Mike Kueber's Blog

December 2, 2016

The three-legged stool

Filed under: Business,Education,Parenting,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 2:17 pm

When I started work 35 years ago, there was a retirement concept called the three-legged stool. Essentially, it meant that a person could achieve retirement security by combining Social Security, a pension, and a 401k. That concept still applies today, except that most companies don’t provide a pension.

Employers back then similarly applied the concept of the three-legged stool to achieve company success. According to this thinking, a company would succeed if it took care of its customers, its employees, and its owners. That concept still applies today, except the components are called stakeholders.

Recently, I was thinking about giving some words of wisdom to my fourth son, who will graduate from college this spring and enter the work force. As I reflected on what to tell him about achieving career success, I realized that the concept of the three-legged stool was again appropriate.

Career success, in my opinion, depends on personal skills, hard work, and smarts. Depending on your job, any one of these three qualities might carry you, but success is much more likely if a person develop at least two and maybe even all three of the qualities.

So, even though kids often have successful pre-work lives based mostly on personal skills, having a successful career will probably require an adult to start focusing more on hard work and being smart – i.e., critical-thinking.

That’s what I’m going to tell Jimmy.

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December 22, 2014

Sucking the joy out of yoga

Filed under: Fitness,Philosophy,Self-improvement,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 11:41 pm
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This past Sunday one of my favorite yoga teachers was conducting a special practice called “108 Sun Salutations.” This practice is traditionally done on the Winter Solstice and consists of 108 Sun A’s.

At the same time as the practice, one of my fellow yoga students was doing a marathon-training run. This morning he told me that he thought about the 108 Sun Salutations just as he finished Mile 17 of his run, and decided that he was fortunate to be running instead of saluting. What’s that say about 108 Sun A’s?

After sharing that bit of wisdom, my friend and I embarked on a Hot Vinyasa practice. Consistent with the Lifetime Fitness format, the practice primarily consists of three Sun Salutation series (A, B an C) before throwing on a few “logs” – i.e., holding a series of strenuous poses for several minutes. They are called logs because the three Sun series are supposed to generate a blazing fire in our bodies while the finishing strenuous poses are supposed to be “logs” to keep the fire blazing a bit longer. Although today’s logs weren’t particularly sadistic, the logs this past Sunday were. They caused me to wonder, is that really yoga?

So I asked Google – “Is yoga supposed to be hard?” The first result came from a Fitness blog, with an entry titled, “Is yoga supposed to kick your butt?”  The author seemed eminently qualified because she taught both yoga and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). In a nutshell, her answer is “no”:

  • “I don’t look at my students before a yoga class and think, ‘This class is going to kick everyone’s butt today.’ (Full disclosure: I do have those thoughts before teaching my HIIT classes!) With yoga, the intention is different. We are there to shift our energy and find inner peace. That doesn’t mean the class is just gentle stretching. We build power and heat doing Down-Dog flows. We discover our strength in Warrior and Plank. We challenge ourselves with balancing and other advanced poses. But all that’s done with a mindfulness toward inner peace, a sense of stability and a deeper connection with oneself. No one feels ‘beat up’ after class.”

Other blogs talk about yoga expanding its boundaries in recent years to include strength and cardio fitness, and that is what has happened at Lifetime Fitness. Its website describes a Hot Vinyasa practice as follows:

  • “Enjoy an energetic yoga class that uses a flowing series of postures to create heat within the body as you increase strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. The teacher first guides the class through the flow together before freeing each student to move at his or her own pace. Hot Vinyasa is good for new students who are physically active, those interested in the fitness benefits of yoga, and anyone who wants to dive in to a strong, multi-faceted practice. This practice is typically accompanied by more upbeat music.”

The concern with an energetic yoga class is analogous to the concern with vitamins and medicine – i.e., if a certain dosage is good for you, is a double dose twice as good for you. Some yoga teachers inevitably start thinking that more energy is a better class, so they push their students to use more energy, which can leave them feeling “beat up.”

The solution, of course, is for each student to modify their practice to suit themselves. The problem is that many teachers, either explicitly or implicitly, discourage modifications. In fact, after practice one day last week, a yogi came up to me and gravely asked if I were injured. When I said I was fine, she said she had noticed so many modifications that she assumed I was injured.

LOL!

October 9, 2014

Yoga sequencing revisited

Filed under: Fitness,Self-improvement,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 6:31 pm
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About a year ago I blogged about yoga sequencing based on reading a book on that subject and on my experience with the “signature” practices at Lifetime Fitness.

Essentially, the best sequence consists of some introductory sitting poses and perhaps breathing exercises to get your mind right, followed by three sun salutations (each performed about five times), with Sun A easy, Sun B hardened by including chair and a warrior pose, and Sun C hardest by including a panoply of poses that challenge the entire body. By the end of Sun B, you realize that your body is totally warmed and primed to take on the challenge of Sun C. By the end of Sun C, your body is totally engaged and clicking on all eight cylinders.

But everyone knows that it is preferable to gradually cool down a motor, so instead of abruptly relaxing after Sun C, proper yoga sequencing shifts from the vinyasa flows of sun salutations to a few stationary, but challenging asanas that keep your engine running for a few minutes. Finally, the practice ends with some stretching/flexibility asanas and the savasana.

Although this sequencing sounds pretty simple, it is difficult to execute. Because of varying abilities of the students and because some yogis are more lenient while others are more sadistic, the pace of the class often doesn’t meet the needs of the particular student. To avoid this result, our yogis regularly remind us that our practice is our own and that we should modify the practice as necessary to meet our needs. That is hard to do because of indirect pressure from yogis and peers to keep up.

Personally, I rarely find a class to be too easy. Much more often, the class is too difficult. Instead of yoga being like good sex (right down to the post-coital cigarette), it is like the Bataan Death March. A couple of days ago, I experienced that type of class, and another metaphor came to mind – i.e., in the last few minutes of practice, instead of my engine running on empty, it was running on fumes.  That is not a good feeling.

Speaking of good sex, I’ve read before about how good sex generates four “happy drugs” in your body – oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine – and I suspect yoga does the same thing. Sounds like something I need to research further.

 

October 7, 2014

Really listening

Filed under: Culture,Relationships,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 1:18 am
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Last month when I was visiting with a friend in my hometown of Aneta, ND, she mentioned a high school chum who regularly returns to Aneta for its summer festival in June. This chum lives an outwardly successful life in a large urban area, yet still seems to enjoy returning to the small-town rural charm of Aneta and reconnecting with the people she grew up with. But something in their conversations has begun to bother my friend.

It seems that my friend and her chum usually bump into each other before or after Aneta’s small parade on Saturday, and invariably they have a warm and friendly chat for a few minutes before moving on. At first, these conversations were very satisfying, with the polished urban person asking appropriate questions and apparently enjoying the conversation. But lately my friend has realized that her chum asks the same questions every year, not unlike the movie Groundhog’s Day.

Although the repeated questions might not be immediately insulting, my friend has gradually become insulted because she has concluded that her chum is merely deploying her social graces in answering the appropriate questions and is not actually listening to or remembering her answers.

I think my friend is right.

One of my happy-hour friends complains that I often ask him the same question on multiple occasions, and I have to confess that this happens when I am making conversation with him instead of being hugely interested in what his answer is.

Don Imus has the same problem. Several times I’ve noticed him ask a guest something that I recalled he asked the same guest several weeks ago, and occasionally the guest will even point that out. Obviously, Don was making conversation in the earlier interview and didn’t particularly care what the guest’s response was (even though Imus takes great pride in asserting that, unlike other media interviewers, he actually listens to the answers and then lets those answers dictate the direction of the interview).

So, is this a teaching moment? I’m not sure. Obviously, it would be nice to be sincerely interested in your conversation, consistent with that old saying, “Be here now.” But sometimes a person is engaged in casual conversation that is not significant.

Do I want to waste my scarce brain cells remembering that? I vote yes, and I’m going to redouble my efforts here.

July 1, 2014

Brutal comments

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Philosophy,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 5:55 pm
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Jennifer Coffey is a media personality, currently a host on QVC. She is a Facebook friend who recently posted the following on her wall:

  • In two days I’ve suffered two brutal online comments about my weight, suggesting I “put on a few.” 25 years ago I suffered relentless insults in school about my weight, suggesting I “drop a few.” What have I learned in those 25 years?
  • You are not your weight. You are not your age. You are not your job. You are not your income. You are not your past. And you are certainly not other people’s opinions.  You are your spirit. You are the love you give. You are the joy you feel.  And I feel so much joy.

As you can imagine, Jennifer received an avalanche of support suggesting that (a) she is beautiful, and (b) the commenters were jerks.

My immediate reaction was different. Instead of seeing her obvious call for support, I was hung up on her use of the term “brutal.” In checking with a dictionary, I found confirmed that the term meant savagely violent or cruel.

Since when does suggesting that someone has put on a few pounds amount to savage cruelty?

All of this reminds me of ND hockey star, T.J. Oshie, who responded as follows to being called a hero in an Olympic game – “No. The real heroes wear camo. I’m not one of them.”

Jennifer, I suggest that we save the term brutal for real victims of brutality.

p.s., subsequent to posting this note, a friend pointed out that Jennifer has been criticized, not for being overweight, but for being underweight.  I simply misread her comment, and I was not the only one.  On reader commented as follows – “Are you kidding me? You are so thin in person that I can’t believe anyone said that! Just ignore it!”  So the situation actually involves a woman who in her youth was criticized for being too heavy and now is being criticized for being too thin.  Although many women would be quietly pleased with such a comment (akin to being too disciplined or a perfectionist), Jennifer was “brutally” offended.

It’s sad that society has created such anguish for women over a few pounds, either way.

March 17, 2014

Sunday Book Review #127 – The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood

Filed under: Book reviews,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 1:04 am
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Sood’s book is based on a course that he has taught to “tens of thousands of patients and learners at the Mayo Clinic and elsewhere,” but when I searched the Mayo website for the course, all I could find were countless references to this book.  I skimmed through the book pretty quickly because, although its numerous insights seem dead-on, they are also self-explanatory to a person who does much thinking about these issues.

I was going to say the insights are intuitive, but as Sood points out, these are things that need conscious reasoning, the opposite of intuitive.  Sood begins the book by discussing how the brain works, and how it works badly because of its DNA for “fight or flight” and other such tendencies that don’t work well or aren’t needed in modern life.  A major concern for Sood is the brain’s tendency to multi-task and shift into what he calls its default mode instead of its focused mode.  There is much discussion of getting the brain more often into the focused mode – so-called attention training or what one of my work seminars labeled “Be Here Now.”

After Sood gets the brain working better, he shifts our attention to seven aspects of our life that can make it less stressful:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Compassion
  3. Acceptance
  4. High Meaning
  5. Forgiveness
  6. Tribe (family and friends)
  7. Relaxation and Reflection (meditation)

I probably could have benefited from devoting more reading time to learn the techniques that Sood offers for developing these seven aspects, but I’ve got a book on Roger Ailes waiting for me.