Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Story-Telling II

I have always been a humble person who has never considered being better than anybody else. Because of this, for most of my life I ended up being modest about any interesting things I have done and not wanting to tell people about them. For example, I recently created a documentary film about my search for a specific train boxcar. I was fortunate enough to have this film accepted into some international film festivals this year. It is a unique story that many of my close friends are familiar with but those who I do not know at the same level usually do not hear me talking about the film and the story. In most cases, when the word ‘train’ comes up it is my friends who end up telling others about my story (I suppose it makes for an interesting conversation piece that they know people want to hear). When asked about the boxcar story I always try to downplay it by saying it is not that good, you wouldn’t like it and quickly try to change the topic of conversation. There are some who will not accept that I am trying to change topics or simply are too curious to know more and at that point I take a deep breath and allow the story to unfold. I secretly love to talk about my train story and it turns out people love to listen because I speak about it with passion from the heart.

I am not about to tell you the story because it really deserves a face-to-face conversation over coffee or tea (call me). My aim rather is to write about the importance of story-telling from another perspective (also see SUS Aug 18, 2008) for there is nothing wrong with talking about ourselves and the cool things we have done when it is done in a way that inspires people. You can be certain that if you speak from the heart about something you really love it will captivate any audience for people love hearing about other peoples passion. Story telling is a great way to inspire and help bring people along into a journey of wonder and belief in their own selves as well. Your story very well may parallel a story of theirs that needs to resurface. I have told my train story many times and it usually ends up with the listener telling me something of themselves that they probably have had archived in the memory vaults for years yearning to be re-lived once again. Every time a story gets told it invokes thought and this is a very powerful way to lift spirits and inspire others to believe they can. For all the times I talked about my story I have become better at it and less afraid to tell it. I am not boastful nor am I extremely modest. I have realized that we all have stories and our stories want to be heard by people. What stories do you have that have been in the vault for too long gathering dust?

The train story I speak of still gets told but I recognize that it is a passing chapter and I am excited about telling the next chapters I am currently writing. I speak in a figurative sense where each chapter represents a phase of our lives. We cannot and should not always do the same thing in life, telling the same chapter for this hinders our personal growth and at the same time makes the audience bored. I think of life as one great story made up of different chapters that represent the exciting new things we experience in our lives. What is important to understand is that it is not a new story we have to be writing but it is new chapters we should be writing. By writing new chapters we are always re-inventing ourselves and it is this personal re-invention that is exciting to both tell and hear about. We are not trying to change who we are as individuals as much as we are trying to be open to new things and continually being able to adapt or expand on our story that will make for a great book one day in the future - our own personal books some day written with all the great stuff we have done and it will be told to all to inspire and captivate.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Charade

The charade we call life – there are acts and scenes. There’s a script to be followed – do this, say that, act like this here and like that in this part... etc etc.. We willingly play the parts, go through the motions, and give a stellar performances.. in fact, they are worthy of standing ovations. But it’s not you though, it’s not your life, it’s not YOUR script – it’s the script you think you should be following, that someone else wrote for you. The one that allows you to close the curtains when the play is over. To stand behind the stage in darkness and be content that you gave another great performance. Tomorrow will be a new crowd, another audience to deceive but you’re a pro now and you have them all fooled.

Then one day, if you’re lucky, someone refuses to close the curtains for the night, to not give you the script for your next lines. Maybe they will tell you to create a new play. One from your heart – one that is you.. It’s the 3rd act and they don’t buy your ‘act’ anymore.. it’s obviously fake, it’s obviously just a show – they questions ‘why don’t you stop with the charade?’

If you are lucky you have a person in your life who’s taken a closer look, who asked twice when you said you were fine, who pushed and pushed until you finally admitted that this is not you. You are taking part in the whole charade, even an enthusiastic participant. And now they’ve given you a glimpse of the other side when that curtain was kept open.. even if just for a fleeting moment, and you want more of it. You want to live, you want to laugh (really laugh), enjoy music, dance, go after your own dreams and aspirations. When you were younger you imagined that you’d be incredible, but then you started making boundaries you'd never dream to cross, and the day the curtain refuses to close down on you, you wake completely lost. You’ve taken a look in the mirror and don’t like what you see. ‘who is this person, what am I passionate about, why do I continue the same carousal of non-existence.. I want to start LIVING..’

Are you living or dying?
Have you dined with the devil – and walked away, or are you still on the main course?
Have you drawn the line and refuse to let others cross it?
Have you built walls around you that are impossible to break?
Are you simply going through the motions?
Do you look the other way?
Do you walk around with everything buried deep and keep the perfect smile?
Who are you?

Have you dared to take a hard look in the mirror lately? Or are you afraid of what you might see? Are you content to continue the play. Who and what is holding you back and why do you allow it to be a ‘reason’?

You can BE and DO anything you want – it’s YOUR life and YOU are in control - only you. You have the ability to create your own happiness, to make your own aspirations and dreams come true.. or the ability to dig your own hole, to wallow in your reality.

Live ... or die. Stop simply going through the motions because it is easy. That is the closest thing to dying and the farthest thing from living. We only get one chance. There are no rewind buttons, 2nd chances, rehearsals. This is it - do not waste it. Because the day the curtain stays open for you, it might be too late – the final scene may be coming up too quickly, and then you will regret not taking your turn to live your life.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Our performance mind is a conditioned mind, making observation and judgment based on how we lived any certain situation. Our primary response is a response where we can feel fairly certain of the end result or placed in the either/or context we have internally created so that we can compartmentalize our surrounding world. This allows us to gain comfort in our surroundings and within comfort we feel at ease and can make sense of our existence.

The psychological field of phenomenology allows us to take a group of people who have experienced an event in life, no matter how different their situation was, and draw one common theme out of the situation ultimately meaning that every person experiencing the situation will have the same phenomenal experience in common.

What this allows us to understand is that despite how original we try to make ourselves, we are far more similar to others than we would like to think. The importance of this is twofold; we must understand ourselves in order to lead others, and no one’s singular achievement is beyond our grasp.

Because human experience is connected through one common theme it is of the greatest importance that we are able to understand the cause and effect theme of our actions. In leadership we are trying to get others to achieve certain results in their life, which is impossible if we think that our way is the best or only way to achieve. If we can understand that achievement is a concept, then we need to also understand that achievement in a situation is not compartmentalized in steps that work for all individuals. Our achievement is a theme not a step by step process, so for us to be great leaders we need to teach the theme not the steps. Yes, it is important to have systems and a blueprint, but if we think that the only way to achieve is by following the steps we are negating the theme that bond us all in success. If instead we choose to teach the idea of success then we empower those we are working with to add their individual traits within our system therefore generating a more powerful and impactful means of achievement.

Hope is the one great connector we all have when looking to achieve. Our conditioned mind limits us the most when it comes to hope. The conditioned mind places everything into a place, therefore either limiting or expanding our options. Typically we look at something someone achieved and try to come up with rationalizations to why we can or can’t achieve those same results. By initially placing achievement into yes/no, black/white terms we potentially eliminate our minds ability to generate enough hope to create possibility. Our need in hope is to create the firm belief that every human action can not only be repeated, but expanded upon.

If we are able to create a leadership environment where we un-condition the mind to see outside of its internal context, then we can create the ability to make a phenomenon where all people experience the same success in their own unique way. In the same way a step by step approach produces the same results, a conditioned mind will never go beyond what it has determined to be achievable. In either situation we are limiting the individual potential to achieve beyond what is predetermined. In breaking down our need to compartmentalize ours and others abilities, we can then begin to teach the individualized ability to achieve any phenomenon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's Christmas to you?

Merry Christmas to all you swim-upstream faithful!

This is a time of year when many people give thanks, give and receive gifts, and focus less on work (for most) and more on the people they cherish.

There are also those who feel more stress at this time of year than any other.

For those of you who are (luckily) so engaged in family and social functions that you won't get this for 2 or 3 days- rock on and just as we said exactly 2 weeks ago- your mission upon reading this is to live more days exactly as you do today (monetary attributes and gift exchange aside).

For those who hate the holidays, or feel lonely or stressed at this time of year- the task is to consider what you can be thankful for this time of year even if you are not celebrating Christmas the way Hallmark tells us to.

While I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to have great family and friends to spend the holidays with - I also am thankful for this platform- the ability to reach hundreds of people and hopefully make a difference in their day, possibly their decisions, and maybe even their lives!

If I can't see my friends today, and when family life gets a little stressful- I do have things I am passionate about to bring more positivity into my life. If today is not a great day to celebrate - you don't have to be someone that everyone else feels sorry for- you can be someone that everyone else looks up to.

Christmas is a fantastic time of year- almost by default- but if this is not the case and you find yourself low in terms of a list of people to spend the season with- you can always define the day your own way and get a jump start on your life's mission or at least on your list of goals and achievements for 2009.

Here's hoping Christmas and the holiday season exceeds your expectations- and that you get what you need even if you don't get what you want this year.

Happy Holidays from all of us at swimupstream- and to the rest of the swim upstream team thanks for your gifts of your perspective and friendship this year. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It is late December in 2008 and as the year quickly comes to a close I think of how important it is to reflect upon the passing year. On November 28 a blog posted by Scott Boyle, called ‘Transitions’ made us aware of 3 stages that can be considered for every action. They were preparation, performance and self reflection. On a macro scale, I like to consider a year on the calendar as one great act of performance that we all take part in that considers the 3 stages. Most of us do a great job at preparing for a year and we also do very well performing on the heels of our carefully thought out plans. Yet sometimes we fail to reflect upon the year before transitioning back to the preparation stage again for the following year.

Another way to consider a year is to think of it like a destination. We have all heard that a destination is more about the journey than it is about where we finish. The thing to realize is that each year is a journey that takes 365 days along new roads giving us new experiences and new challenges to learn from. These annual journeys are made up of countless opportunities that ultimately allow us to grow as individuals and it is up to us to reflect upon these experiences that have led us to where we are at the end of the year.

To embrace the accomplishments we made through the year allows us to build personal esteem and inspiration that will fuel the action cycle again. Boyle writes; “the transition of self reflection to preparation is a time for renewal”. This reflective period is the time for us to renew our focus and ambitions that parallel our inner values and make up the core of our being. This is the time for us to evaluate how much we have grown. Without doing so we really do not know where we are in the greater scheme of life and fail to properly prepare where to go in the next year.

When reflecting, we must consider what went well for us, what did we learn during the process and how has that made us a better human being? Where many of us who reflect go wrong is that we also fail to acknowledge the events in that were less than positive. Living is about learning and we must be able to find the lessons in the bad for the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing from.

Next, after reflection we begin the preparation stage again. What do you want to do differently in the new 365 day journey which is around the corner? Let me re-phrase that - what WILL you do differently in the new-year? How are you going to challenge yourself to become better? Will you seek more support from loved ones? Will you take up an intellectual challenge like reading? Will you begin exercising more to better your health? Will you choose to engage your children in other ways that set their bar higher? Whatever it is, it is up to each one of us as we are the ones responsible for what happens to ourselves. Take the time now to reflect upon the events that have made you a better person over the past year and take this higher level of self awareness and empowerment into a new year and that will make positive impact that you will enjoy reflecting upon one year from now.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fly Like a Bee!

'Sooner or later those that win are those who think they can'

Scientists used to believe that humans responded to information flowing into the brain from the outside world. But today, they are learning instead that we respond to what the brain, on the basis of previous experience, expects to happen next.

For example – in Texas, doctors are studying the effect of arthroscopic knee surgery - they assigned patients with sore, worn out knees to one of three surgical procedures: scraping out the knee joint, washing out the joint, or doing nothing.

During the ‘nothing’ operation, doctors anaesthetized the patient, made three incisions in the knee as if to insert their surgical instruments, and then pretended to operate. Two years after surgery, patients who underwent the pretend surgery reported the same amount of relief from pain and swelling as those who had receive the actual treatments. The brain expected the ‘surgery’ to improve the knee, and it did!

Similar with athletes who visualize their performance beforehand and see a marked difference in how they perform. Scientists have hooked up electrodes to these athletes and discovered that during these visualizing exercises the same muscles are being recruited at the same rate as they would if they were actual in competition – so when they step onto the field, the brain believes they have been there before.

Why does the brain work this way? Neuropsychologists who study this say it’s because we spend our whole lives becoming conditioned. Through a lifetime’s worth of events, our brain actually learns what to expect next – whether it eventually happens that way or not. And because our brain expects something to happen a certain way, we often achieve exactly what it anticipates.

So what does this all have to do with bumblebees? Well the bumblebee can't watch tv, read books, listen to his teachers and others telling him he could not. He had to find out for himself if he could accomplish or achieve something he wanted to do - like fly for example. Scientists have come to the conclusion that the poor bee is incapable of flying---its wings too small and too slow and its mass too great---yet somehow no one ever relayed this message to the dumb old bumble bee, who goes about his business soaring from flower to flower, seeking the fruits of his labor.

Today, things are not about 'trying it out first'. We rely on the security of the world around us to tell us what we can and can not do. The bumblebee had to believe he could, he had to at least attempt the impossible or he'd would surly die.

We're told what's right and wrong and what we're supposed to do, not just by our parents but by our "civilized" society itself; that if you play with fire you will get burned. We accept mediocrity and have gotten rid of our curiosity.

We don't think or act for ourselves. Instead we - go to school, take IQ tests, earn our pieces of paper, get jobs, do our jobs, ensure our survival and ask no questions until it's too late, then die. Because you're told that if you don't "choose" such a path, someone else will and they'll be the ones reaping the rewards. Essentially, we do what we're told; we're told fire may burn us and we believe it must be true because that's what we were told. We keep working at the job we hate because we are told that there is no such thing as enjoying your work. We choose not to take on the next challenge because the last guy that tried told you it was impossible and much to tough. When we should respond with ‘well maybe impossible for you, but I’ll try for myself’, we instead accept this as gospel and don’t even attempt in the first place.

Experiences and discovery is how we learn. And what we learn along the way will condition our brain of our beliefs – of life, goals, the future, and what we CAN do.

We read and we begin to see.
We see and we begin to learn.
We do and we are.
We gain our beliefs from putting it all together OURSElVES!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Frequently we hear people talking about winning the “game of life”, which ultimately is fairly accurate. Essentially a “game” is a competitive activity with rules, and without question life is competitive in nature while surrounded by laws. Like all games, there is strategy involved in order to succeed and typically the most strategically prepared are the ones who experience success the most often.

Dating back to around the year 1100 modern chess and checkers were played. Despite their origin in a much more primitive time then today, chess and checkers are very well related to how we go about our lives and provide us a blueprint on how success can be achieved.

The game of checkers is a point A to point B strategic game where the goal is to get to the other side of the board so that you can have a checker that can move both north and south, therefore making it easier to jump your opponent. The nature of checkers primarily keeps our focus external and vertical because the game is one dimensional in the majority of its movements. Checkers only move one place at a time unless an opportunity lands in our lap where we are allowed to double jump. How we got to this double jump has little to do with strategy, and is usually the opportunistic benefit of a mistake made by our opponent.

Many of us relate very well to this order of thinking; we have such a tight focus that all we can see is getting to our destination so that we can restructure our thinking. Yes we see the dangers that surround us, but our main strategy is to reach the end with the idea that our lives will become easier. Because our vision is so narrow we are forced to move in a step by step process unless an opportunity falls directly in front of us. We most definitely can succeed with this approach, but much of our success has more to do with constantly looking forward and less to do with reflecting (therefore learning) on what we have accomplished.

Also rooted in strategy, chess is a multi-dimensional game with pieces that all have different functions. In the game of chess our focus is not on immediate success, rather it is on action that will ultimately set up greater success in the future. Because the majority of the pieces can move in every direction, our focus has to be internal and external as well as horizontal and vertical. This consistent movement within focus forces us to look ahead to opportunity, yet be willing to take a step back and reassess when necessary. Our success in chess is directly related to our ability to create opportunity where we force our opponent into mistakes rather than waiting for them to make a mistake. Since we create more opportunity in chess than we do in checkers we are more likely to become empowered through our decision making process.

Again, this is an order of thinking that we can relate to, but also understand that success not only takes more time but takes more sweat equity as well. While our success might be the same as that of a single focused person, our future opportunity is greatly more vast because we not only saw the dangers around us but addressed them before we simply moved forward. With a multidimensional focus we didn’t just move forward step by step, we moved around the board thinking about every potential implication that our next move would hold to the north, south, east, and west. When we did reach success it was primarily the result of our own vision and our ability to execute within that vision.

There is no exact recipe to success in any game. A great checkers player will be a great chess player the majority if the time and visa versa. In our success it is more important that we understand three things, 1) what game are we playing, 2) how we intend to play the game, and 3) what do we expect to get from playing. If we can understand this then we can create the focus necessary to succeed in the manner we see fit, therefore play the “game of life” with purpose and conviction.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Surrender in a good way

Quitting is a bad thing unless we are talking about smoking and other bad habits.
Surrender, in a lot of connotations, sounds like quitting and so most poeple resist it.
In at least one context, surrender is a great thing.

According to Michelle Aguilar, who nearly quit TV's "the Biggest Loser" mid-way through the most recent season - she "decided to surrender to the process and that's when the weight really started coming off". She ended up losing 110 pounds from her original 242lb frame to win the popular reality series.

According to Vince Danielsen, owner of the Innovative Health Group in Calgary, most employees who set high aspirations for themselves yet fall short as leaders, do so because despite their own skill they fail to surrender to the processes and systems that have been proven successful before them.

It takes a lot of humility, and a lot of confidence, to trust that other people may know more about certain subjects than we do. But if we can remove our egos, see where others have succeeded and realize that we are trying to emulate that success - (in Michelle's case losing 110 pounds and winning $250,000; in Vince's case 8 years in professional football and 11 years running a succesful business that now generates close to $2 million annually in sales) following advice and 'surrendering' to what that entails should actually be easy.

In most cases it is our pride - our inability to get over ourselves - that leads us to resist surrender.

When it comes to giving up on your goals, or saying no to yourself, or letting a bully win when you know you are right- surrender is NOT an option.

But when it comes to seeing success where, by your own skills and ideas you have as yet not succeeded - it may just be time to surrender to the process, trust other people, and learn and grow as a result of their tutelege and experience.

There are countless people around you that can teach you at least something, or who have experienced an obstacle you are trying to overcome. It might be time to let the guard down and allow your results to go up.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


In southern Greece there exists a small ancient town called Marathon. Here, in 490 BC the Athenians fought and won a pivotal battle against the Persians. To announce this victory a Greek messenger by the name of Pheidippides ran from the battle site in Marathon all the way to Athens, a distance of approximately 26miles. Upon arrival in Athens he passed the victorious message to the people by yelling “Nenikekiman” (we have won). This historical battle in Marathon gave rise to the eventual triumph of the Greeks and has since provided the inspiration to the modern day long-distance foot race known as The Marathon.

The first marathon was during the Olympics in 1896 and not until 1921 was it officially standardized to be a distance of 26miles, 385yards or 42.195km. Today there are close to 800 worldwide marathons each year that attract millions of people with varying physical capabilities. Over the past year I have watched 3 marathons and watching a marathon is nothing short of inspirational. Seeing the elite participants sprinting to the finish line in record times is just as incredible as seeing the individual finish after spending eight plus hours walking the course. In both cases I see people challenging themselves to be the best they can be. It is this display of not only the enduring physical capacities but also the mental stamina that one must possess or create in order to get to the finish that is very uplifting to the spirit. Imagine the elite athletes who spend years if not most of their lives training so that they may have a chance to win and make a living at doing so. It is not any easier for these genetically gifted individuals to reach the finish line than it is for the novice or first time runner. Just as hard as the professional marathoner has to work at achieving greatness the amateur marathon participant has to work sometimes as hard to complete a marathon.

I watched a man from Kenya win the Vancouver Marathon. Seeing the speed his body possessed and the humble desire deep in his eyes as he ran by at a speed of 5min a mile made the hair on my body stand. I thought how great it would be to push myself in an area of my life that I can be the best at. I took this feeling of inspiration with me into life and let it fuel the fires of passion within. In Victoria I watched a man who was close to 250lbs and at an age of 50 finish the Marathon in 7hrs. As he power-walked to the finish line he had the smile of winning on his face and his fists pumped in the air victoriously. His energy and sense of accomplishment made me smile with the thought that I will not go out into this world thinking I cannot do something just because most would probably doubt me or worse that I would even doubt myself. I followed up on my thoughts with positive affirmations saying "I am strong mentally and physically and I am confident that I can take on these great challenges of life just like the 2 hr or 7hr finisher".

I write this blog from Hawaii after doing the Honolulu marathon. Yesterday I spoke with a gentleman 73 years of age. He did the marathon in about 8hrs and was happy to know he still is able to use his body for such physical feats. For every 10steps he ran he would walk 5steps. I also met an 8year old Japanese child who ran the marathon with his mother. I photographed them and the child proud for doing his first marathon took a bite out of his medal. Even to a child, a marathon represents personal victory that tastes that good!

All the finishers are inspirational and have proven that they can do it. I hope they know how they make people feel who are watching them and that they realize time in most cases (unless being pro) does not matter as long as you cross the finish line with your personal sense of achievement. Because a marathon isn't easy and all who complete them should be proud! Most people who are doing marathons are far from elite. They are normal people whose lives probably do not support their marathon pursuit yet they want more from life. They want challenge, they want to set examples, they want to be their best, they want to prove they can do it, they want to inspire, they want to know they are strong and more than capable to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve in life. That is the beautiful thing about marathon and the people who do them – they are their own personal heralds yelling out to the world at the finish line saying how victorious they are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thinking Big Is Hard

The best thing in the world is planting a tree today under whose shade you will never stand.

It is also the hardest thing to do.

In today's busy, show me the money type of world, we are all infected, to some degree, with the disease of seeing an instant result. Planting a tree, or seeding an idea if you will, that will take years to come to fruition isn't a terribly results driven enterprise. We write the idea people off until a result can be shown. They are just dreamers.

Our every day lives showcase the necessity for the end result. Buy a stock and check it tomorrow. Write an essay for the mark but not the research. Playing hockey at six years old for the victory not the gaining of valuable life skills. Nobody really revels in the journey until they are reminded of how precious that journey is. This is just reality. We are all to some degree similar on this front.

This is why planting an idea can be so challenging. This is why the visionaries among us have so much difficulty getting people on board with their ideas to change the world. Without seeing a tangible result people have difficulty embracing merely the idea. We want to see the finish line.

To have people embrace your revolutionary ideas is a difficult task but not one that is insurmountable. Little steps with tangible goals allows others to join your tribe. Just know that the seeds you are planting will be the trees that others sit under for shade....

...long after you are gone. Your family will look up to the skies and tell you how it all finished.

Thinking big is hard but know the fight will be for your entire life. You can do it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Employee Loyalty

Finding and retaining the best employees is every company's challenge. Add to that historically low unemployment rates and a changing workforce with a wide range of attitudes and expectations, and employers find themselves faced with unusually high turnover rates and few explanations as to why they can't seem to keep good people, much less keep them happy.

A good way to look at it is like a hockey team. Companies are now composed of "free agents" rather than lifelong employees who stick with one company for their entire career.

Consider also the influx of employees representing Generation X and the fact that these well educated workers are in demand. They are well aware of their value, have unique requirements and are not afraid to make bold and frequent career moves to meet them. They have had so much pressure put on them to get an education and then the expectation is put on them that when they do and finish school they will make tons of money. So if they get into a career out of school that will take time and hard work to get to the top, they will move onto the next job where they think they can hit it big right way without hesitation.

The sooner companies can face the fact that they've got to do more to earn employee loyalty, the better they will be at recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest.

But how do the most successful companies build employee loyalty? It's not as much of a mystery as you might think. Here are a couple of issues that have a direct effect on how happy your employees can be. And remember that even small changes in workplace culture and employee programs can have a large and positive impact on employee loyalty.

Employee training. One of the most important factors in employee loyalty is a company's commitment to training its staff. The best and the brightest want to stay that way, and they expect their employer to support their desire to learn and grow professionally. In many jobs the learning curves are so steep and product and technology development cycles so short, that proper training is an ongoing requirement.

Add to that the desire for management training, cross-skill training, and training in areas such as stress and time and budget management, and companies are looking at diverse (and, it may seem, costly) needs to meet. But as the best companies have learned over the years, employee training is critical to corporate success. And in the long run, training programs save companies money because they motivate employees and keep them engaged and happy in their jobs.

Afraid all that training will equip your employees with tools to move on to a brighter future elsewhere? The truth is, most won't. Remember that your investment and commitment count, and that most employees will stay where they feel supported and appreciated. Sure, employees may seek new jobs for a variety of reasons. If you have treated them well and helped build their professional skills through training, employees (whether they stay with your company or not) will speak highly of their experience to others. Yes, employees can still be loyal long after they've left your company. In fact, many times these employees return after obtaining experience elsewhere.

Team loyalty. In today's business environment, the team is the thing. It used to be that employees were loyal to a company, but today the loyalty is geared towards the smaller unit within which an individual operates on a daily basis. They feel committed to team members and are more focused on achieving attainable team-based goals. This scenario is empowering for employees and should be fostered.

Some ways to build team loyalty include: mentoring programs at all levels, creating team incentive programs, and encouraging teams to develop their own set of goals, rules and work styles.

To be successful (and stay successful) in business, companies need to develop this employee loyalty.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last December we reflected on 07 took a hard look at what was coming in 08. The outlook had less to do with pessimism as it did with a call to action (below)

This year we don't have the same 'choice' in terms of a call to action. It's now called 'survival of the fittest'. Again, this isn't pessimism - it's realism. A realism that will demonstrate how the world (despite almost all of it's efforts to promote otherwise) is a delicate ecosystem of interdependence.

Now everyone's got an opinion on what's to come, some good and some bad and there are equally as many stats to back up each report. I draw my 2 cents from common sense to know;

1. a predominantly credit funded consuming nation is going to run into trouble when that credit freezes.

2. creating & freeing fictional credit so that nation and it's people can simply continue spending is not a solution

3. inflating costs associated with production will not stimulate consumption needed to restore the buy/sell balance

4. thing's will get worse before they get better because you can't manipulate tangibles indefinitely.

The good news for all of us are the two words guaranteed to clean this 'oversight' up....


.....And it's about time we got back to it!
Don't let 09 follow the same fate as 08. THINK / PLAN & ACT!

Monday, December 31, 2007
We must do better,
As we approach the beginning of 2008 we must assure ourselves we will do a better job at making 2008 a meaningful year.

Lets call a spade a spade – we dropped the ball in 2007.
1. Our national leadership lied about blatant state of affairs. A) Kyoto accord, B) Weapons of mass destruction, C) our own back yards bottom lines

2. Our media leadership collectively showcased the worst group of role models in years. A) Hollywood train wrecks, B) disgraced athletes & C) corrupt CEO’s.

3. We, ourselves to a great degree went along with this, accepting the fate and news as if it were an essential daily vitamin.

If we come to terms with this as our reality, as well as how & what we can do to do “our part” in preventing a repeat performance, we can assure ourselves of a better 08.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The rubbing together of the Earth’s crust has the ability to form mountains, rubbing wood together can form fire, and a pebble of sand implanted in an oyster can create a pearl. These are all forms of friction and they are all forms of beauty and wonder.

Typically when we think of friction we think of conflict that just stops short of or leads to violence between people. In fact, the majority of the time the opposite is true. Friction is essential in creating new beginnings.

If we are able to understand the absolute necessity of friction in our lives then we will be able to better utilize the idea of creating friction in a healthy way so that we can grow. Healthy friction is the act of breaking the old to create new. Think of therapeutic rubbing where friction has the ability to stimulate blood circulation and create healing, not arguing with your coworker about whose turn it is to bring the boss coffee.

Healthy friction is internally motivated in it root; we recognize that we have become content or stale and decide that we need to reorganize who we want to become. Our initial idea to transform when not internally based will not lead to adherence therefore will not generate enough friction to make us happy. Instead we will give in to the temptation to return to our comfortable state because we did not shake the foundation well enough to fall outside our comfort levels. Our goal must be to cause enough friction through our will to become something better so we gain strength through discomfort leading to transformation.

This is where our well known definition of friction and our intent of creating healthy friction meet common ground. All friction at some point nears violence because it is creating massive change. When using healthy friction, our violent metamorphosis is controlled and calculated as opposed to the anger and spite that fuels conflict friction. In our ability to control the amount of friction we impose upon ourselves, we generate the confidence necessary to comprehend the benefit of the friction we have created, therefore adhering to the transformation we have decided to make.

As we grow we need to understand when and how much friction is necessary to continue to succeed. Remember, all things created by friction take time to reach their apex, and it is within our power to decide just how much friction we can handle at any give time. The planet Earth (4.5 billion years old) experiences and earthquake every 11 seconds, a pearl takes about 5 years of continual friction to reach 3mm, and we have roughly 78 years to become the best person we can possibly be.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today is as good as any other day...

In two weeks' time - you are going to receive a message from swimupstream encouraging you to spend Christmas with loved ones, cherish what you had before opening any gifts, and to try to treat others with the same dignity and love every day as you do Christmas day.

In three week's time - you are going to receive a message from swimupstream that you may or may not be reading through foggy eyes from the night before advising you that 2009 is not going to unfold the way you want unless you make it happen.

Put another way, we are approaching that time of year where our priorities tend to align themselves simply because everyone else has the holidays as well. I can't remember 1 holiday season - not one- when I haven't heard the remark "we have got to get together more often; we can't wait so long between visits next time..." which, in many cases, is not followed up on.

Having said that- there is no calendar-denoted significance today (one with my particular tastes may point out to the birth of Motley Crue guitarist Nicki Sixx in 1958). That is, in 2 weeks if you are going to spend time enamoured with family and loved ones; and in three weeks if you are going to envision what you'll achieve in 2009 - by default...

what choices can you make today that spur you forward?
What decisions can be made to make Dec 11th a day of importance?
Will this be the day you plan 2009 instead of getting into the year already Jan 1 and then thinking about it?
What actions can you take to surround yourself with great people today - instead of missing some people who are already engaged with various Christmas functions and New Year's parties?

It really comes down to the danger of letting the calendar tell us which days are special. In Canada - most offices allow 8 stat holidays a year. If that's so- the onus is on you and I to come up with a reason to get out of bed the other 357 days. The purpose you have for doing things can and will be wildly different than your neighbours or co-workers, but it's got to be there and it has to be defined by you.

Go out there today and create some significance for this Dec 11th, and then get excited that whatever simple or profound measures you took to do so today... will also be at your disposal on another great day in history (though not indicated on the calendars) ... Dec 12th.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What other's think about you is none of your business

You have to believe in yourself when no one else does, that’s what makes you a winner-Venus Williams

If having others believing in you and your dream was a requirement for success, most of us would never accomplish anything. You need to base your decisions about what YOU want to do about YOUR goals and desires – not the goals, desires, opinions, and judgement of your parents, friends, spouse, children, and coworkers. Quit worrying what other people think about you and follow your heart

Dr. Daniel Amen has a rule called the 18/40/60 rule: when you are 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you. When you are 40, you don’t give a shit what everybody is thinking of you. When you are 60, you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all.

Surprise, surprise! Most of the time, nobody’s thinking about you at all. They are too busy worrying about their own lives, and if they are thinking about you at all, they are wondering what you are thinking about them. People think about themselves, not you. Think about it – all the time you are wasting worrying about what other people think about your ideas, your goals, your clothes, your hair, and your home could all be better spent on thinking about and doing the things that will achieve your goals. Don’t let other’s opinions and thoughts on what you are or do hold you back. If you are being true to your heart, it makes you happy – then continue doing it. If they truly do care about you, they will support your decisions. When it comes down to it, the only opinion that matters about YOUR life is YOURS!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Smile To Your Health

During the cold season, when winter is biting at you, stress levels are increased from family gatherings and financial incapabilities, most of us take a dive into a winter cold or flu. How can we combat this? The flu shot, keep an even temperament and try to manage the festive season time constraints effectively are some ways to help make you stronger but none are completely fool proof of even that easy. Is it possible to increase your immune systems strength completely naturally and quickly?

Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter in the human brain. Heavy increases or decreases in serotonin levels can be potentially toxic to our bodies. However it has been proved that keeping mildly increased levels of this neurotransmitter will help bolster our immune system.

So where do we get the pill?

You don't. But there is a much easier way than even remembering to take your serotonin vitamin.

The answer: Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Smile.

Scientists have showed that smiling, saying something nice, being generous with your thoughts and actions dramatically increases serotonin levels helping to bolster your immune system. Not only that, the person receiving the gift of kindness from you also has a measured increase in their special neurotransmitters. Even people watching or passing by as you emanate warmth bolster their serotonin levels.

By merely putting yourself out into the world in a very positive manner you stand the chance of increasing your immunity and the people you touch. Now that in itself is a happy thought.

But be warned, the opposite intentions can yield lower immunity based on lower serotonin levels.

The answer is empirically clear, if you want to increase your immunity during the winter season, smile and be kind to all.

Have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

How to leave on a high.

All of us will at some point have left or will leave a job with one company to pursue another; some of us will do this multiple times during our careers. There are many reasons for this – whether we leave because we have found a new passion to pursue, the last job was a stepping stone onto another career, an opportunity comes up that we can’t pass up, etc, etc. But leaving a company, even one you've been with for some time, can be a very positive experience if handled properly.The best way to not burn bridges when you leave your job is to have been a valuable employee and team member during your time with the company. A long period of productive and loyal service is more important than any parting gesture might be. However, there are a few things you should do as you depart that will leave a final positive impression.

Always give enough notice to your employer. This will give them time to start the process of finding a replacement, and will also send a message to your new employer that you have values and will not leave at the drop of a hat. The higher up in the company or the longer you have been with them, the longer the notice should be (and is expected).

Submit a professional resignation letter in person. The resignation letter should be short and to the point. Be sure to mention how much you have enjoyed working for the company, especially if you've been with them a while. You want your resignation letter to be professional, to the point, and not something that could allow you to return there one day (always keep your options open).

Finish up any outstanding items (for the company) that you have been working on. Showing commitment to your responsibilities to the very end will be remembered by those around you, by your peers, your manager and your owner.

Do not mentally check out before your last day. Instead, show a final amount of respect and commitment to your company and be willing to go the extra mile to help train someone who may be in to replace your position.

If you are leaving for a new career with better pay and benefits or a better work schedule, etc do not talk about this openly in front of your current team. It will be disruptive, and could be seen as an attempt on your part to steer away other teammates.

Be truthful in the exit interview, but do not give in to the temptation to vent about everything that has gone on in the past. If you have constructive feedback, share it. Your employer wants to know why you have chosen to move on so that they can continually improve on and tighten up areas of their workplace.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

zigging & zagging to success.

To be successful we must learn how to zig and zag...and truly find a way to 

That is what life is about – if you want to achieve extraordinary things that is. We can all live day by day, hour by hour, and let our surroundings direct us...or we can turn the attention around & dictate our own future by making things happen. There is a difference...a BIG difference. It is the same difference that separates the initiator from the responder from the is the same difference the separates the doer & the follower...and it is the same difference that separates those that are good and those that are great.
  • ‘That difference’ is crucial in success and taking the lead in being the director of your future.
  • Nothing happens until WE make it happen. You MUST be the director of your destiny and your success will hinge directly on your ability to surround yourself the right people (in business / in life) & your ability to put in the time and effort. When we do these two things (and everyone can), you will reach the level of success you deserve. 
Mike Weir said - ‘if necessary one must be prepared to claw their success right out of the dirt’ - that says it all...success is not easy – greatness isn’t easy – leaving a legacy isn’t easy – but we can all do it.

So why the education?
  • Too many of us – want ‘x’ – but don’t know how to take the next step to actually get it (ie. position in a company, specific wage / salary, etc...the list goes on). 
  • We sometimes forget that if we fail the fight isn’t over. That most things won’t come the first time. That most things take time & numerous attempts to master. 
  • That we have to find different ways to make the opportunities happen.
When we fail, we try another way. 
When we get told ‘no’, we educate until we get ‘yes’. 
When we think we ‘can’t’, we find a way we ‘can’. 
  • Success stops – when WE stop. And that is the ticket. We have to be ready to put the time / effort / dedication / emotion to make things happen for us, instead of to us. 
  • And lastly...we can all just ‘wait & see’...but if you ask me, that is like standing around on a field of a contact sports game...f*&^& stupid – when we can do so much more. 
Then if we know this – WHY don’t people just do it.

  • some people are scared to fail – one reason really. No belief in themselves or in the systems 
  • some people throw up barriers as excuses for #1 so they don’t even have to start 
  • some people avoid things that are “inconvenient” eg. That’d be too much work. 
  • some people don’t want to make sacrifices eg. My “lifestyle” is what’s important to me. 
  • some people can’t make a plan, hence don’t know where to start 
  • some people can’t communicate well, so that plan #6, doesn’t get shared – hence supported. 
  • some people are not flexible enough to modify that plan when the time comes to do that. 
  • some people analyze that plan so long – it becomes a moot point because there’s no opportunity to apply it left. 
  • some people are too impatient to think & or see the ‘process’. They actually think in terms of “start & finish” 
  • some people are inherently lazy and expect Z while they give and F effort. 
instead they.....Talk.
  • some talk about what could happen 
  • some talk about what should happen happen 
  • some talk about what would happen 
  • some talk about why that didn’t happen 
because they.....Think it’s hard.

The reality is...few good & great things in life will come easy, be bundled in a neat little ‘easy’ package waiting for you to rip it open, and not require confidence / time / effort (risk) to make it happen.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Water is the most powerful resource on our planet; in fact all forms of life are dependant on it. The one area of water that most intrigues me is the ocean, in part because of the recreational enjoyment I get from it, but also because of the sheer strength and vivacity it possess.

Ocean surface waves are particularly interesting to me because they alone are responsible for so much beauty and life. The result of wind, ocean surface waves can travel thousands of miles before they reach shore where they bring their magnificent destruction all the while feeding precious ecosystems.

There are four factors that influence the formation of waves; wind, fetch, duration, and depth. Wind is the source that initiates the action and turns flat water into a wave. Fetch is the distance of open water that the wind has blown over. Duration equals the amount of time the wind has blown over the area, and water depth is obviously how deep the water is when wind is initiated. Strong wind, large fetch, greater time, and deep water equal larger more powerful waves that create a greater influence on our coast line and feed more of our aquatic ecosystem.

When examined closely, waves are essentially our guide for creating success in our lives. Think metaphorically for a minute and you will begin to see the similarities between waves and our ability to succeed.

Wind acts as an antagonist to still water the same way an idea or goal acts upon us as individuals. When we go from a still state to being ruffled a little bit we begin to move in an unknown direction, yet we begin to move. The stronger the goal or idea, the stronger our movement becomes and the greater our will to achieve grows.

If we are fortunate enough to recognize the movement and act upon it we are given our fetch. This fetch consumes our whole body making our urge to act on a goal or idea felt internally through clarity and purpose.

Attaining fetch throughout our whole being allows us to create duration. The greater our will to achieve is, the longer we will be able to adhere to our goal or idea and we will be able to create the desire necessary to overcome obstacles that we most certainly will face. The duration of our pursuit will also give us time to make us stronger while our goals and ideas become clearer as our direction becomes not only relevant but empowering as well.

Depth is the final factor that comes into play, because it is the depth of our action that will create the greatest impact in our lives. Waves on a pond are far less impactful than waves from the ocean because of the differences in depth. To accomplish something truly significant we must always look to the depth of our mission, because to truly create the greatest impact possible we must be willing to go deep into ourselves and find the meaning of what we are trying to accomplish.

When all things in the ocean align perfectly you get what surfers call an “epic” wave, when we align ourselves perfectly towards our ideas or goals we get empowerment. Ultimately we are more like the ocean than you might think. The human body is 60% water, meaning you are one good gust away from turning your ripple into something epic.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Everyone Has Something to Give

Fact: There are lots of people who have more money and things than you do
Fact: There are lots of other people (who may get less of your attention or focus) that have a lot less than you do
Fact: There are also people that need more, and those that need less than you.

If we add the facts up- you probably need to spend some of your money and a lot of your time and energy on the home front finding solutions to your own and your families challenges, and creating opportunities for both as well.

There is also a LOT that you can bring to the table in terms of helping others and giving back to the community you live in, and a lot of ways that you can accomplish this. Giving back has been on my brain for the past few weeks since our big charitable event is tonight wherein through our company and customers who believe in our corporate culture, we hope to exceed $21,400 for a charity focused on getting kids off of the mean streets of Guadalajara and back into school (this dollar amount buys them a school bus, a teacher for 1 year, and fresh food delivered to 1 family for a year).

It's truly a great story because while there are financially successful customers donating their money, there are employees within our organization giving of their time and administrative skills (ie collecting payment), others organizing, and others still putting their time, effort, and in this case- sweat - towards a great cause.

So then from this example we can give;
- time
- money
- effort
- skill set (organization, social network accessibility, people skills, a loud voice, etc)
- awareness to a cause

There are many other ways to give as well. Sometimes simply listening to someone and helping them gain better perspective over their situation is a gift (the old proverb "I felt bad because I had no shoes until I saw a man with no feet"). When some one's perspective changes, they can pay forward the gift of perspective to someone else, or they may realize themselves they have more to give.

There are lots of opportunities out there - in fact - there is a lot of need.

There is also 1 more gift to give others this day- the gift of democracy. If you oppose the coalition government that is being proposed- and you would like to see the Canadian Government follow democratic process instead of having 3 political parties (including the Quebec- specific bloc Quebecois) team up to run our country, please let your MP know and/ or the Governor general know. The Governor general can be reached at

Thanks for the gift of your time to read this.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Understanding Motive

A few years ago I was training with someone who each week I would ask to do some tasks as homework in order to perfect the exercises and therefore get him closer to his desired goal. Upon each weekly follow-up the homework was rarely if ever completed. I asked why he would not show any enthusiasm doing the required assignments let alone complete it. His response to me was “Inspire me”. At that moment I realized that I will not always inspire every person whom I train with and that being inspired is the key to lasting success. When I asked why does he continue to see me each week he replied, “To be motivated”. I asked myself; what is the difference between inspiration and motivation?

It is said that many things will not happen without being inspired foremost. If this is so, then motivating others (and ourselves) to make things happen first lies in finding out the source of inspiration. Motivation and inspiration have some things in common but there are some distinct differences with greater importance placed on the latter for its value to be more enduring over time. In simplest terms, to inspire is to be the cause of something. The archaic meaning of the word inspire is "to breathe life into." Many will say that the two words are interchangeable however it is this writer’s belief that a distinction must be drawn between the two and not just for argument’s sake. Words and what they mean can have profound affects on the way we think and ultimately the way we follow through with action. It is therefore important to understand these two words to use to our advantage to better understand our motives so that we can act accordingly.

Without inspiration, motivation loses some of its zing and I am certain we have all experienced this at sometime in our lives. I've been motivated to do many things, for example when I was 10 years old I played hockey and basketball. I was motivated to practice because I was inspired by the thought of being in the NHL or the NBA. This was my cause and my motivation was rooted by a deeper sense of inspiration by something bigger and more attractive. On a rather mundane level, I'm motivated to fix items when they break because I'm inspired to keep things in working order. In both of these cases, my motivation is renewed because I am inspired by something greater. It was my inspiration to become a professional athlete that got me to practice day after day. Practice, like the training sessions I deliver can often boring and many times frustrating when there is not a greater picture being painted. Without inspiration to fuel the motivational engine we can often have a miserable experience doing and adhering to what it is we are trying to accomplish. Referring back to the archaic meaning of the word inspire, the goal is therefore to “breathe life into” what we are doing which will give us a greater sense of purpose for doing our daily and weekly tasks and exercises.

With inspiration we are better able to adhere to what it is we are doing and this makes our actions last much longer where on the other hand, motivation can be very short lived. We use motivation to complete projects, or tasks within projects. We use motivation to give our best in a game or a performance. We use motivation to wake ourselves up early and when we wash the dishes or take out the garbage. Being motivated is less powerful than being inspired. Inspiration acts as a force behind the scenes that drives us for long-term results. The drive to be as great at something, get promoted at work, win the national championships, keep the house clean, or take our lives to new levels comes from being inspired. The little tasks in our lives to make these bigger things happen are when you are motivated but this motivation will be short-lived if inspiration does not exist first.

Creating your own future is possible if we have the right mindset. If you're looking to change your self-image, improve your relationships, lose weight, or get a new job that you will stick with then you need to get inspired first. On the heels of Monday’s blog called ‘Personal Re-invention’ reflect upon your motives and what really gets you to do what it is you do. Attempt to re-define your motivation in life by using inspiration as the energy.

Inspiration is important to see though it is not easy. Without it you end up motivating yourself (and others) to complete the small tasks without a cause or greater purpose. Becoming inspired and getting motivated are very subjective experiences, and a lot of it comes from within. If you are having trouble becoming inspired there are many tools that can help. Inspiring quotes, sayings, pictures, stories, poems and even this blog site are available to get you started. What inspires me may not inspire you and there are no set rules. So, whatever you choose, remember that what is best for you may not be for others and consider the inspiration others may have when you are motivating them on a daily basis as their leader or teacher.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Tough Decision

"When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice."
-- William James

The statement above is aimed squarely at those people who have a dream but never seem to make the vision a reality.

We'll call these people the fence-sitters. Never really people to get in the way or sway the crowd, the fence-sitter ideally watches from, er...the top of the fence. They watch life pass by dreaming of a better place than the pointed slats of the white picket.

Choice is at the root of all things brilliant and all things malicious. The right choice or the wrong choice ends us up in the positions we are in. Not taking a choice or making a decision will yield a result. The fence-sitter rarely sees this point of view and never relates it to their dreams. By not taking a decisive action the results are painfully always the same. No results in the world today is , ironically, a result. You get nowhere if you don't move.

The more we understand that you will never get anything out if you don't put anything in, the more we are capable of seeing our goals fulfilled and dreams a reality.

Add integrity, experience and education to the mix and you can expect most choices to be strong. None of the other characteristics have a chance to be seen if we don't decide to be alive and do something. Anything.

So, the next time a tough test confronts you remember that not taking any action is in itself an action...and most often that indecisiveness is more deadly than a scared but taken action.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Personal Re-invention

In an effort to clearly define what we do and continue to separate ourselves from the typical “personal trainer” stereotype, our company currently changed our mission statement to - “I/We facilitate personal re-invention through physical challenge, adversity and victory”. This definition allows us to better explain the importance of what we do. To break this concept down further, we need to fully understand what the word re-invent means.

The definition of re-invent (as per the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary) is:

· To make as if for the first time something already invented
· To remake or redo completely
· To bring into use again

How do you think people or companies can stay at the top of their game decade after decade? They re-invent themselves. Take Madonna for example – she has continued to re-invent music and style as the times change, if she hadn’t been able to do this she would not have made it out of the 90’s. The title of her 2004 tour was called re-invention!

Sometimes we can feel like we are stagnating on a personal level. Whether we are reaching the goals we set for ourselves or not, we may feel that personally we are not quite where we want to be. The great thing is that we have the ability within ourselves to evolve and experience personal growth. It is possible to reinvent yourself by understanding your life's purpose and your place in it and then making a realistic plan for your fresh start.

Look to your goals first so that you can confirm what it is you really want out of life. By all means, change your goals if your priorities have changed. If you don't have any goals, you can make some as you begin to reinvent yourself. Your goals should relate to what you want your life's purpose to be.

Once your goals are established, or re-established, and you know what you want and what you feel your life's purpose is, you can start thinking about how you would like to reinvent yourself. If you want to be more spiritual, for example, first you'll have to define what that means to you. For some it may mean organized religion, while for others it may mean a more sensitive approach to interactions with others. Reinventing yourself is all about making the changes that you want to and need to make in order to help you become the person you want to be, not who you think others want you to be.

If you're not sure how you want to change yourself, or even if you do want to make any changes to yourself, try visualizing yourself in your mind's eye going about your day. Are you pleased with your behavior, how you take of yourself and how you spend your day? If not, think about only what you can change and exactly how you would accomplish that. When you have a realistic plan to reinvent yourself, whether the changes relate to your body, mind or soul, persevere by understanding your strengths and weaknesses and then persevere to get what you want for yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2008


In most cases action can be broken down to a three part process consisting of preparation, performance, and self reflection. This cycle continues itself multiple times a day as we frequently attempt to perform many different actions in many different professional and personal life spheres.

The act of preparation leading to performance is essential because what we choose to prepare for will dictate how well we are ready to succeed. Preparation alone never guarantees us success, but preparation does allow us to put thought into what our plan of action might look like and give us an opportunity to individualize this plan. The greatest plans are those that are created with the desired outcome in mind. This is not the external outcome regarding winning and losing, rather it is the outcome regarding how we will respond internally to a situation.

Primarily we go into performance focused on how we will react when adversity comes our way and don’t allow ourselves to focus on how we will respond to being successful. We all mostly experience failure more than we experience success, partially because we put ourselves in challenging situations, but also because we train ourselves how to respond to failure and never really learn how to respond to success. In doing this we learn how to respond to situations, not how to initiate action within a given situation. Our preparation should focus on acting and not reacting, we should expect success by planning on being successful not by enduring enough to get to success.

Performance leading to self reflection is defined by the space between action ending and self reflection beginning. I came across some material that called this space the “gap”, which makes sense because it is the gap that separates future successes from future failures. At the moment performance ends there is a split second where you feel your primary response without excuses. Our thoughts in the “gap” will have an influence on our ability to self reflect and in what we choose to self reflect on. If our immediate response in the “gap” is a negative one then we will choose to self reflect on the negative aspect of our performance, while if our “gap” response is positive, we can expect a positive entry into self reflection.

Our “gap” response is not uncontrollable and is not unconditionally primal. In fact our “gap” response has more to do with how we prepared than it has to do with how we preformed. If I prepared solely on a time based goal then I can expect only two “gap” responses; elation or disappointment which will eventually skew my ability to self reflect honestly. If my preparation includes defining how I will take control over my success, than my “gap” response will have multiple options because success comes in multiple levels.

Eventually, we then look at the transition of self reflection to preparation as a time for renewal. Cycles end with self reflection for a reason, and that reason is so that we can honestly evaluate not only where we have been, but how we plan to get somewhere else next time around. The better we are at self reflecting, the better plan we can make for our next performance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Your Power is Unimaginable

Hopefully today will provide enough food for thought to prevent you from doing what doesn't make you happy. On the heels of a great self- checklist yesterday by Justine as to whether or not we are charting our own course... today we are examing what can come of that course?

Before we uncover the awesome power of one- let's examine the potentially nil power of millions. How can 1 person have infinately greater impact than millions? Easy. Think of the last time you drove to work in a hurry while in a bad mood. Think about that situation clearly. Did you speak to anyone? If so it was probably to complain. Did you look anyone in the eye and smile or stare blindly at the mess of cars ahead? Did you remember gaining anything from that drive or do you just remember the anger it instilled? This is the rat race; or what we are capable of when we are focused on the wrong things (or not focused on anything at all).

If we don't focus on anything it is very difficult to acheive anything. If we focus on the wrong things (like our anger or things we cannot control) we end up acheiving things we don't intend. We might say we want to help others, but walking into work pissed off and complaining about the markets - impacts others to do the same. We lose all power towards the end we want to acheive and have an unwanted power towards exactly the opposite end.

If - however, we were to maintain as much as possible a positive attitude
If - we were to be passionate about our chosen direction and work hard towards it
If - we were to mentor others to this cause and pay our mentors forward by mentoring others

Then there is no way of calculating the good, the momentum, the positive change - that we are directly responsible for leading. Think about a coach who inspires a team of twenty to be better students, athletes, and people - 2 or 3 of which are inspired enought to volunteer or coach themselves... the positive spiral and trickle down effect of that giving may go on for decades or even hundreds of years.

YOU could be the initiator of positive things to come for hundreds of years. Or we could all just focus on 'me' and see where we all - individually end up. But never use the "I'm just 1 person excuse" - you can be a world changer.

5 Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die

You have no idea where you will be this time next year – or 5 years from now. Sure, you may have ideas and visions, but some things are out of the boundaries of predictability. I’m sure many of us are finding that we are having to choose different paths or go in different directions with the recent world affairs taking place. So how to cope with this – how to learn to take that turn and still be happy with it.

‘Live everyday for what it is, don’t worry about what will happen, the next day will take care of itself, what will be will be, learn to accept and for the next day to happen’ - Unknown

This is a quote from a book I recently came across called The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die. The author, John Izzo, set out to answer that question by asking several thousand people to identify the one person they knew who had lived a long life and found true happiness. After receiving over 1,000 nominations, he interviewed 200 plus people over the age of 60 asking them to reflect back on their lives:

What brought happiness?
What gave meaning?
What did they regret?
What did they wish they had learned sooner?
What did not matter in the end?

These secrets are inspiring and provide a good blueprint or roadmap, for all of us. Especially during times of volatility of where we are going and what the next step is for us – these ‘secrets’ (which really are not secrets at all, but basic life principles), when lived each and every day can bring us an internal happiness. Happiness and contentment that can not be taken away by events occurring outside of our control. The following is a brief synopsis of each secret:

1.Be True to Yourself. You must follow your heart and your dreams, not the dreams someone else has for you. This may mean making a radical change in your life, or simply making small adjustments. The key to continually examine your life is to make sure you are following your own true path.

Questions to ask yourself: Did this week or day feel like my kind or week/day? What would make tomorrow or next week feel more true to myself?

2.Leave No Regrets. Although all of the people whom Izzo interviewed had some regrets, people who had the fewest were the happiest. A common theme for happiness was that people don’t regret risks that failed; instead they regretted not having risked more.

Questions to ask yourself: Did I act on my convictions this week? How am I responding to the setbacks in my life right now? Am I stepping forward or retreating?

3.Become Love. The more you focus on acting with love, the more you will find happiness. This begins with choosing to love yourself and breaking away from thoughts that are self-defeating and self-critical. You must make loving relationships a priority in your life.

Questions to ask yourself: Did I make room for friends, family and relationships today or this week? Did I spread love and kindness in the world at each interaction?

4.Live the Moment. Living the moment means living your life now rather than simply planning it. “We must always live in the present moment, the only moment in which we have any power.”

Questions to ask yourself: Did I fully enjoy whatever I was doing this day/week? What am I grateful for right now?

5.Give More Than You Take. Each day you have the power to give without limit. Giving connects people to something larger than themselves – whether it’s a supreme being of the entire human experience and journey.

Questions to ask yourself: Did I make the world a better place this week in a small? Was I kind, generous, giving this week? How can I be more that way tomorrow?

Perhaps the most important message to take away from this is that it’s never too late to start leading a meaningful life. Age doesn’t matter. World affairs don’t matter. All you need is the knowledge and the will to change. Not only know the above, but live to it – so when you have to take a suddenly different path or life throws an unexpected twist down in front of you, you are better able to deal with it and adapt.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Cup of Tea

There just is never any end to the things that one needs to know or learn. There is no shortage of new ideas I want to explore and goals I want to accomplish.

The whole concept is beginning to stress me out. What should I start on next?

In fact, there are so many things to do that sometimes I'm paralyzed by the sheer volume of the things I want to get done. Signing a mobile phone contract makes me feel like I should have paid more attention in university. At times it makes me feel like I should go back and take a law degree!

I make lists, scribble in and out of my day timer and PDA, triage my week and then look at what I really want from life. For me it can get staggering. One of my goals for this year is to learn to meditate. Simple really, until I try to fit the time in to actually do it. Where do I go so my kids won't jump on my head or a list of chores at home won't get in the way? Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems.

Do you ever feel like it is all too much? Maybe we should go to Tibet. I'm sure we could learn to mediate there. I doubt the kids could climb that high anyways. Perfect.

No. Not there yet and quite frankly I actually like my life. My family is great and I have fun almost every day. Today, and maybe for the next little while, I will have to compromise. A cup of tea and a park bench. I don't drink it for the caffeine. I drink for the peace. 15 minutes without anyone bothering me and some time to think about the world. Some how I always find time so therefore it must be available to me...and if I can find that time to think then maybe my "to do" list is possible after all.

All it takes is a cup of tea and everything seems better again.

Take a moment every day to think and calm yourself. Even if all you can do is grab a cuppa. I promise that life will get a little less serious, even if just for those few minutes of personal time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What Are Your Motivators?

Have you ever thought about what makes you want to work hard? What gets you up each morning with a smile on your face and ready to take on the world? When we know WHY we do something, we can use that information to accomplish more. Knowing what motivates us will help us achieve our goals, both personal and professional.

Many of us believe that the only reason we work is money. Although there is no question that money, or what it buys (mortgage, food, etc) is a prime motivator, money alone does not create the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that many of us are seeking.

For example.

Have you ever looked at someone with all the money in the world and asked yourself, how on earth could they be so unhappy? What on earth do they have to be down about - they have everything! Well if you think about it, it is the difference between people who do what they do for money vs enjoyment. People who do it for money only have money to reference as their measure of accomplishment. People who do it because they love what they do have stories, memories and usually like sharing the riches of their passions with others.

I wanted to learn more about this phenomenon and researched some reasons for what makes someone motivated in life. Funny enough there are so many reasons other than money it would make clear sense why someone with what you thought “had everything in the world” would actually be unhappy.

LIMRA International, a research association, suggests you prioritize the following motivators for yourself. Once you've identified what works for you, share it with your boss. If you're the boss, ask your employees to prioritize their motivators. Whether you're the boss, the employee, or it's just you (a work-at-home mom or a solopreneur), this is important information for you to know.

RECOGNITION: The tangible rewards you get for doing a job well, such as being singled out in a publication or speech. How important is winning to you? How do you feel when others receive recognition? Do you go out of your way to win awards?

ACHIEVEMENT: The feeling that you get from successfully accomplishing a job...overcoming obstacles and obtaining goals.Is your performance relative to your effort? How do you feel when you have completed a task? What kind of goals do you set for yourself?

LEISURE TIME: The amount of time that you have free to use as you wish and the extent of enjoyment that you get from this time.Do you find yourself neglecting things? Have you postponed a desired activity? Do you really enjoy your leisure time?

POWER: The sense of control that you feel you have over your destiny and the destiny of others...your feelings of influence to direct the behavior of others.Do you feel that you have control over your destiny? Do people tend to lean on you, ask your approval? Do you find yourself doing things you'd rather not do?

PRESTIGE: The respect accorded you by your peers and by business or community others feel you compare with your peers.Is prestige important to you? Do others tend to hold you in esteem? Do you find yourself performing to gain esteem?

PRESSURE: The constant feeling or need to show continuing improvement in your job performance.Do you feel guilty about not exerting enough effort? Do you continually feel that you must do more? Do you want continual motivation from superiors?

SELF ESTEEM: Your feeling of you feel you measure up to your peers.Are you confident that you do as well as you can? Do you feel guilty about poor performance? Are you satisfied with your performance?

FAMILY LIFE: The amount and quality of family activities that you engage in.Do you spend enough time with your family? Is time meaningful when with them? Do they talk about the time that you spend with them?

SECURITY: The certainty that you feel of maintaining your position...the feeling that tomorrow will be at least as good as today.Is job security important to you? Are you afraid to try something new? Do you do things that tend to secure your job?

PERSONAL GROWTH: The feeling of growing as an individual or becoming more competent, more efficient—a better person.Do you think that you have grown over the past year? Do you do specific things that result in improvement? Do you have plans for doing more?

Now that you've prioritized this list, you have clear idea of what motivates you. It's not just money, is it?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Two Horses

Two horses were carrying two loads. The front Horse went well, but the rear Horse was lazy. The men began to pile the rear Horse’s load on the front Horse; when they had transferred it all, the rear Horse found it easy going, and he said to the front Horse: “Toil and sweat! The more you try, the more you have to suffer.” When they reached the tavern, the owner said; “Why should I fodder two horses when I carry all on one? I had better give the one all the food it wants, and cut the throat of the other; at least I shall have the hide.” And so he did.
~Fables, Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910

There are two very important dynamics at play in this fable; one of great work ethic and one of great leadership.

Work ethic is a learned trait, meaning it is something we gain from observation and trial rather than a given skill at birth. In this fable one horse is given an extra load of work and without complaint or resentment, takes on the work and does their job. Why? Because it was a load that they could handle despite being more difficult than the original load they were given. In putting in the extra work and completing the job, the horse was recognized and rewarded for their efforts, therefore being given the chance to prove itself again with greater responsibility.

Leadership is also a learned trait and the owner of the horses acted in a fashion by which all great leaders act. First, the owner noticed the exemplary efforts of the lead horse and gave it the recognition and reward that was deserving of its actions. Secondly, the owner recognized that he had the wrong horse for the job he needed and cut ties with that horse immediately (and literally).

As employees we will be given tasks that will test us emotionally and physically where our leaders will be watching to see how we perform. We will be given extra loads sometimes where we are given the opportunity to either accept the challenge or complain about being challenged. What Tolstoy really hits on in this fable is that with opportunity comes consequence and the choice we make within the opportunity we are given can either lead to promotion or termination. What we need to take away from opportunity is that our decisions will not always be easy ones, but when we make the decision to put all of our efforts into a task, the end result will always have some type of positive undertone.

As leaders we must be able to recognize our faults and take action on them immediately or we will suffer greater in the long run. By recognizing that he had the wrong horse for the wrong job, the owner cut his losses immediately and did not have to invest more time and money into an employee who had neither the attitude nor motivation to succeed in their job. By identifying his mistake in making a bad hire and empowering his employee who did have the right attributes, the owner now put himself in a win/win situation. The first win being that he had an employee who would lead by example and the second win being that through leadership he made it very clear what his expectations as a leader are.

Minus physiological actions of the body, everything we do in life consists of traits that have been learned. If we expect excellence from ourselves then we must learn from those who are excellent. If we want to be a great employee then we must ask questions to those we deem great employees. If we plan to be great leaders then we must study those who have proven their greatness in leadership over time. If we plan to succeed in life then we must gain the skills necessary from those who are successful. Positive observation and action lead to work ethic and leadership, which ultimately distinguishes us from those that are fed well and those that are taken for their hide.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Find The Opportunities

These days, it's tough to walk by a tv without seeing a stock price drop or some potential crisis on the horizon. Studies in a Calgary day care show stress levels in day-care aged children are on the rise, and health and wellness are becoming national concerns. It's at times like these, a lot of us throw our hands up and ask "where do I have to turn to find good news?"

Glad you asked. The fact is, there are a lot of scary things going on in the world, but from another perspective - the world as we know it has a whole lotta promise.

- the stock prices may be dropping, but oil is hovering at $50 a barrel. It's high not that long ago was $147 a barrel. People do not own fewer cars or live any closer to work, so a commodity everyone needs is on sale for 66% off right now with the potential (if things go back to where they were) to triple your money (keep in mind the price predictions fro oil were that they were/ are going to go even higher).
- we may be finding new things like BPA's that arm potentially harmful to the environment, but at least we are getting that information. Between 1931 and 1960 in Deline, NWT, 35 people who were working in a mine transporting uranium ore had no idea there were potential risks involved in their lucrative new opportunity. 15 of those 35 died of cancer. I think we have it pretty good today because at least we are being informed of the risks; even if it may be a bit of overkill.
- the great will always find a way. Yes, some businesses will be scaling back, perhaps even shutting their doors for good - however this time of global recession is forcing the doers to step up and is mulling over those that sit and wait. It is literally a new kind of evolution- an evolution of the workforce where the best have to get better and the good have to be great. This is an opportunity; because if you are reading swim upstream - you don't aspire to a job where you hate the work and get paid maximum wage for minimum input- you are willing to roll up the sleeves. The great news here is that you are going to have more colleagues like you, and fewer parasites who hold you back.
- perspectives are changing. If people are losing their shirts in the stock market, or their business is seeing smaller profits, their priorities are shifting- or they will be the captain going down with the Titanic. More family time and quality interactions and less time with Paris Hilton as she searches for a new BFF.

all told, there are a lot of reasons to smile - after all, the stock crisis is in large part exacerbated by the law of large numbers - the more people who panic and hold their equity liquid- the more the stock market crashes. The more people who invest in oil or other stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs, the more money everyone makes as we recover even back to par.

The big takeaway is that the point of today's entry is 1% financial and 99% on perspective. Look for the silver lining- the opportunity in every situation, as that mindset will always reap better results than panic (which is usually characterized by poor decisions or inaction/ missed opportunities anyways).

Oh, and go forward today looking for reasons to smile amidst some nay-sayers, and spread those reasons to others- that's what swimming upstream is all about.