Failure is a moment of beauty.

I actually said this to a friend one day.

The crash into the abandoned car revealed itself to me in slow motion. A fraction of a second is all it took from the moment I realized I was about to crash and my car’s front right corner bending into the back of the other. Then my car swept in a half circle into the middle of the highway. I remember not knowing exactly what to do. I remember flooring the clutch and releasing the gear; letting go of the brake pedal until I felt the car just coasting backwards; gently braking to a stand-still; applying the handbrake; assessing what is happening on the highway.

Then the sense of failure washed over me.

But there wasn’t much time to stay in that moment. People who saw me crashing rushed from their cars to my help. Apart from my left hand that hurt slightly, nothing had happened to me. I stepped out of my car with a guy guiding me to the side of the road. I asked him if he could bring my bag that was still on the passenger seat. In it were my wallet and some documents. Someone called for an ambulance. It was around 3 am.

My concern was to manage getting back home on time to walk my dog. Hardly anything happened to me really. I was alive and ready to continue my day. As soon as I was released from hospital, the sense of a new life swept my senses.

It was a beautiful day.

I expect people to be interested in what they are doing. Whatever others expect is different for each and every one of us. The process we go through starts as soon as we meet. Exploring expectations sets the tone of the process. There might not be any promise of success – and failure is never an aim. The reality of working in groups is one of expectations.

I was working in a landscape architecture office. My experience as an industrial designer allowed me to integrate into the workflow in a way that was both challenging and satisfying. Many projects passed beside me without being involved in them personally. I was partially intrigued, partially appalled to notice how often the dysfunctional communications of the team nurtured frustrations that could have been avoided.

It was an intense learning process for me. I tried to learn from my mistakes too. The sense of failure was always in the air. However, some of the failures were painfully simple to avoid.

Thanks to my unintentional position of the outsider I could see other possibilities. I couldn’t say these possibilities would have necessarily worked. But I saw the possibilities, where others accepted failure as a reality to live with.

The moment of failure has a very short lifespan in me. My mind quickly switches to simple questions: what have I learned from this? What can I do next?

Failure, as much as it can be painful, presents us with opportunity.

In opportunity, I’m sure, you too can see beauty.

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The Now Moment

Are you reading now or, maybe now the reading is you?

Count on the moment to come

I had breakfast, I am proofreading and if it’s not over yet, the race is just about to be over. The posts that make this story, generate expectations. If you are reading this, your reality is directed into a story. Now, it’s your own. What will unfold, can still serve more than just the future. The story from the past, informs my thoughts and process. And so, a network of influences constantly affects my moment. In turn, the future becomes my moment too. Are you there with me?

My mind is a generator of content. My body is the tool to deliver this content into action.

Yohanan Stern walking in the dunes of Nitsanim Reserve in Israel, 2013

In 2016 I worked with my family on a memory book. The intention was to have it ready for my father’s year since passing. Each of my family members had their own approach to the idea of having this book made. Being the only member of my family living away from Israel, this project was a fascinating opportunity for me. Every step of the way was more than just one milestone. Our story is one of past, future and the moment. The resulting book reflected that beautifully.

I was inspired to take that experience and implement my insights from it into everything I do. But I realized as well, that my insights – even before the memory book – have been consistently similar.

My work is a journey to connect with people.

Every person has their own past, future and moment.

Our connection takes us through a journey that starts in a moment.

A heron in Lost Lagoon spreading its wings, possibly to heat up in the morning sun.

In joining the run to support Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH), I enjoy the process as much as the questions that it raises. Along the way, the story unfolds: I wonder if my fitness is improving at all; I am inspired by engagements with people; I experience the pieces of my story coming to life.

Now I only have to stretch and run. Thank you for your interest and support.

This is the final in a series of posts I’ve shared prior to the event on June 23. If you are interested in my story, feel free to comment and follow this blog to get alerts when new posts are published. The whole series can be read in one piece here.

Technology, Design and Thinking

I’ve always enjoyed the sensations relating to hard physical work. At times my routines brought me to peaks of fitness. Other times I was injured and couldn’t keep up with the level of activity I aspired to. So, achievements in how many pull ups I managed or how far I could run, were always a side-note for me. Routine hard physical work pushes me to a level of focus that translates into my other engagements in life: Design, Technology and Thinking. How available my body will be to participate in my mental maintenance is clearly uncertain. This plays a significant part in my decision (if there ever was one) to avoiding professional sports.

Life can be simple, yet calculated.

However, in working out for the 5 Km event on June 23rd, I am benefiting from some interesting technology. Even before heading out, I can plan my course on my computer. Either Google maps or other web tools provide information such as distance, elevations and more. In order to select a proper running shoe, I browsed through some websites and got lost in more information I could handle. I even got some training plans to ease my way into a healthy progress. 

I can hardly buy simple shoes anymore, that’s for sure. No complaint here. The structure of shoes allows my running to be cushioned enough to avoid shock, yet braced in the right spots to keep my joints in place.

I took my cell phone with me occasionally to measure times and track my course. Recently I decided to try a fitness watch. Just like cell phones, I am browsing through it to find the features that really interest me. One day I might even create my own app for it. There’s still so much to explore before the optimum interface of a fitness watch will fit the needs of a majority of users. Product personalization means that we might never reach that optimum. Do we really have such elaborate needs?

Intermediate training plan for a 5 Km run.

Does running for a cause make my running different? As long as my body cooperates I try to provide it with opportunities for movement. Staying physically active in turn, nurtures my other interests and vocations. I see the connections in life in a pretty broad view. I could say that everything is connected, even if not always as a reflection of cause and effect. I definitely refrain from assigning values to what I can see as connections. So the cause is one part of my run and other parts are there whether I invest in them or not.

I’m practicing my writing skills; I’m engaging on a personal level with people I see only occasionally; and I’m developing new concepts for programs, services and products. I would have done all of these without the race. But as stated above, the level of focus I reach, benefits my other engagements. Contributing to the case of Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH), is an opportunity for me to do more for myself as well.

Achievements, Results, Finish Line: Process is at the core of it all.

Design is a way of planning. I realized a long time ago that no matter what I do in life, I am a designer. So the race is a component within a complex, yet straightforward network of stories that make my life. The more I think of it, it makes sense to me. Design is a Matter of Life.

This is the fifth in a series of posts I’ve shared prior to the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar. The whole series can be read in one piece here.

Mom and Pop Shops anyone?

In many of my visits to community consultations, I heard the desire for mom and pop shops. This, in light of the impossible hikes in rent, seemed to me like one of those paradoxes that lie in the platform of community consultations. City staff are honestly interested in hearing what residents want. Residents honestly share their interests.

Then property owners, especially owners of ones in desirable areas, raise the rent.

Terasen invested in transforming some crosswalks along Commercial Drive into Italian themed artwork.

Can mom and pop shops survive the scale of development and gentrification of a city? Typically, such venues are more expensive than your 5-minutes-drive-away Safeway or even cross-the-street “Medium Scale Neighborhood Market”. These chains have much more variety and the convenience of… anonymity. Yeah, some of us still yearn for mom and pop shops.

I’ve been shopping along Commercial drive for roughly 15 years now. What was called The First Ravioli Store is now Easy Shop. With the significant change of ownership and inventory, we still find our fresh pasta and favorite cheese there. Many mom and pop shops are really a sad and tired corner in retail streets. Typically their operators/owners struggle to make ends meet. After First Ravioli changed hands some years ago, I was impressed to see the efforts the new owner took to revitalize the space. And still, in a quickly changing street like Commercial drive, this corner store always seems to be at least one step behind. Jawid, the friendly owner of Easy Shop removed the sliced meats we occasionally got at First Ravioli. We still find our fresh pasta and favorite cheese there.

Another component in the Terasen street touch ups.

If you had to grade my enthusiasm with mom and pop shops, I’m probably on the lower side of the scale. But the community consultations I went to, made me curious to see what it really means for me to support this strange little beast.

At one point, early in his time there, I shared with Jawid a personal thought. That, to my surprise, made him grateful for my insight and generosity.

A few months later I shared with him my concern with finding the same cheese we were buying from him, significantly cheaper somewhere else. Before doing that I was struggling whether to bother talking with Jawid about the issue or not. He thanked me profusely and the next week – lo and behold – informed me that he talked with his supplier. We could continue buying our favorite cheese at Easy Shop.

Now, as part of my experiment in fundraising, I am handing my notes in places I visit. I casually approach people I know and share with them my call for support. Without expecting much, what drives me in this is a simple thought: If I don’t ask, how will people know?

The canopy, the cash register at Easy Shop and the link to my fundraising page: http://bit.ly/2VGfwBX

Jawid, is the first shop owner I shared my fundraising run with. On my visit there today, my note was proudly posted on the cash machine. That was so heartwarming. I asked him if I could take some photos and promised to post them on my social platforms.

Mom and Pop Shops anyone?

This is the fourth in a series of posts I’ve shared prior to the event on June 23. If you are interested in  stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar. The whole series can be read in one piece here.

Mental Core

There is a mental effort whether running on a treadmill or outdoors. The difference between the two is noticeable. But in both cases, whenever I run, the mental challenge exists. Here’s a useful mantra for myself: “There’s always a good reason; there’s never a good excuse.”

Some gravel, some paved, the Champlain Heights trail is one in many options.

The course of the Scotia Bank Vancouver race has a combination of paving and gravel. To practice for the race I wanted to do some of my runs in similar conditions in my neighborhood. The pathways beside Champlain Heights Community Center provide a good match. In recent months we’ve been going to the Champlain Heights gym almost exclusively. It was really nice to do a combined outdoors-indoors training recently.

Another good training venue is Trout Lake Park (John Hendry). One of its paths is about 1300 M long. Last year I ran there a few times. Then Killarney Park has a 400 M track that is great for working on my pacing. I’ve already done more than 5 KM outdoor runs. It wasn’t easy. I need to be ready for more.

In the highly visited course around Trout Lake, I can practice some chasing of other runners.

My inspiration comes in many forms. Watching Mo Farah win both the 10,000 M and 5,000 M races in two successive Olympics is good for boredom reduction on the treadmill. However, along the trails in a park I need something else to keep me going. The fresh air is one of the best incentives to run outside. The actual movement on real ground is another best. But my head, alas, is working against me occasionally. “OK, just one more round. I can’t do more than that today.” So easy to fall for that…

Boring yet useful, the 400 m track is great for pacing.

In the doc festival of last year I watched ‘Free Solo‘. This film follows Alex Honnold through his process of preparing for and eventually climbing the El Capitan rock without ropes. Just like I will never run as fast as any of the competitive runners, I will never climb anything the way a professional climber will. The act of climbing in itself is breathtaking. But, something else completely, was for me the core take away from watching the movie.

In order to make his climb, Alex had to prepare for every single move. Gradually, a mental image of the whole climb formed in his mind. What connects me so successfully to ‘Free Solo’ is my own attention to detail and perseverance. I came out of watching ‘Free Solo’ with a renewed sense of purpose. The phrase I’ve been using for quite a while now, keeps rolling: “Whatever you achieve is perfect. From there you can only improve.”

Alex Honnold writes down the day’s climbing event in his climbing journal. (National Geographic/Jimmy Chin)

In preparing for my 5 KM run, I am taking my mental core with me and putting it to the test. It’s not a huge task. My aim is to challenge myself to be my own best. Getting closer every day.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar. The whole series can be read in one piece here.

Making Connections

Does running at 10 Km/h make you breathless? For the longest time I never really worried about the numeric value of my speed. I’m reasonably quick, to be honest.

Then I started watching athletes chase each other at more than 20 Km/h. These antelope-like human beings, keep this pace until my eyeballs can handle it no longer. Eventually I get to watch the same videos more than once. I memorize names. I become inspired. There’s no way I will ever manage the speeds these athletes reach. However, I’m happy with my own progress even if my results stay the same.

London 2012 Olympics. (Daily Mail)

I’ve always tried to be active. Then a slight injury kept me back a bit, the weather was crappy and other excuses made me a little less active. Then I returned to walking or jogging. I am active. I always want to do more.

In recent years I had some uplifting experiences that are unrelated to each other. I guess my thought process allows me to make the connections work for me. Walking out with Anat, my wife for an hour each day, became a habit of ours. The dry summer of 2017 extended deep into winter. Then finally, by the end of November, the rain returned to Vancouver. The evening chill and increasing darkness were also factors in our decision to consider the gym. “Just for walking” I thought initially.

A month passed and the half hour increased to 45 minutes. Then one hour. A few minutes jogging here and there… Some months later and I was surprised to realize I can do a full hour of running. The videos I watched managed to relieve some of the inevitable boredom that creeps in while trying to keep in shape.

Then the weather improved and I took the opportunity to walk and run outside again. It’s much harder to run on a static surface than on the belt of a treadmill. There is a mental difference apart from the physical one.

But the race in June is outdoors (thankfully). On April of this year I got an email from Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House (MPNH). In it were a few lines talking about their team for the Scotia Bank Half Marathon and 5 Km Run. MPNH is among the various agencies I try to support. My preference is in contributing some time and insights. Donating money is a lesser priority for me.

So tying my ongoing physical training to a fundraising event, seemed like an interesting opportunity. Exploring new connections.

About half of the 5 Km long course is taken around Lost Lagoon

I’ve already walked the course of the race twice to get to know it. Soon I will make the trip to check the run. In the meantime I am running in my neighborhood, on the east side of Vancouver and nearby.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar. The whole series can be read in one piece here.

The Money and The Run

It’s interesting to fund raise.

Money is everywhere, but maybe not always where I might want it to be.

I have always admired people who engage in fundraising. My admiration comes from the impression that the act of convincing people to part with their money is a steep uphill battle. There are events you can see where the organizers managed to attract unbelievable sums. Then others stay in the realms of covering expenses at best. Most fundraising, as far as I can tell, is done as a volunteering act. Successful fundraising seems like a full time engagement.

Another part of my admiration stems from my own un-ease with trying to be in their position myself.

So when I decided to participate in the Scotia Bank Half Marathon and 5 Km Vancouver Run, I relieved myself from the stress of how much money I will manage to raise. It’s going to be a trial and error process. I will sweep through my mailing list and try to send as many calls to action as possible. There are people I know better than others in my mailing list.

However, I am in this for a cause that requires a very simple decision: donate or not. On the part of my prospect donors, the decision might be complicated by many considerations: one might have just sent money to a different cause; another might object to participating in fundraising; someone else could very well be excited to join!

So in my communications, I want to reflect the excited side of the decision. Reflecting back on people I’ve seen fundraising in the past I find connections in me to their traits: relentlessness; positivity; commitment. 

The section just north of the cycling tunnel that is the halfway of the 5 Km course.

When sending a call for donation to dozens of people, it’s my choice – not anyone else’s. I’m approaching it as an engagement similar to platonic love. All who receive my call are participating in this event whether you donate or not. For this I am grateful. I am inspired to move on.

Expect a weekly post until the event on June 23. If you are interested in stories like this, click “Follow by Clicking Here”, on the right side bar. The whole series can be read in one piece here.