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Possibility

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What is your 100 day plan?

100 daysIncluding today, September 22nd you have 100 days left before the end of the year. What are you going to do to make this year, 2015, memorable, the best year ever, a year when you accomplished everything you said you would, the year you lived your dream?

I don’t’ know about you, but I have a lot of projects in the works and I can’t believe that there is only 100 days left until the end of the year to finish them. Projects that I had all planned to make happen this year.

Now some of you may be saying,
“So what, what I don’t accomplish now I will do next year.”
All well and good for you but I have this feeling that time is running out. You may be getting younger but I’m not. I have stores I want to open, new markets I want to ship to, more people I want to help in my community, more triathlons I want to complete, more sunsets I want to see and more walks along the beach I want to take. There is still time this year to make sure some of those things happen and at least get the wheels in motion with a clear plan to make the rest of them more than a possibility.

From Elba to Waterloo and back

Did you know that Napoleon, escaped from his prison in Elba, assembled 600 troops, recruited a regiment, marched to Paris, recaptured the government, built his army to 280,000, invaded Belgium, defeated the Prussians, was defeated by Wellington at Waterloo, abdicated again, and headed off to prison at St. Helena?
He did all of that in 100 days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of us want to be Napoleon, but look at all that he did – and without a smartphone, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

What’s it going to take?

Everyday I get up with a plan. Some days I get through all that I want to accomplish and other days I get held up, put off, swayed from the path I want to be on. Sure sometimes that may lead me to a better path but more often than not I am allowing obstacles to get in my way instead of pushing them out of the way with a clear-cut path to where I want to go.

It only takes on average 60 days to get from Base Camp to the top of Mount Everest.

It’s simple isn’t it? There’s 100 days left until the end of the year and I have a choice if I want to follow my dreams. I can get out there and do what I want to do, or I can sit back and let excuses and fear hold me back.

On December 31st, 2015 I plan to be looking back and celebrating this past year as the best year ever, what about you?

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Musical Chairs

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.
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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?

This is NOT a hill!

hill

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.

Staying in the Water

10511169_667511536715210_5668977158908969373_nLast 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 need to get something done at the office that I don’t want to do and instead I text someone, go to Facebook or Instagram and see what my world is doing. I just got out of the water.
  • I have a new project I want to start for my business, I need to sit down and work on a plan, I need to take a chance and put myself and my idea out there, I tell myself that I don’t’ have a budget for it. I just got out of the water.
  • I have an idea for a blog post, or I tell myself I am going to start writing again, and instead I decide I don’t have the time instead of making the time. I just got out of the water. 

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.

“I’m curing cancer. What do you do?”

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.
Team-Ian-web-header-2014
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.
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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.

Team Ian Spin-a-Thon 2014

Team Ian Spin-a-Thon 2014

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

Did you take the dare?

GenerosityLast 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.

Dad, This Moustache is For You

Movember 2012

Down below, maybe I better start this again considering the subject matter, is a post that I wrote two years ago when I first participated in Movember. I didn’t participate last year because I found out that my father had prostate cancer at about this time of year and my father was a very private man and it would have been hard for me to have participated without mentioning that the doctors had found it and he was only given a few months to live. He was 91 years old when he passed away last January. He lived a full and incredible life, but if they had found the prostate cancer earlier who knows. It doesn’t matter now. My father had a moustache all of his life and I miss him.

I thought a lot about posting this because  public versus private sharing of information like this was the one thing that my dad and I didn’t always agree on. I am pretty open and out there when it comes to helping and he always did it quietly. Perhaps that is the one thing I never quite got right from all that he taught me.  A different generation you may say? I think though, that he would understand that I am telling all of you this because I just don’t want what happened to him, to happen to your father, or to happen to you. There is so much that can be done for prostate cancer now if it is caught early.

If you would like to help out, and I say it every time I ask for a donation for any charity, any amount helps. I am a member of the Movemboys team and my store Etiket has sponsored the team (all money goes to Movember) and my amazing staff at the store are participating as well. See them here: Etiket Bares All for Movember and then once they did ‘bare all’: We Did It For Movember!

The Fabulous Etiket Team for Movember 2012 (Photo: Jonny Rueda for Movemboys)

Sponsor me: Simon Tooley
Sponsor the girls: Équipe Etiket Mo Sistas
Sponsor the team: Movemboys
For more information on the cause and where the money goes: MOVEMBER

The below post is from my old blog A Charmed Life post on November 3rd, 2010

Move over November, here comes MOVEMBER

What?
For those of you who don’t know, MOVEMBER (the month formerly know as November) is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for men’s health and specifically prostate cancer.
Why am I writing about it? You can’t tell by the Day 3 stubble on my upper lip?
Yes, I am participating! I am a man and I uh, well have a prostate.
(Dad, you were worried about me swearing? Watch me walk on eggshells with this one!)
I mean really, we talk about anything these days, but talk about ‘that’? Talk about, you know ‘what’. Because you know where ‘it’ is right? And you know what you have to do to get ‘it’ examined don’t you? Forget it. Let’s go back to another topic. My moustache.
I am thinking handlebar, except I only have a month.
A thin fine line a la Rhett Butler? Not a great idea as my facial hair is blond and you won’t see it? And how many people know who Rhett Butler is these days, he doesn’t have a Facebook page.
Then again, I could grow a gringo except I think I am a gringo.
Let’s go back to why we are here. We don’t want to talk about prostate cancer; we certainly don’t want to get examined for it. Above all, we don’t want to die of it. Plain and simple.
That means we need to talk about it. Get it examined and deal with it.
Now I am not going to go through the details because when I went to the Prostate Cancer Canada site I started to feel a little queasy. Then again, I am usually the one the doctor is looking after when I go to visit anyone in the hospital. It is us 6’2” 200 pounders that are the worst.
Go to the site yourself and check it out. Then get checked out. I am going to. And no, I won’t write about that. The reality is, these days there are different ways to test for prostate cancer. A physical exam is just one of them.
If you just want to watch the progress of my moustache that is okay too. Just do us men a favour and spread the word about Movember, you just don’t know who you may help. And if we don’t talk about ‘it’ we can’t help.

What Do I Want To Do with My Life?

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 complaining.
Stop whining.
Stop being afraid.

Start working.
Start hustling.

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.

Really?
To who?

Excuses.
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:

Polonius:
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?

Blow me one last kiss…..

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

Success: I found it!

“I failed my way to success.”  
Thomas Edison

That is certainly what it feels like sometimes. A lot of failures and not too many successes. Starting a new business with your own money is certainly differently from working for someone else. My life has been spent in start-ups. I didn’t always see it that way because I was in it and we didn’t call it that when I started working 30 years ago, they were just new businesses. Now we put a name on it: start-up, and give the whole thing this glamour and possibility of huge growth and an eventual IPO. In reality it is just a new company starting out and who knows where it will go. Even when you think you do or plan for it, it may not go where you think it will.

When I was working for these other start-ups, they weren’t mine. Often and always it was my blood, sweat and tears, well okay my sweat and tears that helped to build them, but it certainly wasn’t my money. Interestingly enough when it wasn’t my money those setbacks that we encountered along the way were never failures. They were just setbacks. There were lots of them and we always found a way out: with the sweat and tears and unfortunately too much yelling, but we got through them and turned them into what most of us call successes. Financial success equal success right?

Now as I find myself doing the same thing but for myself, it seems very different. Instead of having someone on top being the motivator, it’s me. If things are tough, I have to be THE TOUGH to get going. You know what else? It’s work. Hard work. Or it seems that way in my dramatic ol’ head. The reality is; if and when I am capable of stepping back, as I am doing right now, it is not hard work at all. It is a lot of fun. I have surrounded myself with an amazing team who all have the same drive and passion that I do and they want the success as much as I do. We laugh a lot, eat whenever we can, drink way too much coffee, don’t yell, care incredibly a lot (if that is English) about our customers and customer service and being THE BEST at what we do. We are wiling to learn and to learn again until we get it right. I have built relationships with vendors and suppliers who work as hard as I do and want success as much as I do. Not for the money or the fame (fame?) but for the fun of it. The ones that don’t see things like this don’t last long. They aren’t quite sure why I end those relationships when I do, because they just don’t get it.

DREAM BIG. WORK HARD. GET IT DONE. PLAY FAIR.
HAVE FUN. MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

I don’t think Thomas Edison got it either. There are no failures in business or in life. Unless you are so deep in them that you can’t see beyond the end of your nose.

When I left my career in the fashion business I vowed that when I got up every day I would see each day like it was the first day of a new job. Do you remember that feeling? When you are filled with wonder and excitement. Nothing less and often so much more that you just can’t describe it. That is success for me. I see that I found it.

How about you?

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