Staying Focused in Work and Life
I’ve worked at a deli, an outfitter shop, and three bike shops before starting at Cane Creek Cycling Components nearly 5 years ago. In my retail experience, we focused on the customer that just came in the door or on a phone call. I settled into my new job in the RSG (now called Rider Engagement Department) and found myself multi-tasking the day away. Similar to bike shop life, emails and phone calls weren’t as patient as customers standing in line on a busy Saturday. I became an expert multi-tasker (or so I thought) but this strategy didn’t work as well after joining our Supply Chain Team as Purchasing Coordinator.
In this new role, I’d field questions as to parts arrival, buy lots of things, speed up or slow down shipments and adjust a lot of dates in our records. My multitasking skills were on display daily – dual monitors full of layers of windows with a dozen tabs per window. I’d find myself doing a little work on a lot of different things but rarely finishing anything quickly.
I’ve learned from some great bosses that you need to choose what to work on and actually do it. Schedule time on your calendar for important tasks and sometimes defend that time against surprise meetings or when colleagues have a quick question. Often the question is quick, but finding the answer takes a lot longer! With a lot of help, I’ve grown from a multitasker struggling to meet deadlines to generally feeling good about my work and somehow still finding answers to almost all the quick questions. Anyone reading this probably knows, we’ve had some crazy times in the bike industry, lately – but it’s been a little easier while Staying Focused.
I began riding bikes again just after high school. First road cycling then mountain bikes, cyclocross – even gravel once that became a thing. I’ve been racing on and off since 2005. Additionally, I’ve really enjoyed traveling and using my bikes to explore new places. Some of my favorites were Crested Butte (401 trail), Salida (Monarch Crest) and East Burke Vermont (Kingdom Trails). That’s not to say we don’t have world class riding nearby. Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Forest make for quick weekday shreds or memorable all-day rides over the weekend. Bent Creek Experimental Forest is only a few minutes from home. Upstate SC and North Georgia are pretty close as well. Virginia is a little farther but cannot be forgotten as it’s home to Carvin’s Cove, Massanuttan, and one of my absolute favorite spots – Damascus.
During a mini road trip in July, my wife Darcy and I planned a two night stay in Beartree Recreation Area just east of Damascus. There’s a quaint campground with many trails to access Iron Mountain Trail (IMT) as well as the famous Creeper Trail nearby for more casual riding. On the first full day of the trip, we’d taken off for a ride using Lum Trail, Iron Mountain and FS84. We would finish the ride by descending Lum Trail (our first climb of the day) back to the campground. The ride was going really well – we traversed IMT from FS84 down to Skulls Gaps. Then slogged up to the Straight Branch Shelter – a reminder that parts of Iron Mountain served as Appalachian Trail (AT) until 1972. At this point we only needed to descend Lum Trail then navigate short paved loops back to our campsite.
As we departed Straight Branch Shelter, my mind wandered from the rocky Virginia singletrack to the black bean tacos we’d have for lunch in just 15 minutes or so back at our campsite. With the typical surprise that occurs during most crashes, I went over the bars, landed on my right side, rolled through rocks and wondered “Where’s my bike?”
Darcy thought I’d stopped to do trailwork due to all the newly dislodged rocks and bike well off the trail. Dirt all over, torn jersey, scraped and bruised – I picked myself up, straightened my bars and coasted – mostly one handed – back to the campsite.
A friend and old boss used to remind me “Stay positive, make stuff happen.” Pretty dejected – I crashed on day one of our big summer road trip due to not staying focused – I tried to think about how I’m pretty lucky:
- I didn’t hit my head. No spinal trauma.
- No broken wrist, arm or collarbone.
- No dislocated shoulder.
- My Cotic Flaremax only suffered a bent brake rotor. Custom Purple HELM was unscathed.
- I’m fortunate enough to take a week in July to travel with my wife, dogs, tiny camper and fancy mountain bikes.
It rained for 14 hours just after we finished our tacos. We headed home the next morning.
Stuck between hosting a pity party and considering the positives, I decided to revisit trails on foot. In addition to great mtb trails, we have phenomenal hiking trails nearby to explore. Shining Rock Wilderness… the Smokies… Mount Mitchell… Mountains to Sea Trail… Soon enough I actually enjoyed trails on two feet. My bone bruised hand didn’t keep me sidelined for long.
Six weeks after starting this new hobby – on a run through the Arboretum – I sprained my ankle as I glanced at a trailside sign. I’d recently run quite difficult stretches of trail – Art Loeb / Black Mountain Crest / etc – yet a simple distraction, on a flat stretch of gravel – caused me to sprain my ankle. Much like the tacos weeks before, this silly picnic area sign put me back on the couch for another few weeks of rest. I’ve been back to running and considering a bike ride one day soon. Trust me, I’m taking my time and looking at the trail ahead.
So all this is to say, things move quickly sometimes. It can be tough to keep on track with constant distractions (quick questions / tacos / picnic areas). You might say it’s difficult Staying Focused sometimes. The solution to this problem? Here at Cane Creek, we think the answer is to ‘Move Fast, Slowly’. Now as Senior Purchasing Manager, I’m still reminded I need to take this advice as I finish this blog post Friday night, days after the deadline. It’s okay though, I heard once “You stop learning when you’re dead.”