One-Thousand Miles

On Friday, I crossed the one-thousand mile threshold for 2014. It’s pretty neat. I started running casually about four years ago, and seriously about two years ago. The introduction of running into my routine has been nothing short of transformational. Combined with diet modification, running helped me lose, and keep off, about 35 pounds since late-2012.

One-Thousand

I alternate between honing three factors: speed, distance, and consistency. On the first front, I’ve managed to squeeze my ten-mile runs to just under 80 minutes. And distance-wise, I’ve checked off my marathon box. And so, over the last two months, I’ve worked on a few different methods of upping my consistent weekly mileage:

1. I try to push myself to a consistent range of 30-35 miles per week, allowing me to bang out a consistent minimum of about 125 miles/month.

2. I’ve upped my workout frequency from 4-5 runs per week to 6-7, even if I only increase my total mileage by three or four miles, total. Even if my work schedule is hectic, I try to keep in mind that just about everyone has a spare 30-40 minutes in their day. It’s just a matter of prioritizing. Ron Friedman put it well in his Harvard Business Review article (emphasis mine), “Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job:”

What prevents us from exercising more often? For many of us, the answer is simple: We don’t have the time. In fairness, this is a legitimate explanation. There are weeks when work is overwhelming and deadlines outside our control need to be met.

But let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.

3. Pushing my daily mileage from 5 miles to 7 miles, when possible. When time allows, I try to squeeze out an extra two miles. The extra sixteen minutes yields a huge benefit, in the long run.

4. Getting out of the house and running first thing in the morning. Everyone has different schedules and circadian rhythms. But as both a morning person and a procrastinator, I find that hitting the pavement by 7am is a great way to start my day, and avoid the distractions of emails and meetings later on.

A lot of the above goals are self-reinforcing. I’ll often find that running, say 31 miles in one week will spur me to do not less than that in the following week. I also obsessively track my runs in MapMyRun, so I have an accurate means of motivating myself. I’ve also recently noticed that Nike Running basically just tweets validating things right back at its followers, so 140 characters of inspiration are never far away.

Nike Running

The Necessity of Liberal Arts

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of business, especially technology, with liberal arts such as literature and philosophy. Despite the emergence – and necessity – of STEM studies, it is clear that the study of liberal arts informs everything from product design to supply chain management to marketing.

Steve Jobs phrased the dynamic particularly well at the 2011 iPad 2 Introduction:

There have been a few more recent articles championing the importance of literature and philosophy in the realms of leadership, business, and technology. In August, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote about the primacy of literature and reading in the lives of British political leaders like Disraeli, Gladstone, and Winston Churchill, who also, The Economist notes, dabbled in painting. Rabbi Sacks succinctly offers that:

Leaders learn. They read. They study. They take time to familiarise themselves with the world of ideas. Only thus do they gain the perspective to be able to see further and clearer than others.

In a similar vein, The Economist’s October 4 Schumpeter column argues that “business leaders would benefit from studying great writers,” and that:

You will learn far more about leadership from reading Thucydides’s hymn to Pericles than you will from a thousand leadership experts. You will learn far more about doing business in China from reading Confucius than by listening to “culture consultants”. Peter Drucker remained top dog among management gurus for 50 years not because he attended more conferences but because he marinated his mind in great books: for example, he wrote about business alliances with reference to marriage alliances in Jane Austen.

Lastly, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, is characterized by Vanity Fair as being equal parts technology and liberal arts. The article notes:

He [Nadella] quotes Nietzsche and other philosophers, but his real love is poetry, because “poets can take perhaps any philosophical point or any point of life and can compress it into a few lines,” he says. T. S. Eliot and Keats are among his favorite poets, and he also enjoys Urdu poetry. “Growing up in India, once you started engineering school you really don’t have any liberal-arts education,” he says. “Somehow I got hooked onto saying, Look, the one good way to renew yourself is to read good literature and good poetry . . .

It’s refreshing to see the emergence of a balance between the importance of STEM and the relevance of literature, even in a startup. For instance, Warby Parker’s clever name is an amalgam of two Kerouac characters. And so before one goes looking for a round of VC funding, or buys into a stock, or lays out a marketing plan, it might be worth checking out the Literature section. Paradise Lost just might describe the stock market this month.

 

 

Ritual

Coffee
The requisite Apple product + coffee overhead picture.

Today is International Coffee Day, so I decided I’d take a minute to break down the details behind my coffee addiction habit.

1. I use a Hario hand mill, a two-cup burr grinder that allows you to adjust the coarseness of the grind.

Pros: You can really tell the difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder. I also own a respectable Krups blade grinder, but there is a very discernible difference between the consistency of the grind produced by burrs and those chopped by a blade.

Cons: It takes 3-4 minutes of concerted effort to grind enough beans for one cup of coffee. This doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. I often turn on the radio and start boiling water in an electric kettle, so as to maximize my time while I grind.

2. I don’t own a coffee maker, or at least not in the usual sense. My coffee-making apparatus of choice is a $5 Melitta pourover cone. It can handle about three cups at a given time, and I’ve owned this particular one for about three years. It’s easy to clean, and simple to travel with. The filters are pretty cheap, too. I’ve tried reusable gold filters in the past, but found that they let through a bit too much of the grinds, creating a sort of silty Turkish coffee.

3. This might make me sound like a caffeinated plebeian, but I often get my beans from Costco. Their Starbucks roast is well-priced, and above all, delicious, with a bold flavor that isn’t too acidic.

4. Since the above beans come only in 2 lb. bags, I store my weekly allotment in a vacuum seal jar that originally came in a jar of olives from Costco, and the larger reserves in the freezer in a Ziploc bag.

Bringing It

Canon launched their “Bring It” campaign a few months ago, as part of the larger goal of, well, bringing SLRs to the consumer market, but for the purpose of shooting serious video, not just pictures.

Based on the content featured in the ad, it seems as though Canon is trying to go nose-to-nose with GoPro on a few different fronts, while also trying to sufficiently differentiate their product. Consider the following:

1. Canon first seeks to establish its credibility as the professional-level camera company. GoPros are renowned for their incredible convenience and flexibility, but no one buys it for the quality of its lenses. Canon knows this, and so they’re going for the quality, rather than convenience, route.

2. No single video clip in the commercial is shot indoors. In fact, the entire latter half of the commercial is comprised of stock-video sort of outdoor shots: flower petals expanding with the sun, a red sports car doing ninety, tourists skipping through Mayan ruins, a skier flipping in midair – even a sheep breaking into a gallop. Kind reminds you of a certain extreme sports camera company, doesn’t it?

3. Canon’s pitch isn’t “this is footage we’ve taken.” Rather, it’s what you, the consumer, brought to us. Much like GoPro, which is as much – or more – about the content generated by its legions of fans under the #GoPro umbrella than it is about its hardware, Canon seeks to tap into the idea of consumer empowerment by way of hashtag. #BringIt bears the same aspirational idea as #GoPro. It is a call to action, and an encouragement to share your (preferably outdoorsy) videos with the larger likeminded community of video enthusiasts.

Canon knows its cameras will never be as small or as light or as portable as a GoPro. But they also don’t want to compete on that front, since no skier will ever strap an SLR to their helmet. And Canon knows, as does GoPro, that it’s only a matter of time before an iPhone in a ruggedized case and a harness replaces a GoPro. It will take more time before the iPhone unseats the SLR. And so Canon is striving to make the conversation about quality, as a means of bringing the consumer upmarket – to spend, say $2,500 on an EOS Canon 5D Mark III – rather than miniaturize their own camera and compete on GoPro’s level. It’s certainly an interesting competition. I just might video it.

Update: I’m also waiting for more lens options, much like Olloclip or the new Moment lenses. But I think we’ll have to see a jump in the quality of camera sensors aboard phones. That new Panasonic phone/camera may herald something.