TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Well I apologize for the lag in posts but admittedly it’s been a busy few weeks.  Tuesday was my last day at my old job before I start a new one Monday.  My intention is to keep the topics on this blog entirely separate from my day job, so I’ll be as brief as possible about this but I have to say I have already received seven welcome notes from my new teammates and I absolutely cannot wait to start on Monday.  (And I should also insert here the standard disclaimer: the opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of either my current or past employers).

I was actually very close to not writing this post today because I have intentionally made this into an extended detox weekend from any kind of work obligations or deadlines.  A blog post was simply another bit of added pressure, but I sat down this evening overlooking the twilight on Lake Tahoe feeling like I had to write.  So I am.

And this is as it should be.  Recently I’ve had an internal battle that I will call the “Happiness Battle.”  What is the Happiness Battle?  It’s the constant internal recitation of some form of “if I only had X, then I would really be happy.”  Sound familiar?  If so, you’re not alone.

Admittedly, I’ve played this game as long as I can remember.  “X” could be a job, any of a variety of material possessions, or even something perhaps more ostensibly meaningful like a personal relationship.  My knee injury has caused the most acute and most recent instance of it for me: “Everything’s great, if only that would heal and I could run 100 percent then everything would be perfect.

But life doesn’t work that way.  If you’re seeking external validation for your happiness, you’re never going to find it. No matter how honorable the wished source of your happiness may be.

This is a lesson that it has taken me a long time to learn.  I’ve lived a blessed life so far but I’ve also happened to live in a number of places where “keeping up with the Joneses” is a way of life.  I wanted a better car, a better place to live, a better job, a better this or that.  Surely enough, however, once I upgraded in one of these areas, a new golden gizmo presented itself.

This is a vicious cycle that will eat you alive if you let it.  You’ll never be content, period. As a runner, this has meant for me preparing for the possibility that I might not be able to run like I hope to again.  I don’t expect this to happen, but I have to be prepared for that possibility.

How do I prepare for it?  I realize that my happiness (or inner peace, or contentment, or however you’d like to define it) has its source entirely within me.  It doesn’t come from running, even though that is something I enjoy doing.  It doesn’t come from my family, even though we are very close.  Instead of looking to others or to some assortment of inanimate objects to fill me with happiness, I take care of it instead.  And you know what the crazy thing is?  As soon as I decided on this, I had several immediate breakthroughs.  I landed the amazing new job.  I made some enormous leaps forward on my knee recovery and am now able to run up to 20 minutes.  A friend happened to be moving out of his apartment and the timing was perfect so I grabbed it.  Now my commute will be 20 minutes where it used to be more than 60.

Isn’t it amazing how all this works?  I could go on, there are other recent examples in my life to cite but I think I’ve made my point.  This is one of the hardest lessons to learn and some people learn it early; some never learn it.  I wish I would have learned it earlier.  But if you’re struggling with something right now that you feel is holding you back, let it go. Don’t let it control your happiness.  In fact, once you take control and decide to be happy no matter what happens, you’ll be amazed at the happiness-inciting breakthroughs that will suddenly come your way.

BONUS MATERIAL: I’ve been a mini road trip machine of late (scouting potential future racing locations!) and intended to do some travelogue-ing but in the meantime I have photos to share.  The first set below is from Eureka, Calif. (and the drive there and back), a town about 250 miles north of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast.  I had no idea what to expect there but my two cents on the place is that it has a very coastal Carolina feel but with a northern California hippie twist and visible mountains in the distance.  The second set is from today’s Tahoe excursion and includes a few of my Jeep in its “natural” habitat.  You might also notice that I’m a train nut…

Until next time!

Eureka, California:

Tahoe/Truckee, California:

Stock photos by flickrized and lilit.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Amy Palmiero-Winters
Amy Palmiero-Winters

A quick post today, not a real post but what I might call a ‘mini-post.’  Always a great source for material, Jake Rosen tweeted today about Amy Palmiero-Winters, who made history recently by becoming the first ever amputee to qualify for a U.S. national track and field team.

I owe everyone an update on my injured knee, and I will provide an in-depth one soon.  But in short, it has improved significantly in the last 3-4 weeks.  Perhaps not so coincidentally, in the last 3-4 weeks I also began looking for stories like Amy’s, for viewpoints into how much a person is able to overcome to accomplish his or her dreams.

Placed into perspective, my little knee/hamstring issue, though it has sidelined me for essentially one year, seems like nothing compared to what Amy has overcome.

On Friday, I went for my first run in six months.  It was only five minutes long, on a treadmill, but it’s progress and I know there’s more to come.  If Amy Palmiero-Winters, at 37, can raise two kids on her own, compete in 100-mile races and make the U.S. national team, surely I can overcome this little injury.

Now, it’s back to work, back on the road to recovery.  In the meantime, check out Amy’s story.  If you need a kick in the pants today, her story will give you one.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

ABOARD DELTA FLIGHT 2109 OVER NEBRASKA – Ha!  I’ve always wanted to write a dateline like that.

Yes, I am actually aboard a Delta plane, taking advantage of their newly installed in-flight WiFi.  To be honest, I have always viewed flights (especially my relatively frequent SFO-DTW and SFO-EWR jaunts) as a nice respite from the connected world.  But this is actually pretty cool.

I am, however, suffering from bad battery planning so I will need to make this relatively brief.  I’m in-flight because I went home to Michigan for a quick weekend and spent time with my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.  Over three days we watched two Detroit sporting events, one screening of The Hangover (a fine Phil/Kevin/Becky tradition), took two walks at Metro Beach Metropark on the shore of Lake St. Clair with Mom, Dad, and Truman, consumed one giant oven-baked blueberry pancake at The Pantry, made one requisite stop at Tim Horton’s, and played precisely 346 games of Scrabble.

I also shared the details of my aforementioned goals with my parents and Kevin and Becky, so now they’re out.  Well, almost :) .  They will be coming soon, I promise.

I wanted to share some thoughts on simplicity in what I hope will be an appropriately brief post.

When I was younger, I used to plaster my bedroom walls and shelves with Stuff.  Every open space needed to be occupied by one of my many prized possessions.  What were these things?  Well, nothing especially valuable – a number of books, knick-knacks that I collected from all over the place, tacky posters, awards that I had won.  I never had a lot of expensive material things growing up so the things that I did have I was keen to show off.  The rest of my parents’ house was (and still is) entirely clear of clutter – what I would describe as Spartan.  I couldn’t stand it.

I can stand it now.

As I get older, I find myself becoming refreshingly less and less consumed with the accumulation of Stuff.  Partly this has come from my reading of Dave Ramsey.  Some of it has come from JD Roth at Get Rich Slowly (see: The Tyranny of Stuff).  But mostly, it’s come from an honest evaluation of the things over the past 30 years that have always meant the most to me.

These meaningful “things” have never actually been things.  They have always been people and experiences.

I have two large bookcases full of books whose spines I stare at day after day.  I have probably read about 40 percent of them.  Every time I have moved for the last three times (from New Jersey to Michigan, from Michigan to California, and then within the Bay Area), I have thrown away approximately half of what I own.  I now lug around approximately 13 percent of the possessions I had five years ago and yet I still want to get rid of more.

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of possessions.  I’m an admitted gadget junkie and book lover and someday I would like to have a decent-sized personal library.  But the pursuit of possessions for the past eight years since leaving college has left me personally feeling empty.  I’ve sacrificed a lot of other experiences in order to spend hard-earned resources on items that I may use once or twice and that will then simply sit around my place as badly depreciating souvenirs.  My new focus will be on experiences that will bring me fulfillment and have true meaning for me.  This, in fact, is a crucial tenet behind one of my new goals.

So take a step back and look around your home, wherever that may be.  There’s more to life than Stuff.  Figure out what this is for you, and pursue it.  You won’t regret it.

Photo by austinevan.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

It’s raining for what will hopefully be the last weekend before our glorious long summer dry season here in northern California.  I am ready for it to STOP.

That being said, the precipitation has precipitated an enormous amount of blog productivity on my part.

Actually, to simply say blog productivity would be a bit limiting to its overall scope so I’m going to call it The Project.

What is The Project?  Well, that’s for me to know and you to wonder.  At least in the short term :) .

But I have been planning some big changes to this site.  BIG ones.  The changes may even involve a URL switch, but if that’s the case you’ll be duly informed.

No massive undertaking can be successful without clearly stated goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART!), however, and those I have been hard at work on as well.  I won’t reveal them just yet – I ‘m going to save that for the re-launch.  But here are some hints on my seven mid-term goals (to be accomplished in 1-5 years, although all except two I am aiming to accomplish in two years or less).

Goal #1 is a fitness goal.  And not just any fitness goal, but a competitive fitness goal.

Goal #2 is a personal finance goal.

Goal #3 is an entrepreneurship goal.

Goal #4 is a charity/philanthropic goal.

Goal #5 is a language learning goal.

Goal #6 is a travel goal.

Goal #7 is a writing goal.

I’m dying to reveal exactly what they are but I really want to save them for the site re-launch, where I can marshal all my forces to make as big a splash as possible.  If you’re a smart person (and I know you are, because you’re reading this site), you might surmise that the theme of the new site might just happen to follow the themes of these goals.

I want to be honest here right from the beginning: I have always had a hard time sharing my personal goals with others.  Why?  Well, for the same reason 99 percent of the people out there either don’t make goals or never share them with others: I was afraid of failure.  I am still afraid of failure.  But I have two choices: I can 1) keep my goals to myself, maybe accomplish them, and maybe not, but otherwise live with the satisfaction of knowing that I successfully hid my success or lack thereof from everyone I know.  Or 2) I can put myself out there, and assume every drop of risk involved with possibly making a fool out of myself.  As Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  If I don’t start giving myself the opportunity to fail, I will never find the opportunity to succeed.

…But there are a couple of things I need to do first.  I need to find a kick-ass web designer who can take this site from lame to fame within a reasonable budget (if you have any suggestions or would like to offer your services, let me know!).  I also need to crank the little writing machine that lives in my brain into high gear to create lots of stellar content that will keep you, and lots of new readers, coming back to the site.  And I need to do more marketing research.  I’m making progress on all these fronts.

So please stay tuned, and keep checking in.  I sincerely appreciate you taking your valuable time to read what I have to say.  I hope not to let you down — there are big things coming.

Photo by Marco Bellucci.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Happy Easter!

With a little more than two weeks elapsed since my last post I’ve accumulated a somewhat sizable list of items I want to write about, so I’ll try to keep this as focused as possible.

Runners in the mens 1500 meters at the Stanford Invitational, March 26, 2010

Runners in the men's 1500 meters at the Stanford Invitational, March 26, 2010

But I must be honest.  It has been a tough few weeks.  I have to keep reminding myself, as I wrote a few weeks ago, to take my own advice.  Self improvement is a continuous process.  In fact, it really never ends.  And this is not a bad thing.  Remember when you were younger and you thought there would be a day when you had “arrived?”  Aging seems to me to gradually clarify the actual location of this destination: I do, in fact, believe the day of “arrival” still exists; but not in this life on Earth.

Lately I’ve been focusing on going back to my roots.  Admittedly, I’ve lost touch with them more than I would have liked.  This has happened both recently and over the past few years.

Since adolescence, I’ve done quite a bit and been involved in many things but there have been two defining themes in my life: running and music.  Sadly, I’ve been largely prevented by injury from doing one of these activities over the past year, and the other one I’ve simply neglected.

I’m trying to change that.  On March 26 I went to the Stanford Invitational, one of the biggest invitational meets of the spring college track and field season.  Dan Petty, one of my former athletes, surprised me by coming into town for the weekend to see the meet and visit San Francisco for the first time.

Spending the entire evening at the Stanford track was soul food for me.  There were a few Princeton runners there, and Dan’s former college teammate was competing as one of the top runners in the men’s 10,000 meters.  But other than cheering for those individuals I had no real reason to be there.  Being at a track meet simply felt like home for me.

I took lots of photos (album here: gotta love the pole vault series).  I spent quite a bit of time watching races with Steve Taylor, Dan’s former coach at the University of Richmond, and an overall great guy.  I chatted with Dan, and caught up on how things are going for him.  He’s now loving his job as the social media guru at the Denver Post, a career path that he’s told me is the end result of a conversation over dinner we had at an Applebee’s in Flemington, N.J. the year after he graduated from high school, where I encouraged him, based on my own personal experience, that writing for his college newspaper might be a great thing to do.

It’s funny how things like that happen.  In June of 1998, shortly after I graduated from high school myself, Ned Brazelton, my cross country coach, gave me a copy of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie as a graduation gift.  I read the entire 192-page book in one beautiful, sunny summer afternoon, sitting next to Lake Huron at my then-girlfriend’s family’s cottage in Bay Port, Mich.  As most who have read it will attest, Morrie is a moving tale of a dying professor’s last life lessons for his former student.  It brought me to tears.

But perhaps the most significant reason I love this particular book is what “Braz” wrote inside:

June 20, 1998

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Phil, use all your potential to make your life worthwhile for yourself and others.  Learn the lessons of life well.

Ned Brazelton

At 18 years old, I read this and appreciated the sentiment.  But I had no frame of reference for really grasping its meaning.  Reading it at 30, it almost knocked me on off my feet.  I’m old enough now to see how Braz inspired me: to teach, to coach, to want to help others, to have a lifelong love of running.  And I’m old enough now to see that I may have had a similar effect on someone else.  Life comes full circle.

Am I learning the lessons of life well?  Well, some come easier than others, but I’m learning them.  The one I’m learning now is that roots matter.  They ground you.  Sometimes your roots come in the form of places.  Sometimes they are people – family and friends.  Sometimes they are activities, like running, that have always held a special meaning for you.  Often, these overlap.  But they always help you to remember who you are when you lose your way.

So even though I can’t run, I’m taking every opportunity to be around runners.  I’m committed to my physical therapy more than ever.  Every day at the gym, for my 20 minutes on the stationary bike, I’ve been reading all of the back issues of Runner’s World that have gathered dust in my apartment over the past few months.  I’m making plans.  I’m dreaming again.

And it all feels wonderful.

As for the music?  Well, that topic will take up an entire post or more, so I’ll have to save it for later.  But needless to say, I’ve been picking up my guitar a lot more frequently lately…

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Yesterday I received an e-mail that made my day.  Jake Rosen at Broken Hearted Runner contacted me to let me know that Running Buddy has been named to his list of “Best Running Blogs in the Blogosphere.”  Though broken hearts are painful (this I know), the title of Jake’s blog comes from a broken heart of another sort: he was diagnosed with an aortic insufficiency at age 14 that so far has required two heart surgeries, one after his first year of college and one at 23.  Yet Jake keeps on running. He’s even finished marathons.

Best-running-blogs2He has a great blog that you should check out, and his story helps to put life in perspective.  Yes, we all face challenges every day.  Some of them seem insurmountable.  But we also have a lot to be thankful about.  My knee problem (better yesterday but so-so today) is dragging me down, but it’s hardly a trifle compared to what Jake has overcome.  I’m healthy, I have a family who loves me, friends who care about me.  I’ve been blessed in so many ways.

I set out to inspire people with this blog, but didn’t expect it to strike a chord, or to be inspired myself, so soon.  Sometimes, if life has you down, take a look around.   Chances are, you’ll find you have a lot more to be thankful about than you thought.

Thanks, Jake.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Visit This Place: Travelogue Continues in New Hope, Penn.

March 16, 2010

This is Part 2 of a two-part travelogue series on Lambertville, N.J. and New Hope, Penn., where I visited last week on a trip to the east coast. The first installation ran Sunday.
Continuing completely across the Delaware River brings you over the state line and into New Hope.  One of the best ways that I [...]

Read the full article →

Travelogue: Lambertville, N.J. & New Hope, Penn.

March 14, 2010

I sat down to write this post on Friday in Lambertville, one of my favorite towns on the Delaware River.  Lo and behold, four pages and 2,200 words later I realized I had an epic travelogue on my hands.  It’s my hope that I’ll be able to post travelogues like this on a semi-regular basis [...]

Read the full article →

Taking Your Own Advice

March 10, 2010

Sometimes the most important advice you can take is your very own.
Part of the reason I took such a long break from the blog before Sunday was that I just wasn’t “feeling it.”  Several other distractions had intervened in my life over the past few months, with my knee injury serving as a major catalyst [...]

Read the full article →

Learning from Mistakes

March 7, 2010

I’m back.
It’s been a while since my last post so a brief explanation is in order.  I started Running Buddy with the goal of the site becoming a resource for all things running, and I had big plans for it.  I still do.  But I made some mistakes getting started that I’m now thankful I [...]

Read the full article →