Vibram Five Fingers & Half Marathons

run_start

I hopped on the barefoot running bandwagon almost an year ago, starting with the Vibram FiveFingers KSOs. Since I wasn’t a long-time runner, switching away from the heel strike was an easy transition and I didn’t have any issues running 5Ks in them.

Enter the Chicago Half Marathon. I followed Hal Higdon’s awesome 12 week intermediate training program wearing the KSOs and God, the longer runs hurt. The thin soles weren’t providing very much protection at all and even Chicago’s lakeshore path doesn’t provide much of an exodus from running on pavement. Race day itself was rough – you can only pay so much attention to the road for that perfect landing while keeping an eye out for aid stations, other runners, fans, etc. By mile 10, even though my legs weren’t tired, my feet were beyond numb.

It’s hard to transition from barefoot running back to regular sneakers as your feet are used to the lighter, more agile shoes (not to mention the reversal in running style). Besides, that would be a step backward! To prepare myself better for the upcoming Chi Town Half Marathon, I bought myself a new pair of Vibrams – more protection, better fit, MOAR BETTER!

new_vibrams

I’m really hoping the compartmentalized areas on the sole do a good job of softening the impact. It’s a significant difference from my old pair.

comparison

The salesman at the store also shared some cool barefoot running resources – The popular Born to Run book, a barefoot running guide that I hadn’t heard of and an aptly named barefoot running blog – BirthdayShoes.com.

Here’s to hoping this half is easier on the feet!

Happiness before death

Meaning

It’s great that many young hackers are giving a lot of thought to being happy throughout their lives instead of focusing on a specific work related task that ends up being irrelevant in the long run.

Having already come across the Top five regrets of the dying, I found Majd Taby’s article on a moment of clarity following the same thought process I went through not too long ago.

There seems to be a wide range of advice within the hacker community, where superstar VCs such as PG (Paul Graham) of YCombinator urge folks to spend their youth working insane hours so that they can retire early and enjoy the rest of their lives. On the other end, hackers such as Jamie Zawinski, early engineer at Netscape, have written great accounts of how getting rich or making somebody else rich may not be the best way to spend your youth.

It ultimately boils down to everybody finding their own path to happiness but the plethora of accounts on the web make it easier to understand the maturity in the thought process for people who may have taken a similar path as yourself. It is also fascinating to walk in the shoes of those who were on death row for capital punishment. For example, take a look at the last statements of 500 executed offenders in Texas. If it wasn’t limited to 500 people, I’d find it to be a bigger time-sink than Reddit.

Quality Sleep

Sleepy dude

Since our generation does not sleep, except for those lucky elites, the deprivation leaves us exhausted.

Not wanting to sacrifice the sacred early hours of trolling our favorite forums (or of watching cat videos), we have been cornered into figuring out a way to get the most from the few hours we sleep.

Apparently, you can time yourself to wake up at the top of a sleep cycle, which leaves you feeling (relatively) refreshed. You go through multiple cycles a night so there are a whole bunch of time slots you can go to bed at.

The catch is that the calculation will require you to count backwards from the time you want to wake up, counting which sleep cycle you want to get up at. Even though it is a simple calculation, it can tempt you to keep counting backwards for the rest of the night and not get any sleep at all.

Luckily for us, Sleepyti.me is a simple website that gives you the time slots you should be gunning for. These are the times that should be falling asleep so make sure to add in some buffer time for your bedtime rituals. Whatever they may be.

Thank you but it’s quite alright. There is no need to share your ritual.

Personally, I haven’t felt much of a difference but I don’t end up falling asleep at the required time either. Perhaps there needs to be a variation of the website that plays mind games with you and tells you the wrong time to fall asleep by, knowing that you’ll end up sleeping at the correct time. ConspiringSleepyti.me!

Sleep Tight!

Visiting Rackspace HQ in San Antonio, TX

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of Rackspace, an innovative and leading cloud hosting provider to discuss some of their newer product offerings and iron out implementation details for a large client of Acquity Group. The agenda included a tour of their facilities by an early employee who goes by Sugar Bear. There’s a great story as to how he got his name but we’re already straying off-course…

Culture

Rackspace 1300

Based out of Texas, the company welcomes the Cowboy persona to the workplace. I don’t mean Cowboy in the sense that there is little to no preparation with everyone shooting from the hip. By keeping the organization very flat, a large pool of decision makers are hands-on and aren’t afraid to dwelve into the technical details.

The company also prides itself in providing the best customer service, a trait not too far from the state’s Southern Hospitality

The work area also has flags hanging from above the range from various national flags to sports teams. The company also awards tenured Rackers with milestone flags (‘X Year Racker’). Having everybody (including the CEO) sit in an open area cube, there is a very egalitarian atmosphere and Executive Management seemed very open and easy to approach.

The Castle

Rackspace 1301

If you’re not familiar with Rackspace, their main headquarters used to be Mervyn’s Department Store. One of the employees had rented out his prom tux from a store that is currently a conference room.

Rackspace 1302

After Mervyn’s closed its doors, Rackspace purchased the property, split it into segments and began construction. Precaution was taken to minimize waste and donate any materials over to the community.

Rackspace 1303

Nicknamed “The Castle” by Rackers, their relocation to the HQ was tagged “Storm the Castle”. There are entertaining videos of the CEO, Lanham Napier, giving a pep rallies to his employees to get ready for the battle.

But what’s the point of a castle without breaking any world records, right?

Rackspace 1295 Rackspace 1297 Rackspace 1298

Environmentally Friendly

The Castle is LEED Gold Certified. If that doesn’t mean much to you, think energy efficient lights everywhere, greener building materials and toilets that have two settings to flush.

They also have a wicked cool fan – the “Big Ass Fan” Rackspace 1311 Rackspace 1312

Obligatory Slide

Because cool tech companies realize their employees miss their younger days. As in way younger days.

Rackspace 1307 Rackspace 1308

Preserving the history

One of the newer areas of the castle has a dedicated area for a museum. How about that? 🙂

Rackspace 1309 Rackspace 1310

Awesome T-Shirts

A lot of employees were wearing different Rackspace t-shirts and there was a nice display of the past t-shirt campaigns by the HR area. Their internal marketing team seems to have gotten the memo about avoiding terrible bland t-shirts.

Summing it up

The day I visited, the Company was hosting a celebration in their outdoor area (which looked like it used to be the loading dock for the mall) for ranking #74 on the ‘Forbes Best companes to work for’ list. There was a whiteboard congratulating the Rackers and somebody had scrawled on “We’re #1, no matter what”.

Their enthusiasm was contagious 🙂

Entrepreneurs kickstarting the charge against blood diamonds…

Tonight at our Technori get together, I had the pleasure of meeting Narimon Safavi, who was in the jewelry business for several years until he dived into diamond mining in West Africa. He had come across the opportunity to mine and worked around the insurgencies/warlords to differentiate his product. It marked the beginning of the movement against blood diamonds.

He is currently working on an incubator for cultural startups, as in startups that are around cultural/exotic paintings, teaching dances, etc. Very cool idea but kind of hard to follow up on the blood diamond bit 🙂

Takeaways from applying to B school

With Peter Thiel challenging the traditional education system, a lot of us are left wondering if business school is worth it. For me, the main items to consider were:

Natural progression of career

Is an MBA from a top school an expectation for the next level up? With the new focus on technical leadership among the leading tech giants, the traditional MBA is often overlooked in favor of a strong record of leading teams and delivering results. If all the places you want to work at have this requirement (also known as ‘You want to be an investment banker’), there’s little room for negotiation.

Network from alumni, faculty & students

Arguably the most beneficial perk from the program, this becomes a perk only if you end up going to the top schools (Top 10, maybe 20). Bringing together a lot of energetic visionaries with diverse skillsets, business school provides a great environment to assemble a team of superstars. However, with the top schools have a massive…

Cost

If you’re able to shell out ~$80,000/year for two years, this isn’t an issue. For the rest of us, there are questions of when we will pay off our loans, what the true cost of the degree is (including interest, lost experience, etc) and the emotional toil it carries – If you have dependents, they will have to be on-board this venture as much as you are.

Switching industries

Unfortunately, unlike jobs, careers tend to typecast you into that specific industry/role. It doesn’t matter that you have independently gained all the certifications under the sun. You need real work experience to get your foot in the door and nobody’s willing to take a chance in a high-risk field.

Business schools provide a unique path to changing careers where their strong relationships with companies allow you to land an internship, go through a structured program (atleast at the leading consulting companies) and come out with just enough polish to get by. Ideally, you land an internship at your dream company, they love you the second you walk inside and the rest is history.

Formal training on the fundamentals of business or management

Education programs at schools used to be the only structured and reputable sources for such training but with the new open university / continuing education / extension classes offered, there are cheaper alternatives to getting an MBA.

A break from the work life to reflect on life/goals

There are a surprising amount of folks who think of business school as a vacation from the hectic life of their profession. The reason that most schools are picky about goals and reasons you want to go to business school is not that they expect everyone to stick to the goals listed in their application. The top programs, the extra-curricular activities you’ll want to join and the multiple company visits or international trips you take will leave you literally no time to reflect. Better get on that reflecting 🙂

An unexpected takeaway I had from applying to the top schools was the five year plan I came up with. Having to gut it over and over again, it is a far more refined and realistic plan than anything else I have come up with. The deadlines for the application force you to put together a good plan that will be useful even if you end up not going to business school.

Perhaps just applying to business school will provide you a better idea of if it’s the right choice for you or not. It definitely provided me a lot of clarity.

If you’re a prospective B-School student, hope this was helpful and good luck!