Archives for the month of: December, 2010

Photo by Flickr user 'cliff1066'

This afternoon, in the locker room at my gym, I witnessed a scene I would not see just any old where.

There were two Japanese men, one younger and in his twenties, the other looking mid-fifties or so. They were speaking to one another in a patois of Japanese and English. Mostly Japanese, with a smattering of English words and half-sentences. I did not really pay much attention, and went about my business.

Then I heard the older one say to the other, “each state gets two.” This was followed by more Japanese that I did not understand. My ears pricked up, and I wondered if they were talking about the Senate. Naw, I thought. Why would they be?

But, evidently not only were they talking about the Senate, but the older man appeared to be giving the younger man a lesson in U.S. civics. I clearly heard “minority leader,” “House,” “president,” and more.

I felt both pleased and crestfallen. Pleased, because it is cool to live in the nation’s capital region, where you run across such conversations more often than you’d imagine.

Crestfallen, because I just can’t imagine two American expatriates having a similar conversation in, say, a Japanese bath house.

Friends know that I have recently been bitten (more than a little) by the yoga bug. I thank my wife, Andrea Jarrell, for her years-long example — and P90X for getting me started.

After doing yoga once a week as a part of my P90X routine (which I completed in late Spring), I found that I wanted to continue. I was looking for something that was similar to the “power yoga” in P90X. I had begun doing Bikram Yoga with my wife (who is a rockstar) but I had gotten it set in my head I wanted a something else too (I still practice Bikram with Andrea at least once per week). So, in May this year, I discovered Down Dog Yoga Studio, which is rooted in the form of yoga practiced and taught by Baron Baptiste. (P90X is based on Baptiste too.)

But, this essay is not about yoga. It’s about choices.

Patty Ivey (photo borrowed from Facebook)

I read an article about Down Dog Yoga founder Patty Ivey by Austin Yoder. It’s an entrepreneurial profile of Patty, and it contains this passage:

Patty Ivey started Down Dog Yoga in the April of 2003. She started the business with a business partner who was focused and experienced with Yoga. She was a runner and didn’t practice Yoga as a form of exercise. She was asked to help because she had business experience.

At some point, Patty’s business partner decided she was not cut out for business, moved to the west coast and left her with the company. She hadn’t come up with the idea, wasn’t a Yoga teacher and found her self in a situation she didn’t know much about.

To make sure the business continued to operate and pay the employees, Patty did what was necessary. She took over the business by putting “her nose to the grindstone” and decided to start an intensive journey of her own yoga studies.

I found that fascinating. As I have been becoming a member of the Down Dog community, I’ve come to see a sort of myth surrounding Patty. Her classes are very challenging and she has what seems an encyclopedic knowledge of yoga. She has a background as a runner, so she speaks insightfully about some of the considerations yogis who also exercise in other ways ought to keep in mind.

I had assumed that Patty had, like many, discovered yoga at some point and saw the benefits — and that this discovery was voluntary. But, if the article is correct, that’s not how it happened.

She was invited to be a part of a new business venture and agreed. The founder left. Patty then had a decision to make — carry on or fold up shop? She chose to move ahead, because she knew how to run a business, not because she had always wanted to run a yoga studio.

This was a conscious choice, yes, but it is not one she necessarily wanted to make. So, on one level, she was “pushed” into yoga.

However, that’s not the real choice she made. She could have just plowed ahead, just focusing on the business aspects and finding someone else who knew the yoga-teacher stuff . . . but instead she decided to go all-in when it comes to yoga. She committed to learning it, and as she did, it infused the business itself.

I recognize that I am reading a great deal into someone’s life based just on a blog post. So the reality of how it unfolded may be different than my description. But the point I am trying to make, I believe, is valid. It’s this:

Sometimes things over which we have no control throw us a curve. We have a choice about how we respond — we can accept the reality and work with it, or we can fight to change it. The thing is, we never know what the outcome will be.

And . . . that outcome is often remarkable.

Next time I get a curve ball, I plan on trying my best to say “yes.”

Friends, I am delighted to announce the imminent release of a project I have been working hard on for the better part of the year. My company (The Mannakee Circle Group) has been lead partner on the first-ever Maryland Civic Health Index. This report was developed as a partnership between The Mannakee Circle Group, the Maryland Commission on Civic Literacy, Common Cause Maryland,  and the National Conference on Citizenship. It was funded in part by the Center for Civic Education.

The Civic Health Index is developed using data from the U.S. Census, and is mandated by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009. The National Conference on Citizenship developed a national report, and partnered with a variety of local organizations in developing a number of state and local reports.

I am proud to say I was the chief author of the report. My very good friends at CIRCLE did the core data analysis and I am deeply indebted to them.

In addition to the census data, the Maryland partners convened a number of community conversations throughout the state and culminated this listening effort with a Civic Literacy Summit held on October 23 where workgroups made recommendations for moving forward.

All this is given in detail in the report. I will release a link to the report after it is made public on December 8 in Annapolis. The report can be found here.

Below is the event announcement:

ANNAPOLIS, Md.  – A coalition next week will release the first-ever report on the civic health of Maryland, evaluating in numerous areas how Marylanders work together in society for the common good, and how their level of work and engagement compares to residents of other states.

To evaluate the Free State’s civic health, the first-ever Maryland Civic Health Index looked at indicators that include volunteerism, social connections, voting habits and political engagement, among others. The report sketches a picture of Marylanders engaged in their communities more than residents of many other states. But it also suggests that given its higher than average median income and education levels and proximity to Washington DC, it is not as high as expected.

The report will be released at a press conference, details below.

Press Conference Details

What:   Release of Maryland Civic Health Index 2010

When: Wednesday, Dec. 8, 9 am

Where: Miller Senate Building

Who:

  • Judge Robert Bell, Chief Judge, Maryland Court of Appeals
  • Dr. Nancy Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools
  • Barbara Reynolds, Director, Governor’s Office on Service and Volunterism
  • Senator Allan Kittleman, Chair, Commission on Civic Literacy
  • Marcie Taylor-Thoma, Vice-chair, Commission on Civic Literacy
  • Dr. Stephen Frantzich, Professor of Political Science, USNA
  • Wanda Speede, Maryland Higher Education Commission
  • Brad Rourke, The Mannakee Circle Group, report author
  • Susan Schreiber, Common Cause Maryland

The 31-page report was prepared by the Mannakee Circle Group, the Maryland Commission on Civic Literacy, Common Cause Maryland, and the National Conference on Citizenship. It is based on analysis of state data from the National Conference on Citizenship’s America’s Civic Health Index, and conversations with Marylanders throughout the state in summer and early fall of this year.