Space, Time

Racing. The space around you when you have the whole lane to yourself, no other kids in front or behind you like in the crowded practice sessions. The space you create in the quiet, bright process of pushing your body’s limits.

I was about 9 in that picture. I was squinting at the clock to see my race time. In that exact moment, which I can still remember vividly, I was in transition between the fluid, moving space of the race itself and the walled space that time and numbers create. Was it a personal record? How much faster can I go next time? What are the other kids’ times?

I was a Loveland (Colorado) Lightning Bolt, hence the marker-red, temporary tattoo on my arm. Racing was such a pure form of fun. I loved it. I still do.


10 years go by, pushing the body every day. You get strong. You get injured. You ice the sore shoulders. You keep going. You get run down. It’s still about that perfect moment in every race when it’s quiet, and you’re winning, and you love the movement which is all you are. But more and more, it has been about numbered time in all its facets: age, place, level, qualification. It’s also about past and future, and less about the present.

I was a privileged kid. I was a student-athlete at a great college. I am still, by most measures, privileged. But something happened after those final swim races when I was 19, 20, 21, 22. Ice packs wouldn’t fix it. I burned out on the things I had loved. That space, which was the best gift I had, closed in. I would spend the next 10 years in a very self-limited zone. I didn’t use my body. I wasn’t really growing. The emotions I had built up for use in the pool no longer had an outlet, so they ruled my life like ivy swallowing a building.

The more I focused on time, the more of it I lost. At about age 33 or 34, I finally started to see a lane that could work for me. I started moving again.

Today, I’ve rediscovered a love of racing and especially of space. I have the opportunity today to build more of it, and not only for myself this time.

My co-founder and I, we’re building it for others.

It’s a good lane to be in.



Water is just a tough medium. There’s no getting around it. It’s a matter of moving straight through. It’s a matter of keeping your head down or, to be more precise, keeping it in line with your body so you don’t give yourself any more work than the water is already giving you.

I spent 2 to 4 hours a day in the pool, year-round, from age 8 to 23. I first jumped in because one of my older sisters was on the swim team and it looked like fun. It never really stopped being fun, although the emotional cadence of the sport went through many cycles over the 15 years. Results ebbed and flowed. Bonds with teammates grew and paused and grew again. My best friends today are mostly my old swimming buddies.

There are a couple rowers and cyclists in that circle, too. I got into rowing as a cross-training method during college. I experimented with triathlons. I remember my first day-long bike ride with a rowing friend who had spent as much time on his road bike as I had in the pool. I bonked. I was in good shape but the way that machine keeps your legs moving, far beyond what you thought your body could do … I had never really experienced that before.

I’m 37 and I haven’t put my competition days behind me yet. I don’t have a family of my own. My parents are healthy. I have a flexible schedule. I train all the time, and I actually think I’m a better athlete than I ever was in my teens, my twenties.

Part of this is barbell training, which I only added to the mix a year ago. It has made me far less vulnerable to injuries, especially lower back stuff.

Part of it is psychological training and the accumulation of knowledge. I know what recovery is. And I know what drives me.

A larger part of what keeps me training hard, however, is community. I feel more connected than I used to feel, during those years when I was head down in the pool. More connected with the relatively small but globally significant subset of human beings who know deep down that endurance is life. I believe endurance humans are the strongest humans, the smartest humans. Even if they are a little crazy.

If you can move through water, you can move through anything. If you can just keep moving, through whatever medium you’re in, life always gets better. The contribution I want to make to this world is showing more and more people exactly why that is true.


You want in. As a man, as a woman. You want the right match. In your gut, in your tribe, in your company.

You need to pay the bills. You need to keep the lights on. But you gotta get out of the office every now and then, too. You gotta find the time for some exercise.

Health – it really is wealth.

“Fit” means you’re hired. It mean partnership. It means your team can succeed and it means every part of the whole is moving well.

It’s one of those words we use a lot, in many contexts. We think we know the meaning.

Then one day, you’re fired. You’re dumped. You wake up and see a misfit. A body you don’t love. You wonder if you are big enough, small enough, smart enough, fit enough.

You are. You can be. You are.

Breakups, Breakthroughs

Movement. Ceaseless change. Growth to the point where growth isn’t possible anymore – nobody involved can see a clear path to a bigger place, a larger share of the rather closely held pie.

Breakup. A choice: Which shards do you keep? Which contain the most life and the most potential for regrowth?

A breakthrough. Some opinion floats in from a nearly anonymous source. Some previously unknown cord of the body, the spirit or the organization wakes up.

In other words, it isn’t the ego – the individual – who finds it. It’s the group. The successful business leader only articulates it. The record-setting athlete only manages to recruit the right cells, at the right time, with all the diverse input from a lifetime in the sport and the many competitors she has faced.

I want to reframe breakthroughs as collective experiences, and I want to increase their frequency. A buddy and I are starting with the field of athletic performance. We just launched a Facebook page to promote the idea. We’ll be pulling groups of athletes together for in-person performance panels in each of our respective cities – Boulder and Stockholm.

It will be mental as much as physical, and I think there’s a viable business in this effort as well. Forward movement will generate the data and the answers.



Year 1 of Maine Startup And Create Week, my primary volunteer commitment, was mainly about making some noise. Year 2 (2015, party picture above) brought a little more focus to the idea that this conference can help solve business challenges and generate support for Maine startups. This year, we are building all our programming around problem-solving, innovation and the kind of business growth that can have a true impact on the economy.

We have not forgotten, however, that it’s still all about that noise. That buzz.

Buzz fosters connections between people who otherwise wouldn’t talk. Connections, in turn, solve problems.

Buzz helps with audience acquisition for a business. Audiences, if handled well, become customers and mavens.

Buzz – for me, at least – seems to be the best kind of white noise. It shakes you out of your existing thought patterns and frees you up to be creative.

The best buzz isn’t digital, though. It’s in-person. The ideal room we have in mind for MSCW 2016 sessions will be 40 founders and 30 or 40 super-talented workers who haven’t yet started their own businesses, plus a few dozen passionate investors, advocates and consultants. We call it the ecosystem.

Join the party! Early summer in Maine is awesome.

Big Brain, Little Brain

The boss, an emotional guy, announces he has a stomach ulcer just a week or two before announcing the elimination of jobs. The timing is not mere coincidence. Causality, however, may flow in a different direction than we are used to thinking.

More and more literature says the gut and the central nervous system are linked in circular fashion. The gut’s nerves – all together, the size of a cat’s brain – play no small role in guiding our decisions and actions. Not only do we reach for the Mexican Wedding Cookies when we should reach for a salad, but we also steer lives and businesses by what the area below our hearts and above our hips is telling us.

My best interactions in the business world have been when I generate a sort of authenticity and insight that feels like it is emerging from the heart, a combination of head and gut, big brain and little brain. It’s the seat of growth and openness.



There are city problems and there are all other problems. Being on an adventure – especially outdoors, I find – reminds you that the city problems are smaller. They are, historically and psychologically, byproducts of our solutions to larger challenges, such as health, safety, warmth and navigation.

The city saves us from most of that, but it also brings us closer together – sometimes in problematic ways. We start hunting for a fix.

Work is just that. It’s a hunt. The first city job I loved was being a library assistant at the American Alpine Club, where I got to read books about the roots of mountaineering. Originally, it was people needing to climb higher for their animal quarry. For their food.

Last weekend I was on my annual trip to the summit of Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak (picture above). I didn’t find any food up there, other than what I brought along. But it did clear my head.

I returned to the city on a hunt for the right problems.


I’m planning to spend most of the next 3 or 4 months searching for a business partnership. If you’re reading this, in fact, it may be because you and I already had coffee, lunch or a beer to discuss ideas.

I bring creativity, connections and a charismatic-but-stable form of leadership. You bring the latter, plus a greater depth in technology (defined as making things). We’ll both need to sell.

Or perhaps you have an existing business – a small shop that’s ready to grow. If it’s a marketing agency, that’s OK. If it’s a media or tech company, that’s OK, too. If you want to brew beer or otherwise contribute to a better world, we are getting warmer.

The point is, it’s time to build something. I have done the go-it-alone thing. Partnership is the way I want to go next.


Letting others in is creative. We are transparent, to varying degrees, with clients, reports, patients and colleagues. This act enables sales, relationships, knowledge and efficiency.

Like any creative act, transparency is risky. Will we scare them off? What do we say next? How much more of the story will we have left to tell?

But work is not storytelling – or if it is, it’s the type of storytelling that looks like a daily journey to the bottom of the well. Draw up everything you have, and put it all to use.

When you turn off your screens tonight they will go opaque. You’ll get your rest and possibly dream – more opacity. You’ll wake up and clear your head with a shower and maybe some exercise, put on your work clothes and push through the double glass doors at the office. You’ll start your hours of opening up.


This quality or emotion was overemphasized for quite a while. Now it’s underemphasized. Business people bounce around. Employers struggle to determine where their loyalty best resides – with clients or with staff. Instead of taking a decision, they allow the struggle to continue.

A vertical core through heart, mind and muscle, loyalty provides the strength to face forward and persevere. If that sounds stilted, it’s because we have lost the sense of how important these qualities are for business outcomes.

Then there are loyalty cards – tiny, plastic relics of that ancient, deeper connection between values and outcomes. I sort of like them. Flash the card, cut to a more realistic price, thank your shopkeeper. Return card to billfold, lift the bag, breathe and walk out through the big, glass doors.