Barrier? Or Fork in the road?

Life presents us with moments where he must make a decision. Sometimes those decisions are really small (which TV show to watch, ice cream or cupcakes?).  Other situations are important paths to our futures.  I am most interested in those decisions that are critical ones in our future.  What is interesting about some of these situations is the dichotomy they present us.  Sometimes you do not know if the thing in front of you is a barrier or if it is a fork in the road.  Each needs to be analyzed.  Each presents a choice.  But how you deal with them is very different.  Therefore you first must decide what you are facing.

A barrier  is “anything that restrains or obstructs progress”.  Some barriers need to be scaled.  Some need to be broken down.  Some need to be recognized as a limit or boundary placed in your way for a purpose. Maybe that barrier is telling you that the path you are on needs to stop now or in the near future.  If we convince ourselves that we have reached a barrier in life, we need to decide how to proceed.  We all know that if you give up every time you face a barrier, you will never make progress.  You have to decide if that barrier is worth scaling.  In running, barriers come up all of the time.  Sometimes you have to push past them if you want to achieve your goals.  But I have also learned that some barriers in running are there to make me ask myself “is this really what is most important for my running?”.

Let me contrast that with a fork in the road.  A fork in the road is a choice you have to make.  While the barrier says “stop, you cannot go this way”, a fork tells you “here are two ways to go”.  You choose the direction to go.  We never really know where the two forks lead.  We might have some insight by looking down them.  But where they ultimately could have led will never be known for the fork you do not choose.  I choose to go to Duke for my MBA.  What if I had chosen a different fork?  How might my life be different?  No idea.

Robert Frost famously wrote “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by; And that has made all the difference.” Perhaps he is correct.  But no one ever really knows.

So how does one deal with deciding if some situation is a barrier or a fork?  It seems to me that experience is the first key.  If you have faced tough situations or tough decisions in the past, you know what your thought process was and what the outcome of your decision was.   That is why the following quote means something to me: “If we had no winter the spring would not be so pleasant.  If we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome”.  Having faced hard times, we are ready for the next situation.  The second key is to learn from these circumstances. George Santayana is known for the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  Learning and reflecting on the decisions we made allows us to formulate new ways of thinking.

Any comments on this?  I am going to follow-up on this subject in my next post.

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Darke County Fair !!!!!

I made my first trek ever to The Great Darke County Fair – THE social event of the year in Darke County.  It was so memorable, I had to write about it.  This was the 156th year of the Fair.  The Darke County Fair has over 200,000 people attend its 9 days.  Not bad for a county with 52,000 residents.

I am not sure I have ever been to a county fair in my life so I did not know what to expect.  I heard from teachers at school and from all of my students that I HAD to go.  So I took a couple of hours one afternoon to tour the scene.

Obviously setting up the “old camper” in the fairgrounds for the week is the way to go.  The place was packed with campers as far as the eye could see.  I am not sure anyone in Darke County was living at home.  There is no way you could starve at the fair either.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many food places crammed into a space.  And contrary to what most people think about “fair food” there seemed to be a broad selection.  Of course the funnel cakes, elephant ears and fried “anything you could think of” was there.  But I also saw all kinds of places selling different meals.

The animal shows are the highlight of the fair.  Pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, cows, rabbits, dogs – all get to be part of the show.  Unfortunately for some of them, they are soon to be part of someone’s meal.  Here is a picture of one of my students, Jacob, showing his “home-grown” cow.

I guess next year I’ll have to figure out a way to bring my “lady friend”, Rose, to check it out.

Why would Paul Ryan say “Yes”?

John Nance Garner.  Charles Dawes.  Charles Curtis. Thomas Marshall. 

Who are these guys?  They all were Vice Presidents of the United States in the 20th Century.  Not a bunch of names we are familiar with.  None of them went on to stellar political careers after being Vice President of the USA.  Garner is famous for having said that the Vice Presidency is “not worth a buck of warm piss”.  He hated the job so much he decided not to run with FDR again.

I think a lot of us imagine the Vice Presidency as a stepping stone to the Presidency.  Not so fast there.  George (the older) Bush was the first sitting Vice President since Martin Van Buren (in 1836) to be elected President.  There have been a few Vice Presidents who became President by virtue of the death of the President – Teddy Roosevelt, LBJ, Truman.  Then they won the Presidency in the next election. But they were already President when they got re-elected.  The odds of getting elected President after four or eight years of Vice Presidency are really small.  So why would someone want to be Vice President? I get it with Joe Biden. He isn’t going anywhere higher.

Most people would not be able to list the official duties of  the Vice President.  That is because there are not many official important duties for the VP.  Most of the time they are there to help the President.    So that brings me back to my original question.  Why did Paul Ryan agree to be the VP candidate?  He is relatively young.  He theoretically has a long political career ahead of himself.  He seems to be favored by the conservative wing of his party.  Why say yes?

Perhaps he is driven by loyalty to country or political party.  “My (country/party) needs me to help lead it out of the darkness of the current administration.  And the Presidential candidate knows that I am the one to help him get this country back where it belongs.  I will do my civic duty for America”.

Perhaps he is driven by ego.  “I am the best, smartest person this country has to offer.  Get me up near the top and we’ll straighten out this mess. These bozos in place now don’t know how to fix things.  Our country needs the best – me.  In addition, I’ll be lined up to become President in the future.”

MAybe it is something in-between.  I don’t know.  There are probably other reasons why.  But I don’t see it.

Corporate Decency?

I care about business and I care about how people reflect their company.  And vice versa.  Hear are two stories where people (and their companies) let us down.

First, United Airlines.  Anyone who travels by airplane knows that it is generally not a pleasant experience to fly.  Virtual strip searches in the airport.  Long waits in multiple lines.  Crowded planes.  Delayed flights.  It is not very much fun.  This story takes it even further.  It is heartbreaking.   Outsourcing of KEY customer-facing positions is the death knell of a company.  It is the ultimate statement that the company does not believe its core mission is to serve people.  United is guilty of that outsourcing.  But perhaps even more frightening is people losing their basic human decency and empathy.  It makes you wonder.  If a person hates their company so badly, why do they keep working there?  I would hope at some point in time a person would look in the mirror and decide “there is more to life than this”.  The article below eloquently tells the story of people who have lost their sense of direction.

United article – http://m.nbcbayarea.com/nbcbayarea/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=tXP38n3H&full=true#display.  The letter written tells it all.  You really should read this one.  It is long but interesting.

Second, NCR Corporation. Those of us who used to work for NCR had to listen to the “code of conduct” speeches but were not always sure management lived them. However, I recognize working in a global world is a hard thing to do.  But if a company trumpets its values of integrity, then they need to live them.  It appears that did not happen in a number of places.  While the motivation of someone waiting 8 years to expose some alleged wrongdoings is questionable, the dealings with the one lawyer is criminal.  http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2012/08/13/ncr-investigates-alleged-fcpa-violations/

The moral of these stories, and so many other stories like them is this:  If you are no longer able to allow your own personal decency to override what “the company wants me to do” then you are in the wrong job.  Move on.

Colorado = beautiful

I promise not to make this blog a travel-related blog, but Rose and I just returned from Colorado.  It is really beautiful out there.  I highly recommend a visit out there if you ever get a chance.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip that shows the beauty of Colorado was the area around Glenwood Springs.  traveling on Interstate 70 (yes the same I-70 that goes north of Dayton) you pass through a beautiful canyon region.  On each side of you are the walls of the canyon.  Running along the road is the beautiful Colorado river with many people riding on rafts or kayaks.  Between the road and the river is a bike/run path for people to enjoy. Along many of the exits were parking lots that had cars parked in them.  They looked like commuter lots for people to leave their cars and car pool into town.  Except there really wasn’t a town to do that.  I finally figured out these were places for people to get off the Interstate, park their cars and go for a bike ride.

Rose and I decided to take the path to “Hanging Lake”. 

Here is the sign at the start of the trail.

They don’t exaggerate in Colorado about things like heights and difficulty of trails.  All I can say is that the walk was so steep, even Rose could not carry a conversation with me (and those of you that know Rose know she is a pretty good talker!).  But along the walk there were plenty of places to stop and rest.  The creek running beside the trail was really cool.  Plus we were walking in the shade most of the time.

So after walking 1.25 miles with a vertical climb of 1000 feet we were treated to a beautiful pristine lake that you could see to the bottom of with no problem.  It was fed by a great waterfall that you could get close to.  Part of the waterfall looked like it was coming out of the rocks.  Well worth the trip.

I could go on about the beauty of Colorado.  It was great.  Best of all, we got to see Nate in his new home.

Wyoming

You never can comprehend how big our country is until you travel to some parts of the West.  Rose and I spent a couple of days in Southeast Wyoming.  There were vast stretches of open country.  Unbelievable beauty – high plains, mountains, lakes, large cattle ranches.  We went hours without having any cell phone service on the roads.  There were a couple of locations we went to that Rose and I were the only people visiting there.

Wyoming has less than 10 cities with population of 10,000 or more (about the population of Oakwood, Ohio).  As a frame of reference, Mason Ohio would be the third largest city by population if it were in Wyoming.  We visited two of the three largest cities – Cheyenne (the state capitol) and Laramie (home to the University of Wyoming).  The Wyoming state capital was a refreshing difference.  It is so much smaller than the Ohio capitol building.  When you walk in the front door, the Governor’s Office is immediately to the right.  You could see into his office and just about every other office.  The Treasurer’s Office looked like a small college bursar’s office.  One of the funniest things was me talking to the lady at the information desk.  I told her I was waiting for Rose.  I casually mentioned “I hope my wife did not get into any trouble”.  She replied, “I know she didn’t.  Neither of the TWO state troopers have gone to look for her.”  Think about that.  Two State troopers to  guard the whole capitol building.  Much smaller government than Ohio.

We visited a number of locations in Wyoming.  Perhaps the most memorable was Vedauwou State Park.  This is one of the most famous rock-climbing areas in the USA.  The best I can describe it would be to say that a bunch of large rocks were thrown from the heavens and landed together here.   This is a picture that yours truly took while Rose and I walked around.

It takes a long time to get from any place to another in Wyoming.  But the diversity of the landscapes where we were made it a really cool visit.

29 Years

Today is Rose’s and my 29th Wedding Anniversary.  Hurray!  So in honor of the day, I am writing two blog posts.  Wow.  I’ll keep this one short.

The best gift you can ever have in life is to be married to someone you are compatible with.  Compatible means to be “in harmony”.  That perfectly describes Rose and I.  We are very different personalities in many ways – just ask our kids.  But those differences produce a beautiful sound.

Rose and I agree on all of the “big stuff”.  The important or critical decisions a couple make in life are ones we almost always fundamentally (in our souls) agree on.  We know that family is the most important thing in life.  We know that we will always be there for each other.  We know important decisions need to be made together.  We know that when something is wrong, we will work it out together.  We know we love each other unconditionally.  We know that as a couple, if we allow each of us to be our own selves, our bonds will be stronger.

We recognize that we make each other laugh – a lot of the time – and that makes the days fun.  We love the uniqueness that is the other person.  Respecting the other’s thoughts, moods and convictions mean we have to sometimes let go of our own, however briefly, in order to understand the person we love.  We are thankful each day for each other.

Luck is an amazing thing.  Somehow out of all of the people in the world a guy from Alliance, Ohio and a woman from NYC (and Cleveland) are brought together in Dayton.  Thanks Luck!  Happy Anniversary, Ro.