ALPS In Brief – Episode 52: Listening to Your Life Part 2

ALPS In Brief – Episode 52: Listening to Your Life Part 2

As Mark alluded to in Part 1 of Listening to Your Life, the journey isn’t over. Mark recaps the lessons learned over a season of cycling, exceeding his distance goals, challenges he faced head-on (including 25 mph headwinds), and how listening to your life is a continuous trek that can help you be a more balanced lawyer.



Hello, welcome to ALPS In Brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. I’m Mark Bassingthwaighte, the risk manager with ALPS, and today I’m going to do a little follow-up. For those of you that are regular listeners, I believe it was back in May I recorded a podcast that I called Listening To Your Life. We explored some bike riding and learning to listen to your life, as opposed to learning to listen as a communication skill. I set some goals at that time and shared some stories, and I thought it would be fun to kind of share how it all played out, what the end is if you will.

So if you missed the first part, the beginning of the story let me bring you up to speed. The short version is that I had been interested in bikes and have ridden on and off over the years, particularly during the college years. And then, oh, maybe the past four or five years getting back into it. And this year in light of the lockdown with the pandemic, my wife challenged me to start riding a bit more. It was sort of an informal bet. You know, “I’ll bet you can’t do a thousand miles” kind of a thing in terms of just riding outside through the summer.

So I took that on and I really got started doing some good riding and she realized, “Hey, he’s taking it more seriously than I thought.” It wasn’t a competition kind of thing, “Oh, I have to prove her wrong,” or anything like that. It was just I enjoyed riding and why not? Instead of being locked up here at home the time, let’s go and get out and enjoy some sun and some fresh air. So she upped it to 1200 by the end of the riding season. And I really had in my mind that I was going to try to go about 1500 miles.

So where did I end up? Well, I kind of officially called the end of the season the end of September. And I ended up at the 2100 miles. So not bad, again, for a 60-year-old who wasn’t in the best, I wasn’t out of shape, but let’s just say my riding legs weren’t there. And boy, it took some time to build up. But I did. And winter has started to hit here in Missoula, in Montana. And there’s been a lot of time since that I’ve not been able to get out, but I’m still riding when the roads are safe and the weather’s nice.

So it’s been good. And let me share some of the things that happened. And then we’ll get back to talking about some learning with all of this. But I had my high month, in terms of just number of miles in a given month, turned out to be 503 miles in one month. My longest ride, in fact, that same month, my three longest rides ever in terms of my life, not just this summer. I did a 54 mile, a 64 mile, and a 70-mile ride. Those were good days. Good days.

So I had one experience where, coming down a trail that I ride rather frequently, and you could see some cop cars and people gathering and all this. And it happened to be at a place where you cross a fairly major city street that cuts through a big park and I’m going, “Uh-oh, what’s going on here?” Pull up and it was a bike/car accident and the windshield totally, totally smashed. And you just look and you say, “You know, this really, really isn’t good.” It would have had to be an adult, just given the size, or perhaps a young adult, but given the size of the bike and just to be high enough to go through a windshield like this. I mean, to go all the way through. It was not pretty.

We had, I don’t know if it was due to fires, global warming just sometimes weather is weather. We had a lot more wind this year here in Montana, at least in our part of Montana. And so there was a lot of time where I spent riding in some wind. I’ve had a couple of days where you’d go out on these longer rides. I’ll start out and I’m looking on the weather app and do I really want to go do this? And yeah, I do, but I can see some winds are coming. But you get out and sometimes you start so you have the wind at your back. You don’t always notice and, “Boy, you’re riding great.”

But once you get out, and I’ve been out at times pretty far, and man, do the winds pick up. I remember one ride where I struggled keeping my bike upright in crosswinds. I mean, it almost really just wants to knock you over. So these are winds that are fairly steady in that maybe 20-mile-an-hour range, gusting 25, maybe a little bit higher. And you have wind like that for the next two hours as you kind of work your way back home. I’d be sitting there riding along going, “Oh, man, this is nuts. This is crazy.” And then I’d go out and do it again the next week. It’s just like, “Okay.”

But it is what it is. I did at one point, I had a bit of a scare. I was riding somewhat quickly on a trail. But I’m comfortable riding at certain speeds and it’s not too bad. Bu you’re kind of coming down a hill and into a little tunnel that goes under a road. And coming into that probably a little faster than I should to be honest with you. There’s another guy on a bike coming out and he’s going at a decent clip and, man, you just hit the brakes. You go into a slide and I can just feel it, like I’m about to go down and just slam this bike into the corner of a wall, and it would not be good.

But you manage. I don’t know how. You just stay with it. And I managed to keep the bike up and kind of did this slide into the tunnel and just kept going and think, “Woo. That was a close one.” I’ve had dogs chase me probably three or four times all told for the summer. And that gets kind of interesting.

My wife was so supportive and encouraging and pleased as we got into this. She again saw that I was riding, decided let’s go shopping. Just due to the commitment, she’s like, “I want you to have, just better equipment.” So I added a second bike. I still have my original bike because it’s just set up for different types of weather and sometimes you have a flat or something. And I can keep two on the road. But the new bike is really a much more comfortable ride, a much more serious ride. It’s just been great. So,that was kind of an unexpected little surprise. And I’ll share more about that here in a little bit.

I got into using a riding app to really try to more seriously, more accurately perhaps is a better word, keep track of my mileage. And after I started using the app for a bit, I realized that I was seriously underestimating my mileage. So I guess that was a good thing. But there were times when you’d go out, you’d spend a lot of time riding, you stop and take a look at the app, how you’re doing. And yeah, I had it at the time saying, I know I’ve ridden maybe 20, 25 miles so far. And it’ll say, I’ve rid to 62. And my top speed was 125 miles an hour. I mean, I could ride fast at times and there’s some nice hills where you can get some real nice speed, but I assure you, it’s not 125 miles an hour. I mean, you get frustrated with this and “Ah, you know, this is cheap doesn’t work.”

And then I finally realized out here in the West, a lot of smoke from California, Oregon, even Washington, and some Montana from all these fires, we just had a lot of heavy, heavy smoke. And I finally realized, you know what, these apps that track your location, if they’re going to give you an accurate thing, they need to triangulate with several satellites at any given time to keep an accurate position of where you’re going and do all these calculations and with the smoke that heavy, you just can’t triangulate accurately with enough satellites. And that’s the issue. I was like, “Ah, I figured that out. Okay.” And then you just feel better about it, I guess. So what else do I want to share?

I think that’s mostly sort of the summary. I can say I talked earlier about one of the reasons I was enjoying this and excited about it was some health benefits. And boy, now that I’m on this side of it, the season has more or less come to an end. We’ve been following my blood pressure and I’ll be honest and say again, this is not that uncommon in folks my age, my blood pressure has been ever so slowly creeping up a bit. Boy, it went down 20 points and I am just nailing it consistently. So that’s been kind of a good outcome to all of this. So that’s sort of the summary, just giving you a little idea of the results of how this all played.

And with that, I want to sort of revisit some things, some little learnings, some are about just good to know kinds of things for riding. Others, maybe there are whispers as I ended my last podcast when Listening To Your Life With. Some of these things are whispers, some are a bit more significant. So, again, let’s talk a little bit about what does this experience, what can I learn? What is worth really taking to heart? And I think there are number of things big and small. Before I share the first one, my wife and I are members of a local gym club kind of thing, health club too. And I have really always been more interested in weightlifting and I was in pretty decent shape. I was pretty strong and I think I looked good. At least that’s what my wife shared, God bless her, isn’t that the goal.

But once the gym shut down and things you kind of shift. And so I was doing a lot more bike riding and a lot less lifting. And so the point of that is I got weaker and gyms are reopened now. And I have finally been able to get some weights here at the house to and it’s if we continue our slim lockdowns coming up again, I’m ready for it. And boy trying to get weights and find weights on the market for a few months. If any of you ever looked at that is almost impossible, because all the gyms closed, everybody had bought everything up, but what have I learned? It’s really difficult to get into shape in terms of the cardiovascular shape to get the biking legs.

It hurts. There are a lot of times where it hurts and just to keep pushing, but once you get there, wow. And then not lifting for a while and getting back into it you realize, “Ooh, I’m going to have to go through some pain again.” Now that’s okay, but one of the takeaways here is, it’s really hard work to get into shape. It’s much easier to maintain once you are in shape. And so you can look that and say that’s a great insight and worth remembering for health and whatnot, but I think it goes further. I really do. You think about how hard it is to start a law practice, how hard it is to develop a good reputation as a lawyer, as an individual in the community.

And it’s so easy to lose and just let it go if we get complacent, if we just get comfortable and don’t keep working at it, it’s far easier to just stay in shape. So I guess I want to say, if you find something working in life, stay focused, stay with it. You don’t want to have to build a business, our reputation two or three times, that’s just wasted energy if you ask me. So, that’s something to think about. I talked a little bit about this ride app and my frustration with it, and we try to buy these things that are going to make life easier in some way, and we get frustrated if it doesn’t work like we expect, and it’s so easy to just dismiss it and want something else to get upset.

And again, there’s wasted energy. I don’t need to get frustrated and upset by anything that doesn’t serve anyone. But I really think I just need to take a little time and understand what are the realistic limitations of this app. And once you start to think through it, you go, “Oh, of course.” And so, take time when we bring new technologies in, when we look at new processes or procedures in our practices or in our life, in any aspect of our life, there’s value I should say, in taking the time to understand realistically, what can this do and what are its limitations. So that you have an understanding and then can address any shortfalls in other ways, or perhaps look for better solutions, if the initial evaluation is such that, “Ah, this really doesn’t meet all my needs.”

I had that great month and I initially would have said, I don’t think one, just time, but two that I have the physical wherewithal to ride this 54, 64 and 70 mile ride or those rides. And also in that same month, hit over 500 miles, I’m still working full time, doing all the other things in life that I need to do or choose to do, but I did. And what I learned is, typically after the 70 mile ride, I admit, hey, I was tired. I was beat. And you get to a point where you’re just moving. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable in the sense of, “Oh, this is a beautiful bike ride and a wonderful afternoon.”

It’s hard work. It is hard work, but you realize I am capable of more than I thought and had I had time that day. And I ran out of time just for other obligations. I know, I am absolutely certain, I do a hundred miles, probably even a bit more. And I guess the point of this is looking at all aspects of my life, and I encourage you to think about your life as well. I think these learnings are good and valuable. We are capable of more than we think, but we have to take the risk to push it, to get uncomfortable a little bit to just explore what are you truly capable of? And the answer might surprise you. I really have been surprised by this. It’s given me hope in all kinds of crazy ways.

I mean, maybe it’s this pandemic thing going on here or something too. I feel like my life is something that I am in control of, and I’m going to continue to work hard at staying in shape and maintaining wellness and health. I feel better. And I think I can continue to do this well into my eighties. In fact, it was two months ago or so I heard a wonderful news story because you don’t get often, you don’t hear often these feel good stories in the news anymore, but a man in his nineties, I don’t know. He may have just turned 90. I can’t remember exactly what age, I know it was 90, but he was celebrating with a bunch of friends, the fact that he has now ridden 100,000 miles on a bike and I’m just sitting here going, “That’s totally awesome!”

And at the same time going, “Ah, I just rode 2100 hours.” And that’s a lot. But instead of sitting here and going, “Oh man, I’ll never be able to do that”, I celebrate, here’s a guy that did. And whether I ever get there or not, and I don’t know how long it took him to ride these 100,000 miles, they don’t share that in the story, but it doesn’t matter. He was capable of doing it and he’s still riding nine miles a day, maybe stationary bike at the senior center, I have no idea but God bless him. And I take such hope in that. Use bright lights, wear bright clothes. It sort of goes back to the helmet story that I was talking about or reasons we wear a helmet.

But yeah, very, very important. I want to make sure that I stand out in whatever space I am in. If I’m in dark clothing and no lights on my bike and I’m in some shade, coming into a tunnel or whatever it might be, and not be very visible, bad things happen. So I have really come to value, trying to stand out, a lot of good things can happen just by virtue of trying to stand out and differentiate yourself from your surroundings. So I’m going to let you ride with that one. There’s a pun perhaps, or run with that one. Always carry water. I often sometimes carry a protein drink with me, and on a longer ride, hey, always stick a Snickers in the little pack that I have under my seat, because you need, every once in a while after a big climb or you’re 50 miles in, you need a little glucose to keep moving and boy, you need to stay hydrated. So you need to nourish yourself.

Whatever that means. It gets back to sort of this wellness thing. We need to stay nourished, to be at our best. And at times just to continue in the journey. So, food for the soul, nourish, again, whatever that means, you need to focus on that, you’re not going to get there otherwise, that really can be the make or break. I shared two again, of that almost had a crash situation, but there’s another takeaway from that one. I talked about staying alert in part one of this. And I will tell you, after all these miles now, I certainly absolutely value staying alert, but you get so comfortable. It’s harder to do over time. You get so comfortable in the ride. You get so comfortable in the speed.

Sometimes you just take shortcuts and I’m talking about safety shortcuts, danger. We need to stay sharp as lawyers, we need to stay alert and that’s hard. So learning there in terms of tying this back to law and things, there is value in taking relevant CLE. There is value in doing all that you can, if we can get back to wellness, there’s so many ways to come at this, but we need to do what we can. All that we can to keep sharp and stay alert throughout the entire journey. Journey after journey, after journey, because trouble can come up so fast in such unexpected ways when we least expect it. And when we’re so comfortable, then Holy smokes, I’m about to hit a wall. It’s just but the grace of God that I pulled through that one, a close call, but it was a reminder to me.

It was a slap in the head, “Hey, don’t get cocky, stay alert.” It’s important. So, two other things I want to point out near the end of this. I had an interesting ride and one of these windy, Fall days, Winter is coming quickly it’s in the air. And I get a lot of wind, not a lot of people out. And I’m climbing up this hill to the airport and for a long, this was about a 50 mile ride. And I see somebody carrying a bike as I’m peddling up and I get close and I realized, it’s a kid maybe 12, 13 years old. And he’s got a nice bike. And he’s obviously somebody that enjoys the riding seriously. And I stopped. I say, “You have a flat.”

And he goes, “Yeah, yeah, I do.” And I had some things with me, I said, “I’m happy to try to help you. I should be able to fix this or at least give it a shot”, and everything. He goes “Well, thank you so much”, but he had about half a mile to walk with his bike here yet, but he said, “My mom is on the way to pick me up and I just need to be there.” I mean, I can’t fix this tire in five minutes or something and decide, he said, “Appreciate it.” And he went on and then he stopped and he turned and he goes, “Oh, by the way, don’t ride off the trail. There’s thorns.” And I kind of smiled. And I said, “Thanks for the tip, I appreciate that.”

And I do ride at times off the trails. Sometimes you even just passing families and whatnot, you just go off the grass, just so you don’t disturb people and just say, “It’s fine.” But here was some kid sharing a very innocent and learning and insight that he had with some adult that just happened to stumble by, but we’re kindred spirits in the sense we both enjoy riding. And that really was significant for me because at times you get really great advice, that you haven’t thought about, from the most unexpected places. Learn to listen. So that to me was very, very important. The final thing I’d like to share is, Oh, it’s been maybe two or three weeks now, something like that. But one particular day, my wife was very concerned that a package was coming in and would I be here?

Cause she couldn’t be just due to work to pick it up or to be here because she was concerned about it being left outside or something. And I said, “Oh, sure.” I was here. I telecommute. So I’m often around the house, okay. And then I’m getting these texts, because I was actually doing a webinar and, “It’s here, it’s here go check.” And I said, “Honey, I’ll get it when I’m done. So I go down and there’s this huge heavy package. It turns out she had purchased in celebration and encouragement, a nice indoor bike that comes with these apps that you have coaches and you can really get fantastic workouts. I’m telling you, man, I I’ve done a couple of rides on this and wow. You can really, really keep it going.

And she just said, “It’s a gift, a free gift, no strings attached” kind of a thing. And a very thoughtful of her, very appreciative, we are both going to be using it, but that cemented, I think the biggest learning of this entire experience and it kind of plays out in two ways. I shared again at the beginning of the first episode that I have been so blessed to marry my absolute best friend and we’re married now 20 years and she is more of a friend than ever. And she is a support system, obviously a significant support system.

And why I think that’s important is, I have learned to listen to her and this experience underscores that in Spades. Mark, I challenge you to do this. I mean, that’s what was said, and we had some fun, but her support is, it’s your health. I want you to be here for a long time. I want another 20, 30, 40 years and 40 years will take us to a hundred. And I’m okay with that. I hope we’re still sane and we probably won’t be riding like this, who knows? But learn to listen to your support systems. Sometimes the things they say are really, really worth taking to heart. Working crazy hours and never taking a vacation as a solo practitioner or something and your wife or your spouse says to you, or significant other says to you, “You know, I’m concerned about your health.”

You need to slow down or we need to take a vacation. Listen. They know what they’re talking about. They see and care about us. So, your spouse, your significant other cares about you. Listen, listen. Every bit as important, is nurturing the relationship. I want this support system that has proved over and over again to be so valuable in my life. And it brought such meaning to my life. I want to nurture that so that it is always there. And I do everything I can to reciprocate, to be her support system. I want to always be there for her. And it gets back to about wellness, which is such an issue in our profession. This whole experience this summer just underscored how vitally important listening to your support systems and nourishing your support systems are.

And that is the one biggest takeaway for me. I sit back and I go, “Wow. Now here is a message that I simply cannot ignore.” It’s just phenomenal. So fundamentally important. So, rambling on here about all kinds of things. Honestly, I could keep going. We could talk about wind and dogs and all sorts of stuff, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I just wanted to share how it all played out and share a few more insights. So I’m going to wrap it up and leave it at that. I hope you found something of value out of my journey that I’ve shared with you.

And I just will close by encouraging you not only to listen and nurture your support systems, nourish yourself, all these other things we’ve been talking about. But I think one of the important things for me, why did I want to do this in terms of this two part series? I really do believe if we learn to listen to what life has to say, both the strong messages and the whispers that come, we are all better for the experience. There’s so much teaching that life brings every day. We just need to remember to take the time to listen and then to chew on it a little bit. So that’s it. Thanks for listening. I hope you found something of value again. God bless, take care. We’ll talk to you next time. Bye. Bye.

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Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 550 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.