April, 2011

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Thoughts on competition.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

It is week 3 of my Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) campaign for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, (LLS) and team Growth Factor is hard at work planning events, seeking some PR and spreading the word.  It’s quite time consuming, and I’m already looking forward to less computer time when it’s all over!  I can tell you that I will never be in danger of an addiction to technology.  I mean, of course I find it convenient and helpful, but I am so relieved to unplug, to get outside with the pups and to talk to my friends and family (in real life or over the phone :) ).

Not surprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about competition lately.  I wrote the following blog post for work last week, and I thought I’d share it with you:

Fundraising…it’s a fairly innocuous word, yet it can instill fear in even the most outgoing of people. As with most challenges in life, the easiest way to address the fear (to steal a little phrase from Nike) is to “just do it”!

When I first joined Team in Training in the spring of 2007, I wasn’t worried about training to speed walk in a half marathon (13.1 miles!), but I was terrified to raise funds. Team in Training (TNT) is an endurance training program offered through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). In exchange for raising money for LLS, participants receive top-notch training and incredible support. I went to a fundraising workshop, I asked TNT alumni their secrets, and I sought the advice of my friends and family, but while out walking the trails, I found that my heart raced more thinking about asking others for money than it did from the speed walking! OK, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean! :)

I soon realized that I needn’t have wasted so much energy worrying. Similar to the whole “if you build it, he will come” concept (from one of my all-time favorite movies!), I discovered that if you ask them, they will give. My main plan of action: e-mails. I created a mailing list of friends and family, took the time to write a thoughtful letter with links to my fundraising page, and clicked “Send”. I organized an event at the restaurant where I used to work, and I sold dry cleaning discount cards for a local business that had agreed to donate all funds from the discount cards to LLS (and credit the funds to whoever sold the cards). At the end of the season, I was one of the top local fundraisers for my event!

There were many times during the 4 months of training that I felt pressured to compete with my fellow teammates. Every time someone organized an event, I would think “Oh geez…maybe I’m not doing enough! They are having so many events!”.  Be very careful of this common phenomenon…it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, and in some ways it may be beneficial, but it is so dangerous!  It often leads to a blow to self confidence which indeed takes the “fun” out of fundraising.

Instead, do as Benjamin Spock advises:  ’Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do.”  I will keep this thought in mind as I continue on my most ambitious fundraising event yet.  I was nominated to be a candidate for Man & Woman of the Year for LLS in the National Capital Area.  It is a “friendly fundraising competition” held in LLS chapters nationwide.  In 10 weeks (well, actually, 9 now), I must raise a minimum of $10,000.  I set my goal at $50,000, and I’m working hard to raise as much as I can in the ensuing weeks. Each time I get a Facebook invitation for another candidate’s event, my pulse quickens and that familiar worry sets in until I remind myself that everyone’s campaign is different and every candidate has a unique plan.  Some people will have impressive lists of corporate contacts and friends with heavy wallets. I must resist comparing myself to them!

Here is what I’m bringing to the competition: heart, commitment and an amazing network of friends and family. I am also a leukemia survivor, and I have a pretty incredible personal story to share with anyone who will listen. I will work hard, I will spread the word and whatever the monetary outcome, I will be proud of taking action to make a difference.

Since I’m a big fan of motivational quotes, I’ll share one more with you: “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people” (Nido Qubein). While I don’t like the language of “winners” and “losers”, I appreciate the meaning.

When you set out to fundraise for your Dig Pink event, keep your focus on what you and your team want to achieve. Look to other teams only for guidance if you are looking for ideas. In the end, it is not about the funds that are raised, but rather how the experience has shaped you, your commitment to community and your knowledge about breast cancer. And if you ever want any advice, contact me!! I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned.
OK, one more quote and I swear, I won’t give you any more!! :)

“Use what talent you possess:
The world would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” ~Henry van Dyke

It’s hard to keep the “friendly” in friendly competition because the very definition of competition implies one person will win and many others will lose.  As you can tell from the blog post, I’ve been feeling a tad stressed lately.  The day kick-off began, I woke up early (after going to bed around 2:30 AM doing other preparations for MWOY), went downstairs to the study and pulled up my e-mail.  All in-kind donation requests were due at 9 AM and whoever got the requests in first won the donations.  In-kind donations are donations of services or products that someone donates on my behalf, and LLS would credit me with the estimated cost of those services/products had they purchased them.

We were counting on getting the design donations (which would have been $8,000 toward my campaign!!).  I prepared my e-mails weeks ahead of time and practiced sending them out to Katie and Lori to make sure they came through OK.  Then I wrote the e-mails to send to LLS, and there they sat in my draft folder for weeks.  So getting back to the story, I woke up early and literally stared at the clock on my computer (this is after confirming that the computer goes by Apple time and should thus be synced with any and all timing devices) until it read 9 AM.  I hit the send key and waited to hear back from LLS about how we secured the design donations…I waited and I waited…I hate to say it, folks, but that e-mail never came.

A couple hours later, I learned that someone else won the in-kind donations for design, and I was shocked.  I planned, I did everything as I should have done, and I lost!  I couldn’t help but feel down.  I mean, what a morale buster!  Here it was, kick-off day for my campaign and you know what I did?  I cried.  I know…can you believe it?  And even worse, I cried in front of my boss.  He came in to say good morning and I lost it.  I’m sure it was a combination of fatigue and disappointment, but nonetheless the tears surprised me (and poor Rick :) ).

“Friendly fundraising competition, my a@#”, I told myself.  Then I settled down, and I thought about  the campaign.  This is not about winning, although of course it would be lovely to have the title “Woman of the Year”.  I can totally picture my mug on a Metrobus!  :)  I thought of Ryan and Molly, the Boy & Girl of the Year, and I thought of my own experience.  In the grand scheme of things, winning this competition is  just not a big deal.  Participating in it is an honor.  It’s that whole perspective thing I talk about all the time.  I am here, I am healthy, I am helping others, and that, in essence, is what truly matters.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ll still get stressed when I get a Facebook invite from another candidate or when I read about someone else’s campaign, and my head will start to pound when the e-mails start piling up.  I think it’s only natural to wonder “am I doing enough compared to him/her”?  As long as it doesn’t make me lose focus in my own campaign, I’ll do just fine.  And you know what?  I’m already a winner because “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” hahahahahahaha  Sorry, I had to lighten things up a bit…it was getting entirely too serious.

One more thing before I sign off and hit the hay.  Check out this AWESOME trailer Katie and her friends Joey and Tevarris made:  “Second Chances”.  You will love it!!  And enjoy the many photos.



Looking for a little motivation.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.” ~Jim Ryun

Well, the motivation is certainly there!  It’s that gorgeous dress I wore as the maid of honor in Lori’s wedding.  In my mind, I dream of myself, fit and toned, walking across the stage to my at-bat song June 11th at the Man & Woman of the Year gala.  The habit part though…that’s a little more difficult to grasp.

Nevertheless, I’m pretty proud of myself because I have been swimming 3 times now in the past week and a half!  I haven’t made it to the weight room yet, but it’s on my to-do list.  The first time I went to the gym to swim, I felt totally overwhelmed.  Thoughts of the campaign constantly flood my mind, and I’m already tired of technology.  I feel like I see the glow of the screen from my computer and phone even in my sleep, but I forced myself to pack a swim bag and head over to the pool after work last Monday.

When I walked into the locker room, I thought “how will I ever make a habit of this?  I’m tired already!  It smells in here.  I’m bored.  I wish I had someone to work out with.  Will I ever be able to create a routine?”  I changed into my swimsuit, grabbed my cap and goggles and somehow kept moving toward the pool.  I jumped in, adjusted my swim gear and started with my favorite stroke, freestyle.  At first, all I could think was “only one lap…how will I ever be able to swim 10 or 20?  How can I do this several days a week?”.  After a couple laps though, I instinctively started counting my strokes, my rhythm keeper while swimming.  My pulse sped up, yet my mind slowed down.  I thought to myself, “this is doable.”

Right then and there, in the middle of the lap lane, I decided that I wouldn’t judge myself harshly if I didn’t make it to the gym every day.  As much as I would love to have the time and the energy to dedicate myself to alternating swimming and weightlifting every day, I know it doesn’t fit into my life right now.  I think improving your health is as much about realizing what you can’t press your body to do as it is about challenging yourself to do more.  When I changed my thinking, I fell into an easy pattern and I actually began enjoying the swim.  Imagine that!!!!

So here’s to creating habits (good ones, that is :) ) and finding joy, strength and relaxation in whatever exercise you enjoy!



PS There’s quite a mix of photos…enjoy!

PSS Watch this video of the Boy & Girl of the Year for the National Capital Area…keeping Ryan, Molly and their families in my thoughts is always so encouraging.  Remember, the Man & Woman of the Year campaign is all done in their honor, and what an honor it is.