Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Battling my Insecurities

I think most people probably describe me as confident and sure of myself, and that may be true, certainly in some circumstances, but it doesn't always feel that way. I think that because I did so much acting when I was younger and learned to present so much in college, I look comfortable in front of a crowd, and I am. Yet we all have insecurities, and nobody likes their own. Who can explain their own insecurities anyway?

I'm writing this Monday night, and I didn't run today. You must understand, I take maybe 30 days off of running a year (when I am not on an 8000 meter expedition), and when I am in high volume training and uninjured, it's hardest to take a day off. It is a chasing numbers game, I am often chasing mileage goals. It's ridiculous. I mean it's not strictly productive the same way quality running is. It has gotten me injured in the past. Yet having 100 miles in a week or 400 miles in a month is a big mental reward.

Insecurities are a strange thing. We try to run every day because we are afraid that taking one day off, one needed day of recovery, will be a setback. We act smart because we are afraid that if people knew how little we know they would not respect us as much. We act fine being single because we don't want to be that desperate guy and because we are afraid we will be alone our whole life. Insecurities are based on our fears. Fears are an interesting topic.

Running is so convenient to talk about because it is so simple. I can easily say that I am afraid of growing old, I am afraid of not achieving the goals I have publicly announced, I am afraid that I have been given this aerobic gift and this body and I won't use it, when others do not even have the chance to do the physical things I do. So those are some fears. Admittedly, none of them are a really big deal. I mean, one day my running will no longer be like it is now, and the world won't end. Talking about relationships or engineering are much more difficult because the insecurities are even greater. I mean, when I was unemployed for the first three months of 2010, I gave myself back pain so bad two doctors thought I had kidney stones. How much do I care about engineering? I gave myself back pain when I wasn't offered an opportunity to practice it.

Maybe battling is a strong word. Yet there is a tension between what we do and what we fear, between running and taking a day off, between engineering and not engineering. I think, and I don't have the answer so feel free to argue, that while insecurities are not something we like, they keep us honest. We all have insecurities and those vulnerabilities are part of what helps us connect with others. If nothing else it is our weaknesses, of mind or body, and not our strengths where we open ourselves to connection.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Am a Sinner

I don't admit this terribly often. I like to pretend I am good, and that is a lie. It is so hard to admit being wrong, failing to do the right thing, being selfish, and a myriad of other imperfections. Yet admitting there is a problem, recognizing the imperfection, is the first step in solving the issue. Funny enough, this concept applies to engineering and science as well as it does to the lives we live. Admitting the design has a weakness is the first step in correcting the weakness.

Nothing, and certainly no one, will ever be perfect. I'm not even going to pretend that I am like the thought of accepting that. Yet when the best examples of perfection I can think of are often surpassed within a year or two, it is clear, we humans are not perfect.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 166

Another week that was a seeming blur, except for the fact that so often by the time I get to 8 PM, I'm so worn out that time seems to slow down as I decompress from the day. Maybe a pretty typical week, maybe not. What is a typical week anyway?

I worked every weekday day this week, no real surprise there. The joke that I don't have any vacation until March 2015 really doesn't get old. I did have a whopping 24 hours of meetings, that I attended. Many meetings finish early, but the point is, around half of my week was spent in meetings. Meetings have two purposes, make a decision, and share information more effectively than email. A meeting can do both, but if it does neither, it's a waste of time. As I go to all of these meetings I like to joke that I am not an engineer, I'm a junior project manager.

Running was nice, but I have overreached and I'm taking Monday (today) off. I ran 35 leagues, much of that in hot and humid weather. I even have a little sunburn on my shoulders. I was hoping to get a few more miles this week, but I was too tired. Funny story about running Saturday morning, I get to Heritage trail about 9 AM. The Loras XC team was just finishing up, people were fishing, other cycling, in total maybe 30 cars in the parking lot, it was packed. About 30 minutes into my run it start raining, and only rains harder over the next hour. By the time I returned to the parking lot I was the only car there. Regardless of the season, day of the week or time of day that is unusual, especially on a Saturday at 10:30 am in the summer.

Pretty quiet otherwise. A friend lent me the Alien box set so I watched all four Alien movies this weekend. I went out for sushi and was reminded that I don't go out too often because it's really expensive.

Friday, August 22, 2014

...Every Day.

When one tries to do something consistently, whatever that may be, some days are harder than others. Yet those are the days you build the habit. Those are the days the good habit become ingrained. Before you know it, the average, the every day has become this big thing that others admire, or at least don't understand from a state of awe. As I get older I see this more around me. For example, parents don't get a day off and that is certainly not an easy job. Because these every day things can at times be so difficult, that adds to their value. The fact that parents don't yell at their kids more is a testament to the extraordinary patience of most parents. The moral of the story is, thank you for your commitment to (insert your thing here), because we are better off with you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Question to Think About

What does it mean to be a man in the 21st century? The corollary is what does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century? How are the roles different, and the same, as they have been in the past, and not just the last 30 years but the last 3000 too?

I'm working on some articles about this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Let Me Take This For Granted.

I ran 5 leagues last night. That's quite a bit for a Tuesday evening. Yet in my mind, I was concerned how slow it was and how tired I was at the end. I've ran or bicycled four races this summer, getting second three times and winning one. It is easy for me to rationalize away my success as "there was no one there" or "it was a really small race". Yet the fact remains that against four different groups of people I have not gotten lower than second yet.

There is a certain mental seriousness, setting the bar high, that keeps me driving and pushing to ever higher standards. I talk mostly about running because it's clear and obvious and I'm not bound by any confidentiality agreements, but the concept applies to my engineering and other areas of my life too. I feel predisposed to not be satisfied with what "I" have achieved. I say I in quotes because I know that it is not me, it is a team effort, many people, over years and decades that have gone into what my body and mind achieve.

The results and the training this summer may be small potatoes, but that is no reason not to be thankful for those potatoes anyway. Sometimes small potatoes are sweet potatoes. I like big goals. I am used to failure, because success is so much sweeter than failure, if failure is a requirement, I can accept that. Yet sometimes we all could stand to look around and really appreciate how wonderful we have it. Let's not take this for granted.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014