Monday, July 20, 2009

OC Mud Flop

The OC Mud Run on Saturday, July 18th was its inaugural race. As such there will be complications to overcome and some mudslinging (all pun intended) after the fact. What’s unfortunate about the experience is the bad taste left in a lot of people’s mouths (again, all pun intended … fellow participants, you know what I’m talking about!). If I were one of the organizers of this event, I would have taken notes from the world-famous Camp Pendleton Mud Runs. Granted these are US Marines who live and breathe planning and order. Nevertheless, using their model is only half the battle… proper and effective EXECUTION is key.

Having a local Orange County location, with decent registration fees, and proper execution would have contributed to a lasting memory … on the positive side. I have shared some of my gripes with fellow OC Mud Runners who are Twitter friends of mine (OakleyOC) as we were excited about putting together all the runs and workouts together in order to get ready for race day.

I’ll list some of my concerns here but from a different angle, one that focuses on corrective suggestions. (You can get the disgruntled version if you Tweet me.)

As with any organization, event, or family setting, it is important to list out these gripes and concerns. What’s even MORE important is the part where we suggest corrective courses of action, lest we repeat our flawed actions. There’s quite a list of observations already noted on the Eco Mud Run Tour's Facebook page, but I’m certain many would agree that proper planning and execution at a FUTURE mud run in Orange County would be welcomed. Let’s not kill the event; let’s just kill the execution style. Here’s my two cents:

STAFFING: I’m all about volunteers, regardless of age, as long as they provide value to their role at the event. Let’s train and prepare the volunteers to guide the participants; let’s have them live and breathe course layout, guidelines, pace, direction, etc. The participant needs to just run, run, run, and look for volunteers to guide them should any confusion arises. In unknown terrain a participant would like to feel relieved that trained/prepared/competent/willing guides are around. There also needs to be “that guy” or “that girl” that is prominently directing the events on race day … to avoid multiple happenings, yet exponentially multiple confused participants.

TIMING: Races need to start on time. Every participant knows the race goes on without them. It’s essential that published start times are adhered to. There’s a difference between being wimpy about the heat in mid-July versus having your warm up and game face countered by prolonged delays. Also, early morning races tend to be better than midday races. Add sun to mud, and you may not have the best mud conditions around anymore, unless those sections are hosed down again. (Again, STAFFING concerns here.)

FLOW: Thousands of bodies stampeding on the trail need to be met with similar/multiple obstacles spread wider. The tendency will be to migrate to the target with less resistance. Two narrow side-by-side obstacles created unnecessary bottlenecks. Participants will appreciate not losing their momentum by having to pause three to five minutes to have a turn at the obstacle. Fighting for position is key, and the hard core participants are out front. Being only about two or three rows in, I didn’t expect the bottle necks I experienced that day.

SAFETY: As an organizer I would have disclosed to participants that the sections with stagnant water were adequately tested for general safety and health concerns. While no one should make it a practice to swim in stagnant water, seeing that there are a couple of sections where it’s just water, it might make sense to slosh through it as quickly as possible. However, if the toxic levels were adequately tested and disclosed some might find it refreshing to swim through. There might be some health concerns brought up if the organizer’s intent was a net sprawled OVER the lagoon, later to be changed to a row of inner tubes, further changed to just open water…and later have cases of infection documented that related to the murky trenches that were not intended for prolonged skin contact.

MUD: I’m not an expert in this field but I would take a guess that “mud” may be inherently different than “topsoil?” The mud pits at military boot camps and at other mud runs may not be as aesthetically looking/feeling as the Glen Ivy mud section for the kids and parents (that section rocked for the kids by the way), however, I would probably refrain from adding anything closely resembling the aroma and texture of “freshly/naturally fertilized earth.” I’m all about communing with nature, but …

SETUP: I’d have a supervisor inspect the setup of various obstacles for general safety and common sense. Yes, in a fight for my life in the jungles of enemy country there’s no question that the path less traveled by inspectors may be the best ones to stay under the radar. However on a mud run course a supervisor’s inspection and sign-off might have documented/corrected the bed of sharp gravel in the sections intended for crawling on hands and knees … as well as the two rebars I knelt/crawled on in the sand crawl towards the tunnel.

DIALOGUE: As with the advertising of the event to the participants and the sponsors, it might be common business sense, even just overall people sense, to respond to these recent concerns brought up through this Facebook fan page. I would probably do it sooner than later, as people would probably like to know that this wasn’t a fly-by-night organization, but rather a group of people with a similar sense of fairness and good intentions.


I appreciate the time and effort to bring the event to Orange County. It is not easy to execute an event like Pendleton does (hoo-ah!). However, with proper planning AND execution, one can plan quite an event that will be worthy to stand in the thick of it all (again, all pun intended) and be judged on its own merits. The best laid plans don’t matter if poor execution is what’s observed. (Again, STAFFING concerns here to direct the flow of the event.)

I look forward to hearing from the organizers, perhaps even through a representative. I have experience in “heated negotiations” and I’m sure there are others on the Eco Mud Run Tour's Facebook page even more experienced than me. However, SOON some sort of communication with the event organizers is needed to address these participants’ concerns. Otherwise, this will become a one-way badgering that will yield no fruitful ending and will most likely propagate ill-feeling and/or medical/legal lawsuits.

Staying silent doesn’t necessarily mean innocence, or guilt for that matter. In some folks’ eyes though, staying silent in a situation like this doesn’t help with goodwill towards fans (or previous fans). PLUS, there are some who just like answers!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Foosball lesson

I have a nice championship foosball table at home, and recently my wife has been beating me (close games I might add). It’s neat how we can get pretty animated during these daily matches, while our stationary players stuck on steel rods just spin away. Last night after a great workout she challenged me again. I prefaced this match with a, “I hurt my left wrist from tonight’s workout, so my backfield won’t be scoring goals tonight.” (I have a killer spin that scores a majority of my goals from the lower left corner!) She said that was just another excuse to her beating me … no mercy, I tell ya! (This time my pain was for real, though.)

With not much torque action with my left wrist, this game I focused on my front lines to keep the ball past midfield and the backfield was strictly for blocking goals and feeding to the midfielders. Fast forwarding to the end, I won 10-6. Simply awesome!

Each time we take the field my four steel rods of foosball players take their positions and play their plastic hearts out. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. Nevertheless when called upon, they’re never late for practice and they’re always there at the games come rain or shine. One thing that kept them united was the coach’s guidance, and the players’ commitment to play until the whistle blew.

Isn’t this what the coaches see as the “big picture?” They’re constantly evaluating the players’ strengths and weaknesses and adjusting the game. In the past my backfield provided key goals, yet the other rods of players were always there and still part of the team. When called upon, they delivered as they were part of the team. They earned their place on the team and as they say, “A team is only as strong as its weakest member.” Last night the weakest members were the backfield, and the rest of the plastic players stepped up and scored goals and defended the midfield. Together they were able to beat the dominant dynasty my wife’s been coaching on the foosball table the past few weeks.

When you’re on a team you practice as a team, you play as a team, you win as a team, and you lose as a team. Each one earned a spot on the team, while some make receive more of the spotlight. It’s fine. Remember, the team name is what’s on the front of the jerseys, not what’s on the back. Don’t be just another number; be a team player. Earn your place on the team, but more importantly, earn the respect of your team. Be prepared to be in the shadows, but continue to play your part.

This is true as well in family life. Yes the figure heads are there to provide for the family, and the little bobble heads in the family continue to do their thing. When the little bobble heads have trouble with a school project do you let them suffer to burn the midnight oil on a second grade presentation or should you offer some suggestions for a more comedic approach in order to ace that oral? When you’ve had the most tiring day ever, do you lay down for some me time, or should you ask if your spouse’s day was even more frustrating? You can be the most relaxed and refreshed bobble head in the family, but your fellow bobble heads may soon bobble into shambles before your very eyes.

As my left wrist recovers, it looks like my four steel rods of foosball players will do just fine in the art of teamwork as they always have.

On a team, expect to be in the superstar’s shadow, but continue to play your role well, as you earned that jersey as well. Are your actions ready for the spotlight should that moment arrive?


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just an "average person"

You will become the average of those people you choose to associate with and surround yourself with.

Read that a couple of times and think about the sense it makes.

Whatever subjective scale you benchmark against, when you associate with folks in the 8s and 9s, and if you consider yourself a 5, then your performance will eventually average somewhere between 5 and 8. Now if you consider yourself a 5, yet STILL associate with the 3s and 4s, mathematically you can find the average you'll eventually progress towards.

Ask yourself ...

When you've set a goal to bench press some really heavy weights, will you train with the person who is at the gym working on toning/maintaining, or others who can bench press Smart Cars parked in the parking lot?

When you want to win the 4x100 at the company's upcoming relay race, will you train with the weekend joggers, or with those who can catch up to a runaway shopping cart about to hit your freshly-waxed BMW?

When you strive to build a profitable business, do you network with those who work to get paid or those who are able to pay others to work for them?

When you are the founder of a start up company making phenomenal growth in your industry, do you want to be advised by other start up newbies or by those who have seen both the good cycles and the bad cycles of start ups?

You will become the average of those people you choose to associate with and surround yourself with.

Now some may think I'm crazy for reading this out of context, but there are some that will totally understand my next statement...

"I hope to surround myself with a bunch of failures."

I will let the following article speak for itself:

"Peter, I'd like you to stay for a minute after class." Calvin teaches my favorite body conditioning class at the gym.

"What'd I do?" I asked him.

"It's what you didn't do."
"What didn't I do?"


"You kept me after class for not failing?"

"This," he began to mimic my casual weight lifting style, using weights that were obviously too light, "is not going to get you anywhere. A muscle only grows if you work it till it fails. You need to use more challenging weights. You need to fail."

Calvin's onto something.

Every time I ask a room of executives to list the top five moments their career took a leap forward — not just a step, but a leap — failure is always on the list. For some it was the loss of a job. For others it was a project gone bad. And for others still it was the failure of a larger system, like an economic downturn, that required them to step up.

Yet most of us spend a tremendous effort trying to avoid even the possibility of failure.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford University, we have a mindset problem. Dweck has done a tremendous amount of research to understand what makes someone give up in the face of adversity versus strive to overcome it.

It turns out the answer is deceptively simple. It's all in your head.

If you believe that your talents are inborn or fixed, then you will try to avoid failure at all costs because failure is proof of your limitation. People with a fixed mindset like to solve the same problems over and over again. It reinforces their sense of competence.

Children with fixed mindsets would rather redo an easy jigsaw puzzle than try a harder one. Students with fixed mindsets would rather not learn new languages. CEOs with fixed mindsets will surround themselves with people who agree with them. They feel smart when they get it right.

But if you believe your talent grows with persistence and effort, then you seek failure as an opportunity to improve. People with a growth mindset feel smart when they're learning, not when they're flawless.

Michael Jordan, arguably the world's best basketball player, has a growth mindset. Most successful people do. In high school he was cut from the basketball team but that obviously didn't discourage him: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game wining shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

If you have a growth mindset, then you use your failures to improve. If you have a fixed mindset, you may never fail, but neither do you learn or grow.

In business, we have to be discriminating about when we choose to challenge ourselves. In high risk, high leverage situations, it's better to stay within your current capability. In lower risk situations, where the consequences of failure are less, better to push the envelope. The important point is to know that pushing the envelope, that failing, is how you learn and grow and succeed. It's your opportunity.

Here's the good news: you can change your success by changing your mindset. When Dweck trained children to view themselves as capable of growing their intelligence, they worked harder, more persistently, and with greater success on math problems they had previously abandoned as unsolvable.

A growth mindset is the secret to maximizing potential. Want to grow your staff? Give them tasks above their ability. They don't think they could do it? Tell them you expect them to work at it for a while, struggle with it. That it will take more time than the tasks they're used to doing. That you expect they'll make some mistakes along the way. But you know they could do it.

Want to increase your own performance? Set high goals where you have a 50-70% chance of success. According to Psychologist and Harvard researcher the late David McClelland, that's the sweet spot for high achievers. Then, when you fail half the time, figure out what you should do differently and try again. That's practice. And according to recent studies, 10,000 hours of that kind of practice will make you an expert in anything. No matter where you start.

The next class I did with Calvin, I doubled the weight I was using. Yeah, that's right. Unfortunately, that gave me tendonitis in my elbow, which I'm nursing with rest and ice. Sometimes you can even fail when you're trying to fail.

Hey, I'm learning.

Peter Bregman speaks, writes, and consults about how to lead and how to live. He is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm, and advises CEOs and their leadership teams. He is the author of Point B: A Short Guide To Leading a Big Change.

Find value in failure, in the proper context AND in the proper action ... not inaction ... that you take. You will become the average of those people you choose to associate with and surround yourself with.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Wow I can’t believe a whole month went by without an update to my blog. Actually I can … as there were a lot of events during June that ate as much spare time I could spare!

As we approach July 4th I’m reminded of the word Independence. Not only should we be thankful for oppression the early Colonists fought against and won, but we should remember the independence we have in life.

Often people search far and wide for that thing that will take them to the next level. Whenever a team reaches the finals do they feel like they’re always the underdog? Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is how the individual perceives it. Look at from the team that is NOT the underdog. Do they want to just feel like “ehhh … we’re going to win again” because they’re perceived that way? Perhaps they want to elevate their game to produce a VICTORY instead of a WIN.

Whatever situation you’re in, you live in an environment where you don’t have to remain bound by others' limitations on you. You’re in the “land of the free” and you should be able to free yourself! Most of the time these are mental limitations that are keeping you from your independence from these limits. As the 4th of July weekend approaches, think of times you asked your parents for something when you were a child and were innocent of these perceived limitations. The world was open to the doctor/ballerina/President of the United States, who also liked finger painting. What about the Super Bowl champ/NBA star/Park Ranger, who could also take time to build castles from empty boxes? When did you start to take away your own independence? Were you the one who taught yourself the word can’t?

It’s comforting to be reminded of this discussion during my sons’ flag football season that we spent a lot of practice with in May and June. The sports league they participate in have a great balance of sportsmanship and competition.

My Justin was the youngest and the shortest on the team, and played well in his first season. Being part of a team with a spectacular winning season cannot possibly match the gleam in his smile whenever he rushed for yardage because the bigger kids could not run and reach for his flags that were so low to the ground. It was difficult to stop him, because no one told him that he couldn’t get past the kids that were taller, bigger, and faster.

Joshua’s aerial assault in passing developed, because no one told him he can’t run out of the pocket and just fling the ball five to ten yards out, and it was up to the receiver to catch those bricks coming at them.

Yes, on occasion Justin would end up being tackled by accident (in flag football there's no tackling!) because the big kids would come crashing down on him to get his flag. Yes, Joshua hit some faces, both on offense and defense, because he’d let loose on his passing arm. However, they both matured from their experience this season, and they are eager to do flag football again next season … as both had a great time at a winning season.

If Justin had been a startup company competing in the same industry as a more seasoned company, should he shy away from that competition? What if he desired to be in that industry after studying it for a year and worked hard researching and planning? What if he knew he’d have fun at it, while knowing there would be some obstacles along the way?

What about Joshua? Who knew you could harness so much power from a conductor or a generator? Yes the results can be overpowering at times, but perhaps others observing this discovered power can collaborate on controlling and focusing that power?

Whatever you do in life, take a look at limitations others have set for you. You and only you have the power to liberate yourself and get independence from those limitations.