From Kata to Camino

 

Injuries from a serious car accident during undergrad music school temporarily cut off from singing, my joy and chosen profession. The accompanying acute>chronic pain, depression and loneliness re-calibrated life for me at young age. I learned bodywork techniques and practiced mindfulness to get my life back, and went into healthcare full-time because those tools impacted me so profoundly.

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Fast forward ten years and I’d mastered the art of taking on too much. Over a four year period I ran two of my own businesses; taught domestically and internationally; earned an MBA and a teaching certification in Zero Balancing; commuted from Seattle to D.C. to manage communications at the Samueli Institute; sold a home; moved cross-country for nine months to lead Oberlin’s Creativity and Leadership program where I lived in campus housing with an air mattress and flea infestation; finalized a three-year business lawsuit; filed for divorce; and received a Stage Zero cancer diagnosis that stopped me in my tracks. (Take a breath.) Part of successfully navigating that time was my backpocket plan for walking, regardless the weather. It got me out from behind the glowing screen and into the wild, which for several months meant walking through a polar vortex and being reminded of how very alive and freezing cold I was. Walking became more than stress relief and exercise, it brought me joy, a sense of freedom and renewed creativity.

It’s learning to take those daily walks that is actually the driver behind this blog. You would think since I’m a pretty good (B+) student, a trained musician and a clinical massage therapist who learned and taught anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology that I know how to learn and practice new skills. Of course I do… but those things came fairly easily to me. It’s when I want to learn something that really challenges me that I get frustrated. i.e. If there isn’t raw talent or if I don’t think I can win, I adopt the persona of dilettante. Blessedly, my Operations class at Pinchot (now Presidio) University taught Toyota Kata and it updated my plan for learning. With Toyota Kata I identified metrics, listed real and perceived barriers toward success and iterated through them as quickly as possible to achieve what I wanted (daily exercise). Here’s how it went -

Coach: What barrier are you testing next? 
Katie: I think not having the right shoes is a barrier. My plan is to bring walking shoes to work tomorrow. 
Coach: Ok, let’s talk after work tomorrow.

(1 day later)

Coach: Did you bring walking shoes to work today? 
Katie: Yes.
Coach: And did you go for a walk? 
Katie: No.
Coach: What’s next on the list? 
Katie: Even though I had the right shoes, I didn’t have the right gear for the weather. Tomorrow I’ll bring rain gear to work.

(1 day later)

Coach: Did you bring rain gear to work today? 
Katie: Yes.
Coach: And did you go for a walk? 
Katie: No.
Coach: What’s next on the list?

(You can see how this carries on. Fast forward through a week or so of testing until I got to the thing that mattered to me).

Coach: Did you schedule time on your calendar to go for a walk? 
Katie: Yes.
Coach: And did you go for a walk? 
Katie: YES!

It wasn’t rocket science, but it was *the* thing that mattered to me. All other barriers had been perceived, and that’s the one that really mattered. Putting it on my calendar works so reliably that I’m still doing it. In early 2016 when I decided to upgrade my daily walks to a pilgrimage the first thing I did was schedule “Camino” over a whole month. It was aspirational! My calendar effectively gave me permission to walk for a month. No competing commitments, nothing would be missed. I boarded a flight with two weeks worth of cash to walk the Camino de Santiago and then figured out how to stay for another three. It took me 33 days, 2 pairs of shoes, rolls and rolls of protective foot tape and bandages, pain killers, wine, chocolate, flan and three massages… and ended in front of the Cathedral in Santiago with tears, laughter and bewilderment that I’d made the 500 mile journey.

Now home in Seattle I’m starting to integrate the summer. Toyota Kata is still my preferred method for learning and walking is my muse. Last week I combined the two in WalkingKata —  the human form in motion (walking) and the Japanese art of improving, adapting, innovating and achieving seemingly unreasonable goals (Kata) combined into one via walking and coaching for founders and executives who want to learn to live, love and lead in 3D. More on that soon. Thanks for reading and check out my Prep Guide for Walking the Camino if you'd like to take a long walk!