If you have kept score you might have noticed we missed a pair of blogs here at 2020 Vision Quest’s “On The Path” outreach to our community. If you are wondering who is responsible for such things, look no further than me as that’s one of my duties. I’m a little disappointed but I have to tell you the “To Do” list piled up a little more than normal and I had to make some decisions in the priority. Today I get to share both my response to the feeling of being overwhelmed and some of the rather fantastic reasons behind it all.
I do not always respond ideally to feeling like I’m on the edge. This rather fun photo from the United Way “United Over the Edge” event last June highlights one positive response to a physical moment. In life moments I feel the stresses and pressure of a schedule occasionally a bit out of control. For me a list and a priority plan are quality tools but the best tool of all is to share how I’m feeling to inspire a little collaboration on the plan for managing. Essential in that process is to understand frustration leads faster to failure and curiosity creates calm. The quicker I convert frustration to curiosity, the quicker I’m on the path to resolution.
As for what has been building the backlog, I won’t be able to share everything but a few very worthy highlights:
Schools are at the heart of our mission and we are back at schools presenting with reviews already suggesting we are on the right path!
Did I mention we have this enormous book launch incredibly close to happening? You might even expect the big news in next week’s blog on official dates, blurbs and more!
Our 2020 Vision Quest website has been in the midst of a massive redesign and will launch on Wednesday of this week! We are excited to share the many aspects of it we feel will allow it to help us further our mission.
Most of you know I dislocated my ankle badly last November and ultimately dashed my National Marathon Championship hopes. I’m hard at work training to be ready for the December 2 return with Rodney Andre guiding me to the best performance I can provide.
Finally, we are less than 48 days away from our 9th Annual Peak Potential Event. While we are sold-out (Thank you!) and have tremendous sponsorship support, we are still working on the Auction details and ensuring it’s an event worthy of all those who put their trust in us for that very goal!
I hope you’ll forgive the two week hiatus and join us in celebrating the handful of exciting details above as well as the very big news coming next week.
By choice of planning and response I work to sustain life as a generally positive adventure. Nonetheless, I’ve often shared the reality of challenge and frustration which work into my own life and in particular this week I hope to provide a glimpse of a sight challenge frustration.
When I fly, my ears often become blocked upon landing and I find my hearing significantly impaired, a poor accompaniment to the total blindness. In fact the cold I’ve had since my Scotland trip has similarly kept my hearing more challenged than normal and perhaps that has heightened my awareness of the challenges resulting from my blindness. It has heightened my respect for my peers who manage Usher syndrome (sight and hearing impairment) or the incredible people such as Helen Keller who thrived despite a complete lack of sight and hearing. The reality is, change is difficult and for each of us adapting to a new level of challenge may naturally increase the potential for difficulty and frustration.
Where I find it the most difficult is in a generally busy public location. A multitude of difficulties converge to intensify the problems. First, I’m trying to discern an unknown environment with limited resources at my disposal. Losing the directional components of my hearing (and often more) means I have the touch of a guide dog harness, cane or sighted guide, the smells of the environment, and a cryptic level of verbal communication to guide me. These are interfered with by the background noise and jostling crowds. If the nature of those crowds are to be time pressured, as in airports, or distracted, as in the world of smart devices, the results can magnify significantly.
The overall level of awareness of people has seemingly plummeted significantly over the last decade. Amidst the jostling or worse, it is rare to get an acknowledgement in a frenzied environment and despite my large size, rather adorable Guide Dog (she and I like to think), it seems most people do not recognize the signs of my impairment. It similarly proves difficult to get them to pause in their pace long enough for a moment of inquiry and if I manage to get a pause and a realization of my sight challenge it is yet another challenge to quickly build the right foundation of interaction for a truly helpful response.
I do not suggest for a moment a malign intent–in fact most people in the right situation and with the right realization are incredibly supportive. In the difficult environment, facing my own challenges and encountering others with an assortment of their own distractions it is simply a common reality to use tremendous focus and concentration to work out the minimum requirements.
Those are the difficult days and most of us encounter them in various flavors throughout our life. I share this in part for the suggestion that any of us might slow down a step, raise our awareness, and be more attentive to enhancing the experience of our fellow travelers on the path around us. I also share this to in part ask a bit of forgiveness if in those times of my more significant difficulty I do not have the wherewithal to be at my gregarious best. I do try to slow a step and raise the awareness I can but down nearly 50% of my total senses I may likely fall short of my ideal.
Strengths, Leadership and Resilience: Meet Randy Pierce, President and Founder, 2020 Vision Quest
Randy Pierce is an impactful keynote speaker and accomplished athlete who founded and manages a successful nonprofit organization. He runs marathons, has hiked all the 4000+ feet peaks in the New Hampshire White Mountains and has been known to participate in extreme sporting events like Tough Mudder. And he is completely blind.
Randy’s top five talent themes are Responsibility, Woo, Connectedness, Includer and Restorative.
Randy, thank you for sharing your strengths with us today! To get us started, tell us about your work and your organization.
I am the president of 2020 Vision Quest. Our goal is to inspire people to reach beyond adversity and discover all they CAN do. I lead by example and share my experiences to motivate and inspire others. I speak regularly at schools, corporations, and everything in between – from large industry conferences to small scout troops. The money raised supports two non-profit organizations:Future in Sight and the internationally renowned Guide Dogs for the Blind. In the eight years since inception we have given over a quarter of a million to charities. So far this year we have raised over $90,000.
What was your first reaction to your strengths report?
I felt like my top-five really fit and I relate to all of them. I was entirely unsurprised by the order and by what was included. The Strengths Insight Report absolutely surprised me for its uncanny accuracy. This played an important role for me, because the tool really earned my confidence. As a result, I was motivated to think deeply about my results and give good consideration to the impact of my strengths.
Which of your strengths do you relate to most strongly?
Responsibility and Includer are the themes that stand out most strongly to me. Woo is also a big part of me, and I am comfortable with it, but it did sound a bit like a snake oil salesman at first. Restorative defines how I adapt to challenges and Connectedness fits because I am very aware of how one person’s actions can have great impact on another’s experience.
During my life I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a process that allowed me to have significant regrowth, and I feel such appreciation. My Responsibility motivates me to propagate that experience and help others. I felt powerless and helpless when I went blind. I was able to shift that with guidance and direction from others. I know how hard that can be and I am compelled to help others.
The very first 4,000+ feet climb I did with my guide dog was Mt. Hale. This mountain was named after The Reverend Edward Hale who famously said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” This has been great inspiration to me. I cannot do everything, but I am going to do my part. What CAN I do? What tools do I have to help me? My Responsibility drives me to do that which I can do.
I know firsthand that one of the best ways to feel better is to help others (Includer, Connectedness). I still have days when I feel bad, but helping others is part of how I manage my own life and feelings. It is altruism? Is it self-servicing? It is both. You can choose what you do and how you do it. This reminds me of a powerful life moment that ultimately helped me lean into my Responsibility more.
That sounds interesting. Are you willing to share it with us?
Absolutely. In May 1989 I was nearly 22 and I started to lose my eyesight. It was unexpected, and it happened quickly. When I was admitted to the hospital, I had a can-do kind of attitude. Just tell me what we need to do to deal with this and I will do it (Restorative). I easily made friends with the nursing staff (Includer, Connectedness, Woo). It soon became clear that there were no easy answers and that there was no path to restoring my vision. In my mind, success was not possible, and I just quit trying.
One of my nurses got a day pass and took me on her sailboat. She had an honest talk with me. She said I arrived at the hospital fun loving, gregarious and upbeat, and that it was easy for the nurses to work with me and do everything they could to help. She said that I had disconnected and closed them all out, but they were still going to help me. She wondered aloud if other people in my life were going to feel the same way if they met this new version of myself. She feared that others might step away from me, not go towards me, and she asked if I could make my way back to the person I was.
I’m sad to say I was annoyed with her at first, but I thought a lot about it. I wanted to change my behavior, but it was hard. We can logically know something, but our emotions are still there, right? In the hospital I got better with the nurses, but I stayed distant with friends, getting off the phone quickly when they called. I couldn’t do anything fun, so why would anyone want to be around me? My family was too far away to visit. My girlfriend was overwhelmed and didn’t take my calls. I was isolated, bitter and angry. I knew I had to go through the stages of loss, but what could help me get headed in the right direction? How could I get out of this?
Things slowly got better when I got home. I started reaching out and sharing my truth, opening up and making connections. And by doing this, I started to help other people. My Responsibility grew from that. I am not even sure Responsibility would have been in my top five prior to this experience. But now whenever people lean on me, it grows. It combines with my Includer and Connectedness, and okay, Woo, to drive me to do more for others.
Woo stands for Winning Others Over and you said you didn’t love it at first because it sounded a bit like a snake oil salesman to you. How do you use your Woo?
I don’t intentionally try to influence people or win them over. That is not my objective, but I am aware that I do influence people. I want to relate to people and share my stories and experiences. I want them to take what matters to them and works for them or is helpful. I don’t approach my public speaking with, “here are the answers, here you go.” The reality is that my influence does exist, and I can tell from experience that it comes through to others in how I address a crowd, how I tackle challenges and how I live my life. I want it to be present and visible for others to choose to be influenced by – or not. That is how I put it out there.
Do you think your blindness has caused you to rely on some strengths more than others?
Complete blindness takes away all sight, and with that goes 80% of the way a typical person interacts with the world. All my skills of people interaction had to go up. One of the best things that blindness did for me is that it gave me a really good dose of humility. I was fresh out of school, had a great job as a hardware design engineer and had lots of things going my way. I hope I wasn’t arrogant, but I was closer to overconfident than humble. Losing my sight gave me perspective on the ease in which our world can change and our challenges can become different than we think. From this point forward, I had greater compassion for what others might be experiencing. I began to look through other people’s eyes, literally and figuratively, after that moment.
How has blindness changed or impacted your strengths – as you perceive them? Do you ever wonder if your themes were the same before and after losing your sight?
Yes, I do wonder. There is no way for me to go back and take the assessment, but I suspect it would change because being blind has changed my brain. Parts that did sight processing now do language processing. I visualize everything internally with no external mnemonics. In my mind, people are feelings and attributes more than anything physical. Helen Keller, who was incredible, says the most beautiful things in the world we see with our hearts, not our eyes. I try to look at things this way too, though I still enjoy having someone describe a sunset to me.
I don’t get to look at facial expressions, but my strengths give me candor! I will ask you anything, and I will do so with respect. If there is something I need to know, I will just ask. With my Connectedness and Woo, I can’t imagine not asking.
How have your strengths helped you in your role as the President and Founder of 2020 Vision Quest?
I have a great team of people who work with me, and I do a lot of the work myself too. My wife, Tracy, manages the finances, and I have staff and a board. With my Responsibility, I don’t let things slide. Connectedness and Includer keep me reaching out and building relationships. Woo is so important for all the public speaking and it helps me be comfortable sharing about myself and my accomplishments. Restorative comes into play when there are challenges. I am ready to solve problems and keep things moving forward.
How do your strengths help you in your role as a keynote speaker?
When I step in front of a group to speak, in most situations I am the first blind person many people will encounter. I just assume people are going to be uncomfortable with me. In order to establish an effective learning environment, I need to put others at ease and in a very real way, win them over (Woo). I can’t see faces and body language, so I rely on sound to collect information about the audience. I listen to get a sense of the baseline of room from a distraction sense. When people are not attentive they shuffle, so I listen for that. I tell a few jokes and pay attention to what their laughs sound like. Different types of laughs can tell you things about the comfort level in a room.Most importantly I note the change in these laughs as we progress, so I can measure the impact I’m having on their comfort and engagement.
I use my Restorative in these moments too. I need to know where the audience is, or I might rotate a little and no longer be facing them. I develop ways of orienting myself. I am not always at a podium, which can set you apart from the audience. If there is a stage behind me, I might orient by tapping my heel
When I am at schools I make things as interactive as possible (Includer, Connectedness). I ask questions like, “What do you think a person who is blind might not be able to do?” This gets the students thinking and talking, which helps me achieve the all-important engagement of the students.
Your specific physical affliction could cause more difficulty for you at any time. How do you stay in the moment? Do you ever worry about your health?
Yes, I have an ongoing rare neurological disorder called chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy, which causes nerve damage. It can attack any part of the nervous system. There is no telling if or when the disease will progress nor what part of the body it might impact. There is no comfort in not knowing. My mindset is that I don’t like it, but I can’t immediately affect it. I have to avoid hypochondriac feelings. The disorder could affect any part of your system, so you don’t know what to look for. It could be intensely frustrating.
Do any of your top five strengths themes help you stay in the moment?
There is a higher chance of a car accident than my neurological condition being my end, but I am not irresponsible about either of these things (Responsibility). There are plenty of good times and good experiences ahead, but I have already won. I choose to not live with the shadow of affliction darkening out present and future possibilities. This mindset has already let me have wonderful experiences and much success. To me this is demonstrable proof that I am taking the right approach. When I have a set-back, I am frustrated in the moment, but I find the new baseline and build from there (Restorative). And I have had incredible rewards from doing this. I am living life to the fullest.
People always say when you are faced with adversity, you choose how you react. I like to take it a step further. WHAT we choose to do, the specific choice we make, will have a bigger impact on our life than our adversity. My choice of following all my dreams, hiking, founding a company, giving presentations, these are what impact my life – not my blindness, not my neurological disfunction. The specific choices I make impact my life and this is how I view it.
I am 6’4’’ tall, have gray hair, and am blind, but the strengths at the top of my list have a phenomenally larger impact on my life than my height or sight. My choices, which involve continuing to use my strengths, are what defines my life and leads me to my success.
For more information on 2020 Vision Quest and Randy Pierce, visit 2020visionquest.org. Stay tuned for Randy’s upcoming book, which will be published later this year.
The 2018 Boston Marathon featured the worst marathon weather I’ve ever experienced: cold temperatures, relentless rain, and generally unreasonable winds.
Battling hypothermia for several miles, I reached the crest of Heartbreak hill to face a cold blast of wind and an astounding deluge which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Barely able to speak and shivering uncontrollably, Jose guided me to the medical tent for treatment and the end of our race. It was absolutely and unquestionably the right choice. Pushing perseverance any further raised the risks of serious medical consequences tremendously and an ambulance ride was the most likely result, not a heroic finish line. Making the right choice amidst the various pressures to continue is a clear success, yet failing to complete the goal is also a failure. How do I reconcile these realities?
While I can admittedly be harder on myself than is ideal, I’m always working to improve on this. I believe in sufficient accountability to understand what went awry and then as soon as possible to put all the energy into a focus forward mindset. The goal is to ensure the energy is applied to where it can have an actual positive change.
In this instance my accountability is simple: I’d trained as fully as my post-injury time allowed and was reasonably ready for a normal marathon experience. As weather reports indicated concern, we adjusted our gear dramatically to allow for better warmth and water protection beyond the limits of any prior marathon or long run experience. Usually the concern is that such choices create a risk of overheating, so there is a fine line. In hindsight, I had room to purchase a new thicker and warmer outer shell of wind and water protection, although realistically predicting this need and ensuring I would not have been in danger of overheating was unreasonable.
In short, my accountability is reasonably low unless it was a matter of mental toughness. My guide, the medical team, the ambulance-riding runner next to me in the medical tent, and my own mind knows this wasn’t the issue and any push for perseverance would have been a greater type of failure. When faced with a choice of types of failure, success is making the best possible choice in those moments.
Now the trick is to convince myself this is just a setback and to begin the planning necessary to bring a greater success from it. There are two stages for me in this process.
The first is the process of facing my shortcomings with the same confident sharing that I celebrate my successful achievements. They are all part of the growth for me personally and perhaps for those who might also choose to draw some insight from the experiences.
Secondly, I use the hunger for a more full success to fuel my training on the next event of a similar style. In this case my eyes are now on the prize of the May 20 Gate City Marathon in Nashua, NH. This race will be an opportunity to put out a stronger marathon performance as well as achieve a Boston Marathon qualifier.
That will be my opportunity to work towards crossing a finish line which eluded me this year and it will be doubly sweet for the proper perseverance and resiliency required to achieve it.
“Give your all, and whenever possible give it with the support of a team you deserve and which deserves you. The rewards will likely be how your life is defined. See obstacles or opportunity, stumbling blocks or stepping stones, but believe you can achieve and you’ll have a vision more powerful than sight!” — Randy Pierce following the March 28, 2015 L.A. Tough Mudder
We are all going to face our share of obstacles on the path. Will it turn us back, unable or unwilling to achieve for the challenge presented? Will we try, fail, and try again until we reach the goal? Will planning, problem solving, or the helpful guidance of another enable us to learn, grow, or better ourselves enough to overcome the obstacle?
The choice in approach is vastly up to each of us and we’ll experience the result of the choice as powerfully as the obstacle. I’ve always felt there’s a partial frustration in having met an obstacle and a similar frustration in the effort involved to overcome it. Since I’m facing some of the frustration either way, I’ll choose the version which most often results in the eventual jubilant feeling of success. In the process I tend to find an earnest dedication to the problem solving and perseverance often distracts me from the disappointing aspects of the challenge and invigorates me as well.
One of my most epic physical obstacles was out in California for the “King of the Swingers” obstacle featured around the 1:45-minute mark of this short video clip from Oberto’s “Hero of Summer” series. I encourage you to take a moment to remind yourself of a team oriented and determined approach to obstacles.
As we lined up below the platform with my team watching others attempt this incredible leap and swing, I was absolutely intimidated. I understood the difficulty and the large chance for failure. I knew there would be video cameras capturing every aspect of my attempt and reaction to it. I wasn’t aware beforehand that they would stop the other swings so that the entire Mudder Nation surrounding the challenge would be focused upon my attempt. This was an additionally daunting aspect of the obstacle.
I knew those things, understood them, accepted them, and let them go in favor of what I consider a more powerful consideration. By choosing to try, I was already growing and becoming stronger. I learn as much from failures as success if not more. We made a plan to help me orient on the T-bar trapeze. A teammate suggested the brilliant idea to grab the vertical bar instead of the smaller, easily missed, horizontal piece. I’m told my leg launch was a strong enough surge I almost sat on the T-bar. I managed this because I committed fully to the idea of the attempt and that is a strength for me most of the time. A partial commit would have made the first catch and grab of the trapeze weak and more likely to fail. Make the commitment and give it your all to succeed.
Oberto’s motto was: “You get out what you put in.” I find that true of so many things in life and especially our attempt to manage obstacles. If we decide to take the challenge, then give it our best effort and we’ll likely experience our best growth. As for the final release and ringing of the bell, how much of that involved my long arms and a fair bit of luck I’ll never know. I do think we make a fair bit of our own luck by the choices we make. I would not have rung the bell if I had backed away from the challenge and my life would have been missing a ringing success.
That said, I always want to honor the team who made such an incredible experience possible. Thank you Greg, Jose, Loren and Skye! It was an incredible experience and while we can’t ever quite reproduce the magic of the day, it’s not hard to recall the experience and most especially our incredible teamwork! There’s a line from a stranger in the video and I hear it and love it every time: “Keep moving forward.” And so we shall!
“Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
— Stephen Hawking
In honor and celebration of the incredible life achievements of Stephen Hawking, I chose the above quote to lead this week’s discussion. Communication is a double-edged sword for certain. Like so many tools, it is in the manner of use by which its effect for positive or destructive influence is most commonly achieved.
I prefer to advocate for healthy communication with an equal intent for open minded listening and sharing. To that end, I heard an inordinate amount of praise for his work stated in the rough form of “he was incredible despite his disability.” I suspect the intent there for most was to denote that without question his disability provided additional challenges which he also seemed to manage with seeming grace, dignity, and success.
The praise I mentioned did not suggest he was a brilliant mind for someone in a wheelchair, which would have a much stronger negative resonance, but it does have a hint of that suggestion, which is why I adjusted the semantics to showcase it. Stephen Hawking was a brilliant person with an incredible legacy. His resolve and perseverance through adversity were similarly admirable and commendable. They are separate statements.
I share this because I often hear two diametrically opposed reactions to various accomplishments in my own life. The first is the often well intentioned but rather limiting expression of: “great achievement for a blind person.” This suggests that as a blind person, I should perhaps be judged by some lesser standard. If the accomplishment is noteworthy and deserving of the commendation, it is received far better without the qualifier.
I obviously understand my blindness does enhance the challenge of many things and there is at times a desire to express that as part of the statement which I’ve heard done effectively many times. It’s a matter of the approach to the words and expression which, to be fair, are likely unique to each situation. I simply suggest that thoughtful choice is valuable in these times.
The second counterpoint is a similarly well intentioned incredulity at the most simple of accomplishments. Frequently, because of a challenge, there may be a desire to set extremely low expectations. As I shared at a recent presentation at LL Bean, after hearing of my hiking experience, marathon running and Tough Mudder undertakings, it is difficult to hear someone express appreciation and awe that I am able to tie my own shoes!
As someone who strives to reach for my peak potential and to encourage similar in others, I want to set expectations higher and reach for them without the mindset of settling as a consideration. Whether by lack of exposure or education to what is a reasonable possibility, those who make such hyperbole of the most modest achievement can leave me feeling insulted even knowing it was likely not their intent. I want to ease my frustration and enhance the communication to address such things through this blog and my direct interaction at the time.
With that spirit in mind I also want to suggest this attitude for all of us facing any challenge and do so with another final quote from the mind who inspired today’s discussion:
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
– Stephen Hawkins
It is so easy to celebrate every single day with such a joyous, loving lady as Autumn! She is far and away the most affectionate pup I’ve had the fortune to have in my life and I’m told it is to my benefit that I cannot see the “look” with which she would otherwise put me at her bidding!
March 16 will denote four years of our being matched as a team, which includes not only the wonderful relationship as a great dog but also some pretty solid guide work.
Most dogs love the opportunity to step out for a walk and Autumn is no exception. What makes her and all of our Guide Dogs particularly exceptional, however, is that for them each walk is a true labor of love as well. All the wonderful distractions of the world are mitigated by her training to ensure she tends the responsibilities of keeping me safe.
Thus when a winter Nor’easter named after her predecessor, Quinn, has deposited more than a foot of snow on our roads, things get a little more interesting. As such, I thought this week I would take you on a short half mile audio/video walking tour of Autumn’s work with me. I hope you enjoy as much as I certainly enjoy having this wonderful girl in my life.
Do you ever have those days where it’s difficult to get out of bed? After my presentations I’m often asked questions that suggest that mine are all as perfect as they seem for my morning-loving Autumn dog! Once I confirm I have as many difficult days as the next person, I’m often asked how I approach those times.
The answer? Momentum! Or more specifically, I build positive momentum as quickly as possible. I share in only half jest the morning complaint: “Come on! Blind again today?” On those mornings I immediately put something different and positive to entice me forward. Maybe it’s a particularly good cup of coffee which wasn’t in the plans. Perhaps a phone call to a good friend to brighten the start of the day or sometimes just an easy accomplishment from my list of goals. The idea is that once I get something positive happening, I feel a bit better and from that improved position it’s easier to put another couple of those immediately into the plans to bolster the progress. It is simply what momentum means.
One source of positivity is to find an inspirational quote or story to help me as I start the day’s tasks. Not too long ago my friend Greg Hallerman shared this powerful video with me and again very recently I found it on LinkedIn when Casey Cheshire shared it. It’s the similar notion of starting your day by making your bed and using that ultimately as the catalyst to change the world. While that seems a bit of a stretch, the messages are powerful and worthy. Better still the delivery by Admiral William McRaven is tremendous and thus I urge all of you to perhaps change your world by taking a few moments to appreciate his powerful message!
Delta Airlines recently announced a new disappointing policy for all animals traveling with them effective March 1, 2018. It creates unreasonable travel restrictions for teams like Autumn and me. Several other airlines are evaluating how to follow suit and I want to credit United Airlines for excluding trained service dogs from these policies.
Specifically, this new policy requires anyone traveling with their animal to download a form from their website, have it filled out by their veterinarian to confirm the animals rabies and similar vaccinations, and then upload this form through the Delta website within 48 hours of traveling.
While this doesn’t seem an inordinate burden for a particular planned flight, it is compounded tremendously by the possibility of unexpected travel on Delta. Airports reroute a traveler due to cancellations and missed connections routinely and if any of these required a new Delta leg, we could become stranded by this policy. Bereavement or emergency travel would obviously be beyond consideration for them and all of this ignores the ability to have stored the form with them or to note that her rabies information is always on her collar. If my journey has multiple airlines and they all have similar policies, I’m getting multiple forms downloaded, printed, out to my vet, home, scanned, uploaded to the various websites for each and every trip. All while knowing any change in plans could leave me stranded anywhere around the country depending on how extensively the draconian Delta policies are adopted! At the very least, these need to be standardized for all airlines to accept the same form for the entirety of any trip!
Why did they make this change? While most of the country operates under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), airlines operate under the Air Carrier Access Act. In this they have opted to allow a much broader support animal. I do not have the qualifications to know the need or training for all the variations of animals and need in this situation. I do know that under the ADA businesses have been managing a large amount of false service dogs as people choose to forge the process in order to bring their dog where they want.
This problem is only intensified with the broader definition of both need and types of animals allowed. Peacocks, pigs, and tarantulas are all recent animals which may or may not have been legitimate but illustrate the diversity in progress. All this said, it was a non-service dog attack on a flight which likely sparked the most recent change. While the paperwork policy will not add any protection from such attacks, it may provide additional liability benefit. I absolutely acknowledge there is a problem and I want to see a resolution. I believe when Delta chooses to be a Maverick they take the risks of their failings as well.
For now, I want to simply applaud the better choice made by United Airlines than the disappointing choice made by Delta. My personal experience suggests Jet Blue is trending towards a little additional airport paperwork which can be managed at the airport, more in line with United, but still more delays and challenge for me. Trying to discern what all the various rules may be for all the individual airlines is going to make the challenges exponentially more difficult.
There was progress made in an initial conference in 2016, but reports make clear the airlines are having a problem, though it is not with service dogs. I hope the parties making policy would consider bringing a conference of stakeholders together to ensure a more reasoned and consistent policy may be planned and implemented with an expectation of more reasonable results than the risks ahead for Delta leaving customers stranded even after expecting them to take on some unreasonable amount of work.
The enthusiasm for January’s resolutions may have waned and many people find themselves particularly poised for a preponderance of stepping back on all those commitments. Quitting doesn’t call to just our New Year’s Resolutions — it’s something we can face commonly throughout the year and our many undertakings. I don’t even want to count the number of times some of my training runs find me wanting to quit or the frequency with which my schedule feels overwhelming. I suspect most people feel this way frequently. What surprises me is how many times after a presentation someone asks a question which suggests the perspective I don’t feel this way or that I don’t succumb to it. In reality, I stepped off the course at mile 17 in my very last marathon.
I do, however, try to adhere to a few approaches which make it easier to avoid quitting and I’ll share a top five tips with you here for consideration.
Proactive solutions are always the best. As such, when I am adding a new goal or commitment to my life, I frame it as an individual addition with an intentional trial period. The temptation to add multiple things at once can lead me to feel overwhelmed and the resulting drop of all those things together. By adding things individually they can be managed individually, so we are less likely to quit everything and more likely to remove the actual thing that is too much. In fact, we are more likely to detect when we are approaching too much and ease off before we get there.
When I add something, I have a reason for adding it. I actually make a record of the reason I have chosen to add it to my schedule. This speaks to the purpose behind my choice. When I am evaluating removing something, I similarly write my reasons for wanting to remove it and then find my original reasons. I compare those and that helps me determine if I’m “quitting” or making a better life evaluation. If the original reason is still more powerful for doing something, it often renews my motivation to continue.
When I know I don’t want to quit but I’m feeling like quitting or even hearing the voice of my mind trying to tease me into quitting, I mindfully give myself a new and different thought to hold my focus. In the case of running, for example, when I’m tired and I think how good it will feel to stop, I deliberately think about how good it felt to finish previous races, I imagine what the finish of this race will feel like, and I use that distraction of a positive nature to push back the negativity of quitting.
Procrastinate procrastination! By trying to establish a habit of doing the difficult thing right away, I don’t leave myself too much time to consider quitting. I’m busy doing before I can get to thinking about not doing it.
Often I feel we sneak into quitting by having put doing something off multiple times until we’ve established a habit of just not doing it and we have quit almost without intention. My use of a schedule is part of how I evade this trap. I put what needs to be done onto a schedule and while there may be a reason I need to move it or choose not to do it, I refuse to allow myself to not do it until I’ve rescheduled it within my time constraints first. For example, if I have a training run at 8 am and a friend wants to meet me for breakfast, then I either move my run to a time before then, or later that same day when I know I’m free and able to run. I do this before I allow myself to say yes to that friend.
Obviously there are many more practices which any of us can use as strategies to keep us earnest and honest on the things which are important to us. Finding the ones which are effective and sustaining them long enough to make them habit (21 days is often suggested) leads to a more effective method of quitting quitting. Ultimately, nothing will stop us from doing the things we truly want to do — but life sometimes is made better for us by doing things which are important to us and yet we fall victim to less ideal habits which we actually do hope to quit.
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