Are Women Smarter Then Men?

The seven minute video story at the bottom, about a group of friends in Chile, is a true joy. Do yourself a favor and start your week with it. How wonderful that these women have been friends for six decades. And I love their quirky personalities and exquisite taste in baked goods. Best of all, the beautiful “punchline” at the very end.

The Good Wife has had a similar group of close friends for close to two decades. To the Chileans, the Olympia Coffee Klatchers are mere pups.

For decades, in Ybor City, FL, Mother Dear has spent almost every Saturday morning enjoying Cuban coffee and cheese bread with the same girlfriends.

Big Sissy has been walking her Northwest Indiana ‘hood with the same few girlfriends for decades.

Increasingly, positive psychologists are telling us what we already instinctively know. Life is most meaningful when lived in community.

In fairness, some men make time for one another. My closest friend at work has helped lead a raucous book club in Tacoma, WA for the last 20-30 years. Of course, when Oprah learned about “Gower”, they were invited onto her show. And Older SoCal Bro gathers for coffee with a few male friends most Saturdays. And I run with the same group of male misfits a few times a week. We’ve had women members, but we’re so uncouth, they don’t last long.

Despite some evidence of male bonding, I can’t help but conclude women are more intentional, and therefore smarter, about investing in friendships. Why is that?

Losing Touch

Removed from the realities of other people’s day-to-day lives, we lose touch with them.

Politicians lose touch with their constituents all the time. Many have no idea what a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk costs. If our politicians had to do their own taxes, think they might get serious about tax simplification?

One recent afternoon, the Prime Minister of Norway decided he’d try to reconnect with common people by posing as a taxi cab driver. I’d give him more credit if he didn’t film it so expertly so that it would get reported on even by distant bloggers. The catalyst no doubt was the fact that he’s behind in the polls. Norway’s population is similar to Washington State’s, so for me, it would be like getting driven by our Governor.

Living through my daughter’s transition from high school to college has taught me I’ve lost touch with the first year college students I teach. Now days, I don’t fully appreciate how hard it is to leave home, live in a small room with a stranger, and have to start from complete scratch making friends.

Similarly, I’ve lost touch with the teaching challenges my grad students will inevitably face when they student teach in primary and secondary schools. Visiting schools is a poor substitute for teaching day in, day out.

Accustomed as I am to having a well-stocked pantry and fridge, I’ve lost touch with people who don’t have enough to eat. Make that the poor more generally. I wonder, what it would be like to not have any savings? Or be in serious debt? To feel like the hole is getting deeper and deeper?

Last week it was reported that 40% of whites have only white friends (and 25% of ethnic minorities have only friends from within their ethnic group). My hometown lacks ethnic diversity for sure, but thanks to the GalPal, I spent one evening last week at a nearby lake with family friends from Mexico. Their 12 year-old daughter taught me how to jet-ski. Despite occasional lake get togethers, I’m not in touch with first generation Americans who aren’t terribly comfortable with English, are supporting extended family members, and are no doubt worried about whether we’ll ever pass meaningful immigration reform.

My favorite People Magazine news story from last week involved Oprah, a $38,100 purse, and a Swiss shop owner who lost touch with the fact that non-whites can in fact be extremely wealthy. O made $77m last year. Oops.

The shop owner’s gaffe is a reminder that all of us live in varying degrees of out-of-touchness. All the time.

The only antidote is curiosity. We need to acknowledge the limits of our understanding and ask questions of others. And listen and learn.

What Lance Armstrong Can Say to Oprah to Make Things Right

Nothing.

Apart from a simple “sorry for the long-standing deception,” Lance doesn’t owe me, or any professional cycling fan, anything.

Why do we continually delude ourselves to think we know the entertainers, athletes, and politicians we follow? That we’re in some sort of relationship with them? That when their moral failings become painfully evident, that they let us down?

Remember Tiger Woods awkward, post-rehab, public confessional in some Florida hotel conference room? The one with his mom in the front row. The one where he said he “kinda got away from his Buddhism (one of my favorite understatements of all-time)?” What was that all about? Tiger didn’t pledge to be faithful to me or you or even his corporate sponsors.

The bright light public confessional is all about limiting the damage to one’s personal brand, and by extension, earning potential. To reset as a human being, Tiger would have been far better off listing all the people he had hurt and then seeking each person’s forgiveness outside the media spotlight.

At 41, Lance is in trouble if he needs advice on how to reset as a human being. I’m offering it anyways. He won’t follow it because he doesn’t read this blog regularly enough, and like all of us, he’s highly skilled at rationalizing his behavior. He tells himself, “If it wasn’t for my success, Hamilton, Landis, Andreu’s wife, and even my masseuse and others involved with the sport wouldn’t have made nearly as much money.” In his mind, his accusers are indebted to him.

Forget Oprah Lance. And forget your athletic career (triathlon has a long ways to go before it reaches “fringe sport” consideration). Resolve to be a more kind, empathetic, and truthful person. Take time to make a detailed list of everyone that you’ve directly hurt as a result of your words, actions, and privilege. People who you repeatedly lied to. People you bullied on and off the bike. People whose reputations you trashed. People whose businesses you ruined. Then come clean in a written mea culpa, a no holds barred confession. In it, take complete responsibility for hurting those people as a result of their truthfulness.

Send it to the New York Times. Then buy however many plane tickets necessary and travel to see everyone on the list. No matter how much it cuts into your triathlon training. Seek their forgiveness as personally and privately as possible.

Do that and the tide of public opinion will begin to turn. But don’t do it for that reason. Don’t even do it for your children or your legacy. Do it to reset as a human being, for the sake of human decency, to live the second half of your life in a more kind, empathetic, and truthful manner.

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What, if anything, will we learn from the recession?

I’m not a regular viewer (a necessary qualifier to retain some semblance of masculinity), but I caught an episode of Oprah one night last week. The theme, the recession’s negative impact on people.

I’ll introduce you to a few of the guests, describe what I think the producers wanted me to conclude from the segment, and explain my actual reaction.

Guest one, a 24 year-old woman, had lost her job with an interior decorating company. Not only had she done three internships in college, she had “done everything right” and still ended up standing in an unemployment line. I was supposed to conclude that’s wrong and sad. Sure it’s sad whenever anyone who really wants to work can’t find a job, but even sadder was the subtext: college graduates are entitled to good jobs.

Robert Reich, whose contributions were underwhelming, was the talking head putting the individual stories into the broader context of a changing economy. With respect to guest one, even I might have done a better job framing her experience.

Here’s the takeaway for her, the other student in the news lately who has sued her college because she can’t find a job, and anyone who thinks a college degree entitles them to a good job. A new day has dawned. Sizeable student loans and a college diploma guarantee little. Increasingly, businesses are more productive with fewer people. Profit margins are shrinking; consequently, the race to eliminate jobs is accelerating. You’re competing with more people for fewer jobs, not just your college classmates, but elderly people who are finding they have to continue working, and highly motivated, ambitious peers from across the globe.  Good grades and the perceived prestige of your institution mean little absent the following: a genuine curiosity; a strong work ethic; well developed communication, critical thinking, team, and problem solving skills; cross cultural knowledge and skills; integrity, and resilience.

Guest two was a couple that had been living large. The X had a successful hair salon and the Y was a successful realtor before both lost their jobs. As their financial situation worsened, their well-to-do friends quit associating with them. It was clear by Oprah’s sadness, that I was supposed to feel similarly, but I didn’t. Oprah kept asking superficial questions like, “So they don’t invite you to their dinner parties anymore?” To which unemployed couple sadly replied, “No they don’t.” Audience members shook their heads in dismay.

I did my best to set aside the obvious irony of one of the wealthier people in the world exploring the sadness of downward mobility, and wondered why and the hell didn’t she ask them why they pursued friendships based upon superficial signs of material wealth in the first place. This was a sad segment, but not at all in the way the producers intended. What was most sad was the couple’s utter lack of self-awareness. They never said what might have made it a socially redeeming case study. “The recession has been an important wake up call. It opened our eyes to the limits of consumerism and materialism, neither of which form a meaningful foundation for friendship.”

In fairness, one of the other segments did convey a “silver lining, now we know what’s most important” moral, but I couldn’t help but wonder how long the guest’s commitment to frugality and meaningful relationships will continue once the recession ends.

Guest three was a former Denver newscaster who was making 250k at the time of his dismissal. He had taken a 30k/year job working as a vet’s assistance because he had always had a genuine love of animals so his resilience was noteworthy. But again, I couldn’t give the producers the “my how sad” reaction they seemingly wanted because he acknowledged making a whole lot of money for the last 10 years of his 30 year career. Oprah and RR seemingly had it on cruise control and couldn’t bring themselves to ask him and his wife the obvious question, “Why didn’t you live more simply and save more of it?”

Have I lost my mind, criticizing Harpo Productions? I will now be entering the witness protection program.

Friday’s Fitness Footnote 09.2

Turns out I jinxed myself with my “injury free” reference in my 2008 fitness wrap up. PC and I weren’t even out of the hood last week when I pulled up with an invisible knife in my right calf. I’m guessing soleus micro tear. Didn’t run for five todays until W morn when I didn’t even make it 50 yards. That was depressing. I didn’t think cycling was having any effect because I couldn’t feel anything while riding, but even though I haven’t been going hard, it must have been making matters worse. I’ve been stretching the heck out of it all to no avail. 

In the meantime I’ve been enjoying cycling and swimming. I got invited to swim with the Masters regulars M morn and enjoyed being the slowest person in my lane. Brian and Geraldine swam in college, I on the other hand, played pick up basketball. One day in 1983, the college player of the year walked into the gym. He was in town to receive the Wooden award as the best player in college. MJ up close. Despite my obvious availability, I wasn’t invited into his game. No surprise I guess that he didn’t want any piece of me.

Tangent. In my fifth year, while working on my MA, I got a job tutoring athletes. After my first session, bossman asked if Reggie Miller showed. I said no so he told me to call him up in the dorms and ask him where he was. “Reggie, this is Ron. . .” “Oh man,” he interrupted, “I thought you were a woman!” I told him there wasn’t much I could do about that and he never showed. Not sure if he passed Western Civ, but he’s done okay for himself.

Normally I’m running during Masters swimming which is too bad because I enjoy it. I swim a bit harder and the time flies. I talked to a friend in the locker room who said they did 30 100’s (short course yards) in Masters the day before in honor of a 30 year old teammate. They did them on 1:45, every third IM. I decided to try a revised version, 18 on 1:40, and really liked it. I do the free in 1:21-1:23 which provides a lot of rest, but I do the IM in 1:32-1:36 which obviously doesn’t allow for hardly any recovery.

Cycling has been a mix of spinning indoors and chilly outdoor riding. Travis and I got in a very nice 33 miler last Sunday with temps in the high 30’s. I recently read a blog written by a Hawaiian triathlete and she bagged a ride because it was 64 out. 

Ready for the product recommendation? I can’t wait for the CEO to write and offer free product!

The endurance crowd must be particularly gullible because there are about as many recovery drinks on the market as there are endurance athletes. 

Call me old school, but this recovery drink will change your life. Drive straight to Costco and buy one, two, or twelve half gallons. Don’t forget to dilute it with equal parts skim milk otherwise, no matter how hard you work out, you’ll end up looking more like Oprah than you probably want.

Sorry O, that was uncalled for.