Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Ropes Course at Hot Springs

The iconic tower in the idyllic mountainside of Hotsprings -- a perfect location to hold our opening residency for our Executive MBA program.

The Ropes Course

Whoever thought that getting your MBA would require you to do anything physical? (After all, we are budding entrepreneurs not warriors, leaders not infantry recruits.)

Not least of which requires a physically challenging (and mentally stimulating) adventure in the woods.

The Outdoor Orientation Experience or more colloquially known as the "Ropes Course." was a nice break from two days of thought provoking classroom discussion.

So today, at 0900 (after stuffing in a huge three-course hot/continental breakfast), the George Washington University (GWU) EMBA Class of 2011 trekked off somewhere in the edges of the wooded Allegheny Mountains within the serene and therapeutic Homestead preserve in idyllicHot Springs, VA

We were going to take a class that didn't require powerpoint or pointers, but still had everything to do with leadership development and more.

Because the truth is, you can't learn management just in a classroom. As Charles Handy, one of the world's most influential business thinkers said,
"You can bring the world into a classroom, but you can't replicate it there."

Our first glance at the 40-foot wall -- seemed insurmountable but we were determined to conquer it.

The perfect metaphor for problem solving.

The Ropes Course is a metaphor for problem solving -- it challenges us to face our fear. The key to surviving is teamwork -- being supported and supporting.

Often in life we face obstacles in work and life. The key to responding to these obstructions is to face them head=on and to rely on the support from other people.

Team members assist each other donning our harnesses -- the one crucial piece of equipment that would ensure our safety and protection.

The Tower

The first task for many was to climb this 40-foot wall in tandem (3 to a team)

Teammates (Belay teams) yell "Climb on" and encourage our crew as they climb up together.

Almost to the top -- it's not skill as much as coaching and teamwork that will get you there.

As Marilyn, our facilitator, said, "This tower is about teamwork. We are going to have to work together to solve our problems -- the problems of the day or the problems of the next five years."

The rope handlers keeping a close eye on the team, coaching them with support and precision so that the 3-member team can climb up to the top together and then work in coordination to bring our crew the back home.

The Belay teams keep a close eye and a taut line, but they can not pull the crew up the wall. They are going to have to figure this out amongst themselves.

Note: As the climbers moves up the wall and then back down, the belayer must remove the slack from the rope by paying out or pulling in the excess.

Bringing our teammates home. Perhaps, this is the most enjoyable part of the event.

The Telephone Pole

Mike climbing up the telephone pole with ease, albeit this is actually the easy part. It's all uphill from here.

Senodja, our token Soldier, showing what it takes to maintain steady balance on a rotating disc that just wants to throw you off, if you're not looking.

The challenge here is to stand up on the rotating disc maintaining balance, and yes, poise. (After all, we're all grad students).

As Ron said, "Keep your eyes on the horizon, not the ground. The horizon appears stable. The ground is shaking."

Sam the Tarzan, leaping for the rope with finesse. Here you need to have faith that your three belay teams will keep a steady hold of the rope and then will lower you down gradually and ease.

Senodja ecstatic that the tower climb is done and she is back safely on ground.

The last part of the ropes course required two teams to balance a helium stick , a long, light rod on two index fingers and to bring it down to the ground smoothly (despite the fact that it wanted to instinctively rise up on its on like a balloon).

Mysteriously, the stick had a tendency to rise up on its own despite the force of gravity and 10 people all adding pressure to bring the stick down colletively.

Not surprisingly, the more the group tries, the more the stick floats up adding to the paranoia and to the facilitators, calm amusement.

The challenge here was to work in unison (and not point fingers at your teamworks)

So what a tremendous day -- we made it. Not only did we survive, but we learned or developed some very important leadership skill sets that we would surely come in handy in the immediate future.

Quantico, FBI Academy, BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL)-- here we come -- the EMBA Class of 2011.

"You ain't seen nothing yet."

What Else I Learned at the Five Day Retreat:

It is my desire to fully discover myself while enrolled in the Executive MBA program. First, I have a strong desire to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of conducting business in a global business environment.

Second, I want to explore creative ways how I can best explore my inner talents and interests while having fun doing it. As part of my personal vision exercise I discovered that my strengths are writing, multi-tasking and social interactions. As part of my Belbin team role questionnaire, I discovered that I am a “Resource Investigator” and “Team-worker.”

Further Explanation of Team Roles:

The Resource Investigator provides the team encouragement and enthusiasm but is also keeps a finger on the pulse of the outside world.

A Team-worker is the lubricant that keeps the team machine pistons pumping. They are diplomats, listeners, but may not be very willing to take sides in an argument.

The overlying distinction with the Belbin test over others is that it focuses on how one performs in a team environment.

In addition, based on retaking a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, I learned that I am mostly anESTP (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perception). I am enthusiastic, extroverted, resourceful, witty, gregarious and quick to take action.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Forever Friends Coz the Welcome Never Ends

Today, my friend from work, Rhett, drove me to Dewitt Army Hospital located in beautiful and scenic, Ft Belvoir. I've never been to Dewitt, and I've never had a colonoscopy.
That's right a colonoscopy at 42. But why at this age when the American Cancer Society does not recommend getting screened until you're 50 -- because my GI physician recommended I get one and I listen to doctor's advice.
COL B was energetic and in a great mood -- which was exactly the right medicine I needed from my surgeon. About this time, I was missing my coffee and even going under the camera did not rattle my nerves. I remember talking with him about the procedure or was it about pro sports . The next moment, I was injected with two tubes of med, and then without a shudder, I was sound asleep.
The procedure went well, virtually no pain, just discomfort and a lot of prodding around my belly. But I was completely knocked out on general anesthesia, and I didn't feel any pain.
The next thing I know, I wake up in the waiting room. It was over, and within minutes, Rhett came back to said 'Hi." What a great friend who waited patiently all morning -- an officer, a gentleman and a true humanitarian.
And so now I was heading home. The worst part was the prep -- submitting myself to a 24 hour fast and drinking all the colyte I could possibly ingest at 10 minute intervals to clean out my system and to remember to stay very close to the bathroom all night long.
The effects of colyte is explosive and immediate. However, I had to attend a meeting that evening, and I'm sure my friends did not appreciate my frequent trips to the restroom.
Colyte is disgusting and dreadful, but it could save lives, and it was worth every single drop.
Today, I also heard from a dear friend via Facebook (FB has a unique way to bring back old friends -- when everyone old suddenly becomes new again ). I have not seen or spoken to her for almost 25 years. Didn't know if it would be another 25 more years.
I was thrilled, until she told me that she was battling cancer -- that's when my jaw dropped, my heart sank. I thought about the colonoscopy I had earlier and how much medicine had advanced and why I'm holding up hope.
I remember the laughs the hugs the teasing the chats. I remember how she had embraced me and how she had become my family's first friends when we came over from afar.
I like her beautiful smile and winning attitude. She will defeat it -- she will WIN -- my new, rediscovered friend on Facebook.
"Because friends are friends forever and the
welcome will not end."
Miracles do happen on Facebook, Miracles do happen in God's book of Life.
Play the clip:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lessons from my First Half Iron

Bright eyed and Bushy tailed as the sun breaks over the horizon on the golden Cancun Beach of Punta Nizuc.

I awoke at 4:30 AM Sunday morning ready to take on the day. But this day would not be the same as any other day this year or last.

In fact my training regimen for no other running competition or marathon comes close to the physical and mental demands of what I've gone through the last two months.

Yes, only two months because I really haven't trained hard or hardly at all.

Thanks to my wrist surgery in July at Bethesda. Thanks to my 2 week trip to Europe in August. Thanks to starting my Executive MBA at George Washington. Thanks to blogging, real estate, and everything else that's important in my life or not but tugs on it anyway.

And life goes on. As long as I make it. As long as I don't go down seriously hurt. As long as my bike makes it there and back in one piece. And as long as I finish -- that's what matters. After all, this being my first Half Iron, there was no goal to strive for but to just finish, but respectfully, of course.

So I awoke and took a bite, a bit of breakfast in my room, wondering if what I was stuffing down my throat was sufficient nutrition to take me 70.3 miles in this blistering heat and baking Mexican sun.

Waiting in line to use the potta potty -- but wait, there's a whole ocean ahead and a whole day to waste.

(Note to those participating next year: You don't have to wait in line -- go straight to Wet N Wild and use the restrooms there.)

Waiting patiently for the start of the buzzer. Notice that there is a red cap in our mix. Some racers apparently missed their group but started with us.

The Swim

Actually I felt just about everything I ate just 2 1/2 hours before almost immediately after I jumped into the warm 79 degree bath water.

The swim was a nice beach start in Punta Nizuc adjacent to Wet and Wild Park.

You can see the back of my head (center) as I plunge into the warm, crystal-clear Caribbean.

There was about 2-3 minutes time in between each wave. My wave started at 7:13.

I was in the back of the pack in my age group but on the outside edge.

As soon as the whistle sounded, I took my time to wade in the water, seaweed and scum in the bottom got all churned up and made the water muddy and ranky.

I pushed through and after about 40 feet of wading, it was finally deep enough for me to start swimming.

Once the water started clearing up, I could see bottom, but I could also see the several other swimmers all around me -- yes, my age group was one of the largest one in the competition, and the crowded start made me feel like I was actually back home in the Metro heading to the Navy Yard before a Nats game.

Before long, the pack started to thin out -- probably because of my slow swimming technique as the heat of the pack started to peel away.

That's when I felt it -- breakfast and everything -- a huge front of a cramp like a fast moving storm swept through completely and viciously.

By then I was at the first turn buoy.

I could see one guy clutching at the buoy and then for a fleeting moment the same thought crossed my mind. This is the perfect time for me to stop, take a breather and perhaps even wave my hands in the air for dear life.

I am quitting now. Soon this Ironman would be history and I would spend the rest of the time in Cancun just lying on the beach and dissolving all my pain and frustration.

To read more about this challenging adventure, pls visit

Saturday, August 8, 2009