This weekend Antonella and I did what was our most impegnativo (an Italian word used to describe something that is long, arduous, and exacting) hike to date. We hiked Marzola, the mountain that separates Trento from Valsugana, which is over 1750 meters (5200+ feet) at its highest peak. We started at around 9:30 AM below Villazzano which is about 350 meters elevation. We got up to about 650 meters pretty quickly through what is called the “Sentiero dell’Aquila” or eagle’s path leading to a field and Rifugio (which is also an awesome restaurant) that is known as the Bindesi. They call it the eagle’s path cause it is quite steep, and I’ve become almost inured to the pain at this point—but that was not the case 3 years ago.
By 10:15 AM we were ready for the second leg of the hike which goes up to 1050 meters, and is not as steep as the Sentiero dell’Aquila, but it makes up for it in length. It seems a lot longer for some reason (although in reality it is just 30 minutes longer than the first portion of the hike) and by this time the legs start moving automatically and the thinking starts. I enjoy thinking while hiking, in fact it was something I really missed about running during all my years of exercise remission. Often times when I have time to think on a hike I think about one of two things: 1) how good it feels to finally be able to do some arduous exercise again and 2) all things Reclaim Hosting. I don’t ever really stop thinking about Reclaim, and luckily that’s not a bad thing. Reclaim brings me great joy on many levels, but during this particularly demanding hike with an ample amount of time to reflect on things I realized that my newly discovered trekking life has a psychic analog with Reclaim.
Let me explain, over two years ago I decided that it was high time to get in shape for a bunch of reasons, but primarily I wanted to be able to snowboard/ski with my kids. I spent the last two years walking and/or hiking a minimum of 4 miles a day. Nothing crazy, just enough for me not to grasp for the inhaler at every physical turn. It worked, but it took a lot of time and patience. When I might have otherwise been writing a post or playing a game I was out the door for a long walk or hike. I liked the physical results on a practical level, but the mental impact was far greater than I ever imagined. I’ve struggled with manic depression for decades now and while the beast never sleeps, a healthy dose of exercise has evened things out in ways no medicine ever could for me.
What’s more, the simple lesson that measured, daily attention to one’s personal well being can easily be grafted on our work at Reclaim was not lost on me at about 900 meters. Part of the reason Reclaim Hosting has been so good to and for me is that I hate to be managed. What’s more, as Cathy Derecki recently wrote about, management often runs counter to the work I want to do. It’s important, for sure, but doing that in addition to everything else you have to do—which was the case for me when I became middle management in higher ed—becomes increasingly untenable and made for an increasingly unsustainable work life. But, as I’ve learned since ds106 (or more broadly UMW’s DTLT), I work quite well in partnership with others. And Reclaim was that perfect partnership with Tim that provided all the satisfaction of my work at UMW with none of the management overhead and petty politics that plague just about any institutional environment. I think Lauren took the brunt of Tim and I’s reluctance to manage when she started, but luckily she survived, and even thrived, and then helped Meredith get acclimated, and now we have brought on Judith whose primary responsibility is to manage support.
TO try and save my comparison here cause I am going out on a tangent, the early years of Reclaim were extremely demanding on our time and energy given how much we had to learn and the amount of work we always had before us.* But everyday we did a little bit more, learned a bit more, and grew a little bit more, all the while avoiding investment capital (which for me is kinda like performance enhancement drugs in this quickly deteriorating analogy). We slowly and intentionally built a sustainable company by simply getting up every day and doing the work, or as they say “walking the walk.” Early on, beyond those who questioned us, we had a few moments wherein we questioned our selves after spending an entire weekend cleaning up a hacked shared hosting server or when we were faced with the daunting task of migrating our entire infrastructure, but like with the daily hiking, moving one server at a time, getting used to the regular questions from our hosting clients, and all the while trying to streamline our processes and experiences pays off over time. There is no quick fix to getting in shape or running a company, the idea is just the idea—-but if and when people like it almost everything after that is about supporting people and maintaining infrastructure. Much like every hike I take, even after I am feeling a bit stronger, is about trying to ensure I can do the next one as easily.
I don’t write much about the business of Reclaim because I really don’t feel like this has been about business as much as it has been about consistency, support, and independence, all things that I think make me not only a healthier and better colleague, but arguably (and hopefully) a better dad and husband. Antonella and I didn’t actually reach the peak of Marzola on Saturday after climbing 1350 meters, and while we wanted to and very well could have, we had to choose between the peak and a good lunch before getting Tess off to her scheduled appointment. The latter choice won because hiking is not so much about summiting (though the views are nice) or some kind of race to the top, it’s about time with those closest to me that is premised on enjoyment, support, and care. And I believe that has also been the secret to Reclaim’s quite modest success, a small organization that is not racing to the top at all costs, but just showing up every day with a consistent, caring support that folks have come to rely on. No one asks Tim and I what will happen to Reclaim if either of us get hit by a bus anymore because now there’s Lauren, Meredith, Justin, and Judith, and hopefully some part-time support hep for nights and weekends here soon. I think that’s similar to the effects of hiking over time, as a company we are getting to a point where we feel healthier and stronger because we have climbed a few mountains by this point and as a result we have a much better sense of what to expect and what we need to do. There is no substitution for experience which can only be gotten by showing up each and every day. I like that, when at DTLT our philosophy was “just do the work,” and that has translated brilliantly to both my budding trekking life as well as a blooming Reclaim Hosting.
*I can’t count the number of times people said it’s only you and Tim? What if one of you gets hit by a bus. Well we didn’t.