Road Rash

Cycling and Life Insights from a Tranplanted East Coast Cycling Chick

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Yep, World’s Meanest Mom…right here!

The other night Ethan - my 11 year old - was playing defense during flag football practice and he fell backwards and landed on his wrists. He fell to the ground and there were moderate hysterics at the pain he was enduring. It’s important to note that Ethan can be prone to the occasional dramatics when it comes to pain - which is odd because as a child you could come just short of cutting off an appendage and he’d be completely stoic. Oh well…I digress. 

The coach let him sit out from the scrimmaging and after a few minutes asked Ethan if he was ready to come back in. Ethan responded that he wasn’t quite ready as he was still in significant pain. This triggered my mom bullshit-o-meter. Wanting to gauge his actual level of pain I gave him a choice, he could go back in and play or he could run three laps to the soccer goals and back - knowing that if he wasn’t truly in a lot of pain that scrimmaging was FAR more fun that running laps and he’d choose returning to the field. He however chose to run laps. During his second lap he started walking with his hands on his head, I asked what was wrong and he responded in exasperation “CRAMPS”. I asked him “you know what’s good for cramps? MORE RUNNING. Keep going.” He sighed heavily but continued to run. Finishing his last lap by the last few minutes of practice his coach called him in the huddle where he instructed the team to do 10 Burpees (if you don’t know what they are Google them and get thee to a gym once a decade would ya?) and then run a lap. He told Ethan since his wrist was bothering him that he didn’t have to do the Burpees but of course I yelled out from the sidelines “your wrists won’t keep you from doing 5 sit ups”. I got a few looks from the other parents at this point. 

Upon waking the next morning Ethan still complained that his wrists hurt. After school that day I took him to the doctor where we were told he more than likely had an avulsion fracture and would need to wear a brace for a few weeks. Great! Just what I need physical proof for all the parents who watched me make my kid run laps that I am indeed “The World’s Meanest Mom”. Oh well I’ll wear the mantle proudly and if you want it you’ll have to wrestle it from my cold dead hands! 

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Be Careful What You Wish For. Think Before You Fad.

I am not unaware that the economy is in dire straits and that businesses are suffering. However, maybe if we spent more time focusing on improving the way we service our client base we might find a more dedicated customer base rather than a huge pendulum swing of customers who leave at the first sign of a cheaper price or larger quantity elsewhere. Services such as Groupon are only making matters worse. It rewards a subset of the population that is strictly price based rather than rewarding the population of return, repeat and dedicated customers that great service and solid product generates. 

I have written about this topic before and it continues to ring true as more and more of the Groupon-model programs are created across the country. I get that these programs generate cash flow for small and large business but what does it do to your core clients? The ones you have spent time nurturing and growing for the past <fill in blank> years. The people who have paid full price for your services and helped build your business and support your livelihood. These people are not to be taken for granted, to be treated shoddily. How do you think they feel when they’ve been faithful to you for all this time and you drop your pants faster than you can say ‘HELLO’ for the large group of pendulum customers who will go away just as quick as they showed up as soon as their email ‘dings’ with a new deal at your competitors location?

You think “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” try scorning an entire customer base who spent their hard earned money and trusted you with their needs. Spend a moment, think before you ‘fad’. 

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Hearts Don’t Come Bigger Than Ethan’s…

Kids have a knack for getting easily distracted, for not picking up behind themselves, for thinking the world revolves around them…this is nothing new. It’s the reaction when they realize their actions or lack of them have consequences that either make you smile or make you cringe. I have plenty of cringe-worthy moments but this one falls into the more pleasant smile category. 

Ethan and a friend were playing video games in our office/gaming room and had taken some items out of a drawer in a cabinet in order to get to the games stored underneath. They laid these items in the middle of the floor and went about their play. Once his friend had gone home Ethan failed to return the two items back to the drawer where he got them. These items happened to be the anniversary gifts I had gotten my husband for our upcoming first wedding anniversary. Of course the next person in the office was my husband who found the gifts (unwrapped of course) laying on the floor and asked me if they were gifts for him. 

I explained to Ethan that his carelessness had now ruined the surprise of Shaun’s gift. He immediately responded with “I’ll go out tomorrow with my own money and buy him a new present…I am soooo sorry.” I told him he did not need to go buy a new gift just that he needed to be more conscious of his surroundings. The next morning when I awoke I found Ethan downstairs waiting for me so I could help him make Shaun breakfast in bed to make up for his gift being ruined. 

The fact that he remembered the event at all after a night’s sleep is amazing enough but the fact that he wanted to make up for it by making Shaun breakfast in bed was way above and beyond what I would have expected out of his little 11 year old heart. 

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Cut the crap…

Nothing warms my heart or inspires me more than marketing buzzwords. The sound of someone in authority with no knowledge or skill in anything but doublespeak lulling me into a coma of words, phrases and ideas that make absolutely no sense to anyone, including the person saying them. Below are a few of the more overused buzzwords and their true life translation.

Synergy - “Hey, how about we have a plan?”

Paradigm Shift - “Holy Shit! There’s a new thought/trend. We need to pounce on it even if we don’t have a plan and beat it to death.”

Take it Offline - “I don’t care about these small details so how about you talk about it when I’m not around”

Authenticity - the you/person/company you think everyone wants to know, follow, buy. 

Value Added - duh….FREE 

Guru - “I just learned this yesterday but I still know more than you so, if I use enough big words and talk in circles you’ll believe all that I say.”

Social Media - free marketing that we can make the intern do 

Transparency - stuff that sounds true and makes us look good - truth is optional

Robust - round this idea out with lots of bullshit until it sounds like something we can charge more for

ROI - what the hell am I paying you for?

Feel free to share your favorites. Maybe we can all work together to publish The Marketers’ Transparent Synergy Thesaurus.

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Customers Considered Collateral Damage in Current Economy.

Did we all forget that there are two things that make the economy and every business continue to function….supply and DEMAND. Without the demand for what you have to sell you have no business. The demand can either be organic or man-made but either way it is a demand for the goods or services that you provide. Demand is a living, breathing organism that must be taken care of or it will wither and die and with it your business and livelihood. The key to demand is the customer. The key to maintaining a customer….service. I think we have all lost sight of this fact. We are making decisions based on costs, overhead and profit margins rather than what is best for the end user of our product or service. Don’t get me wrong the other things are very important to maintaining a profitable business however without the customers you don’t have a business, profitable or not. Just ask someone in a few years if they have a NetFlix account and watch them say…a what?

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Buyer Beware! Kids Cause Whiplash

There are moments that warm a mother’s heart and then there are those when you question your skills as a parent. When they both happen within 5 minutes of each other it’s almost enough to make your head spin right off your shoulders. 

A few weeks ago it was my son’s 11th birthday and he had asked for a number of items as gifts from friends and family. Upon receiving one gift I noticed that it wasn’t quite the item he had asked for…right basic idea…just not quite exactly what he had asked for. I asked him if it was the one he had wanted and he responded with “no, not really”. My husband told him he could take it back and get the one he really wanted. That’s when my heart was warmed by my son’s response of “no, I can’t do that it was a gift and the person who gave it to me bought it special for me and that would be rude and hurt their feelings”. A lesson I had never even taught him as I thought it also would be fine if he returned it since the person would never have known. The kid has one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen and he seems to display it at every opportunity. 

Now for the moment that made my head spin in stark contrast to the moment above that occurred not even 5 minutes earlier. Ethan’s birthday party was going to be a paintball extravaganza with a bunch of his friends going to play indoor paintball. My son, the sweet boy referenced above, says “hey mom, I have a great strategy for paintball…I’m going to shoot all my friends in the face so the paint covers their face shield so they can’t see and then I can pick them off one by one.”  SIGH….what kind of duplicitous little ‘two-face’ have I created? 

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Go Ahead Rip Me A New One…

What I am about to say will probably be extremely unpopular especially with folks in my industry, marketing. But, let me start by saying I am not sitting atop my high horse passing judgement on all who work in marketing and use social media as a tool to that end. I am guilty of all that I write here which is why I am writing. I am looking for answers to what I fear is already a huge problem and is only trending to get worse, immediate gratification. 

We work hard to teach our children that the world does not revolve around them, that they need to wait their turn, be patient, be respectful of other’s lives - needs - situations. We get aggravated with folks we come across in life who operate as if there’s are the only needs worth meeting or who live as though the universe revolves around them. Yet, we want immediate gratification in every aspect of our online communication. When we have an issue we want resolution, or at least acknowledgement…NOW! I attended an event this morning put on by the SMCKC where Scott Monty of Ford Motor Company spoke on their marketing and how they use social media as a tool to deliver their message. He stated that ‘folks won’t wait 24 hours for a response or acknowledgement anymore, heck they won’t even wait 4 hours’. Well….why not??? What is so important about your opinion on a car, a soft drink, your cable provider that needs to be addressed the moment you tweet, post or blog about it? The only immediate response time you NEED is 9-1-1, that is a true emergency situation that needs immediate attention. 

Why have we become a society of the self-involved? People who can’t understand that fellow humans are behind a company or a brand’s social media voice and those humans have lives, interests, families they need, want and SHOULD be interacting with. If I have a problem with my cable company or an electronic I bought from Best Buy I wouldn’t show up at their offices or store at 2am and expect acknowledgement or resolution….there wouldn’t be anyone there…and there shouldn’t be. The people who work in the store are home with their families, living life and that is 100% OK. 

How would you feel if upon your thirteenth tweet in the last 4 hours about how no one from X company has responded to your issue you received a response of - “I am sorry for the delay but I was

- Dealing with death of a family member

- Experiencing the birth of my first child

- Teaching my son to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time

- Getting married or giving away my youngest daughter at her wedding

How big of an ass would you feel like, sadly I’m not sure many would feel bad at all. They’d instead want to know why a contingency plan wasn’t in place to deal with my need to learn why my DVR won’t record the umpteenth repeat of Dexter. 

How sad is that? 

What can we do to back off from this need for immediate response? 

How can we get back to a simpler time when we understood that IRL was WAY more important than anything happening online? 

How can we return to a time when patience was indeed a virtue and we all knew that the world revolves around patience and understanding of our 

fellow humans….not our immediate wants and needs? 

What are we teaching our children? 

We are giving all this lip service to learning the values above but with our actions we are showing them the exact opposite which is only confusing them. I am sad for where I feel this is taking us and wondering how we can strike a balance and learn to appreciate our own lives and those real flesh and bone people in it, while showing understanding and patience for all those we share this life, community and world with. 

Go ahead….rip me a new one, if it makes you feel better. The anonymity of the internet allows you to get your release by berating those you don’t have to look in the face so feel free I can take it. But if you want to be constructive maybe you could offer some ideas of how we all can improve. 

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Grand Statements Followed by Contradictions Carry Little Weight in a Debate.

Yes, this article is about QR Codes which is quite the polarizing topic. But my point has nothing to do with QR Codes. This has to do with this gentleman’s grand statement that QR Codes are a waste of time and a dead-end technology. Then he finishes his article by referencing appropriate uses for them. So which is it, are they useless or useful in the correct application. He also says it’s a dead-end technology then in the next two words calls it a transitional technology. So which is it because a useless technology cannot be useful in spawning improved technology. Very few things in life have absolutely no redeeming value. It’s finding an object, person or concept’s true value and embracing it - celebrating it and using it for purposeful end results that improve our lives and the world around us.

Let’s quit the grand statements of negativity on this, and all ideas for that matter, and instead let’s spend that energy and time finding the true value in ideas and making them greater. 

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The Truth Hurts, That’s Why It Takes Courage to Tell It.

When people learn that I am a fan of cycling many of them ask me the same question….do you think Lance is/was a cheat? My answer has always been the same, I don’t know but I sure hope not. 

And why do I ‘hope not’? Not because I think he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs (PED) but because I hope he’d be able to admit his use, especially once he left the sport. My hope was not for his innocence but for his truth. 

I don’t judge those athletes who at some pointe were drawn into using PEDs to enhance their performance. I can’t even imagine the pressure they are under when competitors they know they are better conditioned than sail past them to a victory. Then, when they do break under the pressure and use PEDs they get accolades, awards, praise and monetary winnings all based on their ability to win. The fact that they are willing to risk their lives by using these PEDs should tell you the pressure put on them to continue in a career they’ve been dreaming of since they day they could put their feet on the pedals. Is it right? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But these guys are kids when they start, do you remember being above peer pressure when you were that young? No. And the peer pressure we faced I can only imagine is NOTHING compared to what these athletes face. 

It’s the lying for so long about it once you leave the sport that turns my stomach. I get why you need to keep your secret while you are in the midst of the success and pressure of the team, it’s once you leave and you have the chance to make the sport better for the future generations by being honest. My mom always taught me the punishment for the mistake has nothing on the punishment for lying about it on top of making the initial mistake. 

Now, there have been quite a few past and current cyclists lately who have been asked about their past use of PEDs and some have taken a long time to come clean. The peloton is built on trust of your fellow riders, in those long stage races you lean on, rely on, depend on your team to pull you through. How must it feel to go against that brotherhood and be the only one telling the truth? 

Where does this leave Lance? In a canoe with a hole that is quickly filling with water. I don’t discount the enormous amount of benefit to the cancer community that Lance provides. His Livestrong Foundation is an amazing organization with the ability to raise obscene amounts of money and awareness. But the longer he dodges the truth the more damage its eventual reveal is going to bring. Like my mother taught me the damage is always less when you come clean immediately, than when you try and cover what you did and then it comes out anyway. 

I wouldn’t fault him for using PEDs during a time when it was the norm, when it was the only way to excel at your chosen sport - your true passion. Like I said it would take more internal fortitude than even Mother Theresa probably possessed. It’s the inability to be truthful, when your not being truthful will only hurt the mission you care so much about in the long run. 

It all saddens me, but my hope for the sport is high that in the long run it will be a safer, more honest and amazing sport. I still contend that even with the use of PEDs most athletes in other sports couldn’t finish one week of a grand tour much less three. Of course not one cyclist with the upper body of a 15 year old boy could cut it on the gridiron or ice rink or baseball diamond either so it’s all relative. 

But my hope remains….it’s all I have left. 

Allez! Allez! Lance. Allez! Allez!