To B or Not to B

Scarlette Begonia

When my children were in middle school and high school, we lived quite a ways out in the country. I was commuting into Sacramento, over an hour away, for work and then providing afternoon and evening transportation to various extracurricular activities for the kids. I drove in excess of 3,000 miles every month. I had this uncanny ability to arrive to pick my kids up, wherever they happened to be, at the precise moment I estimated. Whether inclement weather, road construction, unpredictable traffic conditions, mattered not, if I said I was going to be there at 3:02, I pulled up at exactly 3:02. It bordered on spooky.

I plan.

I have spent the past quarter decade in a career I sort of half-wittingly, and unwillingly, fell into. It was only ever to pay the bills, just until I figured out what I really wanted to do. And it still is. I’m an accountant. An auditor, more specifically. Not an I.R.S. auditor, I’m a financial statement auditor, the kind of auditor a company hires to come in and audit their financial statements for compliance with certain standards and expectations. I’m a friendly auditor. Or I was. Now I teach audit software skills. I teach audit methodology. I teach audit.

Auditors plan. Auditors plan like military strategists. Don’t think for a moment I’m joking. If you are ever involved in a financial statement audit, be aware of the fact that every number, every variance, every interview, every document examined, goes into developing the most strategic, most detailed, most well documented plan. Just be aware of the fact that if you offer the auditors a donut with chocolate sprinkles, it will probably trigger an action in the audit plan different than if you offered a donut with rainbow sprinkles, like perhaps assigning more experienced staff, or altering the nature, timing or extent of testing of a certain financial statement area. I’m kidding. But not. There are plans and they are detailed.

So, I plan.

My question, though, is whether for every plan, should there be a backup plan, a “plan B”?  You know, in case things don’t work out, there is a fall back plan. I’ve decided not.

Five years ago, I embarked on a quest to lose weight. I had recently left a long, fattening, and increasingly unhappy marriage. I traveled extensively for work, which meant eating in restaurants for every meal while away from home, not having a steady routine for sleep or exercise, and only being home a couple days a week, and so, celebrating, by eating out or indulging in “comfort food”. I looked to food for comfort, for solace, for celebration, for boredom. I wasn’t obese, but I was unhealthy, miserable, and uncomfortable.

I adopted a fitness guru, Jillian Michaels, and thought her books and materials were clear, practical, logical and would, more than any others I’d read in the past, be most likely to offer lasting, lifelong, life-changing, results. I ate more healthy selections both in restaurants and at home. I paid attention to portion size. I found a way to exercise every day. I adopted a mantra, “WWJD? What would Jillian do?” The sizes dropped, one after another. In the course of a year, I found myself swimming in my wardrobe four different times. I had to buy four completely new wardrobes in the course of a single year! It was awesome. I jettisoned every piece of ill-fitting clothing as it was replaced. I remember the shock and horror expressed by most of my friends and family. “Why would you get rid of the clothes that became too big? What if you gain the weight back again?”

I tried to reassure everyone, this thing I was doing wasn’t some “fad” diet, this was a lifestyle change. The weight was gone with my old behaviors. It had been a year. I was confident with my new self and had no intention of ever allowing myself to return to my old ways, or shape. I figured, by donating all my too large clothing to charity and not having them to slip back into if I slipped up, would put more impetus on watching my “p’s and q’s”. If my new jeans were beginning to feel a bit tight, it was an indication to take immediate action. Having a “plan B”, a whole wardrobe of roomier clothes, would make it easier to stray from the original plan. It was a plan for failure. It facilitated failure. It resigned to it, made failure an expectation, an eventuality. That was five years ago. I’m still the same, smaller, size, my weight and shape has fluctuated some, but very little. Not once, in five years, have I had to replace a single item in my wardrobe with a larger size. There are currently, out of two dozen pairs, only two pair of jeans in my closet that are a wee bit too tight and, so, my plan is to be a bit more careful with portion size and second portions of certain things I’ve been allowing, lately, like beer. And wine. I’m watching my “p’s and q’s”.

As an auditor, when we plan an engagement, as we gather evidence and information, if we discover a risk we hadn’t planned for earlier, we don’t have a “plan B” to revert to. We don’t abandon the original plan for some lesser plan. We edit the original plan to include steps to address the new risk. The rest of the original plan remains in place. We enhance the original plan, we shore it up, make it more robust. We simply adjust.

I believe this is how we should manage all the plans in our life; from career plans, to plans to improve relationships, to plans for activities or vacations, to plans to learn a foreign language, whatever the plan. Make a plan for exactly how you want things to go. Don’t have a plan for failure. If the original plan doesn’t work out 100%, and, truthfully, few do, simply adjust the plan, enhance the plan, make it more robust, shore it up.

Scarlette Begonia

I was on a vacation to the east coast lately, to visit my daughter and son-in-law, in upstate New York. When I began to plan my visit I told them I wanted to do two things, for certain, during my week there; I wanted to see the horses race at the Saratoga Racetrack and I wanted to summit Mt. Marcy, the highest point in New York state. I was so certain about summiting Mt. Marcy, I’d actually drafted the witty social media posts I would make memorializing my accomplishment. It was all but in the books before I even boarded the plane. I planned for it. I packed my hiking boots, my hiking socks, my day pack and hydration system, my trusty water-wicking wool shirt, my emergency trail items; headlamp, knife, cord, multi-tool, etc. I brought with me everything I’d bring on a day hike up to the top of a far higher mountain, here, on the west coast. I’ve summited a few west coast mountains, some over twice as high as Mt. Marcy, in the past few weeks alone. I had a solid plan.

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

As the week in New York unfolded, my daughter and I fell into our usual pattern of behavior; do, see, eat, drink, repeat. We went to the horse races, we went to a polo match, we went shopping, we dined, we wined, we revisited our favorite spots in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she lives. We had so, so, so, so, much fun. The night before our planned trip up Mt. Marcy, we stayed out a bit later than we should have. As our plan to summit Mt. Marcy fell on the last day of my trip, before flying home, the week’s activities were taking a toll, I’m sure, on our physical, mental, and emotional ability to perform at our peak in such an endeavor. As we stayed out entirely too late the night before, and had put off accumulating and organizing all the necessary provisions for our planned task until the morning we were to depart, and, because my alarm went off only a couple of hours after managing to drop off to sleep on my somewhat less than perfect, though free, air mattress on the basement floor, we got off to a very late and groggy start. We’d planned to get gas the night before, while out, but neglected to do so as the evening wore on into late night.

Scarlette Begonia

Further, this plan, perhaps, not as solid or well-executed as most of our plans, failed to adequately research the drive time or to check the weather for the day in the vicinity of Mt. Marcy. You see, originally, our plan included my son-in-law who would have painstakingly organized all those last bits of details. He had to adjust himself out of the planned trip the day before the trip because of a sore knee. So those last details were kind of dangling and, truthfully, were kind of in the way of our plan to enjoy that last night in town.

Scarlette Begonia

We set out a full three hours later than planned. We detoured into town for gas and some additional snacks. We made our way to the interstate and headed north and drove and drove and drove, the navigator telling us the trip was a full hour or so more than we really imagined. Or had planned for. As we drew closer and closer and closer to Mt. Marcy, in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York, the sky grew darker, cloudier and more and more ominous. About three quarters of the way there, my daughter asked me if I’d brought my packable rain gear. Um. No. I’d meant to, I’d planned to, but in the last moments of packing, I’d forgotten. She had extra rain gear at home, but we hadn’t thought of the necessity for it, for both of us, until now.

Scarlette Begonia

She asked me what we should do, as in, should we devise a “plan B”, like hike somewhere else, less challenging, not as far away. I’d thought of this, too, but figured the time it would take to research another, lesser trip, would be better used in attempting the original trip. That was my plan, it was our plan. She’d hiked to the top of Mt. Marcy, ill-prepared, before, she knew the challenge, the trail, the conditions, and had tried to communicate them to me, but perhaps I didn’t listen as carefully as I should have, or I was cocky at my ability, emboldened by all my recent, successful, mountain ascents.

Scarlette Begonia

We passed through a couple of mountain towns in the last miles before reaching our trailhead at the Adirondack Loj. One town boasted a very popular appearing outdoor store. I considered detouring in to purchase some rain gear, but the parking lot was completely full, we were totally late, and I’d asked my daughter if there was a similar store on sight at the Loj. She said there was. We adjusted the plan accordingly; I’d just pick up a rain poncho at the Loj store and we’d be set, according to plan.

Scarlette Begonia

As for our timing; we knew the approximate mileage up to the summit, we knew when the sun was likely to set, and we knew our historical, average, hiking pace. It “mathed” out. Given the number of miles, even with the ascent, the hours of daylight available, and our hiking pace, we should be able to summit and return to the car by just about dark. Our original plan had included dinner back in town, but we were willing to adjust it for this.

Scarlette Begonia

We reached the Adirondack Loj. We committed to our revised plan by paying the ten bucks to park for the day. The sky was dark, cloudy, damp and ominous. It had rained off and on during the entire last hour of our drive. My daughter brought Aston, the pup, to accompany us, and was tending to his needs as I went shopping in the Loj shop. I looked like a California mountain summiteer; I wore running shorts and a tank top. I still had my flip flops on, with plans to switch to my full-on, lace up, ankle supporting, mountaineering boots. I’d been told the trail was more rugged than the west coast trails I was used to and had planned accordingly. Unless backpacking and bearing a significant amount of weight, I usually opt for old running shoes over full-on hiking boots when I hike. Running shoes were not part of today’s plan. But, entering the Loj store, I looked, admittedly, like a goofball. Everyone was bundled up in layers of technical clothing; pants, shirts, jackets, rain gear, gators, hats, ponchos, pack covers, the whole deal. I looked on every rack and every display in the shop. I squinted at the labels hung next to empty hooks on the displays, but, as I didn’t bring my glasses, couldn’t make out the letters for those missing items. I looked and looked and looked, all while trying to look casual and competent, I couldn’t find any rain gear. I finally asked, and was informed they’d recently sold out. Those blurry labels adjacent to those empty display hooks were, apparently, where rain ponchos would have hung.

I returned to the car we paid ten bucks to park for the day. I told my daughter the store had sold out of rain gear. We revisited “the plan”. I still was not ready to devise a “plan B”. We’d planned to hike Mt. Marcy, we were here, for better or worse, that was the plan. I was invested, we were invested, and that’s what I wanted to do. I said, “Let’s just go and revise the plan as needed.” I changed into my proper hiking pants, laced up my proper hiking boots over my proper hiking socks. I adjusted my trekking poles to the proper height and made sure my daypack included all of the proper things, with the one exception of rain gear. My daughter prepared herself, properly, as well. We made sure there was adequate water and provisions for us, and for the pooch. She’d planned carefully for his company by bringing a bungee-style leash that secured around her waist, as he was required to be leashed, and she’d need both hands free. The pooch, too, had made this hike before. I was in good company. It was part of my plan. The revised plan. We agreed on a “turnaround time”. If by 3:00 PM, we weren’t at the summit, we would turn around and head back for the car in order to make it before dark. We had headlamps and all that would be necessary to hike at night, but going downhill, in the rain, with the puppy dog, would be more challenging than just hiking in the dark. Our re-revised plan.

Scarlette Begonia

We set off. I observed the signs, the mileage to the summit, the trail, we were in good shape. It would be a long day, but a rewarding one. I’d decided to put my water-wicking wool pullover on to start with. It was raining. My daughter had her rain jacket on. We hiked and hiked and hiked. The trail was wide and soft and sloped upward gently. We met, and passed, all kinds of other hikers. We hiked and hiked and hiked. We conferred, a couple of times, at junctions, trail crossings and water crossings, and made decisions collaboratively. We hiked and we hiked and we hiked. It rained. It was warm, though, and I was very hot with my dampish, water-wicking wool pullover on. The clouds gave way, finally, to broken sunshine and we stowed our outer layers away in our packs for later use, potentially, or not.

Scarlette Begonia

We hiked and we hiked and we hiked. After one stream crossing, the trail took on a new form; boulders. It actually resembled a stream bed, complete with water trickling down the center, making the varying size and shape rocks, slick and slimy. The trail was well-marked with round, blue, trail markers fastened to trees. It was clear we were on the intended trail, though it resembled more a seasonal stream than a trail. The very sparsely spaced mileage markers added additional confusion; after hours and hours on the trail, we seemed to have only hiked a couple of miles. I didn’t let any of this discourage me, but the reality of reaching the summit before our turnaround time seemed less likely. But, still, here I was and with a goal in mind. Had I known the mileage markers were “as a crow flies”, and not in “trail” or “walking” miles, I’d have had better information to apply to the plan.

Scarlette Begonia

The trail became steeper, and rockier, and as morning passed into noon and beyond, there were more people heading back down the trail, from points beyond, like the summit, than there were heading up. I felt, at this point, I was amongst the fools, chasing a folly, of reaching the summit of this mountain while daylight was still available. And I felt like everyone passing us, in the opposite direction, silently agreed with my self-bestowed judgment of “fool”. While it wasn’t raining, there were still clouds, and through the dense tree line, and not really knowing the direction we were headed or the direction the trail would turn, it was difficult to gauge whether the clouds were gathering, or dispersing, would hinder us, or hide from us.

Scarlette Begonia

We hiked and we hiked and we hiked. The trail got steeper, and rockier, and more strenuous. The toll of too many nights without adequate or comfortable sleep, the overindulgence in food and drink, the reckless abandon of appropriate physical activity and pre-hike hydration practices were beginning to become evident in my energy level, or waning energy level, I should say. And I was hungry.

Scarlette Begonia

We’d made so much progress, thus far, and much like negotiating one’s way through traffic on a congested highway, you really hated to stop, for any reason, and get passed up by those you worked so hard to get around. We’d passed groups of hikers who sprayed DEET on themselves, while hiking, creating a cloud of DEET in their wake, which we couldn’t help but inhale as we went. The only thing worse than the smell of DEET is the taste of it! We’d managed to make our way around a couple from Canada who smoked cigarettes. While hiking. Spewing cigarette smoke for us to breathe until we maneuvered our way successfully around them. It was not a good strategy, presently, to stop for nourishment and let these unsavory, poorly behaved hikers regain their positions in front of us.

Scarlette Begonia

But, I was spent. I needed food. And, it was 2:30 PM, a half an hour from “turnaround” time. We hadn’t really verbalized this reality, but it was there, and it seemed, now, time to take a break and revisit “the plan”. We fed the pooch, munched on some of our own provisions, and deliberated for a good ten or fifteen minutes, how we might adjust the plan. It was absolutely clear we would not summit before 3:00 PM. Our choices seemed to be; shun our very prudent turnaround time and just go for it, or turn around and head back now before it started to rain, again, making our descent down the steep, slippery, rocky trail with the enthusiastic pooch pulling us (her) down the trail, or hiking on upwards, until our 3:00 PM turnaround time, likely not making much additional progress, only to have to then negotiate our way down that much more terrain. There was thunder rumbling in the distance. Our nature, my daughter, and me, would be to “just go for it”, so it was with uncharacteristic temperament that we decided not to forge on to the summit, but to just turn at this point and head back down. But, rather than abandon our plan, completely, and call this a failure, or defeat, we altered our plan.

Scarlette Begonia

A mile or so back, along the trail, at the last discouraging mile marker we passed, at a fork in the trail, there was an arrow pointing to “Indian Falls”. We revised our plan to hike to Indian Falls rather than to the top of Mt. Marcy. It was not a “plan B”, just a wise revision to the already partially completed, original plan. To mitigate any notion that we were, in any way, wimping out, we agreed, had we both had appropriate rain gear, and had not brought the sweet, adorable, rambunctious, pooch, we would have carried on, summited Mt. Marcy, and hiked, like triumphant bad asses, back to the car, in whatever conditions Mother Nature tossed our way; rain and dark and treacherous trail.

Scarlette Begonia

Thunder rumbled, again. We bundled up or snacks, donned our daypacks once more, and began the first steps downwards. The smoking couple met us, still heading upward, we conversed with them momentarily on the likely duration of the rest of the hike, both in time and distance, the likely conditions, the changeable weather, the treacherous descent in the dark. The man wore cotton jeans and a cotton Old Navy t-shirt, his daypack was awkward, askance on his frame, large and purple and looking like it came off the “back to school” aisle at WalMart. His female companion was overweight and wore a way too tight black, Lycra, yoga outfit like you’d see worn at a mall in New Jersey. Her carefully done hair and makeup also did not make her appear to be the more skilled outdoorsperson of the duo. He seemed to seriously take into consideration the challenge that lay before them should they continue on. She, however, as we headed on down the trail, was heard to all but beg him to get to the summit. I still wonder if they made it.

Scarlette Begonia

We slowly negotiated the slippery boulders down, steeply, to the fork in the trail, and took the trail off to Indian Falls. It was a short leg of trail that quickly cleared the trees, opening to a stream that ran across impressive slabs of rock, then tumbled downward, out of view. Across the falls, with canyons between, loomed Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York state. It loomed so large above us, compared to our present position. I craned upward and wondered just how many more miles, how many more hours, we’d have before us if we had chosen to persist. I’ve no doubt we could’ve done it, and would’ve had a lifetime of stories to share for the accomplishment, but, in this moment, on the sunny rock, next to the rushing stream and the cascading falls, I was completely happy, completely content, in our plan. Our revised plan.

Scarlette Begonia

Our trip was not a failure, it was a complete success. We had a wonderful time carrying out our plan, and, as wisdom and acquired knowledge and facts dictated, as they always do, an alteration to the original plan. I am so grateful we didn’t plan to have a plan to fall back on, had we decided not to carry on with our plan. “If we stay out late and wake up late, instead of going to Mt. Marcy, let’s just …” I loved Indian Falls and am so grateful I got to hike there and spend time eating pistachios and sharing a beer with my daughter and the pooch. It is a day I’ll not ever forget, and a “plan B” would have deprived me, us, of that experience, of that joy, and of the lessons we learned that will help us as we devise our plan for our next attempt at Mt. Marcy! Yes, we plan to return, and to summit, and to triumph, and, had we not carried out this revised plan, we wouldn’t have as much valuable information in masterminding our next plan!

Scarlette Begonia

That’s the plan.

Lost

Where are You?

I remember it like it happened yesterday. I’m riding my friend’s pony, she is riding another pony ahead of me. We are probably seven or eight years old, at most. She is a good rider, she rides all the time. I’ve ridden a few times here and there but want nothing more than to be a good rider. We are at a full gallop, she rides effortlessly, so well balanced, I’m hanging on to any part of the saddle and the pony I can just to stay on. I remember her laughing, her loud, infectious and usually somewhat maniacal laugh. I’m sure I had my focused face, the face of sheer concentration, sheer will and sheer determination I wear a lot, even now. In my usual “I’m doing this” manner, I am staying on that galloping pony and I’m following my friend. She is winding through the trees and at times I can’t see her. I try not to panic, I have no idea where we are or how to get back to her house. She goes faster and laughs harder. I realize that she is actually trying to get me to fall off the pony by about the third time she grabs a branch from a tree she’s passing, hangs on to it for a moment, then lets go, perfectly timed, to smack me in the face and hopefully unseat me. She laughs, then does it again. I hang on, miraculously, and after the third branch sandwich, I figure out her modus operandi and I learn to duck, or to make my pony swerve, to avoid pain, danger, possible death, and, worst of all, an unscheduled dismount. I have no idea where we are going, and truthfully, other than steering to avoid the branches being snapped at me, I’m not steering, my pony is just following her pony. They’re herd animals. When my friend realizes she isn’t likely to unseat me by snapping branches at me, she spurs her pony on a bit faster and tries to lose me in the woods. I have to spur my pony on, faster, to keep her in sight. I really don’t want to be lost in the woods, so my only choice is to keep up. I keep up and I avoid those goddam branches.

Suddenly, my pony comes to a screeching halt and there is my friend, stopped, at the edge of the world. We are on a ledge with a steep drop off inches from where the ponies’ front hooves have become still. From this ledge, in the dimming afternoon light, off in the distance, are the lights of San Francisco beginning to twinkle. It is magical. “This is fairy’s ring”, my friend explains, a magical place with a magical view. Wherever this place was, however we’d find our way back, I was in awe and I was inspired. In being lost I actually found something; I found that I loved riding ponies and horses as much as I thought I would, and I especially loved riding on trails, in the hills, through the woods, with magical views, and this all became paramount in my life and in many of the life shaping, life altering decisions that were to be made over the next forty years.

Forty years later, in Colorado, with my same friend, we are horseback riding. A rare and memorable treat, like reliving our childhood for a brief afternoon. We are loping along a dirt road, there are cattle watching us speed by, momentarily disrupted from their grazing. My friend, with her same infectious, loud and somewhat maniacal laughter, suddenly leaves the trail, spurs her horse on into the woods and jumps her horse over a fallen tree. I pull my horse up to watch. She heckles me, “Come on! He’ll jump it!” I shake my head. I ride, but I don’t jump horses. I just ride. I’m not a bad rider, but I don’t jump horses, just not my discipline and not something I’ve done since we were kids, careless kids. I think she actually called me a sissy or a wimp or some slightly derogatory name. We are over forty years old, but it seems like we’re still in the second grade. My friend tells me that her mother, who is nearly seventy years old, jumps her horse over fallen trees, and I am riding her mother’s horse, so, apparently, he is capable. I had a conversation with my friend’s mom earlier that day and she told me, and I quote, “I’d rather die while out horseback riding than any other way I can imagine.” I mention this to my friend, who calls me a “big, fat chicken”. I jumped the damn horse over the damn log. I lived. And before long, we were loping in circles, following each other, jumping over the fallen tree and any other obstacles we can find, again and again and again. Laughing. Again, I am determined to keep up, not that I’d be lost if left behind, necessarily, I’d follow the dirt road until it ended up somewhere. And I know my friend would never, at least at our more mature age, leave me behind and lost. She may give me a ration of shit for not keeping up, but I won’t even allow that. And in that moment I found something that I had lost, a certain carefree joy, the thrill of taking a risk and casting caution to the wind for a memory that will last forever.

Old friends finding our lost youth and joy in life.
Old friends finding our lost youth and joy in life.

Back home, I’m riding my own horse, having just moved my horses to a friend’s ranch for boarding, I am riding, at a full gallop, up a steep, wooded hill, following my friend on his horse. I have no idea where we are headed, there is no trail. He knows the way through the dense maze of trees that populate neighboring properties, all private, some we have permission to ride on, others we don’t, and I’m not fond of the prospect of being left behind, being lost and finding my way onto an irate property owner’s land. I keep up, at all costs. I’m a pretty good rider for a middle-aged woman, not as well balanced as I once was, on a taller horse than I rode as a kid, and the ground being so much harder than I remember it being from childhood. I am reminded of the wild ride through the woods on ponies darned near forty years ago. I have the same focused face, again, sheer determination and my “I’m doing this” attitude. I do not like being lost, I do not like being left behind. I seem to have deviant friends. But, truth, I am enjoying the hell out of myself. I don’t have many friends that live like this, take chances like this, do fun, wild and amazing things. This is my life. By design. And, face it, life is going to kill all of us at some point or other, may as well make it good! I don’t want to die in a recliner gripping a TV remote. And, again, I have regained something, this day, that is lost on so many other days behind the responsibility of work, family and home. Fun. Thrills. Joy.

Finding excitement in not knowing the path.
Finding excitement in not knowing the path.

Being lost. There are different ways in which we can be lost. We can be lost in a specific manner, as in having lost our direction, by not knowing where we are or where we should head. We can be lost in a larger, more general sense, we don’t know what to do with our lives, our talents, our energies. We may be so lost we don’t even know we have talents, energies, passions or other components of what life is. We can also be lost from something we hold dear, as in we’ve misplaced or lost track of something we consider of value.

How do we become lost? We lose direction. We lose our bearing. We lose sight of a landmark or other navigational guide. We become disoriented, confused, distracted. Our course is altered unexpectedly. There are many ways to become lost, but, usually, we have gone in an unplanned or unintended direction and we aren’t sure how to right our course, or even whether we should right our course. Think about it.

Life is like water in a stream, when it meets a boulder it is diverted.

Jobs, people, hobbies, experiences can all alter the direction of our lives. It is not possible to live and to avoid this. If you remain perfectly motionless and resist any chance or change, possibly, your life can go with few alterations to course. A slow, steady, monotonous course to death. Step into the raft, trust your guide, and go for a thrilling ride down the rapids. That’s what life is meant to be. Sometimes, we have to become lost in order to be found. The diversion around the boulder that alters our path is certainly better than crashing directly into the rock. Think about it.

Do you have to know every twist and turn of the river in advance in order to navigate the rapids safely, successfully, skillfully? No. If you know enough about rivers in general, about eddies and back eddies, the nature of currents and obstacles, you can successfully and safely guide your raft down a river you’ve never navigated before. So, in life, we don’t have to know, for certain, our exact path, in fact, we will go much further towards our ultimate self if we don’t know every step we will ever take. There are many valuable lessons in self from those deviations from our intended course, again, better to divert our path around those obstacles, to change our course, than to run into and be stopped in our tracks by that obstacle. Think about it.

We don’t necessarily need to know precisely where we are going and exactly, step by step, how we are going to get there. True, we should have a destination in mind, but how we get there may differ from our original plan. There are a dozen ways to drive to any point in the city you live in, no one is more right than another. There may be many variables that cause you to choose one route over another, traffic or road construction as an example. The destination is the same, the course can vary. So, if our destination is our goal, how we accomplish that goal is our journey, our path, and the path we choose initially may not end up being the best route. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost our goal, our destination, it just means we need to alter our path, our direction, our method for attaining our goal. Nor do we need to know exactly where we are at any point in time. We may have to lose our direction a time or two to actually, finally reach our goal. Think about it.

So, being lost is good. Losing our way is preferred. Am I talking crazy?

What is the definition of lost?

lost

lôst, läst

adjective

1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.

“Help! We’re lost!”

synonyms: off course, off track, disorientated, having lost one’s bearings, going around in circles, adrift, at sea, astray

If you are unable to find your way, if you do not know your whereabouts are you really lost? You are where you are. You know you’re there, you can feel yourself where you are, you can see your feet, your legs, your hands. You can see everything that surrounds you. You are right where you are. The only thing you may not know, temporarily, is where that point is related to the rest of the world. You, in fact, are not lost, you just haven’t decided which direction to head to change your location to one you’d prefer, perhaps one you recognize.

When I was working with Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, many, many years ago, I became aware of the “Hug a Tree” program which encouraged children who were “lost” to not wander. As soon as they came to the realization that they were alone, apart from their group, they were taught to go to the closest tree or similar landmark adjacent to the path and stay there, to hug the tree until someone came in search of them. In the wilderness, or even on city streets, if very young, or very old, and unable to navigate back to your group, to safety, this is extremely practical advice. For, if you are very young, or very old, someone is looking for you from the moment you escaped their view, undoubtedly. By remaining in one place you are far more likely to be found. Countless are the unfortunate stories of children, of elderly people, wandering aimlessly while their rescuers tried to follow their path, tried to find them, and, often, their paths crossed numerous times, but at inopportune times. By staying in one place, especially near a trail or path, the chance of being found increase exponentially. Unless alone in the wilderness, for the rest of us, those of us who move autonomously around the planet, independently, this may not actually be the best course of action. If I just froze and clung to a large, tall object the first time I became disoriented in my travels for work, I’d probably have missed a flight, missed a connection, missed a meeting, and, perhaps, lost my job.

As autonomous, independent adults, negotiating our way through the world, we have at our disposal numerous resources on which we can rely; navigational devices like apps on our phones or GPS units, we may have maps or an atlas handy or that can be easily obtained, and we always have the ability to ask for assistance. At the very minimum, we have our powers of observation, our ability to solve problems, and we usually find our way again in short order.

In the wilderness, of course, this may be a different story, especially if traveling through the wilderness is not something we do regularly. Hopefully, we have planned well enough in advance to have notified someone of where we are going and when we should be expected to return. Hopefully we have further prepared by packing contingency items for our adventure, however short; extra food, extra water or the means with which to purify water, matches, a knife, some nylon cord, some extra clothing. And with a certain amount of preparedness comes the calm assurance that survival is more likely, and with that calm assurance, usually comes the ability to think clearly enough to re-orient ourselves and find our way to the path back to civilization. Or to hug a tree.

Notice, in both cases, in town and in the wilderness, our safe arrival at our intended destination was reliant on the fact that we had a few tools, a few necessary items available to us. We had resources or were able to identify resources that would assist us in our return. Knowing how to equip ourselves in our journey, real or rhetorical, will be a determining factor in our ultimate success and in the efficiency of our route. The trick, then, is to know what we should equip ourselves with, and for each journey, it will differ. The resources I need for a backpacking trek will differ from the resources I need to obtain a certain career goal.

We’ve established, then, that becoming lost, in life, is good, that we gain experience and growth and overcome adversity and challenge by becoming lost, not losing sight of our ultimate goal, or destination, and finding another course, through diversion, to our reward, our goal. We have also established, that in reality, when we become lost, having certain resources, tools and skills available to us give us the confidence and clarity to find our way back. This is true in our journey in life, too. With the right preparation, resources, tools and skills, getting diverted from our original course towards our goals is not just a valuable lesson to be gained, but an opportunity to employ that preparation, those resources, tools and skills in establishing a new course towards our goal.

So, in life, when we are feeling lost, what should our approach be? How should we be prepared? What resources, tools and skills should we have at our disposal to establish a new and better path to our destination, our goal? How do we begin? How do we know?

I remember an acronym I learned in a wilderness first aid and survival class I once took. S.T.O.P., Stop and Sit, Think, Observe, Plan. By taking these steps you could usually figure out a way to survive until help arrived, of course, the more training you had and the better prepared you were, the better your chances of survival. This same acronym can be applied to any situation, real or rhetorical. That first moment when we determine we are lost, that our course has changed, been diverted, or we’ve just temporarily lost our way, whether on the streets of a strange city, in the wilderness, or on a path to our goals in life, if we take some time to stop and sit, to become quiet and calm, that is always the first, most important step. If we frantically try to scurry about and determine, in haste, which direction to head, we are likely to make an error, potentially a costly one. Stop. Become quiet. Listen. Be still. We may hear a street nearby, or voices, or just enough peace and quiet for a solid idea to form. Stop.

I was in downtown Chicago for a brief walking tour. I was pressed for time as I had a flight home and needed to drive through traffic to get to the airport in time. I’d parked my rental car in a parking garage, of which there are many. I’d taken pictures of the garage and made note of the address, but it had the same management company and signage as just about every other garage in the area. As I walked in the direction I remembered the garage being, running a few minutes behind schedule, putting me in a position where I could ill-afford a navigational error, I stopped for a moment to gather my bearings. In that moment, stopped and quiet, I heard a street musician, a saxophone player playing, terribly, I might add, the Hokie Pokie song. I knew, at that moment, that the entrance to the garage was just across the street. I’d noticed that musician, heard the same song, as I’d exited the garage. In my haste and concern over being late, had I not stopped, I likely would not have heard the musician and may have taken a less direct route back to the garage.

S.T.O.P. - calmly applying thought and observation to find my way back to the parking garage as quickly as possible.
S.T.O.P. – calmly applying thought and observation to find my way back to the parking garage as quickly as possible.

The T is for think. After we’ve stopped, we need to think. In stopping, hopefully, we have become quiet and have calmed down, our thought process is much more likely to be logical and productive. Depending on the situation, whether real or rhetorical, in taking the time to think of our options, this phase may take a few minutes, or a few months. If lost in trying to get back to the parking garage, I could probably have thought things through in a few moments and found my way back one way or another. My options may have included consulting a map on my phone, asking someone for directions, hailing a cab and giving the driver the address of the parking garage. Lots of options. In a more rhetorical situation, having lost our direction in pursuit of a goal, we may need to spend more than a few minutes to right our course or find a better route altogether. We may decide we need more education, or a different career path, or some other major course deviation, all of which may require a bit of time and effort to collect all the options necessary to consider. The point is, no matter the scenario, thought must be applied, logically, to get headed in the right direction, again.

O is for Observe. As I observed the saxophone player as I left the garage, it was the observation of that sound, again, on my return, that successfully guided me back. After stopping, and thinking through our options, we should observe our surroundings, the resources we have immediately at hand that may aid us in getting started on our path, again. Thinking and observation are not too unrelated. I consider observation just a more tactile form of thought. Thinking generates ideas from vapor, observation generates ideas from tangible items in our midst. In being physically lost, our powers of observation are usually key in reuniting us with our path to our destination; a tree, a rock formation, a building, a landmark, a sign. In our more rhetorical example, observation may not be quite as tangible. We may, instead, observe behaviors of those we consider mentors in our journey. We may observe activities that generate a desired outcome that will further our advancement towards our goal. We may observe resources that may assist us that we had not previously considered. In observation, we are really just opening our minds to other possibilities, we are becoming creative.

P is for Plan. And this, of course, is the most critical part, whether lost for real or in a rhetorical sense. The old adage goes, “a failure to plan is a plan to fail”. In life, failure is not and should never be considered an end, it is often the means by which we learn what it is we need to know to eventually reach our goal. But, if certain failures can be avoided, like boulders in the stream, then, by all means, we should attempt to steer around them. A good plan will assist us in navigating around failures that may delay our success. If lost in the woods or in a city, a plan can be as simple as calling for assistance, heading in the direction, by compass, that we were originally headed, climbing to a higher point for a better vantage point.

In life, a plan is more ethereal, as in both ether and real. A plan, of course, is paramount, and it always begins with the goal itself. Then we can sketch out how we will achieve that goal. Our plan can be very specific or can be quite general. I think the more general the better for the long term, more ether like. But, each day, at waking, or better yet, before going to sleep the night before, a very specific plan should be made, with our overall goal in mind, so that some positive action and progress is made, steadily. A more real plan. Lest our goal be like the sun in the sky, always there and never closer, sometimes shrouded by clouds, or night, but always present, and never, ever closer.

And, as plans pertain to our goals in life, is it not the plan and the deviation from the plan that is the definition of “lost” to begin with? The goal hasn’t changed, but the path, the plan, does. With constant change and flux, it is then critical that we be as flexible as our plan. We may need to adapt the plan, and we may need to adapt to follow the plan. Making a plan, following a plan, and, necessarily, adapting the plan, all requires change. We must embrace change to have any hope of every achieving our goal.

Nothing ever gets better that stays the same. We must accept change, embrace change, court change, in order for any part of our life, our experience, ourselves to improve. Change is a deviation from the current course, is it not? Change is becoming lost, temporarily, with a change in direction. Think about it.

In being lost we are found. In being lost we learn. In being lost we grow. In being lost, we can reach our goal, our dream, our purpose and become richer for the journey, the deviation in the intended course. Do not fear becoming lost, it may be just the key you need to open all the doors you desire. Think about it.

Get lost.

 

Ready, Set, Go

Are you ready?

Ready for what?

Anything. Everything.

The Center for Disease Control recommends we be ready for anything; earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, the latest strain of the flu, a zombie apocalypse (not kidding http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm). For each of these, they have suggested steps, measures, that we should take in order to be ready. I call this a plan.

We need a plan for all things in life. Big and small. I teach this in several of the classes I deliver at work. And although the plan of which I speak is specific to that particular facet of the profession, I use real life examples to drive the point home. For example, you plan what you wear each day based on the weather and what activities you think you’ll be participating in. Am I right? When you want to go on vacation, you plan your destination, your departure date, your return date, your transportation, your lodging, your activities. Am I right? Without these plans, we’d show up at work wholly inappropriately dressed, or worse yet, undressed, which I think may be a career limiting move, unless of course you work in the adult entertainment industry. When the first day of your vacation arrives and you show up at the airport without a ticket, or at your destination without hotel or campsite reservations, you’ll probably end up with a stay-cation instead. Plan equals readiness.

So, what is your plan for today? And are you ready? If you plan to run a few errands after work, there is no great amount of preparation required for that, I suppose. But lets say a friend calls and says “I have tickets to a concert and so and so can’t go, do you want to go?”, and lets say the concert is one you’d really, really like to see. Are you ready? Just like unexpected, bad things in life that the CDC warns us to be ready for, there are many good, wonderful and unexpected things in life we should be equally ready for.

If you are lounging around the house, un-showered, clothes not laundered, bank account empty, and your friend calls with those concert tickets, are you going to miss your chance to go because you aren’t ready? That would be a shame! Would you have regrets?

Personally, I prepare for each day like I have the most amazing plans in the world. I get up when I should, I eat, I shower, I get ready like I’m going somewhere, and even if I end up working at home all day long, I feel great, I look great, I smell great and if someone calls with concert tickets, I just have to grab my purse and go. The CDC would be proud if concert preparedness were something they were worried about.

In being “ready” every day, as I am, I find I am much more likely to go out into the world after work and socialize, or do something good for me, like work out at the gym or go to a fitness class, or call a friend to go out for a glass of wine. Moral of the story, I feel terrific all day and I’m more likely to have a stupendous evening, too. All because I am ready.

Let’s take this one step further. If a friend you cherish, but hadn’t seen in a very, very long time called and said, “I’m nearby, can I stop by for a visit?”, how ready would you be. Even if you’ve taken my advice and YOU are ready, are you ready for a visitor?

I happen to know, first hand, that most American homes don’t look like the homes portrayed on most television shows. Life happens and life is messy. My mom is known for having a spotless house. And while she does do a great job house cleaning, what most don’t know is, if you say you’re going to visit, she is rushing about fussing over the house until the second she hears footsteps on the porch. While there will never likely be a dirty ring in her toilet, there will be piles of newspapers, coupons, and mail on chairs, tables and countertops. The prospect of visitors totally stresses her out because she is never ready, to her satisfaction. She begins to freak out about an announced visitor weeks before they plan to arrive, and her house is really quite clean, but for the paper clutter. She vacuums more than anyone I know! I swear she has a holster for her Windex bottle! But she is convinced she isn’t ready for visitors to the point where she will turn down spending time with me, or her grandchildren, because she is “behind” schedule preparing the house for her eventual guests. To me, this is a shame. If you insist on a spotless house, keep it spotless, to your satisfaction. Be ready. Be set. So you can go!

My house used to be far worse than that. With a cluttered lifestyle, a husband who forbid anyone from touching his piles and piles of dusty papers that accumulated for years on end, and two children literally immersed, about two feet deep, in all the “must have” toys, and me working nearly full-time and leading various youth groups with my remaining time, my house was usually a disaster the CDC would have difficulty devising a plan for. For a while, when the youth group meetings were held at our house, I had a housekeeper. This translated to me scurrying around the morning she was due to arrive, before work, dealing with mountains of toys, paper and clutter so there would be surfaces exposed which could be cleaned. This was stressful, frustrating and expensive.

My philosophy has totally changed. First, I have been on a mission to de-clutter my life. This year, with my W2, I handed my CPA a stack an inch high of Goodwill donation receipts. And I am not done. With another move in progress, I intend to discard much more. I throw away junk mail before I even enter the house. What statements I still receive in paper form (damn them!), I shred, I manage all of my accounts and payments electronically. I take publications electronically, too, and those few I don’t, I toss after reading them (though I may scan an article or recipe here and there first).

This is beneficial in another stress reducing, always ready, respect; I can find things when I need them, like my W2 and all those Goodwill receipts! The time I save by having a plan, a system, a little organization and a wee bit of discipline has been a real boost! I have more time because I’m not always searching for things, and I have way less stress because when I need something, I know exactly where it is!

And, life has become a bit simpler, by design. I have de-cluttered my schedule a bit, though I thrive on being busy, and seek to have activities outside of work daily, I do plan for that extra five minutes after my shower to clean out the tub, that two seconds every day or so to swish a brush around the toilet, that two minutes every week to wash the mirror and countertop. I set aside ten minutes every now and then to chase a vacuum around a room. I hate dusting, so rather than setting aside time to occasionally dust, I just rid my life of things that require dusting. I can run a rag over shelves and tables without anything impeding my progress, and I am done. I do my dishes immediately after I eat, rather than saving them up for when I need that pan or dish. I wipe down the stove and counters, routinely, as part of my dishwashing task. I take the garbage out every night, run the dishwasher every night, and unload it in the morning while my coffee is brewing. I probably add twenty minutes a day to my routine, but my house is ALWAYS ready for visitors. And I totally enjoy my time at home, however brief.

I try to put things away, where they belong, and my only likely slip up are shoes. For as much as I love shoes, they tend to be discarded somewhere in the house soon after arriving home. I remove them in the car, too. I love shoes. I love buying shoes. I love owning shoes, but I don’t really like to wear shoes. I’ve been making a conscious effort to take them off and put them away, so things are better, but it used to be that you could walk through my front door and see several shoes scattered about the house randomly. And my kids are the same way, so when they lived with me, we were ankle deep in shoes we weren’t wearing! Now, if shoes aren’t put away where they belong, you’ll likely find them under my desk or under a chair in my bedroom. I’ve become slightly, just slightly, more disciplined.

I once heard a theory, from my son who was taking high school physics at the time. The theory is that there is only so much mess and so much neatness, and when something that was messy is made neat, something, somewhere else is made messy. I know this was true for much of the time when I was raising my family. The clutter and mess throughout the house; shoes, papers, toys, books, mail, clothes, would all be gathered up from the common areas and shoved into the usually somewhat clutter free master bedroom. The door would be pulled shut, and company  would arrive shortly thereafter. The house looked neat, the master bedroom was a mess. How this occurs, globally, though, I don’t really know. And now that my life is neater because my kids are grown and have moved away, and there isn’t a husband in the house, I wonder who’s life I caused to become messier? Is that how the theory works, or am I missing the it? If so, whoever you are, wherever you are, with the messier house, the messier life, I’m sorry.

For me, I have found that less mess equals less stress. I enjoy my free time at home more, I am happy to have people stop by, I am always ready. I am always set. I am always good to go. Well, mostly. By focussing on always being ready, by taking small, routine measures, I find I have so much more time to pursue activities I enjoy, both at home and out and about. I am way more productive, too. When I have some project for work, or back in school, and the house was messy, one of the methods of procrastination I would employ, to avoid the project, would be to clean things up, a bit, first. Funny, though, when my house was chaos with kids and the husband and pets and all, I’d procrastinate about cleaning house by working on projects instead!

Less mess. Keep it straight. That’s all there is to it. I know I make this sound really simple, but shouldn’t it be? And if it isn’t, perhaps simplifying a bit is in order. I find the simpler life is made, the simpler life becomes. You are in charge of that, by the way, and only you. But that’s a topic for another day. As the CDC suggests, take measures now to be ready. As the Boy Scout motto goes, “be prepared.” Plan for it. Plan for anything. Plan for everything. Ready? Ready. Set? Set. Go!

 

Morning Exercise

For those of you who hate mornings, and Monday mornings in particular, may I try to offer you a little inspiration?

First, mornings are necessary, there is no avoiding them, and so my recommendation is to meet them head on, tackle them and conquer them. True, if you sleep until noon you technically miss morning, but, you still have to accomplish all you need to for the day, and you have way less time to do it! Think of mornings as the foundation for your day. Use morning to build yourself a solid base for the rest of the day to rest on. I have a couple of different morning exercises, if you will, depending on my work schedule and the day of the week. Whatever day it is, wherever I am, and no matter what time I have to get up and be at work, I have a plan to get my day started on the right foot.

I find that by having a plan, by following it, a bare minimum routine, that I can accomplish more than if I just wing it. I find solace in a routine, and as I am often on opposite coasts during the week than on the weekend, anything that provides consistency is a good thing. And I think that applies for people who don’t flit around quite as much as I do, too. I really benefit from a routine, appreciate it, actually, even when I’m home for a while.

This time of year I am working from home more often than not. I am working on projects more than I am meeting with customers. My days and weeks are littered with project team meetings (conference calls) and maybe a training session or two per week via the web. I, generally speaking, have all the time in the morning I need to accomplish all I desire. I take advantage of this slower time of year to get re-focused on my goals, my fitness, and my health.

My alarm is usually set for a respectable hour, 6:30 or 7:00. I am usually awake before my alarm goes off and I find great benefit from just laying in bed a few moments, quietly reflecting, just sort of being still and letting my mind empty. I don’t call this “meditation” because that seems to put way too much pressure on it for me. As soon as my brain focuses on “meditation” I become completely incapable of just being and breathing. “Reflection” seems to work; I breathe, I be, I am in the present, I am still. There is no time set for reflection, I’m probably lucky to be awake but still for five minutes before my brain springs into action and I leap out of bed.

Once I’m up, my fastidious side likes to make the bed immediately upon touching feet to the floor. Then I’m downstairs to fix coffee and a small healthy breakfast. I bring my journal and after breakfast, I fill a page with “affirmations” and another with “gratitude”. My affirmations are single sentences, affirming to myself, my strengths, qualities I seek to enhance in myself, qualities that boost my self-esteem, each one beginning with “I am”. The next page is reserved for noting down all the things I am grateful for. This entire exercise takes about five minutes and really sets me in the right frame of mind for the day. I first read about this in a book many, many years ago. Since then, nearly every author on self-improvement heralds this method. I whole-heartedly agree. The days I miss this morning exercise, I find myself in a less than optimal mood, unfocused, easily agitated, frustrated and generally, just out of sorts. I follow journaling with a challenging workout video, a shower and the whole beauty routine that ensues.

Crazy, insane mornings where I have to get up super early for work are my “minimalist” mornings. There are things I must accomplish, in addition to shower, hair and makeup, no matter the day, no matter the demands of the day. My minimalist routine consists of writing in my journal and eating a healthy breakfast. Whether I am traveling or at home, if it is an early and rushed morning, I make sure my alarm is set, and obeyed, with adequate time to accomplish these tasks. I will avoid defeat by setting out as much the night before for my breakfast and for getting ready in the morning. Be your own best friend, not your own worst enemy. Workouts, I really, really try to make them happen in the evening, but when flying coast to coast and switching time zones on myself constantly, admittedly, sometimes I fail. This is something I’m working on, affirming.

On leisurely weekend mornings, when I don’t have a running engagement (I’m in a running club that meets on Saturdays most of the year) or other early morning activity, I allow myself to sleep in without benefit of an alarm. Which means I may sleep until 7:00, sometimes even 8:00. I follow my weekly routine, but perhaps a bit more slowly. I have discovered that if I have all morning to complete my routine, I am going to take all morning to complete my routine. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Now, Mondays, let’s talk about Mondays. Much like mornings are the foundation of your day, Mondays are the foundation of your week. I think of Mondays as sort of a mini-springtime, time for renewal and growth. We’ve had the weekend to recover and recuperate, or to party and completely destroy ourselves, but no matter, Monday is when our week begins fresh and we can make it what we want by spending a little time getting it pointed in the right direction.

So, to employ another analogy; think of mornings as the New Years of the day, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. Mondays, likewise, are the New Years of the week, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. What you write in your journal, those are your resolutions, and by focusing on them at the beginning of the day, the beginning of the week, we are much more likely to stick with them throughout the day, the week, the months, the year. A small step in truly achieving what you hope to achieve.

I know it all sounds so ideal; get up when the alarm goes off, eat breakfast, write in your journal, work out, get ready, go to work and a perfect day is made. I will be the first to admit that this rarely goes exactly according to plan.

Today, for instance; I had two mid-morning meetings, so I figured, when I set my alarm last night, that I’d allow an hour to eat, journal, clean up after breakfast, text K-Man (my significant other), check facebook, finish my coffee, jot down some blog fodder and dilly dally in a few other ways. I’d allow an hour for my workout video, and, finally, an hour to shower, do my hair and makeup and get to the office (the third bedroom in my house, so, lucky for me, commute equals three steps down the hallway).

I awoke well before my alarm went off and figured I’d get the day started early so I could take my morning even more leisurely. Somehow, that seemed to put my internal timer on relaxed, weekend morning mode. The whole breakfast/journal/facebook/coffee/blog fodder/text K-Man thing ended up taking nearly two hours, putting me about a half an hour behind schedule. Before heading upstairs for phase two of my morning plan, I choked down my vitamins and finished my first tall glass of water for the day.

You know how Mondays can be? As I was taking my vitamins, I dropped one. Typical. My first lightning quick thought was, “yup, it’s Monday”, so negative, but I reached out my hand as the vitamin bounced off the table and headed for the floor, and I caught it. My whole perspective changed in an instant. Did I just conquer Monday? Then I dropped the vitamin a second time. And caught it between my knees. Yes, Monday was mine, I owned it!

Phase two; I was half an hour behind schedule, but I was not about to let myself wimp out or postpone my workout, because once the shower/hair/makeup is done, there is severe resistance to the whole workout thing until late in the evening, and I have an appointment tonight. I really, really don’t like compromising the workout schedule on Mondays, it just really sets the wrong precedence for the rest of the week. Especially after this weekend’s dietary indiscretions!

I ran upstairs, threw on my work out clothes, and loaded my Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit DVD into the player. I panted and sweat along with Shaun T. and all those perfectly fit people on the screen, who are all about thirty years younger than me. It’s supposed to be a sixty day program, I’m thinking it’ll take me more like six months to be able to accomplish the Level I Drill, once, let alone the entire set of exercises. But, hey, I make a little progress each day. That’s the point. Now, since I’m new to Insanity, and old in years, my thirty second breaks sometimes stretch to sixty, or so. I usually have a good “reason”, need a(nother) towel, (more) water, etc., but when you start to multiply that across all the breaks, a forty-five minute workout becomes more like an hour.

Now I’m really late. As a matter of fact, as I step into the shower, and by God, I’ve GOT to shower, I have less than fifteen minutes until my first conference call begins. Shaun T.’s voice is still echoing in my head, and I swear as I grab the shampoo bottle I hear him yell “Shampoo! Squirt! Lather! Four, three, two, one! Rinse! Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Conference call is in ten minutes people! Let’s go! Soap on loofah! Scrub! Eight, seven, six, five! Four more! Three, two, one! Towel!”

I made it to my meeting on time, squeaky clean, glowing from my workout out, and totally owning Monday, and the whole week!