The Long Road Home: Tuscon, the Marathon, and…The End (part three)

The final leg of my road trip, part one is here, part two is here, and following is part three.

If you are reading this far 🙂 , I’d suggest listening to this song, the Long Road Home by Mickey Newbury. Maybe as you read this. Or not. It’s a great song. In iTunes you can see how many times you have played a certain song, and I can’t even bring myself to say how many times I have listened to a good dozen songs in my “most played.” It also probably serves as more accurate confirmation of a DSM-IV diagnosis of a bit of an obsessive/compulsive personality. The Long Road Home got some good play time on my road trip. It’s mesmerizing.

Ten minutes to start, and I think that bathroom line is longer than ten minutes...
Ten minutes to start, and I think that bathroom line is longer than ten minutes…

I left Tucson on Saturday morning to head over to Phoenix for the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Checking into marathons is a great feeling, there is a type of impending human kinetic energy. Can’t quite explain it. Closest I have felt to it is when I used to work as an Exec at a Company where we’d have big events, sometimes thousands of people, at annual conventions. I think it’s the feeling of pulling together enthusiastic people who share a passion. You can feel it. One thing I hate is apathy. Being around passionless people exhausts and annoys me to no end. It’s part of why I love NYC so much. For better or worse, there is a ton of passion there. So I’m drawn to people who are passionate.

I was hanging out at the pool in the afternoon the day before the race finishing the Steve Jobs biography and trying to stay off my legs and save up my energy. I met this guy there whose wife was a professional competitor, and she was running in the half the following day. Super nice guy, 50’s, could tell he was really hard working and at one point in the conversation he told me: “I’m not gaining on the world, but the world isn’t gaining on me either–so I think I’m doing okay.”

And it made me think of the last three gas station attendants on my trip up to that point, Nick, Walter, and Bao. And it’s funny that I remember their names, because I’m not great at names. I talked to Nick from Chevron for a bit, and learned he’s worked two 40-hour a week jobs for the last 12 years. His other gig is at a grocery store. Respectable. Hard work. Good man. I have a soft spot for the “working class” (a term I don’t love but it’s the most descriptive).

Start of the Phoenix Marathon
Start of the Phoenix Marathon

You’re an Executive? Cool, good for you big shot. Maybe you’re really good. Maybe you’re lucky. But I know that however hard you worked, you got a lot of breaks along the way–a lot of breaks that other people didn’t get.

However, you clean houses or offices for a living? You have my respect.

Because, THAT is a hard job. An honorable job. And the people in those jobs, well, they’re the ones that are the fabric of America, and what makes it great. It’s not that I have a rant against people who have been successful with big fancy titles, I don’t. But them being successful doesn’t make them any more respectable than a person in a more typical American job.

Seeing the States was a reminder why I have come to be so frustrated with politics, mostly the politicians themselves. Because, most of them forgot who and what makes this country so amazing. I’m doing my best not to editorialize, but during my trip I was really reminded of the people who truly make America what it is. There are days I’m convinced we’d be better off if we simply replaced all of Congress with 535 rational, hardworking middle class Americans who care deeply about this country.

Anyways, back to the road trip…Sunday morning I awoke around 4:30am, excited and nervous. Ready to try hard, but I gave myself an out to bail if I felt horrible during the run. Race gun sounded at 7:50am, and we were off.

During the run I had two particularly memorable moments. The first one was an unknown-to-me person by the name of Jackie, and either there were a ton of women named Jackie running this race, or one REALLY popular one. This guy holding this sign I must’ve seen seven times during my run, and I saw a lot of other Jackie signs on the way. It made me feel good for two reasons, one is to watch a team of people so enthusiastic cheering someone on was simply fun to see. The other good feeling was because I saw all the people standing with the signs waiting for her, therefore, I was clearly running ahead of whoever-this-Jackie-woman was. I try to take the small victories along the way. 🙂

Go Jackie Go!
Go Jackie Go!

The other great moment was running next to this guy for the first ten miles who was carrying the American flag. Seeing the sun streaking through the flag, with him running intently, gave me goosebumps, which I don’t get often. It was one of the best moments of the marathon, perhaps even better than finishing.We live in such an amazing country. Post race I saw him and thanked him for running with the flag, but what I really wanted to do was hug it out with him. Can’t explain how cool it was, I have chills even as I write this. It was magic.

American Flag marathon runner
American Flag marathon runner

From what I have read, what usually happens with newbie marathoners is first 10 miles are cake, 11-18 are fine, then somewhere around 18-20 you hit the wall and then, well, welcome to hell.  That was pretty much my experience in my first marathon six weeks ago.

Mile 25...
Mile 25…

What happened in the Phoenix marathon was unexpected. I had the stomach flu then followed by either a wicked cold or the regular flu (there should be some law of physiology that the two can’t accompany each other) starting a week before the race. So the first 15 miles I felt pretty lousy. Then, at mile 15, something happened. It just clicked. And I felt great. My pace picked up considerably. And it lasted until I got to mile 23.5, where I finally bonk’d (hit the wall) but when you bonk that far along it’s a lot easier to complete. My time was 3:55:24, so I was thrilled to finish this one given how I’d been feeling, getting sub-four was just a bonus.

Post run, I went and saw a few friends from my high school back in Columbus, Ohio. Great people. I loved hearing their stories, experiences, and travels from over the years. I never tire of meeting, and listening to interesting people. Mike and Julie, hope to see you guys again on another Arizona trip…

And after a few hours of chatting over burgers, truffle fries, and (one) beer–my big cheat meal for the week–I was off to hit the road to continue my trek on I-10 west into the sunset. And back into California, 3,500 miles later.

Why’d I drive from Florida to California? Because I have a car affliction.

But, what prompted my car buying affliction in Florida was, in part, the prospect of driving across the Country. Because I knew that during my trip I’d learn a little bit more about myself. A lot more about others. A few great life lessons along the way.

And, that I’d fall in love with America all over again.

And I did.

 

IMG_6310 - Version 2
Off into the sunset…


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The October Road Tour: LA, PHX, CHI

Blacked out, but not down, in southern California I had so much fun on the road the last week of October, and even since then so much has happened–including a SOLD OUT EBI in Lacey w/ nearly 300 attending the Corporate Office, along with a road show this week where we’ve been to about 20 cities. I am sitting in the Seattle airport having just flown in from Reno this morning and am on layover to Vancouver, having spent earlier this week in San Francisco, East Bay, and Sacramento. So back to the last week of October…Meeting with great leaders and getting to sit in as well as present in some incredible meetings with various teams! As you know from reading your weekly news and from e-mail announcements we’ve recently made, the Executive Team has been out and about, drumming up support for you as you optimize the 50% Matching Bonus for your Teams and your prospects. I know the other execs have equally impressive stories to tell about the Teams they hung out with, but since this is my blog, I’ll go ahead and tell mine. 🙂 It was a great group of leaders in Los Angeles this past Monday — lots of Vietnamese attendees and a pretty mixed crowd on top of that. The event was at this swanky restaurant and we had it exclusively for our use that night! We had more than 100 people in attendance and it was standing room only, so there was tons of great energy where probably 35% of the people were guests. The host, Khai Huynh, did a great job, the varied business and product testimonials were strong and moving as well, and to top off the evening, the power went out! So we finished the last 20 minutes or so by candlelight. A few people in the front were even shining the lights from their phones onto the speakers so that everyone could see them. It was very fun and it was so obvious that the Team there is committed to transforming Los Angeles! On the way out, a 75-year-old lady told me “I’m all in. I signed up last Wednesday, made a commitment to JUST DO THIS so I flew up to Portland for the Super Regional and had a great time — now I’m here on Monday night and I’m ready to go! I feel so much more energy since starting these products a week ago, and this is going to be an entirely family activity. Go Univera!” Now THAT’S COMMITMENT: ‘In’ on Wednesday/Portland on Friday-Saturday/Back to L.A. working the biz and bringing guests on Monday…love it. Tuesday at another restaurant in Phoenix was equally awesome though with a more intimate group of about 35 people — I’m thinking about 1/3 of them being guests. Barry and Connie Lucas were the hosts, and Connie kept answering most of the questions that I was asking of the audience! 🙂 I couldn’t blame her — she knew all the answers… When I left at 9 p.m., the group was still going strong. It’s so much fun to see the nucleus of energy of a small group that’s committed to making it big. Phoenix has huge potential and NEED given the debacle of real estate, and this is the group that will help transform it. I ran into a woman who was a realtor and has only been in for a few months, but said she was SO RELIEVED to find Univera. As a realtor, she’s busy but her work now is all in foreclosures, and said that it’s emotionally challenging and gut wrenching to see all these families once filled with so much hope facing the dejection of being forced out of their own home. So, in addition to the income, she loves the opportunity to bring about meaningful change to people, and that it’s so refreshing to be able to come to an event and have people that are uplifting, positive, focused on personal development — all things that are apart from the income that can be earned at Univera. Then, Chicago…Just off the hook. Ylinen’s led a great meeting, I even had dinner with “The Legend”, one of our next Diamonds, and spent some other time with fab Univera leaders. And, Kenny, totally rocked the close. Meeting was off the hook…And so is the momentum. Thanks to all the people in Univera that are making this dream possible for so many, and the contribution that’s led to SUCH A BIG WIN IN 2009! And there’s still more to come, we ain’t done “bringing it!” just yet…

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From the Desert to the Rockies

mesa_rt08_dscn2703I love the desert and the deep brown earthy soil of the Arizona landscape — perhaps odd to those who long for a bit more green, which is particularly abundant in the Northwest. So landing in Phoenix started my heart thumping a bit more vigorously. And walking off the airplane and feeling the dry warmth of the sun was a welcome experience after landing.

There’s some great youthful energy that exists in Phoenix. The market is in such infancy, but it has the support of both exceptionally strong leaders from across the country, as well as some emerging leaders local to this region.

Upon landing, I went for a run, I think Michael did a workout, Stephen did yoga, and Regan’s not telling what he did (naptime?). Whenever I travel to sunny cities, I just tend to go outside. It’s like the walkways are calling me to go exercise.

So we expected the Mesa event to be a really strong meeting, with an enthusiastic Associate audience as well as a good number of guests. John Ryan again hosted this meeting, and it was supplemented with some great testimonials by Peter Wright, Ron Fauntz, and Kenny Rossi towards the end.

Before the event started, I got to catch up with friends Gale George, Saul (without a known last name!), and Diane Tucker (Mrs. America and Mrs. World), who traveled down from Tucson to attend the event.

During the evening, Michael Jr. continued with a new twist to his routine on the Road Tour by engaging the audience with an open invitation for questions through which he creates impromptu comedy. It actually started by accident in Sacramento and worked well to open the audience up that he continued this into Mesa; we’ll see how much further it goes.

The Phoenix area, especially smarting from the decline in housing prices along with the tightening of the credit markets, had a new burst of both energy and urgency in the air — not unlike what’s felt across the U.S. I ended up talking to a good number of people who were so thankful for the timing of Univera and their involvement.

In fact, one amazing couple (out of many that I met) — the wife a teacher and the husband an owner of a collision repair facility — expressed what a “Godsend” (their words) Univera has been. In down economic times evidently (and logically), people will more often collect their insurance premium and not get the vehicle fixed on more cosmetic-oriented repairs. They expressed with both excitement and optimism the freedom they’re finding in Univera, as well as the fun and energy that it brings to their life and other people.

One night quickly ended, and it seemed my head just hit the pillow before the morning sun arose and we were off to Denver.

Sometimes, there are cities or geographies that are either so gorgeous or relaxing that I get chills. It doesn’t happen often (Sydney is an example), but for me, going to Denver (and the Colorado area in general) is incredibly therapeutic — between the mountains and air, the place is simply magical.

Stephen, again in an effort to save time (MJ, Regan, and I didn’t know we were in a hurry), rushed to the rental counter offsite while we got the bags, which, by the way, I think Regan and I can pretty much confirm after having watched this process for three cities that it really doesn’t save much time in the process, though it usually results in a little live comedy.

Speaking of, traveling with Michael Jr. is starting to get really fun. The first few days were a little awkward at times. Nothing big, but you know you’re spending a lot of time with a new person that you don’t really know. And, he’s a comedian. So every time he says something, you automatically assume it’s a joke. So it takes a while to learn the temp of the group. We really settled in at Denver, and I think Regan (who I’m convinced secretly wishes he pursued a career in comedy as well) is having about as much fun as he ever has had on a road trip.

There are more leaders concentrated in Denver than any other city in North America, and many readers probably don’t realize that Broomfield, Colo., served as home to Univera nearly 10 years ago. As a result, there’s a solid concentration of quite a few Diamonds and several Blue Diamonds among many other Univera Associates, which is another reason I always love to visit; I love spending time with the leadership here.

I’ve got to give good credit to the organizers and leaders of this event; many were involved in all the behind-the-scenes logistics, and it was extremely well run.

And there’s something about leadership in each event that lends itself to either great energy upon entering a room, or to be gentle about it, “not great energy.” Tonight’s meeting simply had great energy, buzz, and excitement — before anyone even picked up a microphone.

I attribute so much of this to the mood, energy, and excitement of the leadership’s example that day; it’s something each of us noticed visibly this evening, so a lot of props go out to all those local leaders who contributed their part to bring a high energy level to the room.

denver_rt08_dscn2707John Rogers really did an exceptional job hosting the event from both a flow and content perspective; it also didn’t hurt that he has an FM-quality radio voice.

Often, we spend time talking with Associates and guests at the end of the evening at Road Tours in the past, but what we’re loving about this event is that while we’re still spending time saying hello to the new and old, there’s a lot of time being spent among guests and hosts. And a lot of new signups.

Tonight was an example in spades; over 230 attendees (felt like more) and well over 100 new guests were at the event. As always, it was fantastic to say hello to both old and new friends in the area, and I wish we’d had more time to spend with more people.

denver_rt08_dscn2720But the best conversations of the night didn’t occur between any of us and the Field.

They occurred between the inviting Associate, the guest, and if available, the local Diamond or Blue Diamond for that organization.

Thanks, Denver, for an outstanding event with such great energy.

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CherNINske in Phoenix

friday-night-audienceFriday morning I woke up early without a lot of sleep (the blogging generally happens very late at night!), granted I had the time to sleep a bit more but I was craving one more walk on the California coast before we departed.

associates-minglingRegan and Stephen did the same thing, funny enough. Doesn’t it, in some abstract and intangible way, somehow make for great intuitive sense to have a Univera satellite office located somewhere between San Diego and L.A.?

post-event-mingling3Our flights were uneventful, and somehow Stephen has managed to move himself towards the front of the plane to the chagrin of both Regan and me. But, such is life. Which, by the way, is the name of a fantastic little restaurant in Phoenix (Such is Life is, if I remember, on N. 24th Street) which is the next–and final–destination for this week’s trip.

cherninske-post-eventThis event was more like a Regional of sorts, so we mixed things up a bit. Yesterday evening we were a little loose, each of us went a bit long and I think one would have to say–if nothing else–we were authentic and real. Perhaps that’s code for, well, “a little loose”. We had a LOT of fun and shared some of the more eventful stories from the week.

dscn1053How does one define “a little loose”? Probably quite a few examples could be used, but since I’m at it let me pick on Al a bit. I’m sure some people look at a Blue Diamond and wonder “What’s it take? How could I achieve that level of accomplishment, the compensation, the leadership, the legacy…”

The answer? Planning.

Lots, and lots, and lots of planning.

Intricate and innate dedication to detail. Forethought. Weeks of considerations, contemplations, and modifications prior to the conduction of an event. The creation of incredible agendas. Detailed agendas, developed way in advance. Planned so thoroughly that there remains no chance of any detail missed, or any speaker misplaced, or any minute misused.

phoenix-agendaMight an example be available for us? Indeed, one might. And you can see it to the left. This is, literally, the agenda I was handed by Al at 6:57pm on Friday evening–which was plenty of time given that the event didn’t start until 7:00pm. We probably could have even made a few agenda adjustments in the extra time. But, we didn’t. And it all worked out.

Of course, I am teasing in an endearing way. And in my jest I do not intend to underestimate the criticality of planning. Al and his team (I’m including those cross-team to him as well which develop much of the content together) conduct a lot of pre-event thinking and they do run some amazing events. They always pull it off. And, what might be missed in pre-event agenda creation is captured in the spontaneity of the moment. And on Friday night we had a lot of humorous and spontaneous moments.

al-and-agendaI had quite a few highlights from Friday evening, but will only share a couple. One, we recognized a new one-month qualified Diamond: Kenny and Esmeralda Rossi (unfortunately I didn’t get a picture). So while not yet fully qualified we took a moment to congratulate what has been amazing success in an incredibly short period of time (one month!). Kenny made a few comments and was visibly touched, I loved his humility and authenticity. He reminded everybody that he had nine years experience in this industry and it was those prior years of efforts and relationships that brought him the speed of success at Univera. I also loved that his passion was for his team, he came to Univera because he wanted to see his team win–and win in a way they had not experienced before. They are winning. And perhaps as importantly, they are having fun. I think that’s part of their success, the raw enthusiasm and enjoyment of the process lends itself to a better result naturally.

Another highlight was spending time with the Ryan and Faunce team post-event. We stopped by Ron’s room who was hosting a get together with about a dozen people who were hanging out sharing stories, some were eating dark chocolate and also consuming some resveratrol (which is a phytoalexin found in the skin of red grapes and is known to have some health benefits) during the evening as well.

testimonials1Saturday morning Regan and I had to catch an early flight, so there’s not a lot of content captured from that day. BUT…It wasn’t until I got to tease Regan a bit during my presentation for calling our Chief Scientific Officer Stephen Cher-NIN-ske vs. Cher-NIS-ke for the last six months. It would be like calling Regan another name, like Rengan. Consistently. From stage. In front of lots of people.

cherninskeAnd, ironically enough, Rengan was his newly adopted name (originating from a misspelled name tag) when we went to Hainan Island, China. So Rengan’s suggestion is that Stephen change his name. I don’t expect this to happen, but quite a few weeks remain on the Tour.

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