We have all played musical chairs at some point in our childhood. You remember, that game where there is a circle of chairs, one less than the number of people playing, and as everyone walks around the chairs, music is playing. When the music stops, everyone tries to sit down in one of the chairs and the person who doesn’t have a chair is eliminated from the game. Then one chair is taken out and you keep playing until there is only one person left and he or she is the winner.
Listen For The Music
Lately I have found myself in everyday situations in my business, with my friends and family, walking down the street, when I am travelling or scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook and I watch the arguments, I see the fights, I see the criticism and the anger and the self-righteousness. I see it in others and I see it in myself. I can be quick to criticize and quick to make judgements until I learn the whole story, or should I say the other side of the story. Or I see people fighting different battles: health issues, day to day struggles in their life brought on by circumstances beyond their control, living situations that I have no experience with and I see them do it all with a smile on their face and the knowledge that all is well and as it should be.
I don’t want to be the one always afraid that the music will stop and I won’t have a chair in the old game of musical chairs but perhaps there is a new game of musical chairs that we can play. A game that goes something like this…..
The New Musical Chairs
• You are in a meeting at work and you are not agreeing at all with the other person. All of a sudden you here music and when it stops, you have switched places and the two of you are sitting in each others chairs and seeing the other person’s point of view.
• You are with your partner and having a discussion, let’s be honest, it’s an argument and you are not seeing eye to eye. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you have switched places and you are seeing the situation through your partner’s eyes.
• You are walking down the street and see a homeless person on the street. You avoid looking at them as you pass by. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you are sitting on the street and looking up at passer-by’s.
• You are on the bus, or in the plane or on the train and you look over and see someone perfectly dressed and at peace with themselves and looking out the window. They don’t look like they have a care in the world. All of a sudden you hear music and you find yourself looking out the window and wondering how you are going to get through the day today.
• You are in a miserable mood. Nothing is going right. Everything is wrong and you look over and there is someone in a wheel chair smiling as they make their way down the street. All of a sudden you hear music and when it stops you realize that you can’t feel your legs as you sit in a wheel chair and you are grateful for all that you have at this very moment.
The minute I can put myself in someone else’s shoes instead of everything being always about me the possibilities seem endless – in my business, in my personal life and in my place in the community. This new game of musical chairs seems to only have winners…..wanna play?
Tomorrow I will be riding to Quebec City to raise money for cancer research and cancer care with the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer for the third time. I will get up tomorrow and go out to Repentigny and meet my friends from Team Hope & Gratitude and we will ride through the Quebec country side stopping in Trois Rivières on Saturday night and head on to Quebec City on Sunday. The Saturday ride is pretty flat. It’s through cornfields and along the St. Lawrence. On Sunday however things get a little more exciting – we hit THE HILLS.
I remember the first year hearing about those hills and from the moment I got up on Sunday all I did was think about THE HILLS. I had no idea what they were like but I was convinced that they would defeat me. I was afraid before I had even seen them. When we finally did hit them I was not sure I would make it up them, but of course I did.
Last year I was riding with my triathlon buddy Steve on the second day. It was a cloudy day and rain was threatening. As we rode along just the two of us, we got to the point when you have some beautiful vistas and we flew along encouraging each other and hitting speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour going down some hills. We finally hit “the hills” and as we made our way up them, we started to shout out to each other,
“THIS IS NOT A HILL!”
I know that everyone around us thought we were crazy as they shifted to an easier gear and we didn’t; we pushed our way through and up those hills. We arrived in Quebec City and I said to myself:
“What happened to the hills we did the first year? Did they change the course? It was so easy compared to the first year”
I think of this because yesterday I heard back from one of the banks I approached recently, as I look to expand my business at Etiket. They turned me down for a loan. I listened to the usual talk of EBITDA and ratios. I questioned them about how and why that was more important than our incredible sales growth and waited for the usual responses. And I got them. Finally they said, let’s talk in a year.
A year? I don’t want to wait a year. I was angry and my ego was hurt.
“Can’t they see the potential, the possibilities? I am going to show them!”
And then I received a phone call from the Ride to Conquer Cancer to congratulate me on my fundraising and reaching my goal and to make sure I was ready for the ride… AND was I ready for the hills on the second day.
I paused when she mentioned those hills, thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. I took a deep breath and thought about the bank again and smiled to myself.
I reminded myself that there is still a long list of banks I have not yet approached and that I have only just begun the journey on the financing investor path, and that this is NOT a hill.
I don’t worry about hills ahead of me anymore, they are just challenges to be overcome.
If you would like to donate to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, please click HERE.
Last weekend I completed a Sprint Triathlon (750M swim, 20KM bike, 5KM run) up at Mont Tremblant. There was a moment however when that wasn’t going to happen. It was just after 219 of us ran into the cold dark waters of Lac Tremblant in our wetsuits and yellow bathing caps. We were heading out to the first buoy and there was a lot of splashing and kicking as we all vied for space. I got out to just where you can’t stand up and I stopped, treaded water and said to my buddy who was next to me,
“I can’t do this.”
He looked at me with less panic in his eyes and said,
“Yes you can.”
I looked back at him, I looked at the shore and I put my head back in the water and did a few more strokes. Then I stopped again, treaded water, looked up at the sky and thought of all of the hours of swimming I had done over the winter, reminded myself that I had done three other Triathlons last year, one twice the length of this one, and I took another few strokes until I stopped again, treaded water, looked at the distance ahead of me, and a voice in my head said,
“You can’t do this, get out.”
I reached deep down inside and said to myself,
“Come on kid…one breath at a time, one stroke at a time….just do it.”
I took a deep breath and I started to swim. Swim like I had trained all winter for. Swim like I was a swimmer and a triathlete. Not like… I am.
I finally swam around the buoy at the halfway point and I saw the beach and I swam faster. It was like that whole moment of fear and wanting to get out and give up had never happened. I got out of the water, ran to the transition point, got on my bike and continued the race. But that moment has stayed with me. That moment of wanting to get out, that moment of wanting to give up, because I know that if I did it there in that lake, where else was I doing it in my life?
I had to ask myself: Am I always staying in the water?
Think about it, how often have you had a project to complete, a meeting to attend, something you wanted to do more than anything but instead of doing it, you gave up, or cancelled or walked away? You never do that? I want to be like you because I realize I do it all the time.
I finished 19 out of 36 in my age category and 152 out of 219 men.
I worked on a pro-forma and called the bank.
I wrote this blog post.
And all I had to do was ….STAY IN THE WATER.
Those are not my words. Those are the words of Ian Lawson Van Toch. He used to say that to challenge his friends. Ian was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario who had just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Computing. He was about to begin graduate studies in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto when he died tragically in 2007. Ian had been interning in the field of cancer research when he died of heart disease at 22. He had found his passion, to help find the cure for cancer.
I never knew Ian, but I met his father, John two years ago on a bike ride. As we rode along the bike path next to the river in Montreal, John told me about his son and the Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund that was established to continue his legacy. The Team Ian Ride, a cycling event from Kingston to Montreal that has raised over $130,000 so far, helps to support this fund. The ultimate goal of the fund is to provide opportunities for other young scientists like Ian to experience the same thrill of discovering their passion as Ian did and to help them launch their careers in the field of cancer informatics.
I had wanted to do the Team Ian Ride since I met John and he told me about it, but last year I had committed to the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and I was not sure I could raise the funds to do both. This year I was only planning to do the Enbridge Ride and I was asked again if I would like to participate in Ian’s Ride, I hesitated again and then said, “YES!”
I said yes because I realized that not doing it because I had to raise another $1000 was a lame excuse. I said yes because I saw the difference that our fundraising for Enbridge had made and that I could help to contribute to the $60,000 that Ian’s Ride is targeting this year. I said yes because I love to be with people who have a similar vision of life that I do; where there is nothing that is impossible and giving and caring are core values. I said yes because I was touched by the story of Ian and what that boy wanted to do and the passion that his family had to carry that dream on.
I met the rest of the family, Jane, Ian’s mother and Andrea, Ian’s sister, last weekend. The Team was out spinning on a street corner in front of one of the sponsors of the Team Ian Ride, the Royal Bank of Canada, where we collected donations. We asked and begged, we rode our bikes, we made bubbles for kids, we told the story of why we were doing this, we stopped passerby’s and people in cars stopped at red lights, we laughed and then at the end of it all I almost cried. Almost because there is great joy in what we are doing, but there is some sadness in this story.
When I first met Jane, our conversation was more about passing off the donations and thanking her for an egg salad sandwich. Then at the end as we were packing up I stopped Jane and asked her how it was to do this, and did it help with her loss. As the crew around us cleaned up we talked and I thought I would hear about what it was to have lost her son but what I heard was the strength and hope she has found in what they are doing together as a family to raise money so that other kids may not only help in the search for a cure for cancer, but that they may find their passion in life as Ian had done. I heard what an outgoing and kind and caring kid Ian was but I also saw a determination in Jane to carry on his legacy, the same determination that I first heard from John when I met him.
I am honoured to be taking part in this ride with 27 others and a team of volunteers who understand not only why this is important but also what small grass roots organizations can do and how their generosity may affect change. It shows me that we need to be ready to be generous and caring in all that we do. It shows me once again, that when we have the opportunity to give, we will, and in giving there is hope for a better future.
If you would like to sponsor me and donate to the Team Ian Ride: Click Here
A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s father’s funeral. He had died of cancer after a not so pleasant last few months but after a life, perhaps too short, but filled with family, a great love and much laughter, and passion. I had never met the man, but after hearing one of his son’s and grandson’s speak I knew enough about him to know that he had lived a beautiful life, one that as much as he didn’t want to leave, one I would have been more than happy to have lived.
Now I realize that is only my perception, but as I listened and all of us in the audience smiled, laughed and then held back or let go the tears, I thought of something.
What are they going to say about me when I go?
I have unfortunately been to a lot of funerals and heard some great eulogies; some I wondered if they were talking about the person they were burying, some sad ones, and others that made me want to change the way I was living. This last funeral was one of those.
Not because this man had done anything that special, well actually, that was exactly it, he had done so many very special things, but none that we would normally call special. There was no wing of a hospital named after him, there was no charity bearing his name, there was no business with thousands of employees wondering what would happen now that he was gone. He was simply a son, a friend, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a man – probably in that order.
The stories that were told about him didn’t mention his accomplishments as we would usually measure them, they were stories about his sports prowess as a kid, what it was like to go to dinner with him, his crazy sense of humour, and the love he had for his wife and family. It was clear this man would be missed for real by many and remembered fondly.
1. in a way that shows that you like and care about someone
a. with positive or happy feelings
2. in a way that is not sensible because what you hope or believe is unlikely to be true
We all start to wonder what will be said about us when we die, especially as we get older and the end of life starts to at least seem possible. I would like to write my own eulogy to make sure they get it right. But what if what I write is not how everyone saw me? What if the person I am, is not who I am to the world? At the end of the day, the only one I am going to be accountable to is myself after all.
Let ‘s give this a try….
My friend, Simon Tooley, was a great man. He worked many long days and nights and often on Saturdays. I would see him at lunch or dinner with his partner with his iPhone at his side texting or checking Facebook. He left early in the mornings to work out not taking the time to have breakfast with his partner. He loved his garden and started it each year with gusto and then let it go throughout the summer. He was involved in charity at one point on a regular basis in his life but as he started his own business he let that go telling himself that he would get back to it when he had more time. He did not have a lot of friends, but the ones he had were close. Although he didn’t keep in touch with them or spend time with them like he wanted to – Facebook seemed enough. He loved to write and had started a few books but never finished any. His family meant a great deal to him, but he didn’t make the time to see them as much as he would have liked. He adored his partner, the love of his life, and yet he didn’t always make the time. Well, they spent a lot of time together, but he was not always there. Simon was a great man, he ……
I would really like to continue this but I have to go turn off my iPhone, have breakfast with my partner, and get out in to the garden. I have to give my brothers a call to see how they are doing and there is an old friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while that I am going to get in touch with. I may even write a letter. I wonder where that manuscript is that I started five years ago; I bet it is right where I left it. And no I won’t be in the office next Saturday; I will be helping to raise money for a cause I believe in.
Why don’t you write your own eulogy and see what you come up with. Then let’s check back with each other in a few months and see if we can’t write another one with fondness.
Last year on this date I posted I Dare You – click here to view the post, and I asked you and myself: What do you want to do?
The big picture answer.
I asked: If you were given the opportunity to do something that you have always wanted to do what would it be?
The only requirement was that it could not be about you, that you had to look beyond yourself and your own goals to a bigger vision.
If you look back over the year of 2012, did you do it?
I have always thought that unless I was out there saving the world in some way that my life had no meaning. So I tried that and I took a few years off and I did a lot of volunteer work. Did I save the world? No, as you can see it is still as messed up as before. Perhaps as my days were concentrated on working for a cause I felt better about myself but is that not just my perception? Is there not a way to take that same idea of giving and bring it in to our everyday lives no matter what we do?
At first glance it may not seem that easy to do, but if I look back over this past year I can see how I started to look at things differently. I run my own business and I am not out there saving the world in any way. We sell skin care products and perfume. But we have a choice in how we do that and I have a choice in how I work with my team, as well as our vendors and anyone I come in to contact with each day.
What is Generosity?
Generosity is about not only giving but also about generating. It is a creative act rather than a handout, an attitude or ethos rather than an exchange between someone who has too much and someone who has too little. From Being Generous Lucinda Vardey & John Dalla Costa
I love this quote because it reminds me that each day I have an opportunity to be generous. That I can look beyond my needs and wants to those I live with, work with and interact with and decide what my attitude will be and how I will give to them in whatever I do. I find that very hard. I don’t seem to be programmed to give naturally, I have to work at it. It may not always seem that way to those that know me, but it is constant work. I have to think about what the goals and passions are for those I work with to see if I can help them reach those goals. It means not taking for granted my friends and family and pushing myself to see them as people. For it is often those closest to us we seem to forget are people too.
What will I choose?
It is automatic and easy for me to make each day about financial goals and profit, but I have a choice if I want to do that. I can look beyond the obvious to what I may do to give back to my team, our customers and the vendors that we work with and in turn to the community that surrounds us.
As another year comes to an end, I look back with gratitude for all that I have learned and the people that are in my life. Each one of them has taught me something. Some of them made me angry and resentful. Those people are the ones that often taught me the most, if I was willing to let them. The ones that gave me love and friendship helped buffer me from the others, allowed me to turn to them for help, and allowed me in the end to give and be generous.
I see now that my dare was not something to be done once a year as we turn from one year to the next. It is a dare to be taken each day upon rising. The possibilities seem endless if we were all to take that dare to do what we have always wanted to do each day, one day at a time.
What do you think?
I dare you.
What do you think Felix Baumgartner felt like when he was standing there at 120,000 feet above the earth and had to take that first step?
I know exactly how he felt.
If you don’t know, then it’s time to get yourself ready because it will be the step that changes your life.
For me that first step was about seven years ago and I was at a Rapport Leadership course called Eagle Quest. Eagle Quest is a three-day course that teaches you many things, most of which you didn’t know you needed to learn but you do if you want to follow your dreams and your passions. The final day is a high ropes course and for someone like me who is terrified of heights, that alone was a challenge. Except the weekend was spent preparing us for that day on high and the truth of the matter was that what I though was a fear of heights was anything but that.
Let me take you right there to that moment.
I was about 40 feet above the ground with one foot on a horizontal telephone pole with my arms wrapped around a vertical one. Even with my fear, I was the second one up the pole and I was all strapped in with wires and a helmet and I knew in my head that nothing could go wrong. I stood there with everyone in the course down below watching me – some were getting ready to follow me and others were cheering me on. I put my foot out to take that first step with my arms wrapped tightly around that pole when a voice in my head said:
“You can’t do this Simon. Who are you kidding? Get down now while you can.”
I looked out, I looked down, I took a deep breath and I held back the tears and called down to the instructor:
“Can I climb down?”
There was silence as everyone looked up at me and then she said very quietly:
“You can do whatever you want to Simon….”
I stood with one foot ready to go and holding on to that telephone pole with all of my might and I couldn’t hold back the tears any more. I thought of all the other times in my life that I had climbed down.
I thought of all of the opportunities that I had let pass me by, the chances I hadn’t taken. I thought of all of the situations I had stayed in because it was easier and safer and all the things I had wanted to do, but I was too afraid to do.
Then another voice from somewhere deep inside of me said:
“You can do it Simon, it’s time!”
And I took a deep breath and I let go of that pole and I took a hold of the guide wire that would help me get across to the other side and I took that first step. And when I took that first step I let go of all of the times that I had held myself back. And I took a second and a third step and I walked across that pole and I never looked back.
There were two more courses to get across and I did them one after the other.
The final test was a 40-foot telephone pole to climb up and jump off of. I did that too. When I got to the top our instructor called up to me that I didn’t have to stand on it because at that point I think she knew that in my head I thought I could fly! At 6’2” to climb up and stand on a 40 foot pole was just too much and I had made my point to myself, I had let go of the fears that had been holding me back and I had unleashed the passion that I had buried so deep inside of me for so long.
I sat on the top of that pole, looked out as far as I could see and then I jumped. I was so free when I flew threw the air. Free because I had found the courage to take that first step.
The photo I have included here I keep on my desk at the office and when things get tough or I want to give up on anything, I look at that photo and I smile and I get the same goose bumps I got that day. I get them now as I am writing this. That day is anchored deep inside of me and I hold on to it with great joy. If I am not at my desk when fear starts to invade my head and “those voices” try to make themselves heard, I think of that moment and I move forward and once again I take that first step.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because these days I find myself in situations and doing things that I never thought I would have a chance to do or quite honestly was capable of doing. I find myself able to do all, yes all of the things that I have wanted to do in my life and some of which I never knew I wanted to because I was too busy holding on to a telephone pole afraid to take that first step.
I can tell you right now you don’t have to sign up for a high ropes course or launch yourself in to space. All you have to do is let go and take that fist step. Let those dreams and those passions you have buried so long ago come out and live where they belong to be shared with the world around you. If you have already taken that first step, then do everything in your power to help others to take theirs.
It may seem like the hardest, but I can guarantee you, that first step will be the one you won’t ever forget.
I want you to go and find a mirror, look at yourself and ask the question: What do I want to do with my life?
If your answer is:
Exactly what I am doing.
Then don’t read any further.
If that is not your answer then stop doing what you are doing. NOW.
Stop being afraid.
Then kill it.
You heard me: KILL IT!
Are you going to wait until you are looking back on your life with your partner or your kids or grandkids and have regrets?
I can’t right now.
I have responsibilities.
If you have something you want to do, something that you know is going to make you the happiest person in the world, then why aren’t you doing it? It doesn’t matter what it is just DO IT!
Patience and passion
I worked for twenty-five years doing something I didn’t love. I hated looking in the mirror every morning. That’s the truth. I tried to quit many times and I was too afraid. I had too many responsibilities and too many excuses. I finally did it. I finally stopped whining and crying and blaming others and stopped being afraid.
Now I get up in the morning with a smile on my face and go to bed with a bigger one. I have never worked so hard in my life except I would never call it work. My days are absolutely perfect in every way even when everything goes wrong. Shit happens. Shit makes life fun. Life is fun. No, life ROCKS!
This isn’t anything new. Go back a few hundred years to our good old friend Shakespeare and his friend Polonius. He was telling us the same thing:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82
If you take care of yourself, and find the happiness that is there for each and every one of us, then you will pass that same happiness and love on to those around you.
Realize your perfection and live with it.
Now let’s start this day again. Go back to the mirror and be honest with that person starting back at you. It’s about time isn’t it?
As I have been on my Mr. Feisty journey I find I have been reciting the words to Pink’s latest song more and more:
Now this is some sort of a love song, or the end of a love affair but sometimes the words seem to be just right for what is going on in my day.
I think I’ve finally had enough, I think I maybe think too much…
You know what I mean? People driving you crazy? Lack of respect? People’s ego running rampant and it is all about them all the time?
Just when it can’t get worse, I’ve had a shit day
Have you had a shit day? We’ve had a shit day
I think that life’s too short for this, I want back my ignorance and bliss…
I mean how can everyone be like that? Why isn’t everyone doing things my way. Then everything would be so much easier. I mean I am so totally perfect all of the time.
I will do what I please, anything that I want
I will breathe, I will breathe, I won’t worry at all
You will pay for your sins, you’ll be sorry my dear…
Except you know what I found as I kept turning up Pink every time I heard her on the radio? I wasn’t happy. I was angry. Resentful. Anything but at peace.
Then for whatever reason I remembered these lines from the Lord’s prayer:
…give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us….
Where did this come from? Am I getting religious? Actually I wouldn’t call the Lord’s Prayer religious, more spiritual if you do a little study of it. It is something I don’t remind myself of often enough, or at least I haven’t been lately. In other words:
Whatever comes my way I will be able to handle and I hope those around me forgive me for my imperfections as I do the same for them….
I need to do the same for others….
But I don’t want to do that. I want to be right. I want to stand on my high horse and let those around me see me up there and have them bow to me. Really? No, not really. But sometimes that feels way easier and safer. I don’t want to remember that we all make mistakes and can be caught up in our own selves far too much. Who am I to judge others when I do the same?
I still turn Pink up on the radio but then I stop and remind myself it’s just a song that tells a story.
And I can choose what my story is going to be each day.
And then I do what may not be the most natural of things for me to do.
I forgive those who trespass against me.
And joy replaces anger and resentment.
And then the world seems to fall into sync……
Na na na na – da da da da
Na na na na – da da da da
Na na na na – da da da da
I have had sufficient.
You’ve gone fishing?
I have had plenty.
You’ve caught twenty?
And so it went on Sunday nights at our house when I was a child.
It could have been any night but that repartee between my father and us four boys and then my brother’s children seemed to be reserved for Sunday nights or holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving.
We were never allowed to say, “ I have had enough”, or heaven forbid, “I am full.”
It was that simple.
“I have had sufficient” was what you said if you couldn’t finish your peas, which I never could because I hated them, and then when you wanted to leave the table, you said, “May I be excused?”
If everyone was finished and the meal was done the answer was “Yes you may.” If everyone wasn’t and the meal wasn’t then you probably didn’t say it, because the dead silence only happened once.
Then there was the cry from my mother every once in a while of “ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE!”
But I have a feeling that all of that has gone by the way side with opening the car door or standing up for someone elderly (not old) on the bus. Although I must admit I have seen that a few times.
Where did all this come from?
I was having lunch today with a friend and the waiter knew that he shouldn’t clear our plates until we had both finished.
What do you mean?
Well, it is right up there with having sufficient and stacking dishes at the table which my friends always tease me about when they are stacking the dishes. It just isn’t done. It’s called common courtesy. It’s called being polite.
And I have had sufficient of a lot of things and somehow it all seems to go together:
• Thinking “Wassup” is another way to say hello.
• Texting when you are with someone, anyone, anywhere
• Checking Facebook on your phone when you are with someone, anyone, anywhere
• Taking a phone call when you are with someone, anyone, anywhere
• Eating before everyone is served at the table
• Going to the washroom during a meal
• And the list could go on ad infinitum
And the worst part is I have started to do all of that including the ad infinitum.
Change has to start with me I am told so next time you see me this just may be how it goes….
How are you?
So good to see you.
How are things?
Good to hear!
Wait, let me get your chair for you.
No, I am sorry, my friend hasn’t finished eating, would you mind waiting to clear the table until we have both finished.
Oh no, I have had sufficient. Really, it was plenty……