WDS 2016: So Many Great Moments, So Many Takeaways

I recently got back from WDS 2016. For those who don’t know about it, WDS is the World Domination Summit, and the best way to describe it is to imagine if a TED conference took place in Portland, then add in lots of dancing, high fives, and hugging. This was my 3rd year in a row there, and I had an absolutely amazing experience. I’ve already bought my ticket for WDS 2017.

A lot changed for me from WDS 2015 to WDS 2016. The biggest thing is that I achieved the goal I set at WDS 2014. I said I would run a marathon, and on November 1, 2015, I ran the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon. It was tougher than I ever could have imagined, but it was absolutely worth it. Now, I’m training for the 2016 New York City Marathon. I was born in New York City, so this was a dream for me. I entered the lottery in January, and I was one of the lucky 23% who got in.

My first draft of this story was over 3700 words. (Final count: 2490. Whew.) I had to skip a lot of stuff, but hopefully I’ve captured all the highlights.

I arrived in Portland for WDS 2016 late Wednesday afternoon, a day earlier than I arrived the last two years. I checked in to my hotel, stopped by WDS registration to get my name badge, and then noticed a meetup for a dinner, but the meetup was full. I didn’t really have other plans, and it wasn’t too far away, so I figured I’d show up, and if they turned me away, hopefully at least one other WDSer would get turned away too, and we could go somewhere else to eat.

I met a group outside of The Original Dineraunt, and I didn’t get turned away. One of the people I met before we sat down was Sam, a first-time attendee from Boston. I didn’t really get to talk to her during dinner, as we ended up at opposite ends of the table, but as it turns out, I’d be seeing her a few more times. The food and beer were good, and while I didn’t talk all that much, partially because of shyness, partially because my body was still on East Coast time, I still had fun.

I went for a run Thursday morning and got in just over 5 miles. It felt amazing, about 15 degrees cooler and 1000% less humid than Charlotte.

I then had my first academy, Think Better, Live Better. I didn’t see anyone I knew initially, so I just sat near the middle of the theater and looked around for any familiar faces. Sam saw me and sat down next to me.

There were several speakers, but the last, Kendra Wright, really stood out. She walked out on the stage and (figuratively) kicked my butt. We had been given an envelope but were told not to open it until later. After telling us about overcoming our fears, Kendra told us to open the envelope. There were two pieces of paper and a pen. On the first piece of paper, she had us write down some goals that scare us. On the other piece of paper, she dictated a letter that we were writing to ourselves, basically picking one of those scary goals and giving ourselves a one month deadline to complete it. Oh, crap. (I said a few stronger things under my breath.) I can’t say publicly what my goal is yet, but it absolutely scares the crap out of me, and it’s something I should have done a long time ago. Now I have the motivation to finally do it. I set my goal, and gave it a really scarily short deadline.

We then put our address on the envelope, put the letter in the envelope, and exchanged envelopes with a partner. So I gave mine to Sam and she gave hers to me. Kendra told us to mail the letters in 2 weeks. (We had ended the letters by saying something like “P.S. You’ve got two weeks left.”)

Friday morning started with the annual WDS 5K Fun Run. Except for an epic fail by my Garmin watch GPS, I enjoyed it, and again, the weather was great.

After a quick trip to my hotel room for a shower, I went to the Hero’s Journey. I didn’t wear a full costume, but I wore my cape from WDS 2014 and a t-shirt with the TARDIS from Doctor Who, since I think the Doctor qualifies as a hero. I had no idea what to expect from the Hero’s Journey. The initial description was kind of vague, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, but about a week before, I decided to sign up.

I got in line, and found Sam. We put together an 8 person team that we called Unconventionally Awesome. Shortly after 9, we got our instructions. Basically, it was a big scavenger hunt, and we ran all around Portland. It was a lot of fun, we got to do all kinds of crazy stuff, like challenging a stranger to a push-up contest (the stranger won), and afterwards, Sam serenaded him. (Those were two separate items, but we got creative and combined them.) We didn’t win, but like I said, we had a lot of fun.

Later Friday afternoon, Marsha Shandur had a meetup titled “Tell Compelling Stories (even if you think you SUCK at it)”. I don’t think this story is going to end up as compelling as I’d like (Sorry, Marsha. I did kill many, many, many darlings while editing this, though), but I took away some tips, and maybe my future stories can be saved.

On Saturday, we got to the Main Stage in the smaller Newmark Theatre. It’s a nice little space, and more intimate. I ended up sitting next to Sam at all of the sessions, which was cool.

I have to say, I was really pleased with all 8 speakers. Nobody was quite as good as Jeremy Cowart last year. (I couldn’t find his actual video from WDS 2015, but the video on his web page is pretty similar to his talk and hits all the highlights that I remember. Also, when you watch that video, keep tissues nearby.) But as a whole, I took a little something away from each speaker’s talk. I think this was the best lineup in the 3 years I’ve attended WDS.

Michelle Poler told us in her talk about her 100 Days Without Fear project, where she did something that she was afraid of every day for 100 days. One of the things she mentioned was karaoke. I had never really done public karaoke before. The thought scared me.

Saturday night, there was an event scheduled called “Karaoke Like a Rockstar!” I hadn’t signed up for it, and the WDS app said the event was full. After Michelle’s talk, I thought about my fears, and I decided I needed to do this. I would show up anyway. I was a little worried that after Michelle’s talk, I might not be the only person in the theater who thought, “Hey, maybe I should try karaoke.”

I made my way to Voicebox Karaoke, and got in pretty easily. Step 1 complete. I met up with Sam. Unlike me, Sam can actually sing, and she also provided the moral support that I needed. Voicebox Karaoke has rooms, and we had about 15 or so people in the room. Maybe not quite as big of a crowd as I was hoping (fearing?), but it would do.

I looked through the song list, and found my song. I Melt With You, by Modern English. I figured it didn’t have a lot of high notes, and I know all the words.

The last song before I was scheduled to go was Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course, everybody in the room (including me) joined in, but as we got closer to the end, the butterflies really started going. The next thing I knew, we got to the last line, “Any way the wind blows,” and it was my turn.

It was surreal. I sang with a mild British accent that I didn’t know I had. I danced around a bit, and even had a signature move, pointing at someone each time I got to the end of the line, “I’ll stop the world and melt with you.” I made it to the end. I really did it. I was so relieved. And everybody cheered. I even got compliments.

Over the course of the night, I sang 3 more songs solo: Just Like Heaven, The Power of Love (Huey Lewis, not Celine Dion. I’m not that crazy), and Addicted to Love. (Yes, I grew up in the ’80’s.)

I joined in on a number of duets, including Evenflow with another guy who was also wearing sandals, cargo shorts, and a t-shirt. My duet partner (I’ve forgotten his name, but if you’re reading this, let me know!) was a fellow member of Generation X, so it was cool.

Here’s what I posted in the WDS app at the end of the night, that really sums it up: “To everybody who I ‘sang’ to tonight, I’m so sorry you had to hear that. *grin* But seriously, I had a blast, and you have no idea how much of a big effing deal it was for me to get up there and sing, so thank you so much for your support.”

Then came Sunday. I started out with a quick run. There was an event going on and I had to avoid all the bikes on the bridges, but again, the weather was much nicer than Charlotte, and I wished I had time to stay out there longer.

During the break in the Morning Session, I got my annual picture with my Brave Bot from WDS 2014, this time taken by Sam, of course. Here’s my side by side comparison of 2015 vs. 2016.

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I should have gotten closer to the camera, and I ended up cropping the picture a bit. (I don’t blame Sam, I’ve done this before, I should have known.) At least this year, I’m not in desperate need of a haircut. According to my records, I was 164 pounds at WDS 2015, but this year, I was actually around 166. I think shorter hair makes my face look a little bit thinner. As long as it’s not a long term trend, I can live with 2 extra pounds.

(By the way, I carried Brave Bot with me during my marathon, since running a marathon was my One Brave Thing.)

Anyway, right before lunch, I got into a discussion about superpowers. See, there was a question on everyone’s WDS profile about their superpower. Mine is my sense of direction. I’ve always had a good sense of direction, and it’s tough (but not impossible) for me to get lost. Now, with the rise of Google Maps and GPS, I feel like my skill is getting increasingly irrelevant. (I do joke that when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll be your navigator.) I tend to kind of dismiss my sense of direction as no big deal.

Someone brought up the question of how your superpower will help you reach your goal. I kind of laughed at that, and said, well, mine doesn’t really help. Then someone in the group, Laura, said something that blew me away. She said that a sense of direction is really just a good instinct, and if I’ve got good instincts about directions, I probably have good instincts about other things, too. I was completely flabbergasted, in a good way. I had never thought of it like that. I always just thought about my sense of direction as this one isolated thing that I’m pretty good at, and just something that I was born with, like blue eyes. Maybe I have good instincts as well. Unlike a sense of direction, which would only help with a handful of goals, good instincts will help you with almost anything.

(I should add that if you’re someone without a good sense of direction, I don’t think that automatically means your instincts aren’t good. You’re probably fine. Just make sure your phone has plenty of juice for Google Maps.)

Finally, there was the Closing Party. It was time to dance. There were these giant jellyfish on metal poles, and the music was pretty much all ’80’s, so I was happy. I even got up on the stage and took this picture during Footloose.

2016-08-14 22.42.51

The one drawback to the event space is that it was indoors, so I had to occasionally step outside to cool off. During one of my trips outside, I saw Lewis Howes. Besides Jeremy Cowart, his speech at WDS 2015 had the most impact on me. Lewis was talking to some other people, but I waited patiently. When he got to me, I told him how much of a difference his talk had made for me, and I thanked him, then we hugged. I feel like I don’t thank people enough, but when I do, it’s always rewarding.

Of course, when I was done with the thanking and hugging, I ran back inside, because they were playing Take On Me. That’s WDS for you.

I danced some more, and at the end of the night, I said my goodbyes to the various people I had met for the first time, the second time, and the third time, but ended by thanking Sam. I told her that she made my WDS, and it was true. She was there the whole time, and supported me before, during, and after karaoke (and everything else). She thanked me as well, since I gave her plenty of advice for a first timer, and we hugged.

And with that, I caught an Uber back to my hotel, and WDS 2016 was over.

So what were my biggest takeaways?

  • Kindness is really important. If there was one theme that was emphasized this year at WDS, that was it. Being kind to others is easy for me, but I do struggle with being kind to myself.
  • I need to face my fears. Not the first time I’ve heard that, but it’s still true. Karaoke was a small but important step towards that.
  • I have friends that will support me. Tell people what I want to do, and they’ll help.
  • Thank people whenever I have the opportunity. I mentioned thanking Lewis Howes and Sam. I also thanked the Ambassadors whenever I could (They all did a fantastic job), and filled out a form on Michelle Poler’s website to send a note thanking her for inspiring me to do karaoke.
  • I might have good instincts to go along with my sense of direction.

I’ll close with my dispatch from PDX Monday morning that pretty much sums it up: “At the airport getting ready to head home to Charlotte. What an amazing WDS! So many great moments, so many takeaways. Hugs, high fives, and love to all. See you at WDS 2017!”

Stories and Bear Paw Slippers: WDS 2015

For the 2nd year in a row, I attended the World Domination Summit. The short description: Imagine if the TED conference took place in Portland. It attracts a lot of entrepreneurs, travellers, and creative types. I know, that doesn’t really sound like me, but I loved it last year and had to go back.

Last year, it was pretty clear what I needed to write about in my WDS summary: how I came up with my goal to run a marathon. Not that writing it was easy, because writing is never easy for me, but at least I knew what to write. This year, I didn’t come away with a clear goal, but there were a few smaller things that I took away (and one not-so-small thing, but I can’t talk about that one yet). It’s been almost a week, so let me see if I can pull everything together into something coherent.

In my WDS profile, here’s what I wrote as my goal for WDS 2015: “Running is great, but I know there’s something else I need to do. My goal is to figure out what ‘something else’ is. Secondary goals include having fun, catching up with people from WDS 2014, meeting new awesome people, and drinking Portland beer.”

All my secondary goals were accomplished. (Especially the one about the beer.) As for my “something else,” I think I figured it out, but that’s the thing I can’t write about just yet. (Sorry. I hope to write about it someday, and when I do, I hope you’ll understand why I’m being so intentionally vague.)

One of the things I’ve started to realize, which was reinforced at WDS, is that everybody has a story. At this point, my story is about how I started running just a few years ago, and at WDS last year, I was inspired to set a goal to run a marathon, and now I’m registered to run one on November 1. (You can read more about my marathon training over at my other blog, I Will Run a Marathon, which, unlike here, I’ve managed to update at least weekly.)

Some people have really big stories, like Chris Gillibeau, for example, and the people who shared their attendee stories on the stage. And those stories are great, but some people have smaller stories.

For example, Nicole, who I met last year at WDS. She had been disappointed that she was going to have to miss the closing party because she had to leave to catch her train home. This year, I saw her at the closing party. She was having a great time, and I was really happy for her.

Then there was Mark. I met him while waiting in line for Worldwide Waffles. He had some medical issues over the past year, but he recovered in time to attend and enjoy WDS. On Friday night, at the opening party, he danced for the first time in about a year. I didn’t get to see that, but I did see him dancing at the closing party and having a blast.

I think it’s important for everyone to share their story. For me, sharing my story isn’t easy. Putting myself out there is a stretch. I’m very introverted. I did share my story with a few people. It helps that WDS is a pretty good environment for that. I also answered a lot of questions about running. Quick summary: If your only running experience has been on a treadmill, try it outside (maybe wait a couple of months until it cools off), start out slow, walk if you need to, look in to the Couch to 5K program, and if you’re serious, get a good pair of running shoes from your local running store.

I kind of made a spectacle of myself with my bear paw slippers and cape, which I first wore to Worldwide Waffles, and then I brought them back for the closing party Sunday night. (Yes, that was me.) I have mixed feelings about that. It’s kind of silly, it feels like a gimmick, and it could come across as insincere. But for me, I think I needed to do it. Wearing bear paw slippers, I couldn’t just blend in like I usually do. So I think it was good practice in putting myself out there.

Of course, it was a lot of fun wearing those slippers. I did make a lot of people smile, which isn’t a bad thing. I even got a compliment from Chris. So even though trying to pack them in my bag was quite difficult, it was totally worth it. (Although I don’t recommend jumping up and down in them on a brick surface while Bollywood dancing to DJ Prashant. My ankles!)

As much as I’d like to rave that everything about WDS 2015 was wonderful, I do feel like I need to say something about Vani Hari, The Food Babe. Sigh.

As you might have guessed from the sigh, I’m familiar with her work, and disagree with most of it. In fact, I feel strongly enough about it that when I found out she would be speaking, I considered not going to WDS 2015. I had already made reservations, and would need to cancel them and then pay $100 to transfer my WDS ticket to someone else. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to let this ruin an otherwise amazing weekend, and I went, and the rest of the weekend was amazing.

I have a somewhat different perspective on Vani than almost everyone else at WDS. I was an acquaintance of hers back around 2003 and 2004. I lost track of her after that, although we’re both still living in the Charlotte area. I have no idea if she remembers me, and there’s a chance that, if she hadn’t become the Food Babe, I might not remember her. During her talk, she showed a picture of herself from 15 years ago looking overweight. Well, in 2003, which would be 12 years ago, she did not look overweight at all. She pretty much looked the same as she does today.

It should go without saying that nobody deserves to get the comments that she shared with us. But it seems like she’s lumping together the “go kill yourself” comments with the reasonable, polite comments from scientists telling her that she’s incorrect. Having haters doesn’t mean you’re automatically right. All it means is that there are some really bad people out on the Internet, and you’ve done a good enough job of spreading your message that those bad people are seeing it and responding. I also found this article, written by an Indian-American woman who believes pretty much the opposite of what Vani is saying, but she has also received similar vile comments. If two people with opposite views are attracting hate like that, it has nothing to do with their message and whether or not they’re right.

Scott Berkun, who spoke at WDS 2014, wrote up all of the Day 1 talks, and has a good summary of Vani’s talk. I agree with Scott’s take. And I know it’s a small sample size, but I’m pleased that most of the people I spoke with about her talk had a pretty similar reaction.

Setting aside for a moment the stuff she gets wrong, and the criticism, both valid and invalid, that she receives, there’s something about the tone of her message that rubs me the wrong way. I feel like she’s using fear to get people to act. I can’t recall any other WDS speaker over the last two years who used fear like that. Frankly, I think a fear-based message goes against the spirit (or what should be the spirit) of WDS.

Ultimately, to put it all in perspective, I spent more time over the weekend waiting in line than I did listening to her talk. So let’s get back to the good stuff.

Here’s a few random closing thoughts that didn’t quite fit it anywhere else:

I love Portland. I really do. I was born in New York City, so that will always be my favorite city, but Portland may be my second favorite.

I decided to recreate my picture with Brave Bot at WDS 2014 to show how much weight I’ve lost (22 pounds) in the last year.

2014-07-13 11.01.572015-07-12 10.51.46

When I was posing for the 2015 picture, I couldn’t remember which hand I held Brave Bot with in the 2014 picture. I guessed wrong. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I got a haircut after I got back home. Also, I never realized how much weight I was carrying in my face.

If you look closely at my name tag, the way it was written, it almost looks like my name is D.J. Eh, I’ve been called worse.

Something that I’ve started to realize, and this was reinforced during a few conversations at WDS, is that pretty much anything worth doing (like training for and then running a marathon) is going to be difficult.

Not only am I not an entrepreneur, I really don’t have much interest in becoming one. I just need more stability than that. I’m not overly happy with my current job, but maybe I don’t actually need to escape my cubicle. Maybe I just need to find one that fits better.

Jeremy Cowart won WDS. His talk was just amazing. The pictures from Haiti, then Rwanda, then his brother and niece…just incredibly moving. Not only was it the best talk of the weekend, but I think it was better than any WDS 2014 talk.

I got my ticket for WDS 2016. (Yeah, I’m a little disappointed that it will be smaller, but I understand.) In spite of The Food Babe, I still recommend checking out WDS if you get the chance. (I hope to have at least a few posts here before my next WDS recap.)

Finally, I’d like to think that most people at WDS 2015 will remember me as the guy who’s training for a marathon after setting a goal to run one at WDS 2014. But I’m pretty sure most people will remember me as the guy with the bear paw slippers.

WDS2015 Costume

More Thoughts From WDS

(Edit: Hello, visitors from Chris and Tyler’s blogs! You really should read my previous post before reading this one. And [shameless plug alert] you can also visit my new WDS-inspired running-focused website, I Will Run a Marathon.)

In my last post, I focused mainly on the parts of my trip to the World Domination Summit that related to my new goal of running a marathon. But there were a lot of other things going on. I won’t write a book, but I’ll cover most of the highlights, in mostly chronological order.

On my way out to Portland, I got a nice scare. I flew from Charlotte (CLT) to Phoenix (PHX), then Phoenix to Portland (PDX). When it was time to board in Charlotte, the overhead bins were already full, so I had to check one of my bags. I told them my final destination was Portland, and they handed me a baggage claim ticket.

After we were in the air, I looked at the claim ticket, and it said PWM. In case you’re not up on your airport codes, that’s Portland, Maine. I think I harassed every US Airways employee in both PHX and PDX trying to make sure my bag ended up in Oregon, but in the end, it showed up on the baggage carousel in the right Portland, and I somehow resisted the urge to kiss my bag once I picked it up. So everything worked out, and though it wasn’t much fun at the time, I can laugh about it now.

Thursday evening, I walked from my hotel (The Paramount, very nice, very convenient, but niceness and convenience don’t come cheap) to the pre-WDS event at Punchbowl Social. While I was walking, I pretty much fell completely in love with the city of Portland. There was this vibe, like no other place I’ve ever been. Not just during that walk, but for the entire weekend I felt so incredibly comfortable. My family lives in North Carolina, and I don’t think I could live that far away from them, but if things were different, I would move to Portland tomorrow.

Friday morning, after my run, I participated in The Great Namaste. I’d never done yoga before, but I figured it was a chance to be part of a world record, and opportunities like that don’t come along every day. It was fun, although I was off to the side of the stage, which made it difficult to see. Also, I was very close to the base of the crane that they used to take the aerial photos, and any time the crane moved the motor started up, and I couldn’t hear anything from the stage either. Still, I enjoyed it, and now I have a yoga mat, so I might actually start taking classes.

Beer. Portland has lots of beer. Considering I walked everywhere, I didn’t really drink all that much beer while I was there. Two beers that really stood out to me were Bridgeport Brewing Stumptown Tart, a Belgian, and Laurelwood Free Range Red, an amber. The Free Range Red was especially good. Amber is probably my favorite style of beer, and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Sadly, they don’t seem to distribute to North Carolina…yet.

I guess I should explain the cape and the blue face paint that I mentioned at the end of my last entry. The cape was first mentioned by Dee Williams in her talk. She talked about putting on an invisible cape to give yourself a confidence boost, but at the WDS Closing Party, they gave out actual capes, so of course I had to put on my cape. Also during the Closing Party, there was Bollywood dancing with DJ Prashant, and at one point, they had different colored dusts that they were throwing around at everybody. I avoided most of it, since I was wearing shorts that I planned to wear on the flight home the next morning, but I did manage to grab some and smear it on my face, because why not?

Finally, on Monday morning, while I was at PDX waiting for my flight home, I bought my ticket for WDS 2015. If you’re thinking about going next year, do it, you’ll have a blast.

I Will Run a Marathon

I attended the World Domination Summit this past weekend. And now I have a new goal, something I’d like to complete in the fall of 2015.

I will run a marathon.

OK, let me back up. Continue reading ‘I Will Run a Marathon’

Back In Action

There are many stories to tell about how I stopped running and started back up. I ran the 2013 Thunder Road Half Marathon this past Saturday, and finished 11 minutes faster than I did two years ago, so there’s lots to write about there as well. But tonight, I have to write about my first post-race run.

On Sunday, I was sore all over and could barely move. I felt every inch of the 13.1 miles from the previous day, and I felt every second of the 40 years I’ve lived. Monday, I felt better, so I was hoping I’d be ready for a short run this morning. When I got up, I felt OK. Not great, but good enough to give it a shot. Well, I started running, and I didn’t stop for 2.3 miles. Not only that, but my pace was better than any of my training runs over the past 4 and a half months. I couldn’t believe it. I do normally take walk breaks whenever I feel tired, or if I feel like I’m going too fast and I’ll wear myself out. But today, I just kept going. Sure, my weekday short runs over the past 2 months had been around 4 miles, so this was just over half my usual distance. And I admit that the course I took this morning avoided the nasty hills of my neighborhood. But still, this was one of my fastest paces ever, and just 3 days after I finished a half marathon.

So, yeah, I’m back.

Follow Up To My Ignite Talk

My Ignite Talk, Couch to 13.1: How an Out-of-Shape Nerd Completed a Half Marathon, is now online. Here it is:

Now that I’ve been able to watch it, I’d like to add a few comments.

First, it really was insane of me to decide to train for a half marathon after doing no running for 19 or so years. It’s absolutely possible, as I’ve proved, but it takes a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck. If anything had sidetracked my training, like illness, an injury, or some other problem, I never would have been able to do it. It’s extreme, and if you want to start running with little or no previous experience, you don’t have to shoot for 13.1. Just training for a 5K will help get you in shape.

A lot of people seemed to balk at the idea of paying $100 for running shoes. If you’re just training for a 5K, you can probably get by with cheaper running shoes from a department store. You’ll need the really good ones for longer distances, though, and if you’re experiencing a lot of foot or ankle pain with the cheap shoes, you’ll really feel a difference if you upgrade.

The app I mentioned, RunKeeper, can be found here.

Somebody asked for a copy of my training plan. Here it is. (Click on the image to expand it.)

Obviously, those are last year’s dates. I did make a slight variation to the plan. I had trouble running 4 times a week. It forced me to run on back-to-back days, and that was just a little too tough for me, so I dropped back to 3 runs per week after around week 10 or so. I do think that an experienced runner could start this program at around week 4 or 5 and still be OK.

In case you were wondering about my weight, I got down to 181 by the time of the race. Over the holidays, I got back up to 185, and last time I checked, I was at 184. It’s still a little high for my height (5′ 8″), but I do feel like at the very least, I’ve stopped it from going up. Running isn’t the best way to lose weight, but it can help. As long as I stick to running, I can, at the very least, avoid getting back up to 189 (or worse). I’ve also cut back on the Mountain Dew. My average consumption per day is less than 60 ounces, but unfortunately, it’s still greater than 0.

Finally, I didn’t realize until I watched the video that I really said “um” a lot during my talk. Sorry about that.

Public Speaking and Long Distance Running

So, on March 20, I gave my talk at Ignite Charlotte 4. It went really, really well.

When I first found out that I had been selected to speak, I made the remark on Twitter, “Not sure which was crazier, deciding to run a half-marathon or deciding to give a talk about it.” I now see some interesting parallels between the two. I’ll write some more about running in another post (There’s a lot of stuff I couldn’t get to in my talk), but here, I want to talk about how much my Ignite talk and my half-marathon have in common.

Something that I didn’t specifically mention in my talk is that when I started running, it was the first time I ran in about 19 years. Well, the last time I did something that could be considered public speaking, it was about 18 years ago. In the Fall of 1992, my Sophomore year of college (at N.C. State…Go Wolfpack!), I took a class called PE 100, which was better known as “PE Run-hundred,” and when I finished that class, I stopped running. As a Junior in the Spring of 1994, I took a technical writing class where we had to do a couple of presentations in front of the class, which had about 30 people. After that class, I never had to do any presentation for more than 4 or 5 people until Tuesday night. So, given my previous running/speaking experience (or the complete lack thereof), both the talk and the race were a little bit crazy for someone like me.

On the day of the race, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know if I would finish the race, and I didn’t know if I would finish in less than 3 hours. Before I gave my talk, I was pretty nervous (although one of the volunteers said I didn’t look nervous). I didn’t know if I would get through without blanking out, forgetting something, or falling behind the auto-advancing slides. Well, I finished the race in 2:49:35, and I finished my talk without any screw-ups. Now, I’ll have to watch the video once it’s posted (about 2 weeks from today) to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure there was only one line that I skipped: “If you’ve trained correctly, the actual race with be tough, but not as bad as you expect.” (And I skipped it partly because I wasn’t expecting to hear a few laughs when I said that hearing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” got me pumped up.) Replace “trained” with “practiced” and “race” with “talk” and it applies perfectly to my talk. Both the talk and the race ended up being more fun than I expected.

I must confess something, though. In my talk, I said that one of the most important things to remember on race day is to not change anything if you can help it. Yeah, I broke that rule, but I had a good reason. I wore a Tech-T with long sleeves that I ended up buying the day before the race, so obviously I had never run in it before. For all of my long training runs, it had been at least 45 degrees when I started. I can handle 45 degrees with a short-sleeved shirt. The forecast for race day fluctuated a lot the week before, but by the end of the week, it was looking like 35 degrees for the start, so I had to buy a new, warmer, shirt. And in my Ignite talk, I made a last second change on purpose. The way I wrote my talk, it started out with, “In June of last year…” For some reason, at the last minute, I was worried about taking more than 15 seconds to say what I needed to say on the first slide. So I started my actual talk with, “Last June…” Both changes worked out OK.

All in all, I think both training for and completing a half-marathon, and preparing for and giving an Ignite talk have more in common than you’d think. And I’m really glad I was able to do both.

Adventures in Public Speaking

About a month and a half ago,  I decided to submit an idea for a talk for Ignite Charlotte 4. To my surprise (I’ll let you know whether it was a good or bad surprise after it’s over), they accepted my idea.

In case you’re not familiar with the Ignite format, each person gives a talk with 20 slides that automatically advance after 15 seconds, for a total length of 5 minutes. I’ve attended the first 3 Ignite events in Charlotte, and true to the Ignite motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick!”, I’ve found each one very enlightening.

The title, which it turns out is the longest title of any of the talks, and it’s not that close, is “Couch to 13.1: How an Out-of-Shape Nerd Completed a Half Marathon.” As I wrote on Twitter after I found out: “I was selected to give a talk at #IgniteCLT.Not sure which was crazier, deciding to run a half-marathon or deciding to give a talk about it.” I’ll definitely have more to write about the subject after my talk, since there’s a lot of stuff that won’t fit into a 5 minute talk. It’s definitely been difficult putting everything together, and being as shy as I am, the thought of getting up on a stage for 5 minutes with a slide show that goes on whether I’m ready or not scares the hell out of me. But I’ve been practicing, I’m making progress, and I think *fingers crossed* I’ll be ready.

Ignite Charlotte 4 is at the Neighborhood Theatre this Tuesday night, March 20. Admission is free, but you need to RSVP by Monday. If you’re not in Charlotte, I recommend checking out Ignite if there’s one close to you. You can go to IgniteShow.com and find one in your back yard, or just watch videos for past talks from around the world.

Even if my talk doesn’t go so well, I’m sure the 11 other speakers will be brilliant. Come check it out if you can.

I'm Speaking at Ignite Charlotte!

I’m a People Person?

For the last 3 and a half weeks or so, I’ve been working from home while my bathrooms are being remodeled. (This project is, of course, behind schedule and over budget, but I digress.) Yesterday, I went into the office for a few things, and I reached a startling conclusion.

I missed my cubicle.

Now, there are a few mitigating factors. In my cube, I have a pretty sweet setup with two monitors and plenty of screen real estate. And currently at home, I have to contend with various construction noises.

The thing that surprised me, though, was that I missed being around my co-workers. And this surprised me, not because they’re a bunch of obnoxious jerks, it’s because I consider myself an extreme introvert. Seriously, if I take the Myers-Briggs personality test and score any less than 90% introverted, I assume that either I misread several questions, or this version of the test is completely screwed up.

You would think that, being this introverted, working from home would be a dream come true. Once the bathrooms are finished, the construction noises will be gone. And I think I could rearrange things so I have a sweet dual-monitor setup at home. Also, I do like to work from home on occasion, especially on Fridays when I know the afternoon traffic will suck. But if I worked from home every day, I think I’d still miss the people.

It’s enough to make me question whether I’m a true introvert. Now, I’m very definitely a shy person, and I rarely come out of my shell around strangers (unless there’s alcohol involved). However, one of the characteristics of introverts is that they tend to be drained by being around peeple. I’ve never really experienced that. I may not get energized like an extrovert would, but I’m not drained either.

I’m not sure what to take away from this. My best guess is that I’m probably at least a little bit introverted. I do enjoy having some alone time, and, let’s face it, this post could be considered serious navel-gazing. I’m definitely shy. But I might just be more of a people person that I thought.

(Irony of ironies, I wrote the entire first draft of this in a crowded coffeehouse. In my defense, I sat alone at a table in the corner, listening to music with earbuds the whole time, and had almost no interaction with anyone who wasn’t an employee.)


Sadly, I’m not referring to a backlog of already-written posts that I haven’t published yet. I’m not going to start off every post with some variation of “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…”, but let me just say that if you’re expecting new content from me daily, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Anyway, I was cleaning out my closet today. I was forced to remove everything from it because starting tomorrow, my bathroom is going to be remodeled. As I was going through my stuff, I thought about backlog. I really need to go through all of this stuff more thoroughly, and I probably need to throw out a good chunk of it. Unfortunately, with the time constraints (Ready or not, remodeling starts tomorrow), 95% of it just got moved to my guest bedroom. Instead of moving it all back in after the remodeling is done, I just need to sort through it all, a little bit at a time.

I’ve also been thinking about another backlog, movies and TV shows that I want to watch. Currently, I have 53 movies in my Netflix DVD queue. (Yes, I still have the DVD subscription, since there are at least 53 movies that I want to see but aren’t available for streaming.) There are 37 more movies in my streaming queue, plus some miniseries (like some of the Ken Burns documentaries), and some regular TV series. Then there are 30 movies on my DVR that I’ve recorded from the premium movie channels. Then there are the lists of books that I want to read. This is all in addition to my job, various commitments that I’ve made, spending time with family and friends, hobbies, and getting a good night’s sleep.

Every so often, I’ll stumble across an article where someone tries to defend the merits of a movie that isn’t very well regarded, imploring people to go back and take another look at the movie, and not in the MST3K fashion. Right now, I don’t have the time to re-watch the movies that I loved. Why would I set aside time to re-watch a movie that I didn’t like?

So, yeah, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I guess slow and steady is the way to go when it comes to backlogs and lots of other things in life.