Why Running a Half Marathon is a Great Career Analogy

November 9, 2009 3 comments

Gynecologic Cancer Foundation RaceOkay. It’s finished. The 13.1 mile race that was dominating the anxiety-driven portion of my brain is over. And it was awesome. Well. Before I completely glorify the experience, I have to say that it was extremely tough. Anyone that runs, or has attempted to run knows that distance is the one thing you can’t really prepare yourself mentally for. Your thighs may be ready, but your head is not. (Sometimes it even works the other way around.) Either way, running is an intense sport. It pins you against yourself in a way that I believe is unmatched.

The race took us in three loops, which was mentally very difficult. As the top, elite runners were finishing, I was beginning my second lap. It was definitely not easy. I finished in a time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.

There are a few observations about this race that I simply have to share:

1) I found it extremely beautiful to run past the Capital the day after the healthcare debate. I am a strong proponent of public option healthcare, and even though I don’t believe that the current plan is perfect, I was happy that the dialogue was thriving. It was especially powerful to run past it for a cause like Gynecologic Cancer, whose treatment has been repeatedly denied by insurance companies.

2) Your positive attitude is really the key to nearly everything. Cliche, I know. But it is the truth. At mile 9, my husband left me to speed up, and I kept on trucking at my 10 minute mile pace, for the last 5 miles by myself. And I smiled through almost all of it. I even laughed at mile 12, when a group of spectators began singing “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky.

3) People in life are really willing to do things for other people. Human capital is absolutely amazing. People cheering on the sidelines, people handing out Powerade and water, people waiting at the finish. They all were there to lend a smile at 7 AM on a Sunday morning.

4) There is something about completing something – start to the very last second of the finish – that is 100% inspiring and beautiful. It was beautiful to do it, and it was beautiful to watch so many different others do it too.

Okay, okay. Now I know that races are easy to write poetry about – but most of the weekend I was miserable. I was anxious and upset, I was imagining injury that I didn’t have (everything from appendicitis to a broken leg), and I barely slept the night before. I couldn’t bring my attitude to the level of belief in myself.

This reminds me of the ways in which I have been approaching my career, and why this blog, Brazen Careerist, and many other things have re-inspired me in ways I never thought possible. That race was the single greatest physical achievement I have done to date. And there is no way for someone else to take credit. No boss leaning over me telling me that it was their work. No negative comments from spectators. Pure adrenaline and living in the moment.

Could I really live my life and job the way I lived my half marathon? Not every second of every day, but maybe in some respects.

Maybe I wouldn’t have the deeply rooted joy that I felt throughout the race, but I would recognize that I can do it if I want to – if I try – and ultimately, that I can make it happen on my own.

After my husband left at mile 9, I was a bit scared. I had no I-pod (I don’t run with it normally, and wound up losing it in the porta-potty at the race) and now no one to run next to. It wound up being good. He didn’t hurt his knee by forcing himself to go at my pace, and I found my rhythm, and he was even there with time to spare to videotape my finish.

In life, a career is kind of like a half marathon in the sense that at the end of the day, you can take credit for all that is yours – and there’s no need to look around you to know what it is you have and haven’t done. There are benchmarks and ideals, but you set them for yourself.

I ran a 15 minute mile in highschool and throughout college. I was teased constantly in gym class because I was one of those skinny girls that was weak – physically and mentally (Or so they thought!)

So I encourage everyone reading this to go out and run – or even walk – a mile. See what you learn, in however long an amount of time it takes for you to learn it.

 

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Categories: Challenges, Running

WWGD?

November 6, 2009 4 comments

What Would Google Do CoverNow, I know I am not even done with the book yet – but I could not resist writing about it. Jeff Jarvis’ new book What Would Google Do? is really awesome, and I must say that I am relatively new to the tech/career/social media book genre. And I am really loving it!

I got this book because one of the women at work read it. She found it so great that she had the office manager order 3 copies of it for the office. All of the books we have here are the environmental ones – so to have one that was about something different was extremely awesome. I had just decided to review more and more books on here, so I stalked the OM until she gave me the first copy out of the box from Amazon.

I must say, I am tempted to hold onto it and not give it back. Jarvis is a long-time blogger, and a tech/media/web guy that really knows his material. His writing is straight forward and concrete, and really made me amazed at how many people were using the internet for cool things – well before everyone else. He explains how he wrote a blog post about the bad customer service he received at Dell (which, yep, I have a Dell Latitude story I could tell myself) – and the blog post found its way all the way to the top of the company’s chain.

Many people responded to Jarvis and his frustration about customer service, and in turn, Dell responded. This is how the book opens – and it definitely had me hooked. So far, (I am only at page 47) Jarvis has focused on the ways in which we have to work with and not against the almighty Google. I didn’t realize until I had begun reading how much volume of web content Google controls. It was truly insane.

The idea of working within this framework may make some uneasy (“I am giving in to the corporate line!”) but I was actually encouraged by his point. Google has done things no other company has, and as a result, we are an innovative and knowledge seeking society.

You’re right – not all of us. We all don’t love the idea of a widespread knowledge base, and we all don’t have equal access to it. I also believe that everything I have ever done and said should not be Google searchable. I will reserve those moments for my husband to make fun of how annoying I am being, or for family members to have to deal with me.

As a nonprofit worker, I am constantly trying to think of the ways in which technology shapes our relationships to other humans. For the family in Southern Mozambique trying to get their dial-up to work, the world of Google is not as transparent. What type of world would it be like if it was?

I am waiting to see if Jarvis addresses these types of issues, and even if he doesn’t, he has certainly opened the door for me to think about them.

Ultimately, we watch to see what Google will do, and follow suit. How can we use Google – and befriend it – to better those in the world without such access?

Looking forward to the next couple of hundred pages.

 

 

A Healthier World

November 5, 2009 1 comment

The health care debate is usually an issue I stay away from in my blogging. It is ultimately extremely complex, and such a complicated and politically charged area of policy that it is hard to cover in my mere contribution to the blog world.

In the New York Times preview of its Magazine, which usually appears on Thursdays, the Times covered a hospital called Intermountain in Utah. The hospital itself is one that has implemented a system of set protocol to administer care, as opposed to relying solely on a doctor’s “intuition.”

Wait! Before you scream at me! I love doctor’s intuition. My mother is in Oncology, and I have always relied on her intuition about things – and not just because of the fact that she is my mom. A doctor’s ability to diagnose and remedy a situation is paramount, and many patients blindly follow physician advice.

At Intermountain, the goal is to utilize well-researched and documented illnesses to learn about what the most cost-effective and low-risk treatments are for patients. The intuition plays a role – but the role of statistics is also there.

Normally, I wouldn’t really agree with statistics over a person’s particular view. But I have had a biased experience.

In May of this year, I developed really awful bronchitis. I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t touch my chest because the pain was so bad. I had health insurance through work, but had never set up a primary care doctor in Manhattan – the land of 4 month waiting periods for appointments. So I opted for the Beth Israel D.O.C.S. clinic on 34th Street, where doctors can see you (briefly) and write you a script as a walk-in patient.

The doctor didn’t do a xray, and sent me away with a prescription for an antibiotic. I had an upper respiratory infection. (DUH). So I take my first dose, and I get so sick that I wind up almost on the floor of the Time Warner Center Borders Books trying to call him to give me something else. He finally agrees, and I take it for 10 days, and go back to my running, my moving out of New York, my life.

Fast forward to mid-June. I am freshly new to DC, and am full-on into the job hunt. All of a sudden I feel really tired. So I decided to make the same mistake twice, and go to an urgent care center near my parent’s house. They decide they want an x-ray (Imagine!) and – ack! – the doctor calmly tells me she sees “a little somethin'” and I should probably go to the ER to check it out. You know. To be safe.

TEARS! What?! I was just going in there for another quick and easy prescription fix!

We get to the ER (the husband, the mom, and me.) and we wait. And we wait. And all of a sudden there is a needle. And a cat-scan with some weird dye. And then this woman comes in and sits down. She calmly explains that “you have a blood clot in your lung. And if you leave here, you will die.”

TEARS! Okay, there was also some cursing, and another radar x-ray of my legs, and then some overnight admission to the hospital, and 2 injections of blood thinners into my stomach.

Fast forward to 3PM the following day, when they finally get the actual lung doctor to see me. He comes in, takes two seconds look at my scan, and says “What are they talking about? This isn’t a blood clot. It’s bad pneumonia. Looks like that wasn’t bronchitis after all.” He wrote me a script for heavy medicine, and I was better within a week.

Phew. My wrists actually hurt from typing all of that. Are you still with me?

Basically, my tale of woe relates back to intuition for the following reason: The woman in the ER saw my x-ray, and knew I had a risk factor (birth control) and assumed blood clot. She could have gotten sued if I had gone home and died. Her intuition was more focused on not getting sued, than on simply bringing in a lung specialist in the first place, and getting a correct answer.

I was left with: A large bill (thankfully covered by insurance), PTSD from the entire thing, and a complete distrust of the healthcare system. Not to mention the fact that all day I took up space in a room that could have gone to someone who really needed it.

Intermountain is controversial in its approach, and it is not the only answer to our woes. But we must rethink healthcare in this country. We spend so much, and gain a fear of cost – rather than a desire to do what is best for ourselves in the long-term.

I welcome comments on this issue – it is one I am just starting to learn more about, and I would love to hear from some experts.

Categories: Challenges, Economics, Politics

By The People.

November 5, 2009 2 comments

GERMANY-US-VOTE-OBAMA-SPEECH Yesterday I wrote a post all about the obstacles that are pressed right up against Mr. Barack Obama. I proudly voted for Barack, and followed his campaign religiously. I had a pin, my cell phone background was his face, and I prayed that he would win.

On Election Day, I went in the early morning to my district to vote. I lived in one of the poorest census tracts in Manhattan. (Spanish Harlem, to be specific). The voting booths were in the local middle school, and I was surrounded by many different people voting. African-American, Latino, Chinese, it was the typical and inspiring New York melting pot.

It was an amazing feeling to vote for Barack, and ultimately, to be a part of the historic election process. As my husband and I watched the results, I couldn’t help but think how similar our kids would be to him. They would be born of a white mother, and an African father. Of course, the differences abound, but ultimately, our children will find something inspiring in him. They will see a narrative like theirs and feel good.

Why the sudden talk again about B.O.’s legacy? Last night, we watched the HBO documentary “By The People: The Election of Barack Obama.” It took a look at the young people, the old people, and the many people who pushed him forward. They were behind the scenes at the DNC, at Obama’s house in Chicago (We actually get to see how freaking cute the kids are — up close!), and on election night, their film crew stood with David Axelrod and others as they watched history be made.

Part of it is political – in the sense that you see what types of adjustments throughout a campaign need to be made. But most of it is emotional. You see Barack crying at a speech the day before Election Day (the day he lost his grandmother), you see him delivering the speech on Race, and his post-speech calm.

Mostly, you see young people in Generation Y, begging and pleading to see something good. You see a 24-year-old speech writer crafting some of the most emotional words ever spoken. And you see young college kids – raised by immigrants, and 100% American – doing dances on the side of the road to support Obama’s Iowa Caucus.

The historic campaign and the historic win seems like old news to those of us caught up in the media hustle. It was a reality check for me to watch the scenes unfold as if it were the first time. To hear those being contrarian say that America just “isn’t ready for a black president.”

I am happy, Mr. President that I voted for you – but moreover I am proud to be a part of the generation that helped you win. We organized online and in person, and we were not lazy. We believed.

Categories: Politics, World Issues

Can We?

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

obamaToday is just one of them days. Remember that song, by Monica in the mid-90’s? If you’re a girl I bet you do. Today is one of those days where I got to work and felt like I had just swallowed mud. Like if all of the computers suddenly crashed and the internet failed and I could go home, I would celebrate.

We can’t always be happy with our jobs. Or our world. Today I also woke up to the news that gay marriage has been deemed illegal in Maine, two Republicans have taken back Democratic seats, and all the media seems to want to talk about is whether Obama’s “charm” has worn off. It seems like the world is calling for me to be in a bad mood.

What do these large political decisions and ramifications have to do with work? Not a lot, at least in the more immediate sense. But in the American sense, I find a lot of tangible connections.

1) At many nonprofits, the bottom line has become a major concern. We are a nonprofits by name and tax status, yes, but ultimately, the vibe has become to answer to whoever holds the funds. Some programs have become slaves to foundation dollars. What happened to hoping?

2) There is less of an emphasis on team building or personal connections, and more of a “let’s get it done” mentality.

3) Many believe that those in senior positions always know best.

One thing I have learned from blogging is that  it is important to express when one feels like their work environment is just oblivious to the role it plays in the lives of those that work there.  What about the simple act of caring for one another? Has this really been swallowed up?

The New York Times ran an article this morning on the ramifications of office gossip. What does this say about our society as a whole?

I am working hard to recognize the good and bad in everything – and ultimately, this means putting up with annoying things at work.

How do we make work a little more personal, and ultimately, should we?

 

Categories: Career, Challenges

Profit Vs. Pollution?

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Alternative EnergyI work for a nonprofit that deals in climate change and environmental issues. The organization  almost always walk the fine line between trying to do something positive, and doing something in its’ own self-interest. Can it ever be both?

Today, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Gore’s Dual Role: Advocate & Investor.” It essentially looked at the crucial role that Al Gore has played in the introduction of green issues, as well as the entire climate change debate, into a more centralized realm.

Essentially, after leaving office and participating in many different environmental activities (founding his own nonprofit, producing An Inconvenient Truth, and many more) Gore has become the public political face of the Environmental Movement in the U.S. He has taken a lot of criticism for this from the right, but ultimately remains a fairly respected figure.

He has, as the article explains, also invested heavily in alternative energy companies, as well as venture capital firms that are awarded government funds for “Green Jobs” grants. Many have felt like this is Gore’s attempt to profit from the very climate change legislation he hopes to help pass through Congress.

In response, Gore explains that he is simply following up with his money what he has already done with his beliefs. He is taking an investor risk now where he took a political one before. Even though he may profit, he is profiting with something that is actually eliminating environmental harm and degradation, as well as leading the U.S. towards a more self-sustaining energy future.

Now, I know that I actually really liked the idea behind this article – because it is important to address the links between private and public sectors. But in personal belief, I am siding with Gore. It is his right as a private citizen to invest, and to invest smartly. Any average citizen that invests in alternative energy at this juncture is most certainly set to make financial profit – and this is something positive that should be celebrated.

Of course he has advantages as a public figure, but I like to see famous people doing good things with their money and their time.

Well done, Al.

Categories: Challenges, Environment

Daddy, I Want My First Credit Card!

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Ah, yes. The ultimate request from someone looking to start their own spending. I myself didn’t receive a credit card for my own use until I was in college, and even then, I could not escape parental wrath. They were seeing and receiving statements, and therefore knew exactly what type of spending problems I could get away with.

At first, I used it sparingly – staring at it like some sort of H1N1 flu carrying entity in my wallet – right alongside my NYU ID Card and my license. Then, it became amazing. Did you know that you can have sushi every night of the week? Did you know that you can pay someone to bring you toilet paper from around the corner at the deli?

In New York,  it is all possible. At the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a formative money experience. I went to the ATM machine at the local market, and when my receipt came, I peered over the edge of the paper – afraid at what I would see. There was something I had never seen before: zero was the balance. Not $10, or even a more respectable $100. Zero. But it had given me the money anyways! I was so confused.

Being the Einstein that I was at the time, I called my  mother frantic.

The conversation went like this:

Me: What does it MEAN when it says you have zero??!

Mom: WHAT?!

Me: I took out 20 dollars and it gave me a zero balance. Did I have exactly $20 in my account?!?!

Mom: IT MEANS IT’S OVERDRAFT! I JUST GAVE YOU MONEY! THIS IS INSANE! WHAT DID YOU SPEND IT ON!?!

Me: Bad static, gotta go.

….in any case, it was bad news. It was the first time I realized the following 2 lessons:

1) It is better for banks and credit card companies (for the most part – bankruptcy not withstanding) when you tend to spend more than you have. This means you will incur a fee. A fee that when paid, goes directly into the profit pile.

2) Unless you have a lot of money, a job usually is required.

The second part may seem like DUH do you – but really, my 19-year-old head was just not caring about those things. I had gotten into my favorite school, was out every day in my favorite city, and those pesky things called “bills” simply weren’t on my plate.

Little did I know that my college was paid for all in loans that we are now paying back, and the money that my parents gave me at the time came out of whatever money my mom worked 60 hours per week to make.

Allow me, blog readers, to make a point – I know that I sound like a spoiled brat. And I was. I wasn’t caring about consequence, and I was trying to live the life that my rich Long Island friends could live that I could not.

My mother has a great job – a job that puts her in a bracket among many people. But she definitely couldn’t afford to pay for my irresponsibility.

Now, I know some of you must be saying – “But it was college! We were all dumb!” It’s definitely true. But those lessons really made me learn the accountability and control and freedom that can come from making your own money. No, it is not as fun. No, it is not as much. Yes, I struggle every month to pay my bills on my nonprofit salary – but that day was the last day I ever took money from my parents without realizing what it meant.

I got a job babysitting, began interning, and volunteered at a homeless shelter – a decision that ultimately led me to the nonprofit sector.

Today as we watch many people who took mortgages they couldn’t afford, had credit card bills they couldn’t pay, and even more debt accumulate around us, I think back to that day. There are times when I am stretched very thin, but I have become an anti-borrower. I hate lending, even when people classify it as “good debt.” It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

As I grow and learn more in this industry, and ultimately, in this global culture, my relationship with money is ever-changing.

So, thanks Mom & Dad. I really liked the Sushi, but I am becoming a better cook. Lessons learned.