Connecting With Friends

Handsome crew, right?

I’ve been off the grid for a few days after a great “guys” weekend in Chicago.  This was our annual trip for 11 of us who originally met in graduate school (Kellogg) almost 17 years ago now.  Hard to believe its been that long although we probably acted much closer to our ages 20 years ago this weekend than our current ages!  Typically we go to Charleston, SC for a golf weekend but this year we decided to mix it up and go to Chicago to watch the Chicago Cubs take on the Giants at Wrigley Field and also go back to some of our Chicago haunts when we were together at Kellogg.

It’s funny how our conversations change over the years when we get together.  17 years ago most of the group was still single, partying a little harder and was, well, just generally more immature.  Our common bonds were based on the “fun” times we shared in business school and that’s what dominated most of our conversation.  But today, we talk about family, kids, our professional challenges and get advice from one another in addition to reminiscing about the more rambunctious times.  Of the 11 of us that were together this weekend, 7 are married and 4 are single.  And among the 7 married guys, 16 children and 1 in the oven (mine!) are represented in ages ranging from 9 to 2 years old.  Maybe that’s why everyone looked so tired?  I’ll soon find out I guess.

I find I always come home from these trips energized (although physically tired!) and connected and wishing I did a better job of staying connected throughout the year with this group of friends.  They all have a lot to offer.

It has me thinking about many other friends who have come and gone throughout the years who would be additive to my life but somehow I’ve lost touch with.  Life is busy, we go our separate ways, geography separates us, we make new friends, we have less and less discretionary time it seems.   While technology such as Facebook has enabled us to “view” what is happening in our friends lives, it certainly doesn’t by itself promote meaningful relationships.  That still and will always require effort.

So that’s what I’m going to do, really make a point of reaching out to a select few that I’m closest to and have lost touch with in order to develop more meaningful bonds than just a few yearly conversations.

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Tragic Day in Cycling

Today was a tragic day for cyclists worldwide.  A professional cyclist lost his life during Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, a 3-week stage race that is Italy’s equivalent of the Tour de France.  Wouter Weylandt, a 26-year old Belgium pro racer who ironically won Stage 3 of this race just one year ago, crashed on a downhill descent and died on the scene from head and facial injuries.  It’s the first death in a major pro tour stage since 1995 and even longer for the Giro since 1986.  As much cycling as I do, this story makes me sick to my stomach.  But what makes it unbearable for me is that Wouter’s girlfriend is 5-months pregnant with their first child.  The similarities between us are eerie and unavoidable to consider.

This is a sport I love.  My passion.  And it’s dangerous.  While I’m not (always) hurtling myself down mountains going 60 mph like these pros do in a race situation, cycling even for us amateurs involves mountainous descents at high speeds and even worse, traffic on busy roads.  I read this story about Wouter this morning after having spent about 7 hours on my bike this weekend and having climbed and descended nearly 10,000 ft.  And I’ve got a child on the way too.  Scary stuff that forces reflection, particularly with a baby on the way and the gravity of that responsibility for the rest of my life.

Compounding my personal struggle with personal risk taking, my father died in a kayaking accident when I was 9-years old.  Another dangerous sport, but one that my father loved.  He was and avid kayaker, known for his responsible and thoughtful risk appetite, he simply did not take undue risks even though his sport is inherently dangerous.  His death was the result of a freak accident.  And I respect his choice to pursue his passion despite the lack of his presence in my life.

So here’s the deal.  I’m not going to stop living my life and doing the things I love the most.  And I want to teach my son that same philosophy – to unwaveringly, but responsibly and thoughtfully pursue his passions.  I don’t live a particularly dangerous or adrenaline-junkie lifestyle.  Cycling is probably the most dangerous thing I do and its not clear to me that driving your car on LA freeways is any safer.  My point being there are risks all around us, however remote the probabilities may be.

Is that a selfish view?  I don’t think so.  There are endless reasons not do do something, especially if that something involves a perceived or even a real danger.  It’s the responsible and thoughtful pursuit of happiness that I try to use as my own personal barometer.

But here’s the rub – what constitutes “responsible and thoughtful” behavior in the pursuit of our passions, dreams and interests may be completely different for you than for me.

What do you think?  How much risk is too much risk in the pursuit of personal happiness?

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