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):
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 inc.com 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.