Stacy Bettison

Stacy L. Bettison is a communications strategist and owner of Bettison Consulting LLC. Stacy focuses on crisis communications, reputation management and media relations. She is also a licensed attorney and has practiced law in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

Posts about Sports

Cold, Wet, Dirty and Bored – Why “Roughing It” is So Good

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: October 23, 2013 - 6:31 AM

As our MEA weekend drew nearer, I became less and less excited about our plans to get away: drive 5 hours with our three young children to the Michigan Porcupine Mountains, where we would hike one mile into the woods to camp in a “rustic” cabin, (i.e., no running water, no electricity) with a forecast predicting rain, snow and temperatures in the low 40s.

Spending the next few days cold, unshowered, and using an outhouse was losing its appeal -- fast.

Camping, something I’ve done a lot since childhood, felt more like been-there-done-that than what it used to feel like -- a fun opportunity to experience nature and “rough it” for a few days. Camping just felt less fun and, honestly, even, dare I say, not fun.

Our rustic cabin in the woods.

Our rustic cabin in the woods.

My kids think it’s great because they get to be like “Little House on the Prairie.” As for my husband, he goes fishing – enough said.

Throughout the long weekend, however, I began to see the benefits of camping in a new light:

Learning to be bored. Ask any mother how often she is bored and here’s betting most don’t even know what the word means. When my kids lament “I’m bored,” I bristle with envy – I haven’t felt bored in years.

Once we hiked the one mile to our cabin, got unpacked and settled in, I asked, “What’s next?!” I felt the urge to fix something, be productive, send some emails, start a cause. Sitting around the cabin, letting the afternoon pass seemed like such a waste.As it turned out, our boredom evolved into several relaxing activities, among them making a fire, a job my daughter and I shared and enjoyed together.

As it turned out, our boredom evolved into several relaxing activities, among them
making a fire, a job my daughter and I shared and enjoyed together.

So many of us go, go, go, work, work, work all the time. It’s how we get ahead, be successful. It’s our toil and can make us very happy. Being bored, as uncomfortable as it is initially, can eventually turn into relaxation. Research suggests that boredom is good for our bodies, our creativity and our psyche.

I seriously doubt my boredom was really ever true boredom – it was me winding down, letting go just a little and starting to relax.

Unconnected, but connecting. With no cellular service, we had little use for the devices to which we all, admittedly, are addicted (even our littlest has become quite adept at PBSKids.org). My oldest daughter made substantial progress on a book, and my younger children were left with little to do but play “worms” with their sleeping bags.

As for our family, we played the card games that are long forgotten in our daily lives. We sat close, and the kids learned strategy, math and vocabulary the old school way.

With no cellular service, our family connected instead over a variety of card and strategy games.

With no cellular service, our family connected instead over a variety of card and strategy games.

I know we aren’t the only family that struggles with how to manage screen time, find meaningful ways to connect, and genuinely enjoy each other. And after this weekend, it became clear to me that camping was the very reason we were able to disconnect, and thereby reconnect, so easily. 

Meeting the weather where it is. Apparently I had to learn this lesson again, and I did so this past weekend: the best way to cope with annoying weather (which we can all agree we have plenty of in the Midwest) is two-fold: get out in it and then come in from it.

Getting out has always helped me deal better with bad weather, because, let’s face it, resistance is futile. The fastest way to succumb to the weather is to go outside – so I hit the trail for a hike. Within 2 minutes, I was warm and the weather bothered me not at all.

Coming back to the dry cabin after a hike was a true pleasure. The cabin was no longer dank, dark and cold, but had magically transformed into welcome haven.

Coming back to the dry cabin after a hike was a true pleasure. The cabin was no longer dank, dark and cold, but had magically transformed into welcome haven.

While it’s not always easy or realistic to get outside and embrace our frigid, windy, dark days, putting on a warm jacket, good hat, gloves and boots and getting outside whenever possible can truly mitigate the deleterious effects of bad weather. For those that experience severe seasonal affective light disorder, there are several ways to cope with the 6 months ahead, and being outdoors is a recognized method.  

Let’s be honest – our weekend of camping wasn’t always perfect. It down poured every time my husband went fishing, and he eventually came down with not just a “man cold,” but a real cold.

At times, as will happen, the kids fought and didn’t listen. Then, they eventually bastardized an otherwise wholesome game of Mad Libs with words like “butt,” “buttcheek,” “armpit.”  That really cracked them up, and they turned silly and obnoxious beyond measure. In turn, I kicked them out of the cabin to have a “time out” in the dark, cold night (which they thought was great fun).

For my part, I’ve been thinking about the next time we will go camping, and have even suggested another cabin experience once the snow flies. I suppose you could even say I look forward to camping again. 

Racetrack Novice: A First Experience at Canterbury

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: May 20, 2013 - 6:46 PM
The movie Seabiscuit is the closest I’ve ever come to visiting a racetrack. I’ve watched the movie at least four times, yet I never tire of the great story of that horse and his people.
 
Since I’m not really a betting person and I don’t speak racehorse language, it never really occurred to me to visit Canterbury Park. My thinking was I’d rather spend my money on a new purse, pair of shoes, or, better yet, groceries.
 
Friday night that changed.
 
Overcast skies and a steady wind would take nothing from what turned out to be a beautiful, inspiring and stirring opening night.
 
I went to the racetrack early with photographer and friend, Brady Willette. We were lucky to get access to the “backside,” where the horses, trainers, owners, grooms and hotwalkers live similar stories that endeared me to Seabiscuit.
 
 
Backside at Canterbury Park

Backside at Canterbury Park

 
There we met horse owner Michael Ferraro, a U.S. bank executive, and his daughter Kayla. The energy in the stables was high. As one of Ferraro’s horses pinned back his ears, bucked, whinnied, and jumped around his stall, I was certain he would leap over the stall ropes and start his own race. Kayla was quick to calm him with quiet, reassuring words and a rub on his neck. 
 
Kayla calms an exited horse.

Kayla calms an exited horse.

 
Not all the horses were ready to spring from their stalls. One of Michael’s horses, Whiskey Decision was curious but calm.
 
Whiskey Decision. He’d race later that evening, coming in 4th place in the 6th race.

Whiskey Decision. He’d race later that evening, coming in 4th place in the 6th race.

 
At another set of stables, we met owner and trainer Virginia Peters. A retired public school teacher from Jordan, Minnesota, Virginia was readying her horse Manlee Spirit, who would run in the 1st race.
 
With a serene excitement, Virginia talked with us as if it wasn’t 45 minutes to first post. All her racehorses are “homebred” -- born from mares on her farm. She’s been there for each foal birth, and broke every one herself. When the thoroughbreds are done with their racing careers, she takes them out trail riding: “I’m still kind of wild for an old girl,” she says.
 
Owner and trainer, Virginia Peters.

Owner and trainer, Virginia Peters.

 
On to the track to watch the pre-race pageantry and see the paddock area where the jockeys mount their horses before each race.
 
Pre-race pageantry, Canterbury Park.

Pre-race pageantry, Canterbury Park.

 
Then came the races.
 
I’ve always marveled at the physique of horses, and at the racetrack, I was able to stand practically right next to them. I was awestruck with the sheer beauty, splendor and size of these magnificent animals.
 
Airborne horses.

Airborne horses.

 
The jockeys embody all the physical elements that are perfect match for unleashing the power of the horses. Slight in weight and height, but packed with muscle and endurance, seeing them up close next to the horses was nothing short of inspiring. I didn’t speak with any of them, but I’m guessing that to ride these horses, their strength and prowess are met equally with fortitude and dexterity of mind and heart.
 
Jockey Lori Keith on Marathon Moon (3rd race).

Jockey Lori Keith on Marathon Moon (3rd race).

 
For this non-handicapper, betting on a budget was great fun.  My instinct is always to root for the underdog, which probably isn’t the best formula for getting ahead. Understanding my inclinations, however, my husband (with whom we joined later), did some quick analysis and number crunching and by the third race, never wagering more than $5/bet, we were up $33. Not bad for novices.
 
How do others pick horses?  Some choose by names, color. Handicappers look at breeding, past performance, and watch the horses in the paddock. We sat with a friend who, in her younger years, did fox hunting in England. How did she pick the horses? As they trotted onto the track, she’d stand up, squint her eyes, look at the horses’ form and gait, and 5 seconds later announce her picks: “3, 6 and 8. That’s who I pick.” She didn’t know their names, breeding or race history, but she knew what she saw, and she had a good eye—at least one pick would always show (finish in the top three).  
 
The absolute best part, though? The last furlong of the race. The crowd starts cheering louder, yelling names, shouting numbers, jumping up and down.
 
 
And then seconds later, the finish line.

Every race finish felt like my heart stopped beating and the earth stopped spinning, for just that little moment. The moment the first nose crossed the line. 

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All photos copyright EQUUS Lifestyle/Brady Willette.

 

 

 

 

 

Triathlons, Bloody Knees and Professional Success

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: June 28, 2012 - 3:02 PM

Survival was the motivating factor when I trained for my first triathlon last summer. For my second one this July 14 in Minneapolis, I’m fueled less by fear of complete failure and more by the thrill of being pushed beyond my comfort zone.  As I was peddling through a 17-mile ride recently, I realized how many elements of training for a race also apply to make for a more disciplined, focused professional. Here are some insights that came to mind as I huffed on my cycle. 

 

Excuses, Excuses. I had a very legitimate excuse to not ride that day -- my legs and glutes ached from a workout two days previous. More rest, maybe even a big pancake breakfast (I need carbs, right?) felt like a reasonable plan. While I overcame the temptation to strap on a feed bag, it took a good deal of mental energy to get on my bike.

 
As busy professionals, we have countless legitimate--even compelling--excuses just waiting to be rolled out. By limiting our effort, excuses cut short our potential. Whether a business chamber meeting (too early), an alumni event (too late) or checking in with the client (client’s probably fine, haven’t heard otherwise), excuses drag us down and undercut what we can do for ourselves, clients and business. If we are set on increasing our growth and opportunity, we must ditch the excuses, be visible, be relevant and work hard.
 
Portending Road Signs. “Rough Road” and “Curvy Road” were among the signs I saw that day. I feared my tire would blow on the bumpy asphalt, and I slowed way down to ward off a grisly spill when the road bent sharply. My favorite, though, was “Dangerous Intersection.” No longer just bumpy and slow, things were about to get dangerous. For me to effectively train and make it to race day, I must not only spend time on the road and in the water, but I’ve got to appreciate and negotiate the hazards that are peculiar to me: inexperience with cleated shoes, causing me to tip like fresh cut timber, leaving me with bloody knees; a vocal ACL when I run; and a seeming inability to swim longer than two minutes before I’m wishing for an oxygen tank.
When I was a second-year associate at a large Chicago law firm, I took on a project dealing with government regulators for one of the firm’s biggest clients.  My colleague’s warning to me: “There are more opportunities to screw this up then to get it right. Good luck.” Many of us work on high-stakes matters that, if handled poorly, have serious consequences. Succeeding through these challenges requires that we understand the hazards, acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations, and harness the necessary resources.  Being human, there’s a good chance that we'll make mistakes and get scuffed up along the way. When we do, we brush off our knees, admit to the misstep and move forward.
 
The 3rd Cup of Coffee. I admit it -- before I can even think about breaking a sweat, I need at least one cup of coffee. Preferably two. As it turns out, the longer I sit around drinking coffee, the less likely I actually get my workout done. My best bet --plan a workout with reasonable goals, drink a half a cup of coffee and get my butt out the door. The hemming and hawing that go with my third cup land me in Lethargy-ville, with all momentum lost and little accomplished.
 
Likewise, all our credentials, experience, connections and memberships matter not if we can’t deliver the goods. The biggest energy drains and momentum-wreckers I’ve seen in my 15 years as a professional are well-vetted plans that are revisited again and again, chewing the fat (including destructive gossip) instead of meaningful analysis and unnecessary posturing and manipulation.  These needless undertakings add little value and suck the life out of any project that once enjoyed plentiful momentum.
 
Swerve to Avoid Caterpillars. As I approached the “Dangerous Intersection” at a cautious 15 MPH, I saw a caterpillar making its own perilous journey across the road. My moral reflexes kicked in, and I instinctively swerved around the little guy. My riding creates hazards for other critters, and there were probably countless other caterpillar victims as a result of my ride.
 
As we deepen our responsibilities and influence, we have the potential to become great leaders by exercising active awareness in the ethicality and morality of our decisions. In Blind Spots, authors Max Brazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel argue that while many of us believe our actions are ethically sound, we often lack the ability to see the immorality of our actions and thereby fail to live up to our own stated ethical standards. While many difficult and complex situations often have no perfect solution, becoming aware of our own innate limitations and biases and engaging in careful analyses will help ensure that our decisions are ethically and morally informed and inspired.
 
Evaluate and Improve.  As I finished the last two miles, the speedometer provided my average MPH. Like most times, I was disappointed by how slow I ride. I desperately tried to push my average up at the end.  Alas, my average remained unchanged. I recognized that the final burn, though it produced no immediate results, would mean I was a bit stronger for my next ride.
 
My Dolce Elite WSD (aka Mamasita) keeps me motivated, honest.

My Dolce Elite WSD (aka Mamasita) keeps me motivated, honest.

Imagine if we could all have a speedometer that provided us real-time data about our performance. Short of this, we benefit by collecting feedback from a wide variety of sources including co-workers, clients, even competitors. We improve by knowing where we have fallen short. By getting perspectives about ourselves from others, we find opportunities to push ourselves to achieve greater things. We may not see improvement immediately, but knowing where we can do better increases our chances of actually doing better.
      

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