Getting back on (the running) track

tumblr_mm1nk5dtIk1rrjjxto1_500I recently had to confess to a friend that these days that I am a runner by name only. Moving to the ‘burbs and quitting the gym was always going to be a weak point in my motivation. Now its dark when I wake up, it’s REALLY hard to fight the internal battle of bed vs freezing cold, dark pavement pounding.

I REALLY struggle with motivation and I used to think I was alone. But several conversations later, I realise that everyone is in the same boat and the only difference between those who do and those who don’t is the ability to get on the shoes and walk out the door. Seems like a simple enough task, but man oh man walking to my wardrobe can be the hardest few steps of my day.

So I entered the Queenstown Half Marathon. I’ve done two half marathons before, slowly and when I was much fitter than now… But this time, I want to do it in 2 hours. I know that seems slow, but for me, that’s quite snappy.

Im two runs into my new training programme and it’s the first time I’ve actually followed one. Im starting with the 10km programme. I think I can probably run 10kms happily anyway, but when I wake up in the morning the first few times the 3km target feels way less of a commitment, and I think it’s important to get into the routine.

If anyone else is int he same boat, and wants to keep tabs on each other. Im keen. I need all the help I can get at this stage.

Women’s only groups?

A while ago a few entrepreneurial women and I decided to start a monthly Meetup for like minded ladies.

Over the months, the Meetup has become fairly successful, drawing an array of fascinating and very successful women out of the woodwork, with the promise of worts and all stories about ourselves, by ourselves.

The question has been raised time and time again: Why do we limit the group to females only?

As a general rule, Im not a big personal fan of segregating genders. I’d never send my kids to single sex schools, Im not necessarily a fan of quotas and the only reason I went to the women only gym at Les Mills is because it was the only place with spare treadmills. But in this case, we thought it was worth a try.

Why (I think) we did it.

The first reason was based around the fact that we’d all been to a bunch of big tech events and conferences and noticed the distinct lack of female presenters. My initial theory was that women were somehow more shy or less primed for presenting (major projection happening there). Providing a safe place to practice speaking to a crowd and building confidence, to me, seemed the greatest benefit of starting a female only group. Maybe if we acted as a breeding ground for female speakers, we’d be all over the show and that would solve an issue we all felt existed.

Secondly, Ive been in enough female dominated social situations, where, with varying degrees of subtlety, the men involved conveyed their lack of interest in the ‘nattering’ and ‘gossip’. As a general rule, we DO socialise differently. There are a ton of places women can go and socialise in the tech sector, it’s just that they are dominated by men. I genuinely don’t know if that has a big impact on the way things are done at those events, but I do know I save my blatant venting and full disclosure of anxieties and issues for my female friends.

Maybe we should just jump right on in and start those conversations in the existing places, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t happening enough for any of us.

So we decide we may not be right, but trying something new had to be better than wishing and hoping for a greater representation of female tech founders.

What we’ve found so far

The group’s format is very loose on format (a round of intros, 1-2 speakers, then requests and success/failures), but very strict on openness. We don’t want your sales pitch, we want your trials and tribulations and how you managed to get through them.

I was wrong about a fear of public speaking, thats just me. What I think we’ve found though is that the what we speak about is quite different from anything Ive heard in a more traditional techie meetup, we can evolve from ‘how to get through the day to day grind’ to ‘how to survive an emotional breakdown to ‘is it ok to breastfeed while at a meeting?’ in the space of 10 minutes. People ask questions and others answer with brutal insight. And I find it very helpful.

One thing I’ve very much found, is that life is way easier when you see people who look and act like you, doing things you are scared of. It also puts a lot more pressure on because it ups the standard of what you expect for yourself and removes the excuses that are all too easy to find. So maybe it’s not even about the absense of men, but the presence of so many other women that makes a difference.

Any conclusions?

Nope. Im still personally torn, and hate to think separation equals success. I still wonder if it’s just the culture we created and think if we could hold onto that and let everyone and their dog in, we’d be equally successful. The way the group has grown, and attracted so many people that I literally wouldn’t have known existed, does make me think its successful. We’re a small community overall, where have all these women been hiding? I suppose the more important question is why? And how does a female only group change that?

Who knows?

Jumping on bandwagons?

I LOVED this experiment from Jimmy Kimmel asking people who follow the gluten free diet what gluten actually is. It totally reminds me of the people who jumped on to cage free eggs, while not seeing the hypocrisy of loading their trolleys with caged chicken meat or pork.

Maybe a little reminder to research your fad?

Spending strike

I’m constantly dishing out unrequested advice about budgeting and savings. For reasons even I don’t understand, it freaks me out when people reach 30 without a investment plan and I become a nagging housewife.

The other week I read an article (which I can’t find the link to) about the benefits of not spending any money for a week. Im not a huge fan of all or nothing, Ive never seen ‘nothing’ wind up in anything apart from ‘all’ very quickly… But I did like the idea of resetting your spending habits by significantly cutting spending for a week every month, or, you know, whenever you feel like it.

After an expensive start to the year, driven by my obsession with home decorating and overseas holidays, I awoke one morning sick of spending money (seriously, I have the least addictive personality ever, give me too much of anything and my brain rebels against it). So I thought I’d give it a go for a week. This was much to the amusement of my mother who noticed the sudden lack of parcels landing on her doorstep from all my online purchases (sent to her because I love NZ Post but hate my parcels sitting by my front door all day).

IT WAS HARD.

I limited myself to purchasing just groceries and entertainment. It was a bit of a copout because entertainment can really add up, but I like to ease into these things to avoid booming and busting. It’s important to note that even with these loose limitations, I still busted.

I believe the main reason is that I now have a mortgage overdraft account, which means the days of immediately transferring money to my savings when I get paid are over. When the number you are overdrawn is large enough, a couple of hundred extra spending is dwarfed and goes unnoticed. It becomes very easy to spend hundred of dollars more a week without noticing.

So out pops my custom budget spreadsheet, where I add actual target numbers week on week. So far this has proven a great incentive. I hate failing to meet targets.

Does any one else have any good budgeting tips?

Why school *is* important

Quite often I hear people say ‘school really doesn’t matter’. This statement largely assumes that the marks you get at school are the only value school offers and that even with below average marks, you can wind up doing ok. To me, the statement and the intent is not only incorrect, it’s a pretty terrible thing to say.

When you are in school, you have to turn up to day after day, you have to do homework, assignments and exams. There’s a lot you do at school that is not fun, interesting or easy. Sitting in a classroom can be boring, it may be hard to absorb all the information flying at you. You may find it all too easy… Regardless of your experience, up until a certain age, you have to do it anyway. If you have to do it anyway, then I believe your attitude to doing it speaks volumes about what you will or wont achieve in life.

When I hear people claiming they didn’t like school and that they didn’t try and they, as a result didn’t do well… I judge them. I genuinely don’t understand people who think its legitimate to just accept the fact they didn’t get anything out of school and didn’t do anything about it. The ability to knowingly waste that much of your life not doing what you want or figuring out how to turn it into something you want is an ability you do not want.

The people who complain that no one told them how to ‘do’ school, are quite often the same people who faced with a situation they don’t love now, seem to have no skills for getting themselves out of it. They are people who tend to muddle through life letting it happen to them, they trained themselves at school to take no responsibility for their circumstances and think it’s perfectly legitimate to continue to sit back and complain about life happening to them.

If you didn’t enjoy school, you had three options:

  1. Figure out the best option available and get stuck in doing it
  2. Moan about how it was every one else’s problem and put very little effort in
  3. Leave.

Later in life, you will also run into hard situations, the least of which is holding down a job, relationship or any challenge or goal. You STILL have the same three options. The one you resorted to at school seems like the one that largely sets you up for life.

It strikes me that the most important thing you learned at school isn’t necessarily reflected in your grades, but your approach to sucking it up in and choosing to work hard or change what you are doing, even if it’s not that fun.

Life’s not fair. Move on.

Turns out, poverty aint so bad… If we’re all equally poor. It’s only when poverty is compared to less poverty that the situation becomes truly miserable for the the person with less. And this is one of the most important economic (and life) lessons I’ve ever learned.

If everyone around you is still living in student flats at 30, you’d also be comfortable. Your comfort vastly reduces when others (especially those given money from parents) buy their first houses and you’re the only one still slumming it (though those living in real slums would beg to differ).

One thing humans are very, very good at is feeling worthy of their successes and feeling life’s lack of fairness is responsible for their failures. Pay careful attention to your own conversations and you’ll probably find you are guilty too.

It seems to me that you can’t change the hand you are dealt, and dwelling on the unfairness of life is about the best way to ensure it continues to provide unhappiness.

I met a women in America who got me thinking. She had an hour’s wait at the bus stop because her employer hired her on the basis that as soon as they weren’t busy, she had to leave for the day. I bet she was barely making minimum wage, she had zero job security in a workplace she had to choose because she’d used up her meagre savings unsuccessfully trying to start a new life in a new State. They’d booted her out for the day early, and not even worked around her bus schedule.

The reason she was so remarkable is that she owned her problem. Not once did she (justifiably) complain about the huge unfairnesses that had invariably hit her throughout life and the current unfairness she was facing. She just said ‘I am here now at the bottom. But Im going to work my way back up, get my savings back, get a job that has regular hours and get my life back on track.’

Her attitude was astounding. I soon realised that she was actually so much better off than most people who have generally won the game of life. We’re not well equipped to take a hit, and as a result seem to get knocked down harder and stay down longer.

A lot of quotes flying around seem so cliched, Im not sure we really pay attention. It really is true that happiness is a choice and and I’ve never met a happy person who has found themselves there by luck (although it’s often assumed they have).

I left the bus stop wondering how this woman would react to the things I’ve complained about in my life. She’d probably laugh in my face.

The tale of two engagements

I probably don’t need to go into detail about poor Jennifer Anniston’s inability to tie a man down for years, while she desperately pursued her baby plans and was rejected by multiple lovers. I probably don’t even need to recount the skeptical feedback her engagement generated, and the ongoing rumours that she is struggling to keep a hold of her man and (finally) get him down the alter.

What probably will come as a shock is that not only has George Clooney been in the same boat, he’s been in that boat years longer. Leaving him EVEN older, and less successful in love, well beyond a socially acceptable child bearing age. The poor dude though, DID manage to somehow trick a wildly successful human rights lawyer into accepting his proposal, and I’m sure many of us are waiting with baited breath to see if he can keep her.

The race to the aisle is on. Which one of these miserable, desperate individuals will manage to make it?

Maybe it’s about time to look seriously at some of the stereotypes and double standards we’re a little too comfortable with? This article really sums up one of the most blatant, ridiculous and yet unchallenged beliefs we digest daily. Food for thought.

A cheeky refresh

So turns out I should have been a builder. I just checked that the last time I updated my website or blog was erm… too long ago. Just spent a bit of time doing some minor edits to drag it into 2013 (just in time for 2014 to roll around).

The major two points are:

1. Im not bankrupt, Im just too busy with other people’s sites to update my own sites.
2. I am using a default template for the blog now. I keep waiting until I have time to redo it, and it never arrives. So while I feel like a fraud using a default template, at least its usable until this magical day when I have spare time :)

Happy xmas everyone. Ill try and make my 5th post this year a round up :)

We launch LittleBlackFrock!

(Slightly delayed announcement)

LittleBlackFrock has been the cause of many a late day to work in the past few weeks… It’s the answer to many issues I (and others??) have to buying clothes. Girls love fashion, some girls are extremely good to putting together outfits that rock, and that Id never have thought of on my own. Other girls like looking good, but struggle to find clothes that work with their body, colours or just get generically stuck trying to find an outfit for an upcoming event.

We’re trying to fix that by changing online shopping from browsing screeds of products to adding a little bit of smarts. On LittleblackFrock, you shop by browsing LookBooks created by everyone from proper stylists, to fashion bloggers to your friends. And the best thing is you can click through and buy all or each item separately. Its a really cool (and addictive) way to find the latest clothes, looks and get inspiration… And Ive found that when Im super exciting about an upcoming event (races, Toast, birthday parties), Im all over the site making LookBooks of what Im going to wear.

Give it a whirl, send us your feedback, tell us what you love and what you hate, why you always go back, or why you went once and then never bothered again. We want to hear it. We’ve got stacks of options of where the site may go, and Id love to hear what you think :)

Surprising yourself

Recent life events have got me thinking about how we perceive ourselves quite differently to how we really are. You go through life thinking that you are good at some things, bad at others and have a fairly good idea of how you’ll react.

I come from quite tough stock, at the time of my life I needed toughness the most, it did not fail me. But since then, for smaller events, Im always sadly surprised by how much of a let down I am. Im a big believer in circumstances and understand they play a big role in the outcome of situations, and I believe firmly in mind over matter.

Recently, I found myself clinging to a steep gravel slope in tears, because at some stage, I lost complete control of my fear of heights and found myself unable to pull myself together. That was quite a surprise, after years of ‘heights training’, where I have learned to breathe deeply, calm my nerves, stop thinking and just do. It was really embarrassing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my dad will be able to recount the sheer terror I fell into during the earthquake on Sunday. I called him with uncontrollably shaking hands and it took me several seconds to coherently explain that there was a big earthquake happening and I wasn’t sure how much bigger it would get (though, how coherent that was is debatable). I understand that immediate reaction now, my place was cracking up, things were falling over and moving and swaying. What I dont understand is how, for hours after, my body refused to stop shaking, I got cold, and suspect (also due to my inability to remember clearly the event itself now), that I went into some kind of shock.

Mind over matter totally failed me.

This isnt a pity post, it just got me thinking about the point that I crack. I know in other circumstances, Ive held it together and surprised myself with how I managed to do so. So far what Ive come up with is:

1. Being alone.

When you are alone in an unusual situation, the world very quickly spirals out of control. There is no sounding board or sense of normality to snap you back. I imagine this is the case in a lot of situations. Simply being around people can get you quickly back on track

2. Responding to others

If I was responsible for others in each situation described above, I wonder if things would have been different. I hear from parents that their first thought is helping their kids. Their brain doesn’t have room to be scared for themselves. On a smaller scale, when someone’s falling apart in front of you, you tend to automatically take on the reassuring role.

3. Having a plan

This is probably one of my crazy sides, but I have a plan for most things. Im one of the people who sits on a plane and actually does a mental run through of my emergency plan. Ive done the same on dark streets, I have a plan for what happens when someone grabs me, I revised that plan after a particularly dodgy experience in Melbourne. Ive researched how to get the best results. In the earthquake, I think this backfired. Id spent months trying to understand how it must have felt for those in Christchurch, so when it hit, I immediately assumed this was the ‘big one’.

4. Mental toughness

I think Ive replaced on this front recently. Ive spent good parts of my life being scared of one thing or another (managing staff, and ensuing they get paid, taking business risks etc etc) and learned that sometimes you’ve got to override your own brain. Its a skill you have to work on apparently, because in the past few weeks when I expected that to kick in, nothing did.