Training Season Begins, Uncertainly

IMG_5483Man, these are uncertain times. We have a worldwide pandemic, economic shutdown, and mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors to Hawaii. This means that, in essence, we are trapped on our little island in the sun. We have less than 600 square miles we can roam around in, with no means of travel outside of flight. On the bright side, our 600 square miles are jam-packed with trailed mountain peaks and wave-trimmed beaches. We do have our perks.

I wasn’t planning on running any big races this year, especially in the wake of COVID-19. But this entire pandemic has brought an unprecedented level of stress and lack of control into our neatly-tucked lives. We’re small business owners that should be ramping up for summer, and instead we are praying each day to just make it through to the next, and hopeful that there will  be  a summer to ramp up for.

I started running again a few weeks ago for my mental health, which has been tough to hold on to during this crisis. Last week, though, I decided to download a training plan, get my training-meal staples, and make it happen. I slugged through one decent and two terrible, challenging runs that I somehow managed to finish. Yet today, I woke up on rest day anxious to hit the road again as soon as I can.

IMG_5446Since this is a tough year anyway, I figured my next race should be tougher, too. I’m tired of hot, flat, mundane race courses that all wind along the HNL Marathon’s out-and-back model. I’ve ran the same race 100 times under different names and distances, and have started to get into the trails.

I’ve chosen H.U.R.T. Hawaii’s Tantalus Triple Trek, a grueling, arguably vertical 30-mile trail race in September, as my dream race this year. It’s a small pool of runners, but I’m hoping to snag a registration and be able to race one of my favorite trails this fall. It’ll be my first trail race longer than a half marathon, and my very first ultra. But if there’s any year to do it, it’s this one.

 

Growth

7f837e445be74d2b7cbee1200fd199d7
I sense myself changing,
Ebbing and flowing
Like a river,
Smoothing out the rougher patches of my being.
I feel my spirit
Stretching forth and coming through,
Like the hips of a teenager
Making themselves known.
I know what no longer serves me
Because what I’ve outgrown
Is no longer comfortable.
I notice now
The nuances I did not before;
I hear what you’re really saying
Woven slyly among your words,
And I understand
Exactly
And can no longer be fooled
By pretty-winged things
That do not fly.

The Woman I Am with You

All my life

I’ve been growing, shaping, and changing to

the woman I am

With you

My scars and wounds

small seeds

Blossoming

to the woman I am

With you

My hopes and dreams

Reaching

To the woman I am

With you

My mistakes and heartache

Teaching

To the woman I am

with you

God himself

Preaching

To the woman I am

with you.

And your heart, your growth, your path, your love, your light

Reaching out for me too.

You are my partner, my teammate

My best friend

My soul’s mate, my love, my man

And I know

That in whatever we encounter

We will grow

And be

and do

As the man you are with me

And the woman I am with you.

The Point of the Storm

quotestormI used to watch  The Walking Dead and wonder how people could possibly be stuck in a high-rise apartment or suburban house with zombies roaming about below or outside, respectively.  Like most people, I thought,  Why didn’t they just run for the hills? How stupid are they? I never considered that society doesn’t go from normal to the END overnight, or even over the span of a week. I don’t think anyone watched post-apocalyptic shows or movies thinking about the in-between; when the world has stopped, but not yet collapsed.

Yet in 2020, we’re locked in an awkward in between – schools are closed, businesses are failing, and national and global markets teeter on the brink of collapse. Families of all classes across the world are struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent or mortgage. People of all ages and nationalities are dying and falling ill. Essential workers are forced to weigh the possibility of infecting themselves and their loved ones against a steady paycheck. We’re not at the end of the world – in fact, it really shouldn’t end at all – yet we’ve got a small taste of what a slow descent feels like.

If i were to put on The Walking Dead or Outbreak now, I’d view the characters within those stories with much greater compassion. How could they have possibly known this would happen? I certainly never predicted COVID-19 or its effects, and I’m an overly cautious person. It’s clear our world and business leaders didn’t exactly predict it either. How could they know? How could we have known?

We’re still in the midst of this crisis, but it is finally starting to feel like there is an end to this tunnel, and at least a glimmer of light at the end of it. We’ve lost lives, we’ve lost money, and a lot of us may have lost faith. Yet, I am fairly confident we will not be the same people and countries and businesses and governments and communities we were before this crisis as we will be after it. We will likely be more compassionate, more cautious, more aware of our humility and smallness and less wrapped up in our egos. I would never wish the loss of a human life for any reason, but I do believe that there is some silver lining here.

Haruki Murakami sums this up perfectly in his beloved work, Kafka on the Shore. He writes,

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

That, my friend, is the point of this storm. The point is to change us, collectively and individually, on a million different scales. The universe has its own checks and balances, and perhaps this one is directed at us all. Perhaps, it’s even deserved.

Regardless, we won’t be the same when it’s over.

And that’s probably a good thing.

LEMON

lemon-tree-drawing-14Briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being;
I dreamt of her toes
As they roamed this earth
One day
On their own accord;
I imagined her teeth
Peeked through a grin
At a joke her father told;
I heard the strength of her voice
Speaking out
Against some or all of the wrongs
She’d encounter in her life;
But just briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being
Or so I had thought,
But I’m now unsure;
I do know she craved lemons
Both sour and sweet,
Just as I do
And just as she was;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first thing that me consider myself as a mother;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first time I planned out an entire future
But so briefly she
Was a part of me
The quietest joy I had ever encountered
But so, so briefly she
Was a part of me
And a part of her
As an individual being;
That part I’m not so sure,
But I named her Lemon
Just in case.

Coconuts on the Beach

 

IMG_9107

In our culture, we are always looking forward – towards our goals, dreams, aspirations. We work each day in the hopes of achieving specific outcomes: climbing the corporate ladder, owning a home, paying off debt, having a family and marriage.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working for the future, but the problem is that we are so preoccupied that we forget to enjoy the journey.

Consider your path as a timeline; our end goals are just a blip, while the journey to get there stretches out as far as it needs to. We suspend our joy, presence, light and love for 90% of the process. Do we want our joy to be on the straight line, or just a single dot?

Coconuts on the beach

A lot of our culture is fixated on the results of hard work – the instagram photos, highlight reels and coconuts on the beach. But, we forget that life is supposed to be the journey. The process IS life, in itself: growth, change, joy, sorrow, challenges.

Life is not the vacation. Life is every single day before and after it, and also the vacation, each given equal presence and attention.

I have nothing against coconuts on the beach, but it’s not the remedy for life’s challenges. Embrace the journey and remember to enjoy it. After all, that straight line is where you’ll spend most of life anyways

Healthy During the Holidays

The holidays are a magical time of year – dazzling lights, enchanting music, chilly weather, a flurry of holiday parties, and a slew of food, drink, and merriment. It’s a great time of year for most, but it can be a difficult time of year for many. Here’s a few tips to stay healthy – mentally, physically and emotionally – during this wonderful time of year.

Take Time for Yourself

The common denominator during the holidays is a crammed schedule. We are all busy. Between shopping, decorating, cooking, preparing for out-of-town-guests (or traveling), holiday parties and family obligations, daily life can feel overwhelming. My most effective strategy for staying sane is to carve out quiet, alone time.

Whether it’s a solo run, morning yoga, or just Netflix & chilling by myself, I make sure to get enough alone time to decompress – even if it’s just for an hour or two.

Get Moving

The other anxiety-inducing aspect of the holidays besides time is the food & drink – for me, at least. The holidays can feel like a minefield for healthy eaters, athletes in training, or anyone that’s made progress on their health journey. Few of us would ever cook a gigantic feast and lay out an entire dessert tablet to choose from on our own, right? But that’s the reality of most parties & family events.

There’s nothing wrong with feasting, of course – but when you’re spending time, energy, effort and money on eating healthfully, it can be tough to conquer the dessert table. For me, it’s not even about the calories or macros – it’s about the very upset stomach the next day from eating a slew of rich foods I don’t usually eat.

My strategy is to make sure I keep moving, even with an already busy schedule. I sneak in quick runs and gym sessions as much as possible, and one of our family traditions is to go on a run on Christmas Day with my Dad – and now, with my fiancée as well. It helps us celebrate the day and take care of ourselves at the same time.

At the Holiday Hustle 5K!

Another option is to sign up for a holiday 5k – almost every city has them, and it’s a great way to dress up and enjoy the season while still getting in some miles.

Forget the Guilt

Back to the food – there is literally no purpose in feeling guilty about indulging. It’s practically impossible to eat 100% clean during this time of year anyways, unless you bring your own food in Tupperware to every party you attend. That’s not much fun, is it?

I get rid of the guilt by filling my plate with veggies, fruits, and lighter dishes and picking a few indulgences I really love. That way, I get to indulge without too much of a stomach ache. I also love to bring a dish of roasted veggies, salad, or healthy dessert to potlucks so I know I’ll at least have a base for my plate.

Focus on the Reason for the Season

During the craziness of the holidays, we often forget that it’s not really about gifts, eggnog, drinks, pies, red and white, Santa, and decorations. That’s all fun, but it’s about a lot more than that – spending time with family, letting friends know you love them, reaching out to people we’ve lost touch with, merriment, celebration, community, closeness. Not to mention the religious aspects of whatever you and your family celebrate – hello, birthday of my Lord & Savior!

Don’t get caught up in the commercialism of the whole thing when it’s not even about that. It’s about all the good, mushy, happy, lovey stuff – not on eating the least pie or snagging the best gift.

Happy Holidays!

Nicole

If it Don’t Make Dollars, it Don’t Make Sense.

Let’s keep it real: businesses are designed to make money. Sure, there’s childhood dreams, life-long aspirations, passion, talent and love involved – but the purpose is positive cash flow. The whole idea is to make money in a different way.

Dreams & passion aside, we all need income to survive. To pay bills, keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We don’t always like to talk about it, but it’s true.

When you start a business, the scariest leap is the financial one. Will this business make enough money for my life? Will I go into debt? Will I lose everything?

We were lucky that our business was pretty cheap to start. We had cleaning supplies, our real estate licenses, some software and a shared laptop in a one-bedroom apartment. That was it. As the business started to take shape, though, we constantly came up to the same obstacle:

This would be great for our business, but does it make financial sense to do so?

The answer to this question popped up as a lyric from one of our favorite groups: if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

We wanted so many things: a luxe office space, all organic, locally made cleaning products, sustainable/fair trade cotton linens, and a third person to help us out.

We settled for a new laptop, a cheap desk from Walmart, and generic cleaning products/linens from amazon. It was what made financial sense at the time, and it was absolutely the right choice.

Two years later, we’re moving into a beautiful three-bedroom home so we can have a proper office. We’re still working towards our third person, but for now, we’ve started contracting out the cleanings and laundry work, so we can focus on accounting and growth.

It’s what makes dollars and sense, where we are right now. And that’s what has empowered our business to grow and improve without putting us into debt.

So keep in mind – if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense. You have to put YOU and YOUR business first. Before all the partnerships, collaborations, and shiny, attractive services you can’t quite afford yet. It doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you really want – it just means that you have to take your time to get there.

Saying No to Customers

As small business owners, we love our clients. After all, they’re what keep us in business! It’s deeply important to us that our customers are happy, but it’s also equally important that we don’t allow them to push us around.

Let me be clear: most customers are wonderful people, and we’ve made some great friendships along our journey. And of course, we are always happy to fix mistakes and improve our services. But, as most of us know, not every person is easy – or possible – to please.

In the beginning, we had a really tough time dealing with difficult customers and outlandish requests. We’d freak out and panic because we want to do a great job and ensure all of our customers are happy. Now that we have some time and experience under our belts, however, we don’t break a sweat when we come across a tough client, because we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

You Can’t Please Everyone

You could create the most delicious/original/unique/beautiful service or product, and someone out there will not like it. In fact, someone out there will hate it.

People come with their own tastes, expectations, needs, wants, and issues, and you cannot possibly meet all of them. And even if you did, someone out there will still not like it – still – because they are having a bad day.

It’s (Usually) Not About You

When a customer overreacts to a small issue – like cilantro as a garnish, or a wrinkled pillowcase – it is usually not really about the issue. It’s about something else.

When people overreact, the problem at hand is likely the latest cherry on top of a bad day, week, month, year, or even life. It’s not the core of the problem, it’s just the latest straw.

So, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, your product/service, or your business. All you can do is do your best and handle the situation as best you can. Which brings us to our next point:

Do Not Escalate. Ever.

Since the issue is usually not really about the actual issue – or you, or your business – there is no sense in participating in whatever madness is going on. Do not escalate, ever.

We’ve come across a handful of people that pop up now and again. They are analytical, critical, and angry, and they are – get this – looking for an argument. They are actively searching for the opportunity to yell at someone, and we do our best to ensure it’s not us.

These types of customers are easy to spot, because they blow up over a small problem (or an imaginary one) and are often disarmed when we stay calm, logical, and helpful. We’ve come up with a magical power-sentence to disarm anyone that comes in too hot:

“I understand that you would like [their complaint/request], but unfortunately we cannot [logical reason why not], and [reiterate that that their demand will not be met]. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.”

That is our de-escalation secret sauce, and it hasn’t failed us yet.

Offer a Baby-Compromise

In the harsh world of internet reviews, sometimes you have to give in a little – even if it’s unjustified and unfair. Keep in mind that you have to do the best for your business, and it’s pivotal to put your pride aside when you need to.

We like to offer baby-compromises. They’re often easier and more cost-effective than spending hours on the phone or stressing about the impending bad review. A baby-compromise is just that – a very, very small compromise, in which you give the disgruntled customer just enough for them to move on.

This could be refunding one night of someone’s stay, or comping one small item off of someone’s check. And no, they usually don’t deserve it – but you also don’t deserve to run yourself into the ground trying to reason with someone who is unreasonable.

Remember: all you can do is do your best, and that may occasionally mean giving in. More importantly, saying No gives you the time, space and energy to better serve your customer base. Saying No can free up the time you need to launch a new product, polish up your service, or dust off some marketing materials to grow – baby compromises & all.