Sunday, February 23, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 75 and 76

February 9th to 22nd. Life... am I right? Is everyone stressed out? Just when you think another person is doing just fine, no he's stressed out and she's stressed out too.

For the first time in a long time, let's start with running mileage! Week 75 was 25 miles, and week 76 was a whopping 35 miles! (Part of those 35 miles are skiing downhill after skinning uphill, so I'm keeping them. Some miles of skiing are just a tiring as running a mile. Most are harder than walking a mile. Friday night I ran eight miles, it's the longest run I have done yet in my 11 month long ankle recovery, just a few weeks after doing seven miles for the first time. It was amazing! The way my body has recovered in 2020 so far looks like this might be a really exciting year!

Work has been stressful. Outside of work has been stressful. So I'm going to do something I haven't done in 15 years (to the month actually) go to therapy, like the mental health counseling kind. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to talk about this publicly, because not many people do. It's still a bit of a taboo, people will admit to going (admit being an emotional word there indicating failure) and talk about it in private, but there is more talk about the dentist or how you do your taxes than your mental health.

What else? I did backcountry skiing the last two weekends, first from A-Basin up to Loveland Pass on the 15th, and second on Mt. Elbert February 22nd. Mt. Elbert was hard enough that my friend, who had his first time skinning uphill on skis said it was the physically hardest thing he had ever done. I love pushing people to new limits! That puts me at seven successful calendar winter 14er summits for 21 attempts. Since getting alpine touring skis I'm probably getting over 50% success, before that I wallowed in deep snow frequently.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Compassion Fatigue?

The other day I called my parents, and after saying "hello" they talked for ten minutes about some little hike they took. After a few minutes I started to tune them out. I debated telling them “nice talk” and hanging up. I’m feeling a little lonely, a little depressed, and like I don’t have much influence over my life at the moment... and no one is listening.

I love helping people. I love introducing people to new things and pushing them further than they have done before. However, it can turn into an obligation, especially at work when someone has yet another Creo question. I read most of the Five Love Languages by Gary Champman this weekend. Despite being a fan, and reading the workplace book he wrote, I had never actually read the original. He mentions babbling brooks and dead seas, as talkers and listeners. I think I’m a listener. I feel like I talk all the time, but I don’t really. I’ve been considering some of my relationships lately, looking for the person to tell all of these recent inner struggles to, but no one person seems to fit the bill. I don’t mean that negatively against any of my good friends, more so against myself. I trust most of these people with my life, why can’t I trust them with my ridiculous emotions? Why the reservations?

There are so many people in the world struggling. I have the best life in the world, it is objectively awesome. Yet I still feel like I’m searching for something to fill a void. I’ve prayed about it a lot. I feel in a way that no one knows me. And yes, I realize that blogging about this will be seen as radical transparency by some people and a deep emotional revelation, but it’s really just talking about talking, not the actual conversation. Sure blogging and writing is a good way to work out my feelings, but it’s not the really deep stuff. 

I was asked recently what the most emotional or memorable moment on Everest was for me, and my answer wasn’t totally truthful. There was a moment my mind flashed to that was quite emotional for me, and I don’t actually think I have told anyone about it, almost four years later. But like the movie “Inside Out” it’s a complex emotional memory. I could tell the facts, and that moment would seem insignificant, even to the people that witnessed it, but in the context that it happened, it was totally unique for me. It was the kind of moment I want more of. While not a word was said, the message was clear.

So I don’t know. I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm this Monday because I haven’t been sleeping great lately. Please pray for me. Pry at me, try to get me to talk, and then actually listen. I’ll surely push back, because I can sit in silence with the best of them. I’ll even try to get the conversation back to you, despite the fact I do want to talk. 

While this post is about me, it’s also not about me. There are many others like me, with the same thoughts and reservations. Maybe I just plain won’t talk to you, but that other person in your life will. That other person needs you to listen. For me being in silence with another person is totally okay. It’s a way of bonding and building trust. When the words do come, there is a trust there that I won’t be humiliated by your reaction, but that my words will be listened to and thought about, not just reacted to. Again, I’m not the only person like this. I realize it can be hard for people to have a silence, but I think sometimes that’s what’s needed to build trust. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Comfort to the Disenchanted

Friday night I went climbing and out to dinner with a good climbing partner. Saturday I went backcountry skiing with another one of my good climbing partners. In both interactions, politics came up and the conversations were similar. 

We are living in a strange world, where asking a foreign government to dig up dirt on your political opponent is okay. Why don’t we just ask the foreign governments to run political adds for the candidate they support? (That is in fact what Russia actually did on Facebook in 2016.Among my peers, which is relatively rich, white males in their 30s and 40s, there is despair about the state of our country. We aren’t up in arms or building fall out shelters, but we all seem to have relatives that are. 

Both of my climbing partners had different issues with both parties. And I totally get it. We can't combat extremism with extremism. 

I told both people essentially the same thing, hey it's not that bad. And your relatives that seem to think the world is ending, maybe it is, but just look at history, it's been way worse before now. This isn't Germany in the 1930s or 1940s. This isn't Rwanda in 1994. People in the USA aren't being "disappeared" now. Sure, the news is crazy, and yes people are probably dying from not getting healthcare, but when you really look at the statistics of poverty and disease, the world is getting better. It's going to be okay. And regardless of what happens, Jesus still loves you. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 60-74

October 27th, 2019 to February 8th, 2020. I haven’t blogged much in the past few months, for a few different reasons. Fear, insecurity, depression, the usual suspects. Okay that’s not very specific at all… Let’s put some numbers to it. Since step count is a great measure of activity, and since my physical activity can sometimes be a microcosm for my whole life, here are my monthly step count totals for the last year (rounded to the nearest thousand):

March: 117,000
April: 164,000
May: 330,000
June: 394,000
July: 413,000
August: 464,000
September: 477,000
October: 338,000
November: 347,000
December: 353,000
January: 355,000

My ankle recovery kept going better and better, after all I did 20 14ers in 2019. However when October hit and it started snowing, but my ankle still wasn’t good enough to run on consistently yet, so overall I took a big step back in the amount of physical activity I was doing. Frequently, when running is going well, everything else is going well, and running wasn’t going well. I would run or climb and tweak my ankle. That happened frequently in the summer, but I could simply take an easy day or two and then go hike a mountain and get 30,000 steps, but in the winter it’s much harder simply to walk outside. Each step takes more effort.

Other things, my parents lived with me for three and a half weeks back in November. I love my parents, but it was cramped in my 950 sq. ft. apartment and I wanted some alone time, and going out to a coffee shop to blog doesn’t really count as alone time for me at this point in my life, it's like semi-social. Plus, this blog started way back in 2009 as a way to express myself and tell stories once instead of seven times to seven different people. Being in such close proximity to people that were curious about my every day made it less relevant to blog about my week, when I had already discussed it. 

Along the lines of the step count, there is an interesting article on about Hubspot and the dip that employees between 1 and 2 years there were facing. I had never heard of such a dip, yet as I passed a full year and entered my second at work, I felt (and maybe am feeling) a bit of a dip too. If I look back I think that I had these dips in previous jobs too. I’ve never actually held the same role for three years. I’ve passed two years in two different roles, but I wonder if the seeds of my moving to a new role after two years were set in that one to two year motivation dip. I don’t know. Also, since mid 2011, I have held every role (and I’m in my fifth since then) for at least a year, perhaps suggested I entered the dip in all five roles. Again, I don’t know. 

Another work related issue that has frustrated me the past few months is my own ego. We are a company of young people, which is to say we’re still figuring things out, our processes and our communication and even our decision making. I come from a very different industry at a super established company where we had processes for everything, including our decision making, and communication was generally very clear. I get frustrated when I see things being done in a very different way than I am used to, or things that are simply not being done at all. Yet I honestly don’t know if the way I am used to is better, or that I was simply used to it and change is hard? Also, things that I perceive as not being done might not need to be done, or just aren’t communicated to me that they are being done. On top of all that, I feel as an individual contributor, new to this industry, that my voice has almost no weight, so I don’t always speak up. But! Feelings are not fact. As I look around at our company where I will shortly have more seniority than two thirds of the people in the company, if I am afraid to speak up, there is no hope that the younger people, with less experience and less confidence will speak up. …which also stresses me out because frankly I don’t want to be the grown up in the room who is obligated to speak up, like Conrad Anchor deciding to turn his younger partners around on Meru. I couldn't finish one of Dietrich Bonhafer’s books because he speaks quite a bit about speaking up, and the guy was killed by the Nazis in April 1945 because of his speaking up. 

Where I was trying to go with that paragraph is to say that speaking up requires a certain amount of confidence, and I can have the unfortunate result of coming off arrogant and not humble when speaking up, and how do you thread that needle? As I’ve said before about running, and it applies to mountain climbing and also business, confidence can be mistaken for arrogance, even within myself. I might think it’s just my confidence but maybe it’s arrogance and ego thinking I am better than I am. In other words, speaking up carries the risk of being labeled an egotistical trouble maker, but not speaking up carries the risk that the people at the top are blindsided by the happenings on the floor.

The difference between my life now and in the past at work is that there is an urgency about our business, a feast or famine possibility for us. As in, we (and that definitely includes me) have to succeed or we’ll get acquired by a giant company and our dreams dashed. I want to help, but I’m not sure how, and frankly as a very sinful human it’s entirely possible I’m hurting more than I’m helping. #depressiontalking


So, in other news I’ve been out ice climbing seven days and skiing eight days this winter. I checked off Culebra Peak leaving me with eight 14ers in Colorado to go. I led a ten person trip to Ouray, and had a great time! Everyone there had quite a bit less ice climbing experience than me. It was interesting, I went with friends and coworkers, and we grew to know each other better, which to be honest was a little intimidating. For example, I bought a 2008 BMW X5 in December for $6,000 and unfortunately on the drive back it was low on coolant, but we couldn’t open the hood to add more. So on Sunday afternoon in Grand Junction we took it to a mechanic, and he spent an hour taking some panels off and told us that based on the size of the leak, he really really didn’t recommend driving it back to Denver. So I rented a car and we drove back. It was somewhat humiliating. My friends had the opportunity to see how I handled a stressful situation like that, and I got to see their reactions as well, and while it was overall a very positive and relatively minor travel delay, getting seen in that way, being a little more vulnerable is hard. My friends are amazing! I just didn't want them to see that side of me. I keep lot of people at arms length emotionally, especially coworkers, because again it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable and admit how imperfect our lives are. I’ve cried a lot recently. I have the best life in the world. I’m sitting on my couch now looking at my other couch with six different jackets draped over it, all for slightly different things, what great wealth I have! Why me?

I went to Minnesota and saw many relatives at a funeral. Don’t feel bad about it, she was 91, a Christian, a widow, and had severe Alzheimers the last three years so it was very expected. I took a trip to Canada to ice climb in November, the highlight being climbing Murchison Falls. I went to Moab in November and did some rock climbing, which included me taking a 30 foot lead fall on the first pitch of the North Chimney on Castleton tower when my .75 green Camalot which was only retracted 20-30% pull out of the rock. That day Brad Gobright was doing a 5.13 right beside with his posse and filming drone, and three weeks later he died in a rappelling accident. 

In December I took a short trip to Red Rocks, but it rained so we drove 3.5 hours to Joshua Tree and climbed two days there, where my climbing partner took a 20+ foot fall on a “5.5” slab… which was more like 5.8 or even 5.9 slab if you ask me, it was hard! For Thanksgiving my parents rented a condo at Copper Mountain and I skied three days and we hung out with my sister’s now husband. It was really nice to spend that time together. We even tried ice climbing at Vail one day, but didn’t make it up the approach.

That’s all out of order, there is a variety of Facebook evidence out there if you want to know actual dates. 

I’m blogging now because of the week I had. About two weeks ago I bottomed out emotionally, cried a lot. I’m on the upswing now, which still involves a fair amount of crying. However I had some moments this week that were really really good. A coworker of mine, a new program manager was vulnerable with me and admitted his inexperience in one small particular matter, and it was something we frequently did at my old job. So I spent a couple hours quantifying a process (just one tool, not the ultimate one, but another tool) and gave it to him. Two different coworkers pulled me aside and asked in short “how’s it going?” I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I’m not the best in the world at hiding my emotions. Plus, a number of my friends lately have been struggling with different issues, and as I try to empathize with them, I take on a little of their struggle, and that combined with a $2,700 BMW repair bill, a funeral, and everything I’ve mentioned in the last 1800 words, whew, I’ve been better. But those gestures by my coworkers made me feel better. Then Friday night I did some indoor climbing and had dinner with a close climbing partner friend of mine, and we had good conversation. Saturday I went skiing with another close climbing partner friend of mine who I had not seen in years, and I’m pretty sure I committed to doing Denali in May of 2021 (and maybe actually leading the expedition). Which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now, but I’m guessing I could get six, maybe even eight people together to do it, we’re already at three. If you want to go, contact me and if you’re qualified and I am ready to spend three weeks on a glacier with you, you can come. Only requirement is that I’m skiing, I’m not snowshoeing. 

Point being, all that vulnerability in the past week refilled my well of motivation to blog and it off loaded some of my stress. And confirmed, again, that being vulnerable is a good thing, it leads to deeper stronger relationships. I am not alone. And it’s encouraged me to seek out a little more vulnerability, even if that means more stressful empathizing again in the future.