Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It is okay to be wrong.

We sure like to play the blame game. It's not our fault, it is that other person, that other group. The reality is usually more of a two way street. Often mistakes have been made on both sides. 

It is okay to be wrong. We all make mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes. And I feel owning up to my own mistakes is the right thing to do. How can I blame someone for something if I had the ability to avoid to problem in the first place and I didn't? It's okay to screw up and waste time, everyone does. If you were perfect, you wouldn't be where you are. We have forgiveness and we often can right the wrongs with a little more time and effort. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Low Stress Job

I would not say I have a low stress job. Not at all. Today I left my apartment at 4:45 AM and had a very full day before leaving the factory at 4:45 PM and getting home around 6 PM. Then I spent 15 minutes writing an email about the big issue of the afternoon and claiming responsibility for the problem and sending it to all the mangers. 

I leave on days like today, and today was probably the worst of the project for me so far, and I fear I will be fired, I feel like I should quit and go work someplace better, or perhaps I should just quit caring about my work as much. Work will take everything you give it. Companies do not have any emotion and are designed for profit. 

Strait up, it's overwhelming. I identified something like five new issues today for parts I am responsible for, and got bitten big time by an issues we as a group, and maybe me in particular, said was acceptable, and turned out to be nowhere near acceptable. I suppose it's like the stock market, you try to learn something from the losses, then shake them off and keep going. I just don't like failure. I really don't like it. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 188

Oof da. What a long week? My totals for the work week are going to be over 60 hours, and honestly I might hit that again this week. Hopefully the worst of it will be over by this week, but certainly 50+ for the next month and maybe two. Hopefully it's all calmed down by March and certainly April, but the truth is, we don't know what we don't know. Plus, related product experience tells us that things that are a big deal happen, which require people like me to work more at problems we just didn't know about before hand.

I woke up at 4:15 AM five time this week, once was Saturday. It will probably be five more times this week, and hopefully not Saturday.

Long term view, it's all minor problems that I'm dealing with at work at the moment. Some of the issues are like, 'seriously, we didn't catch this before now?' Other issues are like, 'it's wrong because it's hard and it will get better, in fact come look at this, it already is better.' Still other issues are like, 'If we don't catch this now, no one would ever know until it caused a problem, and cost a lot more money.' Not to say that it is all no big deal, in fact, the last couple weeks and next few weeks are probably going to be the most stressful of my career thus far, and for the foreseeable future. That's the positive side to this, I have to answer dozens of questions per day now, but in only a few weeks it will be the random few questions a week and working on the next big challenge, instead of hundreds of little ones.

The other cool side to this, no one could do exactly what I am doing at work. Oh I am certainly replaceable, and my colleagues could be brought up to speed quickly, but things go faster because I am there. It's nice to feel important to the project.

Running went well, I ran 46 miles, did my first workout in months, and took a day off. The workout I did was a little track workout with 2200 meter of quality work in 6:30, which is around 4:45 per mile pace. Nothing great, but after maybe 10 to 11 months not doing a workout on a track, it was nice to get after a little faster turnover. Frankly, it didn't even feel that bad. My ankles continue to heal, I think that it's some sort of bruising from the mountaineering boots, ski boots, and ice skating boots that I've worn over the past three weeks and it's just taking longer to heal. I mean, I ran a 12 mile run, a track workout, and then a faster 9 mile run, I'm not exactly injured, although I would still say I'm coming off an injury.

That's it. I went out to eat Saturday night at a hamburger place I didn't even know was a restaurant until I had been here two years. I'm tired.

Friday, January 23, 2015

One More Problem.

The good news, we are finding issues. The bad news, we have issues. It's hard to tell how serious something is sometimes. Most of the issues are problems of milimeters, but it can be like a 3 millimeter rock in your shoe, seems like a big deal. 

Solving problems, even in the short term, even theoretically, is quite satisfying. I mean, when you have a solution, something that can reasonably be implemented, you know it's a fixable problem. You would not believe the issues that escalate to the $1 million or even $10 million level. One in particular for me was so simple, yet as it was above my pay grade and out of my department so no one listened to me. Knowing a problem can be solved is such a nice feeling.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In My Anger...

...I took a walk. I could complain about a variety of things that upset me today, but it will only serve to harden animosity. Suffice to say at the daily group meeting today I felt defeated. As if errors, things we could have done better, were on me to fix. And I don't have the answers. I don't even feel like some of the questions are valid enough to answer. So I took a walk as soon as I could get out of the meeting... which was ten minutes after the meeting ended because three separate people talked to me individually after the end about issues from the meeting. 

Cooped up in a factory with fumes and terrible air quality, and the downstream effects of thousands of decisions made by dozens of people, I needed some air. 

Walking in the slightly foggy 31 degrees Fahrenheit weather along the parking lot I realized, it's easy to blame someone, it's difficult to fix a problem. And you know what, I'm going to fix problems. Not sure how I'm going to do that besides throw paperwork at people and talk to everyone. But you know what? This project is actually going really well. The quality is actually quite high already. We are making it better every day, and even when it feels like this is the worst piece of junk designed and manufactured by us who couldn't get a proper job, I realize that clearly I exaggerate things and this drama is all to be expected in a project of this scope. My lows can be a little low, but my highs can be a little high too. 

We are doing well. We will get there. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Wow! How great it is to be healthy and running and skiing after an injury! That sudden urge to neglect the little supplemental exercises and extra rest. Ignoring the preventative measures that got you healthy in the first place. It's like having a job after unemployment, it's easy to forget the people skills that got you the job in the first place. 

The point is, don't forget how you reached where you are. It is never as simple as simply doing X. It's more like doing X and Y and knowing A who introduces you to B who is interested in skill Y and Z that you have because person C just left and they are looking for someone with those Y and Z skills. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Year in Review: 2014

Here is a link to my 2013 year in review. That has links to previous years, going all the way back to a 2009 year in review.

Where to start? This becomes a harder post when I have to rehash the follies of the previous year. In other words, it seems to get harder every year.

Everest, Mt. Everest, and the spring 2014 season seemed to define my year. Oh sure, there was quite a bit more to my year than those five weeks, but it's hard to say that what happened there did not change me, or other's perception of me. I'll admit, my experience this spring was a life changing event. Perhaps not as much as people would assume. When the actual incident happened, I heard it, started to see the helicopters, learned it was deadly, but initially, it was thought to be only a third of the size it ended up being. Only later did I learn how bad the serac collapse, the avalanche, really was. Then, after a political week, we left, via the scenic route.

For months, the experience only seemed depressing. My existence this summer was day to day. I just came out and said I was depressed in June. Yet God's plan, and my plan, or any of our plans, were not the same. After all, it was years of success that led me to the "failure" on Everest, and depending on the view, it wasn't a failure at all. So I moved on in life. Certainly something I won't forget, but not something I plan to dwell on. In fact, I finally published the Mera Peak video, basically the world's easiest 21,000 foot mountain.

Fastpacking over four 14ers and more than 50 miles in about a day and a half, was a pretty cool trip. I'm thinking of doing it again, except trying for the whole Nolan's 14.

Meanwhile, this whole time, work was going really well. Whenever I talk about work it's aways in the this vague language, and I hope that I can give some details in the future, but suffice to say, work is going quite well. I made a lot of money this year. My wealth makes me sick sometimes compared to the poverty of so many. Yet I realize that we all have different gifts, and in my mind it is our duty not to waste those gifts.

So as I worked through June and July, getting second in the Run4Troops Marathon in a pedestrian 2:50, I was continuing to train, or rather run a lot. I managed to put up a number of 100+ mile weeks, six I think, with the highest at 131 miles. For the year I think I ended up with around 2800 miles. After such good training, I thought, 'why not run an ultra marathon?' I knew I would get into it sometime, it was just a matter of when. Well, the 24 Hour USA championships were a half day drive away in Ohio, and I figured, if I'm going to do one of these, it might as well be a low key, but maybe semi-competitive thing. In other words, not debuting at Western States or Leadville, or JFK. Well, as you heard, I won, running and walking 154.5 miles. Which I found out only recently lands me on team USA for the 2015 World Championships in Italy. Yep, I'm going to be running on Team USA!

The rest of the fall and early winter was what I might call anticlimactic. I gave up my coaching job at the University of Dubuque because my day job was about to consume far too many hours of my life into the early spring. I started running with some coworkers from the University of Wisconsin Platteville, which has provided a nice change to the college coaching rhythm. Work began to accelerate and I started to make many trips to Davenport to our factory. I managed to give myself an overuse tendon injury just a few weeks before the California International Marathon. It happens.

I'm still single. Perpetually single. As I write this I'm just back from a family friend's house where a like 20 year old is getting married to a 22 year old in the summer. That seems so young to me. If there is some jealously that I battle with, it's seeing so many people happy in relationships. Don't get me wrong, I have the best life in the world. I have every advantage a white male in the middle class from the USA can have, and I've taken advantage of many of those. Yet it's easy to be lonely at night in the hour or two after supper and before going to bed.

I take being single in stride. I donated the first $1000 dollars to Sustainable South Sudan this March. Completely as a cash gift to my friend JL who was about to return to Africa. I still haven't seen any pictures of how the money was spent, and thus not given any more yet. The point being, my money can make a huge difference in Africa, a difference that it simply can't make in the developed world. If being single, even my whole life, another 60 or 70 years, means that I have more money to help the less fortunate, instead of raise my own children or afford a stay at home wife, that's okay. Obviously I would prefer the wife and kids, but God's plan is not always our plan, and that is my comfort in still being single.

I capped of the year with a trip to Colorado and hiking and skiing on 14ers, even getting to the top of Quandary on my 7th winter 14er attempt! In fact, here is the first video of maybe seven or eight that track the entire descent. Basically it was about as hard as a blue square run at a resort in my opinion. For me it was a 4:45 climb and 1:05 descent.

What to look forward to in 2015? A number of ultra marathons including the 24 Hour World Championships. I plan to pay off a number of student loans this year that I put off paying off until I went to Everest, because now I've been to Everest. I need to get cruise control installed on my new 2002 Honda Insight. Small detail, but I'm really looking forward to it. I really hope to be able to share what I have been doing at work the past four years. Unfortunately, based on our website, it's still not published to the public, despite the fact we have been taking orders for more than a month... I don't understand marketing. I hope to run 4000 miles. The most I have ever done in a year is 3600. I'm also thinking of launching my Kickstarter campaign, which I started building just before Everest.

It's going to be a good year. Hopefully not the drama of Mt. Everest 2014, but with plenty of successes and lessons learned about how to do.