What Marathons Have Taught Me about Work

runningshoes2.jpeg

In the US and Europe, Spring brings the most iconic marathons to a few of my favorite cities: Paris, London, and (siiiiigh) Boston. I could talk your ears off about why the Boston Marathon is the best: the city floods with visitors, thousands of present and past runners wear their iconic blue and gold windbreakers, and my favorite townhouse in Beacon Hill decorates its window boxes with running shoes.

It's been awhile since I've been on my marathon running game, but I am still very proficient at my marathon cheering game. Whether you're watching or running a marathon, I believe that there's something in it that sweeps any type of participant up in its magic. As I was watching Boston last week and thinking about a friend running London this week, I couldn't help but think about how profoundly marathons have impacted non-athletic areas of my life, like work.

Besides being a place to release tension and meet friends (and a husband, wink wink), marathons have had a tremendous influence on my professional beliefs and behaviors. It's taught me to...  

 

Put myself into the higher pack. My Garmin watch would tell you that I'm not a "good" runner. If we were grading on a curve, I'd be a solid C. Yes, it can be demoralizing to feel like I'm often running behind the pack, often last to cross the finish line.

But being on a team where people are faster and stronger than you is how you'll rise to the next level. You'll never make significant improvement if you stay among those who you match your current skills.

 

Cheer for strangers. The most humbling experiences of my life have been when strangers have cheered for me by name during marathons. Picture it: you're on mile 20, knowing that there are still 6.2 more miles to go, unsure how your legs will carry you another hour (in my case). Then, out of nowhere an angel from the sideline sees your name on your bib and screams her lungs out - for you. Can you imagine? Just thinking about it makes me tear up.

I know just how much this means, so I always be sure to cheer for others. From the course, some runners look at you like "How the f*** do you know my name?" Some smile enthusiastically and wave back, signaling, "I'm one of you! I like to cheer for strangers too!" And some glance up at you for just a second and silently whisper from their eyes, "Thank you, I really needed that."

Same goes for work: I think it's important to cheer for people you know and people you don't know. Especially other women. Who doesn't want a little extra goodwill in her corner? No one, that's who.

 

Know that the effort is in the preparation. When you're signing up for a marathon, the medal at the finish line isn't really the point. Of course, a finisher deserves the pride and excitement of that triumphant moment. But the commitment is the 4 months of life you've signed away before the marathon. It's about having the stamina to show up and do your best each of the 120 days before the race.

Same with work: certainly, it's fantastic to win a pitch or a temporary victory. But if you work in a fast-paced organization, you'll receive accolades for 30 minutes or so, and then it's onto the next. What will stay with people is how you showed up and participated in the work leading up to that pinnacle moment.

 

What else did I miss, fellow runners?

Congratulations to my friends, friends of friends, and strangers who just ran Boston, London, & Brighton. You have me itching to get back on the racecourse... :)

 

PS - Don't miss these incredible clips of runners helping other runners at Boston this year; my cheering is nothing compared to these beautiful acts of humanity.

Posted on April 25, 2017 and filed under Global Views.

3 Things about Working in Costa Rica Hospitality

This was for real at Playa Guiones every night

This was for real at Playa Guiones every night

Having lived in a cold, gloomy climate for the past eight years, I've acquired an annual tradition: each February, I throw a lack-of-sunshine temper tantrum. Said tantrum ends with a dead-serious proclamation: "Next year, I'm going on a tropical winter vacation. Never again am I staying here through the winter!" Then next year rolls around and... repeat.

But luckily for all those in my proximity, this year I melted down ahead of schedule, way back in December! And out slipped the ultimatum: "I am going on our (belated) honeymoon soon. With or without you."

And that, my friends, is how you get yourself a winter vacation ;) 

So, just six days after we moved back to the US, we braved snow piles along the sidewalks in Boston, to get to the airport for our flight to Costa Rica. Although one of our hesitations was timing and logistics during a time of many unknowns, it was absolutely the right call.

I took a 12 day phone fast and replaced technology with headspace, sunshine, and romance. I read five books, listened to my intuition, did yoga, and made an effort to have meaningful interactions with my husband and strangers.

Human AND reptile hosts welcomed us...

Human AND reptile hosts welcomed us...

While traveling, I often think about working in hospitality. We vacationers have high expectations of what someone else should be doing to make our real world escape delightful. One amiss interaction can trigger a complaint or withholding of tip. That's a lot of pressure on someone who's just doing his job. I mean, I try to be outgoing and positive in my work; but I, like every other human, have the occasional "don't talk to me" days. However, for those whose careers are in hospitality, "don't talk to me today" is no option.

 

To get the biggest variety of Costa Rica experiences, we stayed in four different locations. Across them all, I noticed three habits that our hospitality hosts practiced. They're simple, but they made a huge difference in our experience:  

  1. They learned our names and called us by name regularly. Even when our first host Danny picked us up for our whitewater rafting excursion on day 1 at 6am, he knew who we were (I mean, I barely know my own name at 6a). He and others continued to say "Hi, Julie" when they'd see me walking around the lodge grounds throughout the week. Being known by name made me feel at home and more open to chatting with those around me.
  2. They set expectations. Personally, I was on vacation and cared less about the schedule. But I have to remember that not everyone is like me, and this probably saves many a panic attack for visitors who are outside their element. Each excursion started with a detailed explanation of the timing, our precise destination, and when we'd break for food. (Okay, I loved point 3). 
  3. When we said "Gracias," they replied, "Con gusto" (with pleasure). This was a subtle but impactful one. I used to have a boss who would reply with a similar "It's a pleasure" when I thanked her for something. It's a little thing but makes an ordinary interaction warmer, more eager, and more sincere-feeling.
World's Best Coffee Drinker!

World's Best Coffee Drinker!

The common theme was that these are all small acts that take effort on behalf of the employee, but the effect is big. The customer feels welcomed, woven into the environment, and infected by the employee's enthusiasm.

 

I'm curious... what are subtle things you do in your work interactions to make others feel welcomed and enthusiastic about what you're offering?

 

 

PS - here's where we stayed, if you'd like to know: Grana de OroPacuare LodgeFinca Rosa BlancaHarmony Hotel. Happy to answer any questions if you're considering a trip to CR!

5 Great Things about Working in London (according to Dave)

On Friday, we be will high above the Atlantic, flying on a one-way ticket back to the U.S. of A. After 3 years of working and living in London, it is time to move on.

So last week, as International Women's Day was coming to a close, what I like to call Dave Week was just getting started. For those of you who know Dave in real life, you know that he's not a guy who craves the spotlight. However, he has loooooooooved London, and London has loved him back. And dare I say it: "London Dave" may not mind the spotlight afterall. For over a week he's been having at least 2 celebrations a day with friends and colleagues, now that he must bid farewell to the city that he loves so dearly.

London Dave, version A: holding court, in a custom-made suit

London Dave, version A: holding court, in a custom-made suit

Because he's had such a fantastic experience in the UK, I did something that you easily forget to do when you're married to someone: I sat down, looked into his eyes, and had a conversation :) 

The outcome was 5 Great Things about Working in London, according to London Dave:

1. Having a Notice Period. If you're a local UK employee, you're likely to have a 3 or 6 month "notice period" in your contract. This means: if you resign, you're still obligated to your company for this amount of time; also known as garden leave. If you're in a market-facing competitive position (think: sales, management, etc.), your company will probably "send you to the garden," meaning: a 3-6 month paid vacation(!) to keep you away from clients and sensitive info for awhile. If you're in an internal role, you'll work your notice period, like Dave did. He liked this because it meant (a) the company could find the right replacement in lieu of a just-fill-the-seat replacement. And (b) he was able to do a comprehensive on-boarding and hand-off, creating a successful outcome for everyone.

Because the entire UK job market works this way, it works. The British are baffled by Americans' 2 week notice standard.

London Dave, version B: showing off his ethnic & hipster selves, in his Chicken Shops of London tee

London Dave, version B: showing off his ethnic & hipster selves, in his Chicken Shops of London tee

2. The Multiculturalism in Our Teams. Off the cuff, he named people he worked with from the UK, US, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Australia. He argues that it's better to be exposed to more people who have different experiences from you. To him, it just makes sense, especially if you're a multi-national company; you must look and think like the variety of customers you serve. I raised him right :)  

Both our work and personal experiences in London have made us want to continue living in immigration-friendly places in the future. Also, he fears that our Indian food consumption will never be the same...

3. Drink Anytime You Like. The stereotypes are true. In London, drink anytime and anywhere. Leadenhall Market fills up with old white insurance dudes everyday at lunchtime, who linger in the streets late into the evening. Dave argues that even though it's old school and can get excessive, it's nice for a night out and has allowed him to deeply bond with his workmates. And apparently, "It promotes free exchange of ideas; you know, after you're a few in." mmhmm.

4. Employers File Your UK Taxes. April 15th is approaching for us Americans. 'Nuff said.

A long weekend break of glamping(!!) in the UK countryside

A long weekend break of glamping(!!) in the UK countryside

5. The British Take Their Off-Hours Seriously. Work-Life Balance is fantastic. There's no expectation of out-of-hours emailing. Weekends are 100% yours. And best of all: you do not have to carefully ration out each precious vacation day, or "hoard your holiday," as Dave says. All of this leads to lower stress in general. He really relates to the European philosophy that you're working to have the resources to not be in work, so... don't be in work.

 

And with that, we will see you from the other side of the pond! 

Note: there will be a future post with more story and soul about our time in London. Although (for me) it was time to leave, I know that our life will never be the same, following this experience, most importantly, with incredible friends and colleagues, who will forever be in the fabric of our lives. Thank you for loving us, supporting us, and giving us a home in London for the last 3 years.

 

PS - Here's what I and my expat friends found surprising about working in London.

 

 

Posted on March 15, 2017 and filed under Global Views.