The Durable Human Manifesto

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Cubicle Dwellers: This Design’s For You

Stand Steady in box points

Since word got out a few years ago that sitting too much isn’t healthy, products have become available that help people on the job, but some seem more fitting for a CEO. It took one of the many who work in cubicles to come up with a solution that works for them. This is her story.

Day Martin used to be a data analyst, a “knowledge worker,” as she likes to call people who make money using their minds, almost always while they’re sitting down. “They sit there all day, every day,” as she says. “They have to. It’s their job.”

That’s what she was doing at her job in suburban Washington, D.C. until one day, she had a car accident. When she recovered, she noticed something about her back: “I just had pain when I went to work.”

When she checked online, the Internet suggested she try a standing desk. But there was a problem: nothing on the market allowed her stand comfortably inside her cubicle. “I thought it was obvious, but it wasn’t available.”

So Day decided to make one herself. At first, she hacked together some cardboard. That helped, but didn’t fit the office aesthetic. “People said stuff like, ‘How long are those boxes going to be sitting on your desk for?’”

Then, with assistance from her father-in-law the home builder, she made some sturdier prototypes. “My colleagues loved them. I was shocked at how many people have their back pain stories – I had no idea.”

To build her final design, she sourced parts from within the U.S. “What I love about American manufacturing is that it’s so much easier. I could get things in the mail in a couple of days.” In practically no time, the Stand Steady desk was born, as Day proudly reports, “It as fifteen months from the accident to the product going live.”

CEO Day Martin at StandSteady desk

Day made sure that building her desk is easy. She wants knowledge workers to “get it,” right out of the box: “I didn’t want this to be a big three-hour project with her heels and skirt trying to figure it out.”

That’s why Stand Steady is simple to assemble, right down to the penny. Seriously, you have to watch this one minute video to see what she does with the penny:

I say a product has a “durable design” if it helps humans to be more durable, which Merriam-Webster defines as “able to exist a long time without significant deterioration.” Day’s desk fits that bill.

As I wrote in my first post about her, Stand Steady helps people to be physically durable because they avoid the effects prolonged sitting has on metabolism, bone mineral content, and vascular health. You burn between 20 and 40 calories an hour when you work standing up and, as Day reports, tend to be more active in general: “You’re already in motion. You’re likely to go places – moving around, get a glass of water, go ask someone a question.” Plus, as she hoped, using her desk can relieve back pain.

Standing while you work also benefits the mind because, in Day’s words, it “helps collaboration.” Rather than just sticking inside your cubicle, you’re more likely to walk over and talk to a colleague.

It’s also easier to gather around a screen when you’re standing, which is nigh impossible if everyone’s in a chair. So Day’s desk also boosts the spirit because, as she states so simply, “Interacting live with people helps us all feel better.”

A hallmark of being a durable human (and a jewel in what I call in The Durable Human Manifesto, “The Triple Crown of Durability”) is following your curiosity, which Day did: “I wanted a product that would allow me to work. What was I gonna do? Chose between my health and my job? No one should have to make that choice.” Which many, many people have, but only she had the gumption to shatter the status quo.

StandSteady Desk Penny gfxAnother hallmark of being a durable human is to have skills, which are hard to retain in a world of helpful apps and machines. That’s why I love the penny so much. It lets you put something together with your own two hands. As Day declares, “I want people to feel like they can do it themselves because it’s empowering to build something.” (WOOT WOOT!)

Now that Day herself has created something from scratch, she is helping others to do the same: “I am doing manufacturing, design, patents – trying to be a role model for girls.” Although her product is no-tech (it doesn’t plug in), to make it she had to tap into science, technology, engineering and math. She wants girls to embrace STEM, even if they don’t ace all their classes. “Women react differently to criticism. They get a B and they drop out.”

Her message:

“It’s ok to get a B, OK to be in the top half of the class. Don’t quit just because you’re not acing it. When we don’t encourage them to do this kind of work – look what they’re missing out on.”

Day Martin (left) and I at Stand Steady HQ in Fairfax, Virginia

Want more inspiration being a durable human and raising active, engaged kids? Read the 15-minute Durable Human Manifesto: Practical Wisdom for Living and Parenting in the Digital World. Now available as an Audiobook, complete with music and the sounds of happy kids at play! 

Learn about the author on Google+

Caring, Cooperation Save People from Pollution Scourge

Kyrgyzstan child image courtesy Pure Earth

If you live in the U.S. or some other country with strong rules for clean air and water, the most polluted places in the world seem far away. It’s likely your neighbors don’t have radiation poisoning or barrels of pesticide festering in the backyard.

But those in low- and middle-income countries are not so fortunate. They bear the brunt of almost all the cancers, disease and other afflictions caused by pollution. Children are especially vulnerable.

Fortunately, the Global Alliance for Health and Pollution connects needy nations with sources who can help. “GAHP exists so countries don’t have to deal with pollution on their own,” according to Richard Fuller, president of Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth, one of the NGO’s partners. “There are terrific results where countries have done the right things,” adds Stephan Robinson of Green Cross Switzerland.

Here are some success stories from a new report, The Top Ten Countries Turning the Corner on Toxic Pollution: Continue reading

Puttering as Good for You as Jogging

messy counter top indicative of putterer

If you exercise before work and think that punches your health card for the day, better think again. Sure, a brisk walk or a spin on the elliptical certainly revs up your metabolism, but if you sit down for everything after that, you could negate the good you did for your body.

CEO Day Martin at StandSteady desk

CEO Day Martin at her StandSteady desk

I learned that from Day Martin, CEO and founder of StandSteady.com.  Day was a full-time data analyst a few years ago when she hurt her back in a car accident. Her condition gradually improved to the point that the only place her back hurt was when she was at work. “The Internet recommended I try a standing desk, but when I went to buy one, I was shocked at the price: $700 to $4,000!”

So, out of necessity, she designed an inexpensive, lightweight, little desk that sits on top of a regular desk.

I’ll say much more about Day in my next post, but suffice it to say now that she clued me into a little secret about standing while you work: it may help you live longer. The reason?  Continue reading

Places that Help People to be Durable

Portland Sherett Neighborhood

If you want to be more durable in body, mind and spirit, it helps if the place where you live supports your efforts. Are there sidewalks in your neighborhood? Maker faires and meetups nearby? Is it easy to be active and follow your curiosity?

The new website Urbanful made a list of “cities to watch” whose “horizons are glowing especially bright.” But, if Merriam-Webster defines durable as “staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time,” is the future looking good for their residents, too?  Continue reading

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