Little pleasures in life are important
In recent days, I have been thinking about the little pleasures in life. When we all are overwhelmed with momentous situations such as navigating the global pandemic or just day to day stresses of life, it is easy to forget how little things and little routines can be a source of not only much needed calm but also an uplifting of spirits. The little pleasures in life.
I hope you don’t mind if I share just a few of the seemingly little things that give me outsized pleasures. Not surprisingly for me running figures in a couple of these pleasures.
Every Saturday morning at 8 am ET, an email hits my inbox from Jen Miller who is a writer and a runner and writes a running blog for NY Times. It’s a simple short blog – her personal experiences with running as well as her commentary on running – but I eagerly await it and almost always read it as soon as it arrives. It gives me immense joy and this little predictable routine seems to be a perfect start of the weekend.
Then there are the evening walks – especially since the pandemic lockdown – with my daughter and son around my neighborhood that are so special. My son often takes us through his imaginary world in minute details where Marvel superheroes are doing entirely new and amazing things that no movies have depicted yet. Even more special is just listening to the two of them comparing their school experiences or various vacation and India trip experiences, or books they both read and like. On one recent walk, they discussed the book Sapiens from Yuval Noah Harari – a terrific read about the history of Homo sapiens. I wouldn’t want to trade these walks for anything else in the world.
Then there is our neighbor’s tiny Yorkshire terrier dog named Toto, who is out for a morning walk invariably at the same time as my run. Toto barks at me with full force every single time I pass him. I chuckle every time thinking that Toto must think how successfully he chased me away as I ran past.
Then there is the Emerging Technology Ventures class at University of Pennsylvania that I co-teach. Preparing for this class compels me to stay current and immersed in the world of emerging technologies and that process is filled with the joys of discovery and learning of new advances in technology. The Fall 2020 semester being fully virtual, one student attended the class from Tanzania at 1 AM, one student from India, and two students from China attended roughly at 6 AM – even when they had the option to watch the recorded lecture. Such dedication and engagement of the next generation of leaders and innovators is awe-inspiring.
Food, besides being a sustenance, is also a source of pleasure for us all. For me, to my own surprise, a humble hot oatmeal with peanut butter is that one very special treat and a joy most mornings.
I am thankful for big things in life – family, friends, health, a profession I enjoy etc. – but I am also very thankful for the little pleasures that running, work, and life in general brings to me.
I encourage you to take a moment to think about your own little pleasures that running, work, or life in general brings to you and savor them.
Happy running and happy living!
Capacity to be honest with oneself…
One of the joys of running is the opportunity to meet and run with some amazing people. And that opportunity gets even more special when a co-runner has the perspective and wisdom of someone like Dr. Stan Beecham. Stan is a trained psychologist who works with elite athletes and business leaders helping them do their best.
What started out as business interactions with Stan has evolved into treasured friendship. And our common interest in running just makes our friendship that much more special.
On the sidelines of one of the business events in Atlanta, I had the pleasure and privilege to run with Stan on and around the famous Peachtree Street and discuss a range of topics. First a bit about the Peachtree Street — it’s made famous by the namesake annual running event Peachtree Road Race that has grown to 60000 runners in recent years. All the spots sell out in a matter of days and the event attracts elite runners from all over the world. This street is also famous as a location for the classic novel Gone With the Wind and the namesake movie based on it.
As we ran, Stan, who is an Atlanta resident, shared bits of history about the street and the surrounding area, about the annual race run there, and loads of wisdom. As a psychologist and generally someone who closely observes human behaviour he has developed a deep perspective on human behaviour and in particular how these behaviours may hinder or may enhance one’s life — professionally as well as personally.
On our Peachtree street run he spoke passionately about the notion on how who we really are and who we want to be — better runner or better leader — are two different things and it is fundamental to tell the truth to ourselves about who we really are.
He explained how developing a capacity and commitment to be honest with oneself is critical to improve and evolve as a human being or as a leader. If you think about it, in running too, in order to achieve or surpass our performance goals, we must be honest with ourselves — honesty in following our training plans if we are after a specific goal — speed or distance — of a given race. Or being honest about our dietary, cross-training, and rest habits if we seem to get stuck on a particular performance plateau. Without that honesty, we cannot clearly diagnose the issue and do something concrete to address that issue. Similarly in our leadership roles, we must be honest with our strengths as well as weaknesses. Then learn to accentuate our strengths. And related to our weaknesses, be open to receiving help and developmental opportunities from our colleagues. Long after we wound up that run, I kept thinking about Stan’s lesson on having the capacity and commitment, to be honest with oneself is crucial to bettering oneself.
I hope you too find it a worthy lesson – as a person, as a leader, and of course as a runner.
Happy running and happy living!
Goals are easy to set, often hard to get, but still set them and go after them
A funny thing about goals is that they are easy to set, but not always easy to achieve. Sometimes a bit of luck and other external factors may play a role in the outcome of achieving or not achieving a goal. But more often than not, the most important factors still remain the hard work and maniacal focus to achieve the goals.
Running has lured me into setting all sorts of goals and humbled me trying to achieve those. I say “lured me in” because while reviewing my running log entries, reading my favourite running blog, or perusing articles from the Runner’s World magazine, I have been lured into setting some running goals for myself that turn out to be not so easy. But the whole process and the adventures that go with pursuing these goals is a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Isn’t life just that — full of wonderful and fulfilling experiences?
Reading the photo essays in the Runner’s World magazine of runners in interesting locales lured me into setting a goal of running at least a 5K distance in 100 unique places around the world. In order to make it challenging, I also decided that I can only do a total of 50 runs in the USA of which only 20 can be in New Jersey, where I live. Also, in order for the place to be counted as unique, it would have to have a local form of government or unique international jurisdiction. So for example, I cannot count runs in Brooklyn and Manhattan as two different runs, but only one run and that being a New York City run. I figured this algorithm would mean that the goal is not so easy and the pursuit would be interesting. Little did I know how challenging it would turn out to be.
Here is what happens — I travel to the same places for work. Even my vacations, at least for the time being, have almost always been to India to visit the family in some of the same cities on every visit. So once I ran London, Brussels, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Orlando, Los Angeles, New York City in the US or Ahmedabad, Pune, Vallabh Vidhyanagar in India so many times they still count only as 10 unique places. I quickly realized this was a goal that will require some focused and determined effort and a bit of creativity. I thought about changing to a job such that the business travel destinations would be very different, but that’s not practical. I have been now trying all other crazy things in pursuit of that goal.
Once I took up a speaking engagement in Fort Lauderdale Florida so that I could run there. I took a morning flight and landed there at noon. I delivered my presentation at 1 PM, changed into running clothes at the convention center, and ran in the parking lot in cold, very windy conditions. After a shower in the convention center bathroom, I headed back to the airport to take the same day evening flight back home. Little did I anticipate that the winter storm in NJ meant all flights to NJ were getting cancelled. Quickly, all hotels in the airport vicinity filled up and as I was contemplating waiting out the night at the airport for the morning flight, luckily I found a flight out to Washington DC.
I thought that once I am closer to NJ I can always figure out other options — a train or even a four-hour taxi ride home. After landing at 3 AM in Washington DC airport, I took a taxi to the Amtrak train station, and to my luck, I got on the last scheduled train leaving early morning before what I later learned to be cancellations of all trains for almost a full day before the storm situation cleared in NJ. I made it home tired, cold, hungry, and sleep-deprived in the early hours of the day but felt I had taken one important step closer to achieving my goal of running in 100 unique places by checking off a run at the Fort Lauderdale convention center parking lot. The next adventure came during a drive to Providence, Rhode Island when driving my daughter to her high school summer camp at Brown University.
Checking off a run in Providence was easy and running through Brown University’s hilly campus with historic buildings with unique architecture nestled in the midst of majestic trees remains very memorable.
A nearly seven-hour drive back and forth meant passing through several big towns like Hartford, Connecticut and I salivated at the opportunities to run in at least two of them. And I did run them — circling around the gas station and a cafeteria at the rest stop while being looked on strangely by visitors, and another run at a seaside park of an idyllic town that you might see in postcards.
Two more unique places were checked and all these runs remain such fond memories.
My goal still remains unfinished at 56 out of 100 unique places. With no travels of any kind in 2020 due to the pandemic, I am not sure when and where the rest of the 44 places will come from. But I am determined to find a way.
Setting goals – or even being lured into setting goals – and in life in general is rewarding in many ways. Running has taught me that even when some goals turn out to be very hard to complete, you have to be persistent, be creative in finding new ways, and be maniacally focused. The rewards are truly worth savoring for life. I hope these lessons resonate with you too.
Happy running and happy living!