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?
That is what I am doing. Doing what is required for me. I struggle a lot with what that means and depending on the day it may mean that I need to be meditating more, working out more, working more, allowing myself some time off or to tell myself to stop thinking….about myself and to think more about others. And most of the time that is what is required. Think more about others.
Give. Share. Help.
That is why I get involved in my community and I do that in different ways. My community may be right around me or it may stretch much further. With the Internet and social media there are no boundaries. How I get involved goes from donating financially to different organizations, giving my time (I am president of De la rue aux étoiles 2015 for Dan la rue this year), or why I am writing this post, by riding my bike for two different organizations that are looking to find solutions to cancer.
I will be doing two rides again this year to raise money for cancer research: The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer to benefit the Jewish General Hospital and the Team Ian Ride to benefit the Princess Margaret Hospital. I am not sure that I need to explain why I am doing this. At least not after hearing a radio commercial from an insurance company I heard recently that started along the lines of:
Protect yourself in the case of a cancer diagnosis…..
Cancer has become such an insidious disease, so much a part of our daily lives. It is just there. Until it hits close to home and someone we know gets it, then that disease that seems to be everywhere becomes very real and not just cancer. The fear, the pain, the unknown become all too real and we do what we can to deal with it. What I do is I ride my bike to help raise money to help fund research. The research that these rides are funding is working. It is making inroads. It is making treatments easier and better and people are living longer.
I could go on but I think we know it all. In many cases we know too much. So I am simply asking you to donate to one of my rides and let’s continue to fund the research that will help us get closer to finding more solutions to cancer.
Let’s do what is required.
To donate to The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer: CLICK HERE
To donate to The Team Ian Ride: CLICK HERE
ALL IN is an expression that I learned when I started cycling about a year ago. When we are riding in a group it is the last person at the end of the line of cyclists who yells out ALL IN when the group is a cohesive bunch of riders and we are ready to move out or if we have spread out riding up a hill and we are all back in line once we get to the top of the hill. The last rider calls out ALL IN! and we pass it forward so the leader knows we are all together.
There is safety in those two words for me; I know that I am not alone and that all is well. ALL IN has started to mean much more to me than just when our group of riders is all together, I have come to realize that those two words could be used in my daily life and there are times when I would like to be yelling it even when I am not cycling:
I am grateful to everyone that is on this journey with me and allows me to feel so safe, leads me when I need to be led, puts me in the middle when I need that, or allows me to be there and to watch and make sure that we are ALL IN!
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
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.
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.
I am going on ride, a ride that is supposed to conquer cancer. Impossible?
I don’t know. The word impossible doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. All I know is that from July 6th to 7th in 2013 I will be riding from Montreal to Quebec City to raise money for cancer research and cancer care at the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and throughout Quebec.
How did this happen and why am I doing this? Well the short answer is I saw a post on Facebook from my friend Rob Callard, who is a cancer survivor himself and has done two of these rides, saying that he was looking for people to join his team called Gratitude & Hope 2013 and participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, and I heard myself saying: “Hmmmm….”. Actually, that is exactly what I wrote in the comments section of his post. Then Rob and I spoke, I signed up, and here I am.
The long answer is that a friend of mine, a very dear special friend of mine, Sam Pelc, did this ride back in 2009. But Sam died of cancer in the fall of 2010 and somehow when I read Rob’s post I felt that I owed this to Sam and I just had to do it.
For you see, Sam taught me everything that I know about charity and more importantly about giving. We worked together on different charity events and projects and I learned many things from him, and here are a few:
1. Impossible doesn’t exist
2. There is no limit to what you can do
3. Don’t be shy to ask for help or donations
4. Allow people the opportunity to give, they want to, it is in our very human nature
5. It is our responsibility to give back to our family, our friends and to our community with no questions asked, and for nothing in return, including applause
6. Allow whatever you do in your everyday life to include giving back, for that is our true reason for being here on this earth
Sam made this ride because he had cancer and wanted to help others. Here is a link to the blog that he wrote before, during and after the ride: GOING FOR THE YELLOW JERSEY. There is much to be learned from what he wrote for all of us to better understand what it is to live with cancer and what that journey was all about for him.
This journey will be very different for me. I started my training by attending a spinning class at the YMCA last weekend and as I climbed on that bike and started to pedal I knew that the next six months were going to be a challenge to say the least.
There is a lot ahead. I have to get a bike. Yes, I am not a cyclist, more of a runner than a cyclist, but I am up for the challenge of those tiny seats and funny shoes. I have to get into some spandex that makes me less than excited especially at this time of year after one too many Christmas cookies. I have to train and get myself into shape and ready for this ride, which to me will be the easiest part and the part I am looking forward to the most. I have to reach out to those around me to ask for sponsorship to help me reach my goal. I have to raise $2,500 to be able to participate in the ride, but I have set my goal as $10,000. Why? I guess $2,500 just doesn’t seem like enough, it’s as simple as that. If I read through those six points above, then my goal should have even more zeroes, or no end to them at all.
And so here I go and I hope you will follow along, because I know I am going to need you there with me. Then again, I know that Sam will somehow be there too as my journey for the Yellow Jersey unfolds…..
If you would like to donate, click here.
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!
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
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.
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?