Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 - The Year of the Unicorn

Surreal – Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.  (synonyms – unbelievable, fantastic)

Miriam-Webster’s dictionary has declared ‘Surreal’ to be the word of the year for 2016 due to searches of the word spiking throughout the year for various reasons ranging from terror attacks around the world to the US election.  I’m never one to follow, or even agree with, the masses but for once, I have to agree.

For me, 2016 began with the surreal countdown of my oldest son preparing to leave for the Marine Corps.  On January 19th, he began an incredible journey that is transforming him into an incredible man and I couldn’t be more proud.  It’s been very difficult for me because I don’t get to see him very often.  Many of you have followed his journey through my eyes on FaceBook.

Soon after he left for boot camp, I got a call from an obstacle course racing company known as BattleFrog.  The conversation originally started out as ‘Hey! We need a couple full time sales people in the Cincinnati area.  Are you interested?’  My response was ‘Why do you think you need full time people?  I could do it part time’.  The discussion ended up with ‘Come down and talk to us over the first weekend of April.’  A free trip to Miami to talk about OCR?  Of course, I will!  The weekend was very interesting and educational and ended with ‘Come work with us.’ and ‘You can’t afford me.’.  The following week I was asked ‘What will it take for you to move to Miami and work with us?’.  With my offer on the table I was invited to travel back to Miami and meet with the owner of the company.  On Tuesday, April 19th, I flew down and had lunch with the owner and executive committee.  I was told that BattleFrog was currently on a 5-year plan.  Two questions were asked of me; ‘What do you think everyone will say if you decide to work with BattleFrog?’ and ‘What’s keeping you from saying Yes?’.  My responses were ‘People are going to say I have lost my mind.’ and ‘I need assurances.’  Surreal

I had been in the engineering field for 27 years.  OCR had become an obsessive hobby of mine and the opportunity to work and make a new career out of something that I love was ‘surreal’.  The offer on the table was incredible.  Every winter in the north made me hate the north more and more and this was an opportunity to move as far south as I possibly could.  I always knew that finding a job in the south in my current line of work was going to be very difficult.  I was being given the opportunity to help create the greatest Obstacle Course Racing company on the face of the planet.  The long-term pros outweighed the short-term cons.  I found my Unicorn.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and took it.  Surreal

My last day at my current job was May 13th and I started in Miami on May 16th.  From there it’s all a blur of 12 hour days and travelling back and forth to Ohio getting my house ready to sell.  Thank God for Kim and her ‘fixer-upper’ capabilities.  My house went up for sale on a Friday in July and was sold one week later.  The closing would be sometime in September.  Surreal

Sometime in August, my son found out his first Duty Station would be in Okinawa, Japan.  When he first announced that he was joining the Marines I told him that wherever he was in the world for his 21st birthday that I would be there with him.  Short of Iraq or Afghanistan of course.  With this announcement, I knew I was going to Okinawa in November.

After less than 4 months of working for BattleFrog, on August 20th, my hometown event occurred in Ohio.  It was one of the most amazing events in the company’s history and for Ramiro and me it felt like the turning point.  We felt like many of the things we had been doing to grow the event participation levels was starting to work.  At noon on that same day, Ramiro received a phone call from the owner telling him to shut down the company.  At 8:00 a.m. that following Tuesday, I was informed about the decision and the rest of the world found out two hours later.  I had quit my job of 8 years, completely changed my 27-year career, sold my house, moved 1100 miles away from my family and loved ones for the chance to catch a Unicorn.  Surreal

The people that I met and was fortunate enough to work with at BattleFrog are all amazing, even if it were for just a short period of time.  We were almost done creating the Dream Team when the call was made to shut down the company.  I’m especially fortunate to have been able to work with and learn from Ramiro Ortiz.  His knowledge and experience of business is invaluable and I was looking forward to learning so much more from him.  I was also fortunate that they would need help with shutting down the company, selling off the assets and doing my best to make sure everyone got their refunds.  It just so happened that I did not have anything planned for the next 4 months.  My last official day with the company was December 16th.  Surreal

My physical fitness was completely off this year as a result of the move and everything.  I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine in 2017.  As far as OCR goes for 2016, I qualified for the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in May with a solid run at Mud, Guts & Glory in May and then traveled to Canada in October to represent the United States on an amazing course.  It was an incredibly memorable weekend.

2016 came to a poetic and symbolic end on December 31st.  Being in Miami, there are a plenty of things to do.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I didn’t want to sit in my apartment alone.  There was a free Pit Bull concert downtown with fireworks at midnight.  A party in Miami Beach or Coconut Grove, everything ending with fireworks at midnight.  I had even thought of working out at midnight and making sure I was at the peak of the Rickenbacker bridge at midnight so I could see all the fireworks.  Late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, I learned that the Virginia Key Outdoor Center was offering dinner and kayaking out in Biscayne Bay to view the fireworks but they were sold out.  I figured I would go there anyway because there had to be one empty seat in a boat.  As predicted, there was a very nice lady that was there with her son and daughter-in-law that had reserved a single seat kayak for herself and agreed to change to a two-seater with me.  We got out on the water around 11:40 and were rushing to get out in the Bay by midnight.  At 11:53, in the dark of night out on the ocean in a kayak, a manatee surfaced right in front of the boat and blew air.  Manatees rarely travel alone.  About three seconds later a second massive manatee surfaced right under the back of the boat where I was seated.  The boat raised up out of the water and rested on the manatee.  The manatee was as shocked as we were and quickly dove back under the water, rocking the boat and flipping its tail with such force that I was completely soaked.  Five minutes later there were fireworks going off from seven different locations around Miami and all within viewing of the Bay.  What are the circumstances that puts you in the exact position on the planet at the exact moment in time to be sitting in a kayak on the back of a manatee surrounded by fireworks on New Year’s Eve?  Surreal

As 2017 begins, I expect to find out within the first two weeks of January as to where I will be next.  I’m hoping to get back into the engineering world with a job in Alpharetta, Georgia.  The fallback will be to go back to Ohio and get back into my old job.  Either way, I have no desire to stay in Miami or even Florida.  Georgia may not be as far south as Florida but it’s not Ohio.

For me, 2016 was as close to intense irrational reality of a dream, unbelievable or fantastic as it could possibly get.  The lesson that everyone should learn is that there is no amount of planning that can keep your life going in a specific direction.  All you can do is be prepared to survive anything that happens.  This is typically accomplished by keeping your arms and legs in the vehicle at all times.  Life is full of obstacles, the more you are prepared to get over or through them, the more fulfilling the finish line photo will be.