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25 Things I Learned Climbing Mt Timpanogos

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  1. When boys lead, they often have more enthusiasm than sense
  2. Hike in groups, or at the least use the buddy system
  3. Don’t let your small goals get in the way of the big goals
  4. Keep moving forward
  5. 3:00 AM is really dark. Seriously, if you’re away from town, it’s pitch dark
  6. Cold water will not cook your freeze dried meal, not even it was hot “when I left that tent over there”
  7. The Timpanooke trail is noisy all night long. Expect it
  8. When good hiking boots wear out, you bruise your feet
  9. Take lots of pictures, you can always delete some later
  10. Stay on the path
  11. Leave rock cairns for those coming behind
  12. Camping “At Scout Falls” doesn’t mean you will actually SEE Scout Falls
  13. If lost, don’t head for Scout Falls
  14. The view from the summit, is worth every step
  15. Ibuprophen is your friend. Take enough
  16. Water is heavy. . .many essential things are
  17. Carry extra water UP the mountain. Don’t carry extra water DOWN the mountain
  18. Most people on the trail are nice people. . .be one of those people
  19. The summit is windy. . and cold. Don’t leave your jacket at camp
  20. I’m old
  21. But, not too old to make it to the top
  22. My son is one of the nicest people I know
  23. Walking sticks are not fashion statements. They are tools
  24. Utah has some beautiful country
  25. If you don’t want to see more of it than you bargined for. . .bring your own map!

This week I’m writing a series of posts about climbing Mt Timpanogos.

Monday: Getting Lost in the Wasatch Mountains
Tuesday: Not Just Up, but Way, Way, Up and Away
Wednesday: The Temptation To Give Up Once You Can See The Goal
Thursday: Racing The Sun To the Summit

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Racing The Sun To The Top Of A Mountain

It was going to be close. After a seven mile hike that took three and a half hours, the final 100 yards was going to determine if we won. The silly thing was it was a race with ourselves. The sun didn’t really care. 

Mt Timpanogos is 11,752 feet high. 

  
While it would be awesome to say we climbed 11,752 feet in two days, that’s not exactly correct. Actually, it’s a long ways from being correct. My house is about 4500 feet above sea level. The lowest point in Utah is Beaver dam and it’s 2180 feet. The parking lot of the Timpanokee campground, where we had started our hike is 8000 feet. Still, 3700 vertical feet over 9 miles was not a walk in the park. I know, I’ve walked in the park and my knees didn’t hurt nearly this bad. 

  
We’d camped at Scout Falls and got up at 3:00 to hike in the dark and chase the sun to the top of the mountain. 

  
For the past hour, the eastern sky had been giving us warning that the race was coming to a conclusion. 

  
I have a friend who is doing the 30 days No Excuse challenge. The objective is to set a goal and accomplish 30 specific things every day. My friend did it for his health. He cut out soda and has dropped 16 lbs in 2 weeks. He said something interesting today. 

I have not yet managed to accomplish all 30 goals in a single day.

I tried the 30 challenge and found myself frustrated because there were not enough hours in the day. (One of the goals was go to bed early, so I couldn’t simply burn the midnight oil.) I was failing at my challenge. I had plenty of excuses. I beat myself up a little over it. My friend followed up the above statement with one more. 

It doesn’t matter since I know that I’m improving.

Oops, I guess I missed that. My sense of perfection kicked in. I turned my goals into an all or nothing competition. I was either winning or I was losing, and winning meant doing all 30. Clearly I had lost sight of the true goal which was to improve; do a little better today than you did yesterday. Our goals are less a race than a journey. We don’t suddenly arrive a state of “now I’m in shape,” “now I’m healthy,” “now I’m thin.” 

I thought of that as we scrambled over the rocks trying to beat the sun to the summit. Was the goal to get there before the sunrise? Or was it to accomplish the goal of climbing a mountain? 

  
My son and I were 50 feet from the top when a cheer went up from the people at the summit. They cheered the return of the sun. My son could have easily been at the top by sunrise. He’s in great shape and spent the summer running up and down mountains, building trails for the forst service. He chose to stick with me, even knowing that he might miss the sunrise. 

In fact, he was the reason I was on this hike. I didn’t have time to take a couple days and climb a mountain. But, when he decided he was going, I decided I really had no choice. I chose to go with him. I think the trip to the summit was his way of saying he chose to go with me too. 

The view from the top was spectacular.

  
We found the rest of our group. They’d made much better time. They hadn’t needed to wait for the old man and his weak knees. 

It was kind of fun to share the sunrise with a group of people who had been through the same journey we had. They might have arrived a little earlier, but we’d all made it. We were all part of the same tribe for a few minutes. And we had the sunlight all to ourselves. We paused for one more picture before starting down. 

  
We had 3700 feet and 9 miles to get back to the trucks and on about our day. Did the sun beat me to the top? Yup. Did I care? Not a bit. Racing the sun was an intermediate goal, the mountain top was a destination.  Spending 9 hours hiking with my son was the reward. 

This week I’m writing a series of posts about climbing Mt Timpanogos.

Monday: Getting Lost in the Wasatch Mountains
Tuesday: Not Just Up, but Way, Way, Up and Away
Wednesday: The Temptation To Give Up Once You Can See The Goal
Tomorrow: Lessons learned from Timp

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Temptation To Give Up Is Often Strongest When The Goal Is In Sight

What do you want to do Dad? We can stay here at the saddle and watch the sunrise, or press on for the summit. 

I don’t know if I’lll ever hike this mountain again. I think I’d like to press on for the summit even if it means we miss watching the sunrise rather than stay here at the lower elevation and risk not getting to summit.

The eastern horizon was already glowing a warm yellow, heralding the dawn of a new day. 

  
This day was starting out differently than other days had. I’ve often seen the sunrise, but never from 11,000 feet. We got at 3:00 AM and had hiked for 3 hours. In that time we had covered about 6 miles. 

It was a race now, a race between my son and me versus the approaching dawn. The problem was, I was tired. I was beyond tired. My feet were bruised through my boots. My knees were complaining with every step. The thin air was making it hard for me to get a breath. I had to stop frequently to rest and catch my breath. 

My son, if he was feeling any of the effects of the hike, didn’t show them. And yet, he matched pace with me the whole way. He was content to let me set the pace. If I wanted to stop, he was willing to make that the end of his hike.

Crossing the saddle, we found ourselves on the west slope of Mt Timpanogos for the first time. This change in geography presented a problem for us. The mountain blocked our view of the eastern horizon. We might completely miss the sunrise while toiling along in the shadow of the ridgeline. 

This is what I call the “Life Scout” Award location of a trip. 

We were taking one of many breaks. Coming across the saddle, we could see our objective. It was hard to judge just exactly how much farther the summit was. But, we had a good view of the tortuous trail. 

  

How do you mean? 

What rank comes after Life Scout?

Eagle Scout.

Exactly. Eagle Scout. There are countless boys who make it to Life Scout, they can see the goal in sight, and they choose instead to give up.

The temptation to give up got stronger with every step. My knees screamed “Make it stop!” after every step. The entire sky was now bright enough that we no longer needed our headlamps. We appeared to be the only two still hiking the trail. Everyone else had found a place to sit and watch the sun come up. Finally, only a single stretch of trail lay between us and the summit. 

  
 Lacking a good view of the sky, it was impossible to know how many minutes remained before the sun broke through. 

Sure you don’t want to stop, Dad?

I’ve seen plenty of sunrises. I’ve never been to the top of this mountain, in who’s shadow we live. We’ll press on.

I earned my Eagle Scout award when I was 15. I did not intend to be stopped by the “Life Scout” temptation at this point. 

This week, I’m telling the story of hiking Mt Timpanogos with my son. 

Monday: How I Got Lost In The Wasatch Mountains On My Way To The Summit
Tuesday: Not Only Up Before The Sun, But Up, Up And Away Up Before The Sun
Tomorrow: The Race To The Top
Friday: Lessons From A Mountain

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Not Only Up Before The Sun, But Up, Up And AWAY Up Before The Sun

Hey son, it’s after 3:00 AM. Wake up.

Yeah, I’m awake. 

Let’s get going. We don’t want to be late.

I heard him start to gather his gear in the darkened tent. Most people picture the wilderness as a place to get away. Solitude. Communing with nature. They don’t think of it as a place where it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep because of the 24 hour party. 

Welcome to the Timpooneke trail to Mt Timpanogos. We had selected what seemed to be a somewhat out of the way campsite. We were off the main trail about 200 yards. Unfortunately, the thin mountain air, and the surrounding granite walls meant that sound travelled incredibly well. Other campers, some as far as a quarter mile away, were less interested in a good night’s sleep and an early start. 

I woke up at 3:05 without the need of an alarm. Of course, I had also woken up at 12:30, 1:45 and 2:15 thanks to our raucous neighbors. 

I work in a call center. Our agents start their first shift at 5:30 AM. As I struggled into my clothes in the dark of the tent, I thought about the fact that some agents got up at this time every morning. It made me grateful for my job. I can pretty much show up whenever I choose to in the morning. I work in Salt Lake City and live 40 miles south in Pleasant Grove. It’s 90% freeway driving, but 50% of that Freeway is being renovated. I choose to start the 45 minute drive to work around 5:45 most days. It beats the traffic. 

Our hike had similar logistics. Mt Timpanogos is the most climbed peak in Utah. Those members of our group who had done the hike before warned us to expect a lot of people.

Pretty much the trail stays busy all night long. 

Our hike was the night of the epic moon. It was huge in the sky. 

   

As soon as we hit the trail the moon was masked by the trees and canyon walls. Each of us was walking in a tiny glow of our own headlamp. 

  
At times we could look up and see the headlamps of previous hikers marking the trail like a string of Christmas lights in the darkness. 
  
  
After my misadventures of the previous day (How I Got Lost For The First Time) my son opted to hike with me. I’m a slow hiker. My knees are about 20 years older than I am. Even in the best of times they pop and creak. We’d hiked four miles the previous day. Today was 16 miles; seven to get to the top and 9 to get back to the parking lot. Our group leader was worried about me. He wasn’t the only one.

Rodney, how you holding up? 

You go ahead. I’ll make it. But, if I don’t, pick me up on the way down.

Ibuprofen was my friend; breakfast of champions. Eventually, our group got spread out on the trail. My son and I were hiking with another dad and his son. None of us were setting any speed records. My son, I’m sure could have.

When he was 12, we went on a scout hike that involved about 8,000 feet of vertical rise and fall. My son, is short, and his pack was big. The scoutmaster and I hiked at the back with my son right in front of us. It was hours on the trail. My knees protested and we limped along, the scoutmaster refusing to leave us. Eventually, we dragged into the springs were we were having dinner. The scoutmaster pulled me aside.

Rodney, I have to say, I’m impressed with your boy.

Why’s that?

I’ve done this hike every year. There’s always that scout who is slow. But, normally about half way to the springs they want to give up. Your son kept going and never once asked us to carry his gear. 

Yeah, he’s kind of like that. He spent this last summer building trails in the LaSal mountains of southern Utah. When we went to pick him up his crew chief commented that he was one of the hardest workers on the crew. . .and the fastest up the trail.

He certainly didn’t have to slow his pace to hike with me. I have to admit, I was glad he did. The milies crawled by. As we climbed we eventually caught sight of the cities in the valley below. 

  
The trail became more agressive and our rests became more frequent. The other boy in our group was really laboring. His father was trying the find various ways to encourage him and keep him going. The clock was not our friend. The three AM start time was designed to get us to the peak just before sunrise. We had been well off the pace from the beginning. Finally, the other dad made a decision.

You guys go on ahead. We’re not going to make the summit, but we don’t want to slow you down.

If the kid was hiking slower than me, he was really doing poorly. The ibeprofen had kicked in and my knees were not complaining at the moment. My son and I pushed on. Or rather, I pushed, he pulled me. Not physcially, but he set a pace just fast enough to pull me along. 

Other than the lights snaking up the mountain, it was impossible to see anything. I thought how much harder it is to pursue a goal you can’t see. It was 7 miles from our camp to the peak. How far is seven miles? 36,960 feet. But, in the darkness, it was endless. One foot in front of the other. Stumble over a rock. Recover. Next step. One foot at a time. 

And then, off to our left we noticed a change. It was subtle at first, just a hint of slightly fewer stars. But, eventually, we recognized that dawn was approaching. I still had no idea how far we were from the summit. And I had no idea if my knees, which had started aching again, were up to the miles of trail and hundreds of vertical feet we still had to go. 

Yesterday: How I Got Lost In the Wasatch On My Way to the Summit

Tomorrow: The Make Or Break Point

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

How I Got Lost In The Wasatch Mountains On My Way To The Summit

No. I’m not lost. The trail is right there behind me. 

Okay, so how come there is no trail in front of you? 

I’m not lost. I just have to get to the meadow above Scout Falls.

There’s no trail.

That wide spot in the bush looks like it leads to the top.

That’s a wide spot because bushes can’t grow on rock walls.

I can make it up that wall.

It’s a cliff.

It’s a SMALL cliff.

If you fall and injure yourself, no one will EVER find you here.

Shut up, Conscience!

Last weekend I did two things I had never done before. The first was I attempted to climb Mt Timpanogos. It’s the most dominate mountain in the Utah county portion of the Wasatch range. It’s 11, 752 feet tall. Our 14 and 15 year old scouts do this hike every year. I didn’t have time to go. I’ve got a ton of stuff that I should have done. 

My 15 year old son decided he wanted to go. 

My schedule suddenly cleared up. It actually didn’t, but I went through one of those, “Twenty years from now, what do I want to remember about this weekend?” exercises. Do I want to remember that I spent it studying and working, or do I want to remember that I climbed 2 miles into the sky with my son. 

It was an easy choice. 

I’m a scout leader for our younger scouts (12 and 13 year olds.) When you are the leader, you have to be responsible. You have to plan. You have to keep track of boys. You have to bring extra gear “just in case.” 

When you are not the leader, but instead are just going as a dad, you are just responsible for yourself. In fact, since I wasn’t sure I was going until the last minute, I even took my own food. This was a backpacking trip. We were planning to hike in about 2 miles on Friday, camp Friday night and get up early Saturday morning to try for the summit at sunrise. 

The trip started well enough. I have a very comfortable backback and while my water was a little heavy, overall, my pack was pretty comfortable. It was about 40 lbs. Sixteen pounds of that was water. This is Utah, and it’s a desert, and it’s August. The other leaders were taking water purifiers. But, I wasn’t taking chances. I packed 8 liters of water, about 2 gallons. 

  
As we started from the parking lot, the boys ran on ahead. The adults took a more leisurely pace. I enjoyed my lack of responsibility. I had even forgone my normal practice of taking a map. I wouldn’t need it. I was hiking with a group and they were experienced with the area. 

  
We hiked for the first mile and a half in the wrong direction. 

Is that a road down there?

Yeah, I don’t remember hiking next to a road last year. 

Hang on. Was there a sign on that bridge back there?

The boys in their enthusiasm had picked the wrong trail and we simply followed them. As we turned around (after one leader ran ahead to chase down the boys) I remarked, “Next time, I’m bringing my own map.” 

We retraced our steps all the way to the parking lot before we found the right trail. Funny thing, the right trail had a sign pointing us toward the summit. 

  
Again, the young men set the pace. This time led by the leader who’d done the hike previously. I, as always was part of the last group. I’m a slow hiker. I know it. I don’t even try to keep up with the youth. I could tell I was also holding back the other two adults I was with. Finally, they left me with a “just follow the trail, we’re camping in the meadow above Scout Falls,” and picked up their pace. 

Okay, simple enough. I’ve hiked many canyons in Utah. There are very few turns. (Canyons make that difficult.) I trudged on, my creaky knees already warning me about the pain to come. 

I didn’t expect the fork in the trail. I also didn’t see a rock cairn. A cairn is a pile of rocks that serves as a road maker for those following behind you. I kind of wished I’d brought a map. I looked at the two paths and both looked equally likely. A verse from Robert Frost sprang to mind.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

. . .

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.
– The Road Not Taken- 

I turned left. I later learned my group had turned right.

Earlier I mentioned I did two things I’d never done before. The first was to attempt to climb Timp. The second? I got lost. Right there with Robert Frost whispering in my ear, I became lost. I didn’t know I was lost for a long time. If I had know, I might have turned back sooner. Okay, I never actually turned back. But, I might have if I’d know.

My trail looked just as appealing 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

As I walked I could hear water. Ah ha! Scout Falls. I was headed in the right direction. My wrong path didn’t immediately look bad. The first indication that I might be on the wrong path was the rock slide. It was very stable, very rocky and very tall. About 300 feet at a fairly steep angle. Would you assume it was the wrong way? We were climbing a mountain! This seemed perfectly normal. 

The scramble up the rock slide was also the first time I seriously thought about what a pecarious position I was in. I was off the main trail, I was alone, and serveral times I nearly lost my balance and toppled over backward. Remember that 40 lbs backpack? Yeah, it kept throwing off my balance. 

After a sweat-soaked scramble up the rocks, I was rewarded by the falls themselves. And best of all, there was a clearly defined trail. Unfortunately, it went left and right. The falls were not the end point. 

Now what? Left or right? Robert Frost was really not helping. I gazed left as far as possible and then looked right. The trail to the left seems slightly more worn. (Had I gone right, I would have hit the main trail in 100 ft.) So, off I went to the left. And it was at this point I started having conversations with my conscience. The trail curve toward the rock wall. The angle got steeper. I secured my walking stick to my pack so I could have both hands free to climb. The trail got narrower and narrower, and then I hit the wall.

  
Literally, there was a wall. It appeared to be the last obstacle keeping me from the top of the falls. Remember, the boys and we were camping in the meadow above the falls. I only had another 15 feet, and once I got clear from the underbrush, I’d be there, although by an unconventional route. 

A tree grew along the top of the wall, It’s trunk twisted over time by the harsh Alpine winters. Taking my maple walking stick I wedged it between two sections of the trunk. keeping a firm grip on it, I clawed for toeholds, my heavy leather boots slipping on the granite wall. A toehold here, a knee brace there, my free hand clutching at tree limbs, all the while my backpack and its protruding tent and sleeping pad pulling me backwards, I finally scrambled over the top. I literally fell against the branches blocking my path to force them to give way. 

But, I made it. I was above the falls. Now to get out of this thicket and find the meadow. 

I made it out of the thicket. I found the meadow. But, there were no boys. There were no camping spots. There was no trail. There was a 70 ft granite wall that stretched from one side of the canyon to the other, a distance of about a mile or more.  

  
For the first time, I seriously considered that I might not be getting out of here tonight. The sun was headed for the horizon. Night comes quickly to the canyons. I figured I had about two hours of daylight left. 

  

I wasn’t scared. I was annoyed. I admit I was lost. And I kicked myself for not bringing my own map. But, I had a fully stocked backpack. I had food for two days. I had eight liters of water, plenty for two days. I had a lighter and a good knife. There was plenty of dry wood if I needed a fire. I was carrying the tent that my son and I were planning to use. 

But, I was still lost. I finally decided that I was willing to ask for help. 

HELLO!!

My voice echoed off the wall on the far side of the canyon. But, other than my own voice, and my annoying conscience, there was no answering call. I made my way across the meadow to the base of the granite cliff. There was no chance I was scaling this cliff. It now became obvious that the trail was to the right, not the left.I found a thin game trail along the base of the cliff. I turned right and continued on. 

Was I lost? Mostly. I knew that if I walked far enough to the right, which was North, I would either cross the trail or I would reach the granite wall that I could see a mile ahead running perpendicular to the wall I was hugging. 

I decided I was going to stay at the base of the cliff as long as possible. It would keep me from walking in circles, and it was also a highly visible location, no vegitation to block the search and rescue planes. (Yes, I was seriously thinking what I would say to the S&R teams when they were called out to find me.)

The trail eventually turned away from the cliff and headed down into a swamp. I stood and stared for a long time at that swamp. I wanted no part of it. A couple hundred feet below me a bull moose stared out at me from under a group of trees. I could tell he was saying, “You’re lost, buddy.” 

There was really no other choice but to try to make my way through the mass of broken branches, devil’s club, thistles and five foot high grasses that are the parodoxical high-mountain-desert-swamp. The cliff was still to my left and I could see I was less than a quarter mile from the connecting cliff. If I didn’t stumble across the trail soon, it would mean that I was REALLY lost and the trail was actually on the other side of the cliff facing me. 

The swamp was as bad as I had feared. I stumpled over logs, and pushed through branches. Thorns scratched at my legs through my thin hiking pants. (I was really happy I don’t wear shorts.) 

DAD!

The voice of my son caught me off guard. Glancing up at the cliff to my left, I saw him standing and waving his arms.

DAD, ARE YOU ON THE TRAIL?

Not exactly.

I found out that the other leader had left a note scratched in the dirt at the fork in the trail. Either someone walked over it, or I simply didn’t see it. Amazingly, I was only about 15 minutes behind the rest of the group arriving at the second meadow above the falls.. They didn’t even realize I had been missing. 

An inauspicious beginning. My knees hurt. My back hurt. And we hadn’t even started the challenging part of the hike. 

Tomorrow: Waking up at 3:00 AM for a climb in the dark. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Baseball Players Who Can’t Play Baseball

He was the greatest Designated Hitter in the history of the game of baseball. Everyone agreed. So, why wasn’t he in the Hall of Fame? Because, the voters decided he couldn’t play well enough to be in Cooperstown. 

A major league baseball team has 25 players during the regular season. In September, during the last month of the season, the rosters are expanded to 45 as teams call up players from their AAA teams to see who will get an invite to spring training. But, for the majority of the year, there are 25 players. 

And while they all play baseball, they don’t all play it the same way. Most teams will divide up their team this way. 

  • 5 starting pitchers
  • 5-6 relief pitchers
  • 1 Closer
  • 2 catchers
  • 4 starting infielders
  • 2-3 backup infielders
  • 3 starting outfielders
  • 2 backup outfielders
  • 1 Designated Hitter (American League only) 

You’ve probably played baseball, or at least softball. True, the pitcher had to have some specialized skill. The rest of the positions on your softball team may have been interchangable. Maybe you put the big slow guy at 1st base. You put the worst player in right field, because softball doesn’t really have left-handed batters who pull. But, you probably just put people in a position without thinking about it much.

On a professional baseball team, there is very little overlap between roles. Take the relief pitchers, for example. The five or six pitchers are going to have very specialized roles. You’ll typically have a mix of left and right handed throwers. You need a long reliever, who can eat up a lot of innings if your starter gets in trouble. You have a setup man. The guy who comes in the eighth inning to get three outs and turn it over to the closer. The closer is expected to pitch the 9th inning. 

If you’ve ever seen a game where the closer blew the save and let the game get tied in the ninth, the manager doesn’t leave him in there long. Why? How is it that a starting pitcher can go 120 pitches, but a closer will get pulled after 30? 

Because while the roles look similar to you and me, they are very different. 

A project team has very specific roles. And just as a baseball team can’t mix and match their players, you shouldn’t do that on your project team. Here are some of the roles needed on a project team.

  • Engineers
  • Testers
  • Writers
  • Product Managers
  • Trainers
  • And of course, the Project Manager

Every project is squeezed for resources. It might be tempting to skimp a little on the roles. We must have the engineers, but can’t an engineer also test code? Shouldn’t the guy who wrote it be able to teach it? Can we combine writer/trainer? Product and Project managers sound sort of the same. Can’t we combine them? 

The answer to all of these questions is no. Well, I guess you could, but it would hamstring your project. When engineers test their own code, they tend to miss things because “it’s obvious.” Writers are introverts. Trainers are extroverts. Asking one to be the other is a fruitless. And Product Managers are concerned with selling your project to the customers or stakeholders. The Project Manager is the guy who owns the schedule. He’s the one that has to make hard choices when it’s time to cut features. He’s also the one that gets to tell management that the project is going to be late. That’s not a job the Product Manager wants. 

The point is that as a project manager you need to identify the resources you need on your team, and then build to that design. Sometimes you are forced to build a team out of the resources you are given, rather than the ones you choose. Okay, that’s most times. But, you can still identify the roles you need. 

The player I mentioned at the beginning? Edgar Martinez. 

  
(Photo credit: Seattle Mariners) 

In a 14 year career, all with the Seattle Mariners, he compiled a .312 batting average with an impressive 514 doubles. He is on the Hall of Fame ballot, but hasn’t earned near the 75% of ballots needed to get into the Hall. Edgar had a big strike against him. He spent most of his career as a designated hitter. He rarely played the field in his later years. HoF voters seem to feel that he needed to be more balanced. Never mind the fact that American League pitchers don’t bat at all, and they get elected to the Hall. 

The point is that roles are important; in basebal and in business. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Misdirection vs Deception. . .It’s Important To Know The Difference

There are two ways to throw a curveball for a strike. First, you can start the pitch outside the strikezone and let it break through the strikezone after the batter has given up on it. Any ball that passes over a portion of home plate that is also between the batters shoulders and knees, is a strike. Home plate is 17″ wide. A curveball can break 15″ from when it leaves the pitcher’s hand to when it reaches the catcher’s mitt. A changeup that is clearly WELL out of the strike zone, suddenly cuts in and catches a corner of the plate. The batter often simply stands there with the bat on his shoulder looking slightly foolish. 

To look truly foolish, the batter needs to face the second type of curveball for a strike. That’s when the pitcher throws the curveball for what looks like a strike and then at the last minute it breaks sharply away and the batter swings hard enough to screw himself into the ground. However, if the ball doesn’t break; if the pitcher got the mechanics slightly wrong, you are left with what’s called a hanging curveball. The batter is going to hit that ball a long, long way. 

A friend and I were discussing baseball movies. I told him that I hate when a baseball movie gets the baseball part wrong. I’m not a jerk about it. I’m willing to overlook Dennis Quaid using a radar sign designed for cars to test his fastball. I’ll even forgive Field of Dreams for turning Joe Jackson into a right handed hitter and including the catcher as a member of the Black Sox. 

But, when a movie gets it too wrong, it spoils it for me. Many years ago Disney did a movie called “Rookie Of The Year.” A kid breaks his arm and can now throw 120 mph fastballs. Okay, that’s a fun premise, but they go on to destroy it. Why? Because the ONLY pitch he can throw is a 120 mph fastball. No changeup, which looks like a fastball, but is much slower. No breaking pitches. Certainly not a curveball. 

Why is that so bad? Becuase in a baseball game, the pitcher (and the catcher) are playing a game of “guess what I’m thinking” with the opposing batter and manager. If a batter knows the pitch he’s going to get, he’s going to hit it most times. The reason a fastball works is that a changeup looks like the same pitch. So, the batter will spend the entire at bat trying to figure out what the catcher is going to call and the pitcher going to pitch. 

Like the curveball, deceptively breaking in for a strike after looking like it’s way outside, fastballs and changups rely on deception. It’s probably more accurate to describe misdirection. The batter thinks fastball and swings way to early. He’s thinking changeup and swings too late. He’s thinking way outside and the pitch breaks. 

I’m sure plenty of you are now saying, “Enough with the baseball pitches! What’s this got to do with business?” 

In business, deception is bad. Misdirection less so. In fact, like a well thrown curveball, misdirection can be a used to your advantage without compromising your integrity. I can hear you now, 

You’re just justifying lying to your customers!

And at first glance it looks like that. But, let’s face it; no one is totally honest. Or, I should say BRUTALLY honest. All software has bugs. Everyone knows that. But, software companies don’t lead with that piece of information. You don’t see a Microsoft advertisment saying,

Download Windows 10 for free! (BTW, it has bugs in it that we haven’t fixed yet.) 

We were launching a new Line of Businesses. It required a very specialized backup solution. We’d never used one before. My engineers weren’t even sure it would work. It cost over $20,000. We needed two of them to record everything. I decided we would buy one and install it for the launch and then if everything went smoothly we’d get the second one. 

There was just one problem. My client wanted us to have both when we launched. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him right? Contractually, we didn’t have to have two. But, the client wanted it. 

I was stuck. I didn’t want to order equipment that was going to have to be scrapped if it didn’t work. I also didn’t want to delay my launch. We needed the second system in case there was a problem with the first. If everything went smooth, we’d be fine.

It didn’t go smooth. 

Our fancy backup system broke. That shoudln’t have been a problem. . .if we had actually had two systems. My client wasn’t pleased.

So, when were you going to tell me that you only had one backup? 

When it became necessary. It just became necessary.

Did I lie? I certainly didn’t tell all I knew. The client understandably felt betrayed. I was trying for misdirection. 

Here’s the reason why. The client wouldn’t have let us launch with a single backup. But, contractually we didn’t have to. We didn’t even have to tell the client. Had the launch gone smoothly no one would have known. 

When a batter swings and misses at a curveball, he looks foolish. And even though he has no real reason to, he feels foolish. That’s what happened with our client. They felt foolish. I wasn’t feeling good either. I felt foolish. However, eventually the client realized that we could still launch within 24 hours. The launch was slightly delayed, but we quickly recovered. It took longer to rebuild my relationship with the client.

It is wrong to lie to your customers. That’s true. But, that doesn’t mean you have to announce your next pitch.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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