Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Choice Is Still A Choice

Ever felt overcome by your problems and just wished they would go away? I'm sure we all have. The fact is, problems are problems because they do not go away just by wishing.

The old Indian proverb, "pray with your feet" is apt in this situation... you can wish, pray, complain, bitch all you want... but it is exactly the moment that we decide to get up after being kicked down that we begin to own our problems.

The amazing thing about the body is it's sense of survival. It is the strongest instinct we own, and we often forget this in North America. Survival for most of us gets confused with comfort, as many luxuries we have come to call 'neccessities'.

This disparity dulls our primitive edge; our win at all costs survival hunger that would never let a mortgage bill own every thought we have. This is not to say defaulting on a mortgage or loan payment isn't stressful... just that there is always something we can do.

When we forget our power to change our situation... we give that power to someone who oppresses us, to the ravages of time, to a sickness, etc... this is not to say that people who are sick or have problems chose them. It is to say when you are sick, or when you are hit with obstacles you couldn't have seen coming - you still have a choice!

Making no choice is making a (bad) choice, because you have chosen not to take ownership over your condition and affect whatever change you could have for the better.

Complaining (and doing nothing) acheives nothing - funny, couldn't have called that.
Clawing for everything you get in good times and in bad leads to even small improvements. The rub is- when you add up small improvements in your situation over the course of a lifetime of making good decisions... that is when we separate the 'lucky' from the 'unlucky'.

For the most part, we make our own luck - or we let it be made for us by making no choice. Would you rather roll the dice or roll up your sleeves? The choice seems obvious to at least a few 'lucky' ones out there... maybe we should learn from their example.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In life, we grow up and unconsciously build a defense system. And a majority of this defense system is built on the fear of reprisal or penalty. As children, if we did not know the right answers at home or in school, we may have been reprimanded, punished, or made to feel stupid. And because we are oriented to survival, most of us learned early to adopt attitudes of defense.

Eventually with time and self-observation, we see & recognize that our defenses keep us from receiving. The need to control and the need "to know" or to be "right" is a hindrance to our own growth. Therefore, as we alter our inner perception & thought process from a defensive stance to openness, we allow questions to arise and answers to be provided. We can become curious and see "not knowing" as a positive instead of a negative. We lift the myth of the need to be perfect from our shoulders, and open the door to personal growth and development.

We can start letting down our defenses, and making ourselves vulnerable by being willing to trust others and most importantly ourselves. When we share and are vulnerable amongst a group, we begin to remove the glass walls that we have lived behind that magnified the negative reflection that we projected. We begin to realize that everyone has questions that are not answered and weaknesses that can be worked on. And in fact, being vulnerable, which we perceived as weakness, becomes our greatest strength.

Everyone has a story.
It is ok to be vulnerable.
So give it a try.

And gain deeper insights that will guide you to meaningful answers in your life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Over Night

A short but powerful point:

Sports and entertainment are windows into how our society acts and looks.

Here we have young athletes and movie stars that come into the professional realm and they are seen as the 'next big thing' or 'shockingly great'.

They are seen as over night successes. The type of people that just picked up a ball or merely read a script and were great. bingo. Found in the grocery store and then thrust into the spot light.

Don't believe the hype and certainly don't model it or expect it for yourself.

These so called "over nighters" are soon to be huge sport celebrities but they prepared for these moments, the same way as actors worked on their dreams only to become household names.

There are no such thing as over night successes. Some find success at a quicker rate than others but each an every person that has seen themselves fulfill a dream or desire has had to work at it.

When you become a success they won't see how you got up early, stayed up late, saved your pennies, denied yourself free time and made hard choices.

They will see you as an over night success.
We know better. The secret is out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

5 or 500?

“I would rather work with five people who really believe in what they are doing rather than 500 who can’t see the point.” – Patrick Dixon, futurist

[Matt Young & Willie Cromack]

As I age, I realize the circle of relevant people in our life gets smaller…. and smaller… and smaller. It’s not a self righteous thing and it’s not a we are overly difficult or boring thing. It’s that we don’t have the interest in pretending to entertain things & people who don’t bring tangible positivity to our personal or professional plate.

[Stan Peake - left]

You know back when… where you try to be everything to everyone? You don’t want to let someone down, appear like you are not interested, hold boring conversations and friendships because you thought you had to? That stage is over. It’s too hard and the reality is (as Patrick Dixon so bluntly articulates) – neither the one or one of the 500 benefits.

[Scott Boyle]

The beauty of life is the diversity with which it can be lived. We are not all the same. We have different preferences, different interests and different mindsets, hence life provides a little something for everyone. One actually has to work pretty hard to fly through it solo. We can choose who we surround ourselves with.

Choice is good. Choice is important. Choice is a freedom we have fought for.

[Curtis Christopherson]

Choose who you work with wisely!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Don't Tarnish a Legacy

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

This April, on the National Mall in Washington DC, construction will start for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This memorial will be the first on the Mall honoring an African American, and will be located near the spot where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

After decades of planning and searching, an artist was found who is qualified to make the 30 foot granite sculpture, but not without controversy. The artist of record chosen is from China, and the NAACP has passed a resolution against his selection, preferring that an African American be chosen as the artist of record.

This week, our nation celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he stood for. One thing we can say about Dr. King is that he was one who did not participate in doubletalk, unlike many modern day politicians and leaders, Dr. King meant what he said and said what he meant. He frequently spoke of “all of God’s children” when he spoke of civil rights and equality.

In honoring Dr. King with a memorial on the National Mall, we are honoring the legacy of a man who literally gave his life for the cause of equality. The not so humorous irony of modern times has us arguing about the race of the person creating a memorial for a leader whose mission was to see that we move beyond looking at race as an identifier of qualification and competency.

In doing this we are tarnishing a legacy and pushing a movement backwards. The NAACP is citing China as having a poor at best, record for human rights, as to why this artist should not be chosen. Isn’t this exactly where this country was when Dr. King arose as a leader of the Civil Rights movement? It is our responsibility as people to let the legacy of others live on by putting into practice the values that made them a legend. To deny an artist the opportunity to create this sculpture because of his origin of birth is negating everything that this monument will stand for.

In Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech he said “as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back”. For us to continue to move the legacy of Dr. King forward, to accept his dream, we must accept that this monument is being made by an individual who was chosen because he is the best qualified person for the job. To try and make sure that the person making the monument is of the same skin color of Dr. King is turning back and tarnishing a legacy.

The final paragraph of Dr. King’s speech says:
“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"”

Our responsibility to future generations lies in allowing the legacies of our leaders to live on through acting out the ideas that made them legend, not by letting personal agendas and ideals get in the way of the message.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How And Why To Look Back

Goal setting, achievement, and separating yourself from the herd are all very important cornerstones to the swim upstream mental diet. So is embracing the right attitude, surrounding yourself with the right people, being the right person, and doing the right things. Always striving for higher - that's the way to get more out of life.

Sometimes, however, the challenge to consistently if not constantly step outside your own comfort zone and push the envelope can force people to miss out on something very valuable... a key part of their own life. That is, we all need to step back once in a while and see not just where we would like to go... but also how far we have come. If we don't appreciate the journey as we do it and even after we do it... it's as though we are always pushing the proverbial stone uphill and never taking a break to enjoy the scenery of all that a high up perch has to offer.

An example in work is the first $50,000 sales deal - pat yourself on the back and go out for a nice family dinner instead of instantly looking at the first 100,000 or million dollar deal. Instead of running your first 5km run and looking into 10k races... congratulate yourself and take a picture at the finish line that you frame. Instead of planning your first child on your honeymoon, enjoy being a newlywed for all that is has to offer.

At the end of the day - any of the above examples are fleeting moments and are some of the best experiences life has to offer. If in the name of a competitive spirit we look past celebrating these achievements with those we love... we miss out on the full experience of all of the great things we push ourselves to achieve. After all, recognition of achievement (celebration & reward) is the final step of the goal setting process.

It is always okay to stop and smell the roses, as long as we don't allow ourselves to get a big head (see Matt's blog Monday re: humility). What achievements have you forgotten to celebrate? Make the time to do this... it will surprise you how reflecting on one positive achievement will motivate you to tackle another!

Always remember in a life of swimming upstream, the views get better and better, and the people beside you are more and more worth sharing it with... never take that for granted on your way to the next big goal!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Status Quo?

Are you a leader or want to be one?

If so, the key is to understand that as a leader, it is your responsibility to find out what motivates your peers, co-workers, teammates and apply that knowledge to get results from them.

Let's look at the leaders that exist in companies of the business world. There are some leaders of companies who are continually meeting new challenges. While there are other leaders who resign to dealing with an ever-shrinking list of challenges “within their control”.

One set of leaders are innovating and seeking to deal with the problems. The other are setting barriers for the company's accomplishments.

One set of leaders are influencers, the other set of leaders develop coping mechanisms.

It’s so easy to be the second type of leaders. Those are leaders that label their challenges as “out of my control” or “impossible to resolve”. These are leaders that accept the status quo. These are leaders who don’t understand influence and haven’t taken the time to see how they can motivate others for performance.

Being an influencer however, involves two things. In the first place, it involves identifying the needs of your peers, co-workers, teammates. Secondly, it involves identifying pressure points that will allow you to influence them. It’s a practice in organizational goal-setting and motivation.

Although it is easy to be that second type - would you truly classify yourself as a leader if you never give 110% and easily accept status quo? Don't think so.

But that is for you to decide, just like for you to decide if you want to be a leader.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

So The Experts Say

The pendulum has swung and a new time has arrived. This time will be officially in full swing by January 1, 2009.
  • For the first time ever Starbucks' customer traffic is down
  • the markets continue to be volatile due to consumer unrest in the United States, which means the world, and don't kid yourself that anyone is insulated from Uncle Sam.
  • Wal-Mart is a force to be reckoned with in every small town and community it enters
The world is swinging to a more transactional personality and that means that as people we will have to have vision, which unfortunately is in short supply.

Why will we need to have vision? We will need it to see through the media behemoth that will continue to force a culture of fear. We will need it to see where we are going individually and how we are going to get there in what is ostensibly "tough times". We will need it because we are a culture of shop keepers that is used to a way of doing business which is changing.

Relationships will be important. An idea of what needs to be attained and how you can help, yourself and others, will be more important to maintaining that relationship. A win-win if ever there was one. A real helping hand rather than a social game of golf that could yield business.

But enough about business, that merely sets the stage for the point.

The point my friends is that we ebb and flow as a unit. As a culture. As our means of communicating become more powerful we buy into what we are hearing, seeing and then "feel" the same thing. You need to be better than just accepting what you see and hear but understand why others around you are reacting differently.

Think before you act.

Incidentally my prediction is that Starbucks will continue to decline for a little while here as people realize they can get free internet, a communal paper and a decent coffee for less elsewhere. Internet shopping will continue to climb as people research for the best deal and businesses will be graded on how one attains a goal related to a service or product. It will no longer be about just what people look like because they own a product [a special brand]. You and I are beginning to realize that most people don't own anything so the cache that goes with the highly touted brands is working against them unless they can do something better for you as well. Like Volvo and safety. The media will cater to this "help me" attitude as well and the companies will pursue advertising that plays up their "goal" based features rather than just the feeling you get by owning their stuff.

We are at a stage where we want it all as consumers and it is an attitude that has been created by us, which will be incredibly difficult to meet. We have set a standard that we may not be able to attain ourselves.

Be careful what you wish for. Vision will help you wade through the waters of uncertainty. hard work will help you swim through. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Monday, January 21, 2008

need a slice of humble pie?

right off the bat, our collective reality is that almost 100% of the worlds population are salespeople. translation: more or less we all have the same job. yes some have greater responsibility & risk, hence are privy to greater monetary rewards, but it doesn’t & shouldn’t entitle one to think they are superior to or more important then another.

second. each one of us started somewhere. unless we are the example of the silver spooned child who pretty much had everything handed them from 5 to 50, we knew what it was like to struggle, be broke, eat kraft dinner and work our way to / up / in and out of the corporate environment. so, with this in mind – we don’t need to turn around and think we are better than or not offer help to others who will & are doing the same.

we know the mentality is ‘all about me’ and that’s why we are writing the blog. we see it, everyday in our personal training realms. team mates & customers are welcomed into our business with open arms. often they appear with no to low self esteem – no problem – we provide the juice - that’s our passion (not job - passion). through genuine care we help build peoples self confidence one hour, one meeting, one victory at a time. it’s great to see and fun to do.

but wait a second. what’s with the new attitude? now you are too cool for school? now we owe you something? now, we’re lucky to have you as a team mate and customer? now “we’ve learned a lot from you”?


don’t confuse our humility with your unreality. if you start digesting that ‘all me’ sandwich too fast while talking about you... you’re going to choke.

perhaps along the way you were not paying attention to those who unselfishly gave to you. who made the time, who challenged you to be better, who supported your adversity, who listened to your complaints, who went above and beyond.... because they wanted to. no problem – we all need reminders. this is yours.

there is no ‘top’ in life. we die, go into the soil and new life is born. it’s actually very simple.

life is very simple.

we make it challenging. don’t make your life more challenging than it needs to be by thinking your higher than the natural order.

you aren't.
we aren't
be respctful.
be humble.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Water & Life

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. ~W. Edwards Deming

Roughly 75% of the earth’s surface is made of water, but only 1% of the water is usable to humans. The main source of our survival, water allows us to gather and grow food, create sources of energy, and regulate our ecosystems. Water also makes up 55% to 60% of our bodies and allows us to survive by keeping us hydrated as well as controlling our body temperature.

Not all water, however, is beneficial to humanity because water also kills. A major incubator for disease, bacteria and parasites, water also carries and hosts malaria and dengue, as well as the mosquitoes that pass them on to us humans. While bacteria, parasites, and diseases are living, their existence crates death to those who cannot host them.

The separation from vibrant life forming water and lethal life ending water is directly related to its movement. Rivers, oceans, lakes, and streams all have some type of continual flow of water to them, meaning that they are always in constant motion and change. They do this so that the life that is dependant on them can continue to thrive and allow for survival.

When water becomes stagnant, it gets infected with disease, and creates pathogens that pass disease on to its surrounding ecosystem. Essentially when the water dies, it creates the probability for more death.

If we can relate this to our own environments, then we can easily see that if we fail to continually evolve, we are failing to enhance our environment and the environments we are surrounded by. Our inability to change when change is necessary not only kills us, but kills those around us through our influence.

Work, family, and social environments will eventually face adversity and we are left with a choice; continue to follow the status quo and wait for normalcy to return, or make the changes necessary for our survival and reestablish what normalcy actually is.

When a moving body of water faces an obstacle it finds a way to work through the obstacle so that it, and everything dependant on it, can continue to live. If this body of water chooses to stop when confronted by the obstacle, it will eventually evaporate, stand still and create ways kill those who come in contact with it.

The human species is no different than its most dependant resource. If you are stagnant, then choose to live and make changes, otherwise you are destined to become a host for negativity and destruction.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

We All Need to Shock the System

YOU have been both of the following people...

Scenario A: Random stranger drops their bag. You are in a rush. You see random stranger who has no way of bettering your lot in life; and yet you stop and help them with no expectation of reward. On your hurried way to work/ home/ appointment/ etc you remember that the good deed was it's own reward, and you are still hurried, maybe even stressed, but you have a great feeling inside too.

Scenario B: You are in a hurry to get home from work after a tough day. You don't have to be home at a certain time but you can't help feeling anxious at the constant barrage of cars butting ahead of you. The last straw hits in the form of a car turning into your lane on a yellow light that makes you wait a few extra seconds when the light finally turns green for you. HONK!!!

Now you KNOW you have been both of the above types, because we all have. We have all (hopefully) done something nice for no other reason than to do something nice; which is actually the best reason to do it. We have also been mad or stressed or impatient just because we were stressed or impatient; which is one of the worst reasons.

The point of identifying these diametrically opposed personas is to stress that all other things being held constant; the world is a busy place and many of us will osmotically gravitate towards Scenario B. That is, there are enough people spreading negativity, enough potentially stressful situations, and enough BS in the media that a negative outlook is searching for us and will find us if we let it.

To swim upstream is to actively engage in those behaviours that you know will move you forward; not those behaviours that necessarily come naturally. In order to remind ourselves of this, we need to 'shock the system'. If you don't force yourself into a positive frame of mind, you may find yourself one of the honkers spreading negativity.

How can we shock the system? Glad you asked...
• Hang out with better people. The more time you spend with people who make you feel enlightened, the more you will have this impact for yourself and for others
• Read better articles and books. Put down the celeb magazine, pick up a thought provoking editorial or a great read that takes your mind on a journey.
• Expend more energy. Do you feel like you “shut off” when you’re done work? Most people do unless they are active people. Ironically, being active before, during or after your work day will actually increase the amount of energy you have every day even though you are burning calories.
• Get out of the routine. Take a course, take a trip, go home a different route, eat a different dinner, but stay away from the routine because routine leads to mundane, mundane leads to bored and bored leads to a dying mind and soul. Implement good and effective habits, but shock the system when it comes to the routine – often.

Hopefully you feel happy about the way you expend your energy, and the way your mind interprets potential stresses. Never get to comfortable or too predictable, as the rat race speedway is fortified by doing the same thing over and over and over with no question of the direction or purpose by the drivers.

Shock the system - you'll either find that you are on the right track, or you'll find a better way to do things and a happier way too. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Enthusiasm, Discipline... and Desire.

In life, strive to have equal amounts of both enthusiasm and discipline.


While enthusiasm is the quality that arouses us to act, discipline will allow us to direct our actions in a positive manner.
And therefore our success will come from an equal quality of both.

Let me explain.

1. A person that is disciplined will not permit himself to be influenced by the cynic or the pessimist; nor will one permit another person to do their thinking for them.
2. A person that is disciplined will stimulate their imagination and their enthusiasm until they have produced action, but they will then control that action and not permit it to control them.
3. A person that is disciplined will never, under any circumstances, slander another person or seek revenge for any cause whatsoever.
4. A person that is disciplined will not hate those who do not agree with them; instead, they will endeavor to understand the reason for their disagreement, and profit by it.
5. And on the other hand, a lack of discipline causes more grief than all other forms combined; it is the habit of forming opinions before studying the facts.

So, start practicing the art of discipline by:

1. Making exercise a part of your daily routine.
2. Save money instead of spending it.
3. Control your words and actions - most of all listen more and talk less.
4. And dominate your thoughts with your passion and goals and they will become a reality (start by saying to yourself, YES, it CAN be done).

And on that note, we must remind ourselves that not only do we have the power to think but, what is a thousand times more important, we have the power to control our thoughts and direct them! So, if you are searching for the magic key that will unlock the door to the source of power; don't look anywhere else but in your own hands. We have the ability to direct our thoughts, make use of our passion, and turn our our goals into reality.

Lastly, behind all achievement, behind all discipline, behind all thought control, is something called DESIRE! In fact, you are limited only by the depth of your desires! When your desires are strong enough you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve. And when you reach your goals and are successful remember that someone, somewhere, sometime believed in you, and gave you an idea to start you in the right direction. You are indebted to life until you help someone less fortunate then you, to pay it forward.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is It Really That Bad

From the vault of:

Put Your Life In Perspective

  1. Hundreds of thousands of people in North America cannot afford food and housing at the same time. For the price of just one cup of coffee a day you could ...[I know you've seen the advertisement].
  2. Water is something that people kill over in other countries. How long was your shower this morning?
  3. Having a job in some places makes you an aristocrat. Just ask some of the people that work at your local fast food restaurants what their family back hoe thinks of them.
  4. War torn countries like the Congo have crumbled societies upon which rape, murder and theft are the only things left. What was it that made you so angry this morning?
  5. Having loose change makes you rich based on the world's population. Maybe you shouldn't compare yourself to those Jones, there's plenty of them that you are doing better than.
  6. If you can run and jump you are better off than millions of people that would give anything to do just that. Why haven't you jumped today.
Take a look around and realize that what you have is a great deal more than most on this planet. Take a look around and realize that with these gifts you can do more for yourself and for the world. It doesn't take money.

It takes a positive attitude.

I'm sure there are millions of the people we described above who can attest to that very fact. Attitude is what helped them get to where you quite possibly already are and then surpass you.

All around you is the inspiration.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What's good leadership?

Headline : George Bush seeks mid east peace deal to end his term.

When I read this headline, I have to admit, I thought this was a tad ironic. Is this the same leader who has exhibited hostilities towards Iraq, Iran, North Korea & Russia (to name a few of the big one’s) over the past 4-8 years? What does a world leader say when this guy rolls into town in the name of peace?

Anyways, this is not the focus of Monday’s blog. The purpose of this blog is to address what great leadership is. I think across 2007, we (sports personalities, ceo’s, and politicians alike) needed a reminder that great leaders are those who’ve left their sport, company and geographic region in better standing then they found it in.

Better than they found it entails… ‘legacy’ and legacy denotes that policies, practices, ideas and implementations that served to bring the organism to higher levels than those that previously existed. It’s not about sharp financial spikes that seem to all but vanish when the so called leader vanishes. It’s about long term success based on strong platforms that can be built upon, inspire others and maintain growth for years to come.

So to all leaders who thought they were 'the bomb' over their tenure only to leave their organization in a worse state of affair than they came to it or found it in.

Don’t kid yourself.
You weren't that good.
That's not effective leadership. In fact, scroll down to Scott's friday blog caption and understand what the real term for what you did was.

Friday, January 11, 2008

We Are All Followers

At the root of all leadership is a simple fact that many leaders are unwilling to admit: we are all followers. It is unequivocally true. We are the make-up of many ideas, theories, and actions, all of which have made an imprint on us through studying, watching, and emulating others who we were/are influenced by.

Leaders are influenced by others around them as much as they influence others, but what separates a leader from a perpetual follower is that a leader has unwavering faith in themselves and bases every decision on their faith. This strong held set of beliefs and principles is what allows leaders to separate from the pack and thrive as an individual, whereas the follower remains dependant on the thoughts and influence of others.

Our individuality is what allows us to lead, it is what makes us unique and opens us up to being followed. If we do not have faith in our individual traits then we can never take the ideas we learn from our mentors and make them our own. In essence, out faith in ourselves allows us to be influenced so that we can influence others while remaining true to our identity.

When we lack faith in ourselves we remain open to influence, only we are unable to separate positive from negative influence and follow what is perceived popular no matter its intention or origin. Sometimes we get lucky and follow those that make our lives better and other times we follow those that convince us drink cool-aide. Our success is dependant on chance and the momentum of our surroundings, rather than the belief in ourselves that our current state is the correct state.

Gangs, con-men, and cults all prey on those of us that are easily influenced and are not resolute in our individual faith. We buy into the idea that we do not have to think for ourselves and that others have our best interests in mind, therefore we are to follow the influence. Getting trapped and being influenced is not the problem, the problem is not having the faith in your decision making processes to get out.

Following is the first step in succeeding and the last step in failing. All the steps in between have to do with our ability to have faith in ourselves, and ultimately will determine our successes and failures. Since we are all followers, it is up to us to decide if our first and last steps are going to be the same.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Problem Won't Go Away If We Close Our Eyes

Avoidance. Ignorance. Numbing ourselves. Blindness. Moving to Mars.
Changing our ways.

Those are our options in the face of any problem. Perhaps an example of a problem that has yet to hit North American shores will help us to see this behaviour before it starts. India has offered up just that problem. Indian automaker Tata has announced plans for the late 2008 release of the Tata Nano, a car that will cost $2500. That's right, a brand new 4 door, 5 seater that will cost $2,500.00. How is this a problem?

It's a problem because Ford and GM face labour costs of roughly $71 per man hour, which resulted in Ford losing $12.6 Billion last year. They don't expect to make money again until 2009. India, on the other hand, can hire engineers who oversee the most intricate of details, for $35 an hour.

So what are the real problems here? The most immediate is that we are getting killed in the auto market. In 2005, auto sales and parts were nearly 15% of the USA's $1.49 Trillion GDP. In addition to the mortgage and lending crisis and economic downturn that is already happening....

If Ford and GM cannot cut labour costs by 30% in the next year to 2 years (to $50 per man hour), production of these cars will have to be shipped to Latin America. This will cost jobs, and encourage greater outsourcing of other labour in other industries which is all pointing us full steam in to one inevitable conclusion...

You are lucky to have a job. There is a reason doctors from other countries who don't have liscence to practice medicine here drive cabs and work in conveniance stores. They know the ability to work and receive a wage is a priveledge, not a right.

We have forgotten that as a society, and have placed so much emphasis on consumerism and being cool, that the rest of the world is not just catching up... they are leaving us in their dust. Stick your head in the sand, choose to avoid the news, discount what you are reading right now, but it's the truth...

Our problems won't go away by avoiding them or numbing ourselves... if we hope to overcome these challenges as a society, then our leaders will have to demand more of us, and we will have to demand more of ourselves. More time on task, fewer unions, and out with 'trying to keep people'. When businesses are shutting down (which they are) creative employee incentivization is at the bottom of the list.

This may sound harsh, and we at swim upstream believe in going over and above to reward your hard working employees... but we also believe in dumping the trash. As a nation, we have put every union in place and gone through strikes and holdouts to give more money and less expectation. It is exactly that mentality that is killing GM, Ford, Air Canada, and countless other companies.

If you are working you ass off right now, this message is not for you. If you are that girl or that guy who is working their tail off, you also don't need a union, because you are no threat for termination - ever.

But to the lazy clock-punching snack-munching time-wasting theif of an employee... your time is coming where you have proved yourself expendable. Better end your 45 minute coffee break now and learn from your better example co-workers... because there is no more room left in a competitive world for people like you.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

There's Something for Everyone

And it is the truth.

1. Don't fight it.
2. Don't feel that you have to follow the pack.

Unknowingly, people try to be something that they aren't just to stay a part of everything. Whether you are a business owner trying to have the entire market place and bad talk all of the competition or you try to force yourself to be someone that you aren't so that you can be a part of aren't getting yourself ahead...and in fact, are putting yourself behind by lowering your credibility or trying to force the square peg (that you could be) into a round hole.

If you understand that the business down the street might be better suited for some 'potentials' that walk into your doors OR if you understand yourself well enough to know that what you are interested in/good at is not the 'mainstream', that is when you will succeed. And when you realize this...just stick the hand up and say 'this isn't for me' or 'you might be better dealing with xx' is OK to do this.

No one will cut you down for your honesty. Because THERE IS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE.

For example, my writing style might cater & appeal to some swim upstream readers more than Scott's, Stan's, Willie's or Matt's. And any one of their writing styles might do the exact same thing...and that is one reason why team environments are so beneficial. Because when you have variety it can cater to the variety of people.

Another great example is

Team Average Jo -

A site that was created to showcase the reality that one doesn't need to be an elite athlete to experience extraordinary events and destinations. And that the there is a variety of events and adventures that cater to the variety of individuals...there are some that enjoy to hike, some that enjoy to do intense adventure races and some people that enjoy to site see Australia...all different & unique in their own way. Just like us as human beings.

We are all different. And that is ok. Remember, there is something for everyone.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

We're On Strike

When I was in Japan I was given the opportunity to tour one of my suppliers factories. Being interested in not only the factory but how the Japanese worked Kiazan and other philosophies I jumped at the opportunity. This I wanted to see.

We were treated royally as we toured the facilities. Each and every inch was spotless, which was very impressive for a factory boasting about 15,000 employees, but it wasn't anything I hadn't seen before.

On one of the lines I noticed the workers were wearing black arm bands and after touring a little farther and noticing many more with the same black arm band I asked what they were for.

The guide responded that the workers were on strike.

My jaw hit the ground.

Here were a group of people that were still working hard, earning their pay cheques and churning out the product but with a small black arm band were also saying we are not being treated fairly. They were also saying lets negotiate and talk this over.

Upon returning I called to see the outcome of the strike and it turned out that the workers came to agreement with management and the show continued onwards. Absolutely amazing.

What isn't amazing is the fact that we cannot compete with our Asian counterparts. Communication can yield results. Our arrogance to think we are the best will never yield anything but negative results.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All it takes is one.

One person who says ‘I’m going to do this’.
One action that sets the wheels in motion creating movement.
One moment in time where the aforementioned take shape and begins a life of it’s own
One by one, the addition of like minded people who embrace and join this movement.

All it takes is one.

Two years ago when we were getting ready for a great 2006. Tooling through our yearly goals and objectives we said ‘this year we would like to start a blog’. By November of 06, in reviewing our goals it became clear the only one we hadn’t accomplished, that was in our control, was staring the blog – so, google + blogger + 2 hours later the first blog was created. It would aptly be entitled swimupstream because we knew the information & perspectives would go against many norms, rules of thumb and societal practices we live by.

All it takes is one.

Soon, we would establish a group of writers. Five people who shared perspectives and were capable of articulating themselves well. We were pretty excited to get on and ‘just write’ because there’s tremendous power in getting things that are inside you… out. This was the prefect methodology of accomplishing such. ‘Who are you trying to reach here”, was a common question.

All it takes is one.

If we were able to positively affect one person, we considered ourselves a) lucky and b) successful. Along the way we would pick up one, and then another and then another until soon – we would check the google analytics to see people world wide were logging onto the site. One country at a time, one person at a time. One elder woman who’s daughter reads the messages to her daily, one 20 something person who found no the no bs forum she was looking for, one father who appreciates the validation he receives in managing his children, and the list goes on.

All it takes is one.

When we reflect on the personal satisfaction we receive knowing there are over 150 daily subscribers, or we have sold over 200 copies of our first book, or we’ve simply made someone’s day better – brighter – lighter or introspective its serves as the greatest lesson we can forward, teach, endorse etc.

All it takes is one.

You can be that one

Friday, January 04, 2008

Laws of Motion

The wonderful part of this time of the year is that everyone is thinking about how to enact change. Because of this it is also the perfect time for leaders to take advantage of people’s new outlook on performance and change, and assist them in reaching their goals. As those who surround you are looking to change their physical selves, leadership also needs to look at new ways to lead, therefore assisting in the facilitation of change.

As people are looking to move in new directions, both leaders and followers need to understand principles of movement if they are to actually create the change that they are looking for. One way to understand the relationship between the physical body and movement is to look at Newton’s 3 laws of motion and relate them to the movement you are seeking.

Newton’s laws of motion are three physical laws which provide relationships between the forces acting on a body and the motion of the body. The 3 laws are:

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

If we want to look at our movement in relation to Newton’s laws we must understand that the unbalanced force is change. If we are unwilling to change then we will either remain at rest or continue to move at the same speed we have been moving at. By accepting change we need to know that the pace at which we are familiar with, and sometimes the direction we are moving in, will change and we need to act accordingly. In leadership our responsibility is to make sure that the direction we have people moving in is geared towards success at a speed they can handle. As someone who is being led we need to trust that the direction and speed with which we are moving is the right direction to go so that we can perform. What both leaders and those being led need to make sure of is that the unbalanced force is a wind at our backs, where we can continue to move forward, and not a block in the road where our momentum suddenly stops yet we keep moving in the same direction.

Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

The greater the change we are trying to make, the more force we will need to use in order to crate the change. The common mistake made with Newton’s second law and change is that we as leaders produce too much force on someone who emotionally and physically cannot handle the acceleration. By pushing someone continuously with a force greater than they can handle overwhelms them and decreases their productivity. Because of this it is essential to know how great each individuals “mass” is; otherwise we enact ineptness not empowerment, therefore stunting the change we seek. As a person being led it is our responsibility to inform our leaders when we are being pushed too hard. With this we must also recognize when the push we are being given is to our advantage and it is our own personal baggage that is not allowing change to take place.

For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.

Newton’s third law is what makes change in life difficult. In theory it should be easy. Leadership pushes those that are being led towards success and they achieve. Unfortunately in interpersonal relationships this is not always the case because a common reaction from people is to push back when being pushed therefore resisting change. This is why it is so important for leaders to explain what changes are being made and why. Open and honest communication between everyone is what will create an equal and opposite reaction, and it is only when people don’t understand why, or agree to, changes are being made that we resist. This is why it is essential to make sure that we as leaders have the right people in the right situations, for without that we will constantly fight the resistance. If we are being led we need to make sure that we are able to handle the push towards change that is being asked of us and that we are willing to make the necessary changes. Understanding our role and excelling in that role is one way to make sure that we can react to our leaders push, but more importantly, we must understand ourselves and be able to excel within if we are ever to create successful change.

Looking to change and enacting change are two completely different animals and without the understanding of how change works we are doomed to remain stagnant and look to next year as the time to make the changes we want to make in our lives. Change requires movement and we have two options within the relationship; 1) to resist change and movement, or 2) to embrace change and movement. Whichever option you choose you need to understand that whether you are the one leading or the one being led, the laws of motion will never change and will always exist.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thirteen DOs to Swim Upstream

It was interesting (but by no means surprising) to inadvertently compare with the significant other last night how we are leaving our mark on the world. Not that we are martyrs; just 2 people who swim upstream. It was interesting that on a casual conversation which then turned to the subject of getting the most out of life and then passing that onto children... here were the strategies;

1. An extensive labyrinth of photos: what a better way to capture the exciting things you've seen first hand that life has to offer? What a great way to show people a different side of you (ie showing your kids that you weren't always their mom or dad?)
2. A list of goals before you die; updated regularly, on what you'd like to do to really live!
3. "where I've been/ what I've done" list - from cool adventures to cities you may have visited to the favorite beaches you've been to, write it down as if you were writing your personal memoires.
4. Creating a video for your best friends wedding where you share with the entire party how great that person is (and a little of why you are great in the process)
5. Taking the time to write a letter for your heartbroken girlfriend on why "Single is not a disease"
6. Writing your own personal inventory (or story of your life thus far) to gain better understanding of why you do the things you do, what holds you back, and what you might potentially be passionate and great at.
7. Writing a letter to your parent who you witness crashing and burning in an attempt to get them to turn their life around, and then sharing that letter with them in real time vs taking the easy way out and avoiding the difficult conversations.
8. Being there for a friend who is going through a difficult time you may or may not understand - but at least being there and listening; regardless of any advice you may or may not dispense.
9. Taking a fitness class geared towards a goal or goals you've set.
10. Planning an immediate frank discussion with your accountant, hair stylist, personal trainer, etc if they are not providing you with the service you are paying for (ie if they want to pass you of as a friend/client rather than a paying customer)
11. Planning in advance what you want to do this year/ quarter/ week/ day rather than taking what you're given.

So at a quick glance, 11 methods of swimming upstream that flowed from 1 conversation. The lessons here are that a) you don't have to do a 'big thing' (even though that is in you, trust us), and b) there are literally countless ways that you can swimupstream today and for the rest of your life.

The opportunities to swim upstream, as well as the reasons you should do so - are all around us. That is how a champion views the world.

A victim sees the excuses that are also unfortunately all around us, and they take every opportunity to procrastinate, justify, and rationalize their lack of action and stagnation within their comfort zone as a reflection of how the world 'screwed them' rather than just owning the problem and owning their lives.

That is the 12th method and probably the most important. Whether you are driving the train that is careening out of control, or you are championing the victory lap in your life - IT'S YOUR LIFE - you need to own it.. No one else NEEDS to care as much as you do. To be brutally honest as well (13th method), no one needs to feel sorry for you if you don't exercise your right to a better life. We here at swim upstream empathize with those less fortunate than us (because we know how good we have it and how lucky we are)...

... but we don't waste a second feeling sorry for victims. Life isn't fair, and it's never going to wait for you to swim upstream. The great news is - it will never limit the amount of cool things you can see and do either if you do decide to swim upstream. So exercise the power of choice that is the 12th swim upstream method... otherwise everyone else will move forward, and sadly for you the world will forget you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

stressed out?

So what is stress?

Stress comes from your misperception that everything is equally important and needs to be done right NOW. The truth is life will go on whether or not your perceived emergency is done right now or later. 

When you feel stressed about what's not getting done, remind yourself that you are actually wasting time [by stressing] to get things done.

The first step in reducing the stress in our lives is to learn how to be productive. And although lots of things get in our way when we are trying to be productive, most of these are easy to spot and tend to boil down to being distracted from our goals -ie. we want to get something done, but the dog needs to go to the vet, the grocery shopping can’t wait, the car needs an oil change, etc. And then 'we get tired just thinking about' what we have to do so everything seems like too much to do. So instead we don’t do anything by avoiding everything.

The reality is that 
not much can be done about the daily minutia of our lives. Those things exist and we have to come to terms with the fact that there will always be “little things” to distract us from the things that we want to do. However, there are answers. There’s a little secret to being productive.

The “secret” is that we actually do have enough time to get our tasks done [and we even have enough time left over to enjoy some relaxation]. The secret is that we only think we don’t have enough time to get stuff done because we don’t actually know how much we need to do!

Most people keep their task list in their head, when our minds just aren’t very good at keeping lists of things to do. We very quickly perceive that we have too many things to do, so we become discouraged. 
The easiest way to get control over your own productivity is to start, and use, a simple to-do list. Keeping it simple is the key & not clusters of sticky post-its as this clutter is just as bad as keeping it cluttered in our minds. 
The next step is to keep a to-do list functional, so you need to get rid of items when they are done. If you are using paper, then cross out the items after you have completed them and then re-write your to-do list every night, leaving out the things that are done, so you have a nice, clean list the next day to work from. 

Once you get into the habit of keeping a clean to-do list, you’ll find that it’s not overwhelming to get your tasks done. The reason is simple: you’ll be able to just look at your list to know what you need to do NEXT instead of being overwhelmed by thinking you have to do everything at the SAME time. Tackle each task, one at a time, and remove it when it’s done. Before you know it, you’ll be in control of your own productivity and will be a master a time management.

Stress is what you feel when you are unprepared & don't have a plan or in other words a to-do list!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Following the Herd

The herd is not always wrong and sure, some people are just following along without thought but sometimes you have to get lucky. Sometimes you just get it right even though you didn't realize there was something right or wrong about the situation.

New Year's is just one of those occasions. Follow the herd and get on board with creating a new plan with a fresh start. There is no reason to say it has to be the start of a new year but since so many of us decide that the turning of the calendar year allows for a new beginning then why not follow along.

Here are a few tips when you want to make real change in your life. Tips we have incorporated into our year long swim upstream mantra. Change can happen, this can be your start and we promise to help you maintain the possibility. The possibility of a happier you.

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish and write it down. Start small if you must but start with something and then post it up everywhere you will see it. Bathroom mirrors, fridge doors, day timers, car windows and the like. Decide what you want and then...
  2. Decide to do it. Set up a plan to make your WHAT come true. Follow through on that plan and just do it. Short term successes will equal long term successes if you keep at it.
  3. Decide to start now. No time like the present and it is a long way to 2009. Don't put off the work out, the food change, and don't keep the promotion can wait attitude. Mark Twain observed that there are 1000 excuses for every failure, but never a good one. Start.
  4. Celebrate your victories and move on from your losses. Don't wallow in your losses, just swallow them and move on. it is what it is and for goodness sake, be happy when you do something well. It's okay to smile when you do something great.
  5. Take responsibility. You are the boss, the CEO, the CFO, the COO and the line worker or your life. Get busy making orders and taking orders. Be the boss and accept the responsibility that goes with all these positions. The mirror is who you answer to. Accept it...NOW!
  6. Stop worrying. If you were worried about something last year on this very day, then I dare you to remember exactly what it was. If you can't remember then you illustrate the point. Move on and don't waste time worrying. Waste time living.
  7. Live for today. Today is the greatest day of your life. Tomorrow never comes. Regret is to be avoided. Live large. Live strong. Live for you.
These is by no stretch everything you should do but doing these 7 things well will surely yield success for you and yours.

Today we follow the herd and turn the page on a great 2007 so we may commence a tremendous 2008. Build on your successes and have a great 2008.

The Swim Upstream team.