The Hill Rule

The Hill Rule

Our youngest daughter recently began running with me. We found some new shoes and planned a run.

“How far do you want to go on your first run?”

“How far do you normally go when you go off running?”

“Well my typical everyday route is a 5k.”

“How far is that?”

“3.1 miles.”

“Okay we should do that.”

We ran. We talked. We laughed.

We had to slow down a few times. She is used to sprinting on the soccer field.

As I watched her, her stride, gate, and frame something became clear: it is only a matter of time before she can out run me. With a combination of pride and a little envy, I realized my job is to coach her well, enjoy this time with her, and help her excel in something that she seems designed to do.

Each step confirmed that she is a runner.

But there is a hill.

In addition to providing encouragement and some tips on breathing, I explained that there is The Hill Rule in running. For those of you not familiar with this particular rule, let me explain.

The Hill Rule: when running up a hill, you are not allowed to stop. If you need to stop there are only two options.

1. Stop before you get to the hill, catch your breath, then proceed up the hill.

2. Stop at the top of the hill, after you run up the hill.

The reason for The Hill Rule is simple. A large part of running is a mental game. Stopping in the middle of a hill imprints a pattern that you cannot run hills, and you will tend to stop when faced with the next larger hill. The Hill Rule breaks this pattern, and does acknowledge that hills are hard, but there are options to overcome them.

The more I thought about The Hill Rule, the more I could see how it applies to any obstacle we face. When we give up or stop in the middle, we develop a pattern that can continue the next time that obstacle arises. Frankly, a large part of life is a mental game. 

Try applying The Hill Rule to your next obstacle. Either stop and rest before you tackle it, or rest when it is over. No stopping in the middle.

We ran up that hill without stopping. We rested at the end, and celebrated the run.

We are looking forward to the next run, and there will be hills.


Participants and Observers

The other day we took our oldest daughter to an event. It was the kind of crowded event where people travel for miles to attend with lots of traffic and long lines. We witnessed large groups of people who either dressed up or dressed alike as they walked past us. It was a pretty amazing experience to watch people want to be part of something big.

During the actual event, it became clear that there are two types of people:

Participants, and Observers.

Participants leap with both feet into the experience. Observers watch from the sideline.

Participants take risks. Observers are reserved.

Participants don’t seem to care what others think. Observers are self-conscious.

Participants dress up in goofy costumes. Observers wear their normal clothes.

Participants believe. Observers are skeptics.

My daughter and all of the other Participants seemed to be living life in that moment and letting themselves become lost in the experience as the cares of the world melted away. The Observers seemed resigned to watch, unable to detach from everyday life and its many stresses and problems. Slowly, the Participants encouraged the Observers to join them and be part of the event. As the night wore on, most of us were Participants, even just for a moment.

How often do we find ourselves as Observers when we really want to be Participants? 

Does fear, skepticism, or what others may think, keep us in our seats?

To the Participants: Thank you for jumping in and showing us the way.

To the Observers: You can play too, and it will be worth it.

Which Race Are You Running?

Yesterday I got to cross off a goal from my list. I ran a 5K.  Sure, running a 5K is a perfectly good goal. Running a 5K has been on my yearly goal list for a few years and I have been able to cross it off each year. This year the goal was different. Simply running a 5K was not the goal yesterday. The actual goal was to run a 5K together with my daughter.

ShoesRunning with my daughter was the goal. We got new shoes (note the distinct advantage I have simply from shoe size) signed us both up a few months ago, and a small competition began. Every few weeks a photo would appear on my phone. The photo was of the treadmill time of her latest run. In addition to these photos, periodic smack-talk began to appear alongside.

Once I get new shoes maybe I’ll smoke you in a race 😉

Perhaps as a way to defend myself, photos of my treadmill times were exchanged (especially when my times were faster), along with various replies, especially when she was getting nervous.

I’m kind of nervous!! I hope I’m not too far after you 😁

Luckily you will have your dad at your side encouraging you

And I hope to have my dad behind me cheering me on

This would cause more photos, and faster times, and more replies. This banter and friendly competition helped both of us stay on track and keep running so we would be ready for race day. But when race day arrived, something happened.

A few people who I know were also racing that day. I tend to be competitive by nature and I have been running at my fastest pace in years. I felt a different goal rise up inside me. This was my chance. A chance to finally demonstrate that I was faster than these other runners and have a “win” and obliterate my last year’s time. My daughter must have sensed something because she casually mentioned that it would be okay if I ran ahead, despite our earlier goal of running together.

I had a choice to make. And isn’t this a choice we all face at some point? We work together with other people. The original idea is a team achievement, then an individual opportunity comes our way. What we decide in that moment is important. Do we honor our original commitment? Do we give into ourselves and break away from the pack in order to “win”? I had to ask myself:

Which race are you running?

My choice appears below. (I am wearing the red hat, she is in the bright yellow shirt.)

As for beating those other people, there is plenty of time and plenty of races ahead of us. (And they should know that I am coming after them in the next race.) For now, I am happy with my choice. A message on my phone as she was driving back to school confirmed that it was the best choice.

But you’re a great dad and ran with me so basically you won the whole race

Today, make sure you are running the right race…It may just change the world.

The “Know Yourself” Message

Know Yourself. Change the WorldOne of my first posts involved explaining the tagline for what this little adventure is all about. The “Know Yourself. Change the World.” post was almost a year and a half ago. I began to reflect on those simple words, and wondered if this message is still valid. Wondering if this message still resonates.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up a Christmas present from my oldest daughters. It was a coffee mug that they had customized for me. Right there on the mug was the tagline, the message. They both read my posts (when they are not studying hard while away at college…hint, hint). The message resonated enough for them to include it in my Christmas gift.

Sometimes a simple confirmation is all that we need. Someone to recognize the efforts we are putting forward. This gift is more than just a vessel for my coffee. This gift is a daily reminder that the message resonates and to keep trying to change the world by helping others know themselves.

What is your message? Where can you help encourage someone else’s message?

As for what is on the other side of the mug, well that is a story for another day.

What is in your pocket?

I was at a conference the other day and while approaching a table at dinner, someone called out,

“What is in your pocket?”

The rest of the table looked puzzled as I reached into my pocket, but my pocket was empty that day.

“Sadly nothing today, I guess they are getting older.”

I had to take a seat and explain.  Years ago, my middle daughter started a tradition when I would leave the house.  She would take some toy, rock, or piece of jewelry and give to me to have in my pocket that day.  It wasn’t everyday.  It typically centered around my presentation days.  (Maybe it was because I was more dressed up, or in fact more stressed out on those days.)

This handing me a toy became a dramatic emotional filled moment for her.

“Daddy, take this with you so you won’t forget me.”

“Daddy, this is for you today so you will remember me.”

Before one event, I was up in the front of the room making sure everything was ready to present.  I was nervous, it was a large group.  To help calm my nerves, I reached in my pocket.  I pulled out a little plastic animal and I was suddenly reminded that there was this little girl who loved me and wanted to be remembered today. The nerves faded, and the presentation went forward.

The session ended, and we had a question and answer time.  Various questions came, but there was one hand that popped up at the end.  I knew something was up by the strange smile on the person’s face.  At first, I thought they were going to try to stump me with a question.

“One final question…what is in your pocket?”

Apparently they had seen me gripping this little toy before the session.  I showed the group, and explained the story.  Much to my surprise, a few weeks later at the end of another presentation, another hand went up.

“What is in your pocket?”

The word had spread, and for most of those days, my daughter had in fact given me something for my pocket.  It wasn’t every time, but enough to build a reputation.  As she grew, the tradition began to fade.  Then one day, while hastily getting ready to leave one morning, my youngest game up for the typical kiss/hug combination before I raced to the car. She paused for just a moment.

“Daddy, this is for you today.  So you won’t forget me.”

What reminder do you need today?  What small reminder that you are loved and are not alone in this journey would brighten your day?  Go ahead and put it in your pocket today.  It is amazing how your perspective changes when you reach in that pocket.

I often wonder if they realize how much that small token helped me on those stressed filled days.  Sometimes the simplest reminder bring perspective back.

My daughters were right.  I didn’t forget them.