Tuesday, 24 December 2013


So, I'm a nerd, and every year at this time I take inventory of the past 360-some-odd days and do some reflecting. I craft something that's not really new years' resolutions - more of a strategic plan (okay, same thing, but I feel better if I call it a strategic plan).

I try to respect the process and let it speak for itself, so sometimes it results in some action items, and sometimes it's more of a philosophical theme for the year.  Often it's both.

This year a word kind of shot out of the ether and hit me in the chest.  I haven't thought much of it prior to a week ago, but it kind of instantly organized they way I experienced so many things in 2013.


I don't mean that I will stop genocide or prevent people from getting trampled on Black Friday. Noble causes, both, but perhaps a little lofty for a one-year-goal. I'd be happy with the ability to sleep without grinding my teeth down to the nubs.

What does it mean? It's a pretty broad term - bordering on impossible to define. So I'll just give you my take on it. 

I would've never guessed when I was in college 12 years ago that I would actually remember things from the courses I took, but there was a psyc course that spoke about causes of stress, and attributed much of it to a disconnect we have between our perceived self and our actual self.

Your perceived self is the person you like to think of yourself as.  Are you honest? Hard working? A straight talker? Do you see yourself as frugal? Loyal? Logical?  When we think of ourselves in certain situations, we tend to think of the best version of ourselves, acting according to our values and principles in every situation. The perceived self is the sum total of your thoughts about yourself.

The actual self isn't quite as glorious.  While I may perceive myself as frugal, my actual self buys a coffee and eats out for lunch almost every day. Maybe you perceive yourself as loyal, but you overlook those times that you passed along a piece of information that was given to you in confidence. The actual self is the sum total of your actual behaviours.

When the perceived self and the actual self are in sync, stress is low. Everything's jiving.  When there is a big differential between who you think you are and what you actually behave like, you have to do a lot more mental acrobatics to feel happy in your own skin.

There's value in telling the truth about yourself to yourself.  Regardless of what you call it, faking it till you make it or pretending you're something you're not is hard on your stress levels.  You are not living up to your expectations for yourself.

So, what's my goal? Be honest about where I am. Don't fight so hard against the fact that I'm JUST where I am. Spend more time making good choices that put me in the right direction - where I want to be.  But stop acting as my own judge, jury, and executioner because I wish I was at this income or that capability of self control. When your actual self is distant from your perceived self, there's a tendency to be in denial about it. And denial - knowing the truth but pretending something else is true - is inherently stressful.

Getting to a goal by pretending to be something you're not is like letting your skin heal over an infected wound.  Yes, it looks healed, but it creates an abscess underneath the surface that eventually surfaces worse than it ever was before.

So, for my purposes at this point in time, peace means acting in accordance with your values, being honest about where you fall short, and then being unapologetic for the way that you are.  Having a clean conscience about who you are and why.

Here's hoping you find peace and perspective on your circumstances as well.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

First World Problems, and the Spoiled Rich Kids Who Have Them: Us.

"What is to give light must endure burning." - Victor Frankl

I'm reading Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" right now.  He's a psychological theorist who builds his case around his experiences in concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau.  A key point of his theory is that the human mind can adapt to the most dire circumstances if it can find a goal or purpose to focus on.  If one has a clear purpose, the fires of hell are no longer a destructive force, but rather are a crucible - clarifying your focus and your desire.  Your purpose is the only thing you have left once your creature comforts, your dignity, your health, and even your concept of an end to your suffering have all been stripped away.  The message resonates a little deeper when it comes from someone who's been through the utter depravity of a death camp.

I was flipping through radio stations today, and I stumbled upon a radio show about lost causes.  The host was interviewing a guy with Huntington's Disease, who was sharing the experience of being diagnosed with a neuro-degenerative disease.  While still in good health, he knew his approximate lifespan, and knew, most likely, what was going to kill him in the end.  He said that he lives his life with purpose every day, because he doesn't get a mid-life crisis and a retirement.  He doesn't get a do-over. Just a 'do'.  The interviewer asked him what he would be like without the disease (which he has become a crusader for), and his answer was that he'd probably be totally boring.

Frankl found his purpose in his ability to describe, first hand, what you have left when you lose everything.  The radio guy, found that the thing that would eventually cause his death was also the thing giving him life.

Suffering.  We fear it, dread it, avoid it.  We spend money to minimize it, dull it, or ignore it.  But what if we're missing it?  What if suffering is actually a thing we NEED?  It teaches us what we're truly made of.  It has a great way of instantly reminding us what things in life are important and what things are unnecessary.  Those two things - finding out your substance and finding out what in your life is unnecessary - are two really valuable things.  And they're extremely hard to uncover without the pressure of suffering.

Now, I'm not saying we need to go out and create some suffering in our lives.  Nor am I saying that suffering is good.  Huntington's disease and time in concentration camps are great examples of how suffering is NOT good.  But neither am I talking about simple discomfort.  I already wrote that blog post a while ago. We SHOULD pursue discomfort.  Suffering, though, finds us.  I guess what I'm saying is, if you're suffering anyway, you may as well take advantage of the opportunity in the pain.  You have the potential to grow, to learn a lot about yourself. To get some direction.  So if you have to do it - if you have to suffer, don't miss the lesson.

How does this play out on a massive scale?  Our generation has never experienced a major outbreak.  Maybe that's why we consider vaccinations optional.  We've never seen war affect us here at home (at least where I come from).  So we take freedom and democracy lightly.  We've never been all that challenged. So we occupy ourselves with the most trivial pursuits.  We obsess over workouts, vacations, restaurants, or cable shows. So we're kind of lost as a group - no purpose. No major rallying points. In one way, we're the luckiest generation.

In another way, we're lost.

Thoughts? Comments?  I'd love to hear them.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Success Rate, Implied Hate, and Disembodied Fate

-The people who work the hardest deserve the greatest reward.
-If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
-You can't change everything, but if you change yourself, everything changes.

Sounds about right, right?  Heck, if you're like me, you might've been standing up by the last sentence, looking around for a flag to wave!  Anyone? No? Me neither, I was just checking.

I learned something the other day from Alain de Botton that stood me up in my tracks.Watch it if you'd like. We first world western civilization types live in a world with a unique philosophy.  Never before in history have humans, individuals, had so much power.  If you want, go be the next Steve Jobs.  What's stopping you?  If you find that sweet spot where your passion and your skill work in harmony, and you can harness your full potential, it could happen to you.  Or me. Anyone. When in history has that ever been the case? No lords and dukes. No privileged birth, no caste system.  Yes, if mom and dad are loaded, you might have a headstart, but that could be a curse as easily as a blessing in our new philosophy, if it means you don't learn the value of hard work, or the threat of running out of money.

If you are willing to work for it, you can accomplish anything you want. In the words of Jim Rohn, there's lot's of room at the top of the ladder - it's the bottom that's crowded!

I've spent the last 5 or so years internalizing that lesson - trying to increase my knowledge and capacity, trying to improve myself and become the sort of person who is ready to attack when opportunity strikes.

Then 2 days ago I realized this: If you believe that you can earn your way to the top, and that personal effort is the cost of admission, does that not also imply that you think those at the bottom have 'earned' their way to the bottom, and deserve to be there?  In the past, they called the poor Unfortunate.  These days, you might be more likely to hear them called bums.

I've lived enough days on this planet to know that there are indeed people on the top of the ladder who have not earned their way there.  And I've learned that the momentum of a downward spiral can be crushing.  And if my philosophy lends itself to telling people who are mired in addiction and poverty to stop being poor and start being awesome instead, then my philosophy sucks.

See, when it's your own effort and personality that is the cause of your success or your demise, wins and losses can become an intensely painful and personal thing. Your wins or losses are not circumstantial.  They're a reflection of your character.  You brought it on yourself.

It's called meritocracy - a civilization where your effort determines your status.  And if all factors were equal, then sure, maybe, over a long enough timeline, life could arrange itself this way, right from the hardest worker to the laziest bum.  But what happens when a young family loses their father in a tragic accident?  Or when someone gets abused during a very impressionable time - leaving emotional baggage that is extremely difficult to take in stride? The fact is, there is an element of randomness to the world.  Just when things start getting predictable - BAM. Tornado. Start over.

Back when societies identified with religions, it was a lot easier to categorize.  Blame God, or the gods, or the sprites, or the demons, or the forces, or the... whatever.  Fate.  But today, society doesn't believe that there is a higher being or power involved. In this world, MAN is the highest power.  And we don't really have much of an explanation for the randomness, other than just to say, well, it's random.

I'm pretty sure this is why, though we have the best beds in the world, Western societies also have such high incidences of insomnia.  It's our job.  It's all our job.  It's up to us, and we believe that we have the power to change the fates.  And when the fates aren't friendly, we double down and push harder, because our personal effort is the only tool we have.

There are many parts in the world where people don't have the luxury we have of feeling like they're in control.  There's never enough food, they're always under threat - whether it's war, sickness, or a wild animal jumping out of the trees and dragging away a weak member of the community, and they can't do anything to stop it. So they lean on eachother and lean on God.  They have a healthy relationship with fate, because they know they're subject to it.

Your effort still does have value. It gets going you in the right direction.  Like, if you practice rolling dice often enough, maybe you'll get good enough to beat the odds and roll more high numbers. But even then, you still might land on a snake or a ladder.

So, how do we reconcile fate and effort? How do you believe you have the power to change outcomes, and yet remain flexible to the randomness of life?  How much stress could we deflate from our lives if we made a healthy respect for fate part of our story again?  How do we let ourselves off the hook a little, without 'giving up'?  Maybe it was easier to accept when random had a name, and was part of our story of how we got here.  We could say, "maybe there's a higher reason for this random thing having happened, because the gods got involved.  I don't know why, but lets keep our eyes open for the silver lining." We could outsource the blame.

And if you don't believe that chance plays a strong role, play 5 games of snakes and ladders with a 5 year old, and see how much good your strategy does.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Don't leave it to the superstars!

Leave it to Daylight Saving Time to create the state of mind where you're sitting in church and what the pastor says reminds you of the Harlem Shake.

The idea under discussion was that no gifts or skills are higher-ranked than other ones.  There are always people out there who are very impressive and high profile in their humanitarianism. 

The unfortunate reality is that, when we see people out there making a big deal of their good acts, we have a tendency to stand back and leave it to the 'pros.'

As an aside, once you have the Harlem Shake in your head, don't expect to continue tracking with the topic at hand.  It kind of doesn't lend itself to that.

This is really random, and I totally blame a crazy weekend and sleep deprivation for this - but here's the thing:

Who's the one who starts the Harlem Shake?  Always the guy in the helmet.  I won't say he's concerned with fading into the background, but he has no name and no face.  And next thing you know, everyone's doing their own freaky dance. 

One guy dancing does not an internet meme make.  Okay, well other than this. And this.  The point is, it doesn't get real till everyone buys in.  No one's going for the spotlight.  Everyone's doing their own crazy dance.

You don't have to look far to find pain and stress in our world.  Most of us don't have to look past ourselves!  If hurt and struggle is that prevalent, how could we think the solution could be found by relying on the handful of do-gooders who have dedicated their lives to it?  They don't have our eyes.  They don't see the needs that we see.  They have their own crazy dance, and they're doing it.  Like crazy.

I live in Red Deer - I'm in the same boat with everyone else in my community.  When people are struggling, WE ARE STRUGGLING.  If I'm in the boat, I need to put my oar in the water and pull a little too.  Not because people might notice and think I'm amazing.  But because if I think everyone should be doing it, that obviously includes me.

I have an acquaintance who recently watched a friend lose her husband prematurely.  She and a few others organized an online social media auction and raised, like, $14,000 for a trust fund for her young kids.  I have another acquaintance who was moved by a recent suicide in a local high school, and is now making a documentary with the hopes of being honest and real with teenagers about the reality of mental illness, because most tools we use for awareness are cheesy and don't hit home.  These are people who were happy to be nameless and faceless.  They threw on their helmet and started dancing like crazy, even though nobody else was.  And now everyone else is.

So, consider me the guy yelling in spanish at the beginning of the video.  Now let's throw on our helmets and spandex, and do our little, anonymous part to make our community a place of healing, care, and wellness!

Sunday, 3 March 2013


I want more.
I've had enough.

How do these two phrases make you feel?  Do you prefer one to the other?

In our culture, we look at these two words as a progression.  You're finished wanting more when you've had enough.  Although actually, 'enough' tends to be a pretty elusive concept.  We chase it like happiness - every time you think you're getting close to it, it moves off to the horizon again.

In fact, usually when I think of the phrase, "I've had enough," I hear it in exasperation - when things pile on at a rate we can't tolerate.  We only say "Enough" when we actually mean "TOO MUCH".

I actually think we don't understand the meaning of the word 'enough.'  I think it should be more closely associated with the word 'satisfied.' That word doesn't suggest that you're getting all you can handle.  It has more of a connotation that, though there's capacity for more, the current amount will work just fine.

Our culture doesn't really get equilibrium.  We tip the scale all the way forward, like a sprinter about to charge out of the starting blocks.  We're always pushing, striving, struggling.  Always expending.  That's as healthy as always exhaling.  Our access to easy energy means that we have amazing leverage to expand and increase our wealth and profile, but if 6-7 billion people all tried to only ever accumulate, we would very quickly find ourselves in a huge problem.  Heck, we're on our way there now!

The earth doesn't constantly expand.  What we have is what we have (unless an asteroid lands).  It's the law of conservation of mass. Natural principles are wired around taking what you need and leaving behind something someone else can use.  Trees absorb CO2. They provide oxygen.  Their lost leaves degrade into soil.  No waste.  Why do we think that constant expansion, constant accumulation, and infinite growth is a good idea?  Where's the precedent for that?
This for example, is what it looks like to sell more computer monitors year over year.

I think we need to turn down the "more" talk, and start asking ourselves what 'enough' looks like.

I'm not talking about redistribution of wealth here.  A lot of people take this to that next step.  But that's the step where you lose people.  Fact is, if you knew what it was that made you satisfied, and that's what you went for and no more, nobody would need to re-distribute your wealth!  More isn't a thing to want.

If we never feel like we have enough, we will never feel peace.  Satisfaction is a great feeling.  It feels like a good night's sleep.  It feels like equilibrium.  And when your needs are met and you're satisfied, you'll find yourself with a lot more time to help others reach their 'enough' too.

What does 'enough' look like for you?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

It's built but they ain't coming: wellness and safety in a siloed community

Ever had an idea kind of keep bouncing back into your head time and again?  Something you've never really thought of before, but then suddenly it seem like it's everywhere, and you can't believe you've never seen it before?  I had one of those.

So, I was sitting in a community meeting the other day, and we were discussing something fancy like, "how do you encourage community engagement in a winter city where it's hard to get outside for four to six months of the year?" Outdoor play areas are great, as are indoor areas, and they all got discussed.  But then someone made an interesting observation that you can build as many amenities as you'd like - it really doesn't mean ANYTHING if people don't go out and use them.

Building an indoor playground does not make community members engage. Making programs does not encourage citizens to connect.  Dr. Frankenstein would never have made the news if he hadn't found that magic ingredient, and it's the same thing that is too often missing from our municipal planning.  You can stitch the body parts together - build the whole thing - but the true challenge is that elusive 'breath of life'.

I sit on another committee - part of a 'task force' to end homelessness.  One of the biggest things we've identified that's missing is a FORUM.  A place where the stakeholders can go and exchange information.  Builders don't have to guess what the community needs for housing.  Service providers can go and share their stories and needs.  Funding providers make know what they have available to solve the problem.

We lack a place.  But it's not a physical space. We could build a room just for this to happen and it still wouldn't happen.  What we're missing is that elusive thing - that thing that draws people out.  That thing that invites the discussion to happen.  We lack, well, hosting.  The "breath of life," so to speak is getting people to show up.

Imagine that it's Christmas time and I'm throwing a party.  What is it that makes the party?  It's not my house - the physical space.  There's an effort that goes into it.  I try and attract the people I desire to be there by making that place feel appealing.  I decorate, I prepare food.  I plan fun activites.  I invite other people who would make the party enjoyable - who will add to the atmosphere.  At the end of the day, the location is the smallest part of the equation.  My party will be amazing because the RIGHT people are there, talking about the RIGHT things, in the RIGHT atmosphere.  RIGHT?

THIS is what our municipal planners need to be trying to foster!  Indoor space? Outdoor space?  Sure, you need gathering places to attract people to.  But whether it's a summer festival or a discussion on ending homelessness that you're trying to accomplish, you need to consider how you're HOSTING the event.  Who's coming?  Is it a context they'll feel welcome in?  Does everyone gain more from attending than they're giving? Is it likely to be effective?

Create the right 'space' (mental space), and you will have the right people arrive.  Fail to create the right place, and they'll stay in their silos.

Ever wondered why it is that the world feels so unsafe?  20 years ago, parents kicked their kids out the door to go find the park.  They'd play all day and come back when the street lights turned on.  Not so today.  I heard someone the other day tell a story that he asked a woman if she let her kids walk the 2 or 3 blocks to their neighbourhood school.  Her answer was no, and when he asked why, her response was something to the effect of, "The pedophiles."

Neighbourhoods haven't changed in 20 years.  We have.  WE don't feel safe.  And I think it's the same thing.  We can double the amount of police, but if we don't know our neighbours, we still aren't going to feel safe.  Heck, if I knew who lived around me, maybe I'd know who the kids were who rifled through my car.  One quick call to their parents, and I'd feel MORE safe in my neighbourhood, not less!

So how can I create that community - draw my neighbours out?  Well, maybe I could haul my barbecue into the middle of the close and put some flyers in the mailboxes?  Shake some hands and introduce myself.  If I feel like there are more sets of eyes on Silas than just my own, maybe I wouldn't be so scared to let him pedal out of my sight on his own.

Building places, adding programs - it's not going to work.  And it's going to make us go broke.  What is going to make the difference?  Find ways to make mental spaces that draw people together.  Where the right conversations can happen.  THEN we'll feel safe in our neighbourhoods.  THEN we can get down to the business of ending homelessness!  THEN we can have communities that are HEALTHY.  It comes down to people.  Finding out what draws them out.  And doing that.

Any ideas?  I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Auto Pilot

When life gets stressful, the first thing that goes out the window is our creativity, our appetite for new initiatives.  Our brains want to hunker down.  Enough things are out of our control.  Why would we chase after something we aren't able to predict?

As life goes on, this is how we get set in our ways.  And each time it happens, a little scar tissue grows on top of the scar tissue we already had from before.

Our routines and habits?  At their best, they provide structure and foundation.  They are the skeleton, and our creativity and initiative are the muscles - we need them both.  But when we get shell-shocked from stress, hurt, and day after day of being a little bit hurt, a little bit unhappy, a little bit dissatisified, those habits and routines become overpowering.  We stop allowing people access to our deepest parts.  In fact, we just lock the door and don't even wander down there ourselves.  It's just easier. 

Maybe you've lost someone very dear to you.  Was your experience like mine?  When my mom passed away 7 years ago, at the same time as the pain and stress was overwhelming, there was a side of me that felt some relief, some satisfaction, that I was able to just feel something so strongly.  To cry with impunity and feel like I didn't need to suck it up.  I was allowed to let my heart break.  And in those moments, while my heart was torn apart, the ground was fertile.  I learned who my real friends were, and those relationships deepened, while others fell off.  I developed coping mechanisms (not all good). 

Like all emotional experiences, I healed.  Like a flesh wound, first I scabbed over, then I healed, albeit with a permanent scar.  Those scars come in the form of coping mechanisms I developed, assumptions I made about the world (my mom, who never smoked or drank, and LOVED everyone, was taken early, while the drunk who passed the bakery she worked at daily outlived her.  Try not to grow cynical with THAT in your story).

I collect scars as I go through life.  Some big, some smaller. But they accumulate.  And they kill my sensitivity.  And I have a theory about that.

If you're a regular coffee drinker, you might wake up one morning after a lousy sleep, and think, "I'm gonna need something with a little extra kick today."  And so you buy an energy drink.  You've been numbed to the effect of coffee.  You need to step it up.  People who drink need to drink more.  People who do drugs keep upping the dose so they can get closer to that rush they first experienced.

In the absence of sensitivity, we pursue sensuality.  When I'm not engaged, I don't hear my wife's hints that she had a rough day.  So I say something dismissive, and hurt her feelings.  And then I don't have to talk to her for the night.  And it perpetuates the problem.  Relationships take work.  But when I'm tired and a little hurt, it's easier for me to invest my emotion into a sports game.  Maybe for you it's the bachelor, or social media.  Or other friends who you can laugh with superficially but don't have to worry about hard stuff with.  You can have the quick benefits with none of the hard work.  It's like deciding that, rather than exercising to get an endorphin rush, maybe you'll try cocaine instead...

How do we avoid the scar tissue?  How do we keep the sensitivity?  I think one way is to try and recognize the sensuality in our lives.  Are there any areas where you're avoiding hard work to do something easier and more fun?  You might think yogurt with blueberries is a really lame snack.  Especially if you're used to black forest cake.  But give up the sugar, and you'll start to realize how many other flavours there are out there other than sweet. 

Try sitting in silence for 5 minutes - turn off the electronics and listen.  You'll be surprised how many sounds exist in what you called silence just a minute ago.  That's what we need to shoot for.  Look at the people in your life, and see if you've REALLY listened.  Listened to their silence.  Look at the struggles in your life - are you avoiding the hard work?  What about that tough situation have you been ignoring, avoiding?  Because I think we end up going through WAY too much of our lives in auto-pilot, because we just never stop to listen for what's really going on around us.  And if we can shut off the auto-pilot, even for an extra half-hour or hour a day, I think we'd be in an absolutely different place in as little as 6 months to a year.

What do you think?  Do we numb?  How DO you shut off auto-pilot?  It's hard to untrain yourself. What is the first step?  Because recognizing the problem really isn't that constructive.  Help me find the solution!  I welcome your comments below.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Passion part 2. If money didn't matter.

Ok.  I'll try not to become one of those bloggers who's like, "THE SIX ONLY WAYS YOU CAN BE HAPPY IN LIFE."  As though I'm trying to get published on the landing page you land on when you log out of... uh, hotmail.... Sorry.  I forgot I was the only one left with a hotmail account.

A couple astute comments and questions since my last post led me to consider that maybe your passion is more than the flip side of the coin of what gets you riled up in life.

So, I'm scrolling through facebook, and one of my friends posted this:
It seems like the kind of question that you've been asked or asked yourself a thousand times before.  But then one time, the concept sperm finds its way through and impregnates your idea brain.  A hundred times before I heard that and didn't care.  But today it snapped my head back like a right jab.

If I knew I'd always have a place to live, my family would be fed, and I'd have the care I need when I reach my twilight years, what the heck would I do with my time?  That question got me a lot closer to finding my passion than thinking about what ticked me off, which mostly just, well, ticked me off.

My gut response kind of surprised me.  I would befriend people.  And I would help them.  Not capital H Help.  I'm not trying to 'fix' people.  But if someone needed a painter, and I had a friend who paints, bam! Double win!  If someone had a really cool business idea, and I knew the perfect person to help them to the next step, I'd connect them.  I'd help people move furniture.  I'd help them with relationships.  I'd help them make the next professional move.  I'd help people.  Because people need friends.  And they need people who are willing to help. 

And that's what I want to do.  When I am doing that, I feel alive. I think they call that networking.  But I kind of hate that word.  Because it's usually said with a smug undertone, as if people mean, "schmoozing", a slimy word for something greasy salespeople do to make sales at any cost.

So, then, as my friend Justin puts it, "how do you make that pay your mortgage?"  Well, good question.  But if I identify befriending people and helping people as key motivators for me, maybe it will just permeate my approach to my current work, and guide my professional decisions as they need to be made.

But more importantly, if I know this about myself, I am that much closer to springing out of bed every morning with purpose.

Befriending people.  Helping people.  It's so simple it almost sounds silly.  And maybe it sounds stupid to you.  That's okay.  It doesn't have to be your 'thing.'  In fact, I hope yours is different and complimentary.  Because if we can get a bunch of people who are really excited to do complimentary things, that helps me accomplish what I'm excited about!  I'll send people your way if they need what you're offering.

So, imagine that your family is taken care of for good.  As are you.  What would you spend As Much Time As Possible on?  Maybe it's a little embarassing.  That's fine - a lot of the things that are close to your heart are - because you REALLY don't want someone speaking flippantly about things that are so important to you.

I hope you find something.  If you do, and you've got the guts, post it below.  I'd love to hear it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

One Step to Finding Your Passion

I often count myself among the lucky ones that actually look forward to work in the mornings.

I work at a flooring store.  And while it's hard to be passionate about flooring, I work with a company that does their best to find your strengths and then tailor your job to them.  Happy, productive employee - happy productive business.  I enjoy the challenges and subsequent rewards of my job.  And a challenging, rewarding job is a close second to a job you're passionate about, right?

Challenge and reward are different than passion.  Picture water in a dam.  Challenge and reward are the gates that let the water through.  You can open them up a little or a lot.  Passion is the water behind the dam.  And there comes a point where, if the water reservoir is dried up, it just doesn't matter how wide you open the gates.

Without passion, there's simply no reason to get up in the morning.  But there are so many people out there who have kind of given up on it.  It doesn't really fit into their career.  Family demands can be really demanding.  Who has time to figure out something to be passionate about?  Passion is for artists and lazy people.  Hard working business people (men feel this way a lot, I think), don't have time for passion.  Or emotion. How long can you be soft-hearted when it's your job to be the guy who fires people?

Au contraire.  The most successful people in ANY field - business, humanitarianism, parenting, you name it - are FIRED UP about what they do.

But passion?  How do you just come up with a reason to get up in the morning?

So here it is - the one step program to finding out what your passion is: what makes you more angry than anything else in the world?  Identify that.  Now find the most positive expression of it.  Use that righteous rage to power you to find ways to make a difference on that problem.  Maybe it's irresponsible young men (douchebags).  Maybe they bug you so much because you feel like it's important for men to be MEN - to take responsibility for their actions and be people of integrity - strength of character.  Maybe you need to be a mentor...  That might be a little more proactive than tailgating the next set of truck nuts you see.

Passion is kind of like a magnetic force. Stay close to the things that fire you up.  Let that indignation stay on fire in your heart.  Life is hard, and the repetition of it can be enough to dry up your passion.  Keeping your heart soft in this world is an extremely hard thing.  If you're a guy, it's downright frowned upon!  But if you are willing to do it, it will guide you - influence your decisions, and lead you to the right places. It'll put a little extra spring in your mattress in the mornings.

If you have a job that maximizes your skills and abilities, good on you.  But, if you are willing to do the hard work and find your PASSION?  Nothing can stop you.  And who knows?  You might stay right where you are, but with different priorities.  But maybe you'll change everything, as it changes you right back.

So, who's with me?  Anyone out there know what their passion is?  Tell us - what is it?  How did you find it?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Get Over Your Rights!

Know what's funny?

If you live anywhere similar to where I do, we live in one of the most blessed, prosperous times human history has ever seen!  Is it cold?  Meh, turn up the heat.  Did you food go bad even though you have a refrigerator that makes it last 3 times longer?  Ah, who cares?  Climb into the motorized transportation you personally own and drive 3 minutes to the store that has stock of pretty much anything you could imagine! Seasonal Availability? SHMEASONAL availability!

We are people of PRIVILEGE.  Truly, we are lucky to live where we do, when we do.  And yet so often, our conversations don't circle around what we've been GIVEN, and our fortuitous circumstances; rather, we focus on our RIGHTS. 

Now, let me be absolutely clear about something.  I'm not bashing people's rights.  When you are born with human DNA, there is a level of dignity that is due you.  If you want to do some reading, you could start here or here.  These are absolutely important, and I wish we could just agree on them and move forward, instead of always having to go back and reclaim lost territory.

But now, when we start getting into the territory of your inalienable human right to farm chickens in your postage stamp downtown backyard, I think we're starting to lose track of what's important.  Nothing against urban chickens.  Just, is this really a "RIGHTS" thing?

Here's my thing: I think we're looking at it all wrong.  Rights are rights.  We need to defend each other's rights.  But when I get so concerned that my rights are being stepped on, I'm dealing in scarcity, not abundance.  When I'm concerned about getting what's DUE me, I have a hard time making sure that the people around me are taken care of.  Maybe if we all spent a little less time worrying about getting what's ours and a little more time sharing our unbelievable abundance with others who need a lift, rights wouldn't be so threatened anyway.

Unless you found a way to get yourself born into the family and circumstance you're in, what you have is a gift.  Be thankful for it, but realize that, however blessed you feel before you share it, you'll feel doubly blessed after.

That's the step AFTER rights.  Privilege.  That leads to responsibility.  That compels us to care for others out of gratitude.

 Try and be that person, who gives generously, and treats what's theirs as a loan or gift to share. I bet, if you ever find your rights under attack, you'll have a lot of people in your corner, ready to return the favour.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Significance, Part 2

Can I talk a little longer about significance?  The word has been stuck in my head for, like, a week now.

Last time I compared it to popularity and importance.  I'm just going to take that a little further. One of Merriam-Webster's definitions of significance is, "Having or likely to have influence or effect." 

How can I put this?  If popularity is wide and shallow (you influence a lot of people, a little bit - think, Justin Bieber taking a stance on abortion), then significance is narrow and deep.  I like the idea of significance, because it's less concerned with who's watching, and more concerned with making a difference.  Single moms, for example, may not touch a lot of people outside their family due to the demands of raising kids.  But the ones I know have sacrificed so much on behalf of their kids that they've had a SIGNIFICANT impact on them, because of their commitment and willingness to give whatever they had.

When I think about significance, I think about people who don't care about fame or fortune.  I think about people who look at the people they love, the things they care about, and then give AS MUCH AS THEY CAN to make things better in those small circles.  And, though they may not receive state funerals, they will will be deeply remembered, loved, and appreciated by the people they interacted with.  They change the lives of the people around them.

The world isn't always a great place.  But when it is, it's usually thanks to these 'no name' people who are willing to silently give kindness to others, be an example of goodness, and give deeply to those who mean something to them.  It's not the pastor at church or the politician, or the lady at the spa who makes life better for us. It's all of us.  Looking after the ones around us.

Start looking around at the people you know.  You'll realize that some of them have a significant impact on their surroundings.  Tell those people how much you appreciate them.  They probably don't ever hear it.  Those silent givers are the ones who make our world go round.

Attention is fun, and addictive.  Popularity will give you a lot of attention.  But when you set out to be significant, you get something way better in return.  You actually mean a whole lot to the people closest to you - the ones you're giving yourself to.  That's a pretty rewarding way to live your life.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

3 Words You Should Know The Difference Between

You probably never cared that I gave up Twitter in the first place.  That's fine.  I feel like I'll probably stop talking about it soon.  Please don't stop reading my blog. Heck, who knows, maybe all this spare time will make me more profound!

So, reconnecting with the biological people in my life has kind of been an interesting experience for me.  First of all, it turns out that they are amazing, and why would I ever have ignored them to look at my phone?!  From playing with my son to going for drinks with some really enjoyable and interesting business peers, I am blessed to know a lot of really REALLY cool people in the natural world.  I bet the people I knew on my phone would be pretty cool too in real life, but isn't that kind of the point?

Anyway, after getting over the immediate-gratification-attention withdrawal I had after quitting Twitter, I've come to realize that we have a tendency to draw too short a line between the words popularity, importance, and significance.

Popularity: We love this one.  I think it's beaten into us by the trauma of high school.  This might be level one of influence.  It means that people like you, and you have the ability to swing people's opinion.  Any number of things can make you popular. Is your dad rich?  You might be popular.  Are you clever?  Are you attractive?  Do people see you around a lot?  You might be popular.  Do you have a lot of followers on Twitter?

Here's the thing about popularity.  You can be a total IDIOT and still be popular.  You don't have to watch TV for long to know that's the truth.  Movie and TV stars, athletes, musicians? Seriously.  The plus about popularity is that it's the easiest form of influence.  But this one is also the most easily abused form.

Importance: Okay, this one's a step up from popularity.  The word importance brings up a couple associations.  One is influence.  The other is accomplishment.  In order to be regarded as important, people typically have proven themselves somehow - won an election, built a successful business, gained respect based on quality art or other work.  It's a little tougher to be important than it is to be popular.  You still get some idiots, but there's a level of credibility that comes with importance. 

Importance is good, but it still falls short.  The world needs important people.  Important people do a lot of important work!  They move the community forward.  But there's this little nagging issue - status.  Importance also assumes a level of status.  While some important people do it for selfless reasons, there are a lot of people out there who just really LIKE being a big deal.  And you can still be an idiot and be important (Cough).

I was sitting in church last Sunday (did you know people still do that?) and they did a bio on a couple people I've sat beside for years.  One of them is Monybany Dau.  Take 2 minutes, watch the video.  His story is incredible!

Another is Lola French.  Lola worked for years as the director of the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre, helping women who didn't have the resources they needed to deal with their circumstances.  After some time, she built a system to replicate what she had done here in Red Deer all over Canada.  Now, if a community decides they need a pregnancy care centre, all they have to do is contact her organization, and they have all the terms of references, resources, and board policies prepackaged and ready to go.


You'd never guess that Monybany is the champion of a village in Sudan if you bumped into him at Superstore.  You'd never guess that Lola has affected the lives of hundreds of women in extremely vulnerable situations if you were pumping gas next to her.  They're not trying to be important.  They're not doing it to win recognition.  They're doing it because they're passionate about it! Because if they weren't, then who would?

See, significance isn't concerned with being a big deal.  Know what I'd love?  I'd love to know what I'm passionate about, and then give myself wholeheartedly to that cause, because I was uniquely positioned to move the needle in a way that no one else could.  Significance is about being a big deal to the people right around you.  It's about giving yourself to what you believe in - not because of the credit you receive, but because it's important.  More important than popularity.  More important than importance.  It means that you are the hero of the people that mean the most to you - the ones who need you the most.

When it comes to influence, don't equate popularity to significance. It's the difference between McRib and Prime Rib. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Healthy Discomfort

As my last post discussed, I gave up Twitter last week.  Today I hit the red button.  In 30 days, my account is gone for good.  How nice of the twitter people to store my account cryogenically for a month in case I wimp out.

I'm starting to realize how much time it actually consumed.  I got really accustomed to a lot of quasi-social interaction in a day.  The bear's not poking me back anymore.  I really got used to that.  I'm trying to minimize the tremors in my hands.

Funny thing though, I've had time to exercise every day since I quit Twitter.  And that made me realize something about becoming a person who is stronger - physically, emotionally or mentally.  When you've really committed to strengthening your muscles, you embrace the pain of exercise.  Your mental self-talk changes and you realize that the discomfort you feel is the very mechanism that will strengthen you. 

I've understood that about exercise for a long time.  But in a lot of other areas of my life, I'm still totally averse to discomfort.  I dread it in relationships.  I fear it at work.

But listening to some cynical music today, I realized it.  You need the discomfort. It's the whole point.  Smokers will never quit smoking till they give themselves permission to be in a foul mood.  They need to expect it, anticipate it.  Even embrace it.  And it's going to happen.  You don't get the reward of health without going straight through the pain of ignoring your craving.  And you don't whistle your way through that process.  The thing that relieved your misery and frustration before? THAT's the exact thing you're giving up.

If I ever want to improve on areas I stink at in life, I need to kill the 'onward and upward' attitude.  I'll still be going that direction, but I need to allow myself to be truly disgusted, frustrated, and angry with myself for behaviour I'm not happy with.

Overlooking that step is like letting a wound scab over before cleaning it out.  The infection is still there, under the closed skin.  It can grow into an abcess and poison your blood.  Just open it up - expose it to the air.  Don't hide it.  Deal with it.  Nut up and clean it out.  Then it can slowly heal.  Properly.

Comfort is the opposite of progress.  Doesn't that suck? It's the same for muscles as for relationships, as for your character.  There's no easy way.  You burn off your character flaws one gruelling sweaty calorie at a time.

Now... can someone post this on Twitter for me?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Why I Love Twitter, and Why I Have To Leave

I'm not big on the whole 'family position' branch of psychology, but if you buy into it, my position as the youngest kid might help explain my obsessive desire for ATTENTION! That's probably why I love twitter so much.

If I've got something funny (or even just mildly funny, or just stupid) to say, and I send it to a friend on a text message, they probably won't message me back right away.  People are busy, and we're always in the middle of something else.  But when you post it on Twitter, anyone who's NOT doing anything might respond to it right away.

You poke the bear.  It pokes you back.  You poke the bear.  It pokes you back.  It's called positive reinforcement.  You get a good response when you do a certain behaviour, so it solidifies that behaviour in your mind.

Who knows?  Maybe I even got kinda good at it.  People interact with me regularly, and are entertained enough to retweet or favourite or respond.

But then something happened.  How do I explain it?

Many (maybe most) of my twitter interactions are with women.  Call it a demographic thing (are there more of a specific gender on twitter?), or maybe it was an unintentional consequence of the way I tweet and interact.

Add to that the fact that I have a tendency to disengage if I get stressed out.  Guess what it looks like:

If I have a stressful day, I check out and go interact/joke with a bunch of lovely women on Twitter.  I'm not saying that's what was happening.  I'm saying that's what it LOOKED LIKE.

And you know what?  In a relationship, we need to feel SAFE to have a bad day.  You shouldn't have to feel like your spouse is having all their fun without you involved.  It feels like you're getting phased out.

See, Twitter is this funny thing.  In my last blog post I wrote about our underlying motivations. I don't know why the person I'm interacting with is on Twitter.  Or why they're interacting with me.  Twitter is half real and half fake.  And that makes it more dangerous than if it was all one or all the other.  Because my 'persona' interacts with someone else's.  And maybe it comes off as flirtatious, or maybe it's just really...nice.  But the person behind that other persona may be in a lonely place.  And maybe the interaction with me is fulfilling a need that they should really be getting filled in real life, by the people in front of them who they're ignoring.  This isn't the case for everyone, of course.  The point is, I can't tell when it IS the case.

But here's what I know:  When I discover that I've been doing something that goes against some of my most important principles: loving my wife and making her feel cherished, and being PRESENT for my family, things are going to start to change.  And I don't want to be a stumbling block for anyone else either.

There's no person or group of people I blame for this other than myself.  It's just a shift I saw happen as I shifted my account from a professional one to a personal one.  And I wish I could be a model of self restraint and phase out the negative behaviour, but I've tried that for a while.  And I know my limitations.  And self restraint?  Yeah....

I realize that I'm doing this at a great cost.  Every day I see ways that Twitter could add value - DM'ing my coffee order to @CoolBeansBus, putting out a request for volunteers for a non-profit work bee, or posting a really uplifting story are all examples from the last day alone of all the value that I'll be leaving behind.  Call me a fool, but there's nothing I would not leave behind for the sake of the most important relationships in my life. 

So, you still know how to reach me.  I still work where I work.  I still blog.  I'm still on Facebook (less addicting/appealing).  And you can DM me or comment below if you want contact information - I'll be happy to stay in contact if we established working relationships on twitter.

And maybe one day I'll be back again.  And maybe not.  For now, I need to find healthier ways to get the attention I crave, and stop trying to make myself a celebrity one follower at a time.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Why you should do 'little things'.

 Sometimes Facebook is creepy because old acquaintances from high school look you up.  But then sometimes, something like this arrives in your inbox, and totally makes your week:

"I actually looked you up because I wanted to tell you that half a million years ago, when I was a seriously picked on and unpopular kid, you were one person who was really kind to me. You wrote me a letter once, telling me to always stand up for myself and be strong, and not to listen to all the kids who told me I wasn't cool. I still have that note, I keep in it my wallet. I can't believe how long I've hung onto it. Anyways, I just felt like I should tell you that you really made a big difference in my life, and I've always appreciated it. I hope you know that that little gesture, that you probably don't even remember, really meant something to me and still does. Thank you."

Friday, 18 January 2013


Know what the crazy thing is about people?  We are these totally complicated things.

Back in the good old days, if your computer broke, you could pull off the cover, jiggle a wire, replace a 'socket', and you'd be up and running again.  These days, if your iphone starts wigging out on you, you're toast.  We aren't tech savvy, we're tech dependent.  But the software and hardware are so integrated and complex that we don't have the first clue how to fix the damn things.

I always laughed at my mom cause she couldn't figure out the VCR.  Now, we're all the same way.  If we push play, and it doesn't work, we're lost.

Funny thing is, we should be used to that.  Because that's the way that humans work.  We only have such a small glimpse into our own consciousness.  So much of our motivation, our desire, comes from deep places that we don't know or understand.  Even the most self-acutalized/aware people only understand that there IS a deeper side.  Even they don't have access or insight into it.  They just have tips for controlling it (ie. try pushing the play button again...).

What's your WHY?

You don't have to listen to CDs or read self-improvement books long to realize that everyone says you NEED to know your WHY.  Call it your motivation, your meaning, or your definite major purpose in life - they all agree.  If you don't have that driving force in your life, you're likely to do a lot more coasting or aimless wandering than you'd like to admit.

I agree, but that subject has been thoroughly explored.  I'd like to talk about a different kind of why.  As in, why do you do what you do?

Ever done something nice to someone RIGHT after someone else has done something mean to them?  YES, it makes them feel a little more special than they did before, but I bet you got a pretty sweet benefit from it too.  It kinda makes that person look like a total jerk, and makes you look like a hero - even more so than if you had done something nice to someone different.  Extra points for you.

I had a really interesting discussion with my wife (and after that with my conscience) about why I was spending so much time on Twitter recently.  There's no intrinsic harm in playing social media.  But the question I found myself asking was not about whether I should be on twitter or not.  It was, WHY am I on there?  Was I using it as an escape - a way to check out from reality during a stressful time in my home life?  Or was I just playing on it the way that people watch survivor: just to pass time - a leisure activity?

I think people are often just really un-self-aware.  We don't know WHY we're doing something.  Sometimes we do really nice things for people.  At a conscious level, we might know that it is a kind deed and feel good about ourselves.  But at a slightly more instinctual, subconscious, base level, perhaps it's an attempt to manipulate - to see what we could get, or just... see... whether we can exert power over that person - get them to think, act or feel a certain way in relation to us. 

How often do we evaluate our motives?  I could buy a coffee for the same person 5 different times with a different motivation each time.  Do we play fast and loose with those motivations?  Because sometimes I think we intentionally overlook them.  Pretend our actions happen only at face value.

But suddenly we can find ourselves down a road we didn't really want to be on.  Because we did nice things for people with the wrong motivation.

So yes.  We certainly need to know our major purpose in life.  Our WHY. Our reason to get up in the mornings.  But I think we'd all do well to be a little more aware of the little whys too.  Why we said that.  Why we're interacting with the people we choose to.  Why we do or don't adopt certain behaviours.  Because if we're doing good deeds for the wrong reasons, we may still end up as bad people for doing them.

Does anyone talk about this stuff?  Is this a thing, or am I an evil genius who's tendency to overthink things has taught him how manipulative he can be?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Strength in Weakness

I wrote a blog a little while ago called, Your Greatest Strength is Your Greatest Weakness.  This post is kinda the opposite.

You know that feeling you get before you go out to a party full of strangers?  It's a little dread, and a little intimidation.  Feels like everyone else is perfect, and you feel like you're faking it?  Your fancy shirt has baby puke on the shoulder, and you just feel like an impostor.

The reason we feel that way is because we're all jerks.

We all hide our weaknesses and failures.  I hide mine because everyone in a group of strangers looks so... TOGETHER.  But they're doing the same thing.

And that's crap.  Here's why:

Your greatest struggles, your toughest weaknesses, are what makes you so important to these people.  See, we are all humans trying to fumble our way through life too.  Some of us are struggling with the same thing you are.  And we NEED to feel normal, like we aren't the only one in the universe dealing with this.  And some have just started their struggle.  And you know every square inch of the battleground.  And they could sure use your experience.  You could save someone a lot of the same heartache you've gone through. 

Whatever you've been through, whether it was a health issue, a professional decision causing you stress, or a relational hardship, imagine if you'd had that person, who was vulnerable enough to be open about their struggles, who could've been a lighthouse to you while you were in the thick of things.  Imagine if we could all swallow our pride and offer that service to each other.

Cause here's the thing: any struggle you are living through feels like weakness, but it turns into strength as it fades into the past.  You don't need to be finished with them - unfortunately that's not really how life works most of the time.  But if you can live through those struggles with a soft heart and a learner's mind, those struggles become your history, your experience.  Those struggles become your wisdom.  They testify to your strength and resilience.

So, how about we all forego the whole 'got it together' thing, and just be honest about the stuff we struggle with?  Honestly, it's probably some of the best real estate we have in our minds, if we're willing to share it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

I could get behind this quote:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, 7 January 2013

Why Social Programs Fail

I had a friend approach me today and ask me an interesting question. 

See, we work alongside each other on the issue of poverty and homelessness in Red Deer.  Her job requires her, among other things, to spread the word about the issue to stakeholders and citizens of this town. My experience in the private sector has provided some interesting perspective to a group that is predominantly made up of people from service organizations.  Her question to me was:

What are 3 to 5 key things I need to remember when trying to engage local business?

So, it happens to be a bit of a sore spot for me.  I've been a little surprised at the slow progress of the committee I sit on.  I can tell I've been indoctrinated by the private sector.  In our world, the approach tends to be, "ready, FIRE! aim."  In the world of public services and social support, we try to get everyone's finger on the trigger at the same time.  So much time is spent gaining consensus that precious time for action is wasted.  In my mind, you're better off to accidentally solve the second most pressing issue than to waste the extra months and years getting the data to such a fine point that you know exactly what recommendation to make.

Another observation: when you hold a forum on a social issue, guess who shows up: the social support agencies.  And bless them - they do such important work.  But their role: they are on the razors edge of the issue, embroiled in the controversy.  They can tell you every nuance of the problem.  But they are so steeped in it that it's hard for them to see outside the current methods.  They're experts.  Experts have such ingrained patterns - they're really good at solving a problem.  The way they always have.  Their neural passageways are totally entrenched.  They provide a really valuable perspective.  They will tell you all about the need.  But they might not be able to find a new way to fix it.

So, who do we need at the table?  The creative class, the entrepreneurs.  The ones who can come up with a totally new method.  Or at least provide a new perspective.  Problem is, these people RUN when they sense consensus gathering.  Because you will never. have. consensus.  There are too many people.  Too many perspectives.  The problems are like fish in a barrell.  The solution isn't to ponder how you're going to kill all the fish, because there are so many.  The solution is to start shooting.

So, how do you engage business-minded people in your social concerns?  Think like them.  Here are the 3 answers I gave my friend, expanded (with her permission):

1.  Make it human.  The issue that I'm involved in relates to poverty and homelessness.  Specifically, the eratication thereof.  When business people think of homelessness, they think of the chronically homeless.  Drug addicts and panhandlers, who pester them for change in the grocery store parking lot.  What they don't realize is that there is a VERY LIKELY CHANCE that a co-worker or employee lives below the poverty line.  Poverty is not a distant, abstract concept.  We work daily with people who are one financial incident, one missed paycheck away from losing their residence.  If business owners understood that these programs are made to help people JUST LIKE THEM, they might sit up a little taller in their chairs.  I know it was a wakeup call for me when I realized that.

2.  Be results oriented.  Forgive me if this sounds callous.  Business owners have all had an employee who drove them crazy with sob stories.  "I'm late because my car wouldn't start." "My sister was having a breakdown." "Another one of my uncles died." The reason business owners can come off as unsympathetic is that they've been taken advantage of by employees, and have been given every excuse in the book as the offender tries to get out of the consequences.  So if your 'pitch' comes off even remotely as a plea for pity or sympathy, you might find them getting impatient or just checking out.  Spare them the sob story.  Business owners work hard for what they have, and they take a lot of risk.  What do they pay attention to?  Results.  Tell them what you plan to do and how.  Tell them how far you've already come.  Show them that you are getting stuff done.  If they offer you a job, you're on the right track.

3.  Give them action steps.  Don't raise awareness.  Believe me - anyone who has walked downtown is aware that there are homeless people in town.  They don't need to be made aware of the problem.  They need to be made aware of the SOLUTION.
Anecdote time.  There's a business I really respect in town, who does a lot of work for local charity as well as charities abroad.  Recently, I watched the owner of the company host a luncheon for about 70-100 of her peers - local business owners.  She told them about a recent trip she had made to an impoverished area of the world, and shared her experience and the impact it had on her.  Then she told them what she planned to do when she brought her staff out to the same area in 6 months.  She reminded them how far their donation would go there, compared to what it would mean to them here.  Then she asked.  And for the cost of lunch and a room, she probably raised about $70,000.
She gave them a simple action step: "I'm asking you to do this..."  Included there was a suggested donation.  It was simple - they could write a cheque and forget about it - it wasn't a time commitment or a request to change their priorities.  If someone felt so convicted, I'm sure she would've been happy to speak with them after about how to get further involved.

It's not that business people aren't 'bleeding hearts'.  I believe that there are many wealthy people in this town with HUGE hearts for local and international issues.  But the issue is that you cannot appeal to them by emotion.  They make decisions analytically - they've had to learn that over time, one money-losing emotional decision at a time (at times when they couldn't afford to make them).  And now, they don't have a lot of tolerance for fluffy stuff.

But I also believe that these business minded people are an absolutely essential ingredient.  We need free enterprise's innovation, creativity, and resources.  We need to facilitate their involvement, and make it worthwhile to be in the business of solving societal issues.  Because there's money to be made in free enterprise, it attracts some of the best brains.  And we need those to solve these complex and challenging issues.  We need to find ways to get caring entrepreneurs to the table. 

I don't profess to be an expert here.  So please, if I've missed something, go easy on me.  I'm new in this field, so teach me something I don't know.  Tell me if I'm off track.  But tell me if you agree, too.  What we need more than anything is a little more progress.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Goal attainment - Lumberjack style

Who wakes up on a Friday morning and thinks, "Maybe I could write a blog before work?"

I stayed up late last night finishing off my new years goals.  I did something interesting this year that I learned from a great book I read on personal development, called The Compound Effect. You should read it.  It's very good.

One thing I learned (and I'm not sure it was from the book, but it was from the author, Darren Hardy) was to take your goal setting a few steps further than most do.

When you set a goal, they can be pretty abstract.  Pay off debt, lose 15 pounds, buy a car. And not only that, but attaining those goals seems like a binary operation - either you do, or you don't.  That's it.  You haven't achieved your goal.  Until you drive home with the car.  Or tip the scale 15 pounds lighter.

The problem is, you don't have to change your lifestyle to hit a goal that way.  You just get your goal, and then stop sprinting.

So, this year, I did things a little differently.  I set my goals.  Then I made them bigger.  Then I took half an hour per area of my life (personal/professional/business), and I considered and wrote out WHAT ACTIONS I could take WHENEVER I WAS THINKING ABOUT IT that would get me a little step closer to my goals.

Now, when I look at my goals, I don't think, "ah, shoot, I can't buy the car today.  Guess I'd better save a little more." and then walk away and forget about it.  Instead, I think, "Who could I call? What could I do today? Right NOW? To get closer to my goal?"

It's like I went through the forest and marked all the trees I wanted to chop down, but then I also bought an axe.  And now, even if I don't have time to cut down a whole tree, I'm walking around with an axe.  And it's pretty easy to find time to take a few swings.  Especially when you know which tree you want to chop down, and you know there's a couple chunks out of it already.

Will you try it with me this year?  Let me know what you think.