The Cliff Young Shuffle

I found 13,800 listings for Cliff Young online, yet before last week I’d never heard of him. I love that there is so much stuff out there just waiting for us to find what we need.  

Two things I really like about Young’s story are that he never thought it was too late to follow his passion, and by doing so he changed the way everyone else looked at his field.

I copied this story in its entirety from a January 13, 2009 blog post on Ploomy by “Anthony”.  Ploomy is “a blog for guys about the web, personal motivation, business, style, and more”, and is a play on the French word ‘nom de plume’, which means pen name. So, I am not really sure who the author is, but I like his style.

Learn How 61 Year Old Farmer Cliff Young Won the World’s Toughest Race

For many people, completing a single marathon already feels like a huge accomplishment, but an ultra marathon takes it to a completely different level.

Each year, Australia hosts arguably one of the world’s toughest endurance races called the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon.

The race is run between two of Australia’s largest shopping malls, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne, takes a staggering 5 days to complete and traverses an astonishing 875 kilometers (544 miles).

In 1983, an unknown 61-year-old potato-farmer named Cliff Young showed up on race day. He was everything the other runners were not.  He was older, wore overalls and ran in boots. Much to the surprise of everyone in attendance, Cliff hadn’t come there to watch that day, he came to race.

Because of the advanced training required with a race like this, a majority of the competitors were younger and had experience competing at an elite level. Many of them were professional athletes with good equipment and even sponsored by well known shoe companies.

When the race began, and as some probably anticipated, it didn’t take too long for the elite runners to leave Cliff behind. Many of the spectators and media following the race watched with interest because he had such an unusual and unique running style. Many thought Cliff really wasn’t serious and thought it could all be just a publicity stunt. Because of his advanced age, many even feared for his health and questioned whether or not he could even finish the race.

“See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up– until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler– whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head, and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

All of the runners taking part in the race knew that it took roughly 5 days to complete the race.  The established formula to win the race at the time was run for 18 hours and sleep for 6 hours.  Everyone knew this strategy, except for Cliff.  He had no idea!

On the morning of the second day, everyone was surprised to learn that Cliff was still in the race.  Not only was he still in race, but he had continued to run throughout the entire night without stopping.

When asked what his strategy was for the remainder of the race, he let everyone know his plan was to keep running straight to the finish line without sleeping.

As the race went on, Cliff kept running slowly with his now familiar shuffle. Each night he inched closer and closer to the front runners as they rested their 6 hours. During the final night of the race, Cliff had finally caught up to and eventually passed the pack of professional athletes while they were sleeping.  When he crossed the finish line first that day, he had set the new course record and beat his competitors by a large margin.

As the winner of the race, Cliff was awarded a prize of $10,000. He didn’t even know about the prize and insisted that it was not why he chose to race in the first place.  In a selfless act, Cliff donated all of his winnings to some of his fellow runners and in so doing won the hearts and minds of many.

Cliff’s unusual running style was dubbed the “Young shuffle” and has been adopted by some ultra-marathon runners because of the fact that it uses less energy. At least three winners of the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon race have been known to use the shuffle during their wins.

Today, it is commonplace for competitors in ultra marathoners to run without sleeping. They might not all know it, but they can probably thank Cliff Young for that.

I hope your day is great, and that you spend a bit of it pursuing your dreams.


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Positive Psychology Rocks!

Almost everyday for the past two years I’ve spent time reading about positive psychology research and trends. And, I have to say it again – Positive Psychology Rocks!

For me, the best part of scientific research is finding ways to apply it to our everyday lives. I love when science leads to cures for previously incurable diseases, or how environmental research has deepened our understanding of our impact on the planet’s resources, or that studying happiness revealed just how much gratitude really matters

So you can imagine my excitement when I read this article (another geek alert, I know, I know.) in the online version of “The Capital”, an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper, especially when the article came on the heels of my post last week about how much I love being a life coach.

Here’s what psychologist, Tom Muha had to say about Positive Psychology. I reprinted his article in its entirety because I like what he had to say and reading that practicing psychologists are open to new directions makes my heart sing. Sure, Muha is just one psychologist, but positive inroads are being made throughout the profession, which will lead us all down happier paths in the future.

In the meantime, as a very happy life coach, I will keep reading, sharing the good news with you, and helping my clients create their own positive psychology based successes.

Without further ado, here’s Muha’s article . . .

Achieving Happiness: Being positive is more than just eliminating the negative

By TOM MUHA, For The Capital

Capital Gazette Communications

Published 05/01/11

Most people believe that the way to become more successful and satisfied is to focus on fixing their weaknesses and learning from their mistakes. The profession of psychology spent nearly 100 years studying what’s wrong with people and delving into the depths of their psyches in order to help patients become aware of the dysfunctional patterns that cause them great suffering.

The problem is this approach hasn’t helped people to have a higher level of well-being. The rate of depression is 10 times higher today than it was in 1960, according to the renowned psychology researcher Martin Seligman. The percent of workers who were happy with their jobs (45 percent) is at the lowest point in the past 22 years, according to a 2010 Conference Board survey, in spite of employees receiving repeated feedback regarding improving their performance.

As a psychologist for almost 40 years, it has become clear to me that while therapists can help alleviate someone’s depression, that doesn’t make the person happy. Anxiety symptoms can be reduced, but people don’t become optimistic. Job performance issues can be addressed to increase competency without actually getting the employee to fully engage in their job. If all psychologists try to do is diminish the negative aspects of life, the most they can do is to help people get to neutral.

Unfortunately neutral is not a stable state. As soon as the next stressor comes along, the individual who is languishing in neutral has a very high probability of lapsing back into unhappiness. Think about it like having money in the bank. If the account balance is at zero and you have to write a check, you’re quickly into the hole once again. But if you are able to learn how to make money and accumulate a significant balance in your account, then having to write a big check is far less likely to leave you overdrawn.

About a decade ago, a handful of psychologists began to realize that looking only at people who were suffering was akin to studying gravity and expecting to figure out how to fly. These thought leaders took a radically different approach and began to study the top percentage of people who were able to attain high levels of success and satisfaction in order to learn the principles by which they operate. What they discovered is that our brains are hardwired to help us perform at our best when they are filled with positives rather than negatives or even neutrality.

For example, physicians who are in a positive mood before diagnosing a patient demonstrate almost three times more intellect and creative thinking, and are 19 percent faster in arriving at an accurate diagnosis than their colleagues who were in a neutral state. Sales people who have an optimistic mind-set have been found to sell 56 percent more than their pessimistic counterparts. Positive psychology studies show that students who are happy before taking a math test achieve significantly higher scores than their neutral peers.

An interesting thing has happened to me as I have become a practitioner of positive psychology. I discovered that I became much happier as a result of my learning how to teach people the principles that they could use to become happier in their relationships, careers and within themselves. Reading, writing, researching and coaching the principles of positive psychology has transformed my life. Rather than being resigned to tolerating as best I could the ups and downs of life as I encountered them, I realized that it’s possible to proactively generate many more ups than downs.

Knowing how to create happiness for myself and others has been immensely satisfying. I discovered that happiness is the fuel for success, and that increasing positivity is immensely rewarding. It’s been amazing to see people who were simply surviving life to blossom into full-blown happiness. It’s fantastic to see people get past their fear of not being good enough and go on to creating love in their life, satisfaction in their career and happiness in their heart.

When people learn to capitalize on their feelings of happiness, the positive changes they make in their life ripples out into wider and wider circles. Because happiness is contagious, it infects a person’s entire social network. A positive attitude sparks an upward spiral of success and satisfaction that profoundly changes people’s relationships at home and at work. As people resonate with the positive emotions being transmitted back and forth, they experience increased collaboration, heartfelt connection and immense joy cascading into every corner of their life.

Dr. Tom Muha is a psychologist practicing in Annapolis. Previous articles can be found at To contact him call 443-454-7274 or email

 The end.

Have a great day!

ROWE, ROWE, ROWE your boat



Did you know that on cognitive skill based tasks intrinsic motivation is the only thing that gets really good results?


Or that people – when solving or addressing problems, challenges or tasks, which  require them to think even the least bit outside the box, do better when they are not given external based rewards – like money or free stuff! 


It’s true. External rewards work well for mechanical tasks or when goals and the path to those goals are extremely clear-cut  such as:  build this and then you will get this. But when we have to think our way around how to do something, we do better when we are not offered an outside reward. We do better when the reward is internal – like the fun of mastering the task or the feeling that we are acting with a bigger purpose.

Turns out that intrinsic motivation rocks our worlds. 

Listen to Daniel H. Pink’s TED talk to find out more about how and why this works. The research on intrinsic motivation led some really creative and smart people (like me and you – we are doing it right now) to rethink how the world works and how it could work even better. Here’s what ROWE developers Cali Ressler and  Jody Thompson have to say: 

ROWE is the future of work.

Results-Only Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results – increasing the organization’s performance while creating the right climate for people to manage all the demands in their lives . . . including work.

With ROWE:

    • Teamwork, morale and engagement soar, which leads to less workers feeling overworked, stressed out or guilty.
    • People are where they need to be, when they need to be – there is no need for schedules.
    • There is no judgment on how people spend their time, so people at all levels stop wasting the company’s time and money.

ROWE for Employees

ROWE recognizes that life is an individual experience and that no two lives are identical — and leverages this to achieve better performance from each individual. ROWE is not Flextime. ROWE is not Telecommuting. ROWE is not Job‐Sharing. ROWE is not about allowing your people to work from home a couple of days per week.

In a Results-Only company or department, employees can do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. No more pointless meetings, racing to get in at 9:00 am, or begging for permission to watch your kid play soccer. No more cramming errands into the weekend, or waiting until retirement to take up your hobbies again. You make the decisions about what you do and where you do it, every minute of every day.

ROWE benefits:

    • You control the clock and results are your  responsibility.
    • Healthier lifestyle – not overworked, less stress
    • Autonomy & accountability
    • Environmentally friendly – save on the commute and work from home!

ROWE for Business

Successfully adopting a Results‐Only Work Environment will position your company to attract and retain talent that will show up energized, disciplined, flexible and focused—ready to deliver all results necessary to drive the business. A ROWE workforce is more efficient, productive and loyal to the organization while also feeling satisfied, fulfilled, and in control of their personal and professional lives.

A Results-Only Work Environment is all about productivity. But more importantly, your workforce will respond to the business as if it were their own. Innovate won’t be a buzzword, it will be what you do. With ROWE you can stop monitoring the hallways and focus your energy on the business.

ROWE business results:

    • Increase productivity & efficiency
    • Talent retention & attraction
    • Optimization of space
    • Elimination of wasteful processes

 Learn more about the results seen in a ROWE  (I really liked this video.)

Let me know if ROWE floats your boat. For me, ROWE is not just about how we work it also applies to how we roll – how we raise our kids, take care of our homes, structure our lives. Focusing on the result or goal – living a fun, fulfilling and flow-filled life, not a pre-ordained pattern of how the process should look – just might relieve a great deal of stress. Giving ourselves and others the gift of autonomy and time to master tasks, develop skills and define our purpose sounds good to me – I’m working on it!   

Will ROWEs work? I hope so. Companies have had great success using them in offices with project based assignments. Folks are trying to figure out how to adapt ROWEs to retail and other service environments. Maybe ROWEs will work best as an option, some people enjoy a set schedule and a place to go each day, and that’s great. The goal is to create options that produce the best results for employees and for businesses.

Would you be willing to jump aboard a ROWE?

The head stand of happiness


The Happiness Advantage

Would you like to increase your productivity by 30% without sacrificing your happiness? If so, click The Happiness Advantage  to watch a 2:39 minute intro video as former Harvard lecturer, Shawn Achor explains how happiness is the key.

Achor is a positive psychology expert. He taught for years in one of Harvard’s most popular classes, “Positive Psychology”, conducted research in the field and travels the world lecturing on the topic. I will be sharing more from Achor’s great book, The Happiness Advantage in the weeks ahead.

WTW Dandelion

The Lollipop Effect

Good Monday morning. Hope you had a great weekend and are raring to go. Here’s some info that might make your Monday morning a bit brighter.


What do sweet treats have to do with how our brains work?

Well, it turns out that positively priming your brain before attempting simple or complex tasks can improve your success on those tasks – big time. So how do we positively prime? In psychological circles it’s known as creating “positive affect”. In real world terms, it’s nothing more than giving yourself or others a boost of positive feelings or a shot of happiness, and that’s easier to do than you might imagine!

You can prime yourself to think more creatively and process information faster and more effectively by simply thinking of a happy memory or giving yourself a guilt-free treat such as a lollipop!

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Harvard professor, Shawn Achor shares a study that reveals doctors, who were primed with lollipops, provided the correct diagnosis twice as fast as the doctors in the study’s control group. And, here’s the kicker – they didn’t even get to eat the suckers – they just received them!

That’s not all. Research shows that 4-year-old kids do better when asked to just think about something happy before starting a task. And, high-schoolers, who conjured up the happiest day of their lives before beginning a standardized math test (math-yikes!), scored higher than their fellow students. Achor notes that much of this research is based on Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build Theory”, which represents the flip side of the “Flight or Fight Theory”.  The “Flight or Fight Theory” reflects the brain’s ability to focus and narrow our actions in times of fear or stress, which is a good thing in times of danger. Fredrickson’s work reveals that a happy brain broadens our perspective and thoughts, increasing creativity and stamina, which is a good thing pretty much the rest of the time.

Being relaxed and happy allows us to do better in most areas of our lives. Our brains are hard-wired to perform more successfully at “happy” than at neutral or unhappy.

Happiness matters! Feeling positive makes a huge difference on outcomes in educational, personal, and professional settings, and as the studies above and many others show – even the simplest things can make us happy.

Getting happy

Start your Monday morning by priming your brain: 

  • Think of something that makes you happy. Picture it. Relive it in your mind. Now, savor it for a few seconds – you know you are “there” when you are experiencing almost the same glow as when your happy moment  first occurred.
  • Listen to music you love on the way to work. (I know it’s too late for today, but consider jammin’ in the car on the way home.)
  • Enjoy a special treat when you arrive at work, and then think of ways to create an organization where fun is not a dirty word and buying the donuts is part of the strategic plan.
  • Create a toy corner where you and other staff can mingle and “play” with a variety of games and other fun stuff. (Toy corners work well at home, too.)
  • Color – keep a nice big box of Crayola’s on-hand. 
  • Encourage staff to swap stories about the fun they had over the weekend.
  • Allow physical distractions such as hall golf, desk-top football or cubicle badminton. Be creative. (Cubicle badminton:  wad a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper into a ball, use a steno pad or other spiral notebook to serve it over the net (cubicle wall) – discuss your latest project with your colleague while volleying back and forth.)

The options are endless for upping the happiness level of your office, classroom or home. Keep your ideas simple, mix them up regularly, look for the bright side and then sit back and see what happens. I’d love to hear what works for you.

In my perfect world, orange Tootsie Roll Pops grow on trees; just thinking of it makes me smile. And, reaching up to pick one makes me very, very happy.

PS I enjoyed reading The Happiness Advantage – it’s filled with great information, insights and ideas, I’ll be sharing more about it this month.

Peace Corps, Up Close and Personal – IV

Peace Corps turned 50 on March 1, 2011. During the past 50 years more than 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers committed to spend 27 months abroad in a place very far from home that
they accepted, but didn’t choose.
To celebrate Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary each Wednesday in March I’m sharing a PCV’s story. This week’s installment is a bit different; I didn’t write the interview, but wanted to share it because their PC story briefly touched mine.
“Ron and Nancy Tschetter served in India as community health volunteers from 1966 to 1968. After their Peace Corps service, Nancy worked as a social worker and Ron had a career in the financial securities industry. On September 13, 2006, Ron Tschetter was confirmed by the United States Senate as the 17th Director of the Peace Corps.”  (Source)

Photo of Ron and Nancy Tschetter in India from


I met Ron and Nancy in February of 2008 when they visited Bitola, Macedonia where I was assigned as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 2006-2009. Ron was the world-wide Director of the Peace Corps (PC) then, and he and Nancy were on an official visit to Macedonia. Since they were scheduled to visit my city, a fellow PCV on the planning committee asked me if I would help with the arrangements for a luncheon PC wanted to have in Bitola. I said “Sure”, which made me the local arrangements liaison. We hosted the luncheon at one of my favorite restaurants in Bitola in the Hotel Millenium.


I will be the first to admit, my Peace Corps service was sometimes quite cushy!


PCVs from the surrounding cities and villages were invited to attend the luncheon along with local dignitaries and the PC Macedonia Director and some PC Macedonia staff. (Each country in which PCVs serve has an American PC Director along with a program director and administrator officer. Additional staff are hired locally and make up about 90% of the total in-country staff.)

These wonderful, kind and professional folks were the full-time staff, who helped us while we were serving in Peace Corps Macedonia. There were also many great temporary staff, who returned each year to teach and work with Volunteers during training.


I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Ron and Nancy. They embodied the vision I had of Peace Corps growing-up – young Americans stepping out into the world to offer their skills, and then finding ways to continue to give back to their country and culture after their return to the States.

I sat next to Ron at the luncheon and we talked a bit about service to one’s country and the different forms it can take. We discussed how great it was that our government offered us the opportunity to join Peace Corps in very different decades, at very different ages – they joined in their 20’s; I joined in my 50’s – and in very different places – they served in India; I was serving in southeastern Europe – and how Peace Corps had still turned out to be perfect for each of us.

We also talked about how you truly never know what life holds for you. Their lives had come full circle from serving as Peace Corps Volunteers to Ron being appointed as Director of Peace Corps more than four decades later. Sitting there talking to him, I realized my life had circled back allowing me to live out my childhood dream of serving in the Peace Corps. In different ways Peace Corps had allowed both of us to create the lives we wanted. 

The interesting thing about creating the life you want is that it can lead you to exciting, exotic places and to amazing meeting and moments, but the most important part of all is whether or not the life you are creating leads you full circle back to yourself – the real you, the person you truly enjoy being. That’s when you know you are on the right journey.

Here’s a bit of Ron and Nancy Tschetter’s journey from the Peace Corps’ Paul D. Cordell World Wise Schools Stories web page, where you will find more interesting tales from those who served in the Peace Corps. Next Wednesday, I will share the last of my “Peace Corps, Up Close and Personal” interviews for March. I am hoping to feature at least one interview a month through 2011 as part of my ongoing celebration of Peace Corps 50th Anniversary.

Peace Corps India, 1966-1968 by Ron and Nancy Tschetter

As Director of the Peace Corps, it has been my honor to have met Peace Corps Volunteers all over the world and to have seen firsthand the remarkable dedication, passion, and skill they bring to serving others.

My wife, Nancy, and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in India from 1966 to 1968. We were in our 20s, recent college graduates and newlyweds, when we decided to serve in the Peace Corps. We spent two years living and working with the people of India and learned to speak the local language. We came away from our experience with a great appreciation for the culture and values in India.

The Peace Corps was a bit different back in the Sixties—nowadays Volunteers do their training in-country to become familiar with the culture and language, but back then our training was held in the United States, and we were sent overseas when it was time to begin our assignment. We completed our training on December 15, and, after an evening out and one last dinner in New York City, we left the Big Apple on a plane bound for London and the great beyond.

The following evening we boarded an Air India charter, a Boeing 707 full of anxious Peace Corps Volunteers just like ourselves. We flew all night to Delhi, India. I will never forget when we arrived, stepping off the plane: the smoky haze that rose from hundreds of small brown huts; the exotic smell of dinner prepared over wood fires; the pungent tropical air. We were truly on the other side of the world in a culture very different from our own.

It was midnight Christmas Eve when we finally arrived at our new community. Undeterred by the late hour, Bara, our proud host, gave us a short tour of the village, including the centerpiece of local entertainment—an outdoor movie theater that was in full swing, loud music blaring.

Decades later, I can still recall our exhaustion when we finally arrived at our house. It was situated among a block of shops, all resembling one another. Here, traders would sell their wares from the ground floor and live upstairs on the second floor.

Bara found us some plain metal bed frames, on loan from the clinic until we got our own, and we threw our sleeping bags on the frames and fell right to sleep. We didn’t even realize we had a bedroom on the second floor until the next day! Things were very basic. We had a tank that we would fill with water, and a”basket latrine” inside the house. A little balcony upstairs added a touch of luxury.

We gradually became acquainted with our environment. India at that time still revolved around a caste system, and we lived among the people we were to serve; they were called “untouchables.” These were people from the lowest caste in Indian society, and they were very, very poor. Together with our Indian counterparts, we worked in a community health center at the other end of the village about a quarter of a mile away. We came to know our neighbors by walking to and from the clinic. From assisting in the clinic and living in our local community, we quickly learned about the development problems related to rural health. Certain illnesses such as dysentery, cholera, and malaria took their toll, and children were subject to catching every sort of childhood disease. Epidemics such as small pox and cholera could wreak havoc on a population already struggling.

It was natural to wonder then how much of an impact we were making in the face of such widespread poverty. We knew our Peace Corps experience clearly expanded our horizons and taught us a great deal about how life is for people who are struggling in other parts of the world. We learned to appreciate what we have as Americans, and how as global citizens we have a responsibility to others who are less fortunate. But was it really possible for two young people to make a difference? It may be simply that we influenced one person, or one family, or one village in a faraway place. However, the effect was no less significant, for those individuals were the people we had come to know and care about during our years of Peace Corps service.

Two young boys from a lower caste family that lived close by were in the habit of hanging out on our front porch. We gradually got to know them and their family quite well, and we became close friends. We have been fortunate to go back to India five times and have kept in contact with the family we knew so well. We do know that we impacted at least two people—the young boys who used to hang out on our doorstep. Both of them finished school and grew up to be successful businessmen, and each has three lovely children.

Since becoming Peace Corps Director, I have had the privilege of visiting Volunteers in 43 countries, from Albania to Zambia . I’ve seen that the challenges now are as great as they were back when Nancy and I served, or maybe even greater. I continue to be deeply impressed by the commitment of our Peace Corps Volunteers.

Though it was many years ago, our Peace Corps experience still reverberates in our lives and the lives of those with whom we were honored to work. You see, once you do something so bold, so enriching, and so all-encompassing, you realize that volunteering and giving to others is actually a gift to yourself. Our lives, and certainly our perspectives, were changed forever.


If you or someone you know has a Peace Corps story they would like to share, contact me, Patrice Koerper at


I like Tony Dungy’s take on leadership. Dungy was the well-loved coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001, and is now a well-respected television sports analyst:

. . . as a leader your job is to help others around you be better . . .

. . . the person who makes the group rise to the top and be the best that they can be.”

I like that. We lead by helping others; words to live by.

(Dungy’s words are from an AOL’s “You’ve got . . .” January 2010 video.)

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