On walking meetings and my friend, Jim

I have a hard time sitting still. Always have. In first grade, my teacher once tied me to my chair because I wouldn’t stay at my desk. Pacing in the back of the class calmed my brain and helped me learn. Thirty-eight years later, I’m still pacing. I’m still learning.

Instead of pacing at school, I now walk at work. Fortunately, one of my offices is outside at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center, one of our Grand Traverse’s finest parks. The nearly one-mile path is my new favorite place to mull things over — one step at a time. Since the pandemic arrived in northern Michigan last March, I’ve walked nearly 100 laps at the Civic Center.

Occasionally these are solitary endeavors, but more often — while masked and distanced — they’re with others; friends, colleagues, advisors, and partners to plan, strategize, problem-solve, and develop ideas.

Most of these meetings are what I call “one lap’ers.” These are 20-minute jaunts that are just enough time for most subjects. Sometimes, if we need more time to flush out a more convoluted agenda item, we’ll have a “two lap’er.”

And then there’s the “three lap’er.” These one-hour walks are limited, and I save them for the deep dives into complex problems. They offer plenty of time and fresh air to reflect, inquire, struggle, and imagine enduring solutions that get to the root cause — again, one step at a time.

My favorite three lap’ers recently have been with my friend Jim. Jim is one of my senior advisors. He’s wise. He’s also very generous with his wisdom, and I try my best to soak it up on our walks around the Civic Center.

Jim grew up on a lake near Cadillac and graduated from Michigan State University. He moved to the Traverse City area in the ’80s and founded a successful media business. He likes to say, “why sit and talk when you can walk and talk.” I couldn’t agree more.

So walk and talk, we do. Our discussions about leadership and adaption ebb and flow with the Civic Center path’s gentle ups and downs.

The easy curves guide us into conversations about thinking differently and acting with a sense of urgency. As we nod hello to passersby, we talk about disrupting the status quo and changing the odds in favor of more — lots more — active-for-life kids in the Grand Traverse region. Around we go, always dreaming of a better tomorrow.

In this age of Zoom — and hearing once again, “you’re still on mute, Ty” — I’m grateful for these face-to-face walks with Jim. I’m thankful for public parks like the Civic Center that provide a safe, comfortable place to walk and think year-round. I’m grateful for no longer being tied to my desk chair.

Want to walk a lap or three and dream of a happy, healthy, post-covid world? I’m in. Please shoot me an email at ty.schmidt.tcmi@gmail.com. Let’s walk together.

This story originally appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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Manitoba made now proud Michigander living in Traverse City. Dad, husband, community organizer and founder of Carter's Compost, Norte, and Good Works Lab.

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Ty Schmidt

Ty Schmidt

Manitoba made now proud Michigander living in Traverse City. Dad, husband, community organizer and founder of Carter's Compost, Norte, and Good Works Lab.

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