Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The middle ground in All or Nothing.

In some aspects of life, we behave like ‘brainwashed animals’. Programmed to react through influences of what we see, hear and read (instead of what we feel), we have embraced a dangerous attitude, which began with the most detrimental punch line of the 90’s ‘show me the money’. Those four harmless words would soon pave the way for a much larger and worrisome character trait entitled ‘all or nothing’ Examples of ‘all or nothing’ run the gamut from bankrupt sports teams, striking workers, eating disorders, failed marriages, to chapter 11 declarations and conform to the monopolistic tendencies of the masses.

If a team doesn’t make the playoffs in two and win the title in five, we write them off - if they make it, we support. If people do not experience the instant gratification of ‘upward mobility’ they’re gone (why stay at a “dead end job”). We embrace ‘all or nothing’ for two reasons. Foremost we compare our situations to a fictitious standard created by a fictitious ‘ideal character’ comprised of traits chipped off fictitious ‘ideal blocks’. “With that pitcher, our team would be perfect, with a larger house, our family would be perfect, if I just had more money, my life would be perfect, I would look perfect if I was ten pounds lighter” and the list goes on. There is no standard of perfect.

The perfect life for you isn’t one you read about, aspire to, compare with or wish for. It’s the one you live each day. If sports teams were perfect, games would be scoreless. If you earned double what you earn now, you would strive for double of what you earn then and if people were perfect, we would all be equals. We are not. We must learn to define perfect for ourselves based on our own values, beliefs and behaviors.

Secondly, we are taught to think “all or nothing”. The emphasis on winning & earning, accumulating & taking and the here & now can be seen heard read and inferred through multiple sources of media outlets. From the minute we watch a loonie tune cartoon, hear of a preposterous sports contract or learn of another strike, we jump on that roller coaster for the quick highs and drawn out lows. Really, what does our subscription to all or nothing weekly give us? An acute loss of perspective and a false sense of reality that both lead to disappointment. Eventually the player leaves for a larger contract, the create a position is cut out when companies need to save money and the greener grass on the other side of the domestic fence has the same brown sun spots as yours did.

When we embrace ‘all or nothing,’ we risk missing the something’s along the way. Life is a culmination of something’s. There is no answer, no right way / wrong way and no one has ‘figured out’. It’s not meant to be figured out and that’s the beauty of the journey. Don’t subscribe to the outside influences, find the balance that makes you the happiest, and trade in your roller coaster pass for a consistency card. Its time to embrace the fundamentals and get back to the only guarantee we need in life.

Hard work will be rewarded.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No More DRAMA.

We simply cannot ignore the pervasive attitude society has taken towards blowing things waaayyyy out of proportion before we think of arriving at an intelligent decision at how to curtail the nonsense. We must step outside our ‘short term thinking’ paradigm and understand the universe would be an incredibly simple & enjoyable place to reside if it were not for the human propensity to screw it up.

The following are three easy steps to keep drama at arms length from yourself, hence… make your life easier.

1. Step off your pedestal from time to time and look at what’s happening around you.

Many of us are too wrapped up in our personal journey's to realize the realities of the world depend on co-existence. Lack of education has a strong hand in this as we are being slowly brainwashed through the 'branding of the self' to believe that we must get somewhere else, at the expense of something / one else. Have we heard from anyone who's arrived 'there'? Do we want to be like them? As the 'me vs. we gap' widens, and the opportunity to socialize decreases, we will produce even more introverts and that is not healthy. Life is meant to function through a collaboration between species living together in a natural balance. Thinking we are more important than we are, distances us from reality while taking ourselves off that pedestal enables us to remain where we belong.... with each other. When we finally realize that we are not that different or special (we are ALL salespeople), we will gather a comparative perspective that we need.

We all have situations, issues and baggage to deal with (minor, significant, personal & professional). We also need to decrease the time spent analyzing and talking about them with people who can't help us and share them with people that can. Start the process by putting your life in perspective. Find out the behaviors your like about you and those you don't. Trace the origin of both. In the case of undesirable behavior, confront the problem or recognize the reasons - deal with them… and then move the hell on. Break the cycle of wallowing in self-pity and wondering 'why oh why' we were dealt the hand we have. This thinking perpetuates personal drama. Getting a shitty hand is one thing, keeping it is another and there is no mystery as to why truly successful people (by any right) focus on the solutions rather than the problems. Speedy results.

2. Establish a base set of positive principles for yourself and don’t deviate from your formula.

Set some time for introspection and find out what matters to you, void of anyone else’s ‘agreements’. When you set personal parameters for tolerance, attitude & outlook, you will find yourself amongst like - minded thinkers while withdrawing from those on a different plan. This is great and can be looked at as a personal mantra or house rules.

These rules can be flexible and adaptable to change at any point along the road. The trick is to avoid the webs of drama, strategically placed to snare you by insecure, low esteemed co-habitants who need someone to a) validate their shitty outlook or b) commiserate with. We must create better systems for developing self - esteem throughout all ages of our society in a hurry. If we are removing things like sports, team and group interaction and promoting ‘me’, this will cripple our children’s ability to facilitate and co-operate. The fact that so few of us are hesitant to try new things, as we get older is a testament to buying into someone else’s s dramatization of that event. Again, this is learned and not innate. Resisting the temptation to be herded into our pre destined echelons and do what we ultimately want to do, with a high degree of responsibility will keep us ‘open’ to experiencing those things that contribute to our growth. In the event you do feel yourself being dragged down the path of negativity, throw down the anchors (fast) and get back on your positive plan. There is too much negativity distributed throughout our daily lives, which needs to be balanced with a positive people, on purposeful plans. This starts with you. The reality is that it is a simple choice btw both attitudes.

3. Avoid information outlets designed to profit from dramatization.

Television should consist of three channels, education (learning, documentary, history, discovery), sports, and news (good news). when you pump c.n.n (continually negative news) to people don't be surprised when the little boy (lacking the same esteem & attention) see's the results of a school shooting (and a boy he can identify with) and pick's up a gun. When we celebrate the bachelor, the survivor, the temptation, the blind date and the american idol, we are in effect endorsing stupidity. All shows are created with an angle to make them interesting and dubbed ‘reality television’. Are we ‘real-ity’ that ignorant? No we are not and they are not interesting. Bombard the public with negative, berating, cynical garbage and they will become a mass of nay saying, classless, poor attitude skeptics. There is no mystery surrounding that correlation. We don’t need to launch a study. We do need to surround our children and ourselves with positivity at every opportunity and if television has become the medium of exercise for the minds, it is even more important to make the appropriate selections. Similarly magazines and newsprint must clean up their acts.

Preying on one of humans worse traits 'fascination with disaster', they feed us exactly what we want: death, destruction, failure and suck us in through fear. 'buy this and you will be safe', 'don't do this and you won't die' all.. Ironically in the same issue articles entitled 'we have to put a stop to bullying' & ' dictatorship is not an option' are endorsed. Are we noticing the irony? We must start relaying literature that fosters hope, light and positivism and control the amount of drama we let flow into our space through our chosen information outlets.

We have the capability to do this.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


We name holidays, streets and boulevards after them. We come out to their funerals and line up for city block after city block. We study them in our history classes; Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Lady Diana, Elvis etc. They were people who inspired us, moved us, often by going against the grain of what they 'had to do'.

They were characters but not actors / actresses.

The world doesn’t need any more extra large glass wearing 'chicks' working on their appearance instead of their self confidence.
The world won’t miss another faux-hawk sporting 'dude' with an undershirt underneath and old t-shirt and boxed toe white puma’s trying to look cool instead of being warm.
The world doesn’t need one more hold-em playing, car leasing, msn’ing, job swapping, soul selling individual trying to “get theirs” Hollywood is full!

The world could stand to employee millions of people with manners and values.
The world could use a few hundred more philanthropists.
The world has room for thousands of mothers, fathers, teachers and mentors who want to be hero’s & heroines.
The world can accommodate educated, loyal contributors.
The world could make space for independent thinkers (people).... instead of (sheeople).

The world needs more characters with character
Apply Within!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tales From The Crypt: Bad Is Good

All bad things happen for a reason. We have all heard that one before. The reasonable person should ask... "What reason could there be for bad things to happen?". Thanks for asking...

Whether you beleive in God, Divine Intervention, fate, or simply learning from experiance, all "bad" things that happen to us provide us with an opportunity to learn, grow, and even get in touch with who we are as people. It is whether or not we are capable and willing to see the lesson or opportunity that turns a "bad" thing into a good or great thing. That, and taking responsibility for assuming ultimate control over the course and direction of your life.

This leads us to two major types of people: victims and winners.


Victims are people who do not beleive there is good in bad. They believe that bad things continue to happen to them because they are unlucky. They blame everyone else, and they justify their actions/ inactions to the umpteenth degree. Basically, victims fail to inspire, to learn, or to grow and they remain victims unless they look at their outward circumstances from the inside out. Victims become winners by asking "what can I do differently?"


Winners realize that everything happens for a reason and they actively do something about their situation. People who say "everything happens for a reason" but they wait for the situation to right itself are still victims. In "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari", Robin Sharma defines enlightened people as those people who actively engage in those tasks the rest of us procrastinate or avoid. This could be taking out the garbage, talking to your kids about sex, standing up to a bully, etc.

Winners own their problems, victims are owned by them. Winners find solutions, victims find places/ people/ venues to vent, complain or bitch. So why be a victim? Because it is easy. Because it is hard to do the right thing all the time. Because it is hard to swim upstream.

Who is a victim?

Unfortunately, probably you, at least some of the time.

What can you do to stop being a victim?

Take the hard road. Ask not "why me?" or "why now?". Ask "what now?", as in "what can I do now to improve my lot in life?" And then do it. Victims die unhappy, and their legacy is to leave their family feeling sorry for them, or learning from their mistakes. Winners die fulfilled, and their legacy is to inspire, and to leave their families, friends, and colleagues asking "how can I be like her or him?"

Stop being a victim. Be a winner. Live happy. Die happy. Inspire others. Leave a legacy. Win.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Making the Right Decision

Why and how do people make the decisions they make? For instance, why are casino gamblers willing to keep betting even while expecting to lose? Why do people say they want to save for retirement, eat better, start exercising, quit smoking—and then say they “mean it” - but they do no such things.

The answer - people very robustly want instant gratification right now, and want to be patient in the future. They do worse in life because they spend too much for what they want now, at the expense of items they want in the future. In the now, people want to eat chocolate, to smoke cigarettes and to sit on their couches and watch television. While in the future, they want to eat fruit, to quit smoking, and to get outside being active. People buy things they can’t afford on a credit card, and as a result they get to buy less over the course of their lifetimes.

Another reality – it is easy. It is easy to be lazy, to shy away from challenges, and to procrastinate. It is easier to tell yourself to begin to save for retirement, eat better, start exercising, and quit smoking tomorrow than it is today. The exact things that people want to own, to reach, and to achieve tend not to be easy because if they were, everyone would have them. Another reason for making these easy decisions evolve from behaviours that are driven by the moment. People struggle to make choices that are purposeful and thought-out because they either feel that they are pressured, or they do not have the confidence to make a decision that might require work. Unfortunately, the world happens in real time and making irrational decisions might lead to mediocre or negative results.

Some suggestions and solutions to make the "right" decisions so that you can take the necessary steps towards where you want to go include:
  • Set realistic goals that are achievable
  • Be aware of the benefits and consequences of any situation
  • Understand that items that have an immediate cost (particularly time and work ethic) usually have a future payoff – sow before reap
  • Recognize that things are only as difficult as you make them
  • Challenge yourself
  • Don’t succumb to mediocre results
  • Live and act in the now and not in the future
  • Believe in yourself
  • Have the confidence to make a decision
Don't wait, act now. Make the conscious choice to swim upstream!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Challenge: Full Circle

This is a short blog to lay out A (not THE but A) definition of challenge and the process by which we can apply it and benefit from it in our daily lives. Challenge is a process. It is a process though which some of our current limits, capacities, and ways of thinking are pressed to perform at a level they are either not used to, or never have before.

Basically a challenge is something that makes you act, think, or be different to overcome. Put this way, CHALLENGE is one of the cornerstones of swimupstream, and one of the keys to living a life full of discovery and understanding. Without challenge, there is no growth. With no growth, we become the real life image of Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day"; living every day the same and seeing no purpose or forward movement. In this light, challenge is one of the crucial elements to a rewarding and happy life.

People who are stuck in a dead-end job, a negative relationship, or who feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied with the daily grind most often do so because they are missing challenge in a big way in their lives. So if we know this, why isn't everyone challenging themselves and each other? Because it is easier not to. The toughest part of applying the concept of challenge to your daily life is that it is challenging. That simple, that hard.

So let us get to the other big questions you may be asking... How do I challenge myself? In what areas? When/ how often should I be challenged? Who is going to challenge me? Great questions and thanks for asking... Let's get to it!

There are 4 steps to any significant challenge.
  1. Initiate or accept challenge. That is, seek out a new challenge or accept one that has been laid out for you.
  2. The journey. This is the adversity that must be trudged through, the heartache, the "I can't do it" or "why is this so hard?" moments. If you don't experience these, the challenge is often not sufficient and there will be little growth from it.
  3. The Victory. The finish line after a marathon that took 6 months to train for, the vacation after saving up and cutting back on your expenses for a year, the wedding day after the months of planning and years of disappointing relationships, etc.
  4. What's next? If we miss this step, we miss continuous growth. It is not enough to say yes to challenge once. The greatest challenge you can accept in this lifetime is to challenge yourself daily and never stop growing or seeking out the little or big challenges in attempts to become a better person. That is coming "full circle"- execution of one challange and acceptance of the next.

So the next questions are how and when do I begin, and who should challenge me? The answers are simple...Begin right now. Challenge yourself to do something physically or in your workplace that you didn't feel you could in the past. Force yourself outside your comfort zone and join that dance lesson, sing karyoke, learn a new sport or musical instrument, or even a new language. But do it and it shouldn't take just one afternoon unless it is a tough physical challenge.

Identify who your mentors are- what did they teach you? Can they still teach you? Who else can you learn from, and what is it that they are going to teach you? Write the challenge down, set specific goals regarding timeline, what you will need, when you are starting, what are the consequences of not achieving, etc and share it with someone close to you. That commits you and drives you to achieve your goal.

Set a challenge for every area of your life: work, health/ physical, family, finances, spiritual, relationships, intellectual, etc. You may start in one area you are comfortable (ie physical for an athlete or intellectual for an accountant), tackle a challenge, and then come full circle by taking on a challenge in an area you feel needs improvement. Doing this will help bring a greater sense of balance to your life and greater fulfillment too.

Challenge is your friend. Get to know him a little better starting right...... now!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tales From The Crypt: How to Cripple Your Children

Okay, so backtracking a bit.... "Tales From The Crypt" is a heading I am going to use when referring to any pointed, direct, or controversial topics that need to be addressed. In that spirit, the first edition of "Tales From The Crypt" is called....How To Cripple Your Children.

The short answer is to do what everybody else tells you that you should. The long answer takes, well- longer, and addresses some of the pursuits we as a society have been chasing over the last few decades. Pursuits that are just now starting to cause cracks in our "perfect pop culture world" that need to be looked at, understood, and corrected. Hopefully the title of this blog post has a few people offended and saying "not me, I'm a great parent because I care and who is this guy to tell me I am crippling my kids?". If that is your reaction thus far, or you would like to learn how to avoid setting your children up for failure... mission accomplished. Read on.

Children (of all ages) are crippled all over the world, and by crippled I am referring to the emotional sense. We as a society have become crippled in our ability to cope with stress, think independently, and lead meaningful and happy lives. This doesn't mean everyone is miserable- it means we are crippled to some degree. The media tells us what to eat, wear, drive, buy, and do. What songs to listen to, what political views to take, and what opinions to have on what world events we are allowed to know about. That is one great way to cripple your children later in life... Allow them to do everything their friends do which is of course everything corporate North America tells them is cool to do.

Children (let's change that to everyone on this planet) needs at least some structure and discipline. Kids need discipline about as much as they hate getting it. It's called tough love and it is every bit as important as telling your children you love them. Parenting (or coaching or managing people for that matter) is not a popularity contest. It is about leading a young mind and spirit to the best of your capabilities using all available resources; while at the same time not stymying the learning process for your child that you went through. This brings us to another few ways parents can hope to cripple their children (if they are so inclined). First is avoiding the tough conversations, avoiding discipline, basically, if we are on swimupstream, let's say- avoiding rocking the boat.

The boat may be headed in the right direction. It still needs to be rocked once in a while to make sure the captain isn't asleep at the wheel. This means- if you can't discipline your child, and if you cannot be unpopular to be correct, you are crippling your child and setting a precedent that your kid can do whatever he or she wants. Spoiled brats who have everything... Huge cripples.

Next, over-parenting. Just because you had tough times, doesn't mean your kids don't have to. The bad break ups, the school yard fight, the D you got in math, it has all helped to shape you into the responsible adult I'm sure you are. So why regret any experience; mistake or planned? If you follow that logic, why remove experience; one of the best teaching tools we have, from your child? Let your kid skin their knee, let them get dirty. Right now the most common war wounds from the childhood battleground are callouses on thumbs from XBOX; and it is killing the imagination, people skills, and creativity in the workforce.

Finally (in this post; there are probably 10,000 more ways to cripple your kid, but I just wanted to share the best methods I know so you can start ruining their lives right away)... Lead by example. If you keep junk food in the house, your kids will eat junk food. If you are lazy, blah blah blah. You can connect the dots here. The tough lesson on leadership here is looking in the mirror without kid gloves. After all, that is what parenting is: loving leadership. If you see your child is misbehaving, or worse yet, not living life to the fullest, look at your self and ask where they got the know how to act this way.

Nobody's perfect, but just remember this one irrefutable fact...You pass on more to your children than height, eye and hair color, and skin tone. You pass on your fears, bias', behaviors, misbehaviors, and excuses for doing/ not doing. Whatever you justify to your spouse to avoid swimming upstream and doing the right thing; you pass on to your kids. Or you pass on leverage. Empowerment. Freedom.

You could pass on, through your lessons and your example, the inspiration to challenge the system and question why and challenge themselves and their friends and lead productive, healthy, happy lives. Wake up tomorrow and start crippling, or start empowering. But do either one full speed.

Better to be good at being a bad parent so child services can find a better home than to sludge through parenting and life and create another drone who watches the clock in their blah work day pass by as they watch their own life pass by. You wouldn't actively make the above choice for you kids, so 1 more time than yesterday actively lead your kids in the right direction, and start with yourself.

Hopefully, there's a little kid still left in all of us that hasn't been crippled too badly, and if we liberate that spirit, we change the world. One happy home at a time.

Start swimming upstream!

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Character Tree

Important lesson of the day... You have the power to control what is said about you and even what people think about you. The worst way to do this is to try to control what is said and/ or thought about you. Enter "The Character Tree".


Leaves are all the pretty things in the world, just as leaves are the most attractive and enticing part of a tree. Cars, clothes, friends, houses, boats, a "perfect" body, money, esteem, jobs, academic recognition, etc... All leaves.


Branches are worthwhile pursuits. Things that produce leaves. These we will examine in detail.

The Trunk

The trunk is the bulk of what constitutes a tree which is what makes this analogy so apt: the bulk of our life is spent setting a foundation for success; a forum upon which to grow branches and leaves.


These must be planted by someone else and if they are planted wrong, we must go back and trim, relocate the tree, etc as damage control or else we wreck the foundation of nearby houses. Yes, the analogy goes that deep, where the house can be considered social institution. Mess up the person (mess up your life), mess up all those you interact with and thus mess up society via this extended domino effect.

So what do we all want?

In short, as many healthy leaves as possible.

How do we get as many leaves as possible?

There is only one way. If you chase the leaves, you can never grow a tree because even the most beautiful leaf cannot grow other leaves from itself. Bark is ugly, but from it (from the trunk itself and the roots) come the most beautiful and delicate successes (leaves).

This analogy is all about hard work, perspective, and getting your priorities in order so that we can both encounter the process and enjoy the result. So coming back to the question; how do we get as many leaves as possible?

We work our asses off all the while knowing what we are working towards. Lot's of people work hard. But if you bury your head in the dirt and plant 300 trees a day and you don't make time to water them, they will die. If you plant one tree and water it, you will not be able to enjoy the journey because your success will be defined by the success of just one tree. In other words...

There is more to life than work. Don't plant 300 trees a day. Plant many, but take the time to water. Diversify. If your inward success and happiness is defined by your position at work, work runs your life. Don't become dependent on one tree to produce leaves. Also, don't get frustrated if you don't get leaves right away. This is why we have to learn to enjoy the process, because leaves take time.

If you start your college life trying to get a great paying job, you miss much of the experience. If you start your working career looking forward to the perks and not the work, you are making an even bigger mistake. You are trading wealth for health (in the complete sense). If you begin a marriage based solely on looks or your husband's job or your wife's family money, you are trading love for lust or luster... Both of which will wear off.

You cannot have the most leaves on your tree unless you are looking to enjoy, perhaps even become passionate about, the journey of raising a tree. You can't have children and control every aspect of their behavior to produce obedient children. You must give of yourself and teach out of love, and then you will have children who love and respect you, even if they break the rules.

The tree is your daily habits, your sacrifices, and the extent to which you give back to the world. Remember that we all start out as roots, and our parents and perhaps many other people make an investment in us early in life. As such, the tree is about giving back and sacrificing. It is also about taking the time to enjoy the journey. Anything we earn is much sweeter than anything we 'get'. Build a great tree.

Leaves come and go with each passing season. One leaf (one success) for you might be athletic success. If you hold onto that leaf too hard, when it is gone, so goes any fleeting chance for happiness in this life. The great athlete must also learn how to be a great banker and a great teacher; a great role model and father and husband. In fact, any role we take on in earnest can produce many leaves.

Again, diversify. Live a complete and full life with as many roles as you are passionate about filling well. Each of these roles you fill passionately will lead you to many, many leaves. In fact, if you live modestly and work hard, you will become humbled, which produces two things.

First, you will be happy to have grown even one leaf. Therefore any leaves in your life will be blessings and will reward you more than just 'getting'. Earning wins every time. Second, you will give back because you will feel lucky or privelledged. Ironically, giving is the best way to get. The more you give, the more leaves you get and the more you want to give. It is the best kind of onward spiral. In "The Power of Giving", this very spiral is referred to as the giving virus. It's only known symptoms are hundreds of leaves seen growing on beautifully crafted trees all over the world.

Watered your tree today? How many leaves would there be on your "Character Tree"? Get busy living. Get busy growing leaves because you enjoy planting trees! Get busy getting more than you expected because you gave!

Show your kids yes, team & can.

Do you want to know who holds the most shares of responsibility with the decline of young adults attitudes? Parents. Many of us don’t even recognize the damage we are doing until it’s too late and in the day and age where we have all but eliminated the essential adversities, the epidemic has reached disastrous proportions.

0-5. “No”. During the most critical imprinting years where the senses are operating at their fullest and absorbing everything, children hear one word more than all other words combined. No. Stands to reason by the time they reach those “terrible 2’s” they have learned to regurgitate the very data that has been inputted over the past 2 years.

5-10. “Mine”. Post ‘no stage’, we add possession to the equation. No + Mine becomes the thesis amongst many arguments that take place. This entitlement / me / i / reinforcement reinforces the very anti social behavior which confuses during the post secondary education quarter of life when we spit these programmed minds into a system that requires interaction.
No + Mine.

10-15. “Can’t”. The most subtly destructive word on the planet, can’t is used mainly by lazy people who won’t. Won’t take & make the time to educate alternatives. During the “pre teen years”, your child hears the word can’t with the frequency they once heard the word no. Stands to reason their frustration levels build as they try to disseminate the rationale for this constantly reinforced directive and get frustrated.
No + you / I + can’t.

15-20. “Fuck you”. It would stand to reason the rebellious stage would eventually come during these years when people are fed up with hearing No & You & Can’t. Now, unequipped to deal with many of the pressures and demands, the demographic unsuccessfully attempts to accomplish a multitude of things they are not equipped to accomplish because they have never been taught. They fail, but in failure the level of resentment comes flooding back from the told you so’s.
Fuck you + I will.

20-25. “Fuck me”. Post graduation and all of those ‘valuable lessons’ of studying by yourself, completing projects by yourself & figuring things out by yourself have taken an unfortunate toll. The young adult finds themselves in an ecosystem without the necessary coping mechanisms. Its akin to becoming what you fear most and many at this age, come to the realization that
Fuck Me + I + Am Not + The Shit.

25-30. [i]. “No I can’t” Full circle, we come back to where it all began as we spiral downward due to a complete lack of self actualization. You can spot the people from a mile away. Zero spark, self confidence or self esteem to make the necessary sound personal decisions. Some say this is early onset mid life crisis where people try to fill this hollow void with ‘things’, but the reality is it’s the actualization that the self fulfilling prophecy has been met.
I + Can’t + Do it.

25-30. [ii] “I can, I will, I am”.
At least that’s what the therapist said and our young adults begin the process of self-discovery at 25-30. “Finding themselves”, they check out of the pressure cooker and get to experience the very adversity we [as parents] so erroneously sheltered them from and begin to live “their lives”.
I + Can + do it.

30++. Depending on the path, the rest of people lives roll out accordingly, yet the true test begins when they settle in to have children.

…When the cycle begins all over again.

· Do yourself a favor – Tell yourself yes, team & can
· Do your kids a favor – Show them the same.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Essential Link

Civilizations have been built and destroyed, battles lost and won and partnerships dissolved or spared by the most important, tool in the ‘human survival kit’; communication. How would our lives be different if we said what we exactly what we wanted to? How would our decisions be modified if we really understood where the other party was coming from? How much further ahead would we be if we could digest information without taking things personally? Lets do something about it!

If we agree with the definition of communication as ‘a mutual exchange of information to express and share thoughts, ideas & sentiments’, we can progress into the important subject matter of preventing communication breakdowns. Here are five easy steps to communicating effectively:

Say exactly what you want.
Listen to what is being said instead of imagining what’s not.
Ask yourself ‘why’ the sender is relaying this message to you.
Address one topic at a time.
Ask the recipient to clarify your message, in their words.
Utilize the correct module of communication.

Stating exactly what you want eliminates confusion, interpretation error and ‘mixed’ messages. We are conditioned to communicate ‘sympathetically’ in order no to appear brash and forward, however you can get to the point in a tactful way and maintain a clear conscience. Getting straight to the point minimizes the change of being misunderstood. Inevitably, you will have to get there anyways, so why distort the issue with distracting information. The faster you table the points, the sooner you reach solutions.

When you listen to dialogue with the intention of understanding the senders’ point of view you increase the likelihood of benefiting from the transaction. Too many times, we are unable to put ourselves in others shoes and end up discrediting the information they are sending because its not how we feel. Few deliverers may have the confidence to master rule #1, hence recipients must be able to access if information is not being directly communicated and ask for clarification if they cannot deduce it. Most times, people take great comfort in just being listened to. Refrain from disagreeing with a point of view, because it is how the other party truly feels. Often, people will communicate around issues or say things that are not music to your ears. As you become proficient at rule #3, you will know who’s looking out for your best interest and who intends malice.

Pay attention to what is being communicated to you and by whom. All messages are communicated for a reason, which regardless of your perception, need to be respected and understood (validation). When you dismiss a question you do not deem important or relevant through your actions or words, you close the door on future dialogue. Often, simple questions are precursors to deeper issues. Exhaust every effort to understand the message. By asking yourself why this message is being sent, you are able to intelligently disseminate how you can take that feedback and make improvements to be a better spouse, partner, employer, employee and more.

It is usually in the heat of adversity when the sender discloses all the messages they have been attempting to send, at once. How many times, has an argument escalated into a verbal battle that had nothing to do with its origin? It is important to completely finish one topic of discussion regardless of the severity, before addressing another. By doing so, there will not be a backlog of information that has not been worked through. Force yourself to tackle one issue at a time and stay on track during a conversation, even if it is not going the way you want. If things do get off track, make a concerted effort to return to the main issue and resolve that first.

Asking the recipient to repeat the message you are trying to communicate minimizes the possibility of an interpretation error. It is advantageous to request the playback in ‘one’s own words’ in order to force others to think about the message they have received before they reply. You will be astonished at the discrepancies that can occur simply from sender to receiver which allow you to restate some of your main points. If you are able to implement this on a more frequent basis you would walk away from conversations knowing the level of success achieved at communicating thoughts & feelings.

Lastly, there are 3 modes of communication. 1 way communication occurs where one person speaks and provides feedback or directive to another without giving them an opportunity to respond. Coaching, or authoritative situations are suitable for this type of communication, yet it is not an appropriate measure in daily interactions. 2 way communication occurs when two people are engaged in 1 way communication. This is the most common style of communication and people end up re-visting the same issues at a later date because, neither was listening. Rather, they were simply waiting for ‘their turn’ to verbalize. This communication is not effective. Transactional communication occurs when 1 person speaks and the other person listens with the intention of understanding that message. All of the aforementioned characteristics surface in this style of communication and it is the most effective way of achieving results.

Think about how effectively you communicate with your spouse, children, employee’s etc. Are you addressing the same issues over again? Do you find issues continue to escalate until a breaking point? Are you frustrated because you are not being listened to? If you answered yes to any of these questions perhaps its time for you to examine more effective methods of communication. Implementing some of the aforementioned tips will pave the way to a smoother communication highway.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The complex side of simple.

Standing beside a man and his family all wearing white trash hats we realized just how far out of our element we were. Talladega speedway, 2 weeks ago with just under 400 000 drunk, overweight and very simple people. We walked down 3 kilometers of 'Talladega blvd' which was comprised of side by side fully decked out motorhomes each with their own unique storefronts of amusing, entertaining and sometimes crude displays of food, games and sex. People were cruising around on their motorized coolers!! It was like girls gone wild meets Let's make a deal with the Clamptons.

When we strolled into to our r.v. site, we were bookended by Union Jack flags and missing teeth neighbours who presented as hardened criminals yet turned out to be some of the most hospitable people we had ever met.

The story went like this. We were fortunate enough to get pit and garage passes as part of our package. Naively, we assumed everyone who camped in the infield would have these passes, but after speaking to the neghbours (who had been there for 15 straight years) we found out that not once had they been to pit road or the garage [pre race]. No problem... they could have our passes. Well you would think we had given them the winning numbers to the powerball lottery. They went, their kids went, their friends went and when all was said and done, we had turned from the Canadian misfits to the Kings of Kensington. After that, we did not cook one meal or pay for one drink.

These people were not affluent, nor educated. Speaking to them, it became clear their entire savings were put towards this occassion when they could 'come and see the cars race'. They drank and talked, and drank... and talked... and drank and while they spoke you could see the sparkle in their eye over what (to us) seemed rather mundain.

Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of being amongst a group of high maintenance people the day before or maybee it the whole atmosphere of the event, but there was something really appealing about keeping it simple. We thought about how many times in our lives we make things way more complicated than they need to be and we though about those 'little things' we take for granted. These people didn't. They hadn't seen the other side of opportunity (to the scale we had) and they were just fine with that. We had to admit, there was something more to the experinece than 'a bunch of cars going around the track at over 200mph'.

There was the complex side of simple... and for at least that weekend... it sure was nice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not Seeing is Believing!

On the way home from riding the most beautiful scenery on the planet [Moab Utah], we asked ourselves how we would up the riding ante at home. "Neds Night Ride" was the consensus.
To give you a perspective of what Neds Night Ride enatils, place a 20% light-permiable-blind over your eyes and head down the street as quickly as possible..... on your bike. Were we nuts?
The ride started with a 30 minute climb up Old Buck, up the powerlines and up the connector to Neds. When we arrived at the top of Neds trail (on our cross country mountain bikes), we commented on how a) downhill bikes, b) armour and c) going last were all good ideas.
With hindsight wisdom in check, we went careening down wooden ladders, 2-3 foot drops, over wet roots and slippery rocks only to come out the bottom unscathed and full of adrenaline. (We bypassed some of the larger "jumps" and the main wooden ladder!). Perhaps even more entertaining was cycling full speed down Hyannis trail out onto the main road and then racing the Empress reroute.
Reflecting on the feat at Seymours pub we began the discussion of having increased confidence due to the fact we could not actually see some of the drops we were taking in advance, which minimized the fear factor. Relating to life, its ironic how many risks we don't take beacuse we don't go into it blind. So many times, we develop our inability to trust (ourselves and others) beacuse of what we do see. We take the information from that sense and translate it into a stereotype / notion in our heads based on history & experience. But what if we couldn't see it? Could we tell what was Coke or Pepsi? Would we chose the "hot chick" or "hot guy" over the "ugly duckling"?
We hear of people who are blind accomplishing remarkable feats and it stands to reason they do so by utilizing many of their other senses. During the decent, it became clear just how many other senses were necessaary to complete the ride without injury. Not being able to see everything forced us to TRUST.
Its not ironic that when we search for 'true meaning' and 'answers' we usually do so with our eyes closed beacuse often what we see is not what we really need / want or get.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Who the Hell was Vince Lombardi?

Perhaps the most often quoted and highly touted sports figure of all time, Vince Lombardi was the winningest coach in football history. Through an era where multi thousand dollar contracts were not even fathomed, players performed prior to their reward and rules and regulations did not interfere with the flow of the game (which, as in life… was / is not perfect), Vince Lombardi set a precedence that has not and will not be touched for eternities to come. Yet, if we are evolving, redefining and revolutionizing as a species, why is his record so difficult to break?

Vince Lombardi made no secret about the attitude of his tenure. For Vince “winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in awhile; you don’t do things right once in awhile; you do them right all the time. Unfortunately, so is losing”. In our new world, we lack the consistency to embrace or want a winning attitude because it is seen as ‘extreme’ or ‘over the top’. Yet, given the opportunity… we all want to see a winner and we want to be that winner. Lance Armstrong is a winner. Instead, we embrace equality (like the word truly exists) and cater to the middle denominator right from the participation ribbons, to the integrated workforce. Do we grant academic scholarships for c – averages? Is it necessary to place male(s) or female(s) in preferential positions for the sole purpose of being equal? In how many instances is the middle of anything celebrated / embraced or mentioned? Evolution or religion – equality was not part of the master plan because if we were meant to be equal(s), there would have been one being, who died shortly after birth. We need to get that winning attitude back.

Platform / Plan.
Vince Lombardi was not vague on how he would win. He would win on the back of hard work. To be a member of his team, one had to prepare themselves to tax their physical and mental thresholds day in and day out. Vince believed that “any man’s finest hour- his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he’s exhausted on the field of battle – victorious”. Our world has been infiltrated by short cuts. Getting the most, while giving the least. From overbearing parents who don’t want to see their kid’s struggle, to climbing the corporate ladder, to keeping up with the Jones’s, we have yet to figure out that it is the effort through the journey, which generates the adrenaline and archives the best memories. Fewer of us get to experience what it feels like to be victorious in our own right because quite simply, we just don’t want to work hard.

Vince Lombardi was a visionary with passion. He believed that “every time a football player goes to ply his trade, he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s o.k. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to have a find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.” Our world lacks passion. Catering to mediocrity, compounded by short cuts, has left many with a deflated ‘why bother / who cares’ 1-2 punch. This flows through osmosis from above / around / underneath and can cripple the strongest of candidates. Whether it’s the youth who half asses it on the field, the cancer in the workplace who complains behind closed doors, or the salesperson who explains ‘it’s not their job’… people lack passion and that is sad. We need to realize passion comes from within and then match what we are good at with what we are passionate about in order to get something out of life. We only have one life to live and we must live that life without regret.

Vince Lombardi fostered his passion amongst his team through disciplined principles. “if you are 10 minutes early, you were 5 minutes late” Vince explained that “running a football team is no different than running any other kid of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The object is to win”. He had a plan, and he did not deviate from that plan. Regardless of how great of player you were… you were not exempt. The principles instituted to carry out that plan set the expectations and created consistency. Our world has sacrificed many of our principles. We have established a ‘gray’ area to keep us from avoiding the realities of black and white. The adjective for this is ‘justification(s)’ and the examples are too numerous to site. It’s very difficult to consistently abide by the principles when you have little passion, look for the easy route, or give a half assed effort with a loosing attitude.

Vince Lombardi was the winningest football coach of all time. He accomplished this with one team, one attitude, one foundation, one passion, and a few principles. Our world will not see this repeated in our lifetime because there is too much grime (greed, resistance, ignorance, money, and ego) within some of the current leadership where there needs to be better attitudes, stronger foundations, deeper passions, and guided principles. We are in a constant state of building better mousetraps in order to avoid the realities of life. (note how short this section is? It’s that easy).

Vince Lombardi did more than a win football games and hand out quotes. He left a legacy. Our world is composed largely of a ‘me society’ trying to accumulate as much ‘stuff’ as we can in order to validate our actions. We perceive this stuff… to be our legacy. Vince Lombardi left a legacy of leadership. He stated "Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal." Our world thinks that leaders are born so we can justify their obscurity and continue schlepping our personal baggage for as long as we can. Few want to step out. Fewer want to take charge. Fewer still want to rock the boat and, even fewer still actually leave something that will benefit not only themselves but generations to come. That’s what leadership is about. We are leaving our world with few goals, a weak foundation, piss poor passion, and pathetic principle(s) and the results are evident. When millions embrace a music phenom who’s music is his escape from his troubled life. Realize the appeal is the reality that, in many ways, his story… is their story.

Who the hell was Vince Lombardi?
One of the greatest leaders of all time.

The View From Mars.

They told us you were coming and we spent weeks rolling out the contingency plan to do whatever we could to evade detection from the self proclaimed “most intelligent species in the universe”. A couple of weeks ago it happened. A capsule screamed into our stratosphere and landed in the state of freedom. Instinctively, the townspeople scrambled to intercept the ‘rover’ before it could expose any elements of our culture. It was almost humorous, as we would take turns holding a holograph of barren wasteland in front of the lens as this rover navigated its way in circles across our farmland. We easily foiled the probes into sensing nothing but oxygen depleted soils. Why did we do this? We have zero interest in interacting with your people.

Your people knowingly destroy your own environments. We read in the paper that the oceans have become a polluted wasteland because your people continue to dump hazardous wastes into them. We saw that a large percent of the water sources have run dry or are useless. We have curiously watched as you deplete the soils of your lands of their natural minerals and nutrients in over farming, over growth and over production for wasteful consumption. You use food as a ‘demonstration of creativity’ instead of meeting your basic needs of fuel and maintaining homeostasis. We saw the hole in your stratosphere five years ago and navigated your cameras towards the problem and you still send toxins into the air at a death defying pace. According to our tests, the quality of your air will be reaching toxic levels in the year 2020, the ramifications of which will destroy the fragile few ecosystems that you have left

Your people have an obsession with killing themselves and each other. We watch some of you ingest drugs, alcohol, tobacco & processed substances by the tones each hour of each day. This does not make sense and we wonder what contributes to such wanton ignorance. Your people resort to killing each other to solve conflict. Sometimes mass groups of people will be recruited to kill other groups on the heels of a single ideology. You kill over territory (like you all now own the space our creator has rented you). You kill over a discrepancy in belief instead of rational problem solving. Sometimes, mass groups of people kill mass groups of people because their beliefs are different in what you characterize as “war”. You kill over needing something that someone else has. Rather then synthesize it, work for it or ask for it, you kill for it. This obsession with killing has prevented us from wanting to visit your planet. Your people seem to kill the strong & vital (those who realize this and try to initiate change), while conversely you harbor the weak and the sick at a disproportionate rate. This goes against every law of natural selection and survival known to any species on any planet. Your people selfishly and constantly seek eternal life while impeding the functionality of ecosystems that require a dynamic lifestyle.

Perhaps the most alarming factor stems from the fact that knowing all of this, you continue to educate your people to perpetuate self-destructive behavior. For years we have wondered why all the good that exists within people, communities and the continents is not exploited to its fullest potential. You have appropriately dubbed yourself as a ‘me’ society and ‘me generation’ yet you do nothing to change that. You resort to fictional, uncontrolled stimulus to bring education to your future and then you complain when they deliver what they have been taught that you ‘can’t understand why this is happening’? Much of your societies success is based on external stimulus, and in this, there is little effort made for others, kindness, empathy or legacy. You define legacy as what is left to continue your ideologies instead of necessary traditions needed to help / benefit others. In our view, this is not “legacy”.

Lastly, your unprecedented faith in a god who possesses the most power we have seen across an entire galaxy. The almighty… ‘dollar’. The continuous, unwavering allegiance to such a fictional character who does not provide any spiritual growth or benefit (in fact preempts such disaster, scandal and destruction as we have witnesses over the past 3 years alone) is quite frankly; nothing we ever want to see on our planet.

We encourage you to stop looking elsewhere for intelligent life and start creating more intelligent life where it is most needed: on your planet. Do you actually think that if there were intelligent life form ‘out here’ we would invite the fastest growing virus in the universe in to corrupt our homeostasis? No. We will continue to dismantle your rovers until we are certain that you realize there is nothing here for you to consume, market or destroy for your personal gain and when you have decimated your own planet, we will come there and rebuild.

With a new perspective.

The confidence to start.

Ironically, its taken a long time to gather the confidence to create this blog. Questions like who the hell are we to write, who will listen and what will come of it were finally put to rest as the project began to take form.
We came to the conclusion that one does not have to be a scholar or have letters beside their name to have a great idea, intelligent point or worthy conversation. Anyone can share and in a world quickly turning inwards, sharing is exatly what is needed on a much larger scale in order to reinforce the reality that we are an ecostsyem that relies on one another for continued growth and regeneration.
Over the next few days this blog will take shape and hopefully open the doors to intelligent conversation which will encourage people to think... and then act. Its not a call to arms by any stretch, its a call to utilize more brain power and effort throughout our own daily lives.
If the information & perspectives inside this blog help someone learn, gain the confidence or live a fraction of a measure of a better life, it has been a success.