Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Looking Forward to Pay It Forward












When I was younger, my only act of charity was to put 10 or 20 cents into the weekend money cans that student volunteers, meekly, pushed towards me. Admittedly, I tried to evade them by doing something silly and surreptitious. When I was blocked, all I could do was drop a paltry, almost pathetic amount. The most I could spare as a student and, later, a struggling employee was a coin of the smallest denomination. I made a silent promise I would do much more one day to help the unfortunate; I did not know exactly how, but I would give tithes of significance.

Two weekends ago, I was chatting with a sports photojournalist about which non-profit organizations needed the most help. She raised funds for the Tetraplegic Workgroup (under the Society of Physically Disabled); I was actively selecting the ones that needed the most assistance – be it monetary and non-monetary.





One of my favourite films on charity is Pay It Forward. A kid decides to reciprocate on a favour by paying it forward, instead of backward. Isn’t this a dazzling concept? Instead of returning a favour to your benefactor, you do a good deed for a person who needs it. I have, since then, been smitten by its powerful impact and implications.

I am thrilled that next week I will have a chat with a business associate about the probability of collaborating on a charitable deed. Having done a few small fund-raisers in the past, I would like to do more.

I love challenges; projects with a strong sense of purpose. I am glad that today I can unhesitatingly take out bills instead of a handful of chump change to drop into those paint-cans-with-a-wide-slot. Yet, I want to do much more and so do my like-minded friends and associates. My team has expertise in education, branding, fund-raising, and sports. We believe that we can help to create value for our friends and partners.

My team/tribe of like-minded associates will be happy to assist you in your quest to pay it forward. If you would like to join us on our quest to help – and help many others – write me and we can begin to build a legion of loyal followers of the Pay It Forward Movement. In strength and unity will we move ahead!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Running The Longest Mile

How far have you run in your life in one event? What was the furthest that you have done? Why did you stop at that distance eventually?

On Sunday, 5 out 9 runners completed the 218km Run Round Singapore. That is an awesome distance covered (about five marathons) over a span of about 30 hours.

What drives runners to do ultra-distances, when the journey of 42.195 kilometres scares mere mortals? It presupposes that athletes, who venture past the norms fall under the category of insane, obsessed and committed. Despite the potential damage that it may do to your body, what drives them to persevere, stay tenacious and determined to complete a predetermined and inane distance?

One of my Twitter friends is John Callos Jr, and he will he be running the Marathon des Sable, a six-stage race covering 150km over fine sand and dunes. He will carry his personal belongings with him, and ensure that no grain of sand hits his feet. Runners can be crippled because of bad abrasions caused by the sandpapering effect of foreign intrusions.

Tobias Frenz also completed this race last year. He ran 130km three nights ago, keeping a runner company. He was interviewed for this blog not too long ago. He did very well, pacing the leader, for the first few legs (days) until he had to slow down.

When was the last time you ventured into the zone of the extreme and the suffering? What did you learn from that?

Photo-credits: Tobias Frenz

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do Good & Feel ‘Gooder’

What makes you happy? When are you most happy? What do you get happy about?

Happiness matters a lot to most people. Personal and tribal credos have included ‘the pursuit of happiness’. Will Smith starred in a film called ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. Happiness is one of the most heavily Googled words everyday.

The Happiness Institute featured an interesting essay about research on happiness, its effects, and how we can actively attain it.

Do you do random acts of kindness? How do you respond when somebody’s helps you, or offers you help? Can you really feel good without resorting to medication?

I have studied people who exercise, and observed how they respond to physical activity. In general, most of the euphoria they experience comes after the event, where the most positive social interactions happen. Perhaps, it is a sense of relief mired with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Just last night, my pleasant night run led to healthy conversations that included meeting new runners, and the sharing of stories. The experienced runners provided suggestions and advice to the first-timers and neophytes about how to approach their first marathon.

Athletes also derive a sense of happiness when they help raise funds through sports. In recent years, there is a significant and strong tie-up of non-profit organisations with sporting events.

Personally, I am happy that our Lagoon Leader, Matthew is recovering well from jellyfish stings. It is the season for these bubbly and invisible creatures that I hear has caused physical irritation with commercial and recreational divers. Matty ensured we were all accounted for, before he bid us farewell for his treatment. Now, that's a leader! He enjoys helping others, and his ironclad sense of consideration earns him respectful and appreciative company.

Public Education Announcement: Cyclists, be safe on the road. We share the road with motorists and pedestrians. May we honour our fallen. Ben Mok - May you rest in peace. We will carry out your work!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Scripted Frenzy

Plot: Write a screenplay, television script or play. The target: 30 Days, 100 pages. Your challenge: finish it in time. The setting: at home on your notebook.

This will be my next quarterly challenge; all personal, and it is all about my discipline to stick to my guns, stamina and creativity.

Last year, I finished a winner in the NanoWriMo competition. I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. Last month, I raised NZ$2,083 for the Cystic Fibrosis for Kids charity as part of Ironman New Zealand. At end-May, I will attempt to complete my first 84km Ultra-marathon held at sunset. Next month, I will attempt another writing test: writing a script for television, stage or film. I have one published play in 1995 that saw print in a book of compiled Singaporean plays. I had two plays commissioned for one-night only productions for the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) in 1991.

I have not written a script for almost a decade and half, and intuitively, I feel one rustling inside me. I am sifting from book to book, getting a sense of my renewed writing style. In terms of pages, this appears less unsettling and frenzied as 50,000 words in a month. I believe I can pace myself well, as it is more focused on the story. I can format the setting, scenery later. I will need to flesh out my characters and thicken the plot as I progress. I haven’t even imagined what the end product will look like. I trust my unconscious mind and intuition will guide me on my erratic keyboard dance.

Anyone keen to partner me on this journey? I assure you – it will be fun, and will do wonders for your strategic thinking, visualization and personal expression.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Facts Speak Louder than Words

One of our comrades has fallen!

Today is Ben Mok’s funeral. A service for him was held at 3.00pm today. Riders will wear their helmets and observe one minute of silence. A common bond unites us. By the Six Degrees of Separation, we are all friends.

Many of us had our close shaves with traffic when we ride. I experienced mine seven weeks, and I have been reminded by my family to give praise and thanks. My fresh scars remind me of how risky being on the road is. Yesterday, a car knocked down Slow Twitch Forum’s Chief Technology Officer, Jordan Rapp and he remains in the intensive care unit with multiple fractures and contusions.

Having read Eve’s post on the Triathlon Family Forum, we should stay calm and cool-headed in the familiar face of disturbing news of cyclist-motorist accidents, and near-miss incidents. It is so easy and natural to be angry, and over-react; it is a delicate relationship we have when using the road. Any gesture can be interpreted as aggressive and confrontational. The aggrieved can seek recourse, and the guilty will be punished. We should refrain from tit-for-tat actions; facts speak louder than words.

If you like to express yourself, write on your blog, send out a tweet, post on Facebook, or launch an electronic -mail. Write with kindness. Compose with care. Speak with sensibility. Sing with praise.

To paraphrase a line from the film The Last Samurai, let’s celebrate how Ben lived! Rest in peace, my friend.

Monday's child is fair of face,


Tuesday's child is full of grace,


Wednesday's child is full of woe,


Thursday's child has far to go.


Friday's child is loving and giving,


Saturday's child works hard for a living,


But the child born on the Sabbath Day,


Is fair and wise and good and gay.

Friday, March 26, 2010

People Investment: What Is Your ROIR?

You have heard of ROI, or Return on Investment. According to management guru, Tom Peters ROIR is Return On Investment on Relationships.

I have been scouring Facebook for some of my friends’ base of relations. Mine is a conservative number, which started meagerly and has now blossomed. How do you enhance your relationships? What are you doing to invest your time, energies and emotions into each of your relationships? Do you leverage on your relationships? How do you benefit from each? By staying in touch with friends and associates on social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, we create vested interest and enhance our relationships.

I was recently invited to be another Expert Writer for a well known website for mothers. You may ask – Enrico, what do you know about motherhood? Not much, but enough to appreciate how vital it is to have a mother, who works and cares for me. Almost everyday, I am surrounded by mothers so I do not see much difficulty in interviewing them for their opinions and suggestions. It is so easy to quote them, and lends a degree of credibility. Plus, the topics I may cover will include starting a small business, lifestyle design and personal development.

Most of us possess adequate operating knowledge to hold a conversation. All we need to do is connect with what matters most to them. Most people value their health, family, career, happiness, friendship, sense of freedom, sense of security, and their hobbies. We can easily connect with any one of these. I have read a blogger pay tribute to his friend's recently departed friend; a page was set up in memory of the fallen cyclist. Another blogger retweets useful articles for his community of friends. Another actively promotes his friend's businesses. These simple, online approaches raise ROIR. What are you doing to deliberately increase your ROIR?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Quips on the Blog

New blogs by amateur triathletes surface everyday without restraint or record. I am happy for my predictable and persevering company. The richness of these writers’ stories, plus the insights and wisdom integrated into them, make them highly readable even for the merely curious or digitally-pedestrian.

I am not such a stickler for structure or style, as I am for heart. The heart of the matter is, it takes guts to write and courage to share it with the world. Most blogs have their shade and hues of narcissism, idiosyncracy, self-aggrandizement, criticism and critiques. My favourite blogs are conversational, non-judgemental, and often insightful. I learn more from my frequent interactions with the writer. I feel connected to their experiences, observations and interpretations. I don’t necessarily agree with them all the time, yet they make me ponder over my opinion. I feel that my time is well spent reading their thoughtful content.

‘First, write with your heart. Then, with your head!’ ~ Finding Forrester.

I am pleased that there are, indeed, blogs that serve the abject purposes of educating, teaching and sharing. Sure, some blogs and websites are designed for commerce – bloggers want to promote products and sell them (since they may be actively pursuing passive income or own Work-At-Home businesses). Yet, there are many ways to create such impacting influence. Robert B. Cialdini, PhD proposed six such principles in his landmark book, Influence: Psychology of Persuasion.

As my confident friends, bloggers and writers will say: ‘The more, the merrier!’ Keep writing. Keep influencing.

Here are a few blogs worth your time: TRI 4 LIFE YOU, ME & TESKY TRIATHLON TRAINING DIARY

They posted today their cause and tribute to people - we matter because others matter, too.

[Title adapted from a famous boy band in the 1990’s with one original member, now a serious A-list actor.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Spooky Art of Writing












One learns much from the process of writing, and thinking about writing. Eleven months after starting this three-year personal challenge of continuous blogging, I have learnt much about the craft of writing. Having written fulltime and freelance, I can attest that writing professionally can be very challenging. You have to be very organised and clear in the business, and passion can only carry you so far. Your tools are your words and your stories – two reliable anchors that can get you started on your journey on this quirky and creative profession.

The late-Norman Mailer wrote in ‘The Spooky Art’ on his trial and tribulations of writing. He drew upon his fifty years of writing experience and writes about the writer’s craft. Mailer explored, among other topics, the attractions and limitations of non-fiction, the relevance of work habits and discipline, the pitfalls of early success, and the dire business of coping with bad reviews. But perhaps the most enthralling parts of this readable book is when he takes on his fellow writers, living and dead: Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Updike, Roth, Vonnegut, Garcia Marquez, Bellow, Styron, Beckett, and a host of others including Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, and Toni Morrison.

Mailer wrote, 'I believe I could end up as a good critic because I know so much about novel writing by now. I can always tell when someone is drawing sustenance out of his or her best vein and when the needle missed.'

I hope I have not missed too many of my intravenous attempts to hit the spot, with you – dear readers! What are the lessons you learnt as you write? We send hundreds of e-mails and text messages every month, respond to blogs, and give our opinions and critiques. The message is in your communication.

A quick survey of some participants at last weekend’s race yielded the following facts about their objectives:

1) To race for the experience

2) To race first-time in a lengthened format

3) To race for a personal best time

4) To assess how their body holds up after a recent race

5) To seriously qualify for a podium finish

6) To qualify for the world championships

Each objective has a story to tell. Interview the participants. Write about it. There may be more than meets the eye and ears, and our sensibilities.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Does Patience Pay?

Is patience really a virtue? Patience is taught in the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Does it pay to wait? How about pausing for a cause? Last Sunday, I watched twice-Ironman triathlon world champion Craig Alexander defend his title in the Aviva Singapore Ironman 70.3. He, gradually, narrowed his lead from a slower swim and bike, and eventually overtook the leaders in the half-marathon leg.

Sometimes, it can be useful not to take premature plunges into the opportunity pool. Your intuition can signal you, enough for you to take note. Fantasy genre author, Nicola describes her unnerving experience turning down two publishers.

Endurance races tests our patience. So does starting a new business. Having been in business for a decade, being patient can be a decadent act. Passive waiting is wasteful of one’s time; actively awaiting results and client’s decisions is different. If you were waiting for results of a medical test, you would have to wait. If you were waiting for your new bike to arrive, it can be time filled with anticipation and excitement. Those of us waiting for a surprise win at a slot for Kona in the Ironman lottery experience different emotions as the announcement of results draws near. After submitting your manuscript for approval from a potential publisher can be a harrowing experience if you are not prepared to receive useful feedback or disappointing news.

I am convinced that building a customised bicycle takes time. It takes just as much time to have that same bike properly fitted to your unique body structure and habits. Building a fit body to race actively and regularly requires patience to train correctly and recover fully.

Time will tell. However, idleness and fear can foretell a future that is fraught with fear. Pace yourself. Slow can be fast. Fast can be slow. Make haste. Have a sense of urgency, but never rush people through their decisions.

Running Up That Road Again

Here is a schedule of running events in Singapore. Choose wisely. There is a running event almost weekly. Add to these fixtures, several biathlon and triathlon series and you are hard pressed for decisions. Steady does it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Seriously Seeking Sides

Yesterday’s essays on spectators and spectating stimulated much interest. Appreciative race participants and supporters wrote me to announce their approval in what my team did at an aid-station – we kind of changed the rule of play for spectators. Apparently, our unique approach to caring for those running in the Aviva Singapore Ironman 70.3 was appreciated. Thank you for the validation!

Seth Godin wrote about how freelancers can relentlessly exceed themselves, their standards and their customer’s sense of standards. By boldly pushing the threshold of what’s there, and by enthusiastic experimenting with the different we may rediscover the joys of collaborative change.

If you work with consultants, contractors and freelancers – and who doesn’t – do review how their roles and expertise fit into your life. If all you do is deliberately cast doubt on your business partners and staff, then whom else will you trust to do the remarkable?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Importance of Announcements









When someone announces something, it usually means that the news to be shared would be important. Announcements can be joyous occasions, as when my Facebook friends proclaim their love for each other, and that they will be married or engaged. Companies announce both good and bad news because staff need to know; ignorance is not bliss. Social media tools are great for announcing a grand opening and celebrations; giving feedback and testimonials.

Today was the Aviva Ironman Singapore 70.3, the fourth local installment in the half-Ironman series. About 600 participants were Singaporeans, and the other 800 were internationals. As I listened to the Ironman emcee and announcer call each finisher into the chute, I realized that Whit Raymond [see our in-depth interview with him in our archives] emphasised both their name and country. As I watched each participant come through into the final minutes of the 8 hour 30 minute cutoff time, I could not help but cheer each determined and persistent participant in. One member of Triathlon Family, Chris Dyson was pacing himself alongside dozens of fatigued or neophyte racers to encourage them on. He must have done quite a few kilometers in total!

Whit’s role as announcer is an important one. His job is not only about making announcements, but also keeping the level of energy high for the supporters. Today, I played that supporter – an unfamiliar place for me as I was to racing this series. Instead, with a motley crew of triathletes and families, we served water to the weary and thirsty participants during their run leg. It was my first time as volunteer water-boy, however it was a great experience when your receivers appreciate your efforts. We announced to each other as runners approached us, informed them it was only a water station, and encouraged them on. One thing I learnt as a participant, when you addressed the thirsty runner by his/her name they beam up. Fellow blogger, Clifford Lee masterminded the water-station idea, and it worked beautifully today for all participating and involved. Matthew Wong gives his perspective which included insights that volunteers can consider.

Congratulations to all finishers, especially to the members of Triathlon Family Singapore! Dex Tai and Charles Teng finished in identical times of 5:20; it is a personal best for Charles. I am pleased for both of you.

Twice Ironman world champion Craig Alexander and Caroline Steffen take top spots for male and female professionals, respectively. Congratulations to Margaret Shapiro of Elite Bicycles on her first 70.3 finish, and third placing!

[Note to self: Race next year – it is less stressful.]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Permissions & Permission Giving in A Permissive Society

Do you read e-books? EBook or e-book, is short for electronic book, and is also known as a digital book.

Do you derive pleasure from reading a non-fiction book or novel onscreen? I admit I do not own any of the digital book readers yet, although I have been advised to wait for the latest version of Kindle. Otherwise, I read any digital publications on my large-screen Mac. My online purchase of e-books comprise mainly out-of-print books magic books and manuscripts, and the occasional subject that intrigues me. I am fascinated by the notion of exclusivity, meaning if it is rare I would like my hands on it. Thus, my strong belief in customised equipment and instruction: make it personal, personalised and relevant to me - residual Generation X resides in my DNA, I'm afraid.


It is a wet morning, and having indecisively opted to sleep in (to rest my weary bones) instead of a doing a group 21km run (which I postponed till a drier condition ensues), I decided to review an e-book. The neophyte author requested a testimonial for his first e-book; he enthusiastically reiterated his request recently, and this was less than a week since I returned from my vacation.

I belief there is a plethora* of e-books out there; there are a myriad** of titles and it is confusing! Shopping on Amazon.com is a challenge unto itself. There are new releases, re-releases, director's cuts, and other configurations that I have yet to figure out. Plus, the sea of subjective and objective reviews just clouds one's senses prematurely. Yet, that's part of the process of shopping online and alone with your languid thoughts and lackadaisical manner.

Beneath the process of buying and writing reviews, is the skill of decision-making. How do you decide what and when to buy? It is part psychology, yet it is part desire, want, need, preference, prejudice and purpose. It can be part science, part art, and part with your money. But more than that! It is the permission we give somebody to spend our time on something they believe we should give them. Permission is not about entitlement or obligation; it is about obeying one's Law of Exchange, or reciprocity. Permission is sought.

When a world-class coach guides you in your physical rehabilitation, it reflects much on their character and professionalism when he/she asks: 'May I touch you?'

Has your medical doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, bike-fitter, and nurse asked you for permission before they touch you? Certainly, there are security processes in the world where they touch you (hopefully, with your degree of respect) in hopes of not finding anything offensive...and I do you hope, that you see where I am coming from.

I certainly hope that in our fast-paced world, of quick fixes (I roll my eyes if another retailer offers me stock parts of generic/standard sizes), microwave-ready, paint-by-numbers approach to learning and applying, that we value patience. I was taught very early in my life that patience is a virtue, and if the professional I seek in my time of need takes the time and patience to educate me and assist me - you can be assured of my time, my patience and my business. For the many teachers I had the honour and privilege to learn from, the ones I remember most fondly and appreciated deeply were those who were patient with me (and for my youthful impatience and impudence ). They took the time to see my potential, identify my talents and capabilities, and point it out to me.

Perhaps, we occasional miss the point that it is not about rushing through the task or service, but rather, activating our sense of urgency with a high regard for personal care and attention. When was the last time somebody looked at you with a sense of importance, curiosity and respect? When was the time a colleague spoke to you nicely and spared their time to explain something of importance to you?

Thank your for reading. Write or Tweet me your comments. I seek your permission to hear your thoughts, opinions and comments.

[*/** Writing students take note: Integration of difficult words in your writing enhances semantic density.]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fitted for Fitness

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure to spend quality time learning from entrepreneur and master bike-fitter, David Greenfield. He is the owner of Elite Bicycles of Philadelphia and was in town for the opening of the Singapore branch.

From my personal experience, I would recommend deeply considering the relevance and benefits of a proper and thorough bike fit. I raced recently on a bike that was, essentially, improper and risky for racing; I had the opportunity to confirm my hunches and probable cause of my lesser performance.

David, respectfully, asked to assess my posture when he noticed that I slung my knapsack across my left shoulder. He observed that my shoulders were lopsided. He then gently ran a series of physical tests that ascertained that I had muscular and postural imbalances. He assured me that I could correct these in time. I also watch him fit a rider (who happened to be the son of my secondary school teacher), deliberately and purposefully. All this while I watched a fellow teacher at work, generously educating a client while he carefully corrected the bike and the rider’s shoes.

From a thinking perspective, this is reversed thinking. Instead of correcting the rider’s posture and technique to fit the generic features of the bike, David’s philosophy (as a former professional athlete and now recognized leader in bike-fitting) was to correct the bike’s geometry and construction to accommodate to the rider’s posture and riding idiosyncrasies.

If my sports medicine doctor takes the time to ask me questions, conduct diagnostic tests on me, and then explain his analysis and prescription to me I would be highly appreciative of his efforts. This is part of the education I expect to receive as part of medical service. I was fortunate to receive such attentive standard of care and assurance from Dr Ben Tan prior to my attempt at Ironman New Zealand 2010. He advised me of my relative contraindications should I wish to race. I listened, weighed my options and risks, and decided to do a compromised race – focused on completing instead of racing for a personal best.

Reeves Leong wrote about Branded Customer Service in his latest blog posting – he believes that this will have significant impact on the retail industry. I agree, and also think that it will have a much wider reach and implication on professional services, such as training, coaching and consulting. My experience tonight with David and his personally certified Singapore team (led by Elite and F.I.S.T-certified bike-fitter director, Daphne Wee) certainly highlighted this unique, but sensible and sensitive approach to working with the serious cyclist and triathlete.

Elite Bicycles is located at 3 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089589 (Telephone: +65 6224 2578).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

By Daily Design

I stumbled upon Dragous' Blog when I was seeking inspiration from various sources. One of these sources was the book Change By Design, by Tim Brown. It is a book about how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. One of the questions we can ask is: How might our customers help us innovate? Having facilitated a class on service at a junior college yesterday, I can attest that innovation can be simple things, not just good, evolving or best practices.

Tuesdays with Morrie was a bestselling book (and subsequently made into a tele-movie) I was influenced by. It is a touching book about an ailing teacher and his last weeks with his former student.

Ian has blog post titles that got me thinking about Lists and Innovative Thinking. He had a section called Friday with Friends. Ian has his variations: Word Wednesday, Friday Five, and Monday Minute. And, his website is really funny especially his article on Facebook and Twitter users (in the preceding post).

How about these suggestions? Mondays with Mom; Tuesdays with Training; Washing on Wednesdays; Thankful for Thursdays; Fridays with Friends; Saturdays with Sports; Sun-tanning on Sundays?

Alternatively, you can make it more sophisticated and delectable with saccharin tiles like: Memorable Monday, Touring on Tuesday, Walking on Wednesday, Tracking Trends on Thursday, Fellowship on Friday, Socialising Saturday, and Serendipitous Sunday.

Toss in vehement verbs, atrocious adverbs and nonsensical nouns. The idea is to generate action from an unusual list. Somewhere down the line would be the tribe called the Wile. E. Coyote, Weekend Warriors’ Willing Workouts. Have a great week and weekend all!

Thursday’s Torment

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." ~ Robert Frost

Really funny read! It may offend you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

INTERVIEW WITH A SERIAL IRONMAN & ENTREPRENEUR - MITCH THROWER (Part 3)












Have you learned some tricks along the way that might help other like-minded entrepreneurs and triathletes?
One is to find a place to live and work that is somewhere you actually want to be. I picked La Jolla, CA, and then built an industry here. It is paradise, and it's great to be able to work very hard when you know it's always nice outside and you can fit in workouts anytime.

How did you injure your inner ear membrane and how did it affect you?
At the University of California San Diego Masters workout, I jumped in the deep end of the pool really quickly and went straight to the bottom of the diving area. The implosive force was like a gunshot going off, and ripped my inner ear membrane, causing what is called a fistula in my inner ear. The tear immediately caused a clogged feeling, ringing, then dizziness, then extreme tinnitus, which is -- for those that don't know -- a ringing in the ear so loud it's hard to sleep, hear or think. Unfortunately, it's also sometimes an indicator of something more serious. I underwent a series of tests over the next few months, including blood tests, audiology tests, then CAT scans and MRIs to determine that I didn’t have a brain tumor or anything that serious. Luckily, it was a fistula caused by the accident, but unfortunately, the fistula left me unable to do anything physical for an extended period. The prescription for healing a fistula is a triathlete's nightmare - bed rest.
I ended up enduring several months of inactivity, and a year of tinnitus. Many of those weeks were strict bed rest - no coughing, no sneezing, no laughing, no pressure on the ear in any way, shape or form. And, for a while, no talking. From a sound perspective, it was quiet bed rest, but the reality was it was far from quiet - the tinnitus in my right ear sounded like someone was next to me blowing on a trumpet, all the time. As an active person, rest is a very hard thing to do. As a triathlete, I was used to controlling my physical environment and the uncontrolled, omnipresent blaring sound in my head was unbearable. It was made worse by the fact that they accelerated my obsessive-compulsive triathlon and work tendencies by giving me two high dose burst treatments of a corticosteroid called Prednisone, which intensified a host of anxious emotions that only those who have ever experienced it can understand. It was a nightmare, albeit filled with wonderful life lessons - thankfully it's over, and I'm back.
Many triathletes and recreational athletes deal with knee issues. What exactly happened when you fractured your knees in college? How did you recover?
I had incredible experiences at St. Lawrence University, but it all started with a big challenge. My freshman year, two things happened. One, I was really excited to try out for the lacrosse team but I got cut. They already had two goalies for a very small squad, which was essentially a club team. It was hard, but I understood that it was appropriate with a junior and senior ahead of me. Second, I fractured my knee falling on the ice at St. Lawrence campus one morning. This was just a run across the quad, part of my preseason training to make the club team to stay sharp and prepare for the next year. When I fell I came down on my knee and fractured the medial condyle. I was on crutches and had to undergo several surgeries and began a long journey of realization for me: "Hey, okay, you're active and athletic, but guess what? You can lose it in a nanosecond."
After a series of knee surgeries and many months not knowing whether or not I could run again, or if I could even walk, my perspective changed quite a bit. During this time, luckily, I immersed myself in debate and academics. But, at the same time I felt tremendous anxiety about being on the sidelines. Luckily, at the end of my college career, the knee healed in a really positive way. I sustained no ligament or tendon damage. The knee healed itself and I started running in the mornings with my college roommate Adam Thornborough, who was on the track team. It was so great! I felt like Forrest Gump -- once I recovered, I never wanted to stop running.
Have you been involved in other sports, and have they contributed to your triathlon career?
I’ve had a lifetime full of sports. I played freshman football in high school, but that wasn't for me. Then I started playing lacrosse, which was a good fit and I pursued it with all my heart. My high school lacrosse coach was very influential in my life. Pat Smith really showed what dedication and training was required to master a sport. He taught me that if you apply your very best effort, results will come. Ultimately I became a very good lacrosse goalie, the number one high school lacrosse goalie in the state of Connecticut for part of one season. Though it was just a few weeks of high school, that period when I made more saves than anyone in the state, was, for me, an incredibly powerful experience -- seeing the magic that can happen as part of a team, and experiencing the benefits of fitness.











How did you move the small start-up up to a successful large-scale company?
First of all, we relentlessly pursued necessary growth. But why did it succeed? There was a lot of luck combined with a very aggressive triathlete's approach to managing the business. The model that I followed was this: If someone is doing online registration I'm going to call them and try to get them to join us. Scale for Active came when we convinced more than 10 companies that we should be doing this together. I remember my pitch included the the idea that our enemy wasn't other small, start-up companies, our enemy was that much larger company that could inevitably come in and do this the right way if we didn’t ally and get there first. We made merger after merger, consolidation after consolidation. Ultimately, from a team of three starting in 1997 to a team of 2,600 today, it's been an incredibly wonderful journey.
This sounds like the classic business school case study of who would finally prevail in the search engine business. Wasn’t it first about getting the scale of your corporation large enough to ward off larger interlopers? And two, are you doing it the most efficient way yourself?
Realistically, we knew we needed to create a company that was generating revenue. We charged for our services from day one. We were operating at a time in history when many companies weren't generating revenue. But they were generating customers, getting funded and selling quickly for tens of millions of dollars to entrepreneurs who saw the website and wanted to get on board the fast-moving Internet bubble. As we were growing, we were also selling a ton of registrations -- we were actually processing transactions and processing credit cards from day one. One of the things that I learned in the last 13 years being involved in Active.com — I am still a strategic consultant for Active.com and I served as CEO of the Active Europe venture for 5 year - is that businesses should be based on a reliable, renewable, high-margin, low maintenance revenue streams. Once you've developed the right idea and can execute it, then it becomes very valuable – an evergreen revenue stream.
How did you react to some people's opinion that you were put out of the center of the Active.com expansion to go to Europe and try and start that up while other people were becoming the chief honchos?
We bought a lot of companies and every time you buy a company, you add to its set of chiefs. We got to the point where we had a lot of chiefs in the room. This is where I may be actually may be a little bit unique, perhaps from my lessons in triathlon.
If there is someone who can pull a group through a windstorm better than I can, then please, have at it. I'm not the type of entrepreneur who wants to run the world. I'm the type of entrepreneur that wants to be successful. And the two are very different, insofar as one person won't let go of their ego because they have to control everything. I would much rather find someone to handle the job of being a CEO. I find there's way more to do in the day than I have time for. I prefer to recruit other people to take care of those tasks. And more power to them.
My decision to leave and basically launch Active Europe from the ground up came when the Active Network was winding down its operation in the wake of the dot-com bust in 2001. I had been running international development there internally. And they said, "Hey, we're going to pull out of Europe to just focus on the US." I negotiated a deal with the board to give me the opportunity to go to Europe, to build a small team, and to gain a foothold before any competitors were able to really get launched in that area. I remember I was on a bike ride with Billy Gerber – he’s a former President of Warner Brothers and a very good training partner. I said, "I'm thinking about running Active Europe and starting a company there. What do you think?" Billy looked at me and said, "Go. Leave tomorrow. Pack." I asked him why and he replied, "Because in five years you're going to look back on your life and say, ’Hey, I did four more triathlons in California and I worked to build a company here in the US.’ Or you could say ‘I just traveled around the world building a business and these are all the wonderful people I met and all the incredible experiences I had.’ You'll be a much more interesting person and have a much more interesting life if you do something like that." That was so influential. I literally said, "Okay, I'm doing this" and I left for Europe and spent five years building a company and operating in 27 countries, five languages and five currencies.
What’s next on the horizon in business?
I’m working on a new social media network called Bump.com. I had a few of my investors challenge me to come up with a business concept that would scale as fast as Twitter, with real revenue built into that growth. They were looking for my trademark formula of reliable, renewable, high-margin, low-maintenance revenue streams applied on a massive scale.
I came up with a concept that I think we have all considered at one point in our lives. And that idea was: Why can't we initiate communication with people in automobiles? That idea has now become bump.com -- the world's largest safety communications and marketing network, and it works around the platform of unique identifiers. If you look forward a year or two -- and we're hoping to launch the technology in just a few months – you can imagine the possibilities: People who are single can let people who are driving next to them know that they think they're cute. If Bump.com were around during the time of American Graffiti, Richard Dreyfuss’s character Curt would have found a way to contact the elusive blonde in the white T-Bird cruising the streets of 1960s Modesto.
Or you might hear a car alarm or notice that a car’s signal lights are misfiring and you'll be able to send a voice-to-text or a voicemail to that car saying, "Hey, your car alarm is going off,” or “Your brake light is out.” You can let people on the road know you want to buy their car. If you notice another car seems to be sharing your destination, you can exchange route tips.
Safety and privacy safeguards are built in. It's a voice-activated messaging platform, because we do not want people to text when they're driving. So our iPhone application and our BlackBerry app only allows you to use the text capacity to send a message when the phone is moving less than 5 miles an hour. We certainly want people to be safe. Also, as with social network sites, you don't have to respond to every communication. Bump is, in its simplest form, a way to communicate with someone via a unique identifier like their car's license plate. In a month or two, you can register (claim) your license plate (or the plate on your kids’ cars) at bump.com and get your messages.
Now, here's the really cool part. Everywhere there are cameras picking up cars driving by, and our marketing partners are putting up cameras watching you drive by. We are marking -- or we are connecting -- the geographic marketing initiatives to consumers. It's a safety and communications network between vehicles to find out where the traffic is, fill in details about Amber Alerts, and help anticipate where the accidents are and offer tips to avoid the tie-ups. It's also a way that you can report a bad driver or write on someone else's wall, because every car now has a wall similar to the Wall you might find on Facebook or other social networking sites. You can post any message to any license plate in the country, and soon around the world, just by typing in the state and plate at bump.com or stateandplate@bump.com. That message goes on that license plate's wall. To make the technology work, each car owner will register on the network and immediately claim their plate number to take part in the Bump.com network. And the great news is we have an issued patent protecting the business and network rights.








What exactly does your La Jolla Foundation do? Tell us more about Project Active.
The La Jolla Foundation is the parent foundation encompassing several projects. Project Active delivers athletic equipment to war-torn areas. It's our attempt to defuse world tension through the positive influence of sport. Project Einstein is designed to help some talented children move forward in their educational career. And Project Bright Idea is aimed at identifying and funding social and business innovations.
Through Project Active we send athletic equipment around the world to many of the 41 areas of armed conflict defined by the United Nations. We've sent soccer balls to Afghanistan, Iraq and several hot zones in Africa. We've sent soccer balls strapped to nets on the top of tanks, and then distributed to the children in a war zone.
We also contributed to a mission that liberated child soldiers in Africa and put them in a soccer camp where everyone was kept safe from harm. It was an incredible. When you see the emotions of these kids who had been trained to fire machine guns and to kill for warlords now being trained to play soccer, you can't hold back a smile.
What was your inspiration to start Project Active?
I was on a bike ride in the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside prior to Ironman California in 2000. At the time, I was hearing and listening to what was happening around the world and that set me to thinking about the issues of war and peace as I was biking past the tanks and seeing the military exercises in Camp Pendleton. The night before, I’d watched a television interview with a suicide bomber. His bomb did not go off and so he was captured and interviewed by a television news crew. The correspondent asked the bomber, "Would you go into this cafĂ© and blow everyone up for your cause?" And he said, "Absolutely. I would do anything for my cause." Then the interviewer asked him: "You're a soccer fan?" And he said, "Yes." "Your team is X." And he said, "Yes." And the interviewer said, "Would you go into your soccer stadium and explode the bomb if they told you it was for the cause?" At that moment the would-be suicide bomber broke down crying and said, "No, I couldn't do that." And she said, "You know, that's your mission.” And he said, "I can't do that. I could never do that." And she said, "Why?" And he said, "Because that's my team."
So, I thought, "Hey, there's the answer." In Western society, so much of human aggression is channeled in positive ways via national and local club and college sporting events. I thought, at the end of the day, if we're going to plant the seeds of peace in these areas it should come through sport. I wrote an article in Triathlete magazine which read, "We need to defuse world tension by planting the seeds of sport in the children." It wasn't an original idea. Other people had been working on initiatives like this before. But in response I got e-mails from triathletes in various regions around the world the initiative was sparked.
Any final advice for entrepreneurs and athletes?
Align what you love with your work. That makes a dynamic difference. A successful career comes from a mindset where you don't want work to be something you have to do. You want work to be something you want to do because it's your passion. It’s your life; it’s your career. Just as Henry David Thoreau wrote, many people live lives of quiet desperation and don’t know what to do about it. I lecture at the University of San Diego, Stanford University and UCLA and I often encounter students and recent graduates who say, "Hey, I'm bored working in a cubicle."
I'll then ask them how many people work in their organization. And they'll say, "Oh, there's about 200." And I'll say, "How many do you know?" And they'll say, "Three." And so, my challenge to them is this: “Have a breakfast, a lunch, or a coffee five days a week minimum with someone new. Even if you just meet one different person in that organization every day – you can cycle through the lessons and the lifestyles and the connectivity with the 200 or 300 people that work there in a year.”
The value in a business isn't typically putting something in an envelope and mailing it to someone so they pay you something for it. The diamonds we all seek are buried in the relationships we build. Too many people go to work and simply do whatever they're told. As opposed to going to work to build connections with people that they're going to end up spending 30 percent of their day with. Interacting with others and learning the life intelligence they have garnered over the years is essential for success.
Photo-credits: Triathlete magazine