Thursday, July 31, 2014

Work-life

Fishing and writing practically go hand in hand.

Learning to freely blend the two


I hear a lot of people talk about a work-life balance as though the two are separate entities on opposite ends of a teeter totter. Books, blogs, and employee manuals have written recipes for “workers” to follow should they seek to achieve the correct balance. In fact some people have made entire careers considering almost nothing other than how others should compartmentalize their lives.

Of course, there are different approaches and focuses. Forbes guest writer Ron Ashkenas writes about work-life integration in his book "Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done." In the book he makes observations on how businesses can become more efficient by allowing for more flexibility in employee schedules. Or one of my favorites, Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of "The $100 Startup” and a series called “Unconventional Guides," which focus on a holistic change in thinking in regards to status-quo roadblocks in how work and life interact.

All of those are good resources, but most of that thinking can be summed up by a John F. Kennedy quote that says “The best road to progress is freedom’s road.”

Now you know I am no expert in these matters, just a man with enough opinion to share it in hopes someone has something to say about it. This topic being one that is often at the forefront of my consciousness, I thought perhaps here I would share my story as it has so far unraveled...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Traditions of July

Ready, set, lake!

Newman Lake water levels are higher than they have been
in years. That means less beach but more swimming
space at the lake of my childhood.

Our humid summer days have finally rolled onto the land. Many of us have been out looking for them. Whispers of a summer version of the polar vortex were beginning to sound all too familiar only a week ago, but early this week all those rumors were put to rest.

I recall the heat of July when I was a child; those days of sudden, sweltering sun. The air would turn into a heavy quilt, pressing up against you in an invisible yet bracing fashion like you’d been made frail from the winter and needed safe keeping. Shirts would come off, shorts put on, and a day at the beach was often the best cure for beating the heat.

My family would go to Newman Lake on those sort of days. Mom would pack a cooler with water bottles, fruit, and cold salads. My sister or I would be charged with getting the beach towels from the linen closet, and one or both of my younger brothers would tear recklessly around the house, scarcely clothed, screaming “swimming! swimming!” or something to that effect. They never wore many clothes when we were little.

We would all pile into the car after it was loaded with the cooler and a pile of towels. Some of us smelling strongly of sun block, others of bug spray, and others just smelling. Adorned in faded yet somehow colorful swimwear, it was always a rush to get the car on the highway so we could have some air moving in the vehicle.

Windows down, arms flailing in the wind, great big smiles - that’s how I remember summer...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stress

And some brain rattling


Too much and you'll break.
Stress is a force that happens naturally in the wild world. The stress of gravity forces species to develop skeletons for support, muscle for movement. The stresses of wind and water force flora to dig deep roots and grow hard skins. The stress of multiple hard winters may kill a certain portion of wildlife, like turkeys or whitetails, and subsequently cut down predators the following years due to a dwindled food source.

In our human world, stress takes many forms socially. Often when we talk about stress, though, we consider it a bad thing. True is the maxim ‘too much of anything is a bad thing,’ but I think, as with most things, a healthy dose can go a long way.

I’ve been going back and forth a lot lately as to whether I should be adding more to my plate, taking on bigger and different endeavors, or instead shoveling some of those obligations off. See I think there is a lot to be said for open, unstructured time that allows your mind to wander...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Social media

The tools of the trade are evolving


I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time not stopping
on the side of the road to take pictures of this awesome
place we live.
Sharing these photos and other snippets has become
interwoven into the fabric of modern culture
and I think we should embrace that fact.
Compared to most folk writing about the outdoors, I probably spend a disproportionate amount of time considering technology in a social sense. That is to say, I’m a big fan of not only using social media, but of the industry in general. If you think about it, the whole thing evolves in a rather biological fashion - birth, growth, fight or flight in a competitive market, IPO phase, and eventual death (in relevance at least).

Ok so maybe dragonflies don’t experience an initial public offering, but you get my drift.

I’m bringing it up because the woodsman has always used technology, and I don’t see how the web is any different. The use of a compass, a brush axe, or even rubber boots are examples of technology designed to work for us. Utilizing online databases to access lake information or locate new and used boat trailers - that’s the internet as a tool.

And yet I still get this sense somehow that outdoors enthusiasts are behind the times when it comes to utilizing social networks online. Is it because disclosing a certain location in a photo or GPS marked update might lead others to your secret fishing or hunting spot? Or is it because there’s a lack of interest or proficiency with the tools? And truly, why should you or I care?

I’m going to say this once - it’s time to get over this mantra of hardened and unplugged.

I’ll be the first guy to tell you getting away and untethered to the web and today’s advanced technologies is a major factor in the enjoyment I take in the outdoors. That said, though, I am inspired by thoughts and see a lot of things outside that I simply think would be of interest to other people, and sharing those snippets online can be a great way to network with other people in the same vein.

Furthermore, there has been a growing discussion about how to maintain and grow outdoors traditions in hunting, fishing, even trapping in the state of Wisconsin in recent years. The main concern is dipping numbers of involvement of youth in today’s outdoor programs, and I think better engagement in the social media realm is the proverbial missing link.

Look at it this way: Millennials are the most interconnected, social, sharing generation currently breathing. We are engaged constantly in exchanging information with our friends, family, and extended networks (friends of our friends) and are more likely than any generation before us to rely upon each other for information than any other source.

Yes there is research to suggest all that, but I’m speaking first hand...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sand and fireworks

Focused enough to unfocus


It’s summer time and I’m getting the heck out of dodge!

This is one of my favorite times of year, when everyone is just sort of floating around trying to get out into the sunshine and on the water. I’m trying to do my part to enjoy all that summer has to offer by planing camping trips and visiting family and friends as much as possible.

This past winter was far beyond harsh - it was down-right cruel - and I for one believe we’ve all earned the right to play outdoors as much as possible this summer.

With plans in the making and adventures pending, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the best part of a vacation is. Is it the place, the people, the food, the (in)activity? Or is it broader - being somewhere else, traveling somewhere new, or even the mounting anticipation just before departure?

As I write this I’m less than a day away from departing for an annual U.P. camping trip. I’ve wrote about it here before because it’s usually quite the adventure. My friends and I, we pull out all the stops. Typically we communicate on Facebook in a group to lock down a date sometime in January (it gives everyone something to look forward to in the dead of winter), and as the date draws near make calls to prepare the food and beverage menus ahead of time. This year we’re even pre-cooking the meat products… yes, we’re almost professionals at this...