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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Paul Tevis

Entries in things i have learned (121)


Every Day is New Year's Day

I’m going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
Gonna pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I’ll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I’ll get up and do it again
Say it again

Jackson Browne, “The Pretender”

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Last year I linked to Scott Berkun’s article on why we’re so bad at keeping them and how to make better ones. This year, I noticed Alistair Cockburn’s Post-hoc New Year’s resolutions, and I thought it was fabulous. And I find it strange that we often wait for a special occasion, like the changing of the numbers on the calendar, to try to make change in our lives, when we have the opportunity to do it whenever we want.

So I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I’ve got things I want to accomplish in 2012. The way I’m going to get there, though, is by making Today’s resolutions, and This Week’s resolutions. I don’t live my life a year at a time, so I don’t like trying to make resolutions at that scale. I’m going to pick the things that I need to do now, and do those every day until I need to do something different. When will that happen? Maybe a year, maybe less; I’ll know when I get there.

I understand the symbolism of New Year’s resolutions, and I understand the importance of symbolic resolutions to help inspire you. More important, though, are resolutions that help you do the hard work, day after day, that get you to your goal. And those can happen any day of the week.


Thank You

Two things have come into focus for me today:

  1. I had a great 2011.
  2. Many people I hold dear did not.

If you’ve been reading this at all, you probably have a good idea of some of the things that contributed to #1. I could not have done any of those without the love, support, inspiration, and encouragement of almost everyone I interacted with this year. Thank you all for that; I realize how truly fortunate I am to be in the place I am now.

I know that not everyone has been so lucky. This year I’ve witnessed friends and family — both close and not-as- — deal with professional setbacks, health problems, the ends of relationships, and the deaths of loved ones, and my heart has hurt along with them. To everyone, I offer the same love, support, inspiration, and encouragement people have shown me over the last year.

Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Let’s prepare for 2012’s opportunities and see what we can do with them.


Life Moves Pretty Fast

For our last Fourth Friday Challenge (which got moved to the fifth Friday of December, but that’s neither here nor there), Becky asks:

You’re in a good and growing space right now. With your gentleness and wisdom, write a letter of love and advice to a past self, a self in need. Perhaps age 14? Or 20? Or … ?

Dear Fourteen-year-old me,

The next year is going to be pretty crazy, so hang on.

Your first year of high school is going to be a roller-coaster of emotion, but you’ll be better for it. You’ll get terribly angry with your best friend about a girl, but the two of you will become closer as a result and you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. You’ll finally start to have meaningful social interactions, which will set you on the path to eventually (a decade later) figuring out that you’re not actually an introvert. You’ll get to be a precocious freshman, which will have both good and bad parts, but the former will outweigh the latter.

Then, about halfway through the year, you’ll find out that you’re moving to a new city, a process that will uproot you from these new-found and long-term connections. You won’t try as hard to make new one as you should, but I can hardly blame you. Maybe it’s because you know you’ll only be there for three years before you go off to college. Still, knowing what I know now, it would have been a better idea to take some risks. Stick with the cross-country team for more than a year. Go to some parties. Ask the girl out. (And the other one. And the other, other one.) Keep focus in your senior year and finish high school strong.

Regardless, things turn out pretty well. Four years from now you’re going to meet this funny, smart, beautiful strawberry blonde. Seven years from now you’re going to ask her to marry you and she’s going to demonstrate an inexplicable lapse in judgement by saying yes. Things are going to be crazy for a little bit yet; from my vantage point the benefits beat the costs. And more than anything, it’s the next year when you really start to figure out who we are. I know that you’ll pay attention to it; I remember that. Somewhere between your now and my now you’ll forget to do that as much as you should, but we’ll get it back.

Enjoy the ride. I’ll be waiting when you get here.

—Thirty-three-year-old me


Becoming More Flexible Means Moving Differently

A few weeks ago, my friend Judd sent me an article about Kelly Starrett, a Crossfit trainer in San Francisco who is very serious about injury prevention and recovery. He’s made a name for himself as the Mobility Guy. That’s his word; most people would call it stretching, but it’s clear that to him it’s more than that, and his approach fascinates me. Another article Judd sent me has links to double handful of YouTube videos of his mobility workouts that are especially useful to runner, and in one of the last ones, he lays out his priorities, in decreasing order of importance: joint positioning, motor control, muscle stiffness, and then overall length. When most people talk about stretching to prevent injury, they’re really only thinking about the last one. Kelly’s strategy eventually gets around to that, but it’s much more about breaking down the muscle tissues that lock you into the limited-range-of-motion movements that will cause you injury.

That notion of breaking things down and building them back up has been following me around lately. I realized at some point this fall that the reason the running workout schedule I’ve been following has three consecutive days of running in the middle of the week is to force my muscles gently beyond the breakdown point on the third day, so that my body builds them back up stronger, faster, better. Reading Born To Run got me thinking about the whole barefoot running thing. Some of the arguments in that book about how modern running shoes actually keep people from learning how to run in a way that prevents injury are pretty compelling. As Christopher McDougall puts it in an article on his website “[U]ltimately, the debate isn’t about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It’s about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please.” That evntually lead me to look at the Vibram FiveFingers website, where I found their guide to how to transition to running in their minimalist shoes.

What all of these these stress is the importance of proceeding slowly and listening to your body as you learn how to move (and be) better. That’s been a major theme of 2011 for me. I know that I’ve done a lot of things wrong for a while, and I know I’ve needed to make changes. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got Yoda leaning over my shoulder, whispering “You must unlearn what you have learned.” But I’ve come to realize that as long as I’m mindful of the feedback my body is giving me, I can unlearn a lot.


It's Not Always Easy... And That's Ok

Today contained at least two reminders that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

I’m in between running training programs right now. I’ve got about five weeks to bridge before the training cycle for the next race begins. I can’t just take that whole time off, because I need to be running fifteen to twenty miles a week when I start that next set of workouts. The problem is that I always have a hard time going out for a long run when it’s not part of a training program for a particular race. When I’m in a program, I know that there could be consequences for not getting out there. When I’m not, I’m a lot more casual about it. That’s one thing that made going for a run today harder.

The other thing that made it harder was that I felt like crap. I was really low-energy, because of a number of things — not sleeping well last night, going for a fast run last time out, doing my long run on one day of rest instead of two, and not going for a long run last weekend (among others). As a result, it was an eight-mile slog. Fortunately, I’ve developed enough grit that I can keep running through that, partly by fooling myself and saying I won’t walk yet but I will walk later, partly by telling myself that I shouldn’t be afraid of hard work. That how I got through this morning’s run.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered it was actually faster than the last long training run I’d done before the race. The one I felt great on. Yeah.

As I said when I got back, I’m not developing the ability to feel great on all my runs. I’m developing the ability to go faster while not feeling any worse. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

(The other reminder of that was writing this post, which I took three running leaps at before I was finally able to figure out what I was trying to say. And like that run, it may not have been great, but it’s what I needed to do.)