Accountability

I’ve done something really cool. I always want to be someone who does what he says he will do. And, this year, I have fulfilled a promise I made to myself. Let me explain.

At last year’s World Domination Summit (WDS), I spoke with a young lady named Ekaterina about adventure races. You see, she is super fit and I’d always harbored a desire to complete a Spartan Race. Almost immediately after I mentioned my goal to her she said she’d be my accountability partner. My first thought was, “Oh crap! What have I gotten myself into?” Ekaterina went further to ask if I had looked into the races in my part of the world? I said, “no”. She replied that I now knew where I needed to start. Since this was on Sunday, the last official day of WDS, I knew I had to plan. I found a race in Charlotte, NC, and told her that I was forming a training plan.

Accountability Partner
Accountability Partner

I returned home and started exercising. I hadn’t exercised regularly in some time and, honestly, knew I had a ways to go to be strong enough to complete any kind of race. So I got on my bicycle and started pushing my 20 year old Cannondale mountain bike.

A co-worker had also recently started exercising so we talked about it a lot and I learned a lot from his experiences. He has started dating a serious runner and triathlete and started gearing up. Being techies, that was a natural response to anything. You ask yourself a question, “what gear do I need to be successful?” Granted running shoes and a bicycle are the only two *true* answers, but there was a lot more information we wanted to track, so onward we went. My friend purchased a road bike, a Garmin sports watch and related gear, as well as modern athletic clothing (you may or may not believe how technologically advanced our clothing is today!!).  This meant, though, that I, too, needed to “tech up”. Fortunately for me, my friend had accidentally purchased two road bikes (that’s a story for another time) and he GAVE me one.

I really had no excuses.

So I started running and biking! It was really ugly at first but, with time, became easier and easier. My regimen became exercise classes three times a week and biking at least two times a week for distances between 5 and 10 miles. Using the gear that I started accumulating I was able to track my progress. Not only was I able to continually increase the distances but also my times.

Bike Selfie
Bike Selfie

The race I settled on was a Spartan Race in Charlotte, NC, to be held in April 2017. It was a “Sprint” which means it is roughly a 5 mile race with up to 25 obstacles. I really didn’t know what to expect so I stuck to a regimen of exercise and healthier eating (meaning less alcohol as well). It showed. I lost weight, discovered muscles I didn’t remember, and noticed a shift in my work too. I was able to better focus at work and accomplish more. You hear things like this but don’t understand the impact until you do it yourself.

Next, I recruited a friend of mine to do this with me. His name is “Uli” (short for Ulrich) and as you can imagine from his name, he is German. I studied in Germany while in college so we have a lot in common. We asked others to join too but almost everyone responded with a comment like “..maybe next time.” We named our team the “Germinators” and just kept asking each other how much we were exercising. Uli is a great runner. I am not. My body type is better suited to weights. But what we realized is that we complemented each other really well! This would be really evident when the race actually took place.

April quickly arrived and I drove to Charlotte to stay with Uli the night before. We joked about the pending race, knowing that this would be a first for both of us. Saturday morning came quickly. After a brief drive, we parked then went through registration. Our race time wasn’t for another couple hours so we got some lunch, checked out the vendors, and settled in to stretch out and limber up for our race. Yes, I was also getting anxious.

Finally, they called our starting time and we grouped up at the start. To reach the start we had to jump over a small 5′ wall and we were not alone in laughing while trying to just get to the starting line and not fall down! When the announcer kicked off our group we were off and running about three quarters of a mile to the first obstacles – a series of walls of increasing height for racers to go over, under, and through.

Obstacle
Obstacle

The race continued for 4.9 miles and 23 total obstacles. There were some that I could help Uli with and a lot of support he offered me with the running. I didn’t know it, but a neighbor of Uli’s came out to cheer us on too. By the time we saw him, there was less than a mile to go but still a creek run and three more obstacles. We were feeling good, really enjoying the experience.

At last, we jumped over the fire and crossed the finish line. I couldn’t have been happier because I had done what I set out to do. More importantly, a valuable lesson was reinforced – enjoy where you are, but if you want to do something you have to plan it out, strive to get there, and then enjoy it once it is completed. On a recent Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness podcast Kyle Cease said, “the biggest illusion of your life is that when something happens you’ll be happy.” This process really made me happy, and the sense of accomplishment is huge! Now to do it again…

Spartans
Spartans

I’m planning on doing this all over again next year. If you want to join me, let me know! I’m still working out and I feel good! The best thing of all was when I sent this text back to the person who really made me think about goal setting, my accountability partner Ekaterina:

Accountable!
Accountable!

The World Domination Summit

I didn’t think that I could improve upon last year. Upon arriving in Portland and making my way to the hotel, I didn’t think I could top the experience I had sharing WDS with my son. I was wrong.

For those of you not in the know, the World Domination Summit is a place for those who strive to create a remarkable life in a conventional world with the three stated values of community, adventure, and service. This is the meme that brings thousands to Portland every summer. Where many conferences bring like-minded people together to pursue one topic, WDS brings in thousands of completely different people in order to support the individual pursuit of creating something right for themselves. And, at WDS, there are hundreds of people who will happily help you achieve your goal(s). [For a little history, Chris Guillebeau founded WDS in 2011. ]

When trolling Chris Guillebeau’s website, I found this quote:  “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.” (-Rita Mae Brown) and it summarizes nicely the underlying theme that all of us aspire to do different things in different ways. Well .. THIS is WDS’s special sauce. THIS is the current that pulls us downstream.

Chris Guillebeau's entrance at WDS
Chris Guillebeau’s entrance at WDS

This said, this year’s summit was remarkable. There was loads of emotion, experience, eagerness, and friendship offered to everyone by participants, speakers, and staff. It was profound, especially when one thinks about how 3000 participants at WDS could overwhelm. But this is definitely not the case. In fact, WDS is an experience for everyone. WDS staff go the extra mile to make everyone feel safe so that the focus can be on learning and sharing. There is even an “introvert recovery room” .. just in case the crowds get to be too much!

Speakers and Message

“If we waited until we knew what we were doing, we’d never do anything at all.” –Elise Blaha Cripe

How true is this quote? What holds us back individually or collectively? There are plenty of studies, I’m sure, but let’s just think about what it is you want to do and what it is you’re doing. Therein lies either your happiness or your longing.

For me, the conference began with the world record attempt of eating breakfast in bed. “Worldwide Waffles” was a great opportunity to start meeting other attendees and getting into the spirit of WDS.

Worldwide Waffles
Worldwide Waffles

After registration and the opening party, came the Main Stage. The first speaker was Jon Acuff. His message was simple. Find your voice. “If you’re having a hard time finding your voice, feed it some time.” This is not profound, but it reconnected me to one of my personal goals. When I was younger, I was always writing. Along the way, I quit making time for it. And, how can one deny that “regret has a much longer shelf life than fear” ??!! So, I began WDS by recommitting to making time for the things I’ve always wanted to do, and that includes sharing my message. 

Each of the presenters were notable and shared messages of empowerment, like embracing your haters, allowing grief, choosing to dance, or being a super human. Here are some notable quotes from the weekend.

“Treat everybody like it’s their birthday.” The Kid President (Robby Novak)

“The first and last thing we hear in life is ‘I love you’. We spend our lives forgetting.” –Brad Montague

“Instead of striving to be a superhero, strive to be a super human.” –Lewis Howes

“You can’t fix someone’s pain by trying to take it away from them.” –Megan Devine

“Take a lesson from my experience, risk is really important.” –Tess Vigeland

“What voices have kept you from reaching your potential?” –Jeremy Cowart

“Love yourself because of, not in spite of, who you are!” Jessica Rector

“Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.” –Asha Dornfest

“Ask instead of answer. Learn instead of preach.” –Derek Sivers

Now, picture this environment .. with 2999 other enthusiastic attendees .. and remembering Kid President who said, “There’s always a reason to complain and always a reason to dance. Choose to dance.” .. now add to it Chase Jarvis who gets on stage and proceeds to give out over $400,000 worth of CreateLive educational programming (in individual $150 gift cards). If this doesn’t make you want to dance, then just start by connecting to someone else, write if you want to write (or dance if you want to dance), and remember that everyone has something to say (that means YOU too!). Find your voice !!

Choose to dance - WDS
Choose to dance – WDS

So, now what? I’ve already said that I’m going to make time for writing. And, I am walking the walk by writing on my blog. I will continue to write, but I am also choosing to pursue another dream – to teach (why limit oneself??). Yes, in a few short weeks, I will begin teaching Management Information Systems as an adjunct professor. I was thinking about this and realized that I am fulfilling a lifetime dream. Does it get better? Why, yes, it can. And it will as long as I continue to make the time for the things I want to do and pursue my own remarkable life.

Another week of learning..

I am fortunate. For the second year I was asked to chaperone a group of high school men attending a soccer camp. This translates into .. I was cooking and cleaning for 24 young men for a week.

The basic routine was prepare breakfast, and after the men left for training, clean the house, prep for lunch, (once the men returned) serve lunch, clean the kitchen and perform a cursory house cleaning (more if needed), head to the field to take photos of both the women’s and men’s teams during their afternoon games, return to the house to prepare supper, serve supper, clean the kitchen, go to bed, start over the following morning.

Emerald Isle Day 1
Emerald Isle Day 1

The young men (and women) who participate in this camp are all eager, talented, and thoughtful. But, the camp is not about me (whew!). It is about improving the soccer skills that will ultimately aid the men and women be better players and teammates. There is the added benefit of trying out players in different positions to see how they respond and what works best for the budding team. And, the best thing is seeing how the groups gel on the field.

Emerald Isle Day 2
Emerald Isle Day 2

Sure, the week is about soccer. But it’s also about getting along, sharing, looking after one another, and – perhaps most importantly – forming a bond between young men (and separately the women) such that they can function better as a team.

The coaches may disagree. Their goals may also include determining who among the players will form – and perhaps lead – their teams.

Emerald Isle all players
Emerald Isle all players

For me, as a witness to this for the second time, I appreciate everyone, but I have to say the other chaperones who take vacation time to work in support of their own and others children are monsters of caring. They are the last to get to bed and the first to rise. When one needs a break, someone else steps up and covers. When one takes a moment and talks to the kids, someone else just gets done that which needs it.

Sure, there is a lot going on. And, with the years much of the camp, once going, is like a well oiled machine. But, the goals are the same – to give the student players an opportunity to improve. The chaperones get to know each other pretty well too .. which is an added benefit.

So, this is my thanks. Dave and Jerry, you’re awesome.

Chaperones minus Jerry
Chaperones minus Jerry

 

Procrastination and WDS

Yes, it is evident by looking at my blog that I’ve not been meeting my own goals for writing. Although I have two draft posts from February and March, I’ve been relatively inactive lately. This doesn’t mean there aren’t ample topics I want to address. It just means I haven’t prioritized my writing to allow for it. That will change.


I just returned from the 2015 World Domination Summit and it was, again, an amazing weekend. I WILL blog about this very soon, but, for now, let me encourage you to look into this fantastic weekend chock full of goodness. The speakers were amazing and they included (not a full list) … Jon Acuff, Jeremy Cowart, Lewis Howes, Asha Dornfest, Vani Hari, and, of course, the Kid President !

Kid President
The Kid President at WDS 2015

All of the speakers were honest, informative, and moving. But, I have to say, this year the single greatest experience I had was meeting people whose stories, experiences, and goals moved me. For whatever reason this time, and I’ve been to WDS three times previously, I experienced a greater connection to many of the other participants. And, it made for a greater experience for me. So thanks to you who welcomed me back, who asked about my goals/dreams, and who shared your own journey with me.

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WDS 2015
WDS 2015 Closing Party

More to come …

The ERC takes top honors at NC Tech Awards for Communications Technology

The ERC was awarded the 2014 top Communications Technology company at the NC Tech Awards last Thurs (Nov 6) in Raleigh. As the Executive Director, I am very proud of this award. It is more important because so few people are really aware of just how much the ERC does in the communities it serves.

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Sure, the ERC supports the four sectors named on its website (education, healthcare, government services, and economic development), but what does this mean? It means the ERC works with communities from Franklin to Sparta to enhance student’s access to broadband. It means that doctors at clinics or hospitals have access to important patient data that is kept/maintained elsewhere. More importantly it means that in emergency situations, doctors can request specific patient information including xrays, MRIs, and other images from regional healthcare groups to best serve critical patient needs. It means that local, regional, and state government branches can get the highest level of broadband speed, reliability and uptime. It also means that government can connect its facilities across a city, county, or the entire region at significantly reduced costs without the loss of quality service. Last, it means that the ERC supports numerous public safety networks and plays a critical role as a technical community advocate. This, and more.

The ERC is an open access network. We not only make available our resources to other telecommunication and cable companies, but we also look for opportunities to create partnerships where we both benefit. In this case, our role is to provide vital infrastructure to enable these other companies to serve the ‘last mile’ in a financially feasible manner.

All of us at the ERC will continue to support economic developers as well as community, business and policy leaders in advocating for a better tomorrow. This can be accomplished in many ways. For one, we continue to expand our network by constructing millions of dollars worth of new fiber optic infrastructure. Our goal is to reach as many underserved areas as possible, and then partner with other groups – local or national – to expand coverage options at competitive prices. What we ultimately want is to increase the adoption of technology. And the ERC believes that this will create opportunity.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a word of thanks to the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA), all of the judges who voted for the ERC, all our partners in this process, all ERC customers who have worked with us over the past 12 years, and last but not least a special thanks to the ERC employees – past and present – without whom this would not have been possible.

Congratulations to the ERC !

The ERC was named a finalist for the Communications Technology Company award by the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA). The NC Tech Awards, held on November 6 in Raleigh, will highlight and recognize the “companies and individuals who have characterized excellence, innovation and leadership” in technology across the state.  The Communications Technology Company award highlights a product or service that demonstrates industry leading performance and/or achieves a milestone of notable success.

The ERC is very proud of its long-term association with NCTA, and especially of this award nomination. Congratulations to the ERC team!

Return from WDS

I returned yesterday from Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit (“WDS”), a gathering in Portland, Oregon, of people who want to change the world. It’s basically a long weekend experience focused on community, adventure, and service. It is entrepreneurial. It is creative. It is a community devoted to making both personal and social change.

This year was special, though. It was my second WDS, and I was unsure of how I would perceive the weekend and events. Making it more challenging, but simultaneously more special, was the decision to bring my fifteen year old son with me. By seeing WDS through his eyes and discussing his perceptions, I was hoping to find greater inspiration … and also share it. This decision made my WDS experience much more profound. Let me explain.

At my first WDS, I participated in the events, attended the sessions, looked to feel the blatant enthusiasm that surrounded me, and I kind of did, but it wasn’t genuine. I really didn’t connect with it as much as others. Sure, I was motivated by the speakers. Loved listening to all of them. I was absolutely able to see the gems, but for me they were in the rough. And it was especially odd because some of my most admired colleagues from Asheville were also in attendance. While good, it wasn’t great. Regardless, I registered for WDS 2014.

Upon arriving with my son, we did some obligatory Portland sight-seeing (Voodoo Doughnut, Adidas, and Powell’s Books). Friday morning brought with it a yoga session where, with 807 excited and amazing people, we shattered the world record for the longest yoga chain! I expected to meet people, but I didn’t expect to make my first conference friend because of my t-shirt (I wore a guitar store t-shirt and met a player). My son, who didn’t participate in the yoga, joined me for lunch then registration.

WDS1        WDS2

Our excitement was building but for me it meant more to watch him engage in conversation. They typically went something like, “what do you do and why are you here?” For me, I want my son to craft an extraordinary life. What a better place to start to develop his thoughts on his future than with 3000 independent and creative people? That was exactly what I hoped he would get out of WDS.

When the sessions started both my son and I were enthralled with AJ Jacobs who charged us to not focus on the few things that go wrong when so much is going right. The speakers continued to bring relevant messages. A couple favorites were Jadah Sellner and her charge to “take imperfect action”, and Michael Hyatt with his design-driven life.

We discussed meetups but largely stuck to the concert hall to listen to the speakers. As we struck up conversations with other attendees, we developed a special kind of an elevator speech of what we were doing. More importantly, it allowed him to hear everyone else’s story (~ies). But I was not only watching my son. This year, I was really participating. I was making notes of ideas to follow-up on, concepts I want to explore, and authors I need to make time to read. I was open to more people and they returned this with their own openness. I made connections.

For us the weekend concluded with the closing celebration, but on Sunday night when my son asked me if he could come back, I can’t tell you how proud I felt. Not only did I bond with my son in a way I had not yet experienced, not only was I able to serve my son as a guide, but I was also able to witness a glimpse of the man he is going to be. He was brave to join me for a weekend not truly understanding the purpose. He was open minded to listen and take the many messages to heart. He was smart to take advantage of all the information available to him. And, I was impressed with his ability to choose the events he wanted to participate in. I thought I was giving something to my son by bringing him with me to WDS. But the gift given in return has impacted me profoundly more than I envisioned. This year, I got it .. and I am very excited to return next year.

WDS3