The running tourist returns to New Orleans

“An American has not seen the United States until they have seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans”.

(Mark Twain)

Returned to New Orleans for the 2020 Rock N Roll Half Marathon in early February.  This was my third year running the race and I enjoyed the adventures of being a running tourist again this year.  The weather was warmer than normal for February but not too bad where runners couldn’t finish.

Decided to take full advantage of the running tourism available in a city with so much culture and things to see.  Of course, food is a major attraction in New Orleans, and I made sure I got to sample from different locations while visiting.

Rock N Roll EXPO

The EXPO was a little bigger this year with new vendors and products to try or take with you for use later.  Always exciting to see the other runners at the EXPO.  People from all over the world converging with the same mindset to run and enjoy their time in New Orleans.  The live DJ was a new twist at the EXPO but fit with the New Orleans experience.

Got to take a few pictures prior to picking up my race bib, t-shirt and goodies.  This is a highlight while visiting the EXPO—you’ve got to get your picture taken with the multiple props the Rock N Roll folks provide.  The giant Brooks running sneaker was a new feature to the EXPO this year—created a long line to get next to that sneaker.

Made my way through registration and the Rock N Roll merchandise shopping area—didn’t purchase any new gear this year.  Sampled some B12 drinks provided by vendors and stocked up on Energy Jellybeans for use before the race.  I’ve tried these before so no fear of a bad stomach reaction; I never try new things before a race so I don’t experience stomach issues–lesson learned. 😊

My favorite vendor at the EXPO provided massage chairs for use.  Of course, they wanted to sell some of the chairs, but I was able to get a FREE 15-minute chair massage and enjoyed every minute of it.  This was an added benefit of attending the EXPO.

“It’s rude to count people as you pass them.  Out loud”.

(Adidas ad)

Rock N Roll Half

My hotel was only two blocks away from the start line this year so got a little extra sleep on race day.  Race time temperatures normally start in the mid-40s this time of year, but racers were greeted with high-50s and humidity prior to the start.  This meant we were in for a race finish much warmer than most of us wanted.

I was pleasantly surprised my race corral was #2 this year.  I remember my first Rock N Roll race had me in corral #24 so looks like I’m moving up in the world. 😊  The New Orleans course is flat and mostly shady which helps when the sun comes out.

Decided to enjoy the course and scenery during the first half of the race—didn’t push my pace to let the other runners thin out a bit around me.  The first mile is always the toughest for me because you’re surrounded by so many people.  Had to display a new level of patience knowing I could make up time later in the race due to training progress and enhanced fitness levels.

A good portion of the half marathon takes place on St. Charles Avenue which is lined with homes, shops and restaurants.  It’s a rich environment for spectators to cheer runners and provide additional encouragement.  This area feels like New Orleans to me and I enjoyed the scenery while making my way through the city.

It’s always great when we get to see the ELITE runners on the opposite side of St. Charles Ave. after they make the turn to head back towards the Warehouse District–this is the only time we get to see the ELITES until the finish line.  They are impressive to watch run!

We made our way through the Warehouse District then into the French Market before ending at Roosevelt Mall in City Park.  The French Market is always full of people eating breakfast who come out to cheer for the runners.  This provides a little more inspiration to finish—please note, there’s no shade here and it started to get hot quickly so people cheering was appreciated!

Was able to lock in mentally at this point and trust my training to get me to the finish line.  Took my last energy gel at Mile 11 and decided to enjoy my experience, the scenery and the other runners and pushed forward.  Even high fived a few spectators who lined the streets to cheer for us—this was a fun day!

Completed the half in 2:07:34 which was 3 minutes faster than I ran in 2019.  Not bad for the first race of the year and the temperature. Full disclosure, this was my second fastest half marathon so I’m extremely happy to start running season with a bang.  Got two full months to prepare for Nashville in April.  Another highlight of the Rock N Roll weekend is a new event added to the 2020 calendar—Clearwater, Florida in October.  Excited to have a home state race on the calendar!  Got my early bird registration in for Clearwater to take advantage of the low price.  Should be fun!

Chicken and Waffles again!

Raved about the chicken and waffles at the Creole House last year and had to try the dish again this year.  They did not disappoint!  This is still one of my favorite stops in New Orleans. The food, service and atmosphere are first rate and highly recommend the Creole House if you plan to visit New Orleans.

Found a worthy competitor for the Creole House at Daisy Mae’s.  Daisy Mae’s is on a side street most tourist may not venture down.  Got lucky because it was one street over from my hotel and I noticed the locals going in and out.  Decided it was worth a visit and I was not disappointed with my choice.  I’m not a food critic but would recommend EVERYONE stop by Daisy Mae’s for the chicken and waffles.  I’m not a huge spicy food eater but the spice on the fried chicken was amazing—spicy but not over the top.  I love the Creole House, but Daisey Mae’s has made it on my must visit list too.  Please be patient, they cook chicken as it’s ordered so the wait can be 15 – 20 minutes but well worth it!

Won’t bore you with French Quarter recaps—I drank, listened to great music and took in the Bourbon Street scene multiple times.  Always an eye-opening experience!

Looking to expand my running tourism reach in 2020—got some new cities lined up to visit and enjoy while running.  Who’s with me?

 

Where are you running in 2020?  Where have you always wanted to go but have not been yet?  What’s holding you back?  Get out there and Walk into the Future!

“I run so my goals in life get bigger instead of my belly”.

(Bill Kirby)

 

Planting seeds in Orlando to grow new trees!

Planting seeds at UCF

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

“To move forward, you have to give back”.

(Oprah Winfrey)

My Walk into the Future provides me with flexibility to work on projects in multiple locations.  I consider myself a running tourist but can also travel and work in different locations with others when needed.

I’ve worked on projects for the Seminole Tribe of Florida (Immokalee), Intern Pursuit podcasts (Orlando), Salvation Army (Tallahassee), Mastering College to Career podcasts (Orlando), individual clients (Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando and DC), Tallahassee Community College (Tallahassee), MLK event Keynote (Jasper) and the University of Central Florida (Orlando).

Each project had a different audience and expected outcomes which is exciting to me.  Picking these projects allow me to hone my skills and continue to grow as I extend my reach and grow new tree branches.

“Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give”.

(Unknown)

My project with UCF was especially rewarding because I was invited to train a group of student workers by an active tree branch.  We have worked together for the past 10 years—first at UCF, then at FSU and now again at UCF.  Full disclosure, this tree branch worked directly for me at FSU.

I conducted team building training for her student workers at FSU and she wanted to bring the same training to UCF as a part of their enhanced student professional development program.  An extra bonus for me conducting the UCF training is my niece, Jayla, is a current student worker in the UCF Career Center and would be a participant.  This was her first time to see me working with students instead of hearing about my work.  Think she came away proud of her uncle! 😊

These opportunities allow me to give back and help the next generation Walk into the Future.  Love the energy I get when standing in front of motivated college students.  Believe the energy they put out helps me find another gear when presenting material to them.  They inspire me to get better daily.

This workshop was designed to help the student workers understand the importance of working within the team environment.  We also touched on how they can still be individuals but can’t let this hinder the overall function of the team.  Example, someone who is naturally quiet will still have to speak publicly in a customer service environment.  We explored understanding differences and how to find strengths in others to ensure work is being accomplished in a proper manner.

We were also able to leverage communication styles and techniques to enhance workplace interactions.  The students were well versed in how their personalities can impact interactions with peers, faculty and staff.  We utilized their knowledge to build team dynamics and translate this information directly to their respective roles in the Career Center.

Team building is not a formal course of study and takes time to implement.  Believe getting students engaged in understanding team building dynamics early will translate directly to their work and life experiences after college.  It also creates a strong foundation they can utilize while in school—group projects, presentations, fraternity/sorority life, student government, etc.

We can all sharpen our team building skills—this workshop is my way to keep this important workplace tool growing.  I was able to plant seeds during this presentation and look forward to watching the new trees grow in the future.  Several students have reached out via LinkedIn and I’m actively mentoring them to help reach their respective goals.  One of the students that reached out works for another tree branch in Orlando—small world!

What are your favorite team building tools?  How does your organization ensure team building is a strong component for growth?  (Respond in the comments section—thanks!)

Thanks for walking with me!

“As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands – one for helping yourself and the other for helping others”.

(Audrey Hepburn)

UCF Training

Master the art of public speaking

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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death. Death is number two.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

(Jerry Seinfeld)

Public speaking is difficult, public speaking is scary, public speaking is not my strong skill.

I hear these and similar things daily when talking with people about public speaking. I’m sure I had similar thoughts when I started my journey standing in front of people to speak.  The good thing about the fear of public speaking is all your fears can be overcome.  Trust me, if I can get over the fear of standing in front of people and talking, everyone can.

My first exposure to public speaking came as part of my instructor role when I was in the Air Force.  My actual job knowledge (data analyst) was needed to train the next generation of Air Force data analyst.  I was forced to come out of my natural introvert shell and learn how to engage a room full of students who depended on me to help them grow professionally.  No pressure, huh?

“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about”.

(Michael H. Mescon)

I learned the more I practice the less nervous I am when I stand in front of groups.  Decided to always err on the side of overpreparation as oppose to being underprepared for speaking engagements.  I constantly review notes, transitions and potential questions I may receive during every speaking engagement.

I view anticipating questions, lulls and technical difficulties as war games.  I find it easier to overcome these things by acknowledging they can pop up at any point.  This additional groundwork helps me get comfortable before and during my speaking engagement.  I still get nervous but know I can handle the task because of my preparation.

Researching the organization and people you’re speaking to helps you learn more about the audience so a tailored approach can be taken.  This helps when incorporating examples and stories into a speech.  Knowledge of the organization and audience helps generate talking points that fit so you can connect with them.  I also target specific audience members based on my research.  A quick LinkedIn search can provide an inside nugget I can use to connect with an audience member and seems to put others at ease because I took the time to learn more about them.  This simple rapport building technique can be leveraged to help alleviate anxiety as well.

The ability to read the room is another critical component for public speakers.  There will be times when you will need to adjust to match the emotions, reactions and body language of your audience.  I go into every speaking engagement with a plan of action but because of practice, anticipation and knowledge of the group, I’m able to adjust on the fly (if needed).

I don’t put a lot of written content on slides to avoid limiting myself without a way to pivot if needed.  I started incorporating key words and pictures into my presentations to focus attention back to me—the presenter.  This always provides me with a pivot channel since I’m not tied to slide verbiage.  The key words and/or pictures are used to guide me through the presentation.  Practice provides the foundation to make this process work when standing in front of an audience.

Nonverbal communication can make or break your presentation.  I make a point not to carry anything in my hands (pen/paper/etc.) except the audiovisual clicker.  I try to put the clicker down until I need it to transition to the next slide.  Carrying objects can distract your audience and I’ve seen these things distract the presenter as well.

Eye contact with audience members helps convey confidence and credibility as a subject matter expert.  Speaking rate, pitch and effective use of pauses can help keep the audience members engaged and wanting to hear more from the speaker.  I learned the benefits of audience engagement during my speaking roles in the Air Force and continue to add more tools to my speaking toolkit daily.  Don’t be afraid to move around when speaking—this really conveys confidence but should be done with purpose.  Too much moving looks like you’re trying to get away from them. 😊

These are a few things I’ve used to help eliminate speaking anxiety.  Please note, I still get nervous, but I use my nerves to help fuel my public speaking.  The one thing I ensure happens when speaking is to have fun.  Might as well enjoy myself while I’m standing in front of a group—having fun seems to counteract anxiety and I’m able to press forward.  Try it the next time you must speak in public!

    • FYI: Don’t forget the impact Walk up Music can have on public speaking:

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2018/11/22/walk-up-music

What techniques do you use to overcome speaking anxiety?  How do you prepare for big speaking roles in your work environment?

Thanks for walking with me!

“Speech is power:  speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TCC presentation

Walk into the Future deep dive

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“I blog because I’m not a good rapper”.

(Anonymous)

Why I blog

Being a lifelong learner is a badge of honor I wear proudly!

I’m always looking for ways to improve myself (mentally and physically) and have a passion for reading.  I realize podcasts present a popular medium for people to receive information and learn.  I listen to a few, mostly sports related but still gravitate to blogs to expand my world view and learn from others.

I started the Walk into the Future blog on May 21, 2018 as a creative outlet for myself and to share my views, adventures and expertise with anyone willing to read my words.

The Walk into the Future title is my way to embrace the future and showcase the courage to move forward in life.  Didn’t know who or how many people would be interested in me chronicling my adventures or sharing my views but I’m pleasantly surprised to keep growing a small following via the Word Press platform.  I smile every time I receive a comment or like on my posts—lets me know people are reading my work and I’m connecting with them.

I focus blog posts on things I see, do, have interest/knowledge and topics from tree branches.

Started requesting input from tree branches because I’m walking with them daily and want to capture topics of interests to help them as well.  This process keeps me energized as I research topics and learn in order to write a blog article.  Please keep sending me ideas and I will work to incorporate your inputs into the blog rotation—thanks!

Note:  if you haven’t seen your topic published it’s because I’m still working/researching for content—it’s coming!

When I blog

My research on blogs identified the most successful bloggers maintain a consistent posting schedule.  Some bloggers post multiple times a day, once a day, once or twice a week, monthly, etc.  Everyone agrees the key is consistency so readers know when articles will be posted.  Adjustments can be made (holidays, vacation, etc.) but it helps to set a schedule and stick to it.

I decided to post once per week on Thursdays.  Believe I’ve only missed two Thursdays since I started—was having fun in Jamaica and Christmas week 2019! 😊  Thursdays give me additional editing time during the week so I can fine tune articles prior to publishing.  I’ve contemplated posting multiple times per week but decided against it—hope my followers look forward to a weekly article without bombarding their inbox multiple times each week.  Also, this gives me more time to research and write content without feeling pressure from a self-imposed deadline.

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back”.

(Babe Ruth)

How I blog

My goal is to always have two months’ worth of articles in my Walk into the Future vault.  Most of these articles are not fully developed but provide a shell I can go back to and edit over time.

I normally post the articles in the order of creation but allow myself flexibility to move things around especially after I travel—I don’t like posting about an actual event (vacation, half marathon, etc.) months later so I move those articles up in the rotation.  Soapbox moments or topics can get moved up in the rotation depending on how hot it is to me.

I write about things that pique my interest, travel locations, leadership topics and ask tree branches for things they would like to read about.  I maintain a growing list of potential topics alongside the two months’ worth of written articles in my vault.  I currently have 37 potential topics I still must research, vet and then develop into a published Walk into the Future article.

Thanks to everyone that provided me with topics you’re interested in.

Blog articles start with a potential topic.  I then look for quotes and images to help generate inspiration for what I want to write about.  The next step is to research the topic to make sure I can bring a personal approach to the article.  The last step is for me to sit down and write the article.  When inspired I normally write an article (draft) in one sitting and then go back to check content and edit.  (FYI, this article was started on 11/5/19.) I adjust the title and make final edits the week the article gets published.  Don’t know how others produce and publish content but this process works for me. 😊

Updated blog stats:

Here’s a snapshot of what has been happening behind the scene for the Walk into the Future blog:

Walk into the future blog stats

Excited to enter my second full year as a blogger!  Look forward to continuing to develop content others want to read and engage with me.  This platform helps me on my journey to Walk into the Future.

Thanks for walking with me!

What is your favorite Walk into the Future blog topic so far?  How has the Walk into the Future blog impacted your daily interactions?  Curious!

Looking to incorporate guest bloggers in 2020!  More information to follow—thinking about Guest Blogger Fridays.

“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust”.

(Jason Calacanis)

happy-new-year-2020

People are more important than the job description (My soapbox)

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“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”.

(Andy Stanley)

So, need to vent for a minute.

Continue to see and hear across multiple industries where the boss makes job description modifications (additions/deletions/unit changes) without discussing with the person doing the actual job.  The boss is then surprised when staff decide to find a work environment that views them as more than the job description.

Please note, I’m not saying changes can’t be made to a specific job description.  Organizational missions change and updating duties, responsibilities and unit structure provides growth needed to move forward.  Leaders need to ensure the people tasked with getting things accomplished remain a part of the overall process.  Imagine the favorite part of your current position is removed and nothing was said to you prior to implementation.  How would you feel?

I know leaders who make decisions based on how the job description is written and refuse to consider the impact on the person in the position.  Never agreed with this logic and still don’t.  People are more important than the job description!

The authentic leadership variable balanced processing would help in these situations.  My research identified balanced processing as the variable that best explains job satisfaction for direct reports.  They want to be involved and should be.

Leaders are encouraged to seek and find the big picture before making decisions.  Simply identifying potential job description changes would allow staff to provide input before the final product is created.  Balanced processing is leveraged to build trust, encourage professional growth for direct reports and provides a foundational and reliable decision-making process.  It also signals all opinions are valued and expected.  The concept eliminates personal bias from the decision-making process, everyone in the organization has input prior to the final decision.  Again, people are more important than the job description!

I continue to promote the authentic leadership model because it can help create positive workplace outcomes and improve organizational performance.  It may also stop workplace turnover and get me off this overworked soapbox!

Okay, I’m dropping the microphone and stepping down from my soapbox. 😊

black microphone
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How does your work environment ensure people are not overlooked?  Does your leadership put job descriptions ahead of the people doing the job?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team”.

(Stephen Covey)

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Take the meeting—unlimited opportunities are waiting for you

flat lay photography of macbook pro beside paper
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“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade”.

(Tom Peters)

My current Walk into the Future allows me to constantly look for opportunities to impact others and make a difference in this world.  My why was identified in June 2018 — to impact people in a positive way to leave them better than when I found them.  To stay consistent with my why I make a point to take meetings from everyone who requests a sit down with me.  Taking meetings is a form of reaching back to help someone else and it helps me continue to build tree branches.

Received a request via LinkedIn last week from someone I knew from my former role at FSU–we sat in several meetings together but never engaged much after the meetings were done.  Fast forward a year and a mutual friend suggested we get together because we both are making a difference in the world (different focus areas) and he thought it would be good for two like minded people to sit down.  Opportunities are all around us!

I happily accepted the meeting and let my new tree branch select the date, time and location.  We were able to quickly identify this meeting should have taken place a long time ago.  Sometimes career ambitions AND life get in the way of two people sitting down to talk about life, plans and focus.  Discovered quickly we have similar passions to help others in their walk into the future.  Shared my why with him and several of the projects (blog included) I like to work on and how my why guides my daily interactions.

I was able to listen with intent during our time together.  What I heard from him was a need to generate/identify a why to create the foundational model for his work.  Leveraged how creating my why gave me a renewed focus and helps drive my efforts.

The why concept was well received during our time together and resonated with my new tree branch.  It wasn’t rocket science, but I was able to listen to him and help strategize a way to gain the focus needed to take his operation to the next level.

My takeaways from our meeting:

  • Opportunity to help someone expand their message / focus
  • Opportunity to add another branch to my growing tree
  • Opportunity to share my why and leverage it in real time (application not just a theory)
  • Opportunity for future networking / interactions with a new tree branch
  • Opportunity to watch a branch grow and move towards goals
  • Opportunity for me to learn from someone doing great things in the world
  • Opportunity for me to continue to grow

So, when presented with an opportunity to take a meeting, go ahead and meet.  You may be able to help someone find exactly what they need for success.  You may also make a new friend which is awesome on its own.  Stay available to opportunities around you, they may provide the compass needed for your Walk into the Future!

Note:  I have taken 3 additional meetings since I originally wrote this article.  They have all been beneficial and I’ve added more branches to my tree.  Always looking for continued growth.

How open are you to accepting a meeting request from someone?  What benefits would taking this meeting have on your growth?  Curious, thanks!

“Keep your mind open to opportunities. They are closer than you think”.

(PictureQuotes.com)

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Set the Standard with your Core Truth

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“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”.

(Audre Lorde)

I was introduced to Audre Lorde’s work through the 1999 movie, The Best Man.  The two characters in the scene were trying to decide how to proceed with their relationship when the quote above was introduced.  It provided a moment of clarity and highlighted commonality the characters unknowingly had with each other—they both used this quote in their daily lives.

The quote has been with me ever since because it resonates a strong sense of self that leads to empowerment.  I leverage the quote to highlight doing things differently than others is okay—everyone has a different path to walk daily.

My presentation and writing styles are uniquely me.  There are times people will ask how I generate presentation materials and then look at me like I’m an alien when I explain it.  Again, I stay true to me and my preferred methods because they work for me.  When I try to generate content in a manner that doesn’t fit me, I struggle, so decided not to go down that road anymore.

Had to explain this process when presented with a potential speaking role that would have taken me out of ‘character’ for who I am.  The opportunity was very appealing from a surface level but would have required me to present in a style that is not really me.  Could I have faked it?  Probably, but I wouldn’t have been happy with me and I’m sure this fact would have bled into the actual presentation of material.  Decided a long time ago to stay true to my core truth to avoid being eaten alive.

“Being the best for yourself is how you can be the best for others”.

(Jennifer Mergen)

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Discovering your core truth can be used in other areas of life.  I recommend once you discover your core truth then stick with it.  I described the BIG GULP phenomenon in an earlier post—this concept is incorporated within my core truth—I never do business or move forward with a project that makes me take a big gulp.  This concept has saved me on multiple occasions and kept me from doing something I would regret.

I’m not saying people cannot evolve over time.  Continued learning and growing are integral parts to personal and professional success.  The core truths you define for yourself provide an actual road map to how you view and deal with others.  Don’t let outside influences ‘eat you alive’.

Had an interesting conversation yesterday about defining a core truth leadership style.  Believe this provides a foundation that will allow a leader to adjust and help direct reports grow.  My leadership core truth is authentic leadership but I’m well-versed in other leadership styles if/when authentic leadership principles are not effective for the current situation.  I’ve never yelled or cursed to prove I’m a leader.  People who do are poor leaders—my opinion.

What things do you consider when defining your core truth?  What areas in your professional life can establishing a core truth enhance your work environment?  Interested in your thoughts—thanks!

“None but ourselves can free our minds”.

(Bob Marley)