Who Says No To A Challenge?

I rarely do. Which is exactly what started me on my 60-day health journey titled The Whole Life Challenge (WLC).

My friend from Oakland, technically Lafayette, Tom, introduced me to the program. It should be noted that Tom and I share many similar likenesses.  Enjoyment of exercise, hiking, both slightly type A and generally in the same place in our lives.  After getting past about 12 hours of lamenting about the $50 price tag that came along with 8-weeks of a strict diet, one with no sugar, impact to my exercise habits, mandatory stretching (or lack thereof)), and other touchy-feely stuff (yoga, meditating, journaling), I decided to take a leap.  A shake-up to my daily routine was exactly what I needed.  This last point might be debated by someone I share a life with and has a name that rhymes with bendy.  I was courteous enough to warn Cindy of the impact and potential annoyance this might pose to said life-sharer before entering my payment information on the WLC website.  Once entered, I took Tom’s advice and sought out some local support to do it with me. After unsuccessfully trying to rope in Cindy, I conned, uhh, convinced a few close local friends to join me.  I’m thankful for having their support during the challenge.

My First Impression

I thought this would be a simple three-five day juice cleanse-type activity. Maybe some yoga and an inspirational daily quotes to boot.  I’m on board with those kind of things – truth-be-told, I do them already.  I also thought maybe it will hold me accountable for my nightly 8:30pm dessert raid (think phylo dough dipped in refined sugar in the most desperate of times).  While contemplating doing this in the first few hours of hearing about it, the item that tipped me to jump in was what the organizers wrote about regarding habits. They emphasized the difference between making and breaking a habit.  Basically, 21 days to form a new habit and at least twice that time to break an old one. My sugar addiction was not I was going to break without drastic measures.  This 8-week challenge was exactly what I needed.

So What Is The Whole Life Challenge?

To this day when I think of it I conjure up an image of two guys on a beach in California dressed like Hari Krishnas staring off into the sunset with long hair and sandals.  I have no explanation for why.  There are rules.  Many rules.  Maybe too many.  There are also 7 key habits:

  1. Nutrition – eat well.  Channel your inner Pollan – “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.”  Oh yeah, and lose the dairy, sugar, breads and alcohol.  This is no game for the faint of heart.  Being a veggie, finding protein was also mildly concerning in the early days.  Basically for me it was the Paleo diet without the meat.  Quinoa, beans, protein powder quickly became my best friends.  Snacks largely meant fruit or smoothies.  I also grew quite fond of a homemade chocolate coconut balls recipe I found on the interwebs. Lastly, I did collect a few keeper recipes to use if you decide to join me in September.  They are here on Cindy’s Pinterest.
  2. Exercise – 15 minutes a day minimum.  2-3 days off in the 8 weeks.  A nice habit to have.  Easy-peasy.
  3. Mobility – this is stretching.  AKA, my kryptonite.  I forced it like peas in the mouth of a 3 year old.  It wasn’t pretty, also a lot like peas in the mouth of a 3-year old.  Am I more limber?  Nope.  Will I keep trying?  Probably not.  But I aspire to.
  4. Supplementation – for me, Mr. Office Schlep, this means vitamin D, a probiotic washed down daily w/ warm lemon water.  No problem – was doing it before WLC hit me like a freight train.  This one will continue to be a habit.  You’re welcome Florida Citrus Mutual.  You’re welcome.
  5. Hydration – Hi my name is Jason.  I am chronically dehydrated.  Or was.  Now I wake at 3am to pee.  Not sure which is worse.  Prior to WLC I was hitting about 24-30 ounces of liquids a day.  No joke.  Basically raisins look at me and say, “how ’bout a glass of water, wrinkles?”  After the WLC, I’m easily hitting 80 ounces which is still on the low side given my exercise level.  Baby steps.  New habit forming.
  6. Lifestyle practice – this mean you do whatever the WLC peeps tell you to do.  Some weeks they said “meditate” and I meditated.  Or they said “write letters to people” and I wrote.  They also said “share time with people daily”, “be happy” and “get more sleep.”  And I did it.  Hokey, hippie stuff?  Yep.  Did I like it?  I sure did.
  7. Reflection – take notes daily.  This is where having friends do this on your team really was fun.  I enjoyed seeing the fun quick notes they’d write online and the trials they were going through during the 8 weeks.  As much as I talked about a diet of beans, I have a few teammates who are fixated on pretzels.  It was pretty funny and at times inspiring – made me want to be a better person.  Ok, no more channeling my inner Gump.  But it did.  And I liked it.

One more thing, the had a list of foods you could eat and foods you couldn’t eat.  A comprehensive list.  Never once did they talk portions or sizes of meals.  Rarely was I full.  In the early days I was nearly always hungry.  Over time I realized that a bowl of broccoli for dinner was not a meal.  It was about 700 calories shy of it.  Live and learn.

So What Is the “So What?”

The measurements.  Before:  Waist 35″, chest 36.5″, weight 177.  After:  Waist 33″, chest 34.5″, weight 170.

Feeling:  Alertness.  Noticeably alert.  Maybe happier too.  Interesting story:  On Father’s Day my sweet daughter makes me chocolate brownies with caramel sauce on top and serves it warm with my favorite ice cream flavors (more on ice cream in a bit), mint chocolate chip.  I ate it.  My first real sugar in 49 days.  It was a sugar bomb.  Massive lethargy sets in.  I had trouble speaking and staying awake.  If I sat my eyes just wanted to close shut.  I felt tingles in my brain.  I’m absolutely convinced it was the feeling of addiction.  I felt strong urges to have more and more.  The reaction was strong and won’t easily be forgotten.

Food intolerance.  Clearly my brain sends strong signals to me that I want, scratch that, needed sugar.  This 8-week challenge helped reduce that.  Without a doubt I proved that I was living the life of a man who had pretty significant lactose intolerance.  Stomach issues after a week into the WCL were completely gone.  I thought not eating cheese would be very hard – it wasn’t.  I thought eating out would be impossible – it wasn’t.  In fact, I found out something similar to when I stopped eating meat 7 years back:  it drastically simplified the menu, narrowing choices and making ordering much easier.  Good for Mr. Type A OCD here.

Where Do I Go From Here?

First off, I loosen up a bit (no wise arse comments please Mrs. Cindy).  Sure I have a dessert every now and again.  Just not nightly.  Maybe drop the phylo and sugar routine.  I see certain things being gone for good.  Processed foods.  While I didn’t eat a great deal of these, I did eat them mindlessly prior to the challenge.  I can make better choices with no impact to my enjoyment.  Milk too.  Gone, except with the occasional warm cookie.  Breads?  Near gone.  I’ll limit them and make them more of a treat like desserts.  I might replace with the grain/nut breads that skip the flour.

Bottom line:  I do this again.  Starting September 19.  I’ll be signing up soon.  if this interests you in the slightest, do it with me as a member of my team – the more the merrier.  It isn’t easy but I guarantee you’ll notice a difference for the better.  Hit me with a comment if you are interested and I’ll get you all the details you need.  You’ll have to get over the fact that I’ll do everything I can to outscore you.  It’s that Mr. Type A OCD thing.  I can’t really help it.

Walking in the Shoes of Others

For days I have tried, unsuccessfully to get my mind off of the events that took place last week in Charleston.  If you have spent anytime reading my posts on this blog you know that I try very hard to avoid controversial topics like politics and religion.  I also generally try to keep my posts leaning towards the positive and good in life.  Admittedly, in my first draft of this post I wrote entirely from the negative.  I wrote with anger.  I wrote with embarrassment and sorrow for our culture.  As I write this over Father’s Day, I find it unimaginable to walk in the shoes of the victims or the victim’s families.  I try and the grief and anguish seems overwhelming, unthinkable.

Last Sunday our family attended church in our normal routine.  We learned all churches in South Carolina would ring their church bells at 10am in solidarity and support of those families suffering at the hands of this racial terrorist.  Hearing the bells ring and listening to the homily from Father John about our need as people to connect in these tough times, not hide in fear of such unspeakable events and to believe that good will come from this act of deep hatred, I returned to my first draft only to delete most of it and try to write with more compassion, less anger.  I also found myself trying again to feel what those 9 souls felt in the minutes during their senseless murders and I too found this impossible.  Unthinkable.  Unimaginable.

In the days since the massacre last week, through exercise routines, long runs, walks alone between meetings at work, hot commutes and even while enjoying a baseball game with my kids my mind finds a way back to the events in Charleston.  Not just Charleston, but also Sandy Hook in 2012 where 27 people were gunned down, the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 where 12 people were murdered senselessly, Aurora, Colorado in 2012 where 12 peoples died and 58 were injured by a shower of bullets in a movie theatre.  To engage in a debate about whether the gun or the person with the gun kills seems ridiculous.  To deny that fewer guns in a society means fewer gun-related deaths also seems ridiculous.  Silly.  Wrong.

I have largely avoided the media view on the Charleston Shooting.  The few snippets from Twitter that I have seen, like Jon Stewart’s no-joke Daily Show monologue or this Australian Comedian’s take on the absurdity of our 2nd Amendment (warning: contains language not appropriate for the kiddos) make me wish that these views would polarize us as Americans who are tired of seeing these events and allow us to tackle this tough issue once and for all.  That is my hope.  I realize hope alone won’t move our country to solidarity on this issue.  I also know other countries have cured their mass-murdering ways (100% of them) and while I cannot believe they are immune from crazed, hateful bigots, they are proof this issue can be drastically reduced if not eradicated. Eliminated.

So, where am I going with this post?  Truthfully, I am not sure.  I’m not going to blab on about the statistics of other countries with strict gun laws and the lack of people being shot in those countries.  I’m not going to use tons of words to show that we, as a pure democratic society, can change our laws and even our sacred Constitution (after all it has been amended from the original state 15 times if you don’t count the first 10 that were written as a part of it and the 21st that repealed the 18th).  I won’t talk at length about the extremely high percentage of highly responsible, safety-conscious gun owners in our country and the lack of threat any of these law-abiding citizens pose to society.  It seems unfounded to do so from my position.  Untimely.  Fearful.

I CAN pledge that I will never own a gun.  I won’t willingly allow a gun in my home.  I won’t teach my kids gun safety.  I will actively teach them gun avoidance.

I personally believe guns exist for only two purposes beyond the necessity of law enforcement/military security:

  1. For entertainment for the enthusiast who simply likes to shoot guns in practice, sport/hunting or competition.
  2. As a tool to kill for the criminal, murderer, terrorist, lunatic or upset human with access to a gun.

I don’t hate, dislike, mistrust people in this first group.   I am actually a little sad for this group because to fix our problem where groups of innocent Americans are murdered with regularity, this group would have to give up something they enjoy and something to which they have had lawful access.  No, that doesn’t seem fair.  But I also can’t see any clear path to identifying all of the 2nd group and curing them of what drives them to kill before this happens again (and again).

9 black Americans, praying in church, were executed last week.  These people were praying.  A man they welcomed into their church, a man with a gun, killed them all in less than a minute.  No stone, knife, fist or even bow and arrow could have done this.  No human of love and respect for mankind could either.  9 Americans died in church.  We should do everything in our power to keep this from ever happening again.

From this event, I also pledge to teach tolerance, acceptance and for my kids to actively look to walk in the shoes of others.  I will teach them to wish all humans, no matter their differences, goodness and well-being.  Kindness to all.  Respect for others.

I feel deep sorrow and grief for the families of the nine victims.  Much of this is driven by the sadness of this repeated narrative.  People using guns to kill.  And people disliking others for their differences.   And most of all, the hopeless feeling and fear that nothing will change regardless of how many times the narrative repeats.  To overcome such hopeless feelings I find myself hoping more than ever for the following:

  • A future without mass killings at the hands of humans wielding guns.
  • A society that can walk in true equality – one where race, gender and sexual orientation is a diversity we embrace, not hate.
  • A country that no longer tolerates celebration of a heritage steeped in bigotry and division – after all it is 2015 already.
  • A media that unbiasedly reports on these acts exactly as they are – in this case, racial hate-based terrorism.  Nothing else.
  • A government that finally understands the negative connection between campaign finance and rampant lobbyist abuses and the direct harm these abuses have on our citizens.
  • A human race that places at least equal value on the lives of our planet’s inhabitants as we do the freedom to place such value on items that exist to do such harm.

I hold hope for a day in my life where our American people stand up to make tough changes for our greater good.  What would it take to fix it?  If we knew we could eliminate or nearly eliminate events like these would we take the steps?  If we could sacrifice a freedom some enjoy for greater safety for all would we?  If you were one of the nine killed or related to the nine my bet is on yes.  But then you’d be wearing the shoes rather than being asked simply to try them on and take a short walk in the them wanting to understand.  Change.  Embrace.

Closing questions:  Does any good come from a tragedy like this and if so, what do you think it will be?

H to the H to the I

Hilton Head Island. Specifically, Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island. The place is special.  Peaceful, magical.  After seven years of vacations on the island, it is one of those places I hope our family wants to visit together each year. This is the ‘Callaway Gardens‘ from my childhood days, sans circus sponsored by arch rival college and interestingly enough, their highest ranked undergrad program (*mic drop*). If you are looking for a place where both parents and kids can find activities from sunup to sundown, HHI/Sea Pines is just that place.

The strangest thing about Sea Pines, other than the ridiculously large number of vacationers from Kentucky and Ohio, is only a few homes have a view of the ocean and renting one of those homes without multiple families or a lottery win involved is out of the question. In my early days of beach-going vacations this would have been a deal breaker.  After all, why drive all the way to the beach not to be able to see it all of the time, right?  Don’t get me wrong, hearing, seeing, smelling the ocean from your back porch is pretty darn special. But finding that setting with the bike trails, canopy of trees/shade, pool accessibility and without an airline involved is a tall order.  Kiawah might be close but lacking in restaurant/eatery diversity.  For our family, the wide mix of activity without the involvement of a car is worth the tradeoff. Things like bike rides to ice cream, fishing, kayaking, live music in the evenings, crabbing and even swimming in a pool at the rental home are the deal-makers. Plus the backyard beach scene, while tropical and super-accessible, becomes a light switch activity for our family.  Light switch on: go to the beach. Light switch off:  kids inside on electronics or worse, parents managing electronics on vacation.
So what makes Sea Pines at HHI so magical?  Here’s a brief taste:

Bike paths galore – not the kind tacked onto the sides of roads, but the trails through the woods kind.

source: Tripadvisor.com

Salty Dog – basically a marina with a phenomenal marketing strategy

Baynard Ruins – Revolutionary War era ruins in Sea Pines

Harbour Town – home to a marina, lighthouse, PGA Tour stop and amazing sunsets.  Home to Gregg Russell and the only octagonal lighthouse in the world (114 steps tall).

Note: picture is from 2014.

Gregg Russell – for 39 summers in a row he’s been playing a show for kids/parents in Harbour Town

Crabbing old-school style – meat parts on a hook in basket on a rope with the tide coming in.

Sea Pines Beach Club totally rebuilt in 2014 with an amazing patio bar and typically great acoustic music

Lowcountry Backyard Cafe while not in Sea Pines, worthy of the trip for their world-class pimiento cheese and banana pudding in a mason jar.

Didn’t see enough pics yet?  Check out our pics from our 2015 HHI vacation to see more.   Here’s to hoping I write and you read about another VERY similar vacation in a year.

Connections

  
 

Let’s talk about connections.  Not the kind we prefer to avoid when traveling.  The human kind.  Human connections take a variety of shapes throughout life.  These shapes tend to change with each day or maybe they change with each relationship.  What I know for sure is my number of connections, defined by me as genuine and valued two-way interactions with human beings, has waned over the years.  I am not sure this is necessarily a bad thing or even unnatural.  Interestingly enough, I don’t feel these connections are due to losing friendships or making fewer new friends.  The downward trend, possibly only in my head, seems to me to be caused by a few factors.

1.  Phase of Life – not quite at half life but far enough along where I know the difference between a high quality relationship and one light on quality. I’m definitely focusing more on quality than quantity.  Plus having kids splits focus dramatically from the BK (before kids) days. 

2.  Technology – sadly, I spend more time on technology than ever before. Honestly, much of this is not very productive time.  This takes time away from true connections. Plus quick texts and social media interactions can trick me into thinking I’ve connected when in hindsight I’ve done almost the opposite of connecting with humans this way. 

3.  Personality – while not exactly a hermit, I am more prone with age to look for more ways to capture those quiet moments on our back porch just looking at the trees. These are moments that I use to recharge, but I find I’m doing it more and more and enjoying it more and more.  

 At first glance, I felt like fewer connections with people was a bad thing.  My gut reaction was to get out and immediately connect with more people.  But looking back at my recent past, I don’t think a lack of connection opportunities is the problem.  There have been trips to the beach with close friends, Y-Guide outings with a great group of dads who come together with the goal of showing their kids the great outdoors, dates with my wife, family visits, charity events and even a work party where I was the “plus 1.” Plenty of opportunities. 

When I look back at many of these events there’s a common thread.  Wade with me into analogy-ville.  There’s this big pool.  I’ll call it the “Connection Pool.”  In my mind it is vast, odd shaped and has some kind of white-noise water feature shaped like a mushroom.  All new or unchartered connections available to me are represented by the pool.  Outside of the pool at an umbrella or table might be a connection or two I am comfortable enough with to go deep with in conversation. These are the few, the quality ones.  Occasionally (and if you know me it is super-almost-never-occasionally), let’s say I venture into the pool.  It is also metaphorically accurate and notable that I tend to always wade slowly into a pool.  Once in, I am comfortable swimming in the deep end or wading in the shallow end.  I AM afraid to take off my shirt. Yes, admittedly odd and definitely off-topic.  I’m “Marco” in the game “Marco Polo.”  I swim around saying hello to folks but not hanging around long enough to go deeper than “Polo.”  And therein lies my problem.  Connections are abound.  I know them when I see them.  I rarely hang around longer than “Polo” for any of them.  

There are people, and you know who you are, that are truly natural and engaging around people. We had relatives like this who recently stayed a weekend with us. Cindy and I noted several times how few times we reached for a device that weekend.  We all talked. A lot. It was fun. Interesting.  I tried hard to learn from their style. Good questions. Long on dialog. No hijacking. Lots of laughing. 

I’d like to improve my connections with those in the Marco Polo pool beyond the land of the small interaction.  Maybe spend some time listening.  Prompting.  Engaging. Novel, I know. Easy?  Not so much. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on connections and what makes a good connector. Connect via technology and comment below. Better yet, let’s spend some time talking about it live. I’d love to listen. I promise you won’t be my ‘Polo.’

To do or not to do?

Before I begin what is my first blog post in nearly four months, never mind it was post from a guest-blogger and not even me, I want to say that nearly everyday since that last post I have thought about writing.  Like running or a daily kiss from Cindy (yup, I went there), when I am not writing I want to be writing more than ever.  So I have been thinking about what drives this behavior.  Scratch that, I decided to write about this behavior.

WHAT CAUSES ONE TO NOT DO THE THINGS ONE LOVES?

I spend a great deal of time thinking about this on my ever-lengthening commute to work.  That’s the same distance commute that I had 15 years ago when I moved here.  I can assure you I spent 50% less time analyzing the mundane 15 years ago.  This might be a good time to give a shout-out to my local York County Councilman Michael Johnson (Twitter Handle:  @rmjohnsonjr1) who hold immense hope that he’s the savior that will not just admire the problem but help address the growth and infrastructure problem in my beloved town (moratorium said while clearing my throat…).  But I digress which is exactly what people who teach about good writing habits say NOT to do.

Back to my question:  What causes one to not do the things one loves?  My first thought is a fear of failure.  But this just seems like too easy of an answer.  What failure is there in writing other than not writing?  Not exactly scary to write or to not write.  So, in an unexpected twist, I am ruling out fear of failure.

Lack of motivation?  I don’t think so.  While there are endless priorities in life, doing the things you love should be easy to put first.  I like to write, therefore, I should write, right?

SO WHAT IS THE ANSWER ALREADY?

My take on the answer is (drumroll, please – by the way, this is EXACTLY where HGTV would put a commercial before they reveal whether people will love it or list it – don’t judge me):  I believe it stems from not clearly knowing what I get back from writing.  Not a great answer because if you love doing it and it isn’t harming anyone shouldn’t I just be doing it?  As my 12 year old would answer: “I know, right?”  So, with this dose of self-therapy, I think that’s what I’ll start to do.  Write.  Write here.  On this blog.  To my 3 readers (not including my parents – you do read this Mom and Dad?  Right?).  I have this deep down desire to write and have people read what I write.  More than just writing, I would like for it to turn into an exchange.  Two-way communications, you know like in the days of the pen pal.  This will help me improve in another area I secretly want to fix –  to be a better listener.  I know, right Cindy?  Probe, prompt and engage others.  Listen actively.  Participate no more than equally.  Get good at saying stuff like “that’s interesting, tell me more.”  This is not natural for me.  I come by it honestly via genetics (sorry Dad).  Let’s do this.

SO WHAT IS MY PLAN?

  • Aim for a reasonable target.  Weekly.  One morning a week to write, one to edit/publish. Certainly more than quarterly.
  • Start small – couple of paragraphs.
  • Don’t preach – I used to carry a soap box with me.  I don’t anymore but sometimes find myself on something tall and just can’t help letting it come out.  I’m a work in progress.
  • Set few boundaries – all topics are in scope.  Don’t be scared – most won’t hold “what’s the meaning of life” inputs.
  • Ask for input – who knows, over time I might even get some.
  • Write about stuff that is interesting to others, not just me.  This is hard – takes an outside-in view. Clearly not on top of this objective in this entry.
  • Get better at writing – the goal is to one day understand what it takes to write well.  Honestly, I don’t know this.
  • Maybe, just maybe, get more than 3 people to read on the basis that I’m writing stuff people find interesting or enjoyable to read.  Who knows, maybe someone will even say “that’s interesting, tell me more” or “here’s what I think about your words.”

The byproduct of doing this is to leave a part of who I am with my kids.  They don’t know I do this.  At this stage, it actually may mortify them that I do this.  It won’t when they are 42.  The mutant teenager types will thank me later…when I reach one of my biggest goals in life:  to have a friendship with my adult kids.

I hope you, my three readers, will read on and engage with me here.  I’m not making any money from this – your clicks don’t matter here.  Anything goes.  Extra credit if you write and you have cracked the nut on what “good writing” is and share.

BONUS:  For reading this far you might as well catch up on what we’ve been doing in our lives.  Links to our pictures from Feb 2015-today are below.

January 2015 – Random Stuff, mostly S’mores on the back porch.

February 2015 – Charlie turns 6!

Winter 2015 – Charlie plays basketball – serious point guard skills here.

February 2015 – River Cleanup at the Anne Springs Close Greenway with Adventure Guides

February 2015 – Camp Canaan Event w/ Rockets

February 2015 – Cindy turns 29, signed the man who sells ice in the Arctic.

March 2015 – Stewart turns 10 – NYC Blow-out!

March 2015 – Spring Break

April 2015 – Cooper River Bridge Run

April 2015 – Spring Break

April 2015 – Camp Cherokee Adventure Guides Trip

Guest Blogger: Puzzled?

After over 270 posts to this blog in a decade or so, I have my first ever guest blogger!  Yes indeed, exciting times around the  ‘Scoop.  This guest is charming, has a great wit, is maybe the smartest person I know and drop-dead gorgeous.  She also has lived with me for the past 15 or so years, produced my three kids and stole my heart when I first saw her from across a sun-filled room of coders, testers and commercial bank business analysts.  Please join me in a warm welcome to my best friend and wife, Cindy Sutton.

Let me set the stage.  Cindy is an HR professional at a large company.  For this profession she has recently dabbled with writing a blog that can be viewed by thousands of her co-workers.  Her first three posts have seen more traffic than all of my posts combined.  This is not that first post but easily my favorite as it was inspired by one of my favorite holiday traditions in our home.  I hope you enjoy as much as I did…told you she was smart.  If you are wondering, I’m am “the completer.”

Growing up, my husband’s family had a tradition of opening a puzzle on Christmas Day and having it completed by New Year’s. This is something that we have carried forward into our own family and we love it. When we cracked open the puzzle this past Christmas and everyone assumed their positions around the kitchen island I had a revelation. Now before I share my revelation, I will caveat this by saying that I have absolutely no background in human psychology – I was a history and politics major. But my years in HR have given me some decent insight into human behavior and I am thoroughly convinced I will write a book about this, make a bazillion dollars and you will all be impressed with my keen insights and humility that I have been able to maintain in the throes of my glowing success. So here goes:

How one approaches a puzzle is indicative of how they work on teams.

Impressed yet? Stick with me here. When we opened up the puzzle we all assumed our natural roles without even vocalizing them. And over the years we have all grown accustomed to the puzzle “talents” we each bring to the table (or the kitchen island in this case) that we naturally assume certain people will perform certain activities.

“The Visionary”

The Visionary is the one that pulls the concept together, outlines the parameters and keeps the effort moving forward. In this case, this is the person that buys the puzzle, clears the counter and supplies the snacks. This is the person with the vision, sees the big picture and motivates the team.

“The Organizer”

The Organizer is the one that really gets things going. They flip the pieces over, separate the corners from the middle pieces, sort the colors and starts to work right away on the edge. They want to make sure everyone is clear on the objective and can see the size and scope of the work. In my family, this person is known to carry a tape measure and a magnifying glass.

“The Specialist”

The Specialist loves to dig into the themes of the puzzle. This person is the one that concentrates on putting together the pictures on the puzzle (“I’m working on Santa’s beard!”). The Specialist does not like to deviate from their focus and can become blind to other parts of the puzzle. Oftentimes there are several specialists working on different aspects of the projects. They can only take the puzzle so far – they need someone to start pulling it together.

“The Completer”

And that is where the completer comes in. They love the details! Shades of blue in the sky? They got it! They are the ones that relentlessly and methodically try different pieces together until there is a match. They love the challenge and are energized by the hard stuff. Their attention to details pulls the puzzle together and connects the themes. This is the person that gets the job over the finish line. The Completer is also bleary-eyed by New Years and requires a lot of coffee.

“The Dabbler”

Beware of the Dabbler. And there is a Dabbler in almost every project. This person is the consummate derailer. The often pop in and out of the puzzling at whim – moving pieces around, making suggestions, pulling things apart – all without understanding the process or the issue at hand. In the worse-case scenario the Dabbler has even been known to pocket a puzzle piece and show up at the end to claim victory in completing the project. They can be well-intentioned, but sometimes you need to be honest with them and politely ask them to step back and go watch television instead.

It is important to know the role you play on the team. And at times, to be flexible. Sometimes the team will need you to dig and be the Completer when you really want to be the Visionary. The key is to understand the talents that everyone brings to the island and use those to accomplish the goal. And try to avoid being the Dabbler – no good comes of that!

I’m the Visionary and occasionally the Specialist if I am particularly interested. What role do you play in the puzzle?

Nicely done first guest blogger to SuttonScoop ever.  Nicely done.