Including 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?
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.
Tomorrow I will get on my bike and ride to Quebec City to raise money for cancer care and research. I am riding with a few thousand others in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. It is like so many big charity events that we see these days where we need to raise a minimum amount to participate and through corporate donations and individual sponsorship large amounts of money are raised. This event takes place in four provinces in Canada and raises millions. It is called charity. But I don’t want to write about charity, I want to write about generosity.
Charity is being moved to give and generosity is being moved to change.
This is not the first time I am doing this ride, I did this ride last year when I joined a team called, Hope & Gratitude. The team was started by a man named Rob Callard, a cancer survivor himself. I joined the team because I lost a very close friend to cancer and my friend had done a ride and somehow it seemed fitting to do this.
Rob had made a post on FaceBook asking if anyone wanted to join and I remember reading the post and wanting to but not sure I could. I didn’t have a bike, I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I had a Peugeot 10 speed 30 years ago, and on top of that I had to raise $2500 to participate. What was making me hesitate though wasn’t any of that.
In Being Generous, One Becomes Generous.
What is it that makes most of us uncomfortable when we are presented with the opportunity to give, to being generous? As people, we are asked to give on a daily basis and in a charity situation we are being asked to make a difference in our communities, to overcome our fears and to make change. In this process we are forced to push ourselves beyond what we may think we are capable of doing. Yet true generosity is generative, it allows for change, for opportunity and it may go so far as being transformative. It goes far beyond charity.
I grew up in a family where giving and charity were done quietly and without the need for recognition. After working for so many years in an industry where profit and recognition was the norm I was shown a different vision, where the idea of your name on a hospital wing or in the newspaper became the goal. There seemed to have to be a reward for any giving done and somehow that did not seem right to me. Yet I saw the benefits of what power and influence could do to raise money. In the end, it was always at the grass roots level that I saw true generosity.
Generous acts, will allow for generous responses.
This year to raise money there haven been spin-a-thons and bake sales, movie nights and workout events, and then just plain old asking for donations, in person, by e-mail and of course on Facebook. This year our team Hope & Gratitude has over 20 riders many of which I will only meet tomorrow. I enlisted one friend to ride with me last year and two more this year. What I have seen and heard from them and from the other riders in our training rides is always the same. They are amazed at the response from those they asked to sponsor them, they have been touched by the stories of those who were lost to cancer, and they were sometimes uncomfortable by the show of gratitude for what they are doing. They loved the hugs and thank-you’s that were bestowed on them and yet all that anyone has done is to be generous.
People give what they can to charity; we are generous with what is important to us.
There is one thing that I have learned in all my years of charity, we all want to give. I believe that it is innate in ourselves; we just need to be given the chance. That is what charity allows for, if we truly understand what it is to be generous.
In the end, the Enbridge Ride we will do tomorrow will raise millions of dollars and it will make a difference and allow much needed funding for research and patient care, but what we all achieved through our generous acts has no measure. The friend that was allowed to tell her story of losing her sister and sharing her loss, the child that baked cookies to help her mother raise $20, the co-worker that helped plan a mini fundraising event, the gift of knowing that we allowed someone to give has no value.
When we give because we want to make a difference we allow for the possibility to make change and our actions will have far greater consequences than any money donated to charity. It is not that money does not matter; it is to remember to put love into our giving. I say that generosity is not really optional and we must not do it now and then. It is when we do it on a daily basis that we will see it’s transformative power. I repeat: How will you be generous today?
If you would like to support my ride to benefit the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, 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.
I have not written here since December 2012, I have thought about it many times. But thinking about something and doing it is definitely not the same thing. What happened? Too busy? Writer’s block? Not interested anymore?
Those sound like excuses to me. And I am not big on excuses. I am way too hard on myself for that.
I was “chatting” with my friend Hivron on Facebook, I met Hivron through this blog a few year ago, and she said something that resonated with me:
You’ll know when you’ll start writing again. It’s all magic, the time will magically be there and it’s usually when there is an obstacle in your life presently that you’ve overcome and it won’t be taking that ‘space’ up any more.
And Hivron, was right, as she often is. There was an obstacle that was stopping me from writing and it was ME! I could put all kinds of names on it but in the end where does that proverbial buck stop? With ourselves. I don’t know about you but how many times have you put the blame on something or someone else, convinced yourself it was all their fault, and in the end, when you slowed down (and calmed down) long enough to be honest, and saw your part in the situation, that you realized you were the one who had caused the obstacle in the first place.
I own a retail store and one of the most important things we do is take inventory. How can you run a successful company if you don’t know what your inventory is? You need to know what is working, what isn’t working, what you need to get rid of, and what you need to stock up on.
Is it really any different in life?
I know that doing inventory in the store shows up the mistakes that I made in buying or it may also show me where we need to do a little repositioning to make something work. If I stop long enough to do that with myself, that magic that Hivron was talking about happens. Except it is not really magic, it is just slowing down long enough to be honest with myself and then willing to do what is needed to push that obstacle out of the way, find a way over it, or more often than not realizing that it was only there in my mind to begin with.
So….let’s see how well I do at keeping the obstacles out of my way. You will know before I do I have a feeling.
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.
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