional about making it a priority to spend time with people, both friends and family and making new friends and connections.

I know this: I’m the kind of person who enjoys spending time with myself. I treasure my alone time to recharge and find clarity. But I want to work on not giving in to my introverted tendencies too much. It’s a strange battle. I enjoy being around people and walking away from a social gathering knowing I just had a great one-on-one conversation or was able to make a deeper connection with someone.

But it’s never an easy thing for me. I often have to override my introverted tendencies to get to that wonderful relational connection. I still don’t fully understand that about myself, but what I do know is that I’m aiming to find more balance in 2016 because last year I felt as though I gave into my introverted tendencies a bit too much.

This may sound strange given that I love building communities and connecting people for a living and I love presenting thoughts, ideas and experiences at conferences. But, honestly, at times it’s a complex struggle. And in 2015 I felt as though there was more I could do and experience when it came to building relationships both in my work and personal relationships.

As 2015 came to a close, I felt a strong desire that I wanted to put the focus more on others. I’m not entirely sure why I feel this way and it wasn’t like I felt completely secluded. I just feel a sense that I need and want to redirect, recalibrate and re-shift my focus from an inner one and focus more on building deeper and stronger relationships with those around me and discover new relationships too. And what I enjoy about this “three words” goal setting process is that it can be connected and continued year after year. That said, and now that I think about it, I also see this relationship goal as an evolution of my give goal from last year. To track this goal I’m keeping a note of current relationships and new connections I’d like to make this year.

Present

In 2014, I trained for my first marathon and through that training I developed a good foundation of meditation and mindfulness. But throughout 2015 I felt like I stayed in neutral and even fell back a bit in being present in my life. I felt many times that my mind was super busy and way to cluttered and I didn’t take a enough time to work at being present and because of this I didn’t get the most out of special moments and relationships.

That said, I’m excited about how my being present goal is connected to and can support my relationship goal. I know how important it is to be present when trying to build relationships so I’m excited to see how these two goals will work together. Speaking of integrating my goals, I’m also excited to use being present as a way to be more aware of my mental models. Integration is a beautiful thing!  To track this goal I’m mixing in daily mediation, in the momentum breathing and keeping track in my journal what I’m learning and through the experiences.

Okay, so that’s it. Plain and simple. Those are my three words and goals. What are yours for this year? And don’t be shy. I love to discuss these types of things.  Feel free to ask my about my goals and ask my how I’m doing and what I’m learning.

Thanks and I look forward to the conversation!

Spread the love...

10 Things I Learned By Not Watching Sports For A Year

Standard

 

cubs-batman

Okay, so I did it. I completed my experiment and went 365 days without watching any live sports on TV or in-person.

Honestly part of me is sad that this experiment is over because I learned so much during the experience. And I didn’t think it would take me this long to reflect and gather all my thoughts, but I guess this just goes to show how much impact live sports has on my life. Writing this post has made me I realize that I’ve only just begun to understand the level of impact that this experiment and watching live sports has had and will continue to have, on my life.

It was an extremely fun and revealing experiment that I always wanted to do. And I’m glad that I picked 2014 to do it and not 2015. If I did this experiment this year I think I would have possibly lost my mind not being able to watch the Cubs. I will say not watching sports in 2014 made the Cubs season and playoff run even more sweet to watch.

Like all good experiments, I started this experiment inspired by my curiosity, a few assumptions and lots of questions. And like most experiments I found truth but uncovered many more questions. So here are a few things I learned as I reflect back on the experience. This isn’t by any means the end of my reflection but it’s the first steps forward as I start to unpack the meaning and significance of this crazy adventure. This post is also an exercise in Working Out Loud so I hope you enjoy it from a WOL perspective too.

1. I love watching sports to connect, feel emotions and build relationships.

As you can see by that picture above, I’ve always been a sports fan, especially a Cubs fan. And this experiment has helped me begin to understand all the emotions surging through the heart and mind of that 12 year old kid. This experiment has helped me understand why I do get so pumped and excited, and how that crazy love for live sports has grown and influenced me throughout the years.

I’m not the kind of sports fan who watches every game of every team. But I’m a guy who enjoys watching and playing all types of sports for many reasons. And honestly, I didn’t realize how much I actually did enjoy watching live sports until I took it away for an entire year. I definitely noticed the void in my my life and felt the impact on the relationships around me. And for that reason, this experiment was a struggle and revelation and a bit frightening on my levels.

I had the chance to reflect on why I get caught up in the game of live sports. Why I do yell, scream and even cry during games? Though I’m an introvert in many ways, I love being around people, especially at sports games. I do watch sports on TV alone often but I have many fond moments of being submerged in the glory and roar of the crowd at Cubs and Bears game. I also realized that I love being a part of the long text messages that erupt during games as my family shares their excitement as the game unfolds.

Because I’m wired up that way to love being with people, this experiment did put a strain on my relationships. During 2014 not watching sports presented me with moments where I had to physically remove myself from a family event or talk with people while they watched and I didn’t. My brothers, to my surprise, actually supported my experiment by not watching a Blackhawks game during a family party because they didn’t want me to stumble or break “my vow” as they called it.

And because I wasn’t “allowed” to watch sports for an entire year I had the chance to have some great conversations that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I struggle to reflect on this aspect of my experiment because I was confronted with the hard truth that I often don’t fully engage with people when sports are playing around me. Why is that? I’m not completely sure.

This bothered me. And as a result a whole bunch of questions came bubbling up.

Why do I look past people to catch a quick glimpse of the big game flickering on the TV when I’m suppose to be paying attention to the person in front of me?

Why do find it more enjoyable at times to watch a game then engage in conversation? What does this say about me as a person and us as sports fans?

Why do I watch sports to escape from human and social interaction? Am I missing out on deeper relationships because of my desire to escape from the moment in to live sports?

Do I have a live sports addiction?

These questions scared me but I had to dive in and face them to figure things out.

Part of why I did this experiment was to answer those questions and figure out how not watching live sports would impact the relationships with men and others in my life. In short, sometimes not watching sports did and other times it did not.

I learned that I have friends and relationships where live sports doesn’t impact how we interact or what we talk about. Sports didn’t even come up once in those conversations and we can talk about other things.

But when interacting with guys at work, or with guys I just met, it’s basically impossible to avoid talking about sports. So what did I do in these situations?

Well, I either had to tell them I didn’t watch the game and tell them why, which led to many interesting conversations about my no live sports experiment. Or I faked it.

My sub-experiment: faking it

Yes, I faked it. I created a sub-experiment during which I faked like I did watch a live game. This led to some interesting moments where I relied on my past sports knowledge and love for fiction, improvisation, imagination and making things up to have a little fun. So sometimes I made up fake highlights and plays that never happened and inserted them into conversations to see what would happen.

This was interesting because several times no one challenged me or questioned my fake highlight. In most cases they simply said “Yeah, that was an awesome play!” Other times, I did get some strange looks but they didn’t challenge me or ask me about the reason for sharing a fake highlight. As bizarre as all of this was, those moments made me really think about how we interact as humans in work and surface and small-talk type situations.

What I missed out on in 2014

My experiment was also tough because I had to opt out of several group sport watching events. At work I avoided an event where our VP of communications invited us all to watch the US hockey team take on Canada. I didn’t go to the event and instead, as hard as it was, I resisted the social pressure and internal urge to watch the game with my fellow co-workers.

Again, I paid close attention to how I felt. I felt disconnected, anxious and nervous. Why? I wondered if this one event would have any impact socially at work? These type of events tend to be good times to take a break and get to know co-workers and I was not there. Would my act have a negative impact on team chemistry? Would I miss out on jokes and moments that others would share? Maybe. Did it impact my career path because I didn’t have a social or networking-type interaction. Maybe. But it’s hard to tell at this point.

I also opted out of watching the 2014 Super Bowl and instead watched the shows on the History channel. Since the Super Bowl Half time show isn’t technically live sports, and I’ve always loved unpacking the meaning of live music during the Super Bowl, I watched Bruno Mars put on a great show.

2014 was a tough year because I turned down several offers to go to live games. And when my brother-in-law gave all the groomsmen Sox tickets to a 2014 game at the end of season I was nervous to deny the opportunity. But I was relieved when the game was cancelled and we had to reschedule for next year. (Whew, that was a close one!)

Though she loves to play many sports, I learned that my wife only really loves to watch the Bears and Sox, and she doesn’t care about other sports as much. So when those two teams were on I had to come up with creative ways not to watch, like sitting facing the opposite way of the TV or going to a different part of the house to play with the kids. Again, hard to do and it showed how much I love using live sports to connect and share those moments with those I love.

There was something about those moments with my wife that drove my curiosity and I wanted to understand more about what live sports does to family relationships? What is it about sharing live sports moments with family that makes it different than strangers? Why do we use live sports to mark important family moments? Why does the big game give family a reason to get together?

2. Watching live sports can become an addiction, but am I addicted?

According to wikipedia, addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. In other words an addiction is something we keep or can’t stop doing even though it can cause us or other around us harm.  I thought about that, and other definitions of addictions, throughout my experiment as continued to wonder…am I addicted to live sports?

I learned that watching live sports can be a slippery slope, a dangerous neurological and behavioral experience for me. I feel that each time I watch a game I dance with the temptation of over watching and getting to emotionally attached to what’s happening or becoming a slack-jawed-zoned-out sports zombie that can’t stop watching. ‘Why do I do this? Why do I get like this?’ I wondered.

Here’s what I’ve discovered, so far…

Yes, I know we can become mindless slaves and hopelessly addicted to many things in life but I learned that with sports, it’s especially dangerous for me because I can be fooled into thinking that I’m dealing with emotions that I’m not really dealing with. Or I can use sports to avoid things I must do, feel, face and accomplish.

Though it’s okay to zone out once in awhile, I found that I often go beyond the healthy limit of using live sports to just zone out. I found that I often use live sports to avoid things I must do. I discovered that I use live sports to avoid feeling emotions I must feel. I found that live sports is like a strange nostalgic drug.

But what was beautiful about this insight and asking these questions was that I found that when I watch live sports to avoid, I often get ambushed by emotions I didn’t expect feel or emotions and memory I was trying to avoid.

This emotional ambush might come up when a memory is jogged by a well-designed commercial or a play that triggers a happy or sad moment with my dad buried deep in my mind and soul. In those moments, I fought to feel the emotion but then found myself stuffing it back down. Why was I fighting feeling this emotion? Why was something as simple as a live game bringing these emotions back up? Why not just let the emotion have it’s way with me? Wouldn’t that make the live game experience better? It wasn’t that easy.

So, as I basked in the glory of the Cubs 2015 season and their inspiring playoff run, I couldn’t help but wonder ‘what’s making me so crazy?’ Why was I struggling with feeling the emotions? I could embrace the good feelings of hanging out with family and friends but when Go Cubs Go strarted playing I got all watery eyed and fought to truly feel the emotion? What was it? Sadness? Fear? Joy?

I wanted to feel the moment and all the joy that comes with watching Kyle Schwarber launch a home run bomb over the right field wall in Wrigley. In retrospect I thought about how I missed my dad when watching Cubs games. I often though of him during 2015 as I watched sports again and I looked at my son and wondered if him and I will have the same connection with the Cubs and baseball.

Yes, I thought a lot about my dad during the experiment (more than I expected) because that’s where a lot of the emotional significance of my live sport moments come from. I knew that going into the experiment but it became much more real to me And because I wasn’t actually watching sports I had the time to reflect on the relational significance that sports had the relationship with my dad.

And now that I’m back watching live sports with my own son those fatherly memories I’m creating with him are all the more special. I’m more aware of how special those moments were for me and I found myself cherishing them more as they unfolded with my son during 2015. And because of this experiment those moments with my son, like his first Cubs game at Wrigley in 2013, all the more real and palpable.

first_cubs_game

Because of this experiment I’ve found myself no longer able to stuff the emotions down but I’m getting more comfortable actually feeling my emotions during a game. I’m not perfect at it but I’m getting better at letting the joy or sadness or whatever ever emotion have it’s way. As uncomfortable as it might be for me when it happens, I’ve found a deeper sense of joy and pleasure in embracing the moment for what it is and letting the emotions come up and have their way with me when I find myself getting unexpectedly emotionally ambushed during a game.

And the beautiful thing is that I’ve even experienced a moment where my son, even at three years old, looked over at me during a Cubs playoff game and asked if I was okay because my eyes were wet and cloudy. So I told him why and he just looked at me as I tried to explain it in a way he could understand. I’m not sure I did a good job explaining things but maybe he’ll read this post when he gets older and things will make more sense.

So I think this is why live sports has such a strong hold on me. Watching sports has a strong family connection and deep emotional history. There’s a lot going on emotionally under the surface in my heart and mind during a game. On one hand, subconsciously, I’m using live sports to relive nostalgic moments and good memories. Then, on the other hand, I’ve been conditioned by media and culture to love the flashy and fantastic highlight-reel moments that live sports give us during a game. It’s a complex back-and-forth inner battle that I’m much more aware of and this new found awareness has added a new level of enjoyment when I watch live sports.

But this still brought up an important question.

Where is the line?

Where is the line between just enjoying the moment and finding simple pleasure in watching a game and it being an addiction? Where is the line between having a good time watching a game and over indulging and living in the past? Is this what causes sports fans to take a simple love for sports and have it turned dark and morph into a live sports addiction? And how do we know if it’s a live sports addiction? Do we use the amount of time wasted and emotions avoided and relationship damaged to measure our addiction? Do we use those signs as a signal to let us know when things are getting dangerous?

Through this experiment I’ve come to realize that my brain has a hard time finding and then not going over the line. I’ve realized that’s partly why I get sucked into watching highlight shows when I’ve already watched the game. Too often my brain doesn’t know the difference between the live version and the memory bank version. Because of this, I think my brain, on a basic and primal level, loves what it feels like to watch a present moment because it thinks it’s reliving a past moment.

Of course it doesn’t help that basically half of watching a live game on TV is watching the instant replay over and over again, which reinforces and feeds the hunger my brain craves. It’s a nasty neurological and behavioral cycle that’s tough to break.

So this powerful neurological cycle keeps going round and round.  I watch a game and I find pleasure in those live moments as my brain and memory associates the present with all those wonderful moments and memories I have with my dad and growing up.

I also realized another truth. At a basic level, we as sports fans who are human beings, just love to watch something spectacular happen because it simply put; it’s an escape. Live sports take us away from the mundane moments and by watching live sports we seek out that rush of pleasure. And that’s what we can get addicted to.

This process is so complex that it’s taken me nearly a year to sort it out and begin to make sense of it. And I’m not even sure I explained clearly enough to you here. But I’m glad I took a year to not watch sport to begin to figure it out. And I’m sure this is only the beginning of what I’ll learned and more will be revealed to me in the coming years.

Like all good experiment should do, the more my experiment went on the more I realized how little I know about myself and why I love watching sports.

Sharing (part of) my secret life with you

But what I do know is that like with most things in life, it’s about balance and moderation. So that’s what I’m striving for and trying to be more aware of. I found that I do love that rewarding rush of stimuli that live sports gives me. But was I indulging in live sports regardless of adverse consequences? Was there a deeper physiological battle waging inside of me?

secret_lives_of_sports_fans

Yes, there was. Through this experiment I became more aware of and fascinated by the physiological, sociological and psychological impact of watching live sports and I loved reading The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans to guide and explain some of my curiosities. In this book I learned more about the reactions we feel during live sports. I learned that what we feel by watching our favorite teams by ourselves or with friends is actually hard-wired in humans to help us feel good. That feeling, though often an elusive mystery, is designed to keep us in the moment individually and designed to connect and bond us with other people on a deeper sociological level.

As I read that book I learned, and became more aware of, the danger of over-escaping and getting addicted to that feeling of excitement and rush of adrenaline. That powerful chemical reaction that happens after a watching a walk-off home run or triumphant touchdown can be so seductive and trick me into thinking that by watching sports I’m some how dealing with my life and facing my fears and connecting with others when I’m really not.

This sociological, neurological, physiological and psychological aspect of my experiment was by far the most complex and I’m still sorting it all out. I’ll likely write more about this as things become clearer and more is revealed to me.

But what I do know now is that by not watching sports for a year I had the time and opportunity to stop and reflect on what is actually going on in my body and mind during a live game. For a year, I wasn’t just a mindless sports zombie lost in the constant loop of the highlight reel. For 365 days I was able to scape the seduction of the highlight reel just long enough to understand the meaning of why I love to watch live sports. Now the challenge is to build on this knowledge and figure out how to put it good use.

3. I love learning from the strategy of live sports.

I’ve always enjoyed learning about the story beyond the game itself and I love learning from the strategic elements of live games and apply what I learn to my life. I believe this is one major reason why I missed watching sports in 2014.

In addition to connecting with others, I initially thought that I just escaped into a game to avoid life but this wasn’t the case. I love the “game within the game” of sports. Many say that baseball is too slow of a game, but not me. I love the mini games of chess going on within baseball, and I missed that a lot.

And as I watched Joe Maddon lead the Cubs in 2015 I was excited to watch the post-game interviews because he isn’t like other managers. He’s like a wise sage and always says something that teaches and puts a new, fresh and uniquely personal perspective on baseball and life.

Not watching for a full year and then watching the Cubs and other live sports this year, I realized that a subconscious part of my brain is watching for those strategic moments that I can apply to other areas of my life. Those moments when a coach or a player has to make split decisions or show leadership in a critical turning point in a game.

I love it when these strategic and teachable moments come along in live sports because I’m not just shutting my brain off and going on auto-pilot but instead there’s an exciting opportunity to engage and extract more meaning. There’s a beautiful micro-moment where I get challenged to think in a new way or a simple play becomes a major turning point in a game and a players career and even a fan’s life.

4. Why live sports annoys me and the missed opportunity to take fans deeper

Okay, now for my take on the part about live sports that bothers me. By not watching sports for a year I realized how much I don’t like the cliche tendencies of highlight shows and play-by-play announcers. Yes, there are good announcers that know how to put fresh spins on live sports and tell a great story and deftly present the broader context and significance to the live game.

But far too many in the sports world fall victim to cliche story lines and predictable post-game questions and analysis. And because of this rote tendency, the opportunity to take fans emotionally deeper is missed too often. If I’m feeling all this mental, emotional and physiological stuff as a fan, and I know players feel it too, then why don’t we find a way to unpack that during a game? Why not explore the “deeper why” of why we love live sports more during the actual game?

Knowing that most of sports is mental I find it ironic that most live announcers and sport analysts don’t focus more on the mental and psychological side of the game. Instead they focus too much on numbers and stats and continue spewing out a stream of meaningless statical data that lacks any emotional significance.

So I wonder why we don’t see more exploration of integration of the mental and emotional analysis in live sports? Like what I’ve seen, experienced and found to be true in live music by exploring the emotions we feel before, during and after a live concert, I believe we need to do the same things in live sports and shake things up a bit and make watching live sports more interesting and emotionally meaningful.

5. I like watching food shows instead of live sports. 

Yes, I’ll admit it. I learned that sometimes I don’t even care what game is on and I only care that whatever game is on in front of me is giving me the opportunity to tune out so I can recharge and rest my brain and tune out of life for a few hours. But then again, I found myself getting hooked on other shows to fill my sports void. 

So to confess, I got hooked on Food Network and Travel Channel shows. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing to watch those shows. I just thought that it was interesting to note that I gravitated to those shows when I couldn’t watch sports.

6. I realized (even more) that I love the story behind the game.

I knew going into this experiment that I love backstories of live sports often more than the game itself. But completely removing live sports from the equation gave me the opportunity to better understand what it is I love about the bigger picture and broader contextual backdrop of the games and teams I love to watch and the players who play the games. The live sports industry needs to find a way to blend more stories and how players and fans feel into the game itself and not just mix it in after the fact.

Watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 series made me realize that there’s such a void in understanding what a game really means to us in the broader context of our lives, and that it’s only in hindsight that we truly understand the level of social and emotional impact a live game has on us as individuals and our society. Taking a full year off of sports made appreciate this truth even more.

So I wondered, is there anyway we can be more aware of this as live sports is unfolding?  I know we have sports journalism to do this, but too often even that fails to unpack and go to the emotional level that we need to in order to fully understand how a live sporting event is or isn’t changing our lives. Again, like my annoyance of live sports I shared earlier, I think there’s a great opportunity to tell emotional stories better during live games.

7. Productivity, creativity and mindfulness increased (sort of)

I knew that I spent roughly over 658 hours watching sports in 2013 and I thought that I would have the opportunity to use all those hours to achieve much more and see an increase in productivity. This didn’t exactly play out the way I expected it to. Yes, I did use many of those hours to do other things than watch sports such as like write more, workout, read more and watch TedTalks. So was I more productive? Part of me wants to say yes. But part of says no and I feel like I could have done more. I guess that’s just the guilt talking.

This experiment was certainly no waste of my time just because I wasn’t a productive as I wanted to be. I do feel like my mind evolved and I have a new level of self-awareness and mindfulness that I didn’t have before. It wasn’t easy but for each game I didn’t watch I tried to take time to write and reflect on why I wanted to watch the game and during that process I had the chance to reflect on all the emotional connections I have to live sports. So I guess I was more emotionally productive.

8. Social media made things more intense, difficult and revealing

Social media made it basically impossible to not have some kind of live sports touch my eye balls for a brief moment. Scores, big plays and emotional reactions to games flooded my social feeds constantly. I thank my Twitter and Facebook friends for keeping me fully updated with a constant stream of sports information that I didn’t want but nonetheless found its way into my life in 2014.

Because of this I’ve become more aware of how much my family and friends watch sports and how these meta-live sports social experiences impact our lives. Honestly, at times I got annoyed and considered hiding posts or de-friending people just to avoid it all. But I didn’t and like this entire experiment, social media made things messy and complex.

Social media made the experiment more emotionally intense. I was surprised at how annoyed I got at others posting game updates of games I couldn’t watch. But again, this annoyance and irritation showed me something. It revealed another layer of important questions to the experiment.

It forced me to wonder…

Why was I having such a strong emotional reaction to social media updates? Was it because of the experiment itself or because of my frustration with our culture’s over-indulgence and obsession with live sports? Was social media just making my own emotional struggles more visible and unavoidable? Were those updates mirrors reflecting back to me my own frustration with my live sports obsessions?

I struggled with the truth that I love to connect with people during live sports but I get annoyed on a level when all I see in social feeds in live sports updates.  What’s up with this? Boy, did this experiment make me think long and hard about why I feel this way. What exactly is at the heart of this emotional reaction?

As my social feeds remind me everyday, live sports isn’t going away anytime soon and honestly, I wouldn’t want it to because of the power that it has to bring us together to strengthen and bond relationships. But we should never think that just because we watch a game together that live sports moment is a direct replacement for other types of meaningful interaction. I sometimes fall into that trap and this experiment showed me I have so much more to understand, explore and work on in this area of my life.

9. I had enough past sports knowledge to fake like I did watch sports.

I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bag thing but throughout my experiment I had several “fake sports” conversations and it presented an interesting social sub-experiment. I faked like I was watching sports to see if my past sports knowledge could allow me to not miss out on having important small talk that might lead to deeper relationship with people I know at work and other areas of my life.

I’m a fan of using improv and stream of consciousness to engage my creative side and I love a good interpersonal social experiment on the fly. I wanted to test out my skills of making things up as I go based what I already about live sports starts water cooler conversations. In some cases I made up plays that didn’t exist and nobody seemed to notice and they agreed my “fake play” was a great moment in the game. I thought that said a lot about how we interact as humans and the role small talk plays in bridging gaps and breaking the ice. In some situations will go to great lengths, even lie, to maintain status quo and not rock the relational boat. After this happened a few times, I wondered how my times someone has humored or lied to me about what they’ve watched just to make me feel good or not disrupt the flow of conversation and avoid a awkward social moment.

Other times I “faked it” for a short time and then told them I was doing an experiment or other times I simply said, no “I didn’t watch the game” and told them why. In each of those situations, it led to a really cool conversation about why we watch live sports and I got to know that person in a different way. Next time, I’ll just tell the truth up front and have more really cool conversations.

 10. Watching live sports is and is not, a lot like watching a live concert.

This was one of the things I was very curious about. Being a live music fan I was aiming to discover what live music and live sports had in common. For starters, our emotions play a big role in both situations. Each have a similar ebb and flow, up and down nature as a game can swing in our teams favor sending us up into a crescendo of elation and then crashing down to valley of despair and disappointment should things slip away.

Likewise, a band’s set list can woo us into a state of utter bliss taking us down memory lane with one powerful combination of melody and rhythm or a live show can dash our expectations if the band doesn’t play our favorite song or is out of sync and the vibe isn’t quite right.

One difference I noticed is that I’m more consciously aware of my how I feel emotionally during a concert than during a live sports game but one thing I learned was that as a sports fan I would be missing out if I disregarded how much a live sports game really moves me.

What surprised me was that I noticed that live sports has actually made me feel more sad and depressed; I’m thinking of what it felt like to watch the Cubs lose this year in the NLCS and what it feels like to watch the Bears implode on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it’s because I want the joyful bond and glorious nostalgic feeling of watching a game with my family and dad to live on and when the game ends I’m tossed into a saddening funk. And this emotional funk is even worse if my team loses. That’s why I don’t think how the low we feel once a game is over is only just about the final score. We’re sad partly because that live sports moment is over and we want it to live on. We want to continue to escape together (or alone) but reality is back. And we must face it.

Thinking back to my worst concert experience I can’t say I ever felt the same as I did after watching a bad game. I just feel different emotion. Not quite sure why? But I just know that I feel different. Do I feel more connected with my fellow concert fans during a show then I do at a live game? Is the communal goal and emotional rewards different during a live game versus a live show? Like everything else in this experiment I’ve ended up with more questions than answers.

What I do know is that with both live sports and live music the opportunity to feel emotions is always there. I’ve been ambushed by emotions in both situations but for different reasons and it different ways and I can still choose to feel the emotions or turn away and stuff them back down. I can tell you that my best live sports moments and live concert moments have come when I don’t stuff but I feel every last bit of emotion during and after the experience.

Would I ever do this again?

So would I ever not watch sports for a year again? I don’t think I’d ever go a full year again, but I might go for shorter periods of time if I need to unplug and reflect. For now, I’ve learned what I needed to learn and I’m aware of the behaviors I need to change and what I need to reflect more on. I also might post updates as new ideas and insights bubble up so stay tuned.

Without a doubt, this experiment was tons of fun and extremely valuable and I can tell friend and my grandkids someday that I did it. Would I ever pick something to not do for a year again? Perhaps. It’s been such a great learning experience that I’ve begun to think about what else I could do and what other areas of my life I could experiment with. Would I recommend you do it? Absolutely!  If you can stick it out and keep an open mind, I’m sure you won’t regret the adventure. Good luck and game on.

Spread the love...

What My Toddler Is Teaching Me About Working Out Loud

Standard

 

20150329_103450

I was inspired by this Working Out Loud post by John Stepper. It’s a post asking what you can do to accelerate working out loud (WOL). I’m accepting John’s challenge and I’m going to do “my something” and share with you how my son, a toddler, is inspiring me to think differently about and better understand what it means to work out loud.

What is Working Out Loud?

If you’re new to working out loud, basically, as John states, it’s defined as “…making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

I’ve continue to be inspired by WOL these last few months and I’ve been embarking on my own journey to better understand how I can work out loud more in my life and career. The concepts and framework of working out loud have inspiring possibilities to impact the workplace and as part of my journey I’m going to be sharing more examples about what I’m learning in my personal life and experiment with working out loud as I lead the development of our collaborative employee communities at Walgreens.

It’s Simple…Just Watch A Toddler Play

Alright, now that you’re up to speed on what WOL is, here’s what my toddler has taught me about working out loud.

I was playing with my two-year-old son and it occurred to me that the way he plays is a living example of working out loud. One of the most important parts of working out loud is the goal to make your work observable and that’s exactly what my son is teaching me. This is why I now have a wooden train track and plastic building block on my desk at work to remind me of this important lesson.

It’s simple. Watch a toddler play and you’ll see many examples of what it means to make your work observable. It’s refreshing to think of working out loud in this context. Toddlers do such a great job of making their work observable as they’re creating it, and they also show you what it means to invite others to participate with them. They almost do it to excess and extreme which can make it frustrating, but there’s even a valuable lesson to learn in that moment of frustration.

Sure, toddlers might not be completely cognitively aware of what they’re doing, but nonetheless, it’s pretty amazing to experience firsthand the super powers toddlers have to demonstrate (and remind) us adults how to work out loud.

My “A-ha” Moment

When did this truth really hit home for me? The moment when my son looked up at me with a piece of train set in his hand and said “Daddy help me,” a light bulb went off in my head. He smiled at me and I back at him. In those moments when we engage each other as we build puzzles, construct train sets and color inside (and outside) lines of his favorite coloring books I get the opportunity to really make working out loud a more personal and emotional experience.

When my son and I are playing together I get the opportunity to not only connect with him but I have the opportunity to think deeper about what it means to collaborate as adults and further the discussion about the skills needed for the present and future of the digital workplace. I get to test and experiment for myself. And because of these moments the concepts of working out loud become more meaningful and applicable in my life, career and work to build employee communities at Walgreens.

Recently my son and I were putting together a Thomas the Train set and everything went into slow motion as I watched the scene unfold. He built his half of the train set while I built mine. He paused to watch me and I then paused to watch him work at connecting the pieces and give the trains a test run on the tracks. Then the moment came when we connected our parts together. Bam! Whalla! A massive smile lit up his face and the “a-ha” lightbulb in my head grew brighter and brighter with thoughts. The bigger picture of what was happening in this single moment became clearer.

He’s learning how to collaborate and he’s helping me to rewire my brain so I can unlearn all the bad stuff that keeps me from working out loud as an adult. He teaches me to keep it simple, to not let my own fears and inhibitions get in the way of sharing what I’m working on with others. He’s teaching me how to ask for help so I can improve my own talents and hopefully make more meaningful contributions to those around me. How cool is that!?

The Truth About WOL Meltdowns

Yes, this is all inspiring stuff. But I have to be honest with you. It’s not always that simple. He (and I ) certainly have our struggles. He has the occasional toddler meltdown and at times he rips pieces out of my hand when I least expect it, which is frustrating and really tests my patience. Yes, there’s another lesson to be learned here. As I’ve come to learn, working out loud can be messy too. Working out loud is not about perfection. It’s about making progress towards a bigger goal over time. What that might look like. And messiness, imperfection, and failures are all part of the journey. If you’re not failing, getting occasionally frustrated or messy when working out loud then you’re probably not working out loud at all.

All this said, as I reflect on what my son is teaching me I’ve been thinking about a few other truths.

How I’m Overcoming The Hard Parts of WOL

First, working out loud is hard to do. It’s not natural for adults. If it were easy I wouldn’t be writing this post. So because of that we need toddlers to re-teach us. Unfortunately, as adults, we’re often taught and rewarded for being competitive, being perfect and working alone until the project is finished. These “work in silence” and “work in secret” behaviors get reinforced in many areas of our lives as we get older so that’s why working out loud is hard to do at first. So what I’ve found is that it’s important to recognize this reality because it helps to set the right expectations so we don’t try to do too much too soon and get discouraged, all of which can stop us before we even can make progress towards lasting change, meaningful transformation and big breakthroughs.

Like running, I’ve realized that once you get going working out loud does get easier and it begins to feel more natural. You begin to become more comfortable. Once momentum builds you begin to build up and strengthen your working out loud muscles. And, like running, you have to put the miles in to get the rewards and benefits. I’ve never had runner’s high as a result of standing still.

You have to struggle and wrestle at first. Heck, just writing this post took several tries before I won the wrestling match and “publish.” Like I’ve done on many blog posts before I fought to keep the momentum going. That’s what matters most. A series of small wins leads to bigger wins. And as I watched my son do his thing building and tearing down his block towers and building them back up again, it all inspired me onward.

While writing this post I took a look back at my own career and I reflected on all the work it took to start Live Fix back in 2005. Didn’t necessariily know what I was doing. I just started and built on each live concert experiment one by one.  So it became clear that I’ve been working out loud all these years by writing about life and the live concert experience and doing podcasts. And doing so has led to several pivotal creative breakthroughs and more career opportunities, which is one of the many benefits of working out loud.

Now at this stage of my career I feel as though I’m leveraging working out loud in a new and exciting way that I haven’t before. I have an idea of what that exactly means but then again I don’t. And I’m totally okay with that because I’m learning as I go just like I did back in 2005. What I do know is that I’m excited about the opportunity to join with others who like me are introducing and championing working out loud within their organizations. It’ll be interesting to see where things are at five or ten years from now.

In writing this post I struggled to put together my initial thoughts and labored through my share or doubt and confusion looking for the right words to express my thoughts and emotions about working out loud in this phase of life. When fear, doubt and procrastination were looming, I utilized one of John’s wise tactics. I leveraged Twitter to help keep me accountable and motivated. I tweeted that I was working on a post in a effort to make my ongoing blog post visible and get initial feedback on the post.

woltwitter

And it worked! One of my twitter followers tweeted back right away that he was interested in this post as I was writing it, which I thought was awesome. So I continued on and moved ahead writing the post even though the lizard part of my brain was thrashing around with fear, doubt and uncertainty. Like I mentioned above, I’ve also been practicing, modeling and experimenting with WOL in our internal employee communities and corporate communications at Walgreens and I’m learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when introducing working out loud to a large and complex organization. I’ll share more on future posts about what I’m learning through those experiences too.

Generosity = Motivation

The other part of working out loud that’s helped me work through the negative emotions and mental barriers (and inspired me to hit publish on this post) was the generosity elements associated with WOL. At its core, working out loud encourages us to see and re-frame our work as contributions for the greater good and benefits of those around us. When we openly share our work we’re thinking of others first and not focusing on our own doubts and fears. By sharing what we’re learning we’re being generous because there’s a genuine and authentic knowledge share happening. By working out loud others are benefiting from the things we’ve learned and hopefully what’s shared helps make the lives of others better and more meaningful.

That’s a beautiful and very liberating way to frame things and I can tell you that seeing things from this “be generous” perspective makes the fear of not being perfect or failing really small and almost a non-issue. Seeing things though a generous lens helps me to not be so selfish in my fear and instead focus on helping others around me with what I learned in life. The opportunity to be generous is a great motivator and inspires me for sure.

More WOL questions coming up next

Here’s a few more questions I’m looking forward to exploring on future posts:

  • What is the impact of working out loud in a large organization? What should we be testing and measuring?
  • How and why are the concepts of observable work and working out loud critical to the future of work?
  • Why is it important for companies to learn how to work out loud? And how will working out loud impact a company’s ability to adapt and remain competitive in the marketplace?

Until next time, and to continue John’s original inspiring question, let me know…what are you doing to accelerate working out loud? What has a toddler taught you about working out loud?

Spread the love...

My three words for 2015: Simple. Focus. Give.

Standard

It was extremely valuable to have three words to guide me last year so I’m going to do it again. My three words for 2015 are: Simple, Focus and Give.

Simple

For me this means that I’m aiming to add more simplicity to my life. As hard as that might be, that’s the goal I’m working towards. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey. Whether it’s relationships, finances, career or just the day-to-day flow of life I know that striving to live simple mentally, physically and spiritually is certainly something I want to strive for. This means that I’m aiming to make better decisions that add simplicity not complexity to my life, and I want to work at not dwelling on frivolous details when I don’t need to. I’m aiming to learn more from my past mistakes and trying to keep more of the big picture in mind and not get caught up in the little things that don’t matter in the long run. I’m aiming to measure my progress on this by removing clutter from my life and getting rid of things I no longer need whether it be possessions, projects, relationships, toxic habits or old ways of thinking that are holding me back. I hope to learn a lot through the process of trying to be simple in all areas of my life.

Focus

Whenever I’ve accomplished something meaningful in my life it was because I was focused on it. Really focused on it. I had tunnel vision (in a good way) and nothing else mattered besides what I was focused on. I picked “focus” because at times I’ve noticed myself getting distracted last year and I needed to re-focus in a few key areas of my life in this new year. The word also worked nicely with “simple” because it’s hard to stay focused if you’re not keeping things simple. I was inspired to select focus as one of my three words after reading (and rereading) the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. In the excellent business book about learning how to know when to end things so you can move on and up in life, Cloud talks about how a rose bush needs to be pruned or it will die because a rose bush produces more life than it can sustain. That “rose bush” truth has really impacted and challenged me. I’ve shared that bit of wisdom with many people after I read the book because it drove home an important lesson. It helped me to understand why it’s critical to have the mental and emotional strength to remove unnecessary things from my life so I can truly focus on what matters. Because of this I know it’s important that I develop the skill of learning how to end things so I can thrive and grow into the person I was created to be. Since Cloud is a clinical psychologist, the book’s wisdom also helped me to better understand all the emotional reasons that might keep me from ending things that are slowing killing or holding me back. The skill of identifying what needs to end, and actually following through with it, is a skill I’m always working on and that’s why I picked “focus” as one of my words for 2015.

Give

I want to give more in 2015 than I did in 2014. I had a great time running 26.2 for a worthy cause and I want to do more of the same. I want to give more of my time, money and resources to others because I’ve been the blessed beneficiary of others who have given to me. I learned a lot about the value and importance of giving by reading the book Give and Take by Adam Grant. Appropriately, the book was given to me as a gift and it’s packed full excellent research, case studies and stories on how giving gives us more energy and inspiration to create, makes us better leaders and creates broader learning and career opportunities, and I want to put what I learned about giving into action. Like my other words, “Give” is related to focus because I want to focus my time and energy on giving back to causes and relationships that are important to me and others and hopefully the world will be a better place as a result.

Looking at my three words for 2015, I didn’t necessarily plan this, but I do like how they’re are related, interwoven and interdependent. I’m excited to have them this year because, like last year, having “three words” enables and empowers me with a strong sense of purpose, freedom and clarity. It keeps me honest. And I invite you to ask me how I’m doing. And I’d love to hear if you have three words too. As the year rolls on, I’ll share with you updates on what I’m learning as I continue to work at living these out.

Spread the love...

Reflecting On 26.2

Standard

chicago_marathon_chris_catania

Have you ever wanted to do something you’ve never done before and really make it matter? And make it matter not just for you but for others too?

Well, I did. I ran the Chicago Marathon for these three reasons. It was an amazing adventure that changed my life. It was so sweet on so many levels. It challenged and transformed me. So here’s what I remember as I reflect back on the experience.

Running 26.2 miles was complex. It was a revelatory blur of emotional, mental and spiritual transformation. The experience altered my heart, mind and soul forever, but at the same time so many parts of the experience remain a mysterious enigma. I’m still figuring out why it changed me and what actually did change within me.

And that’s why I’m writing this post: to see what exactly I do remember in hindsight with the hope that through the writing process I might make sense of the mysterious parts and discover new truths. I also hope to inspire you to share and reflect on your own running adventures and embark on similar journeys.

So here’s my story.

Getting revved up

It was 45 degrees and sunny as a steady wind blew in off Lake Michigan. It was a near perfect morning for a race through the city. I remember standing in the start corral on Columbus Drive in downtown Chicago surrounded by thousands of my fellow runners. Here we all were about to do this crazy ceremonial and communal act of running 26.2 miles.

My heart and mind revved up. I was filled with all sorts of emotions. Feelings of joy and excitement bubbled up as I thought back to all the work and time that led up to this moment. I found myself thinking back to all those long runs along the Fox River and my three reasons why I was about to run 26.2 more miles to complete The Mission and head into uncharted territory.

My eyes began to well up as I look up at the gorgeous Chicago skyline reflecting the morning sunshine and felt a swelling surge of energy coming from the crowds all around me.

I was pumped and bursting with pride and excitement because I was about to embark on an adventure that I had never gone on before. And even better, I was going to run alongside my brother Joe and run this race for a great cause: to support my aunt in her struggle with Multiple Myeloma cancer.

Shedding the old and ceremonial acts

I did what a lot of other runners do before the race. I peeled off a layer of clothing and left behind my warm-up jacket in the start corral. But for me this moment was more than just losing some extra clothing. I had heard about this practice of tossing your warm up clothes from other runners and I wanted it to be a special moment for me. I wanted it to mean something.

Leaving behind my jacket was an intentional spiritual act. I had run many training runs in that jacket and for me it was a shedding of the old and heading out on a new journey of self-discovery.

So I unzipped my jacket, slipped out my arms, rolled it into a ball, closed my eyes and gave it a ceremonial kiss and held it up to the sky like a warrior offering a sacrifice hoping for a blessing from the heavens before heading into battle. Then as the corral started to slowly lurch forward like a herd of cattle I tossed the jacket on the ground.

I then took the obligatory pre-race selfie with my brother, did a couple short jumps up into the air like a boxer loosening up before a fight, let out a few rebel yells and got ready to run.

chicago_marathon_selfie_

Even though I ran more than 400 miles during training nothing could truly prepare me for the burst of adrenaline that flowed through me as we crossed the start line and began the race. It was hard to fight the urge to go out hard and fast. But I resisted the temptation and stuck to my plan: run my own race and just enjoy the moment.

It was such a wonderful way to experience the city of Chicago. For the first few miles running through the downtown loop among the tall towering and magnificent buildings and cruising through the neighborhoods made me proud to call Chicago my hometown. It was nothing short of awesome to feel the love from the swarming throngs of cheering people. I had a huge smile on my face as I ran by and read all the creative, funny and inspirational signs of encouragement. And I didn’t know a cowbell could be so inspiring! I couldn’t help but run along the sidelines and slap a few hive-fives and smack signs that said “Hit the button for running super powers!”

Mile 2: The Blind Runner made me see

Speaking of inspiring it was amazing to run past the blind runner and his guide at Mile 2. I loved how every runner yelled and cheered as we passed him. As I went by him I wondered…

What does it feel like to see nothing the entire race but only experience the smells and the sounds of the marathon?

What does it feel like to run blind and only trust a guide to lead you for 26 miles through the city?

Would I have done such a thing if I was blind?

How different would running be for me if I ran less with my eyes and more with my heart?

It was a beautiful metaphor to ponder for the next two miles as my legs got loose and my body warmed up.

Mile 3: What if life were like this?

At Mile 3 I turned to my brother and said ‘Wow, how cool would it be if life were more like this and people were cheering you on all the time as we traveled through our days?”

He then looked at me and said, “You do have that. It’s called family.”

Hmmm? I thought. Interesting response, because, yes we do have family, but honestly, life isn’t always like THIS. And life can be very lonely sometimes. We need to have more people cheering us on like THIS in life, I thought. We need more cowbells, slapping high-fives and “hit the power button” signs.

With that idea rolling around in mind I ran along I thought more about how I need to be more intentional in how I encourage other people. I felt a strong and unexpected conviction rise up in me. I realized that I need to work at encouraging people not at the biggest life moments and but also in those not-so-big-and-in-between life moments. I know I loved seeing all those signs and smiling faces as I ran along and once the race was over I knew I needed to return the favor back to people in my life.

So that was my second aha moment as I ran my first marathon. Thank you, Mr. Blind Runner. Thank you, thousands of cheering people on the sidelines. Only 4 miles in and two great learning moments. Not bad!

Mile 13: Running sideways and starting to feel it

And that’s where my mind was at, but how was my body doing? As I approached Mile 13 my legs felt more tired than usual. Looking back I think it was a combination of two things.

1) For the most part I did train on streets and pavement knowing the terrain of the Chicago Marathon but I will say that one thing that stood out was how different it is to run on the city streets. I don’t have any scientific  data or evidence, so all I can say is that it’s just different and I could really feel it in my legs.

2) The other thing that played a role was the fact that during the marathon I was rarely running straight for very long, especially in the first half. For much of the race I was bunched together with other runners I was doing a lot of weaving in and out, stopping and starting, speeding up and slowing down, and in some case I was actually hopping in between people in order to get ahead and find running paths. And I’m sure all that extra effort put extra pounding on my legs that added up. And that was a big reason why I felt more tired feeling around the halfway point. But what I didn’t expect was a big surge at mile 21. More about that in a bit.

Yes, I did have moments of doubts. I expected to. I intentionally trained without music and focused on using meditation and mindfulness concepts to quiet my mind. I learned a lot from reading this excellent book Running with the Mind of Meditation. This turned out to be one of my favorite parts and most valuable elements of my training as it helped me to cope with physical pain and mental obstacles like doubt, fear and uncertainty, all of which were major obstacles in the later stages.

Miles 14-16: Beyond the cheer zone and the race within the race

My first big wave of pain and doubt set in after the Mile 14 cheer zone. I would say that Miles 15-16 were some of the most solitary, quiet and contemplative too. As we left the mighty roar and inspiring adrenaline rush of the cheer zone behind us, you could feel the struggle set in and tension thicken in the air.

The emotional buzz of racing through the downtown din quickly wore off and I could feel and hear the murmur of the subconscious thoughts begin to bubble up and creep in. A strange sense of hyper-awareness came over me. I tried to run faster to run away from the unwanted thoughts but they were still there keeping pace with me. It was such a profound moment. It was the first time during the race that I felt like I was running away from something – and it was all happening in my mind.

It was a strangely surreal feeling to experience. It was like a race within a race. For a moment I forgot I was in the marathon and then I blinked a remembered I was running again.

The rhythm of the shoes pounding the pavement and synchronized breath of the runners around me thrusted me into a deeper contemplative flow. For a moment the fear of this thought chasing me went away and a new thought popped into my mind.

I realized I didn’t need to keep running from what was chasing me in my mind but instead I needed to slow down mentally and face what I was running from head on. I needed to let it catch me so I could conquer the fear I felt.

So I did let it catch me and this is what I found myself hearing as I slowed my mind down to listen…

Don’t let running be only about running from something or running to achieve something. Running is so much more than that. It’s about running to a new destination of self-discovery. It’s about being one person when you start and arriving back where you started as someone new.

It’s about being fearless and courageous enough to face the emotions and fears that bubble up while you’re running and not forgetting them once you stopping running but instead taking action in your life on those very thoughts.

And when you run with an open heart and mind you’re going to discover things about yourself that might be painful or terrify you to your core. But you must embrace it all. The good and bad. The joy and the fear. This is one of THE REASONS why you run, Chris: to face, cope with and conquer pain and fear in all areas of your life.

That was hard to hear because, for me, running is so often something I do to feel good and escape but it was a divine and sublime message that I needed to hear. And ever since I’ve continued to wrestle with those thoughts hoping to put them into action more in my life.

Miles 21-23: Into the unknown without my brother and why I love Pilsen

I didn’t expect what happened at Mile 20. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect beyond 20 miles. The plan was to run the entire race with my brother but it didn’t work out that way. At around Mile 21 my brother had some issues with his leg and waved me on to go on ahead without him.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes, go!” he yelled waving his hand.

So on I went in to Pilsen and into Chinatown.

Then came one of my favorite moments of the marathon: running through the hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen. I will always remember the glorious thumping, pumping and pounding of the tubas, drums and guitars coming from the mariachi bands.

I know this might sound weird but I didn’t really hit “The Wall.” at Mile 20. I expected to but it never happened. During miles 20 through 24 I felt a surge of energy I didn’t expect. And I’m sure it’s no mistake that those mariachi bands are at this point in the race, and I tip my hat and say thanks to the race directors for the strategic placement of the tuba and mariachi by the race directors. I sure needed those tubas then and I will never forget how it all made me feel.

Miles 24-25: MMA fights and baptisms

At Mile 24 and 25 the physical side of myself was so broken down and my emotions and mind were so raw and unavoidable. I could no longer hide behind what my body could do. I was running on pure emotion, grit and will. All of my fears, doubts and anxieties were right there taunting, poking and punching me. It’s was like a violent and twisted MMA fight inside my body and mind. It was hard to separate the external cheers from the internal jeers and vice versa.

From that point on it was a series of rapid-fire visceral and mental and physical thrashings. I had no choice but to dig down and find a deeper level of spiritual contemplation and emotional revelation. A lot of weird thoughts went through my mind. I was coming to the end of my physical self and I literally thought about everything in my life. My wife, my son, my daughter that’s on the way, my job at Walgreens, my dad who passed away in 2010. My successes and my failures. It all rushed at me, full force.

Back and forth the inner battle went. Sometimes my body was crying out wanting to quit and other times my mind was screaming ENOUGH! I felt great then…I felt like shit. But I fought through it knowing that each of those moments were only a temporary moment of doubt and pain.

Then suddenly I remembered what I read in George Sheehan’s classic book Running and Being, where he sagely says that running and going beyond our physical self in a marathon and pushing ourselves beyond our physical and spiritual limits is like an act of holy sanctification, our sweat is like a baptism and the whole experience is a rebirth and cleansing of the soul. I then felt the sticky and sweat drenched shirt clinging to my chest, arms and back. I smiled and looked up to the heavens. Took a deep breath and my mind calmed back down. I acknowledge the pain I was feeling, accepted it and ran on through it.

I was pretty pumped up as I neared the end of the marathon. It’s was hard not to be. And at Mile 25 got lost in the moment. I remember grabbing a banana from the aid station, then downing some water. I remember slapping someone another high-five.

For a moment I forgot where I was on the course. Then I had this enormous sense of self-awareness come over me. Then at the same time everyone around me faded away and it was as if it was as I was the only one running the marathon. It was like I was floating above the pavement.

It was a beautiful thing. It was a spectacular spiritual moment to behold.

Moments like this don’t happen to often, so for a few steps I closed my eyes, kicked my head back and extended my arms to my side like a soaring plane. I put my palms up and smiled up at the sky as I felt the sunshine hitting my face and soaked in the glory of the moment. And on I went to the final mile.

Mile 26: Completing THE MISSION and scaring ladies

I opened my eyes and had my game face on. I quickened my pace. It was time to finish THE MISSION. Heading into the final stretch I felt emotionally spent but spiritually strong. I felt physically tired but still searching for something more and wanting to see what I could do beyond my physical and emotional means.

I loved the final moments of the marathon and the only real downside to this moment was that I scared a few other runners as I cranked out and powered through the last mile. I let out a few tribal yells (including a few fist-pumping F-bombs and extra curse words to push myself.)

That said, I’d like to take a moment to say sorry to the two runners I scared. Sorry, ladies. I hope I didn’t startle you too much as I came up behind you as we all scurried down Michigan avenue and turned on to Columbus Drive and made our way to the finish line. I hope you both weren’t too scared and had a great finish to your race.

Beyond 26.2: New behaviors, real life challenges and what’s next

I took about a week off after the marathon. Yes, I was sore and hobbling right after the race. About halfway through Monday I started to feel better and I took my first post-marathon run on Friday and felt pretty good.

As I recovered I stuck to my training diet (which is now what I normally eat) and ate the usual mix of recovery food which for me included protein shakes, fish oil pills, chia seeds, greek yogurt, quinoa, etc. And as a bonus, I’ve continued to eat quinoa and chia seeds before and after runs which I didn’t before and I feel great.

Since the marathon, I’ve also had many moments in my personal life and at work where life has challenged me and I’ve looked back at my marathon experience for strength, clarity and inspiration. And I love the fact that I’ve been able to do transfer my marathon experience in to real life moments because that’s exactly what I was hoping this whole adventure would do. I wanted to do something I’ve never done before so that I could use the experience to overcome challenges in other areas of my life.

So what’s next? Well, I’ve been planning my next race adventure as I look at doing a trail run or half marathon in 2015 and maybe even an ultra in the near future.

I hope my marathon story has inspired you to run a marathon or do something you’ve never done before. I hope it’s inspired you to not only do something like this for yourself but do it to support others and to connect with the world around you and the world and feelings that are inside of you.

I can’t say enough how honored I feel to have had the opportunity to make my training and marathon matter beyond myself and support the MMRF and my aunt Angie. Because of that, there’s one question I’ve really pondering; “how can I make each run count?” I don’t want to be the only person to benefit from running, training and racing. I want my physical activity to help make the world a better place.

That said, since the marathon I’ve been experimenting with and planning on doing a few things.

1. I’ve been using the Charity Miles running app. So far I’ve enjoyed using it and each run I do I get to pick a different charity to support. It’s a pretty cool app and I love the concept and like my Fitbit experiment I’ll be sharing a full review and thoughts on the Charity Miles app in the future.

2. I’m planning on volunteering for a race. In his book “Eat and Run,” Scott Jurek encourages all runners to give back and volunteer at a race and I’m looking at organizations like Chicago Run and local races to donate my time and efforts to help others.

3. I know I need to connect more with other runners. Running is such a solitary sport and it feeds my natural introvert tendencies. So I need to be intentional about seeking out community. I really miss the meaningful experience I had training and running the marathon with my brother and because of that I’m aiming to connect more with other runners and get involved with more group runs and local running groups.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to share more as I continue to reflect and hit the road and running trails. Congrats to all my fellow Chicago marathon runners and I hope to hear about your experiences too, and I invite you to share them in the comments below.

Spread the love...

No Sports for A Year Update #1: Oh, The Things I’m Learning!

Image

 

kentext

It’s been 136 days since I began my experiment to not watch any sports for a year.

So how’s it going?

Well, it’s been fun, hard and revealing to say the least. And here’s a collection of thoughts, findings and questions that have surfaced so far.

It’s Simply Complicated

For the most part, some days it’s easy and other days it’s hard not to watch sports.

I’ve noticed that the degree of ease and difficulty has fallen into and been dependent on these three categories:

  • My current emotional state; to what degree do I need sports to help me escape from or cope with any given life situation?
  • My engrained habits; how much of my body and brain’s auto-pilot has been trained to just flip on a game without even thinking about it? (Apparently I do have some degree of sports addiction.)
  • The impact on my relationships; How do I connect with people and what have I learned from this crazy choice I’ve made?

 

The Big Games: A Big Deal or A Big Waste of Time?

When it comes to the big sport events I’ve started to keep a tally of how many I’ve not watched. In a funny way I’ve actually become somewhat proud of myself that I’ve been able to do this and take this experiment this far. Like running a marathon, this experiment has become a true test of endurance and in some cases I feel like I’m developing a new not-watching-sports muscle.

So far I’ve not watched the Super Bowl, Olympics, Final Four, NHL Playoffs, MLB opening day (yes, I consider that major sporting event for the last 30 years of my life). Yes, I have missed watching these games, but on the other hand, I’ve not. Why? Because I’ve been able to finish books, write, run, spend time with family and do other things that have more meaning for me.

This is a strange and unsettling discovery that I’ve had to wrestle with. I’m at odds with that feeling because I’m not quite sure what that means.

I’ve had to ask myself…are the Big Games really important to me or are they just a big time suck holding me back? If they are important, then why? What do I get out of watching them? What do I lose if I do? Who do I lose if I don’t watch the Big Games or any live sports?

To be honest, there’s a part of me that really loves to watch live sports but there’s another part of me that loves the feeling of doing those other things. I’m not quite sure on the value or significance of this conflict of feeling. But I know it’s turning out to be a thought that I must unpack and understand. And hopefully I’ll have more clarity as this experiment continues.

What If…We All Didn’t Watch Sports For A Year?

I’ve also started to think about the financial impact of this sort of experiment. What would happen if everyone in America did this for a year?

That said, I heard this enlightening  commentary by NPR’s Frank Defourd about the supporting the home team from the comfort of your couch. In it he mentions that the fact that sports teams don’t make as nearly as much money when people go to the ballpark as when people watch on TV at home.

So, yes, I’m probably making a very (very) small dent in the revenue department of major sports teams, but, I wonder…what if more people didn’t watch sports for a year? What would be the financial impact of that?

Besides the money, other thoughts have popped into my head like…

Would the world be a better place if we didn’t watch live sports? Would we all see sports in a different way? Would this new perspective empower us to value the relationships and connections we have with other because of sports? Would we end up watching more live sports after we’ve realized how much the act means to us and others around us?

Heck, I know this experiment is starting to do all those things for me.

One of the things I’m being forced to do is to think more deeply about why I do watch sports, how live sports has changed my life and how live sports is both a healthy and unhealthy emotional escape.

Why Do I Get Emotional: It’s Just Live Sports?

I’m being forced to think and go deeper to understand why I get all teary eyed and emotional when I tell people about my first time watching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my dad. Or why I feel within myself a visceral mix of emotions (joy, excitement, sadness, grief, etc) when I tell them about my fondest memories learning how to yell “Green Bay sucks” in sub-zero weather at a Bears game when I was eight years old. Are those buried emotions, and not actual live game itself on TV, the driving force behind my desire and need to watch live sports?

Besides the emotions and psychological fodder that has begun to bubble up, the other  habitual and social challenges.

I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to avoid watching sports in our culture. Sports are everywhere; on our minds; at the core of most social interactions. Sports even define our worldview and for some it’s a religion deeply rooted in fabric of our lives.

Yes, I knew all that stuff before I started doing this experiment but now I’ve had the chance to step back and think about what all that stuff really means. And I’ve been forced to ask myself the tough questions.  Is the amount of live sports we watch good? Is it bad? If so, why? And what do we benefit by watching hours and hours of live sports?

How does live sports help us make sense of the world around us? How does it help us we cope with life’s struggles?

Yes, there are many good things about watching sports but, like all good things in life, watching sports has a dark side and I’m realizing that too.

Watching sports can help us avoid things we must do. Watching sports can slyly and subtly make us too sedentary (mentally, physically and socially) where all we do is play the spectator too much and never get off the couch to join in the game. I do have to say that I’ve enjoyed playing sports more now that I’m not watching as much.

Of course the goal here (no pun intended) is to strike a healthy balance and aim to find the right mix of watching and doing. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out what that means for myself.

Confession: My Eyeballs and Live Sports

I have to be honest and say that my eyeballs have caught glimpses of games over these last several months.This is because of the simple fact that I can’t cut myself off from the world and the world is full of sports. I’ve been at sports bars to connect with co-workers and friends, and it’s nearly impossible to not let your eyes fall for a split second on live game. But in those situations yet another thought has intrigued me.

In these situations I’ve both realized how much a welcomed distraction sports are to relationships, especially in those awkward moments where nobody has anything to say and we’re all just watching the game, sipping our drinks and then a dramatic play happens and we all cheer together or comment on how great the play was, maybe do a little smack talk, swap some hive-fives and then the next conversation starts.

I’ve also realized how hard it is to truly focus on the conversation when a billion sports games are flashing and flickering all around me on giant flat screen TVs. Again, is this truth a good thing or bad thing? I also know that what’s happening in these social sports situation is nothing to just gloss over and avoid. There’s something big happening here.

So to answer some of these questions and make sense of my own experiment I’ve turned to the experts.

secret live of sports fans

In the book the The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans Eric Simons explores this crazy sports-watching obsession we have. It’s been great to read the book and fascinating to read his work and put a sociological and biologically context on my own experiment. I’ve been learning just how genetically wired we are to love sports and why it’s important to be aware of the chemical process that’s going on in our bodies when we watch sports. On future updates, I’ll be sharing more about how that book is shaping and enlightening my own experiment.

Family and Friends and The “Fake Sports” Conversation

I’ve taken special note of the responses and reactions of family and friends. When I first started out my family and friends were aware of my experiment and they would ask me about it and want to know why I was doing it. In some cases some family even went so far as to not watch a game because they didn’t want me to “break my vow.”  Yes, they actually called my experiment a vow. Like I’m a monk on a religious quest. I thought that was interesting.

But now that nearly 6 months have gone by, those same people have largely forgotten. So what I’ve had to do is either gently remind them that I can’t when they ask me to go hang out and watch the game.

Or if I find myself in a “hey, did you watch that game last night” water cooler conversation I’ve been testing out a “fake sports” conversations sub-experiment and pretending like I did watch the game. I carry on the conversation using my past sports knowledge. Why do this? I want to see if they can figure out that I didn’t watch the game and I want to see just how much of an impact not watching sports has on relationships beyond family and friends. I also want to so what I might discover about the role that watching live sports plays in initial interactions with those around me. To be honest those “fake sports” conversations have been some of the more expectedly entertaining and fascinating parts of this experiment and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I discover.

Those most people have forgotten, I do have to credit my younger brother Ken for keeping my experiment always on his mind. While at work he continues to send me texts of game scores and messages with pictures of Wrigley field asking me if I remember what that place was.

Thanks, Ken. Those texts are priceless. Your playoff beard is coming in nicely too. Maybe I should have grown a no live sports beard? Maybe next time.

The Real Reason I Watch Live Sports?

One of the hardest, most fascinating and revelatory parts of not watching sports has been the impact it has had on my relationships.

Even though I’m an introvert (I recently discovered and accepted this), I still love connecting with people. I love relationships. I love getting out of my own head and into the hearts and minds of others. So I’m an introvert that loves to be an extravert? I’m not even sure what that means?

What I do know is that by doing this experiment I’ve begun to think more about how I’m wired up and how watching sports impacts and has influenced the type of person I am and the type of person I have become.  In some cases I’ve realized that I could actually care less about the game that’s on TV and I’m watching it because I want to connect with people.

In some cases I’ve realized that I also watch sports to prepare for interactions with people.  What does that mean?

Well, here’s what I think that means.  If I’m meeting someone for the first time I always try to find a common ground. And in most cases, live sports is that common ground.  But now that I’ve removed watching sports from my life I’m finding that there’s an awkward pause. Do I tell them what I’m doing or do I have a “fake sports” conversation with them?

It’s been a 50/50 split. Sometimes I carry on the fake sports chat or sometimes I tell them about my experiment. And I’ve been surprised in both situations.

Sometimes people are interested and they ask me about it and other times they say “oh, that’s cool.” And then nothing comes of my “no live sports” disclosure and we then try to talk about other things.

Other times I’ve had some really great chats about why other people watch live sports and they start to ask me what I’ve learned and then they end up sharing a live sports story about themselves.

What’s been both fun and challenging is my process for picking which people I tell and which people I have a fake chat with.  Those type of situations have been interesting to experience as it’s shown me the level of skill or aptitude certain people have for being able to talk about more than just the game and instead go deeper to explain what the game means to them and why they watch sports.

And I really want to know the significance of the awkward pause. What does that say about me? About that person? What does this tell me about the connection I have or don’t have to those around me? What does this say about the role that live sports plays in how we all relate and connect with each other?

This No Sports Experiment has been both beautifully strange and utterly fascinating to me and I’m still sorting it all out. I’ve actually have more questions now than when I started this experiment. There’s just so much to it and each day a new thought and revelation rabbit hole pops up that I love to jump down into and explore.

That said, there’s been lots more that I’ve learned but I wanted to share these initial insights with you to see what you think and I’d love to get your take on this too.

That’s all for now on this update and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. My 19-month old son Calvin just woke up and it’s time to be a dad and hang out, run around the house listening to Wilson Picket’s “Land of 1,000 Dances” and Gold Frapp’s “Ooh La La” over and over again because that’s what we do on Sundays, besides watch sports. Well, maybe not this year, anyway. And maybe I’ll tell him all about this crazy experiment when he gets older.

Spread the love...

My Three Words: Health. Hunger. Habit.

Standard

livefix chris catania garden

For the last several years, I’ve watched others do the “my three words” yearly mission. And it’s time for me to jump in.

Yes, I’ve thought of my three words before, but I’ve just thought about them.

Until now, I’ve taken little action to crystalized my three words, write them down and truly make them the focus for a year of my life.

So in 2014, I’m doing it.

It’s the end of February and by now many New Year’s resolutions are toast, or hopefully you are still going strong.

If you’re struggling, hopefully this post comes at the right time and it will inspire you to get started or get back on track if you’ve lost some steam.

Let’s be clear, though.

My three words aren’t resolutions. They’re guideposts and word triggers packed with personal meaning and significance.

I’m using them to quickly remind and ask myself:

 “What are the most important things to do, measure, refine, and think about on a daily basis?”

I can quickly look at my three words and go through a quick and simple rundown in my mind and to see how I’m doing on a daily basis.

I’m aiming to review my three words nightly before my head hits the pillow and I’m using them to help me focus as I start my day.

But I’m not just sharing my three words with you just to do it and say I crossed something off my To-Do list.

No. I’m sharing them with you because I know that by making my three words, and my thoughts about them, public it’s making them more real to me, AND I’m also inviting you to hold me accountable and dialogue about them. (I’m serious. Tweet me. Ask me about them @chriscatania.)

I’ve shared this kind of personal goal stuff before and by whenever I’ve made it public it’s helped immensely. Sharing personal goals publicly has given me that much needed lift and accountability boost to keep going when I don’t want to.

I know for a fact that telling you what I’m aiming for in life in this blog post helps me reach me goals and change my life for the better.

That said, I’ve decided to say no to all the doubt in my brain and I’ve clicked “publish” on this blog post so you can join me and we can help each other. Yes, in case you’re wondering, I do have more details on these words including how I’m measuring success, but I’m not sharing that stuff here.

I want to keep it simple for now. Just three words.

So let’s do this!

Without further ado, here are my three words.

Health.

I chose the word “health” to remind me that I want to focus on developing and staying healthy in all areas of my life, specifically:

1) Physically

2) Mentally/emotionally

3) Spiritually

Those three areas are foundational to be being the best husband, father, friend and co-worker I can be. Yes, there are more details to these “health” areas of my life but I won’t share them here on this post.

What I will tell you is that I know that when life gets crazy and I start to lose focus on what matters, it’s usually because I’ve stopped making it a priority to devout time to nurture at least one or more of these three “health” areas of my life.

Hunger.

There are two reasons why I chose hunger in 2014.

First, I want to stay hungry. Not hungry for food (which isn’t usually a problem) but more like Rocky Balboa in Rocky I and Mr. T in Rocky III, and Rudy in Rudy. (Yes, I’m a big fan of Rocky and sports underdog movies. No shame here.)

Seriously, though, I want to stay hungry for growth. I did grow a lot in 2013 but I want to be more intentional about it in 2014.

I want to feel that rumbling in my stomach and in my soul as I aim for my goals in all areas of my life.

I want to keep my eyes on the prize, be proactive and not let life’s distractions, negative thoughts, and other mental junk food that comes hurling at me on daily basis, stop me from being hungry for what matters in life.

Secondly, having a hunger and a thirst for bettering yourself is exciting and it’s contagious. I love being around people who are hungry for life and learning.

What I mean is that I want to inspire a hunger for others.

I once heard someone say that what you do in life and what you share with the world should inspire others, and what you do should improve the quality of life for others too.

So I’m taking those great thoughts as a personal challenge and I’m aiming (and hoping) that by staying hungry for growing, learning and constantly evolving who I am will inspire others around me.

But, again, let’s be honest. Maintaining that hunger is hard. And that’s why I’m sharing this with you, remember? So we can help each other stay hungry. Do we have a deal? Thanks. I know you’d be with me on this one.

Now on to the last word.

Habit.

I told you before that I purposely don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

Why? Well, because New Year’s resolutions only happen once a year and why should we wait 365 days to change what we’re doing? That would waist so much time.

In my short time on planet earth, I’ve learned from others (and by failing myself) that creating daily habits that I can gradually build on is the better way to go. It’s better than creating New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve learned that aiming for gradual habit change gives us more power to create a lasting foundation for behavior change. When we look at the challenge to change habits as a “one day at a time” (or even one minute or second at a time) thing, it’s not as overwhelming for our brains.

Yes, no doubt, changing our behavior is one of the hardest things to do.

But one thing I’ve learned is that knowledge is power. And taking the time to read and understand what drives our habits and behaviors has helped me reach my goals.

I love reading books and blogs to soak up as much knowledge as I can, and I highly value taking an experimental approach to life in general. That’s why I do these Fitbit and No Sports For A Year Experiments.

I read what others have learned, and try to apply it to my own life,  and I also learn by doing (succeeding and failing) myself.

And when it comes to reading books about habits and understanding how to change them, I’ve had the pleasure of learning a lot from The Power of Habit, Nudge, and One Small Step Can Change Your Life. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking these books out as there is a lot of excellent research and practical stuff you can do to help change your habits.

Alright, these are my three words for 2014: Health. Hunger. Habit.

And Yours?

What are your three words this year?

Thanks for sharing and be courageous today and always, my friends.

Note: The photo above is of a zig zag bridge in the Japanese garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden. It’s designed to get you to stop and think about where you’re going.

Spread the love...

Fitbit Experiment Part 4: 11 Things I’ve Learned So Far – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Standard

fitbitone3milsteps

This Fitbit experiment has been fascinating. It’s really opened my eyes and I’ve learned a lot.

So, in no particular order, here’s a quick round up of all the things I’ve learned so far; the good, bad and the ugly, and what I’m looking forward to in 2014.

1. Having a daily goal of getting 10k steps helped bring structure to my life. Without a doubt, using the Fitbit One to have a clear, simple and attainable activity metric to shoot for each day helped me live a healthier life and proved to be a welcome ally  to conquer the personal fitness challenges noted below.

When I first got the Fitbit back in September of 2012 I started out with the goal of getting 10,000 steps a day because that was the recommended standard. 14 months later it’s still a worthy challenge to attain, so as my experiment rolled on I had to adapt my plan and evolve things a bit.

Basically I was challenged by the usual suspects to find a consistent time where I could  integrate getting my 10,000 steps in to my regular workout or supplement my workout with getting steps.  For me the biggest obstacles to staying healthy and working out were and still are:

  • Creating a workout program that’s integrated, flexible, realistic and based on SMART goals
  • Staying consistent, maintaining momentum and balancing the demands of work, life and being a new dad

 

2. We need simple metrics to stay healthy. To help battle those above challenges, one of the biggest things I learned is that having two metrics to shoot for helps to maintain momentum. I learned that I don’t always have the time when unexpected events put a wrench in my workout schedule, or I am challenged to adapt to the ever-changing sleep schedule and required dad-attention time of my growing 15-month-old son Calvin.

fitbitmertics

 

 

As you can see by the image above, I use the Fitbit mobile app to track both steps and active minutes. For my P90x workouts I have to manually enter in the activity, and it would be nice if Fitbit figured out a way to integrate active minutes into the friend leader boards because on some days I’m below 10,000 steps but achieved or exceeded my AM goal, but it doesn’t always show up in the leaderboards.

So what I’ve done is aim to create habits that help me get either  1) 10,000 steps a day or 2) at least 30 minutes of activity a day through running or short-burst higher intensity workouts.

3. Be flexible and get creative. This point became even more true during my Fitbit experiment because I’ve come to realize that it really helps to aim to squeeze in quick 5-20 min walking breaks or sneaky steps, where I get anywhere from 500-1200 steps, or squeezing in a short more high intensity workout like short 30 min run at a faster paced versus a long 60 minutes run. Taking this approach helped to maintain momentum and keep me on track towards having a regular active habit. Doing this short burst approach also lead to longer periods of healthy activity over time.

4. Make a game out of it. Many times during the fall and winter of 2013, and especially early in 2014 with the Polar Vortex clamping down on us in the Midwest, it’s been challenging and nearly impossible to get outside to go for a walk, so we’ve had spontaneous step challenges in our house during which we run around the house to see who can get to 10,000 step first. And when I got close to 3 millions steps I challenge my self to hit it before the one year mark in September and did.

These moments are actually really fun and I would love to be one of our neighbors looking in and seeing us running around wondering whats going on. In addition to gamifying my personal health at home, I’ve also been developing the habit of walking around the house while watching watching movies or my favorite TV shows.

  • Speaking of games, I created a fun little game at work where I challenged myself to see if I could get 10 steps before 5pm on a workday.  Through a combination of taking short breaks from my desk, no longer taking the elevator and using only the stairs and experimenting with walking meetings, I did get to 10,ooo steps before 5pm twice.
  • “10k steps before 5pm” is something that I’ll continue to shoot for this year. Doing this challenge at work I did notice that taking the short walking breaks gave me a welcomed creative physiological boost to my brain to power me through several writing projects and daily deadlines.

 

10kb45pm

5. Getting steps is contagious. The other exciting thing is that I was surprised that my sharing my experience through this Fitbit experiment has led to others in our corporate communications department getting a Fitbit too, which then led to us doing a special Steps experiment and feature story in our employee publication. And when it comes to our Walgreens internal social media programs, I started doing monthly activity challenges and sharing our steps experiences in our employee online communities. This has led to many great conversations about staying activity and now our employee online communities are a great source of motivation and encouragement.

6. You need a community to help you. As I just mention above, one of the most important things you should do when trying to create and stick to healthy habits is have a community to help motivate and keep you accountable.

I still stand by what I said in my last Fitbit post. And since that post the number of Fitbit buddies who are on my leaderboard has gone from 2 to 26.

I can’t stress enough how having buddies is to staying healthy. My community is a mix of friends, family and co-workers who are also striving for 10k steps and struggling with similar life change challenges as me.

I loved using the Fitbit mobile app to build community. Being able to simply click a button on my mobile phone to send cheers and short encouraging messages to my step buddies is awesome and  I love when I get the same from them. It often gave me that much needed boost of encouragement that I needed to get me over the hump and moving in the right direction.

I’m not going lie, on days when I don’t feel like doing  10 steps or I start to see my daily average slip looking at the leaderboards and seeing the faces of my step buddies is a welcomed motivator.

Speaking of community, another bonus in 2013 was the fact that getting steps was often associated with or led to more meaningful moments and social experiences. It gave me opportunity to be more emotionally and relationally healthy by building relationships on the short and long walks and hiking adventures. 

A big thanks to everyone I shared steps with in 2013. You all helped me get to over 3 millions step in 2013 and here’s to 3 million more in 2014. Keep up the great work – you rock!

Feel free to add me to your Fitbit friends here.

7. Tracking your steps can lead to saving money, free lunches and helping others.

In 2013 I connected my Fitbit account to the Walgreens Steps program which is connected to the Balance Rewards Loyalty program. So for every 200 steps I got 20 Balance Rewards points and with all the steps I did I racked up enough points to save some coin on several purchases.

One of my favorite early highlights of  my Fitbit experiment was my experience with Earndit. Earndit offers rewards for purchase or the option to donate your points to a worthy cause. Through the Earndit program I was able to also donate my activity points to help those in need through the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, Earndit stop doing the program in early 2013 and it no longer offers this “donate your points” option.

To be honest, the product discounts that Earndit offers for rewards are not very exciting or valuable to me, and it was much more rewarding and motivating to donate my points. I hope they bring that option back or at least some other company steps up (no pun intended) and provides this great service again, because knowing that getting steps not only keeps me healthy but it also allows me to help others in need was a great motivator.

toddlerfitbit

 

8. It’s time for a toddler Fitbit test. I let my son try on my Fitbit and now he wants his own activity tracker. I think this a great thing and it was the first step in my sub-experiment to let him wear a Fitbit for a day, or get him is own, to see how many steps he gets. I would love to do this because 1) it’d be interesting to compare his activity to mine and 2) I think building that behavior and giving him this sort of health data would be valuable for him as he gets older. Stay tuned for more on this.

The Bad and The Ugly

Okay, now for the bad parts of this Fitbit experiment.

8. They need to create a “find my fitbit” app. The one downside of the Fitbit One is that it can be easy to lose if you’re not careful. I lost it while fishing during the summer and had to buy a new one. Somewhere there’s a fish, or a frog that’s really activate now.

As activity trackers and wearable evolve in 2014 and beyond, I hope this will become less of an issue and they will figure out a way to make the trackers more integrated and easier to wear and harder to lose. Of the 450 days that I’ve had the Fitbit I’ve only lost it once. Making sure I have the device with me at all times has now become a regular habit. It would be nice, though, to have a feature where the Fitbit beeped and you could easily locate it, if you did lose it.

flex burn

9. The Fitbit Flex has some defects. Because I was enjoying my Fitbit One so much I bought my wife Colleen a Fitbit Flex for her birthday when the Flex first came out in the spring of 2013. Despite the many benefits of having the Flex, unfortunately, after only having it for 7 months, there have been several things that have made the experience concerning and disappointing.

  • First, around September, the Flex stopped holding a charge like it should. I did a quick search on the issue and found that others had the same issue. I follow these steps to see if it would work to resolve and it did. At the same time I contacted Fitbit support and they sent me a list of troubleshooting steps but the blog post was more helpful.
  • Then in late December Colleen had a nasty rash breakout on her wrist (see above). At first we thought it was a jewelry-related rash, but usually if she’s going to get one of those, the rash shows up pretty quickly and looks different. This one also seemed more like a chemical burn than an allergic reaction. So again, I took to the interwebs to see what others were experiencing and sure enough it was a known issue for others too. It even became a bigger issue as the press picked up on the rash issue but most reports focused on the Force and not the Flex-related burns.

I continued to trade emails with Fitbit support and had to answer a series of  customer feedback and trouble-shooting questions. They immediately offered a refund and replacement device. We gladly excepted and they sent Colleen a new Fitbit One.

All this said, I’m really disappointed with this whole rash situation because I’ve been a big supporter of Fitbit. To have Colleen experience the physical discomfort of the rash and know that her wrist still isn’t fully healed concerns me. I do hope Fitbit takes a good look at why this is happening and makes the necessary product improvements.

Looking Ahead…

So when I look at all the above things I’ve learned and experienced; yes, I still highly value my Fitbit and it’s a powerful tool for keeping things simple as you aim to stay or get healthy.

11. The future is exciting. As reflect on this list and I think about how my Fitbit experiment has evolved, I’m really pumped about the future. For all the issues and bad stuff I mentioned I’m still looking forward to the evolution of wearables and activity trackers, especially AIRO, a new device that tracks heart rate, nutrition and sleep in some very interesting ways.

I’m also looking forward to seeing wearbable devices like Fitbit and AIRO evolve more. We’re still in the early stages of using these devices in our lives and I believe the more we use them the better they will become.

Thanks again for following along! I’d love to hear about your Fitbit and other activity tracking experiences. Share them in the comments below.

 

Spread the love...

Why I’m Not Watching Sports For A Year

Standard

 

ESPNuninstall

 

It has begun.

I’ve officially started my “Not Watching Sports for A Year” experiment.

As you know, experiments have been at the center of Live Fix since the get-go and I’m excited to embark on this new sports-lated one throughout 2014.

I’ve been pondering this experiment for some time and always wanted to do it.

Back in November I mulled it over and decided that on January 1st I’d kick it off.

Honestly, part of me is a bit concerned about doing this.

And it’s that tugging mix of fear, anxiety and uncertainly and all the other emotions that are associated with not watching sports for a year that are fueling my curiosity to go ahead and do the experiment.

The other reason that those emotions are popping up is that, in some ways, watching sports has been therapeutic, a welcomed distraction to hard times in life, a place to take a time-out so I can tune out and give my mind a rest.

Watching sports has also been a valuable mirror that has reflected back to me important life lessons.

Watching sports has served as the backdrop and setting to many unforgettable moments where relationships got deeper and I bonded with buddies.

I can recall countless conversations with my family, friends and co-workers that are sport-related and centered around the Big Game or where live sports was the catalyst to the break the ice and got us to start talking.

And thinking about all those moments I wondered….

If sports didn’t exist, would we even have a reason to hang out and spend time together?

What else would have replaced sports as the shared event to bring us all together?

I even heard my dad say once that he associated the conception and/or birth of me and all of my siblings with a major sporting event.

That said, how important is sports to our lives?

Can we as humans simply enjoy watching sports, value it as a social connector or a healthy timeout from the craziness of life, but not get sucked into the black hole of sports obsessions and addictions?

Why Do I Watch Sports?

Besides live sports, I also enjoy watching sports documentaries, feature films and bio flicks like the Ken Burns Baseball movies, Bull Durham, Rudy, The Natural, and ESPN’s 30 For 30 series.

All of those have given me a good laugh, wisdom, inspiration, historical context and insight into how to playing or watching sports has impacted someone’s life for better or worse.

For example, I’ve watched many baseball, football or basketball games and walked away with some sort of metaphoric gem or lesson that I can use in my own life. And then watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 and learning the backstory makes the game and the lesson I learned even more valuable.

One last thing that I’m sure I’ll miss this year is watching a game through a strategic lens.

For some people, watching baseball, football, or basketball is boring, a real snooze-fest.

Sure, not every game is a nail-bitter or super entertaining. Heck, I’ve even got done watching a game and wondered if I could get the last 3 hours of my life back.

But for me, most of the time, watching a game of baseball is like playing chess. I love seeing how all the “games within a game” play out.

The strategic and behavioral side of watching live sports is probably what keeps me watching, especially when it’s not a Chicago team.

Most times I just want to see how athletes respond in pressure situations. Seeing how players, coaches, announcers and fans respond in the moments after a live win or loss provides a fascinating view into our minds and hearts.

As an added sociological bonus, social media has given us a great opportunity to really learn from these moments like never before, and I’m excited to use social media during my experiment too.

Something Is Creeping In And Taking Over

But what does concern me lately, and what is also motivating me to do this experiment, is that I’ve noticed an unhealthy mindlessness of watching sports start to creep in and take over. I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s like I’m watching sports to avoid doing something else.

And that’s when watching sports is no longer beneficial. And exploring this struggle is another reason why I want remove watching sports to see what it reveals about the “watching sports to avoid the real issue” factor.

What Have Others Been Saying So Far?

Like a lot of the other emotion-based experiments I’ve done before on live music, this is a personal discovery, an adventure to see what I learn and it’s been fun to see the initial response by some of my friends and family on Facebook.

As you see by the image above, there’s already some interesting comments coming in, and I love how all the comments say different things and present different avenues to explore. And I’m looking forward to learning from more responses and thoughts too.

What About Playing Sports?

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I’m still going to play sports because I believe that there’s still tons of value in playing sports to stay active as we’ve learned from my FitBit experiment.

I’m going to pay more attention to how my non-watching sports habits impact my playing and personal fitness habits. And I do expect to more deeply explore the balance between watching sports and playing them.

I Spent 687 Hours Watching Sports in 2013

You can’t do an experiment without crunching some numbers. You need a baseline so you know how to measure progress and get context. I did some quick math and determined that in 2013 I watched approximately 687 hours of Cubs, Hawks and Bears games.

Over six-hundred hours! This doesn’t even include how many hours I’ve spent watching other sports, other teams, or the pre-game, halftime, post game and the countless ESPN highlight shows, or the collective time I’ve spent meaninglessly scrolling through the ESPN SportCenter apps when I already know the scores ( as you can see by the picture above, that app was the first thing to go this year).

I told that 687 hours stat to my wife and she then asked, “Well, Chris, what can you do with all those hours if you’re not watching sports?” Great question. I’m going to find that out in 2014.

I’m looking forward to personally diving into more of what Eric Simmons explores in his book The Secret Lives of Sports Fans which is about why we are addicted to sports and how watching sports impacts our brains.

Of course, I’m not the first person to do something like this. A few guys who’ve done it before like this guy

But I figured I wanted to do it to see what I would learn about myself, others and the big wide world (of sports) around me.

Who knows, maybe I’ll discover that the right amount of watching sports is good for us, or not?

But what is the right amount? Is there a better or more beneficial way to watch sports? Hopefully I’ll discover answers to those questions and many others too.

What I Hope To Learn

To wrap this intro post up, here’s what I hope to walk away with 365 days from now:

  • Will not watching sports make me more productive? Will it allow me to better focus on developing my creativity, writing and things I’ve always wanted to do, or should be doing, instead of getting distracted by watching a game on TV?
  • How will not watching sports impact all the relationships in my life, friends, family and everyone in between?
  • What will it be like to write about not watching sports? Will I discover new things about myself and why I’ve watched over thousands of hours of sports on TV?
  • I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chicago sports, especially the Cubs and so what will it be like not to watch a game for an entire season? Will this ironically be the year they win the World Series? Will I then not get to watch it? Is this experiment a subconscious superstition?  It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work, right?

A Few Simple Ground Rules

Since many of you have asked, I wanted to share a few ground rules that I’ve set for this experiment.

  • No watching ANY sports on TV, internet or mobile devices, this includes football, baseball, hockey, boxing, the Olympics, etc. This also includes if I’m at a party, a restaurant or a bar and there’s a game on, I can’t watch it. I’m especially interested to see how this rule impacts the social areas of my life.
  • Instead of watching the game I’ll write about it or do something else. I will also post a blog entry here on Live Fix at least twice a month, including shorter updates on Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram. So feel free to follow along.

I appreciate you joining me on this grand adventure and I’d really enjoy hearing if you’ve done something like this or what you think of my experiment. Thanks for sharing and — Go Cubs!

Spread the love...

Cornell Students Using Physics To Predict Human Behavior, Save Lives At Rock Concerts

Standard

moshpit_simulator

I’ve got an excellent update to our ongoing experiments on concert rioting, live music fears and similar concert crisis related explorations.

According to Physics Central a group of students at Cornell University have begun to share their research about comparing concert rioting and mosh pits to the how molecules in gas behave with the plan of “using some techniques of physics to describe and maybe predict human behavior in times of crisis.”

This is really an amazing collection of research that has me thinking about a lot of other possibilities related to our previous experiments on riots, heavy metal shows and even our RIP and mourning explorations where lives were lost because of chaos as frantic crowd situations.

Here’s my favorite snippet from the article:

The project began when one student, Jesse Silverberg, took his girlfriend to a heavy metal concert. Not wanting to get involved in the mosh pit that formed in the audience–people get hurt–he stood aside and was fascinated by the motion of the crowd. The group’s movement resembled something he saw in physics classes, the disordered collisions of molecules in a gas.

Silverberg thought that might be an interesting study, and along with other students, created artificial mosh pits in a computer, using videos of rock concerts on YouTube as the template and converting the crowd into individual particles in the program using automated tracking techniques.

Bierbaum reported at the meeting that while the crowds seemed to be running around wildly, the researchers found two types of people in the patterns, subjects they called MASHERS (Mobile Active Simulated Humanoids). Some “flocked,” meaning they generally followed their neighbors. Animals flock the same way, Bierbaum said. So do fish schools. There is no bird or fish in charge. Those who stayed stationary, passive MASHERS, reacted normally when an active MASHER accidentally collided with them–they bounced–and then resumed standing still.

There’s also some very interesting and fascinating mosh pit data collected here that was used in the research along with this mosh pit simulator.

I also love it how Jessie’s desire to not want to be in the mosh pit led him to the discovery. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at mosh pits and wondered why those happen and what purpose they serve at concert beyond a physical release or just a dangerously chaotic response to how the music is making us feel during the show.

And I’m pumped to see something positive come out of moshing and know that Jessie and his fellow students have given us some great insight through the lens of physics that could really make a major impact on the lives of concert fans.

Lastly, this makes me wonder about what other parts of the concert experience can be better understood by looking at other areas of life or scientific disciplines to find solutions to problems?

If we can compare mosh pits to gas molecules to make concerts safer, what other examples and comparisons can we find to enhance, improve and better understand the concert experience?

Like I said, this is great stuff and we’ll certainly continue to follow this story and share more updates as we dive deeper into the data and uncover more awesomeness.

That’s it for now. Let us know what you think of this study in the comments below and stay tuned for more as we continue to explore this story and have the Cornell students share more about their research and favorite concert experiences on a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

Spread the love...

Fitbit Experiment Part 3: Why You Need Fitbit Buddies

arizona fitbit ultra one steps self-tracking quantified self
Standard

arizona fitbit ultra one steps self-tracking quantified self

 

This Fitbit experiment has lots of fun and challenging! I’ve been learning a lot about the importance of community in this self-tracking adventure and how to work through failure even when I’ve supposedly set realistic goals.

So let’s jump right in! On this update I’ll share:

1) why it’s important to have Fitbit buddies

2) my latest Fitbit stepping journeys on the trails in Sedona, Arizona

3) my transition from the Ultra to the One tracker and how Fitbit’s support team got a gold star

 

What I’ve Learned From My Fitbit Buddies

Okay, as I mentioned in my last update,  I’ve seen a big benefit in having other people who I interact with on a daily basis also tracking their steps.

And I didn’t expect that my first post would inspire my friend Brittany to get a Fitbit One. But it did and since then we’ve had a lot of great discussions about our experiences.

During our chats Brittany shared a tip with me that’s helped her in the early stages of her own Fitbit step challenge.

For example, each day she tries to walk 100 more steps than she did the previous day. This is a great gradual approach to creating a new behavior, instead of trying to walk 10K steps a day right away.

And I’ve actually incorporated this approach into my own challenge and it’s been working great.

My daily average steps is right around 7,000 steps with the weekends  being when I usually get over 10,000 steps because I’m doing more running and activity around the house or I’m out and about with family and friends.

So my focus has been to look at my activity during the week and see where I can gradually add more steps and not sit too much or miss a morning or evening walk because I’m too tired or unmotivated.

Speaking of motivation, I’ll also be honest and tell you that having friends like Brittany to share experiences with has been a huge factor in keeping on track and not getting discouraged if I don’t hit my daily goal.

The other bonus of having a Fitbit buddy is that my competitive nature has turned out to keep me healthy because I get motivated to make sure that I get more steps than Brittany.

It’s a friendly competition and Brittany’s excitement has inspired and challenged me many times these pasts couple months.

That said, as of this post, Brittany has now been averaging 10K steps a day, and even better, my friend Jennifer has also been doing a great job at increasing her steps, and she is also averaging more steps than me for the last several weeks.

Which brings me to my biggest learning moment yet.

Arizona Was Awesome But…

bell rock arizona sedona fitbit quantified_self

 

The last week of February I went to Arizona on vacation and I averaged 11,000 steps a day and had the chance to run on some really sweet trails like the one above.

Of course, we did a lot of sight-seeing, including an amazing hike up Bell Rock Trail in Sedona. It was Calvin’s first trail hike and it was tons of fun as we all made our way up the trail and then cruised back down again.

We were out and about for most of our 8-day trip so that really helped in getting above the 10k mark each day.

But when I returned to work and the daily flow of my job, I really struggled to hit my pre-vacation average of 8,000 a day.

I came back to a crazy work load and found myself in a lot of meetings and having to get caught up by sitting at my desk more than usual.

And ever since it’s been a really struggle to get back on track, especially with the cold weather in Chicago.

So When The Stepping Gets Tough…

…you rely on your Fitbit buddies.

Yes, that’s right. At several points during my experiment it’s been tough.

But the one thing that has been a huge help and critical to keeping me going and getting back on track has been my Fitbit buddies Brittany and Jennifer.

Everyday since I’ve been back from Arizona I’ve looked at the Fitbit leader boards and seen myself at the bottom of the weekly average.  And in a weird way this has motivated me to get back to where I was before my trip to Arizona.

Besides that, it’s also been inspiring to see both Brittany and Jennifer take off and increase their daily averages.

And in my conversations with Brittany she’s shared some interesting, creative and entertaining details about how she’s raised her daily average.

She explained to me that on certain days she has nightly Fitbit stepping challenges with her boyfriend Brad as they walk around their apartment trying to out step each other.

I loved hearing at that story from Brittany because it’s both entertaining and encouraging to think when we share our Fitbit experiences with others and the benefits self-tracking have the power to inspired others to create that sort of positive and fun behavior change. And I’m looking forward to experiencing that with Colleen too. More on that in a moment.

What’s Better Than Competition…?

But one thing that I love the most about learning more about Brittany and Brad’s experience is that it’s not really about competition. In the end, for me, it’s about creating and fostering community.

Having a mini Fitbit buddy community like the one I have with Brittany and Jennifer and the other Fitbit users is such a game-changer. And unfortunately, so many people try to do something like this by themselves and it doesn’t last or they don’t get a much out of it as they could.

dashboard

 

 

And one of the other things I like about the Fitbit user experience is that they make it easy to quickly challenge or encourage each other with the “cheer”, “taught” or message.”

All of those functions are in good fun and have been things I both given and received during my experience and it’s been a blast doing so!

And in case you aren’t convince yet, here’s some research data from experiencelife.com

A 2011 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that the exercise habits of people you know have a positive influence on your exercise habits.

Another study, from the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University, surveyed married couples who joined health clubs together and found that couples who worked out separately had a 43 percent dropout rate over the course of a year. Those who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they focused on the same type of exercise, had only a 6.3 percent dropout rate.

So if you’re thinking of starting to do self-tracking or trying a similar Fitbit or other fitness personal challenge, I highly encourage you to find someone you know and ask them to join you in your quest.

This is probably one of the most important things you can do when you’re starting out with self-tracking or trying to develop a new behavior to stay healthy.

If you can’t find someone you know, you can always check out the Fitbit community. And just a quick note for those of you who primarily use the mobile app: You can only connect with the Fitbit community groups on the website login on the main navigation.

fitbit_community_quantified_self

 

Giving Props To Fitbit Support, Upgrading To The One Tracker

I started this experiment with the Fitbit Ultra and in my first post I mentioned that one week later they discountined the Ultra and unveiled the One.

So over the last several weeks, I was having some issues with my Ultra. It wasn’t tracking or syncing properly.  I did all the necessary software updates and re-syncing but the issues still remained.

fitbitboxfinal2

During this process I emailed back and forth with Fitbit support and explained my situation and after I told them I had tried all the trouble-shooting suggestions, they very kindly sent me a new Fitbit One as a replacement.

And I’d like to give big props to Fitbit and their support team for the great customer service. They were helpful and responded quickly in a way that took care of the problem and didn’t put a damper on our experiment.

The One tracker arrived on Friday, and for the last few days I’ve been using the One and I love it! And I’ll be sure to share more about my One experience.  I also ordered the new Flex for Colleen. The Flex doesn’t ship until the Spring and I’m looking forward to sharing some of her experiences too.

That’s it for this update. And stay tuned for the next update as I share some stories about what I’ve learned about earndit and Walgreens newly revamped Steps program.

Now It’s Your Turn To Step Up And Chime In

I need more Fitbit buddies, and I’d love to hear more about your experiences too.  Now, tell me how you’ve been using Fitbit to change your life.

Spread the love...

My Fitbit Experiment Part 2: Why It’s Been Worth Every Single Step

Standard

livefix_path

Alright, it’s time for an update on our ongoing Fitbit experiment!

First, I’d like to share with you some interesting health tracking data from Pew research that supports the benefits of what I’m aiming for with my Fitbit exploration.

According to Pew Research here are three very telling and affirming percentages as to “Why do people go to the trouble of tracking health data, for themselves or for someone they care for?”:

  • 46% of trackers say that this activity has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care.
  • 40% of trackers say it has led them to ask a doctor new questions or to get a second opinion from another doctor.
  • 34% of trackers say it has affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.

 

pew_research_hhealth_trackers_fitbit

You’ll also notice, by taking a look at the image above, that when it comes to health apps  38% of those surveyed are using an app to specifically self-track their steps and daily activity.

Without a doubt, the Fitbit mobile app has played a pivotal role in my experiment and we’ll explore more details on a future post about how I’ve used the Fitbit app to stay on track and discover more important insights by comparing the calories I’m consuming and burning against my daily activity data.

Has It Been Worth The Trouble?

Now, I’d like to share with you an update on how my 10K steps a day challenge is going and a explore a few big reasons why I believe tracking my daily steps and activity has certainly been worth the trouble.

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t hit the 10k steps a day mark that I wanted to. It’s been a bigger challenge than I thought.

Also, living in Chicago has turned out to be a challenge since the average daily temperature has been between 8-25 degrees these last two months (brrrrr).

This weather obstacle has been a challenge because it’s made it harder to go on my morning or nightly walks when I know that my walks are going to be pretty frigid journeys.

Cold weather or not, I knew that the 10k a day mark would be hard and I told myself that if couldn’t hit my daily goal I would still do the best I can and continue to learn from the process.

And that I have as I passed the million step mark in January with a current total of 1,149,224 total steps since I began my experiment in September.

For the most part I’ve been working on the concept of just “showing up” and trying not think about how cold it is and just get bundled up and head out knowing that once I get walking or running I’ll be just fine.

So that practice has helped to develop some much needed discipline and get my mental and physical sides working together in the way they should.

live fix_step up start

 

In January I also continued my yearly stair climbing adventure and participated in the Step Up for the Kids as I voyaged up 80 floors in under 20 minutes, and as I’ve mentioned so far, I kept focused by getting in to a rhythm and taking things one step at a time.

Profound Benefits

I’ve also experienced a significant and almost a profound mental and emotional benefit as a result of tracking my steps and activity data.

I’ve learned how to set realistic expectations while I adjust to being a new dad.  Tracking my steps and daily activities has empowered me to create and integrate new smaller workouts and other healthy activities into my day, as opposed to my usual workout routine I had before my son Calvin was born.

To that end, I’ve really learned, and at times struggled with the fact, that I can’t always workout in the same way or as long as I used to, but because of this Fitbit experiment I am making progress in adapting and discovering new ways to measure my daily activity and achieve the same and new health goals in a different way.

Stepping SMART: Little Wins Are Big Wins

I can’t say it enough that at this point in my life how much the shorter more focused and goal-oriented workouts are proving to be very important because having small wins and seeing those small wins as big wins is a crucial element to making sure that I keep things realistic and rewarding.

And whether it’s going a for short 15 minute walk, getting in 20 minutes of situps and pushups or going out for a long 6 mile run on the weekends, what I’ve come to realize is that whatever little thing I can do is important and keeps me moving forward.

I’m two months into this Fitbit experiment I can honestly say that using Fitbit has empowered me to create daily and monthly SMART goals that are realistic, measurable and attainable.

Instead of looking to achieve the big goal, and at times unattainable goal of 10k steps every day of the week, I’ve been reminded of the value of creating smaller more attainable goals and building on little wins to achieve the larger goal over time. This had helped me lower my levels of discouragement and avoid completely stopping or doing nothing at all.

That said, by breaking down each day to see where I can improve my activity and focus my energy on improve a simple step number goal had been one of the biggest wins and greatest benefits thus far.

livefix_step_fitbit

Fitbit & Fatherhood

On that note, this “little wins are big wins” approach has been very helpful because I’ve realized more and more it’s all about setting realistic expectations for myself and my fitness goals as I journey through the early stages of fatherhood.

And the surprising thing is that I didn’t expect this Fitbit experiment to teach me new lessons about fatherhood and what it means to be a dad that’s emotionally, mentally and physically balanced. But that’s exactly what’s happened.

This experiment has brought me to a new level of awareness in many areas of my life that I didn’t have before.

While I get my steps during my morning and evening walks, or while I’m walking with Calvin around the house, I’m thinking more about my life and reflecting on what 10k steps really means to me and how this experiment has influenced my relationship with Calvin. And I’m really enjoying the spiritual and relational benefits of this reflective process.

For me, it’s more than just racking up a bunch of steps. It’s about the  experiences I’ve had when I’m getting all those steps and that in turn those experiences have inspired and motivated me to get stepping when I don’t want to.

And writing about my experiences has even further allowed me to realize how much my life is being impacted by this experiment so I encourage you to also do some type of journaling to allow you to learn from your step challenge too.

Coming Up Next…

Yes, I’m still going to aim for the 10,000 steps a day but my approach will change not that I’ve learned from my friend Brittany who’s come up with a creative approach to improving her daily step goal.

And on the next update I’ll share more about what Brittany’s own Fitbit experience has taught me and how having a Fitbit buddy has helped keep me motivated and inspired as I shoot for my goals.

The Earndit rewards part of this exploration has been going well too and I’ll share more about that later as well.

As winter rolls on and spring quickly approaches (hopefully) I’m also looking forward to the new Fitbit Flex that has a lot of great new features, so I can upgrade from my current Fitbit Ultra and keep stepping up my game.

What Have You Learned?

Until next time check out the beginning of our Fitbit exploration and let me know what you have learned and if you’ve started your own Fitbit experiment.

Spread the love...