Friday, June 26, 2015

Rocky Mountain High...

"Inch by inch... life’s a cinch... yard by yard... life is hard"
                                   ~Therese Fowler

As anyone who has attempted to contact me this last week knows, I am currently on vacation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains riding my bicycle from mountain town to mountain town with some close friends.

Outside of a weekend conference in Vail several years ago, I haven’t spent that much time in the Centennial State outside of regular business trips to Denver so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. 

What I found is nothing short of spectacular beauty with the 3snow-capped purple mountains, colorful wildflowers, lush green valleys and raging white-water rivers.

Adding to the physical landscape is the incredible weather that we’ve experienced, with dry crisp mornings, high cirrus clouds protecting us from the direct sunshine during the day, clean mountain air, and evenings with either clear skies offering us a million stars or stormy thunder showers providing us with a light-show from the heavens.

The long rides from mountain peak to mountain peak has once again given me ample opportunity to be alone in my thoughts.

As it’s now been over eight months since I last wrote about lessons from the road... I figured it’s time again to share some new thoughts and ideas...

I hope you enjoy...

The Elusive Trisket

The bicycle ride is an organized ride called the "Bicycle Tour of Colorado".  There are approximately 600 riders representing 40 states.

The route is defined and marked by the organizers each morning and typically is over one high mountain pass 2each day (somewhere between 9,000 - 12,300 feet). 

Along the way there are 2-3 "rest stops" where riders can stop to replenish their water, add some nourishment, or just take a break for a few minutes.

Each day the riders leave the start independently, meaning that there is no "official" start time... people just get up... get ready... eat some breakfast... and leave.

Knowing that we had a hard week of riding ahead of us, my friends and I decided that we would leave the first day at about 7:30am.  This would put us at the first rest stop around 9:00am.

When we arrived at our first stop, we immediately notice that there were only remnants of what was a buffet of snacks and drinks... the only thing remaining were a few orange and apple slices.

We asked one of the volunteers at the roadside stop what the deal was and she explained that there was plenty of food early including peanut butter sandwiches, potato chips, protein bars and Trisket crackers... but we were definitely on the tail-end of the group and this is all that remained.

This situation repeated itself for the other remaining two stops.

At the end of the ride my compadres and I decided that we would just need to start a little earlier the following day in order to share in the goodies at the stops. 

We made a plan to leave instead at 7am rather than 7:30am.  This would ensure that we would get to the aid stations early enough...

At the first rest stop the following day, we once again were treated to only a few fruit slices and this time, some leftover peanut butter...

Although we thought that we believed that we had put in the thought and effort to solve the problem... the issue still remained...

Finally on day three... we decided that we would start at 6am... only then did we find ourselves among the "haves" rather than the "have-nots".

The valuable take-away lesson for me is that we could have complained to the ride organizers about the shortage of premium snacks available at the stops...

We might have thought of ourselves as "victims" of a system that rewarded early starters and penalized those wanting to sleep in a bit...

Or we could just start our riding earlier each day... working harder to get ahead of the crowd and claiming our share of the elusive Triskets...

...and our problem was solved... working smarter AND working harder...

Gearing and a Steady Pace

Most modern road/mountain bicycles are built with a sophisticated gearing system that allows the rider to pedal easier on the uphill portions and harder on the downhill portions of the ride.

An experienced cyclist will tell you that the key to efficient riding is to try and keep a steady pace when turning the pedal cranks (also called cadence).  A typical cadence for most riders is about 80-100 revolutions per minute.

This means that the rider must be constantly changing gears to allow them to keep the same cadence regardless of whether they are going uphill or down.

Too often in life we spin our wheels like crazy when things are going good and then bog down when we come to an uphill struggle instead of trying to keep a constant cadence all of the time.

Some people refer to a steady cadence as balance... work time, family time, personal time, community time, and rest (mental and physical).

Keeping a steady pace, while constantly changing gears is a good way to stay focused and efficient as we move forward in life.

Watch for Falling Rocks

I’ve been riding a bicycle on a fairly consistent basis for more than 45 years now.

Although I have never actually counted all of the miles that I’ve ridden, it would be safe to say that it was nearing the 100,000 mile point over the course of my lifetime... including some racing and several multi-day riding events. 

In addition, knowing that I was planning to do this particular ride since last summer, I’ve been training hard (specifically hill training) for several months (living in San Diego does give me the unique opportunity to train year-round).

When I finally got to Colorado last week, I truly thought I was ready... I had the experience, the training, and was mentally prepared for a multi-day event like this one.

As my friends and I started out on that first day, I quickly noticed that I was struggling to keep up with them.  It soon became very apparent that cycling at 10,000 feet (close to 2 miles above sea-level) was presenting a strong challenge that I was in no way prepared for.

Additionally, on 1day four, there was a long 21-mile stretch of road that was essentially unpaved gravel. 

No matter how prepared I thought I was... there were new and unforeseen obstacles placed before me that took me by complete surprise.

To make matters even worse, I saw many of other of the riders going along like there was nothing at all impeding them. 

Here I thought that I was ready and prepared... only to be passed and left behind by my peers...

I could have used the unforeseen obstacles as a very good reason to stop.  No one would have faulted me for doing so.

What I kept mulling over in my mind were all the people I personally know (who are not necessarily cyclists) who have had some great unexpected challenge rise before them. 

They could have quit and went in a different direction... perhaps following a path of least resistance... but they chose to stay the course... figure it out... and move forward even if it’s only a few small steps at a time...

It’s becomes a much smaller task when large problems are broken into small ones...

I didn’t need to ride up a 12,000 foot summit or over 21 miles of gravel road... I only needed to go a few more inches and when I finished those inches... I only needed go a few more...

How often do we look at some huge insurmountable problem and feel like we just want to quit?

Many times, overcoming a big problem is really just a series of overcoming a lot of small problems... one step at a time...

Thank you for enduring yet another bicycling blog...

...and thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we know that there are big mountains in front of us but we keep climbing one inch at a time...

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Best Advice to You...

"You know how advice is... you only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway"

                                          ~John Steinbeck 

My friend Sam runs a small retail business in Los Angeles.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Sam asking me if I had some time to talk with him about a professional crisis that he was having at his business. 

After a brief health scare, Sam’s general manager and right-hand man has given his 2-week notice.  In a terse e-mail, the general manager explained that he wanted to remove himself from the stress of running a small business and go off to do something else with his life.

This is an understandable reaction to a health scare.  Nothing gives us more reason to pause and reevaluate our lives than a visit from our inevitable mortality.  

The following day, Sam and I spent a good deal of time discussing a few options as it relates to replacing the position including asking the general manager to stay on for a very limited time working as a part-time consultant.  This could be a win-win situation for both Sam and the GM allowing them both a transitional period.

If, however, the general manager was intent in leaving the business and didn’t want to enter into a consulting agreement, Sam was prepared to move forward without him, but he also wanted to give the exiting employee a severance package worth tens of thousands of dollars for his service to the company... even though the GM was leaving under his own volition.

A few days after our meeting, I called Sam to discuss the GM’s reaction to his consulting proposal.

Sam told me that the meeting couldn’t have been worse.

Before Sam could even offer up the proposal, the general manager, who had been with the company for over 20 years, decided that on his way out the door, he would "speak his mind" lambasting Sam for every bad decision ever made by Sam over the course of his tenure with the company.

It appears that a lot of ill-will was being harbored by the general manager over the years and it was the time to really "clear the air". 

The general manager spent almost an hour ranting about why the business and specifically Sam’s management style were toxic to all those who came into contact with the business.

The message wasn’t offered in form of advice or counsel.  It was sheer contempt for what Sam had tried to build over the years. 

Needless to say, Sam was completely taken aback by the turn of events but continued to take the "high-road" and never offered any rebuttal to the exiting employee... he just sat there and listened.

After about an hour, the former general manager finished his tirade, placed his key on the desk, and left the building without saying anything else.

In that single hour, the general manager managed to evaporate 20 years of goodwill and burn all of the bridges of friendship between him and Sam.

That temper tantrum cost him a potential consulting client, several tens of thousands of dollars, future character references, and a relationship that had been crafted over two decades.

One can only speculate as to the general manager’s motive behind his outburst... was it stress?... was it a chemical reaction to some medication?... was it simply a case of passive-aggressive behavior?...

Both Sam and I were left scratching our collective heads.

Now I have seen this type of behavior many times before... perhaps in different shapes or forms... but it’s bridge burning at its best...

How many times have we seen where two people who were once so in love with each other that they vowed, in front of family and friends, that they would remain committed together for a lifetime... only to be screaming obscenities and defiling insults at each other sometime in the future.

They purposely are intent to verbally (and sometimes physically) attack each other for no other reason than to cause pain and suffering to another individual.

There is no reasonable expectation that anything said will cause any improvement or change in the present situation.  There is no negotiation occurring.  There is no constructive criticism being presented.

No... there is only intent to try and hurt another individual for no apparent gain...

...and in fact... more than likely, at a potential loss... a loss of respect... a loss of trust... and in some cases (like the one described above) a financial loss...

When we judge or criticize another person, it is usually not about helping others to improve, but rather it serves our own needs to feel superior at the expense of others.  Those who criticize and belittle others believe that they are on some sort of higher moral and/or intellectual ground which gives them the divine right to inflict their belief system on others.

We each have our own belief system and philosophies.  Some of these are genetic, some are taught, and some are acquired through experience.  These are our core values.  They are a part of us and they rarely change.  
Over time, we add certain knowledge, training, and experience to what we already believe. 

Sometimes this knowledge reinforces what we already believe. 

Others times, it helps us to reexamine what we hold dear and helps us to reshape or expand our inner most core values. 

Those changes can be subtle and evolve over the course of many years... or they can be sudden due to a traumatic event or an epiphany moment.

I know I had one of those moments on the morning of September 11th.

Although I innately knew that life is precious before that time, there was now a sense of urgency to try and squeeze every last drop of human experience from my life before my clock eventually stopped.

My core values didn’t change after 9/11, but the road map I was using to take me to a place called "success" did.

Each of us are unique and have our own beliefs, values, experiences, goals, opinions and methods to live our individual lives. 

Our systems work for us and us alone...

By judging and criticizing others... we are essentially saying that our system of beliefs is somehow better than someone else’s... but in reality... how do we know?...

...what if... in the end... they were correct and we were wrong?

Our goal then should not be to try and live the lives of other people... but rather we should try to live our own lives as the very best person that we can be.

If someone is inspired by our thoughts and actions to become a better person, then that’s great... but telling people what to do, what to think, and how to act is an exercise in frustration and futility.

Each Friday, I offer up some opinions, experiences, and observations... but that’s all they really are... simple musings... it is not a recipe to live life... or criticisms of anyone else’s methodology to live their own life...

...because in the end... I simply could be wrong about it all...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we welcome your constructive comments to help us to try and improve what we do.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Thought Experiment...

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

                              ~William Shakespeare
                                 Romeo and Juliet

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to share a meal with an old friend or new acquaintance at least twice each week.  After almost 6 months, I’m right on track in keeping up with this resolution.

In order to help facilitate a lively conversation, I will invariably ask my guest to answer a simple question, "Who is the smartest person that you personally know?"

Thus far, 100% of the people I’ve asked this question to respond in the exact same manner...

"What do you mean by ’smart’?"

Most of the time I answer their question in vague terms...

"I really don’t have any hard definition of "smart"... I just want to know who you think is the smartest person... and why you think this"...

Typically only after some back and forth negotiation regarding the term "smart" do I actually get an answer.

Once they’ve presented me with a name... I then ask a follow-up question, "So... what is it that makes you believe that this person is smart?"

Many times, I am told this person is someone who holds advanced degrees or someone who has amassed a lot of money or someone who can think laterally solving very complex problems.

The more that they describe the attributes of this person... the more they begin to question their original choice...

They begin to have a conversation with themselves... and often, they will want to switch their selection to another person.

In this little experiment, I truly couldn’t care less whom they actually finally choose... but rather I enjoy watching the selection process unfold...

For some unknown reason, people think that this simple question is a riddle with some sort of trick answer... but it really isn’t anything of that ilk.

My interest solely lies in how they attempt to define the term "smart". It’s a term that means one thing to one person and something completely else to another.

The definition of "smart" is based on our individual perceptions, experiences, and biases.

 - - - 

In 1964, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested and prosecuted in New York for using obscenities, particularly the "f-word", on-stage during his act.

His defense was that the word was simply just a one-syllable sound and that it was up to the individual person to place a certain connotation and context on the word. 

To one person the word meant something beautiful while to another person it meant something vulgar. 

Unfortunately, Lenny Bruce’s defense didn’t hold water with the jury and he was convicted and sentenced.

Bruce appealed the conviction but died from a drug overdose before his appeal could be heard.

In 2003, some 39 years later after his conviction, Bruce was the first person ever in New York history, to be posthumously pardoned by then governor George Pataki.

- - -

In China, there are approximately 10 different languages spoken, with hundreds of different dialects and variation within each distinct language.

With so many different languages and dialects, how does this country of 1.3 billion people actually communicate with each other?

As it turns out, China (as well as many other Asian countries) uses a written language consisting of complex characters called logograms.

Regardless of the language (within China), the same characters are consistently used to depict the thing or describe the action. Therefore, despite the difference in what people call the symbols, the meaning is the same regardless.
For example, in Mandarin (the official governmental language), the words for "thank you" are xie xie (pronounced shay-shay) while in the southern province of Canton (including Hong Kong), "thank you" is pronounced "doh je" (pronounced dough-jay).

What is really interesting is that the characters for "thank you" in 1Chinese are almost identical whether you are writing in Mandarin, Shanghinese,  or Cantonese.

- - -

When I say the word "red"... you immediately think of a color that your mind represents as the color red.

We each believe that we are seeing something that looks exactly the Redsame... that is... my red is everyone else’s red...

But what would happen if my version of red is actually everyone else’s blue but forever I have seen it as "red"...

...while my version of blue is Blueactually everyone else’s red?

Would it really matter what color my brain sees since the name of the color is just a label?

How exactly would we know what color you are actually seeing in your brain since the label we assigned to the color is arbitrary.

This phenomenon recently caused a brief internet stir when a picture of a dress went viral.

When asked the question, about 60% of the population saw the dress as black and blue, while about 30% saw the dressDress
as white and gold... and 10% could actually switch back and forth depending on when they saw the photo.

- - -

So at this point you might be asking yourself why are we talking about language and labels?

Often we use words to describe something that we think means one thing, but that for the listener means something completely different.

People around us each day bandy about terms like poor, educated, pain, greed, success and and leadership.

To one person, those particular terms have certain connotation while to another the words have a different meaning altogether.

We assign labels to emotions or to vague or esoteric terms as though an idea, such as "love", can be accurately described in a word, phrase, or even book.

Some hold the "rich" in contempt... while others depict the "poor" as lazy... but are unable to reconcile the words.

It’s impossible to to accurately assign labels and definitions because everyone has different experiences, biases, education levels, thoughts, and filters.

Even when the concept is highly defined (such as the color of a dress), there is a probability that people just don’t see the same thing.

It has taken me a lifetime to learn how to effectively communicate with just a handful of people who know me extremely well (I think about trying to describe the same thoughts to my parents versus my wife versus my kids... and how the conversation differs).

Effective communication is individual and specific.

It’s vitally important to really listen and ask questions in order to create a complete exchange of ideas with one another. 

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where one of our "core values" is to engage in effective communication... with our vendors, customers, and ourselves.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Standing On Your Own Two Feet...

Jim - This week I am pleased to introduce Carol Heger, our guest blogger for June.

Carol has worked with me at OptiFuse for over 15 years and suffers from Cerebral Palsy (CP).

Despite her physical challenges, she fights each day to remain self-sufficient and a productive member of our community... she continues to be an inspiration to me and others...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We are all VIPs... that is to say Very Important People...

We all come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and talents.  Yet we are all human beings... and this makes us special.  This makes us unique.  This in and of itself makes us important.

We each possess individual characteristics that identify us as humans.  We have thoughts and ideas.  We are the only species to understand humor and laugh.  We create goals, strive to achieve them and develop our own unique definitions of success. 

In addition to being an important person as individuals... we are also a VIP in another capacity... we are all Very Important Partners...

We, as humans, do not live in a vacuum.  We are each a part of a community that lives, works, worships, and plays together.  There is a symbiotic relationship that binds us together.  It is not a zero sum game where if one person wins... another must lose.  Rather we are all on the same boat together... a boat that rises and falls with the tide.

My name is Carol.  2I am 57 years old, single and was born with a spastic form of Cerebral Palsy (CP).  

Living with CP presents me with many everyday challenges that are not necessarily experienced by the great majority of people... but this is not to say that others don’t have their own forms of challenges that are placed before them... no matter how bad my trials and tribulations are... there are many more in this world who live each day in far worse situations than I do.

I can’t imagine not having a roof over my head... food on my table... warm clothes... or access to proper health care.  I have been afforded the luxury of being born in America where we enjoy security and freedoms unlike those found anywhere else in the world.

This is not to say that my life living with CP has been easy... because it really has not.  I contend with constant aches and pains as I care for myself each day.  What takes others a few minutes to do might take me an hour.

Four years ago, I found myself on the brink of self-sufficiency and spending the rest of my days in a convalescent hospital as a ward of the state.   

It was during this time when I became despondent and depressed knowing that I was close to losing the war I had been waging for over 50 years.

Every so often, when we find ourselves in the pit of despair, an angel comes to visit us unexpectedly.

Such is the case with Dr. Brad Marcus.

Dr. Marcus is a doctor of osteopathic medicine.  He specializes in rehab sciences.

For many years, Dr. Marcus has maintained a friendship with a man who has CP but who was unable to walk.  It wasn’t that his friend couldn’t walk... because he did have the ability within himself... but unfortunately the friend wasn’t allowed the opportunity to receive the treatment necessary to do so. 

It seemed that the insurance companies made the decision that spending money to provide him physical therapy would be wasted, so the decision to deny him the proper treatment and tools was made.

Dr. Marcus wanted to help his friend, but he was not able to while in his current position. 

So in 2010, Dr. Marcus opened the VIP Neuro Rehab Center in 1San Diego. 

The center is an outpatient rehabilitation clinic providing services to  those suffering from debilitating diseases such as CP, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and strokes as well as those with spinal cord injuries and multiple traumas.

Most importantly, Dr. Marcus decided not to accept medical insurance money so the center is free to provide treatment that patients need not what insurance companies dictate.

The VIP clinic facility has a variety of specially designed rehab equipment (miracle equipment to some of us) along with physical therapists, rehab techs and exercise physiologists that assist with improving and/or restoring lost abilities to many in the disabled world.

VIP Neuro Rehab patients include children, adults, but specialize 4in treating disabled veterans returning from foreign wars with spinal cord injuries.

Unfortunately, by 2011, I had lost the ability to stand up straight due to my affliction. Barely standing and hunched over my walker, I labored each moment moving from my car to my two part time jobs to church or back to my home...

My doctor gave me approximately four months before I would need to be checked into a convalescent home (most likely for the remainder of my life) because I could barely function and care for myself.  

When a person suffers from CP, their spastic muscles are unable to relax on their own.  Each day for the past 20 years, I must employ a regimen of stretching that take me several hours to complete.  These exercises allow me enough movement for the day ahead. 

Weekly therapeutic massages and physical therapy have helped me to maintain my mobility, but as I continue to get older, these treatments no longer were effective to meet my needs.

I tried to remain as active and as mobile as possible, but I was losing the battle...

Four years ago, though a recommendation, I was introduced to Dr. Brad Marcus and VIP Neuro Rehab Center.

After meeting with Dr. Marcus, he recommended that I start getting three 90 - minute sessions a week using a machine called the Lokomat as well as other treatments.

The Lokomat is a computerized treadmill with a harness attachment 3that forces the legs to walk with proper and correct movement.  The movement helps to stretch and strengthen the legs muscles adding flexibility and strength in the core.

In only three months after my treatment began, I could walk again (assisted by my walker) without my legs and torso cramping and spasming.

This allowed me to once again be able to care for myself and the idea of placing me in a convalescent home ceased.

Not only have I been helped by the VIP rehab center, I have also witnessed many other "miracle improvements" experienced by others.  These are heart-warming stories of young children suffering with CP and MS, adults with spinal cord injuries, and our servicemen and women who have returned home from war with several physical injuries.

I asked Jim to be a guest blogger this week to offer an appeal to the readers of the OptiFuse Blog to help support me and VIP Neuro Rehab.

As I mentioned above, the center is not supported by insurance and operates as a non-profit entity.

The cost of employing therapists and technicians who work at the clinic along with the acquisition and maintenance of equipment they use (like the Lokomat that continues to help me be self-sufficient) are supplemented through private donations.

Unfortunately there is more need than there are funds and the VIP Center is being forced to make hard decisions when providing care to individuals like myself and many others who need the therapy to live rich and productive lives contributing to our community.

Those of us who utilize the VIP Neuro Rehab center want to be able to work and live independent lives.
It saddens and/or discourages us to be dependent on others or worse, becoming wards of the state. 

We deeply desire to be able to contribute to our communities and we want to be able to help others. 

We want to keep smiling knowing that we are leading full and enriched lives.
In 2014, VIP Neuro Rehab officially became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization... in hopes to be able to find sponsors and donations.

Recently, I have begun a campaign to raise money and awareness for VIP Neuro Rehab. My goal is to help raise $15,000 toward this endeavor.

This monumental task is very hard for me for two reasons:

First and foremost, I try as best as I can to remain independent so asking people for any type of help is generally outside of my nature. Writing this appeal has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever needed to do... but I now need help.

Secondly, my personal network mainly consists of people who are suffering from some type of chronic ailment.  Many have very few financial resources and live on a small disability check that they receive each month.

It is my sincere hope and desire that you or someone you know can step up and help with this worthwhile cause.

Please use the following link to learn more about how you can contribute to my efforts.

More information about VIP Neuro Rehab, their programs, their facilities and their mission can be found at

Please feel free to contact me directly at if you have any questions or thoughts about me, VIP Neuro Rehab, or any of the treatments available.

I am very thankful for your thoughts, prayers and the opportunity to share my story with you today.

You are truly a Very Important Person in my life...

Thank you for taking the time to read my story...
Carol Heger