Most challenging day of my life

Without a doubt, tomorrow will be the most challenging day of my life, both physically and mentally. Tomorrow I am participating in Ironman Wisconsin. If you aren’t familiar with it, an Ironman is one of the most grueling endurance challenges on earth. It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finishes with a marathon (26.2 mile run). To answer the question I’ve been asked many time, Yes, it is all in the one day!
It was over a year ago, while attending an executive education class at Kellogg that I decided to accept this challenge. I’ve dedicated a full year of training for this one day. I’ve woken many days at 4:30 am to train, spent every Saturday away from my family on long bike rides and every Sunday getting in long runs. I am ready. I know I am ready. I’ve put in the work and followed the training program. However, doubt always seems to finds its way in. I’m worried about the swim, which is not my strong suit. This will be the furthest I’ve ever swam. I don’t want to over do it on the bike. Am I going to have proper nutrition to get me through this? Will my legs hold out for a marathon after all of this? The doubts and questions go on and on. I’m doing my best to keep them under control. I have a great support group in my wife and family, friends, training partners, and coaching crew. They all know that I can do this, now it’s just convincing myself. There is no turning back now. With that being said, I can definitely use any encouragement, cheers, positive thoughts, or prayers that anyone is willing to give. Whether you are here in Madison at the event, or across the country, I promise, I’ll hear your support and use it to get me through. If you are interested, in following my progress tomorrow, click on http://www.myathletelive.com/events/ from your computer or download the app (My Athlete Live). Go to events then look under Ironman Wisconsin and you’ll find my name. Take a look while you’re getting your morning coffee, I should be on the bike by then. Take a peak before you settle in for the night, I’ll likely still be running!

IMG_3585.JPG

https://www.locogringo.com/mexico/ways-to-play/riviera-maya-beaches/tulum/

A (Kind of) Hidden Gem

For a few years I’ve been looking for a tropical vacation spot that balances an eco tourism feel without being completely secluded.  A place with cool hotels that aren’t severely overpriced.  A place with a lot to do and see without being too touristy.  I finally found it in Tulum, Mexico.

About four years ago, while staying in Playa del Carmen, we made a trip to Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins.  The beach was amazing, however, we didn’t see anything that interested us in going back.  Within the past few years, I’ve had a few people tell me that they loved Tulum and how it had a magical feel to it, but I couldn’t picture it.  All that I had seen was a run down town that centered around a tourist trap of old ruins.  However, we decided to check it out for ourselves.

After landing in Cancun, we took an hour and half ride down to Tulum.  Once we passed the ruins, we took a left onto a long road that seemed to be going nowhere.  After dead ending into the ocean, we turned and started down a road that was barely big enough for two cars.  I could instantly tell that there was something about this place that I liked.  No touristy shops.  There were people, but no crowds.  Everyone was either walking or riding bicycles and everything seemed calm.  When we arrived at Ana y Jose, we were given a quick tour and taken to our bungalow, Brisa del Mar.  It was perfect.  A little beach side bungalow which was little more than a bedroom and bathroom.  It had no television and two chairs on a front porch that looked onto the ocean.

Image

Tulum has some of the whitest sand and bluest water I’ve ever seen.  As you walk along the beach, it becomes clear that this place is different.  Most of the hotels or cabanas are almost out of sight because they are so integrated into the natural setting of palm trees and plant life.  The beach seems to be its original size, not having been cleared out or expanded.  There were people out on the beach using rakes to clean up some of the seaweed.  The beaches aren’t perfectly manicured, but they are perfect.  Its easy to see this place was founded by people cared about it and want to maintain its natural beauty.  There is almost a hippie vibe to it.  Rain catching barrels and natural energy windmills are clear signs of it.  Electricity is only available for certain hours in most cabanas and many of the restaurants are light by candlelight only which makes the experience all the more relaxing…for the most part.  Since there is little electricity, there are no streetlights so you end up walking in complete darkness. Since there are no sidewalks, you end up walking on the roads.  Between the crazy drivers and the giant holes along the sides, it can get pretty dangerous. I would highly recommend brining or buying a small flashlight.

The food is amazing in Tulum.  We tried to get to the places that we heard the most through friends recommendations and found a few little spots of our own.  Here is what I would consider the Superfecta of Tulum restaurants in order.

Hartwood

Image

This place is as good as it gets.  We were told that the chef is from New York’s Peasant.  He has definitely brought Tulum’s culinary scene to a whole new level.  The restaurant uses local ingredients sourced daily from fisherman and farmers stretching far into the mountains and surrounding jungle.  There is no commercial kitchen so everything is prepared in an open air kitchen with a wood burning oven and grill which makes it all the more astonishing that this level of food can be consistently prepared.  The place sell out night after night and they don’t take reservations.  We got there around six o’clock, waited in line for about 30 minutes, only to have seating stopped for the night one couple in front of us.  Being first come first serve, the line forms early and only about 180 people get seated in one of three seating times per night.  The entire place is open are, including its makeshift lounge.  We tried again the next night, arriving around 5.  We ate with new friends that night so we chose to take the second seating and enjoy a few cocktails before dinner.    The Gin Gin Queen is really refreshing even without the alcohol.  We ordered a virgin version for my pregnant wife.  You can taste the freshness in the The Tropical Punch which uses multiple juices and rum.  I highly recommend both.

Once seated we ordered two appetizers, grilled shrimp and a jicama salad.  Both were good, but the grilled shrimp is one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had.  For dinner you have to try the pork ribs.  The combination of fall off the bone meat, an amazing sauce, and the huge portion size seem to make this dish their most popular.  My wife said that these were the best ribs she has ever had and possibly one of the best meals.  I had the skirts steak which was equally as good.  The side dish of grilled chaya, a mexican superfood, was surprisingly good and very unique.  Overall, this place is a must and well worth the two nights waiting in line and the money.

El Tobano

 

Being our first night in Tulum, we didn’t know what to expect of the area in general.  When we arrived at El Tobano, we quickly discovered what this area was all about.  The restaurant is open air with a bar at the entrance.  The bartenders were just prepping for the night and provide great entertainment by recapping the drunken night before.  What really made this place stand out was the habanero shrimp.  It was unexpectedly good and something a dish that can’t really be explained.

El Camello Jr.

El Camillo

Don’t let the outside scare you away, this place is a local favorite

I love places that are a little off the beaten path and nothing to look at and El Camello Jr. fits the bill.  A favorite for locals, this place is owned by fisherman and serves “as fresh as it gets” seafood.  Rumor has it that the other area restaurants actually come here to buy their seafood.  After a long, and hot bike ride from the beach, I wasn’t sure if we were going to find this place. Its on you way OUT of town.  We were able to sit down quickly for lunch, but had perfect timing.  Within 15 minutes of us sitting in an empty restaurant, the place was packed with locals.  Always a good sign.  We started us off with a few dips including a lemon habanero hot sauce (too thin to call salsa) that was great, but very hot.  We weren’t very hungry so we tried to split a meal but ended up with two anyway do to our lack of Spanish.    But the dish we originally ordered, octopus with mojo garlic sauce was great.  It had a lot of flavor and just the right amount of spice.  This was a great lunch find for sure.

Posada Margherita

Posada Margherita

 

This place is a Tulum classic and seems to be one of the original foodie places in the area.  A young Italian couple own it and have another location in NYC.  This is by far the best atmosphere of any restaurant we visited.  The place was packed with a good looking energetic crowd, so we had to wait about 30 minutes to get seated.  It was worth it.  Structured with multiple open faced levels, every seat has a view of the ocean and a great breeze.  The entire place is candle lit and the eclectic rustic decor made this place completely unique.  There is one guy the goes over the simple menu with each table.  The three appetizers, four pastas, and three fish dishes are all written in Italian, so unless you’re fluent, he needs to explain them.  This is a great touch because this guy, I believe he was the owner, had a great personality and is the perfect person to make your night at Posada start right.  He explained that all the pastas are made from scratch when ordered.  This takes a little time so don’t expect to each right away.  Both of the pasta dishes that we had were really good.  I would definitely recommend having dinner here or even just grabbing a few drinks.

The restaurants are the only unique things in Tulum.  Any vacation of mine isn’t complete without a massage.  We, however, opted to take it to the next level and do a Mayan Clay massage.  Local lure says that this clay has healing powers that range from detoxifying the body to healing sunburn.  Its a really weird experience but something I would definitely do again.  The hut that they do the massages in is open on all sides and only covered by netting.  The showers that you rinse off in are in the courtyard and only covered by a loosely structured bamboo screen.  Both of these facts can make you a little timid about getting undressed for you massage and cleaning off afterwords, but hey, when in Rome (or Tulum in this case).

My wife looks good even covered in clay!  I'm a lucky guy.

My wife looks good even covered in clay! I’m a lucky guy.

The massage it self is very relaxing and believe it or not, my sunburn wasn’t hurting the next day!  We tried to bring some of the Mayan Clay that they sell back with us but unfortunately it didn’t make it through security.

Tulum is know as a yoga destination so our trip wouldn’t have been complete if we didn’t hit the mat at least once.  I do yoga weekly and really enjoy visiting different studios when on vacation, so I was really looking forward to this.  Yoga Shala came highly recommended to us.  Just like everything in Tulum, the setting was really cool.  The studio is on the jungle side and set back a little.  Classes are done in a “Shala” which resembles a giant tiki hut.  The first class we did was a mixture between a Vinyasa flow and Tai Chi, which was something new to me, but something that I really enjoyed.  However, the instructor told us about a Sunday evening class that she did at 5 pm which centered around Yin Yoga.  I had never even heard of this type of yoga, but since it was described as a more meditative style, I had to try it.  I have to admit, this class was one of the best yoga practices I’ve ever had.  Don’t expect an intense workout, but do expect to be challenged in different ways.

Overall, this was the perfect vacation.  Considering that my wife is expecting our second child in July and that we didn’t bring our son Brooks with us, this was the best place we could have gone to relax and enjoy a real vacation.  Something I rarely get to do, even when I take other “vacations”.  Tulum is definitely a gem.  However, its one that isn’t so hidden anymore.

The Hunter Family Chronicles (part 3)

20140108-161705.jpg

Somewhere around 11 am on New Year’s Day I got a call from my Dad. He informed me that he was in the hospital. He had taken himself to the emergency room because he was getting very lethargic, his feet were swelling, and overall he just wasn’t feeling right. They had immediately transferred him to the main branch of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in downtown Youngstown. The initial thought was that he had a leaky heart value. He seemed in good spirits and was feeling a little better. That day he was scheduled for a heart catheter. I knew that this was a pretty standard procedure and that he wasn’t in any real danger since this was mostly to diagnose, not treat, the issue, so I told him that i was going to stick with my original flight schedule of leaving Montana on January 2nd. On the morning of the second, I found out that the catheter had revealed some real issues. He had a hole in his heart and was being transferred to Cleveland Clinic. Obviously this news was more than a little nerve racking. I looked into flights and quickly realized that my only real options was to keep my scheduled flight from MT to Chicago, which landed around 7:30 pm, and catch a later flight to Cleveland. Although I would have loved to have Melanie and Brooks with me, we decided that it was best to have them go home once we landed in Chicago. He was sick and she was tired (and pregnant), and we didn’t even know what was going on with my Dad yet. I booked a 9:40 pm flight that landed in Cleveland around 11:40. Luckily I got a little time to rest on the flight back from Big Sky because the next 72 hours would prove to be exhausting.

When we landed in Chicago O’Hare I kissed Melanie and Brooks goodbye and started out towards my gate. I quickly realized that the flight that I had booked on American Airlines had been canceled. So had most of the other flights. They had rebooked me for a flight out the next morning. There was a huge snow storm that had hit the Midwest. We were lucky to have even made it back from Big Sky. Lines for the support desks were hours long and the wait time for calls seemed just as long. As I was walking down the terminal, I happened to look up and see a sign that said Cleveland. It seemed like fate. It was a United Airlines desk but I figured it was worth a shot. I explained to the lady working the desk that I had a medical emergency and that my flight had been canceled. I offered to buy a ticket on this flight, but she said that she wasn’t a licensed ticket agent and therefore couldn’t sell me one. To do that, I had to go wait in the hour long line at the help desk. That wasnt going to work considering the flight was leaving soon. The lady was great and helped me more than I expected. Honestly I assumed that I would get the normal bitchy airport employee, but was pleasantly surprised. She informed me that this flight had been delayed since 5 pm but was about to depart. She also told me that if I could get American Airlines to switch my ticket over to United, that she would get me on it! Great, now I just had get them to switch the ticket. I called the AA number that I had, and again was pretty surprised at how helpful the person was. However, switching the ticket wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Since the flight that I was trying to get on was so delayed, it was showing as already departed in their system and therefore they couldn’t do the transfer. After some brainstorming with both of them, we decided to transfer my ticket to a 5:30 am flight the next day, then the United employee would transfer me to the flight that was getting ready to leave for Cleveland. The American rep transferred the ticket and it seemed like we were all set, which was great timing considering that the flight was already boarding. Suddenly, I lost my connection. This would have been fine except that the United rep needed some more information. I was starting to panic. The flight was completely boarded and I was on hold! The gate agent was stalling for me and the the guy at the desk had my ticket printed and ready, he just needed a little more info. It felt like they were just about to close the doors when all of the sudden the guy yelled “I got it” and handed me the ticket. I boarded and they immediately closed the door behind me! The good news was that I was on one of the few planes leaving Ohare that night and even fewer planes landing in Cleveland. The bad news was that I got a seat next to a very big lady with a 3 month old baby. It was a minor inconvenience considering the situation.

I finally landed in Cleveland around 11 pm in the middle of the “polar vortex”. It was freezing, I mean below zero, and snowing like crazy. The guy at the car rental place was really cool. When I changed my rental from a mid size to an SUV the system tried to take my fee from $88 to $1042! He was pissed and agreed that that was ridiculous. He worked the computer multiple times until he got the bill down to a $10 surcharge. I could barely see as I drove to the hospital from the airport that night. I followed the only two visible tracks on the highway, but arrived safely at the Cleveland Clinic around 1:30 am that night. This day had restored my faith in people. There were multiple people that day that really helped me out and if any one of them hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made it to see my Dad that night. That night was just the beginning of another long and emotional week, but I know my Dad felt a little better that I was there…I know I was a little relieved to see him.

The Hunter Family Chronicles (part 2)

On dec 27th a car picked us up around 10 am. I just finished up my conference call and started loading all of our luggage into the car, which was a workout in and of itself. Between having a child and packing ski clothes, it looked like we were moving out! We landed in Bozeman MT, grabbed a rental car, and headed to Big Sky. Luckily our friends had made most of the arrangements or we would have been shit out of luck. I didn’t even know where we were staying! We ended up in a really cool log cabin close to the ski lodge and quickly settled into our room in the basement. They did it right, both groceries and skis were delivered to the cabin that night and we were set for a week of skiing and relaxing…we thought.

20140107-090118.jpg
The guys that we were with are both good skiers. I’m not. I like skiing but we are definitely on different levels. The first day on the slopes, I tried to follow one of the guys down a steep hill and wiped out. As soon as I hit,
I felt tingling in my leg. Not a good sign. I thought I had broken it. Luckily that wasn’t the case, just a bruise. I called it a day after that run and spent a little time at the bar before my shuttle picked me up. That night Brooks ran a fever that got up to 102. At one point it looked like he was passing out in Mel’s arms. I had take him outside to cool him down. After a bath and some tylenol, he was a little better, but it was pretty scary.

My leg was killing me from my fall, so I wouldn’t have skied the next day anyway, but we took Brooks into the medical center to see what was wrong. Keep in mind I’m taking about a medical center in a town of less than 3,000 people. After examining my son and coming to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with him, the doctor decided to take it upon himself to examine my wife. When we told him that she was three months pregnant, he proceeded to rub her belly, then lift up her shirt. I get that this guys a doctor, but that’s some creepy shit to do to someone you don’t even know. Not to mention that he misdiagnosed my son and sent us away with no medicine to treat him and $190 bill.

That night we let Brooks sleep in our room and he was up ever two hours. At around 5 am he was burning up again so we gave him a bath and some more medicine. Melanie and one of the other girls were supposed to go cross country skiing the next morning. At around 8, the girl came in to check on Mel and see if they were still going. I was trying to keep her quiet because Brooks was sleeping, but I’m glad she asked me “if I knew the basement had flooded?” I jumped up and ran out into the hallway only to step into a few inches of water. Luckily Sarah had grabbed Melanie’s iPad off the floor. The place was a mess. After calling the management company, they sent a team over to take care of it. We now had giant fans and dehumidifiers running 24/7 in the basement for the rest of the trip. I ended up going out to ski with the guys for awhile that day and was able to avoid getting banged up again. Melanie and Sarah did yoga later that evening while we watched the kids.

On the morning of New Years Eve Brooks was running a fever for the third day in a row. We took him back into the medical center. Luckily we didn’t see the same creepy doctor. The new doctor immediately diagnosed him with an ear infection. Not only is this exactly what we told the other doctor what we thought it was, and what had happened in the past, but they charged us for another office visit! They said that their records showed that they had only checked for a respiratory infection last time and since this was so different, we had to pay. What a scam. It didn’t matter though, at least we had some medicine to treat him with.

Knowing that he was okay and treated, I headed to meet the guys and try my hand at snowboarding. I’ve done it before and did fine, but after two days of skiing, it was harder than I remembered. Not only was I having a hard time transitioning, but my legs were already pretty sore. It took me about an hour to get down the first slope! I only got in three runs that day and none were pretty, but I did get slightly better with each run….slightly.

When we got back that evening I jumped in the hot tub hoping to ease some of my pain. It seemed to be working. I had a great set up. I was sitting in a hot tub while it was snowing, beer in hand, with a speaker streaming Pandora from my phone. What could go wrong. When I went to get out, I was digging through my now snow covered towel to find my phone. As I picked it up, I watched my phone take a dive into the water! I was pissed. I had no phone on NYE and therefore no way to give or recieve and new year wishes. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m slightly addicted to my phone. As a matter of fact, in college, a group of friends nicknamed my phone “precious” (Lord of the Rings reference).

For our New Years Eve dinner we had live Maine lobsters flown in. Like I said, my friends did it right! We unloaded all of them on to the floor and lets Brooks and Ann check them out. My man Brooks walked right up to one, grabbed it by its shell, and picked it up. I was impressed, especially considering that I’m a big wimp when it comes to bugs and critters. My wife still makes fun of me for my attempt to grab and bait a fish hook with live shrimp! It was pretty comical. Anyways, the dinner turned out great. Our buddy Chris is a great cook. The scotch was just as good! Mel and I made it through the New Years celebrations for NYC and Chicago but threw in the towel before the New Year hit Montana. I guess we are officially lame…or just parents.

20140107-090342.jpg
On New Year’s Day I woke to a pleasant surprise. My phone vibrating from incoming text messages. I couldn’t believe it. My luck continued that day when I won the college football bet we had going between the three of us guys. However, it quickly ran out later that day when I found out that my Dad was in the hospital with a leaky heart valve…..

The Hunter Family Chronicles

Anyone that knows my family will agree that we lead pretty hectic lives. As an example, our son Brooks, went out to eat sushi with us at three days old, yes that’s DAYS. Obviously he didn’t eat any, but he was there. He is 18 months old, has been on at least ten round trip flights, been to Montana twice, lived on Miami Beach for three months, resides in Chicago, and frequents Ohio. You get it, right? Sometimes our schedule borders on the point of insanity. To keep track of it all, and to share a few of the stories, I decided to start a series of blogs that I’ll title “The Hunter Family Chronicles”.

The holidays are always crazy for us. We head back to both Cleveland and Youngstown for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since our son was born, we’ve tried to make our schedule a little less hectic while in Ohio, but we still make the trip. This year we went to Youngstown on Friday Dec 20th – Monday the 23rd and stayed at my Aunt Sis’s house. After getting in around 8 pm on Friday, we started our Christmas celebration early Saturday at my Step Dad’s house with my Mom, brother Kyle, and Grandma (Mema as she’s known to our family). After eating and opening gifts, we had a little downtime before getting ready for the evening.

20140103-193244.jpg By the time we packed the car with all the gifts for Brooks, we barely had room for our suite cases. The funny part about it is that this was only our first Christmas celebrations of many for the week. The day was already long, but after putting Brooks to bed, we got ready and went to my Aunt and Uncle’s company holiday party.

The next morning we headed to my Dad’s house. We were supposed to get there early for breakfast then head to church with him and the family of a good high school friend. Unfortunately we slept in and missed church. Just for clarification, at this point in my life, sleeping in means that we got up around 8am! After breakfast and more present opening by Brooks, we went to see Uncle D (my dads brother) and Aunt Doe and the rest of the Hunter side of the family. My cousin Jamie and her husband have three children, so it was a little hectic over there but Brooks loved hanging with his cousins. We ate homemade Italian wedding soup and pasta so it was all worth it. When we finally got back to my Aunt’s, around 6 o’clock, we were stuffed and tired out. When we walked in, most of my mom’s family was there to visit and eat leftovers. Needless to say, we ended up eating and drinking again. By the end of the night I was so stuffed and tired, they had to roll my ass into bed! This was the first year we weren’t going to be at Aunt Jeanine’s for Christmas, so it was great to get to spend more time with everyone that night.

The next morning we drove to Cleveland to stay with my in-laws. We noticed that Brooks had developed a bad cough that sounded like Croup. Considering that my brother in-law and sister in-law have a 10 week old baby, along with two other children at their house, and that was where we were supposed to stay, we decided to take him in to get checked. As expected, they said it was likely early stage Croup and gave him a steroid to use if it got worse. We ended up staying at my brother in-laws anyways. That night we finally got to meet our new niece, Nadia Vidovich. She’s a little dark haired cutie.

On Christmas Eve, I meet a friend for coffee to discuss an entrepreneurial venture he was considering. I love to talk with entrepreneurs, both established and aspiring. It’s exciting to talk to motivated people that are willing to take risks. After hitting the gym to burn off some of that excessive eating I had been doing, I met my brother in-law, his wife and kids along with Melanie and Brooks at a mall. We were finally taking Brooks to meet Santa!

20140103-181504.jpg I know, a little late right? We had tried a few times earlier, but the line was huge, so we figured we’d wait. It all worked out in the end and Brooks actually liked Santa. That night we went to church. Luckily we went to the children’s service, because my man Brooks did not feel like sitting still. At one point I thought he was headed for the pulpit!

On Christmas morning we woke up later than expected, 7:30 am. With a 10 day old, an 18 month old, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old in the house, we expected to be woken up by 5:30 am. My niece and nephew were excited to open their gifts. On the other hand, Brooks could care less. At this point, he had opened gifts five times already. I told my wife he probably thinks he’s Jewish and celebrating the 8 days of Hannakka. We finished opening presents and breakfast, headed to my mother and father in-laws, and ate again! I’m lucky that my wife and I are so into working out. If we weren’t, we’d be morbidly obese with the way we eat during the holidays.

The morning after Christmas we jumped back in our completely over-packed car and headed back to Chicago. We didn’t have any time to spare. We had to get home, unpack, do laundry, and repack to fly to Big Sky, MT where we were meeting some friend to spend New Years….

When You Have Children, You’ll Understand

To everyone that told me that I will understand when I have children of my own, I apologize. I doubted you.

How could I have known? I never could have imagined that things would be so different. How could they possibly be? Then it happens. You realize that this child is something that you made. They are your flesh and blood and you love them more than you could have possibly fathomed.

How could I have known that I would look at my child and worry so much? I never could have imagined the emotions that are created when I see him sick or how I would do anything to make him feel better. It’s impossible to know the distance that you will go to make sure that another person is safe, until it’s your child. There are no limits. It’s been the most amazing discovery I have ever made.

My challenge will be learning not to smothering him. Even though, when he lays his head on my shoulder I never want to set him down, I know I will have to. I know he will get hurt. I know he must make his own mistakes as he grows up and learn lessons for himself. But for now, I will cherish every moment that he is my little guy and relies on me this much. I will teach him the lessons that he needs to be a good and happy person, regardless of how hard it is at that time. I could never comprehend when my parents told me that “this hurts me more than it hurts you”, until now.

To all of those lucky enough to be parents…I get it now. For those that do not yet have children…You’ll understand when you do.

20131230-012737.jpg

Time – Our Most Valuable Commodity

In a conversation with a friend this weekend, he mentioned that everything was going great in his life but he just needed to figure out how to make more hours in a day.  I told him to make sure he called me when he figured out how to do that!  It was really interesting timing to hear that comment because lately I’ve been realizing that time is my most valuable commodity.  We all play many roles in our lives.  For me, those roles include husband, father, entrepreneur, friend, family member, board member of Starlight Children’s Foundation, and aspiring Ironman.  As a kid, it seemed like there was an endless amount of time.  So much so that I remember actually complaining about being bored.  Even in college, it seemed like there was plenty of time to go to class, study, work, and maintain an active social life.  However, as adults, we have more responsibility than ever, and lately it has begun to feel like I can’t fit in all the things I have, or want, to do into a day.

This weekend I was invited to go to the Chicago Bears game by a friend that I haven’t hung out with lately.  With that in mind, and considering that I know he has good seats, my first reaction to his invite was “hell yes I want to go.”  Once I stopped to think about it, I realized that that might not be the best decision.  Considering that I had traveled on Friday, had a busy Saturday, was supposed to have dinner that night with my wife for her birthday, and both my wife and I would be traveling separately the next week and weekend, I decided that I should skip the game and spend some family time.  I’ve always had an issue “missing out” on things.  If there is something going on, I want to be involved.  When I moved to Chicago ten years ago, I had to start dealing with that issue.  In a city this big, there is always something going and I realized that I can’t be everywhere.  Since my son has been born, I’ve had to prioritize my time even more.

Recently, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to start having a purpose behind my actions.  Instead of just doing things to keep busy, I was going to make a conscious effort to think about how I wanted to spend my time.  At first the thought that everything I did should have a purpose seemed overwhelming.  I can’t always be “on” and I need a little down time too, right?  However, the realization that having a purpose doesn’t necessarily mean work, really helped. My purpose can simply be to have some down time, or to spend some time with my son.  The point is, I will think through my options and allocate my time according to what I want to achieve in life.  Instead of letting other people’s priorities and schedules dictate mine, I will spend my time according to my goals.

With the winter in full swing here in Chicago and the shortened days in effect, it has become more important than ever for me to schedule my time.  When I spend the time to plan, I’ve realized that things like early morning training session become a necessity, not an option, setting aside time in the evening to work becomes essential, and even relaxing on a weekend takes on a different meaning than before.  Lets face it, our lives are more hectic than ever and with technology and social media, it always seems like we are missing something.  Unless my buddy calls me with some breakthrough on making more hours in a day, time is going to remain our most valuable commodity.  If we don’t decide to prioritize how we spend it, we may wake up one day and realize that aren’t where we wanted to be because we didn’t.

Related articles

Keep Learning

photo 2

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend an Executive Education Course at Kellogg School of Management.  The course was focused on Organic Growth and Innovation.  Considering the topic, I was really excited to attend.  As the date approached, I have to admit I was actually a little nervous.  I haven’t been on a college campus in a learning role since I graduated from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business in 2002.  I found myself worrying about things like if I was going to be able to keep up, how I would compare, both knowledge and success wise, to the others in the course, and all other sorts of things.  It didn’t make it any better that I the course started on a Sunday, so I had to leave my family on a weekend.  Sunday travel is never fun.  However, once I arrived on campus, I immediately felt comfortable and realized what a unique opportunity this was.  Not only did I have the chance to disconnect from the everyday things like work and home life to focus on learning on a specific topic, but I was also surrounded by really smart people from very diverse backgrounds.

photo 1     In the first session, the program Academic Program Leader, Robert Cooper, informed us that we would be receiving a lot of information in a very short time and, in an essence, “drinking from a firehose”.  He wasn’t kidding.  We covered so many topics in a few hour session that I wasn’t sure how I was going to retain it all.  That’s just it though, you don’t retain it all, but rather get some great ideas and processes that you can use in the future.  As Bob mentioned, none of these models or teachings are perfect, but rather what they have found useful for many other companies.  We were provided with binders with all of the slides and information so that we could go back and reference them in the future.

     The week was amazing.  The cases that we worked on and the people that we all got to meet were well worth the time and money spent.  I left incredibly refreshed, refocused, and re-energize. Some of the topics were spot on and exactly what we as a company needed to refine our process for evaluating and managing growth and innovation opportunities.  However, with all the benefits, I did find myself jealous of one group.  All of the leadership team from a company called Eclipse were there taking the course together.  They were all fun and smart guys, but what made me envious was that they got to go through this course together, as a team.  I can not imagine how valuable this was for them.  To their credit, they worked extremely hard during their time at Kellogg.  When the group completed a case study, the Eclipse team would usually break out and keep working on the overall concept, but specific to their company.  I found that trying to translate this information to others is a difficult task, so for their team to hear it straight from the program leaders mouth was a big advantage.

Now that it is a few weeks after the completion of my course, I’ve gone back to review the material that we received.  I’ve started to use one of the most pertinent models for a project that we are currently working on.  The fact that I’ve already used the model in case studies during the course proved very beneficial.  In fact, when I walked through this with the President of our company, it proved to be a valuable conversation starter.  We were able to hash out some strategies and gain further clarity on our approach as a result of this.  The model used was so relevant that he suggested that we ask Bob Cooper to come in and do a session with our executive team to review the principles associated with it.  This was something that I was hoping to do anyways because of the value that I saw the Eclipse team take from it.

Looking back on this experience, I wonder why I was ever nervous about it.  I guess venturing outside of your comfort zone and routine isn’t always easy, but obviously is worth while.  This opened my eyes.  I now see the value of both and plan on continuing to focus on learning not only from Executive Education courses and other structured offerings, but also by viewing my daily interactions as valuable learning opportunities.

Air It Out

Today I had a few difficult conversations that were long overdue.  They were being avoided on both sides because it just seemed easier to hope that the situation would clear itself up and go away.  In fact, the exact opposite happened.  By not addressing the elephant in the room, over time, the situation only got worse.  Time to think can be both good and bad.  In this case, it left more opportunity to stew over the past and construct stories and plots that weren’t based in facts, but rather in perceptions.  These conversations weren’t comfortable.  They weren’t fun.  They dealt with topics that had done serious damage to personal and business relationships.  Things were said that people didn’t want to necessarily hear, but that needed to be said.

The results were amazing and unexpected.  Instead of a heated argument, there was a candid conversation.  The expected digs and backhanded comments were replaced with sincere discussions of feelings and thoughts.  Everyone was given a chance to state their case and clear up misconceptions.  I know that I walked away with a weight lifted off my chest and some things to reflect on about myself.

Although the long-term results from this discussion can’t be determined for days, weeks, and months to come, it was a great way to attempt to restart and refresh.  Today, I learned that unless you are ready to completely walk away from a situation or relationship, which is easier said than done, that you owe it to that person or those people, and more importantly to yourself, to directly engage and address the issues.  Even if the relationships are damaged beyond repair, there is something to be said about the mutual respect that can be gained from just sitting down and “airing it out”.

 

To Grow, Step Aside

Entrepreneur-Mindset-1

I was talking to a fellow entrepreneur today and he mentioned that he is jealous of another entrepreneur because he is able to work ‘in the weeds’ on his company.  This guy has one successful business and is working on building another.  It was really interesting to hear him say that he missed working on a company that is in a start up phase, which made me think about a recent article that I read.  The article highlights the differences between Entrepreneurs and Managers.  They both play vital, yet very different roles within a company.

Entrepreneurs are often visionaries and innovators that like to create things, work out some kinks and then move on. They are the builders that turn these dreams into financially viable products or services.  On the other hand, Managers are the people who install and oversee the systems and infrastructure to keep a company going.  With that being said, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs often get antsy when their companies ‘grow up’.  Usually, the goal of starting a company is to make it prosper.  However as a company matures, entrepreneurs are often forced into more managerial type roles, when in fact their true passion is to be more ‘in the weeds’.  I found this particularly interesting because I recently faced this issue myself.

Not long ago, my company named a President.  This was an absolutely essential step to ensure our future success.  As the company has grown, so has the need for an experienced industry veteran to run it.  As mentioned above, a managers role is to install and oversee infrastructure and systems which are vital to the long-term health of the company.  They must be entitled to do so, or they will be set up for failure.  None the less, this is a scary notion for an entrepreneur, because in a sense, you are giving up some control.  A transition like this doesn’t come without its difficulties, more for the founder than anyone.  To allow a high level executive manager, like a President, to truly be successful in his or her role, an entrepreneur must step aside from the day-to-day of his company.  This should seem like an entrepreneur’s dream, allowing him or her to go back to being more ‘entrepreneurial’, creative, and innovative while still being involved in the business and big decisions.  However, it’s easier said than done when a company started as ‘your baby’.  If you are willing to take the risk, it will likely have tremendous rewards.  I’ve noticed that the experience our President has brought with him has already helped the company become more structured and focused.

This process has had an unintended side effect for me.  I’ve been freed up to think like an entrepreneur again.  I haven’t been as motivated or excited about the work I’m doing in a long time.  By having a President in place to manage the company, I am now in a place where I am able to work on some very exciting and potentially profitable growth initiatives for both my company and for myself.  This change has also provided me a little extra time to spend with my family and to do things like train for a triathlon.  The changes in my mental state and overall happiness are notable.  I’m sure there will be some difficulties to deal with as we continue this process and transition, but at this point, I can honestly say that this was the best move for everyone involved.  So if you are an entrepreneur that finds yourself unhappily managing your company as it grows, you should strongly consider finding a well qualified person to manage your business so that you can step aside to let it grow!

Unknown