Archive for the ‘work’ Category

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Machine Translation making waves and how to make sure you know how to talk about it at the cocktail party

In Books,commercials,Community,computers,culture,facebook,Technology,work on October 5, 2016 by mstevensrev

bn-cz300_google_g_20140528135745In the past month(s) some of the news coming out from major technology companies have caught the media’s attention. At the same time my co-host for the Globally Speaking Podcast, Renato Beninatto , was really pushing us to make our most complex podcast to date on the topic as part of a series on the machines taking over:) Since then I have started doing my research in preparation for our conversations with leaders in the field. At this point I’m likely to help others talk intelligently at a cocktail party.

To date much of the conversation around Machine Translation, which has been around since the 1950s, mainly consisted of statistical and rule-based systems. Rule Based systems as the names signifies is based up linguistic rules that set how words will be translated, words from target language will replace the source language. Statistical machine translation focused on pattern recognition within translation and provided target based on huge amounts of parallel texts. Most of the effective machine engines for a time ended up being a Hybrid machine translation engine that incorporated the best of both methodologies..

Now neural networks are on the scene. To understand the effectiveness and basic outline of this technology check out a this great article, From not working to neural networking. As I understand the strength of the neural network is the depth of the data that is process. Rather then being limited to a number of rules or a corpus of strings to improve the quality. Neural machine translation operates beyond a string and by exposing it to a huge number of examples it will learn without telling it what to look for. There is a sight that even allows you to demo the Neural Machine Translation by LISA, which has been trained on a lot of data from the UN and European Parliament.

So since this has been going on for some time, why the news all of a sudden? For one Alan Packer from Facebook came out and said that the other forms (specifically statistical) of machine translation have reached their usefulness and Facebook is now focusing on the use of neural networks. Check out Rachel Metz’s article, Facebook Plans to Boost Its Translations Using Neural Networks This Year. Then this month Google has come out and said that Google Neural Machine Translation reduces errors by 60 percent, cool. NPR picking it up here, they interviewed a translator naysayer who felt the need to reinforce that professional translators will be needed.

Then during Google’s “Made by Google” Event, the implications of this break thru and artificial intelligence (AI) were discussed by Sudar Pichai during the early part of the event. The part about the implications for voice technology were interest, why do we only have one voice?

With all the excitement it is important to have other voices outside of Google and Facebook, so that we don’t all get caught up in the next wave of hype. For that check out the article, Hyperbolic? Experts Weigh In on Google Neural Translate from Florian Faes at Slater. Overall the opinions are rather favorable, so check it out.

Now you are on the road of looking like a star with your friends and new acquaintances. Glad to hear about other resources you are finding key on getting you up to speed with this great technology, if it’s something we use I’ll be sure to mention it on the podcast!

Sometimes I wish that I could go into a time machine right now and just look at my self and say, ‘Calm down. Things are gonna be fine. Things are gonna be all great. Just relax.’

-Tristan Wilds

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Simple sales strategy exercise

In advertising,business,Community,culture,design,principles,running,work on September 21, 2016 by mstevensrev

20160920_073222.jpgYesterday while running through the park yesterday I ran past this art and was reminded of a simple mental exercise regarding sales. Follow with me for a moment:

Which of these to chairs represents the salesperson and the client?

There is no correct answer but the way you answer may reveal a great deal about how you think of salespeople. If you are a salesperson it may reveal how you think about yourself. In an ideal world the chairs would be the same size and it would be two experts working together for their common good. There are also times to humble oneself, when providing hospitality or after a mistake that may lead to an discrepancy.  There have been moments where I have remembered this image and thought to myself, which one do I feel like right now…and is that okay?

Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.

William Clement Stone

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Finding my own and inspiring others voice

In art,blogging,Community,culture,leadership,Uncategorized,work,writing on August 18, 2016 by mstevensrev

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Over half way through this year I would say that has been the biggest change in my life, finding my own voice. A big part of it has been the Globally Speaking Podcast. Blogging and stand up comedy have also been a part of the process as well. Pretty fun and I’m excited to see where it leads.

The second half of the title (inspiring others voice)I’m not so sure about, but I’ll take some credit for it. Two co-workers have published on LinkedIn, if you have a chance check them out:

When (not) to be helpful, Tucker Johnson

Career 3.0 – The climbing cage, Juliette Tanarro

Check them out!

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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The Corporate Mystic: preliminary thoughts

In art,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,generosity,mission,Money,Reading,Spiritual,Uncategorized,work on November 28, 2012 by mstevensrev

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There are a few obsessions I have, one is that when I go to a thrift store I search through the book section often looking for used copies of some of my favorite books of all time in order to give away for gifts.  In addition I usually grab ‘wild card’ books that I come across that look interesting to me, often the $2 investment is well worth it.  Last week I came across an interesting title that initially I thought sounded silly but took a chance anyway.  After reading the first chapter I realize that it has great value, the book is titled The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground, by Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman.

A summary statement in the prologue says, “Genuine Corporate Mystics live life from a spiritual base. They are in business for their hearts and souls as well as their wallets. They are in business to support the hearts and souls of all the people with whom they work.”  They go on to talk about how these spiritual folks have dirt under their nails as they practice daily the spirituality that they preach.

One story goes like this, “There is a Zen monastery near Tokyo that attracts many powerful executives from the nearby industrial cities.  One day the master said: ‘There is no room in my monastery for mushy mystics,, dreamy folks who leave their dirty teacups everywhere.  Here we meditate and we was our teacups. Both are equally important. We teach our students to be ruthlessly demanding of themselves and their colleagues. Expect the best!If people cannot function with clarity in the often-tough real world, their meditations and practices have been for nought. You must master two realities: You must revel in the vast inner space, the emptiness that is connected to all the emptiness everywhere. And at the very same time, you must give your full attention to the present moment, whether you are buying a train ticke or kissing your wife or reading the stock quotes.'”

 

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Continuing with the animal theme

In Bible,Community,devotional,faith,family,generosity,home,leadership,mission,principles,quote,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 13, 2012 by mstevensrev

ImageThis morning I read Geoffrey James article, The Power of Determinationand was inspired.  There are many challenging things happening in our world, both personally and to friends that are very close to me. “So, even if it feels like God has flushed you down the toilet, pick yourself up and keep going. As long as you’re alive and kicking, there’s always a chance that God will pick you up and bring you to a place of safety.” I recognize that my current challenges pale in comparison to the circumstance others are facing in this world.  While I may be able to do little to improve their life I can be faithful and determined in my circumstances, then live with an awareness of their plight so that if circumstances allow I may be generous with all that I have been give.  The scriptures tell us that we (people) are but a breath, therefore whatever challenging circumstances we face today are less than a breath.  Remember 1 Cor. 13:13, And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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The (free-range) Chicken Theology of Work

In art,Bible,church,Community,culture,design,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,food,Friends,Fun,Japan,Localization,mission,movies,Prayer,principles,Spiritual,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 11, 2012 by mstevensrev


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My theology of work is forever changing and evolving, and one place that I journey with others on this path is at Kiros, once or twice a month depending on my travel schedule I attended the breakfasts meetings they put on where they often have a speaker share some perspective on living out their calling as a Christian in the marketplace.  As a side note I also had the privilege of speaking to the group last March, if you want to check that our it is here.  This last Friday Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary provided one of the best talks I have heard on the topic, his stories had us rolling on the floor, his theology was simple enough a child could understand while making thoughtful people think, and his love of the scriptures came through as everything was driven by the text.  The premise of Richard’s talk was very simple, you have been called by God to your work and you have the opportunity to examine that calling in this life to better understand your ‘responsibility’ to live out that calling in your fullness.

There were so many rich stories to share but my favorite was one Richard shared about a friend who is a chicken farmer who examined his role in the plan God has in raising chickens on his farm.  There is a tension when you come to farming or the role animals have on this earth and the tension is this: Animals are not people and animals have not merely been created to serve our purposes.  Another way to say this is a chicken won’t write Shakespeare, but a chicken is not merely a piece of meat.  Therefore this farmer thought deeply about the theology of raising chickens.  He came up with this, “God wants every chicken on our farm to have the opportunity to strut his/her chicken self infront of the other chickens.” In that theology I hear echos of the local farm movement as described to me by Mark Canlis, that the goals of these farmers is to have their cows (or other animals) only have one “bad day” in their life.  That day would be the day they are slaughtered. Though the image Richard provided me was so much more winsome because I see in my mind that chicken strutting around, rather than focusing on the bloody chopping block.

This can be a helpful premise for chickens, but I propose that people cannot think deeply about these issues because we don’t recognize that we have been created to strut the glory in which we have been created, theologians refer to this as being created in the image of God. Marianne Williamson was famously quoted in a speech by Nelson Mandela, she says,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measureIt is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The knee jerk reaction people, especially from my theological tradition have, to this kind of thinking is that we are sinful therefore pride and arrogance must be guarded against. This warning is fair but it sets up a false choice between humility and glory.  Jesus lived in the fullness of God and yet was extremely humble.  He accepted all people as equal, he did not use them as means to an end, the only part I would add to our responsibility in the area of humility is that we recognize that we are wrong intentionally because of bad motives and unintentionally whereas Jesus did not have this struggle because he was God…he was perfect. One friend of mine says, “I’m wrong 50% of the time, the hard part is that I don’t even know which 50%, but God is making me better.”  Live out in the glory that you have been created in, be quick to acknowledge when you fail at it, and in gratitude acknowledge that the source of every good gift in your life is not your own but rather a gift from God.

The question that Richard’s (free-range) Chicken Theology brought up for me is, how do you apply this in the darkest valley’s of your career and work? In the past two years before my current job I walked through a few of those valleys, the struggle of broken promises that would not reward me for my work, getting fired, and having a job where I felt lonely and hopeless.  How do you strut your stuff in those circumstance? I asked the question and Richard’s answer was twofold as I understood it, in thinking about it I think there may be at least third option as I understand it.

Richard said first your current circumstances may be preparation for the next step.  This rang true for me because I look back on the last two years and acknowledge that I would not be currently living in such glory without all that I had gone through.  The experience humbled me, gave me fearful experiences that I persevered through, and provided tangible knowledge that assists me daily in my current job.  Learn everything you can if you are going through a hard time, examine your character, life and work for there could be something on the horizon you are completely unaware of that will be a blessing.  This answer provides hope, but the truth is like a chicken we are completely ignorant if our future date is the chopping block.  And yes I know that even for the child of God the chopping block is not the end of the story because there is greater glory beyond, but I still find this answer a part of the overall answer rather then complete.

The second answer Richard provided is that your vocation could be less then the sum total of your calling.  Our callings are greater than our work, I sell therefore I am a salesperson yet I am a father, husband, churchman, and the list goes on and on.  Perhaps your work is merely a platform that provides you the freedom to pursue the other callings in your life with greater glory. I have met many people in my life that this is the circumstances they live in, they are lawyers but their passion is to see the gospel forwarded in particular countries in the world like China.  The short side of this answer as complete is that we were created in a garden where all aspects of life were intended to work for God’s glory, so when we set create an arbitrary distinction between our work life and home life, for instance, it is impossible to live as God intended…as a whole person.  I know for me personally when my work life was hopeless it was very difficult to enjoy my time at the park with my children, most of my conversations with my wife were in tears clouded by depression.  This is why I contend again that work as a platform merely for the rest of our life falls short in allowing us to live gloriously.

A third option I want to propose does not answer the question fully either. As a matter of fact I sense that used incorrectly it could be the most damaging of the the options as it is the most deterministic and could create an undeserved heavier burden on someone already struggling. This option is the most Taoist or Confucius of the options, and because of that I think it is the most practical (in touch with how the world really functions and how our role relates to that functioning).

A documentary came out recently titled, Jiro dream of Sushi “by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.” This description is taken from an article on Lifehacker by Maximiliano El Nerdo Nérdez.  In the article titled Lessons We can Learn from Jiro Ono, Maximiliano encourages readers as his first point to fall in love with your work.

“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”

Deciding on your occupation is a challenge for we live in a society that provides the opportunity to live in reasonable comfort regardless of your job or if it is in line with your calling.  The hard work is not finding a job, it is discovering calling…once your calling is discovered or rather accepted (if you are a Calvinist) then the path of occupation is more clear though it may be a difficult path.  Part of my calling is as an evangelist, meant that for a time my occupation would place me circumstances to lead people to a similar vision of my spiritual practice though for most people I talked with they would not share the same vision.  So I became a pastor of a church in Oakland, CA.  The church had financial challenges from before I started there, attendance was poor, and it was in a city that was not necessarily supportive of the entire scope of work we were pursing.  The path for me as an evangelist was not easy.  Now that I am in technology services my calling as an evangelist has not changed, but the path is much easier in many ways, and the path still allows me to live out my glorious calling while dedicating myself in excellence to my occupation.

Today I want to encourage everyone, strut your stuff in front of us other chickens. If you are in a dark valley, remember your current occupation (or lack of occupation) could be a learning step, a platform for other work, or the place you have been given to dedicate yourself.  Even as I write that I believe the answer is all three not merely one or another.  When I worked in a church we began each service with a call to worship, and I would frame the call to worship and the entire service with these words, “The good news for those God loves is that he has the first word to us and that first word is always blessing. God loves you and has made you in his glory! The good news does not end there rather God has the first word and the last word.  The last word of those God loves is also blessing, you have been delivered.” So regardless of your circumstance remember you have been created for glory and you will be delivered unto glory. Amen.

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Starbucks’ amazing marketing and happy election day

In advertising,art,blogging,Blue Monster,Community,culture,design,faith,familiy,Friends,Fun,mission,politics,principles,publicity,Theology,Uncategorized,work on November 6, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

Living in Seattle I am very accustom to hearing people criticize Starbucks, my thoughts on the topic of coffee are that I prefer how other companies roast their beans. Therefore it is aesthetic not cynical in my critique.

ImageOne thing I am blown away with regarding Starbucks is the sophistication with their marketing.  Today I am in Redwood Shores, CA working at a Starbucks before my appointments.  The baristia offered me a ‘free’ bracelet that clearly has $5 donation marked on it, my defenses went up and I started trying to uncover the angel.  The bracelets are for Let’s Create Jobs for USA, a campaign sponsored by Howard Schultz and others that has raised $15M and leveraged $105M, estimating 5,000 jobs created for small business in the USA.  Since it is election day they are giving the bracelets away for free.  This ‘gift’ took me from being someone who would never donate to the cause to someone not just interested in donating but blogging on it.  Brilliant.

This is a corporation taking advantage of a term I learned from Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid, check out his article on “Social Objects are the future of marketing.” Hugh states:

The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the rea­son two peo­ple are tal­king to each other, as oppo­sed to tal­king to some­body else. Human beings are social ani­mals. We like to socia­lize. But if you think about it, there needs to be a rea­son for it to hap­pen in the first place. That rea­son, that “node” in the social net­work, is what we call the Social Object.

I’m wearing my bracelet, talking with those around me at Starbucks about it, and will wear it to my appointments this afternoon sharing my experience.  The ‘gift’ Starbucks provided me today is not only the bracelet but the opportunity to be part of a story that is larger than myself…that is impacting the world for good.  This is something that we all should inspire to provide the people around us. There is a place for companies to provide something for free, if that is all you do you are not a company rather a charity (and that is good too).  Starbucks used a social object to engage me on a cause but also it helps change a brand that I do not have the most favorable feelings toward.

So on this election day that is filled with disgusting shit on all sides, make a positive difference.  Inspire something larger than yourself to impact the world for good.  Perhaps it means not having the shitty conversation with someone who may think differently then you, or maybe it is something else.  Do your civic duty and vote, then go hug someone you love and let them know how grateful you are for them.

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Doing things the right way, Caffe Torino Seattle

In business,culture,food,Friends,Fun,Localization,publicity,Uncategorized,work on November 2, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

ImageJust this week I was able to catch up with an old co-worker friend of mine Andrea Florissi, who I worked with for a number of years left his role as a Senior Project Manager to open a cafe.  The last few months have been amazing to see and a delight to hear the story of how Andrea took his time in this venture of a lifetime and his dedication to doing it right now shows!

Andrea told me it took so much longer to find the location the he realized.  One spot that he thought was ideal took a very long time and ultimately didn’t work our.  Now he has the newest cafe in South Lake Union, just a few blocks from REI, this could be one of the hottest areas in Seattle, and a great place to start a cafe.

ImageWhile I visited when the cafe was still under construction, Andrea mentioned to me the special drink that they would offer to make the unique in the city of Seattle.  Needless to say it sounded like the Italian version of voodoo and I was not a believer, especially since my favorite coffee shop is on block away.

So after stopping in to say hi a few days ago, I turned to the employees working that day and yell, “Alright hook me up with that secret drink!” which is called Bicerin.  The drink was described to me as a mix of Italian hot chocolate, coffee and cream.  I took one sip and it changed my life.  My favorite speciality coffee drink in Seattle has been a Vivace Mocha.  Generally I do not drink Mochas but the richness and bitterness at Vivace has made it my favorite drink for almost fifteen year.  Vivace has competition, the chocolate in the drink hangs on in an amazing way, needless to say I was blown away.  Only later did I find out that they use Theos Chocolate for the drink…amazing.

So if you want to try something new on the Seattle coffee scene go check out Andrea and Cafe Torino.  The food looked great and they have free wireless, so it has now become my shop for meetings in that area of Seattle.  Andrea did things the right way, and I hope you get to enjoy it! Check them out on facebook too.

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Not another blog post on leadership, ugh

In Bible,Books,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,leadership,principles,Theology,Uncategorized,work on October 30, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

Leadership is such a popular topic that for me it is beginning to lose any meaning.  Organizations that I respect like Amazon.com use it as core to their hiring practices, just check out their values and Jeff Bezo’s ten leadership principles that never go out of style.  Over the years I have spent a ton of time learning and studying the topic, I have The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell and other books on the topic right next to my desk in the office.  Continually I go back and forth with embracing these ideas as a rule of life and going contrarian to the popular thinking.  Needless to say I am still learning and somewhat tormented with the concept of leadership.

This ambiguity increased when I read a story this morning from 1 Samuel 10 about the anointing of King Saul:

10 1-2 Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him. He said, “Do you see what this means? God has anointed you prince over his people.“This sign will confirm God’s anointing of you as prince over his inheritance: After you leave me today, as you get closer to your home country of Benjamin, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s Tomb. They’ll say, ‘The donkeys you went to look for are found. Your father has forgotten about the donkeys and is worried about you, wringing his hands—quite beside himself!’3-4 “Leaving there, you’ll arrive at the Oak of Tabor. There you’ll meet three men going up to worship God at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats, another carrying three sacks of bread, and the third a jug of wine. They’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept.5-6 “Next, you’ll come to Gibeah of God, where there’s a Philistine garrison. As you approach the town, you’ll run into a bunch of prophets coming down from the shrine, playing harps and tambourines, flutes and drums. And they’ll be prophesying. Before you know it, the Spirit ofGod will come on you and you’ll be prophesying right along with them. And you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person!“When these confirming signs are accomplished, you’ll know that you’re ready: Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!“Now, go down to Gilgal and I will follow. I’ll come down and join you in worship by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings. Wait seven days. Then I’ll come and tell you what to do next.”Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day.

The background of the story is rich, the nation of Israel had a long string of bad leaders called judges, the people began to bitch about wanting a king like other nations because they though that would be best, finally God relented giving them what they asked for, and Saul a really tall good looking young man is anointed king of the nation. This morning as I read the story I was struck with how little Saul did to become their leader.  He was lost looking for his father’s donkey’s when the prophet Samuel finds him and anoints him, Saul did nothing. Then God orchestrates a number of signs for Saul to confirm the anointing: finding the lost ass, people giving him bread, and even an ancient rave with a bunch a prophets where Saul prophesies as if he is a holy man.  All of this happen ‘to’ Saul but most striking to me is, “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.

Saul had nothing to do with getting into leadership and this flies in the face of popular theory I have studied and the theological concept of servant leadership.  Saul was neither a great leader nor a servant, rather Saul’s life (and heart) were consumed by a powerful and living God in order to lead.  Even as I write this I know that I should not be surprised as David, the greatest leader ever to live, was nicknamed a man after God’s own heart.  God raises up leaders as fit for God’s plans. As a side note it is no wonder that followers of God are admonished to pray for our leaders, if God has placed them there we are to pray whether they are a blessing or a curse to us personally they are part of God’s greater plan.  This is key to have in mind during this election process in the United States, more prayer and less banter.

To borrow some of the best thoughts I have heard recently on leadership I want to share a sermon from St. Pauls Church Seattle, Rev. Melissa M. Skelton is one of the best leaders inside or outside the church I have ever had the privilege to meet.  Her sermon two weeks ago said this:

Robert Greenleaf, a retired AT&T Executive, championed a similar model of leadership during a time when more authoritarian models of leadership dominated corporate life. In his thin little pamphlet entitled The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf, consistent with his title, wrote not about the Leader as Servant but about the Servant as Leader—a crucial distinction for him. Greenleaf says this: “The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Check out the entire manuscript of the sermon here.

Personally I will continue to wander through the waters of what it means to lead.  I will pray for leaders, I will pray that God will ‘change my heart’, and I will evaluate my life through the lens of whether those I serve are more likely themselves to become servants.

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A thanks and what I learned from my first race ultra-running and how does it apply to the rest of life.

In Books,business,Community,culture,exercise,faith,family,food,Friends,Fun,humor,quote,Reading,running,Spiritual,Sports,Theology,Uncategorized,work on October 28, 2012 by mstevensrev

Yesterday I participated in a twelve hour race less then a mile from house called the Carkeek 12 Hour, which is marketed as the worst race in the world.  It is twelve hours of a two mile loop on poorly marked trails and approximately 400 vertical feet every loop.  You begin a six in the morning in the complete dark with headlamps and go until six in the evening.  And now the results, I WON, okay I didn’t win the most number of loops, I’m not even sure if I won the costume contest (I was Waldo from Where’s Waldo, pretty clever if I do say so because it was easy to run it).  I am certain I WON the prize for most smack talking in the race, I think I met every runner and had a blast getting to know them, in addition I accomplished my goal for the race and finished with a smile on my face, clearly I was the day’s winner.

Before I start talking about what I learned from the experience, I’m sure some of you have some questions:

Q. Did you run the whole time?

A. Depends on what you call running.  I averaged about 4 miles per hour over my race.  So my questions is how fast do you run? I kept moving and other then some adjustments to my costume throughout the race I kept moving, there were laps I completely walk these laps often were when I was eating.

Q. Did you say eating?

A. Yes, I ate good.  One of the sponsors of the race was Seattle Biscuit Company, @SeattleBisCo and it was amazing.  I did tell them if I had a Biscuit Truck I would have a picture of someone’s butt in the logo and an African-american woman named Flo serving them…perhaps for their second truck SBC will do this;)  
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They offered us food included in the cost of the race, so I took full advantage I 
had two eggs, bacon, and ham over grits, and two biscuits.  One biscuit with jam the second with Apple butter.  It was amazing, many runners stick with Goo and other sports products that make me want to puke.  The candy they provided was great initially but I noticed that I would crash from the sugar about in the second lap after eating it, so SBC was my savior and was one element of the race that made my experience unforgettable.  Very grateful for the amazing food and wonderful service from these guys.  They even laughed when I told them that, “If I crap myself or throw up I won’t blame you guys..” That is a line that could really be taken poorly by the wrong person.  So if you are in Seattle find this food truck, you will not be disappointed.

I’m glad to answer any other questions related to the race, my experience, and my training for it (actually I didn’t train specifically for this race, I’m currently preparing for my triathlon season next year…this race was just for ‘fun’).  As I ran there were a few things that came to mind that I wanted to share, principles that I applied that I thought applied to both my personal and professional life, check it out.

The Plan

Going into the race I spent a good amount of time mentally planning, I don’t just hop out and try to go running for twelve hours without thinking it through.  The course record was 33 laps, approximately 66 miles and 13,000 total vertical…keep in mind Mt. Ranier and Pike’s Peak are 14,000 vertical feet.  I knew if I ran the race of my life the best I would do is 30 laps, so while that was in the back of my mind it was not reality.  I set an achievable goal of running 15 laps (30 mile), which would be the longest distance I have ever run (6,000 vertical feet which is two trips up to Snoqualmie Pass) this was a goal I would be completely satisfied achieving.  Since the trails are only .5 mile from my house I spent many training runs exploring and enjoying the trails so they would seem familiar to me for the race, I did not run more then two laps for any training run because I didn’t want to get sick of the course before I even got to the time of the race.

During the race I executed my plan.  Some ultra runners are so remarkable they can push their bodies to run an entire course like this one for the entire distance of the race.  That is not me.  I knew for me to survive the day walking was important.  The course was marked the opposite direction of what I had trained and there were a few areas that I had never run and was unfamiliar with.  Thankfully at the start of the race in the pitch black I was able to run the first lap with a few people including ‘Big Bird’, an extremely gifted woman ultra runner who had completed the race the year before.  This lap was much faster then I had anticipated starting but it was worth it just to have someone take me through the course, honestly it was tough for me to keep up that first lap but I knew in the long term for the race it would be to my advantage as getting lost would have discouraged me from the start.  After that lap I was able to reorient my mind going the opposite direction from what I had anticipated, the parts that I thought I would run downhill now became areas to briskly walk, the hills I anticipated walking now were opportunities to bomb down, within the first hour of the race I had completely adjusted my thinking and honestly I think it is one of the factors that kept me mentally fresh.

Most of my life I have lived without a plan, only in the past five years has planning enter the equation.  Having a plan with stretch goals and achievable goals is important, otherwise as Yogi Berra famously said “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you going, because you might end up there.”  This applies in my personal and professional life, plans for the next month, year, and years into the future are important.  These plans are not set in stone but they are the maps for the trails of my life, I can always vary from them if I want to see a view or if a hill seems too difficult to climb at the time, but at least I know (on some level) why I am where I am at in any given moment.  Even when wandering because as someone once said, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Winning and being competitive

The reality is there are amazing ultra athlete’s in the Pacific Northwest, I got to witness these men and women first hand yesterday.  And yes I’ll admit many times during the day I fantasized about what it would mean for me to finish with the most numbers of lap, and in my fatigued state I may have even thought it was within my grasp.  So I ran competitively, at the point in the race when these amazing athletes began to pass me I played a game with them, though they had no idea.  They would come up behind me and as they got closer I would incrementally speed up, this had two advantages as I saw it.  Here were people already working harder then I was early in the race, this meant they would have to work even harder perhaps even harder then they had anticipated.  Once you see someone often you determine regardless of your pace to pass them, so you do what is necessary to get by, this meant I could ‘fool’ them into using more energy then they would prefer.  Also it improved my time, even though I was not racing at the same level as these folks I was able to benefit myself and my time by being competitive with them even if it was only for five or ten minutes while they passed me.  Again this was a complete personal secret that improved my time and kept me mentally fresh, it also made me better.

In life there will always be someone who is better then you.  Your chance of winning often is dependent on whether they show up to the race or not, because you have no chance of beating them head to head.  Whether they show up is not in your control, but if they do show up it is an opportunity for you to personally improve.  Take the opportunity to make yourself better and perhaps one day you will end up being the person that everyone hopes doesn’t show up to the race.

There were two ‘official’ ways to win at the Carkeek 12 hour, most number of laps and the costume contest. While I would have loved to win both or either of the honors, I created a third way to win “Best Trash Talker”.  For me this meant that I would talk with anyone where every on the course regardless of how bad or good I was feeling.  While alone on the course I would imagine what fun conversations to have with others and I created a catch phrase that I stole from work “Gitty up!”  When I would be passed by the most serious of runners for the second of third time I would accuse them of using their car or cutting the course short. Knowing the truth, that they were just better then me, I didn’t let a little truth get in the way of me connecting with others on the course;)  This created a bond for me, one that I began to enjoy seeing these folks even though they were kicking my butt, and my hope was that they were enjoying seeing me because they knew they would get some entertainment value when they passed the guy dressed up like Waldo. At one point I came upon the aid station and said to the crew of people who were assisting us, “I don’t want to be a tattle-tail but unless Hippie Runner is a costume I don’t think anyone ahead of me in the race is actually dressed up in costume, can you disqualify them so I can win?”  It lead one runner who overheard me say this say that he was dressed as Lance Armstrong and has a blood bag full of horse blood that he was going to run with later in the race.

Chris McDougall in his epic book Born to Run, discuss the evolutionary theory that humans were pack animals and each member of the pack plays an essential role for survival.  At the core of the ‘pack’ theory is that we are created for connection with each other, frankly I believe connection is key for our existence as a species.  Yes, my trash talking talking was a means of connecting more deeply with my pack yesterday.  One more popular example I relate to this has to do with trash talking and the NBA.  Rumor has it that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were/are two of the greatest trash talkers in the history of the game, not only two of the greatest athletes every to play basketball.  I draw a connection here to their athletic performance and their connecting with people.  Just to clarify, trash talking is not merely swearing at people or telling them the are worthless pieces of trash.  Trash talking is connecting more along the lines of “your mother dresses you funny”. Clever thoughtful words used to engage your competition mentally.  You don’t have to be a great athlete to pull this off, you have the opportunity even if you are average to make a deeper more ‘human’ connection.  Since none of us are machines operating through life we have the chance to enter into another reality through engaging conversation with people. Take this opportunity today, if you have the skills in an area to back it up then the world is your oyster.

Gratitude

A few months ago I read with a book club Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, and it was the inspiration to participate in the Carkeek 12 Hour. I am grateful both for the book club and the book itself to have provided the soil for me to grow as a person, I could not and would not do something so insane without others.  We do not change the world (or ourselves for that matter) alone.  I have hard people say, “Even the lone ranger had Tonto.” Yesterday the people that made the race possible were the race organizers (Sam and Brock) and the folks that volunteered to run the aid station.  Many of these folks probably would have preferred to be running the race themselves and instead they made it possible for me to enjoy the day and have an experience of a lifetime.  During the race my goal was to show my gratitude by keeping these folks entertained.  Somewhere around my seventh loop I came by the aid station to check my time and laps.  When they told me how many I had run I said, “Crap I am going way too fast, if I keep running this fast my intestines will fall out my asshole.” While they were still laughing I added, “I know because I’m a doctor.”

Regardless of where you are in life you did not get there on your own, I don’t care what any politician tells you.  People help people and often especially as Americans we forget the fact and continue to move forward.  Make sure that you find someway to say thanks, a grateful heart leaves no room for bitterness.  I am so thankful for my family, friends, co-workers, race organizers, and crew that made yesterday possible and make everyday of life possible.  Each one of us has dark seasons, during my darkest times I have taken to the intentional practice of gratitude.  At the end of the day I will light a candle and reflect on all that I am thankful for starting with the beginning of my day and working through until the end, often I will do that twice because it is very hard for me to think in a linear manner for any length of time.  Once your mind is oriented in this way go out and practice acts of gratitude.  In our family we emphasize saying the words please and thank you, showing others their proper value.

C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.  We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, is fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”  Yesterday was not without me being flippant or superior toward other, therefore I know I have a long ways to go before ever achieving this goals.  Regardless I am grateful to Sam and Brock and the crew who made such a wonderful event possible.