Thursday, May 31, 2007

Magnetic Charisma

Today is just like any other day in the rat race. Today could be groundhog day once again to the uninspired, or it could be the matchbook that starts an explosion to the inspired/ inspirable.

Today was, to any swim upstreamer of course, the latter kind of day. It was that day when an idea or a cause became bigger than any one person... it was the day when the charisma of one individual magnetically pulled people from all 10 provinces together in anticipation of a truly remarkable event.

That is, the send off of Tim Harriman. Now 19 years old, diagnosed with cancer at 14, who after 3 years of chemo- and radiation- therapy is now going to be riding across Canada to support the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF).

Today I watched about 20 people who did not know Tim before 2 years ago high-five, hug, cheer, and basiccaly rally around a young man as he smiles towards the second toughest challenge of his young life. This is what Magnetic Charisma is... the force that pulls you to do great things, or towards people who hold that level of passion.

Tim's story can be read at I suggest you read his story, and let the impact it has on you to help you write your own story. This is not and should not be a comparison... this is only to say that if you get really excited about your own life and your own journey, you will attack it that much harder and faster.

Please do not read Tim's story and say, "good for him", or "there's no way I can do that". That would be missing the point. Read it, and understand this is going to be THE thing that defines Tim (at least for now). Understand this, get motivated and know that YOU define what defines you.

What gives you the charisma to attract others? What are you doing right now to define your legacy and attract others to your cause?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

To inspire others...

we must have first been inspired.

read this again. understand this. know where you fit in this picture.
  • firstly, if at any point in your life you have been inspired to take your personal or professional growth to a level you thought not possible - thank those that were catalysts in those positive changes.
  • secondly, if you are in a position to or want to inspire...then do just that. don't be that clog in the wheel that is hoarting all information, feedback, leadership development, etc. that got you to where you are.
  • lastly, when you lead others to that promise land, don't feel you need to re-invent the wheel of leadership - because it is a universal language that already exists.

yes, the world is full of great people.

however, not all greatness is born. chances are they are great because someone taught, mentored, challenged, supported, and inspired them to be better.

be an inspiration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Measuring Life

Of those to whom much is given, much is required.
And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgement on each of us -- recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities -- our success or failure, we will be measured by the answers to four questions:

were we truly men of courage...
were we truly men of judgement...
were we truly men of integrity...
were we truly men of dedication?

-- John F. Kennedy

Monday, May 28, 2007


last week we received an inventory from one of our co workers. first, let me explain what an 'inventory' is.

when people apply to our company, they are asked to submit a personal inventory describing (for themselves & to themselves) who / what & why they are the way they are. specifically we are looking for patterns of behaviors we will undoubtedly see and have to address. the theory is, if we can encourage people to reflect on their past, significant moments, and their own strengths and weakness origins, we will increase the likelihood of managing their talents through their term. knowing is half the battle.

does it work. 100%. what it does is challenge young people to look at themselves before we look... and comment. people are invited to share their inventories if they want and we begin by sharing ourselves so people understand what they should be looking for.

...back to last week. i received a copy of someones inventory and was blown away by how well it was written and also, how much this young woman had come through to make it to where she is now. what struck me as odd was how thankfully she reacted after sharing her story with us and having our support. it was as if we were giving her permission to be human, vulnerable, and exorcise her demons in a safe haven.

i thought about that long and hard because i have seen it before. giving someone permission. so many times we go through life and learn to fear people who say "no". no is a power word used by powerless people. remember, any idiot can say no, but only a true leader, entrepreneur, mentor, hero etc has the capacity to say "yes".

yes it is ok to be who you are. yes you will still be supported, in fact likely more now that we have a snapshot into areas we otherwise may not have known about. yes it's ok to make a mistake. yes you will be held accountable, but yes we will learn from it and move on. yes, you are still a great human and contributing member. yes life is tough. yes there is a lot of good in the world. yes there are people you can trust, yes yes yes yes yes.

keep saying & thinking yes. i can... i will.... i am and you will reach the promised land of self actualization in short order. you will be successful beyond your wildest imagination.

this isn't "the secret" talk... because the path to this fantastic discovery actually.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

hey cool people.... know what's cool.

i see the wealthy has an affinity for land rovers and i have to chuckle to myself and ask why. few of these yuppie food consuming wannabes will ever even shift their land rovers into 4 wheel drive which was the full use they were intended for. like the hummers that scatter the soils of the middle east, worth the $10 000 it cost to make them for some reason the wealthy like to play dress up and pay $100k plus for the same thing. but that's not even the worse of it all.

designer beer. there are brewery's in brazil, mexico, and europe scratching their heads in disbelief as they ship case after case of their 'lower class - low grade beer' to north america where we consume it on mass simply because someone marketed us too. of course, not to sound the total cynic, there are those of us who completely understand that corona, Stella, Heineken and braha taste like a mixture of carbonated urine.... unless we add the lime. oh yes, the lime, nothing makes us look more ridiculous than adding that lime. refreshing, no stupid.

like a sheep who watched the commercial of the guy sipping a corona, on a beach and watching a hot chick. let me close my eyes and take a swig... nope, not feeling the love, but i am feeling sick to my stomach.

point is here cool folk, if you are going to go for cool, understand what cool is and don't just hop on the bandwagon because you would like to think you are sophisticated. and even then, if you are going to do it (at 25-25 & 45) because all your friends are, don't make the mistake of trying to look classy ordering these beers if you ever decide to leave your circle of trust fund buddies and travel abroad.

because... you may just be exposed for the moron that you are.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Creatures of Habitual Comfort

For the large majority of us there is little variation in our average day. Typically we wake up and go to work, do our work, and then go home. On the weekend we sleep in, watch something on TV, and do some house chores. Whatever your pattern is, good or bad; we are all creatures of habitual comfort.

What is a creature of habitual comfort you might ask? Well it is someone who follows routines for the sake of following routines. When you wake up and have the same bowl of cereal every morning, or have the same coffee drink from the same establishment, you are doing it because it is a comforting habit. There are other cereals that you would like and other coffee that your palate would enjoy, it’s just that you know what you like and don’t want to deviate from what you know best.

Frequently we are creatures of habitual comfort in the workplace. We do the same job every day, take the same lunch break, put out the same effort, and fulfill the cycle by taking the same route home where we entertain ourselves in the same way. Again comfort controls our motivation, which isn’t necessarily a negative as long as you have no real visions of excellence.

To excel means at some point you need to step out of your habitual comfort zone and take a chance on something that will allow you to feel life again. You will never feel life sitting in the womb of your comfort zone because nothing unexpected will ever have the chance to happen. To feel life there has to be a certain amount of uncertainty that is injected to your every day, most of which is created by you because of the choices you make.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you saying that this message doesn’t apply to you because you are active and you find new adventures every weekend, well I’m here to say I bet that this message applies to you more than you think. Creatures of habitual comfort are not just the lazy or large, the also are workaholics and adventure enthusiasts. How many of you do the same exercise routine every week (three times in the gym, three times outside the gym), meet up with the same people for an afternoon ride or run, meet for happy hour with the same people, or spend the same amount of time avoiding your family each day?

This message applies to all of us. We all follow the patterns we have established throughout our lifetime, patterns of habit and comfort that allow us to get through the grind. So, as you set out for the memorial day holiday weekend, going to the same lakeside house, barbequing with the same neighborhood families, and taking the same trip you have taken since you were a child, remember you have no right to complain that your life isn’t everything you want it to be because you haven’t taken the chance to allow it to be just that.

I say this to you as I write for the same blog, on the same day, at the same time as I have every week. You see, we are all creatures of habitual comfort, and the lies you use to tell yourself that this is not true are the same lies you tell yourself daily (habits for comfort perhaps?).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

To Those Who Accept... We Thank You

As many of you may have read in one of Matt's previous blogs, one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective forms of feedback that is largely lacking in today's society is a simple "Thank You". Today my thank you goes out to Henry Burris and Damon Allen of the CFL.

We on swim upstream have broadcast as many stories about athletes abusing their platform as anybody else... those who make millions of dollars, neglect any sort of social obligations, and then feel that the world owes them the platform to play a sport they love and make millions by holding out for more money, or acting like spoiled idiots in their public and private lives.

And then there are the real treasures... those kinds of people with small town values and ethics you hear about meeting in Newfoundland. Anytime you meet someone with these values - it is a rare and special treat. When they just happen to be famous, and have the pressures of performance, the media, available women, alcohol, drugs, and many other pressures; and yet retain those unreal morals... it becomes all the more rare and rewarding.

So Thank You Henry Burris for organizing a classy event in your spare time (of which you have little) to benefit Big Brothers and Sisters (Henry himself being a mentor). Thank you for taking the time to talk, be a real person, and give back to the community, as well as take a real vested interest in those who live in said community. This is the kind of starting quarterback any professional franchise would be lucky to have, and the kind this city has fallen in love with.

And thank you to all the professional athletes who took time out of their busy schedules to attend, give of their time, sign autographs, play in a charity softball game, etc. A special thank you goes to the man who has acheived the most of the entire group professionally (with a special side-note to Don Narcisse and Jeff Garcia), yet who has remained perhaps the most humble... Damon Allen.

Damon Allen's introduction took literally 3 or 4 minutes, highlighting only the best, and in the 6 to 8 minutes I got to spend with him, none of those highlights came up. The conversation revolved around life, and how those who have been given opportunities, have also been given responsibilities.

So on behalf of our entire community in Calgary, and the larger community of swim upstream, to those who accept the task of responsibility, and being a role model... and who do so gratefully,

Thank You. You will be remembered for more than just how many touchdowns you score by your fans, and we will all be remembered by the game of life not by the games we won, but by the people we won over with our character.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

how bad do you really have it?

lately, have you caught yourself...
  • complaining about what is on television?
  • debating what shirt looks better on?
  • self-reflecting and believing that your life isn't as good as you want it to be?

well...after googling the words "world poverty" and finding some interesting facts and statititics, maybe this will provide you with some insight on what other people have (or should I say - don't have)

AND be a humbling moment for you.

  • about 11 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition and mostly preventable dieseases, each year.
  • more than 90 million children do not have the opportunity to attend school.
  • nearly 1 billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • approximately, 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
  • half the world — nearly 3 billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.

SO the next time you don't think you have enough...think again! And then learn to appreciate even the smallest things that you do have and your ability to help out those that have very little.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't.
- Richard Bach

What is your mission?

Why are you here?

Ask yourself and you will discover who you are, where you will go and what you will be remembered for. Continue to wait and you will merely live out life. Passion for life is what people ultimately want. Do you want to live with passion? I sure do.

In a study of elderly hospital patients nearing death people were asked what they would do more of if they could have their lives back to be lived over again.

Over 90% said they would take more risks, take on more adventures and live life like it was their last day on earth.

I would translate that to say that they would live with an inner mission to explore, see what the world had to offer and offer back something themselves. I take that to mean they would find a reason to live.

Mission, mission, mission. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

You will never know exactly what direction your life will take you but if you stay true to your mission then it will be easy to make decisions and to live a life that is stress free. You will know what to do. You will know that ultimately you aren't ever done but with a mission your life has meaning because a mission can be left behind even though you can't.

Find out what your mission is and you will find purpose for the things you do daily, you will find passion for regular tasks and you will discover your truest self. Your mission will guide you.

Good luck on your journey.

Monday, May 21, 2007

the worse kept secret

last week i had the pleasure of sitting down with my first girlfriend. although about 12 years had passed since we last saw each other, i really wanted to reconnect and let her know i made it... as well as see how she was doing.

after spending the first 1/2 hour catching up & swapping family pictures, we revisited the past and some of the things we could have done better. it wasn't too far into that conversation that i found out the horrible news she had been sexually molested from x to y years of her life.

having two kids of my own, my first emotion was anger. reflecting on some of her behaviors towards myself as she detailed the experience, my second feelings were embarrassment and heartbreak that i wasn't aware and didn't see it. in fact, after she was finished, i was unsure whether to apologise, hug her, cry, or lash out at the perpetrator (who thankfully has since taken his life).

on one hand i was sad to hear this news, on the other i was happy to see it had been dealt with and was now being managed by her. she seemed genuinely stronger by having come through the experience and was no longer afraid of keeping it "secret".

the ironic thing about a secret, is that it isn't really a secret. it usually finds it's way out in the forms of various isms and ic's (alcohol - workohol). further it is completely transparent to those who have dealt with their secrets. we all have stories, hence its safe to say a few of us have secrets and i am here to say, yes say - not suggest - imply - hint or skirt around, that your truth will set you free. read that again. and again. and again until you believe it (and stay tuned for a tool that will help you... help you) that we (all swim upstreamers have found usefull).

don't buy into keeping the "family secret in the family", don't buy into keeping some fucked up lunatic's secret "between you and he / her" and don't believe you are the only one with a secret and its your fault. it isn't. i've always maintained you can't let other peoples baggage become your baggage and although its easier said than done, its the only way you can prevent things like this from eating at your very soul.

if anyone is bringing any hurt, discomfort, annoyance, angst, or nuisance to your being YOU TELL SOMEONE. write us and tell us. write it into cyberspace and push send, what ever you do, get it from your inside... out and do not let it grow & feed.

secrets like this are the worse kept secrets we've got going. let it out. live YOUR life!

Friday, May 18, 2007


Last Friday my friend, Jerry McIntosh, lost his life while playing in a charity basketball game, leaving behind a wife and two kids as well as the hundreds of kids he directly impacts every year. Jerry was “that guy” who we are consistently talking about in this blog. He was dedicated to helping underserved kids gain a step forward in life while fulfilling his legacy on this world. Before you continue to read this post, I urge you to go back and read Willie’s post from this week because he was spot on in defining our purpose in this world. Jerry left behind an amazing legacy in the community where he worked and lived, which is something you also can do and should do.

Mission + Vision + Purpose = Legacy

The first thing we all need to do is to establish a personal mission in our lives. Think business where everyone has a mission statement and make one for you personally. Simply ask yourself these questions: What is your mission in life? What makes you get up in the morning and continue along your journey? Why are you here? Once you have answers to these questions write them down and carry it with you as a constant reminder of who you are.

Secondly, use your mission to create a vision of where you are headed and why. This vision will define what to act upon as well as what to avoid and will allow you to focus on what you believe is essential in your life. Your vision is your pathway to being and accomplishing exactly what you have described as your mission. Vision will allow you to have a clear path towards your end goal and clear all of the clutter that interferes with our daily movement.

Thirdly, attach your mission and vision to a purpose. This purpose needs to be something you are passionate about, something that allows you to pursue your journey despite any obstacles that you might face. When you can put a purpose to why you are on this earth you can see clearly the path that needs to be taken in order to achieve your desires. All too often we get caught up in the “rat race”, like Willie mentioned, and lose our place in this world. We become a puppet to an external force and accumulate “garbage years” where we are less fulfilled and satisfied with our lives.

Once you are able to take steps one through three, you are then in the process of creating your legacy and benefiting those around you for doing nothing else other than being passionate about your life. We all have an ending point in this world and it is our personal responsibility to positively affect as many lives as we possibly can before that time comes. Instead of wasting our time in unfulfilled careers where we sacrifice our own personal happiness because of things we have to do, we really need to regain control of our lives and focus on how we can succeed doing the things we want to do.

Yesterday at Jerry’s funeral the speakers said the things we commonly hear at funerals. One thing stood out to me when listening to these speakers. They said that there “would never be another Jerry McIntosh”, which I truly hope is not true. There needs to be a million more Jerry McIntosh’s in this world and I sincerely hope that you will become one of them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why We Swim Upstream

This blog is to all those people who read these lessons and ask, "do they think they're better than everybody else?"

This blog is for everyone else who may appreciate what is written and ask, "how did they figure these lessons out?"

And most importantly, this blog is for people who may or may not understand where the messages come from, but ask, "why do they forge a different path... why do they swim upstream?"

The answer, quite simply - is YOU. When one makes the conscious decision to go against the grain; to swim upstream, and leave the rat race of decision making through osmosis; they leave others behind. Having said this, doing the right thing often separates you from others and may leave you lonely.

This reinforces the question of "why swim upstream?" to which invariably the obvious answer must be... because when you meet others who are swimming upstream, it is that much more rewarding and makes the journey all the more worthwhile.

When others chastise you for making the tough decisions, the conversations with a fellow upstreamer flow that much more easily. Decisions such as where to spend your time and with whom, are almost made for you - because they are that much more obvious.

After 7 months of writing, sharing, and dedicated readership, the decision to continue to swim upstream has become all the more obvious and easier. Whether you have a favorite contributor, or a favorite blog from each of us - the fact is if you believe anything you read here - you are in the process or re-affirming or re-evaluating your values and your path in life. In either case, this blog is for you to say that although the right decision may not be easy...

The more times you swim upstream, the more you strengthen those swimming muscles (your resolve)and the easier the spawning process (the fertilization of an open mind) becomes.

Cheers to all those dedicated (or even occasional) readers who have read something that raised an eyebrow and more importantly, prompted action.

after all.. that is the whole point. You are not alone. Keep swimming, and you will distance yourself from a crowded ocean of polluted behavior into a smaller but more enjoyable lake of invigoration and reward. YOU are the reason we do this every day. Now feel as special and important as we know you are, get that wetsuit on, and keep fighting the tide of the crowd on your way to the most rewarding life you can create for yourself... the wonderful life you deserve!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fear or Courage

In life, we are often experiencing those self-imposed barriers and don't know what road to take...and then we think to ourselves - what or who builds these barriers?

I will tell you.

It is a stonemason by the name of Fear who is behind it all. Fear is a highly skilled inidvidual at building barriers from non-existing stones. He is always living in our minds and flounders between living in the front of our minds or the back of them. However, Fear will go exactly where we tell him to go.

By shifting our concetration away from our own courage and then to focus on the things that frighten us, we move Fear from the back of our minds to the front of our minds. Not only will this action change Fear's location but through the process of concentration it will strengthen Fear's ability. Without this process Fear has no strength of it's own - because it's only strength is that which we choose to give it.

When Fear defeats us, it does so because of our own mental focus. Unfortunately, the amount of strength we pass onto Fear is the very strength we need to overcome it. Instead, we must choose to push our goals, wrapped in courage, to the forefront of our minds so that we are able to break down the barriers we set for ourselves.

Everyone posses sufficient courage to initiate this process and to achieve what they wish. And athlough a person may not be born with an overabundance of talent, everyone certainly posses all the courage needed (whether used or unused) to develop the talent that is already there.

So, do not base what you achieve in life on your inborn talents. Base your accomplishments for the amount of courage you choose to use to develop the talent you have.

Cut out fear from your diet and add additional courage to it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


How many people go through life just doing what they think they should? Following along without thinking about what exactly it is they are doing. School to job, and then to family with kids, and so on and so on. The epitomy of the "rat race" that so many people just don't believe they are a part of. Why does this happen to so much of the population?

Blue suits, grim outlooks, and then in a final frustrated demeanor, a life dedicated to blaming others for their own plight. Gas prices are brutal, the government should do this and that, my boss is out to get me, and any other cacophony of worthless and impossible situations brought on by none other than themselves. Look around you, these people not only exist, they are the majority. Why?

Because they haven't got a purpose.

Purpose is the most powerful motivator in the world. Bar none.

Take the blue suits and look at them in the hobbies they have found they enjoy. Stamp collecting, train spotting, bird watching, or physical exercise. Their hollow eyes are lit up with fire and energy. Their souls are light and their worlds are fresh and vibrant. A purpose has over taken those moments in time.

Get that hard to find English stamp, spot train number 234567, get a glimpse of a yellow bellied heron, or feel the adrenalin after a great bike ride. All things that the mind contends are worthy purposes.

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it."

A worthy purpose is the only way that one must live their life. Make your job a part of your personal purpose and this will be a better world to live in.

Today is the first day of a life filled with joy and happiness because today is the day you stop, think for a few minutes, move yourself out from the "rat race" you are caught in, and discover your purpose for being here on God's green earth.

We'd love to hear what you come up with and what you think. What great things will you accomplish by following the call of your purpose. We want to see you shine, succeed and grow...

...because you live with a strong sense of purpose.

Monday, May 14, 2007

letter from outer space.

They told us you were coming back 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 happend. 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.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Parking Lot Snobs

Three times in the past week I have seen perfectly able-bodied people park in a handicap parking space, legally because the have the precious blue placard, and walk to wherever their destination is, twice with their arms full of belongings. So you don’t jump to conclusions and so that I can make a point, I waited until they returned to their car twice to make sure that they weren’t picking up someone who needed the parking space. On the third time the person went shopping, so unless they were buying a handicap person then they were just taking a space that someone could actually use.

Handicap parking is there for a purpose, to make life easier on those who already have it harder than the rest of us. A few months ago I was on either crutches or a cane for six weeks and it was tough to have to park far away and gimp to my destination, but it was temporary. The people that need the blue placard don’t have the luxury of knowing that their situation will end because for the majority of them it is permanent, and I imagine that it is fairly insulting seeing people walk out of a handicap parking spot when they can’t walk at all.

My wife teaches creative writing to a group of developmentally disabled adults, many of them in wheelchairs who are proper recipients of the blue placard. The first man I saw parking in a handicap parking spot was not in a wheelchair, in fact he had his arms stacked with materials 3 feet high and didn’t even have a limp. I don’t want to be insulting, but if he happens to read this blog I hope that he gets an understanding that being overweight is not a handicap, in fact parking further away would be better for you. The second man I saw using a handicap parking spot maybe was confused, so I will help you out by informing you that old age is not a handicap either. In fact you of all people should celebrate your good health and understand that you are fortunate compared to others. For the third person I have nothing to say other than you disgust me. You exited your car like it was on fire and bolted into the supermarket.

Now, I am a realist and understand that they might have someone in their immediate family that needs the blue placard, but unless they are in the car or are going to be in the car you do not have the right to use that spot. The handicap spot is for people with a handicap (noun, something that hinders or is a disadvantage to somebody or something) that limits their mobility therefore making it necessary to have a parking spot closest to their destination. By taking these spots when you are perfectly capable of parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking makes you an insensitive jerk, nothing more nothing less.

Parking lots have turned into the modern day gladiator rings where people actually fight for the closest space in the lot. When meeting up with others for a social gathering you will often hear “I found the perfect parking spot” or “parking around here is miserable” or other useless babble for those who consider parking important. The reality is that the majority of us have it easy, we can walk, which is actually something all of us need more of. You want to take some stress out of your life? Stop using half of a tank of gas looking for that spot 100 yards away from where all of the openings are. Use your good fortune of mobility to get you to where you need to go, and for the love of God leave the blue parking spots for those that are unfortunate enough to need them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Values in real time

This week, a few interesting challenges in the workplace have made me question values. Specifically, the difference between what people express as their values, and what they exhibit; whether beknownst to themselves or not.

For example, many corporate cultures are based around teamwork. Ours states we must share with and care for our teammates in every situation. This never means we must agree- it basically boils down to trust and respect. Without using any examples from our environment, let's look at a few common scenarios we can probably all relate to from our every day lives....

How about the nice guy who holds the door open for the sweet old lady, and then honks his horn and cuts people off as soon as he gets behind the wheel?

How about the parent who will argue till they are blue in the face about how they will do anything for their kids, but then yell at their kids to quiet down when their favorite show is on?

What about the girl who "just wishes she could meet a nice guy?" and expects to meet him at the flashiest bar, driving a flashy car with pimp clothes on and who uses a clever pick up line?

I will be the first to say nobody is perfect, and it is impossible to follow your own advice all the time (what if telling a lie protects someone from being injured or even assaulted?). The reason I bring these specific examples up- these seemingly mundane every day examples....

is to show that there is a real difference between what we tell others our values are; and the values they may perceive us to hold based on our ACTIONS. As leaders, the more consistent our spoken words and our visible actions, the greater chances are that others will a) believe us and b) accept the challenge to live their values at a higher level.

So, email away, write the best book on the subject, and talk talk talk all you want... but ensure your actions are saying what you want to others about your values in real time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


You are unique. You are one of a kind. You are created perfectly.

Now, if only you knew that.

It took me a long time to figure out I was made to be exactly as I am. I have strived to do what experts have suggested, what winners have done and what the best have showed through time. However, I was missing one thing and I think many of you might be missing that concept as well.

That concept is our own unique way of doing it.

If you are smart you've picked up books, listened to audiotapes, watched movies, taken courses and tried to improve yourself. Yet over time trying to do what the experts say often clouds us from being exactly who we are. We merely incorporate our newfound knowledge and regurgitate. We are programmed and avoid our own strengths. We forget who we are. We lose ourselves trying to be what we feel others want us to be.

I would like to remind you that the idea behind trying to improve or find yourself is the YOURSELF part.

Use learning to help uncover your unique gifts. Uncover your perfect self and let the world know what you are great at. You are perfect and we want to see what you can do.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I have an Uncle who still lives in the house he grew up in. He is a great man, but has nobody, and never has had anybody to share his life with. Yes he has many friends, in fact he is known by the greater amount of people who have grown up in San Francisco, but he doesn't have anyone to really lean on.

I bring this up because I have recently needed those that are in my life to lean on. This has made me think about the importance of the relationships we form and maintain throughout our lives.

In life relationships are everything, they dictate who we are and how we survive. From business life to personal life, our ability to form and sustain relationships with others is essential in our ability to create a legacy of our own. In many cases we are only as successful as the bonds that we have formed in our lives. Everyone has wondered what their funeral will be like, what will be said, and who will attend. The answer is simple, it will be attended by those that you have touched, they will say what you meant to them, and it will be as wonderful as you made your time with others.

So what keeps us from forming bonds with others? Usually it is our inability to make ourselves vulnerable because to do so initiates our greatest fear, the fear of letting others know we are flawed. We have a hard enough time admitting our flaws to ourselves let alone others, therefore settling into our protective shells sheltered from external opinions. The more we protect ourselves based on our fears the less we allow ourselves to attach to others, and others to us.

There is a certain amount of trust that is needed to bond with another person and that trust begins with trusting yourself, knowing who you are so that others can see your true self. Once we have accomplished the task of having a good relationship with ourselves, then and only then are we ready to have a relationship with another person that will be of any sustenance.

I write this blog as I am on the ferry going across the San Francisco Bay to meet up at a Giants game with a friend I have known my whole life. I am alone going into the city to continue a lifelong bond, the same city, where at this same time, my uncle returns to an empty nest.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Inside The Quotes: Nietzsche Nails It

Say hello to a fellow swim-upstreamer. Friedrich Nietzsche died 107 years ago- and yet he, too, shares many of the same ideals you read here every day. A few favorites, along with a short commentary, are as follows;

"Insanity in individuals is rare - but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule."

Read Scott's blog last Friday about how Alec Baldwin acted insanely towards his 11 year old daughter (surely this type of parenting must be the exception and not the rule) but then a society at large comes to his defense. Once again citing Scott's work, one insane person who kills 32 innocent people at Virginia Tech, and then we as a society insanely give a shit about his story. If that is not a world gone insane, I don't want to know what is.

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

This quote describes exactly why swim upstream was started. To give people a reason, and support, as well as a vision, while they go against the grain of traffic in the rat race. Many people considered Nietzsche to be harsh and even cruel- but one thing he will also be remembered for- he did not sugar coat the truth. If you seek a better life than your peers- you will still have rough patches- no doubt about it. But the reasonable person sees a purpose in suffering, and grows through adversity rather than falling victim to it. And finally, on that note...

"To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity."

Point blank- isn't it quite stupid to live your life on autopilot? You were given the plane (a life) for a reason- have fun doing a mid-air 360, or breaking the air-speed record- just plain have fun finding and following your purpose!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

You Sleep in the Bed That You Make

Everyday we have a choice.

We have a choice to be what we want to be and a choice to do what we want to do.

Leaders are the best at what they do because they spend their days hunting for the best. They see the best in amidst adversity. They see the best in the people around them. They strive for the best in themselves. And in doing so...they receive their best lives.

As I get ready to embark on a spectacular trip to the ruins of Macchu Piccu in Peru, I reflect on what we have the ability to do and what we have the ability to accomplish. I reflect on the life I am living and know that an extroardinary life is not available only to a 'chosen few'. Anyone is destined for greatness...however, we need to do our part to make it all happen.

day by day - choice by choice - step by step.

We can make anything happen!

Small gains eventually will yield large results.

Hard work eventually will be rewarded.

And good things will eventually happen to good people.

So...lay claim to your greatness everyday. Stop being the victim and prisoner of the past and become the artist of your future. Become the person that you have always dreamed of being...

and make that King Size bed to lay in.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
-Henry Ford

It is always how you look at it.
  1. There isn't a person on the planet that hasn't made a mistake or failed at something. Not one. You will have your moment if you haven't already. Therefore, you can rest assured that people are just hiding their misfortune and that you aren't the only one, if in fact you care what others think.
  2. The people who live life to the maximum view issues, problems or possible negative scenarios, as a positive learning experiences are the most successful. Period.
How does one then deal with a failure? It is actually quite simple:
  1. Look at exactly what failed and why, no matter how painful the experience may be. Delve into it and discover where the problems occurred, where you could have done something differently and how it would have affected the outcome more positively.
  2. Look for help and ask how you could have done a better job. The fact that we have all failed means that someone, in principal, has probably researched what you did, written about what you messed up on or has a course on how to do it right! Find that information and study up. There is just a myriad of ways to shore up your efforts for next time by assessing your failures this time. Ask those affected how you failed and ask for helpful hints on how to better, again, no matter how painful it seems, so that you can move forward.
  3. Never make the same mistake twice. That just makes you lazy or worse......

If we will all be thrust in front of failure it is how we tackle those problems and come out on the other side that will make the person we are.

I choose to become more intelligent about how I begin again next time. Just like a certain Henry Ford.

What will you do when failure strikes?