Friday, December 21, 2007

Life, Death & Shattered Glass

Life did not flash before my eyes when a slab of ice and snow the size of a refrigerator hurled through the air with enough force and velocity to create the damage, pictured at left. (Check out all the possible calculations.) The New Jersey (NJ) Turnpike is a dangerous enough roadway without frozen flying debris.

Just minutes before, I was carefully and defensively navigating the vehicular lunatics weaving in and out of the south bound traffic lanes at 80 mph. Yes, I too was in a hurry to tend to my eighty-year old mother who was just released from the hospital but I managed to keep to the speed limit. (Driving the legal speed limit of 65 is considered an annoyance as well as a hazard to the self-prescribed professional race car drivers of the NJ Turnpike.) Relieved to have survived the "funnel" of the truck and car lanes that converged at Cranbury, I was happy to see the "speed racers" of the roadway fade into the distance.

Minutes later, when I was about to overtake a semi-tractor trailer a behemoth white block of what I had hoped was snow took flight from the truck's roof. All I remember thinking was, God, please just let that be snow because there is no way that I can avoid colliding with it and if it isn't snow I am really in trouble and I was really stupid for not signing for the extra insurance at the rental counter because I have never been involved in accident in all the years I've been driving and I have to get to my mother's apartment before she calls me again.

I envisioned fluffy snow dissolving and wisping around the car leaving the windshield covered in particles of glimmering snow. In less time that it that it took to have that thought I heard a loud thud and then felt a rush of cold air blow through my hair. The snow was not just snow and it was anything but fluffy. Combined with recent rain it turned into a block of ice which smashed through the windshield and into my face. Small pieces of glass and ice sprayed everywhere. Surprisingly, I kept control of the car, and kept hold of the steering wheel. Fortunately, there weren't any cars directly behind me, so I was able to slow the car long enough to assess the situation (3-5 seconds) and take the next right action.

I fumbled for the hazard signal on the car's dashboard while attempting to see the truck's license plate but I couldn't through the damaged window. I pulled the car over to the shoulder and attempted to call 911 but couldn't get a signal. 'Can you hear me now?' No, they couldn't because, the incredibly unreliable Palm Treo I own opted out of service just when I needed it most.

After catching my breath I began picking the small shards of glass out of my face and hands, tried the phone once again and got through to 911. The operator connected me to the New Jersey State Police and minutes later a slight and very young officer pulled up behind my car. Through my rear view mirror I saw him mouth the words, 'holy shit!' as he surveyed the damage. Not long after the patrolman completed an accident report and accepted my refusal for medical attention, a tow truck magically arrived and took me and the car to a storage facility in Bordentown, NJ. It was interesting to note that, there were no seat belts in the tow truck. Perhaps that explained the driver's lack of front teeth and sense of humor.

I informed Dollar-Rent-a-Car of the condition and situation of their vehicle and they were caring and understanding. Nevertheless, they wanted their car back and are continuing to charge me the daily rate until they do get it back. They didn't accept that the NJ State Police has a contract with Haines Towing and that no other towing company is allowed to provide service on the NJ Turnpike. The officer said it's due to safety but I believe it has more to do with money. Either way, Dollar couldn't tow the car to the nearest location at Newark Airport, so as of today, a week later, they're still charging me the daily rate for a car that I don't have and is not drivable.

After being offered a ride by a very nice Mr. Haines to a commuter rail station, an hour later I arrived in Trenton, NJ and waited for a train back to New York City. My mother phoned several times inquiring if I was alright and when would I be arriving at her apartment. Mothers will always be mothers no matter how old they and their children become. After allaying her fears that I wasn't injured she said, "Well, you're still coming down to take care of me, aren't you?" At that point I remembered the fate of film director,
Alan Pakula who was driving the Long Island Expressway when a car kicked-up a metal pipe that had rolled under its wheels and shot it like a bullet through poor Mr. Pakula's windshield, instantly decapitating him. I could have manipulated my mother with his plight but I opted to be the adult. My ever-concerned mother asked, "You signed for the extra insurance coverage I hope?!" (I'm glad that I didn't because the deductible is a thousand dollars and my American Express card will cover all costs and damages.)

As I rode the train back to New York I thought of what had happened and how incredibly lucky I was. Was it fate? Was it luck? Was it just a coincidence? Did a higher power have a hand or a finger in the outcome? Friends have said, 'God was with you.' If that's true, why did it happen at all? Was it a test of my driving skills or was God with the trucker
that morning who told him to get in his/her truck without properly inspecting it before hitting the road? I have my own thoughts about it but it doesn't really matter because I am plainly and simply, grateful to (1) be alive and (2) to know that in an emergency I didn't lose my head (no pun intended) or my self-control; just a drop or two of blood from the shattered glass. I call that one lucky day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fifty and On Fire?


I turned fifty on December 12th and it hasn't grown on me yet.

A lot of people I know who are fifty plus have tried to relieve my angst by telling me that it's nothing, just another birthday but they're lying. I asked my friend Sandy what it was like turning half-century and with the luxury of time behind him he said, "Don't worry, it only took me four years to stop worrying about Death tapping me on the shoulder." How comforting.

In anticipation of tapping into the "elderly" buyer's market AARP starting soliciting me three years ago when I turned forty seven. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother would take me shopping at a department store and there in blatant bold letters hanging from a banner the store's advertising read "Back to School Specials." It was only July! We were just freed one month prior. Couldn't they let us enjoy our unscheduled time for just a couple of months?

AARP claims that members are required to be at least fifty years old. They had no problem cashing my check when I was a wee forrty nine. (I joined for the discounts although, I'm finding that I can get better prices on rental cars directly from the rental company's website.)

My apprehension turning the Big Five-O didn't affect my going ice skating with my wife at Bryant Park or continuing my marathon training or all the other activities that I'm engaged in. Still, there's now a certain race to get to I don't know where by the time my time has expired. I believe that it's now or never to be, do, become whatever is left for me to be, do and become. It's time to always be straight forward with everyone - not at their expense of course, only to be honest. No means no and yes means yes. I'd like to continue to say yes more than no when opportunity comes knocking at my door. The more I say "yes" the more I expand and grow.

Yesterday, my wife took me to a wonderful high tea at Lady Mendels at the Inn at Irving Place. I was the only male patron in the beautiful renovated brownstone complete with fireplace, antique furnishings and Christmas decorations. I brought along the recent AARP Newsletter to show my wife and it quickly caught fire when the waiter brought out a surprise birthday cake with way too many candles ablaze the white icing. How apropos: fifty and on fire!

Ensconced on a plush velvet settee behind our table, two experienced (formerly known as "senior") citizens sipped tea and were as cute and well dressed as the lace covered table settings. Although they asked each other "what did you say?" often, these two ladies were something to behold. Graceful and beautiful, strong and intelligent. They were probably as old as the brownstone hotel that held the elegant tearoom we sat in but I thought that if I live to be as old as these two, I hope that I can still get out of bed, dressed and exit the old age home to enjoy a cup of scintillating tea.

It's true that I don't want to lose my hair, hearing and eyesight. It's also true that I've been blessed beyond all imagination. I know that what's important is paying attention to all life's little details and to enjoy each and every moment. Still, I'd prefer that my body would stay young while my spirit grows wiser.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hunter - Gathers & Equality

Okay, I won the gene pool: white and male. Now that that is out of the way here are my experiences coaching and teaching leadership and other professional skills in large corporations:

Most of the managers and executives that I coach and train are male. Classrooms are typically made up of 90% men. As a strong supporter of having a 'balanced' gender workforce I always comment on the male dominated rooms which, is proceeded by and from the men in the room that the industry where they are employed is male dominated due to the skills that are required and that women are not interested in these types of skills. (IT comes to mind.) Following a class, one or two woman, (if there are that many in attendance) approach me asking for suggestions and advice in succeeding in a male dominated environment. Here's where personality and pathology meet. Those of us who are aware enough know that if you are a strong, confident, intelligent, skillful and capable woman you probably (1) emasculate the men and (2) threaten other women. (Hillary Clinton, maybe?)

Women have a very difficult time shedding the 'gatherer' model while the men are out there hunting and clearing brush. Flat out, men are threatened by you strong, independent and capable women of the world. They want you smart but not too smart. What's a poor girl to do? If, you've been around a while and have survived thus far in the male corporate work world than you know that strategy is everything. Personality preferences has a lot do it with it. 'Women should be soft and men tough.' There is a very fine line of 'playing' the woman to assure that you not frighten the men in your office and at the same time take charge and command the troops. (If you have your hands on the helm make sure that you let the 'other' captain steer now and then.) Keep the ship on course and ask for navigational advice and suggestions from the male dominated crew. Is it fair, is it just? No but life is not fair. This is an unfortunate universal policy. If you eat poultry is it fair to the chicken? No, but you still eat it. I am not proposing that women should have to continue to work just as hard as men and get paid less for their efforts.

Until men have a major mental and spiritual shift all the Title VII laws in the world will not change the fact that most men (at two thirds) will be threatened by your abilities. Those of us men who are either blessed enough have to have been born with the equality gene or just know that it's not about the gender but about getting the job are a step ahead of the majority. But we have a long way to go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jet Blues

"Fly Jet Blue!" Everyone insisted. "It's fantastic! They have movies and t.v. and the seats are comfortable and the service is great and everyone is sooooo friendly. The crew is on a first name basis too!" Okay, I'll fly them, I thought to myself and off I sailed on Jet Blue.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival at the Jet Blue counter at JFK was the service was not all too friendly nor "great". I like to give people and companies the benefit of the doubt of having a bad day or bad moment but it seemed as if everyone at Jet Blue was having a bad day on the day that my wife and were flying their airline for the first time. (What's been said about "first impressions"?) Now, I know, when you pay less for service you usually get less but that's not how Jet Blue bills themselves. I quote from their Customer Bill of Rights page: Above all else, JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel. We strive to make every part of your experience as simple and as pleasant as possible. Unfortunately, there are times when things do not go as planned...

I like the words, "humanity" and "your experience as simple and as pleasant as possible." Of course, "
simple and as pleasant" mean different things to different people. Some, just want to arrive safely to their destination and expect nothing else from the airline. Other, such as myself, have an expectation that the airline will provide at the very least, basic customer service. I was surprised when I (my wife included) did not receive even the basics when flying with JetBlue and forget about "pleasant". I appreciate that JetBlue is trying to run a 'budget' airline and I have no complaints about the packaged cookies and crackers they toss (literally) out as meals on a six hour flight to Portland. My disappointment is over the lack of genuine concern and caring not only for another human being but as their customer.

When myself and other passengers waited over seven hours at Miami Airport due to weather, (we think?) to board a plane to JFK, information was sparse at best by the JetBlue staff. When questioned where we could get up to date and detailed information about flight conditions we were told to get a laptop and go onto the FAA website. Yes, the weather is not in the hands of the airline and they want to get home as safely as we do. However, I refer back to their statement,
JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel. We strive to make every part of your experience as simple and as pleasant as possible. What happened to the "simple and as pleasant as possible"? If one of their staff was being pleasant none of us experienced it.

Tired and weary we passengers boarded a plane home. Everyone was too pooped to talk or watch intermittently broadcast reruns of "Andy Griffith" on the ten inch backseat screen. We were just thankful to be leaving Miami and so too, it seemed was the crew.

Upon descent to JFK the crew told us, as opposed to requesting of us that we help them clean up the plane by removing all unwanted items and trash because, get this, they wanted to, "Get home just like you do because it's been a really long day for us." Now, I know what they probably meant to say was, 'we need to turn the plane around as quickly as possible so we can keep JetBlue ticket prices below our competitors'. So, we're asking you, our customers to help clean our planes as an added benefit to forking over your hard earned money.' The experience left an already bitter taste in my mouth and if the mumbles and grumbles from fellow passengers was an indication, I wasn't alone.

We all know that what companies advertise and how they brand themselves does equate to a good customer experience. Verizon comes to mind. They are a communications company who totes themselves as the "most reliable network" and yet, I am unable to pay my DLS bill online - this has been ongoing for five years! Yes, I can pay the bill via the telephone but they will charge me $5 for the privilege. On Verizon's Value's page it reads, The Verizon commitment is to put our customers first by providing excellent service and great communications experiences.

Studies have shown that for every bad or poor customer service experienced the customer will tell a minimum of ten people who tell ten others. I truly wonder how much companies really care about delivering excellent customer service or is it just lip service?

What's the answer? It's simple: companies need to keep their promises. Hire the best people who actually care about others not just because they're customers but because they're human beings. I once asked a surly manager at Best Buy who was refusing to take back the faulty product that I purchased from his store the day before to come out from behind the counter and stand next to me to see how it would feel to be in my position. He refused and yet, he asked me to understand his position.

I love nothing more than telling people about great customer service experiences. Th top of my list includes: Singapore Airlines, Cathy Pacific , Ritz Carlton, SOLE, and Nordstroms . Whatever these companies are doing others should take note and implement the same. I like sharing excellent customer service experiences and would like nothing more than to say, "They're fantastic! You must fly them!'

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stress-Less Holiday Strategies

Does the thought of the pending holidays cause your shoulders to ache and your stomach to turn? Aren't the holidays suppose to be a "joyous" time of year? Yes, they are but more often than not they leave us with more stress and less happiness.

This holiday season protect yourself with a plan of action to keep yourself and others' stress levels at a minimum with my Stress-Less Holiday Strategies.

For yourself, or as a gift for others, Stress-Less Holiday Strategies Options include:

  • Individual coaching sessions to manage holiday stress
  • A Holiday Stress-Less Plan for reducing stress and maximizing relationships
  • Tools and techniques to stay calm and relaxed
  • Learn how to say, "No"
  • Learn how to enjoy the holidays
  • Unlimited email with your coach
  • Two 'Emergency' stress calls in addition to your coaching session
Contact me to arrange your Stress-Less Holiday Strategies to ensure a happier holiday season.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Camp Commitment

Welcome to Camp Commitment

Are you having trouble staying committed to the plans and goals that you set? Do you even have any plans or goals? Does the word prioritization frighten you? If so, help is here! Camp Commitment will help you stay committed to your goals by committing them to other commit
ted campers like yourself. Committing to another person or a group will help keep you focused and steadfast on completing your goals. A team working together towards the finish line is stronger than a single rower.

Camp Commitment works like this: groups of four to ten people will meet telephonically once per month for one to two hours depending upon the size of the group to set and plan individual goals. Acting as the group's coach, I will facilitate group meetings insuring that feedback and support is conducted in a safe and productive manner, as well as keeping the group on track insuring that we have productive sessions. I will also be available for unlimited email and if you desire, individual coaching outside of the group.

For more details and costs, please contact me.

Contact Information:

Email: bruce@katlinconsulting.com
Telephone: +1 646 265 5009
Skype: katlinbr

I look forward to seeing you at the Camp.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dustin Hoffman - Times 10

It happens every ten years to the day. Every decade since 1982 when I first met Dustin Hoffman in Vail, Colorado, I run into him on the streets of New York City.

The first time was on an early, cold winter's day when I was tasked by the manager at the ski shop where I was working to outfit the famous actor. This frumpy looking guy in a tattered green army coat came up the stairs to the ski department. I knew he was coming and I was excited and nervous as hell. After all, I'd been a fan of his for years and had done some acting myself by that time. The night before, Little Big Man was on T.V. and I couldn't wait to meet jack Crabb in person. I acted professional and nonchalant, as not to seem too excited. Mr. Hoffman seemed as if being outfitted for ski equipment and clothing was last thing he wanted to do and as it turned out it was. His wife prompted him to do it and he was being a big sport about it all. After skis, boots and poles where decide upon I summoned up the courage and asked if I could join him the next day on the slopes. He happily agreed and we arranged a meeting point.

Promptly at 8 a.m. I met Dustin, his family and a ski instructor at the lift ticket office. As it was Christmas time my employee season ski pass wasn't valid and I had to fork over $65 for a day's ticket. As I reached for my wallet, Dustin stepped in and paid the cashier. "Wow! What a guy!" I thought to myself. We rode the lift together to the top of the hill and I was so dumbstruck or just plain dumb that I couldn't speak. I was unable to ask him about acting, his life, his thoughts - anything! My muteness lasted for most of the day, even at lunch where Dustin held court at a mountaintop restaurant and told a rapt audience of how he lost his virginity and at the same time decided to become an actor. "Wow! What a guy!" (Again) It wasn't until we were prying ourselves out of our boots did I open my mouth to thank him for the day where he invited me to his condo to join him and his family for drinks. "Wow! What a guy!"

I did manage to speak when I was with the Hoffman Family and asked Dustin his advice on what I should do if I seriously wanted to pursue acting. "Move to New York." That was it. "Move to New York." So I did. Not right away but I did eventually and every ten years since I first met Dustin I see him on the street. The first time was on the corner of 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue walking with my friend Rick. As I approached Dustin to ask, "remember me?" a group of tourist pounced on and encircled him keeping him captive. My muteness returned and I walked away a bit deflated telling myself all the things I could have done or said. "Idiot! You're an actor in New York City now and He told you to come here. Maybe He would have put you in a movie or arranged a meeting with his people. Idiot, idiot, idiot!" Oh well...

Ten years after my missed chance at 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue I was having lunch with Rick at an outdoor cafe on Amsterdam and 71st Street and who walks buy our table? Yes, it was Him. My brain started to overheat with stimulation. That was Him. Get up. Get up now! Muscles, I'm commanding you. Move this instant and take this idiot to one of America's greatest contemporary actors who told him to move to New York. Move arms! Push up off the chair and catch up with Him and remind Him of who this idiot is! Not one muscle in my body twitched to respond. I just sat there and said to Rick, "That was Dustin Hoffman." To which he replied, "Hey, he lives around here." Deflation crept in once again like a fast moving storm until I realized that I'd see Him again in ten years and when I do He will be as old as Jack Crabb and He'll probably say, 'what the hell did you wait so long to talk to me for, you idiot.'

'Six degrees' you're probably thinking and I agree. The same thing happened with Harry Smith from CBS News. I sold him ski boots in Denver where I moved to after leaving Vail. Ten years after that encounter I ran him to him at Time Warner in Manhattan where I worked part-time catering events. Harry remembered me and it wasn't lip service. He remembered the name of the ski shop, Aspen Leaf and the color of the boots. I was impressed. As I served him a beer I asked him about CBS News and CBS Sunday Morning to which he was open and candid.

Yesterday, Sunday October 28th I went for a 12 mile training run in Central Park. I was approaching a hill near the Metropolitan Museum of Art when this guy strides past me. I decided to draft him up the hill until my competitive spirit kicked in and I pulled up beside him. I don't know why but I turned to him and asked him how old he was. It was an impulse. He looked at me and answered, fifty seven. "Harry?" I asked. "Ya'?" "Harry, it's me, Bruce Katlin." That's right, it was Harry Smith ten years to the day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Portland Pod People


They're everywhere in Portland, Oregon. If you live there you're probably one of them and if you have ever visited you've come into contact with them.

At first they're scary, just as any pod person would be but after you're around them a bit you come accustomed to their ways, their habits, the way they communicate. It's alarming at first, you want to trust them but you're a foreigner on a foreign planet and then without knowing it you accept them for who they are and what they offer. And before you know it you too, are acting just like a Portland Pod Person: you're nice and courteous. Like these strange creatures who say "thank you" and mean it, you naturally reciprocate and two difficult words slip effortlessly from your lips, "your welcome."

When you ask
Portlanders for directions they look you in the eyes and take the time to give you the instructions based on your needs not theirs. And most of all these wonderful and rare people - each and everyone of them is a true City ambassador. They tout the economic, environmental and friendliness of their city every chance they have. Come on, move here, you'll love it! Is their mantra. All this was not experienced on occasion, it was consistent for the two weeks I recently spent their after running what Runner's World deemed the "most friendly marathon in the USA." When my wife and I went to the movies (just $7 compared with $11 in NYC) the ticket taker welcomed us with soft and sincere eyes and said, "enjoy the movie." She really meant it! If that were not enough when we found that the only available seats in the theater were in the first row they refunded our money with no questions asked and then apologized for the inconvenience! Try getting that kind of service on 42nd Street In Manhattan.

Just who are these people and who took their anger, resentment and edginess? My wife Terry and I joked that we should open a restaurant called the Bitter and Jaded and offer lousy food with a side of New York style attitude. That will teach these poor saps to be so nice. Transplants Sue and Barry who recently left the Astoria, NY apartment building where we live met us for an incredible French style breakfast at St. Honoré Boulangerie.
They are still adjusting to the change in energy from NYC to the City of Roses. They left the Big Apple and its intensity for a slower pace in Portland but admitted that they had a longing for New York's insanity. As Sue put it, it's sick but you always miss your abuser but she also informed us that they wouldn't be moving back East anytime soon, as the "people here are so nice."

It is just this sincere 'niceness' that Portland has jumped to the top of our relocation list. What other city do you know would meet you for an hour over coffee to answer your questions and explain all the great reasons you should live in their fair metropolis? Yes, they did! Public Advocate Jeremy Van Keuren met with us at one of the City's attractions, Stump Town Coffee Roasters prepared with city data, handouts and charm abound. (Prior to our Portland trip I also wrote to the mayor of Seattle requesting a meeting but didn't receive a reply.) One other really important aspect of Portland life is that believe it or not pedestrians and cyclist supersede vehicles! That's right, no battles at the crosswalks and no honking of horns when crossing the street. All this adds to the peace and tranquility of the City.

We also met with a couple that I met on the streets of Miami this past August who have lived in Portland for over twenty years. They're ex-New Yorkers who have come to love Portland and the state of Oregon. Bob and Elaine took us to a sustainability investor's meeting so that we could be introduced to like minded people and see just how committed the citizens of Portland are to the preservation of theirs and our environment. We than went to a Thai restaurant that had some of the most delicious Thai food I have ever eaten. Afterwards they drove us to their condo (the advice, "don't let them take you to a second location" popped into my head as we proceeded down a dark I-5 locked in the back of their car) so that we could get a feel for the neighborhood and see what square footage is worth. (They took us back to our hotel unharmed.)

These pod people are the real McCoy. They're just what I've been looking for and they're located in a city that has arts, restaurants, entertainment, sports, intellectuals and books abound. Hats off to Portland and the people who make it such a wonderful place!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marathon Post With Photos


I just received photo downloads of the marathon for your viewing pleasure.

Yes, it was dark when we starte
d.



I’m still in a state of shock. Did I actually run 26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers? After mile 17 I thought to myself, “what was I thinking trying to run a marathon? This is really hard!” I reached into my pocket and read the kind words from Rebecca Shourie of the Satya Niketan School, “Our prayers are with you. You are participating in God's plan for the city of Nagod. It is no small thing. You will run effortlessly and with Joy. God is with you.” Well, I don’t know how effortlessly I ran but run I did until I almost dropped. (It could have been much worse, I could have run this year’s Chicago Marathon where one runner died and over 300 were taken to hospital with heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions.)


I ran between a 9:30-10:30 minute mile for the first 18 miles and then I started to bonk, right after the beautiful crossing of the St. John’s Bridge. Running too fast and not enough carb intake caused stomach cramps along with leg cramps. Alot of other runners complained of stomach problems too, which was probably due to dehydration. (It was cold but humid.) Along with referring to Rebecca’s words of encouragement I thought of the children in Nagod and elsewhere who have so little and ask for less. I received energy watching others run for their causes and loved ones. Many had pictures pinned to their shirts of friends and family who had suffered and passed on from cancer and other fatal illnesses.

Between miles 20 & 24 I swore that I would never run a marathon again - I was in that much pain. But I continued on. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to finish what I had started. Now, consider this: 70 year old Charles Nutter from Belliville, Kansas ran a 4:54:26. That’s one minute twenty-two seconds faster than my own finishing time! And 83 year old Kay Pearson from Milwaukie, Oregon ran a 7:13:35! Impressive? I’d say so.

The people of Portland, Oregon are wonderful, kind trusting and caring. To a New Yorker or anyone from the Northeast they seem too trusting. Believe it or not they leave their purses, coats and luggage unattended in restaurants and coffee shops. Only a blind woman who was sitting in Powell’s Books cafe asked if we would keep an eye on her Braille laptop as she went for more coffee. Many Portlanders lined the marathon route cheering with encouragement and the volunteers mostly made up of teenagers were so sweet and efficient and expedient in their tasks and responsibilities to aid the runners.

Running the marathon reminded me how similar to life this event is: there are hills and valleys, highs and lows, periods of strength and joy and miles of weakness and pain, but most of all how important it is to take ‘it’ one step at a time.

When I rounded the final tenth mile of the race the streets were lined with people cheering and I picked up my pace. I heard my name called from sidewalk. It was my wife Terry who hours earlier finished the 5 mile race. I slowed so she could snap a few photographs and to take in her big and loving smile. I crossed the finish line with arms raised and eyes filled with tears of joy and pain. The destination was reached through the journey. Two hours later I registered for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, which takes place Sunday November 18th with the Paris, France Marathon scheduled for April 2008.





Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What If?

I was so struck by today's poem on the Writer's Almanac that I had to share it with you:

The God Who Loves You by Carl Dennis, from Practical Gods. © Penguin Poets, 2001.

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week—
Three fine houses sold to deserving families—
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

I’m still in a state of shock. Did I actually run 26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers? After mile 17 I thought to myself, “what was I thinking trying to run a marathon? This is really hard!” I reached into my pocket and read the kind words from Rebecca Shourie of the Satya Niketan School, “Our prayers are with you. You are participating in God's plan for the city of Nagod. It is no small thing. You will run effortlessly and with Joy. God is with you.” Well, I don’t know how effortlessly I ran but run I did until I almost dropped. (It could have been much worse, I could have run this year’s Chicago Marathon where one runner died and over 300 were taken to hospital with heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions.)

I ran between a 9:30-10:30 minute mile for the first 18 miles and then I started to bonk, right after the beautiful crossing of the St. John’s Bridge. Running too fast and not enough carb intake caused stomach cramps along with leg cramps. Alot of other runners complained of stomach problems too, which was probably due to dehydration. (It was cold but humid.) Along with referring to Rebecca’s words of encouragement I thought of the children in Nagod and elsewhere who have so little and ask for less. I received energy watching others run for their causes and loved ones. Many had pictures pinned to their shirts of friends and family who had suffered and passed on from cancer and other fatal illnesses.

Between miles 20 & 24 I swore that I would never run a marathon again - I was in that much pain. But I continued on. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to finish what I had started. Now, consider this: 70 year old Charles Nutter from Belliville, Kansas ran a 4:54:26. That’s one minute twenty-two seconds faster than my own finishing time! And 83 year old Kay Pearson from Milwaukie, Oregon ran a 7:13:35! Impressive? I’d say so.

The people of Portland, Oregon are wonderful, kind trusting and caring. To a New Yorker or anyone from the Northeast they seem too trusting. Believe it or not they leave their purses, coats and luggage unattended in restaurants and coffee shops. Only a blind woman who was sitting in Powell’s Books cafe asked if we would keep an eye on her Braille laptop as she went for more coffee. Many Portlanders lined the marathon route cheering with encouragement and the volunteers mostly made up of teenagers were so sweet and efficient and expedient in their tasks and responsibilities to aid the runners.

Running the marathon reminded me how similar to life this event is: there are hills and valleys, highs and lows, periods of strength and joy and miles of weakness and pain, but most of all how important it is to take ‘it’ one step at a time.

When I rounded the final tenth mile of the race the streets were lined with people cheering and I picked up my pace. I heard my name called from sidewalk. It was my wife Terry who hours earlier finished the 5 mile race. I slowed so she could snap a few photographs and to take in her big and loving smile. I crossed the finish line with arms raised and eyes filled with tears of joy and pain. The destination was reached through the journey. Two hours later I registered for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, which takes place Sunday November 18th with the Paris, France Marathon scheduled for April 2008.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Erika's Freedom


My first marathon is one week away. Seven days, fourteen hours to be exact and I am extremely excited! I've been training for five months and I can't believe that when I started I could hardly run twenty-six minutes let alone twenty-six miles!

Just before I hired running coach Patti Finke from Team Oregon my wife and I ran a 4k race in Central Park. We were huffing and puffing from the start but it was a beautiful day and the crowd was friendly so we continued to grin and bear it as best we could. Around a mile or so into the race a little girl around ten or eleven years old came skipping past us with energy bouncing and beaming from her every pore. Erika, we came to learn was running her first race with her Big Sister. Erika was as beautiful as only innocent children can be, having fun, enjoying the day and being truly present and in the moment. I couldn't help but make a connection with her and told her that I liked her running style as she seemed as loose and limber as an elastic band. Ah, to be that free in mind, body and soul! She slowed to our pace, flashed a 100 watt smile and said, "I'm having so much fun!" It showed. She was and her energy, innocence and joy filled my lumpy legs with hope and energy. My wife was smitten too and after Erika sped away towards the finish line like she was running on a fast moving cloud, my wife and I had a smile plastered on our faces grateful for our meeting Erika.

Leave it to a child to be so free such as Erika. Every weekend when I run my long runs in Central Park I hope that I'll see Erika again and when I become tired or uninspired to go any further I think of her and her presence and joy and it carries me another step, another mile. Erika, wherever you are, thank you. I hope that you never lose your sense of freedom, your joy, your smile and your sense of wonder. Don't become an adult who takes life too seriously, who makes excuses that you have too many 'adult responsibilities' to laugh, to skip, to bounce, to wonder, to run, to just be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To Do or Not to Do?


"If you really wanted it badly enough you'd do something about it!" Many people have said this to me and others countless times in the past and some of this statement holds truth however, some of us just can't seem to do anything "about it" no matter how badly we want it. What’s the matter, fear of success, fear of failure? Does it really matter? Well, it doesn’t matter any longer to me because I’ve been around long enough to know that ‘it’ won’t happen unless I take action. Even if that action is just one small step. If you’ve just had a twinge of anxiety after reading the last sentence than this is about you.

Has this ever happen to you: driving down the road at a snails pace or standing online at the motor vehicle department a great idea hits you between the eyes. Your follow-up thoughts to this great idea of yours may have been, wow, I can’t wait to get started! Or, that’ll never work. Besides, someone else has probably already thought of it. Okay, you know the drill; you believe you are what you tell yourself you. You also know that there are countless examples of people, other people who actually took action on their ideas and made their dreams come true. We’ve all read about ‘them’ and yet, it hasn’t propelled you to take action. Can you relate?

All those ‘other people’ out there are just that, people. They are no different from you and me. The only difference is that they took their ideas and took action. Maybe, their first step was to take an hour to investigate if their idea is doable or, they ran the idea past a supportive friend or colleague to get their take. Here’s the secret you’ve been waiting to read: the idea, the dream, the new life won’t happen unless you take action. Impressed? I thought you would be. You’re probably thinking, this guy’s a genius. I know I need to take action but I just can’t seem to get started. Here’s secret number two. Are you ready? Hold onto your seat because it’s so simple a concept that you’ll probably smack yourself in the head after reading: it’s okay if you do nothing. Really. It’s absolutely fine to do nothing at all but daydream. You’ll still be loved by your friends and family but and this is a big BUT will it be okay with you? Will living with the thought If, I had gone through with that idea I had I could be living the life I always wanted, be all right with you? If you answered yes then that’s fine. You’re the only one who can make that call. However, if you continue to do nothing and have an ongoing and accompanying mental thorn in the back of your head that talks to you on a daily basis and says, something’s not right, please change it! Then it’s time to take action. Then ask yourself, what tiny, teeny action can I take today? And on a daily basis ask yourself, are my actions bringing me closer to achieving my goals or further away? It’s truly that simple. The work of getting what you want is just that, work. Even those “other people” whose vocations are their avocations still have to do things that are not their favorite tasks. Start somewhere. Start today, right now. Ask for help. Have an idea party. Stop daydreaming and start day-doing.

Feel free to email me with questions which, is an action that will bring you one step closer to getting what you want.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Welcome


Welcome to bruce's blog!

My first entry is connected to the importance of having good presentations skills, especially when representing yourself and your business.

Last night my wife and I attended a one-hour workshop on blogging hosted by the non-profit organization, The American Craft Council in NYC. Amy Shaw & Rena Tom were there to present, "Blogging the Handmade: Creating Community, Conversation & Commerce." Both Amy and Rena run their own businesses Greenjeans and Rare Device were enthusiastic about the crafts industry, their businesses and blogging. I came to learn what I could about blogging, as I have just started using this medium. Amy and Rena’s presentation started out with promise, as they appeared warm and friendly and eager to share their experience and knowledge of blogs using a laptop and a PowerPoint presentation. Both of these small business owners and bloggers have a lot to offer and are successful in their own right.

I have been teaching presentation skills to both groups and individuals for many years and one of the first things we discuss, is to know your audience. Amy and Rena conducted an on the spot audience analysis by asking for a show of hands who runs their own blog, you reads blogs and who comments on blogs. With this information they could tailor their talk. Another component of creating successful and inspiring presentations is to have a main message. The main message is different from the topic. After listening to Amy and Rena's presentation for about ten minutes I wasn’t sure what their message to the audience was. They spent a lot of time sharing screen shots of theirs and others’ blogs none of which, we the audience could see, as the slides were to small. Also, it's important to have a strong opening line to get your audience's attention. Their opening consisted of the usual welcome’ and ‘we’re glad to be here etc. None of which made me sit up in my chair. Both presenters sat on a tabletop with the laptop between them with the lid facing down, so that they had to turn completely around to look at and read the slides. The result of this was not only could we not see their faces we couldn’t hear what they were saying.

55% of the way we communicate is through our body language, so when you sit on furniture it tells your audience several things: (1) you feel relaxed enough to sit instead of stand, although this was a professional environment; (2) you're not invested enough in your presentation nor your audience; (3) you are not confident. It also affects your energy levels, which will quickly sink.

Voice accounts for 38% of the way we communicate. Voice includes pitch and tone and when you speak, as I like to say in one color your audience’s ears very quickly close . When asked to speak up when reading a document Rena shifted her weight and continued to speak in a low and monotone voice. Amy had a perky voice but used just one tone, which became tiring after 20 minutes or so.

The words we use account for just 7% of the way we communicate and are important only for the information that you want us to walk away with. As I am constantly telling my clients and myself when I lead Standing Ovations Presentations (copyright 2006) at KATLIN CONSULTING to watch their filler words such as, "like", "um", "you know", "sort of.” I counted fifty “ums” in the first twenty minutes from just one speaker! All of these filler words grain the brain of the audience and are used as a pause because the presenter does know their presentation backwards and forwards. Around this time the energy in the audience sank and I was surprised that the presenters did not realize this and did not shift from their position on the table to standing and facing the audience. Unfortunately, I was actually looking at my watch several times to see how close we were to getting out of there.

I wanted, as most audiences do for these presenters to sweep me off my feet and inspire me to change or do something different. Their presentation actually affected my desire to decide if I would want to purchase anything from their stores or not. My thought was, “If, they’re not interested enough in taking the time to deliver a concise, professional and inspiring presentation, I’m not so interested in checking out their in-store and online merchandise.” That’s a shame because if I was thinking this others probably were too. I like to give people three chances. Maybe they were rushed or had other comments so they couldn’t put as mush time into the presentation as they would have liked. Maybe they were not feeling well. I really wanted these women to shine. I was rooting for them but by the time the presentation was finished I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Of course, I did get something out of it, I'm writing this blog.

If, you would like presentation tips or further information on presentation coaching or the Standing Ovations Presentations (copyright 2006) course for your organization, please contact me: bruce@katlinconsulting.com