If I’m Being Honest, Learning New Things is Scary

“Not at all!” I told my mom when she asked if learning to Scuba dive had been scary. I was still basking in the glow of my new certification when she called to congratulate me. I dismissed her question with a little laugh and a lot of confidence.

This conversation has been gnawing at me for a few weeks now and I’ve realized that yes, getting certified as a Scuba diver was actually scarier than I’d admitted. The course included lots of e-learning, two weekends of diving in a YMCA pool, and a weekend diving in a local quarry. I had great dive masters, full air tanks, and no sharks – nothing to be afraid of. And yet, when I stop and see things a little more clearly – I was not exactly fearless.

Before I even put on a wetsuit, I spent two weeks watching videos and powerpoints for the elearning portion of the course. I took pages and pages of notes and stressed over every question on the quiz. I held my breath as I submitted the answers to quizzes and triple checked my work on the final test. My stomach was tied up in knots as I drove to my first lesson in the pool and again when we did our final dives in the quarry. As soon as I got comfortable with a skill or body of water – it was time to move on again. Scuba diving was scary – not because it was unsafe, but because learning something new can be terrifying.

As adults we have learned what we are good at and we’ve stuck to these things. If we learned we weren’t good at basketball in the 7th grade? No on makes us play anymore. If we want to stay in on Friday nights and read because we enjoy it – we can do that instead. Learning and performing something new – and with our success measured by a class and a certificate (or a finish line) – can be scary because it makes us vulnerable. We don’t have the kind of fearlessness we had as kids and it changes how we respond to learning new things.

I can’t say that it wasn’t scary and not feel like I’m perpetuating the myth of having it all and making it look easy. It would be inauthentic to say it was easy and a missed opportunity to share what I’ve learned from the experience. It was messy and imperfect, but it was worth it. Especially the end result, when it really did stopped being scary. As we swam to the surface after our last dive, I remember looking up at the sun rays streaming in through the water in complete disbelief that it was over already.

13.1 Things I Learned from Running my First Half Marathon

I ran my first Half Marathon this weekend – the Columbus Nationwide Children’s Hospital Half, finishing in 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 15 seconds (roughly 10:30 min/mile pace). I wasn’t out to set any world records, just to finish. I’ve tried to pick up running several times, but without much success – until the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. I started to #RunForBoston to honor the victims and the survivors, and just kind of kept going. I downloaded a Couch to 5K app to pace myself and build my endurance. When the One Run For Boston relay came through Columbus – I joined the group leg, running 5 miles for the first time in my life. I downloaded a Couch to 10K app, then finally a half marathon training plan for beginners.

All of that alone time gave me time to think and synthesize what I’ve learned from the whole process. You didn’t expect me to spend months training for and hours running a half marathon and not A) learn something and B) blog about it – did you?

  1. Discipline I cannot remember the last time I stuck to a schedule or plan like this. Admittedly, I work well under pressure procrastinate and generally make out okay. I knew that if I skipped even one long weekend run, my chances of finishing the half marathon decreased. This meant waking up hours before everyone else on weekends to make sure I got my miles in – and then spending the rest of the day with sore legs. Totally worth it.  
  2. Sleeping In is Relative When the temperatures rose above 75 degrees this summer, I started running in the mornings. This meant getting up at least 30-45 minutes earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Somehow, waking up at 6:45 had become sleeping in.
  3. And 6 AM is Worth Waking Up For I can’t count how many sunrises I’ve seen, how many mornings I saw deer grazing in neighbors yards, and watched the fog settling in. I tried (in vain) to photograph and Instagram some of these moments, but they just don’t translate. I think they’re the reward for being awake at that hour, only available to those willing to rise early enough to see them.
  4. Endurance I can run 13.1 miles. Did not see that coming.
  5. Good Days & Bad Days Some runs were easier than others – 7 miles was exhilarating, 8 and 9 miles were exhausting. I prayed that my 10 miler, and ultimately my 13.1 would land on good days – luckily they did. I can’t say if I did something different the night before those runs, the barometric pressure changed, wore tights vs shorts, or something else entirely. I just know that I got back out there and tried again, no matter what happened the run before.
  6. Don’t Judge a Run by the First Mile For better or worse – the first mile (or two) of the run seems to have no direct correlation to the overall success of a run. The first mile of most of my runs were honestly miserable – tight legs, cold arms, sore feet, tired eyes, loose pony tail, etc…. but it always improved. Other days – the first miles are a breeze and you’re panting before you’ve finished a 5k. Good days and bad days.
  7. Shared Experiences Running opens up a whole new community and people who run, love to talk about running. People who don’t run usually nod as their eyes glaze over. Sorry about that, non-running friends.
  8. Not a Solo Sport Despite what it looks like, running is not a solo sport. There is an incredible sense of community among runners (see #7). That said, I prefer to train solo. I’m a pretty competitive person and running alone let’s me find my own pace and listen and respond to my body when it wants to speed up or slow down. It’s also hard to find friends who want to run in the suburbs with you at 6 AM.
  9. obergefellRace With Others I’m a competitive extrovert – I get my energy from being around others and pick up the pace when I run in a group. When I registered for my race I deliberately underestimated my pace to ensure I wasn’t starting out with people running significantly faster than me. I may have been a little too conservative though, I ended up in a corral with the competitive walkers. In any case, it let me start out at a pace I was comfortable with and gradually increase my speed until I found my groove.   
  10. Good Pair of Shoes I never thought I’d consider running shoes among the favorites in my collection – but going to a running store and having a proper fitting was the best thing I’ve done for my running.
  11. “Real Runner” I carried a lot of Imposter Syndrome with me when I started running, feeling like I wasn’t enough of a runner to be considered a real runner. I wrote about that earlier and found this quote pretty apropos: “I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” -Bart Yasso
  12. Everyone Deserves a Medal There’s lots of grumbling about giving kids certificates and trophies for everything they participate in – and at first it seemed silly to me that everyone who crossed a 5k or marathon finish line got a medal. The medal isn’t for the race itself, it’s for the runs at 6 AM, the rain, the cold, the heat, the sweat, the sore muscles, and the rest of the preparation that goes into the race. Running the race is the fun part.
  13. Can’t Do Everything I’ve written about perfection before (here, here, and here, among others) and faced it head on in my training. The myth of Having it All was ever-present in my training. I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. I ran 13.1 miles, but not without other things suffering. I’m behind in my 52 books in 52 weeks quest, have written less than I’d like, and my house is dustier than ever. But I did it.

13.1 Running is kind of fun. No, seriously it is.

I ran this race as a Children’s Champion – raising $1,008.10 for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a part of my training. The love and support of my family, friends, and colleagues throughout this journey was overwhelming and I would not have crossed the finish line without you. Every mile of the race featured a child and family who has benefited from treatment from the hospital – kids who high-fived all of the runners as we passed with giant foam hands and smiles. Knowing that I was running for them – and kids like them – pushed me more than any motivational quote or medal ever will. 

Success Before Breakfast: Making the Most of Your Mornings

I read Laura Vanderkam’s “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast” last week and was inspired by it. Truth be told, I didn’t actually “read” it per se- but I did listen to the one hour audio book. It’s not necessarily a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which I really am reading this week), but it does have some good information.

The Pitch: We all wish we had more time in our days, especially to take care of ourselves. If we only had more hours in our day, we’d read more books or spend more time with our kids. We’d get in better shape, pray more, and relax. Vanderkam says we don’t need more hours in our day, we just need to change the way we organize our days. Check out a Cliffnote version of the article here.

So many mindless hours are spent sitting in front of the TV after dinner and rushing around with kids in the morning before school. The first few hours in the office are spent catching up with coworkers over our second cup of coffee, checking personal email, and scrolling through social media feeds. Before we know it we’re thrust into back to back meetings, lunch at our desk, and a race to the 5 PM finish line.

Like the popular financial advice, Vanderkam says to pay yourself first. We think we’ll go to the gym after work, play with the kids after school, and curl up with a book and bubble bath at the end of the night. But…

“If you wait till the end of the month to save what you have left, there will be nothing left. If you wait to the end of the day to do important –but not urgent– things, it probably won’t happen either.”

I’ve found myself in this place multiple times. Writing posts for my blog and reading books toward my 52 books in 52 weeks are prime examples. These are things I absolutely enjoy and look forward to doing, but are often postponed while I do laundry, stay late at work, or watch yet another episode of Big Bang Theory.

At the same time I was finishing this book, this tweet showed up in my feed:

JPK Tweet

I feel like I’m getting back on the fitness wagon again, so my goals are modest: Don’t hit he snooze button and take the dog for a walk or run every day. But that doesn’t take an hour AND I don’t mind walking the dog in the evenings. This got me thinking about how I could use an extra hour in the morning. What would I do with that extra 60-minutes of uninterrupted me-time? Morning pages. Reading. Walk the dog. Breakfast with family. Yoga. Prayer.

My brainstorming spiraled a little out of control at this point, but Vanderkam’s advice brought me back to reality:

Monitor your energy. Choose one new habit at a time to introduce: If you want to run, pray, and write in a journal, choose one of these and make it a habit before you try something else.

The key to choosing the right thing is to make it something you look forward to, something worth getting out of bed a little earlier for. Like a gratitude list or things you’re looking forward to. Send a thank you email or write a note. No matter what your morning ritual is, it’s setting you up for success the rest of the day: “Once your brain records a victory, it’s more likely to take the next step. And the next step. And the next.”

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?


Women’s Leadership Institute: Day 2 Stretch

I am a maximizer.  I enjoy helping people discover their interests, talents, and strengths and to find ways to apply and develop their leadership capacity. Most of the opportunities I have to do this are with students, peers, and close colleagues. Today stretched me out of this comfort zone in two awesome and personally profound ways.


1)      I love attending conferences, but so often I am there to guide students in their own leadership development or to bring best-practices and new ideas back to my office. The Women’s Leadership Institute is a stark contrast to any previous professional development experience I have had. The priority and focus of this institute is on personal development as a woman and as a leader.

Leadership is about a process, not a position. Cynthia Cheree said it excellently today, “When you learn to paint, you may start with numbers—but you come in to your own when you create your own masterpiece.” In so many ways I am still learning to mimic the great professionals in Higher Education. While I take notes in sessions, tweet my take-aways, and engage in conversations over lunch I am learning to mimic technique of your brushstrokes.

This is the first opportunity I have had to be exposed to women leaders gathered for the sole purpose of discussing and developing the leadership potential of other women. We are here to support, affirm, lift, and transform each other. As Teri Bump said in her education session today, “Go all in. Be noticed. Don’t be just another woman at the party.”


2)      Three hours of my day were spent teaching Twitter to over 60 women from across the country and from various levels of power and influence at their institutions. I am clearly the youngest member of the faculty at this institute and presenting solo. Though I enjoy presenting and my resume lists extensive presentation and publication experience, it is always as a co-presenter.

The key to being comfortable in this role was understanding why I was in the front of the room in the first place. The women who attended my session chose to be in that room during their wellness time—a time they could have been walking the beach, meeting with a financial advisor, visiting the spa, or just resting in their room. The least I could do was make their time worth it.

Social media has given me a voice at the table, connected me with inspirational professionals, expanded my network, helped me connect with my current job, and been a composite of resources. I have tutored students, presented at national conferences, written papers, and coordinated professional association social media accounts; I know the value of this tool.

As I read back through my notes from the day, I realize one of the first things I wrote today in Cynthia Cherrey’s Optimizing Relationships and Connections sessions sums up my stretching perfectly:

  • Before you can lead others you have to lead yourself
  • Believe you can have a positive impact on others

How are you stretching yourself to be a better than when you woke up this morning? Follow me to stay involved with the WLI conversation.

Find a Little Bit of Beautiful

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and have been meaning to share it here for a while. To explain it simply, it’s a place to collect pretty pictures. Images can be grabbed from around the web and pinned to your collections. It blends my love of organizing and penchant for collecting. The site’s social component lets you to view the images friends are pinning and to browse thousands more inspirations posted by strangers.

Like Wikipedia or StumbleUpon (and the internet in general) it has the potential to be a time-suck. And honestly, there are plenty of lazy weekend afternoons when I’ve let this happen. I prefer to use it as a reward for good behavior or as a break in a long day. If nothing else, a page full of colorful images and inspirational sayings is a welcome change when you’ve been in meetings for hours or reading through contracts. So every now and then I give myself 5 minutes to relax and repin a few pictures to my boards.

I’ve found images to support and inspire my One Word for 2011: Move….



And started a collection of images to finally add some personality to my office:


And to my fairly neutral wardrobe:

Some of my other collections include health and fitness motivators, words of wisdom, recipes to try, and potential bridesmaid dresses for a friend’s wedding. There are a few standard template boards to get you started the first time you log in, but they can be changed or deleted to make room for your personalized collections.

Maybe my favorite part of the site is the citation-esque feature: all of the pictures on the site are links back to images embedded around the internet. What does that mean for this delicious picture of No Bake Vanilla Cake Batter Chocolate Truffles?

Yep. You can click through to a recipe. And let me tell you, they are at least as delicious as they look. There are some things I’ve found that are just too awesome not to save, but that have no real relation to each other or anything else I’ve saved. Logically, these things are saved to my just plain awesome board. For example, these bandages:

The site is still by invite only, but I’d be happy to email an invite to anyone who is interested. Leave a comment or send me a message on twitter or facebook with your email and I’ll make sure you get an invite. If you’re really curious, you can learn more about the technical ways the site works here.

But really, I’d recommend just taking  a few minutes to look around the site and find something beautiful. It shouldn’t take long.


Working on My Fitness

In January I committed myself to move more this year. Seeing my life through this lens has led me to procrastinate a little less, be more inspired, support causes I care about, and examine the way I take care of myself. When I got home from vacation and the only clothes that fit me were dresses and elastic waistbands–I realized it was time to literally put this word into action. I’ve been waiting to write about this until I was proud enough of my accomplishments to share them publicly. Besides, wearing leggings and a Snuggie to work just didn’t seem practical.

Starting on July 6 I made a deal with myself: for the next 30 days I would spend at least 30 minutes engaged in exercise or physical activity. I would also start drinking at least 64 oz of water daily. It’s been 9 days and I’m still going.

My work-outs have been pretty varied so far: 30 Day Shred, ballet, latin dance, hip-hop, running, biking, walking and a little bit of Wii sports. I’ve created an inspiration gallery over on Pinterest for some additional motivation too. I can already say that this is more than just a 30 day challenge for myself, it’s a lifestyle change. To keep myself focused beyond the 30 days, I’ve signed up for my first 5K in September. The star-chart hanging on my refrigerator reinforces keeping track of my progress and features this motivator too:

Every Damn Day, Just Do it.

Realizing my clothes didn’t fit was the last straw, but this is bigger than weight loss or even fitness. It’s about toning muscles, gaining strength, feeling healthy, paying attention to my body, and making time to take care of my health. I look at my grandfather who is 83 years old and still playing basketball. Paw’s taken a team to the Senior Olympics as long as I can remember— probably as long as he’s been old enough to play in the league. Despite surgeries, replaced joints, age, or illness he is always looking forward to the next time he can get out on the court to throw a ball around. He’s an incredible example of living healthy and living well. (Fun Fact? He does in-home care for people 20 years younger than him!)

It’s easy to get hung up on how in shape I used to be, but the fact is I am not a ballet dancer or a high school athlete anymore. I need to focus on the kind of health and wellness I want to have as an adult, not the muscle tone I had as a teenager. Our bodies change as we get older and it’s so much healthier to celebrate them for what they are than to get hung up on them for what they are not.

How are you taking care of yourself this year?