Monday, March 31, 2008

Want to make your life easier?


Surround yourself with like minded people. Plain and simple.
One of the easiest ways to make a positive change in your life which will set you up for success and happiness is to find others who have the same goals and interests as you do. As we all know, time is such a precious commodity in our lives so the more of it you can spend with others who contribute to the betterment of your life, the further you are going to get ahead!

Here are the 8 step suggestions for you to think about based on the 5 life spheres (physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social):

Step 1:
  • Figure out what percentage of your time (each day, week, month, quarter, year) that you want to allot to each sphere.

Step 2:

  • Write down the people in your life who are important to you and you want to spend the time with.
  • What do you have in common with them? Which sphere do they fall under?

Step 3:

  • Once you have identified where everyone important to you fits in your life, start to plan the things you want to do with those people (this could be anything from a trip together to a coffee once a month).

Step 4:

  • Identify how each person can help you and how you can reciprocate and help them grow.

Step 5:

  • Develop a plan to ensure "quality time" with that person so there is no wasted energy.

Step 6:

  • Be time effective - In some cases you can hit 2 or 3 spheres with one activity. A perfect example is going for a run (physical sphere) where you can also plan to target your social by running with friends.

Step 7:

  • Always ensure to surround yourself with those of a higher intelligence than you. This will force you to continue to learn.

Step 8:

  • Share your plan. Everyone who is important to you should meet you half way so by communicating your plans, thoughts, ideas with others close to you, you are setting yourself up for success!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

We don't need another Walter.



My father came into town this past weekend. This isn't him, but it's a close resemblance to another famous person who's job it was to continually update us on bad news. Walter Cronkite. At least Walter got paid for delivering bad news, my dad does it for free.

It's not just my dad either. It's everyone in his 55-65 generation. For some reason they feel the need to come over and bring us the downside of just about everything that's going on. They belong to an elite club called "did you know.." and they have a significant membership. It's like they take special interest if it involves anything you're doing. Pocket Aces if it's something risky.

There are also younger people who try to emulate Walter. They suck you in with the what's new lately.... then you tell them... then comes the awe you better be careful followed by a reference to someone who died doing what ever it was you were doing.

Death is good, it's like it's the end point of the "did you hear" club. No matter what it may be, if the member can reference a death out of it, it's like they score extra points. "oh yeah, we'll I heard.... and then he died". Thanks Walter.


I have some advice for all members of the did you hear club. LOSE MY NUMBER. Love ya, will drink beers, play cards, even go for long walks and wait outside the coffee shop while you "did you hear" the coffee patrons, but DO NOT BRING ME BAD NEWS.

it won't influence my actions.
it doesn't bring any form of joy to me.
and i hate shitty headlines

Friday, March 28, 2008

Enemies

“We have met the enemy and he is us” –Walt Kelly

Last week I sat in a meeting where the group I work with was presented an amazing opportunity that would benefit hundreds of people at no cost to us. Instead of discussing how quickly we could implement this opportunity, the group spent the majority of time discussing why we couldn’t spare the two hours needed to be trained. Ultimately the opportunity was put off until after summer, despite the fact that there were solutions provided to every perceived obstacle.

As people we spend so much of our time living in fear and convincing ourselves why we can’t do something, when all we have to do is look beyond fear and actually take the step necessary to enhance what we are doing.

At some point in our personal advancement we will come face to face with what we fear most and if we succumb to that fear than we have proven ourselves our own worst enemy. Not because we squandered opportunity, but because we let outside influences dictate what we know is best for us and those we associate with.

Enemies only have as much power us as we let them, but when that enemy is internal, we are automatically defeated because the face of the enemy is one we can’t avoid. Defeating this enemy means that we have to do what naturally is our most uncomfortable action; looking inward and telling yourself you are flawed.

Our personal crutch towards denying our flaws lies in the excuses we make so that we can deflect those flaws internally and appear together externally. As humans this is something we regularly practice. We distort our perceived reality so that others can see what we wish we could show ourselves. In doing so, we create a reality that we are unable to truly live which ultimately becomes transparent to the point where people begin to see right through us. Because of this our enemy is no longer just us, but all of the people we have given the opportunity to distrust us.

What we need to realize is that we are our worst enemy, but that enemy does not have to prevent us from advancing. We can advance and be afraid while taking steps forward towards a new future. It is fear that will let us know that we are moving in the right direction because in order to go where you have not been before means that you have to take a step into the unknown.

It is only when we let the unknown negatively dictate our decision making process that we are faced with an enemy that will do us harm. If we embrace our inner enemy and acknowledge the fears that it provides us with, then we can move beyond our fear and create a more vibrant reality for ourselves. This is a reality with fear, but without excuses.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We All Need Someone To Look Up To


Hopefully we can all remember what we wanted to be when we grew up. Kids always pick the coolest jobs- astronaut, police officer, award-winning scientist, superhero... they always set the bar high. Two things that we on swim upstream fear is that we either a) lower the bar of expectations to better suit our reality rather than meet our own expectations, or b)we no longer have an ideal or standard in mind for ourselves.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky. I look up to all 5 of my cohorts here on swimupstream, plus I have 3 mentors other than my parents who are not in this group to draw inspiration from. While they all deserve special mention; one of them is the source of inspiration for today's entry (we'll get there)

Matt Young: is arguably the person who has had the most impact on my life direction in terms of teaching me how to open doors for myself using tools he showed me, and an attitude I have learned to embrace

Curtis Christopherson: Not only sets the bar for himself higher than those around him, he is more consistent than just about anybody. Great talent + great consistency = a guy who is in his mid-twenties who has impacted an entire community and is working on a nation in his own way.

Willie Cromack: Has been a friend when he didn't have to, a source of leadership when there was nothing obvious in it for him, and a leader to others who hoped to be the same. His conviction, drive, and balance are all to be admired.

Scott Boyle: is a guy whose actions spoke louder for him than anyone else could have. Amidst some pretty serious adversity years ago; he took the high road in a business situation where others who talked the talk way louder took the low road. His wisdom, insight, values, and sense of giving back to the community are awesome to behold.

Kris Schjelderup (our newest addition but by no means new to leadership): Kris is passion embodied. For someone who has been doing what they do for 10 years, it is very refreshing to see the passion Kris wakes up with every day. He happily accepts as his mission leading people to the best of his abilities no matter what is going on in his life.

Gentlemen- I don't say it enough- thank you for your impact and influence on me. Now onto a man who leads his life by the same credo- Will Sawyer. Will is my grandfather, and goes in for surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on Monday.

- Will played semi-professional baseball,
- was happily married and hopelessly devoted to the same woman for 56 years until she passed away a few years ago
- worked for the same employer for over 40 years,
- raised 3 kids to the best of his ability
- had people steal from him, take advantage of him, and disrespect him- yet neither myself or my mom (his daughter) have ever seen him angry
- he fought in the war,
- he is a published author
- he swims upstream every day in his attitude, his lifestyle, and his dedication to family.

As I told him- my goal is to be half the man that he is, and I am happy to report as a leader of many people that he is someone I have always looked up to.

To everyone who reads this today- make it your task to acknowledge someone you look up to- and thank you for reading today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time to Make A Pit Stop



Here at swim upstream we are all about inclusion & would be more than excited to share other insights & perspectives if they are brought to our attention and we see the value in sharing. That said, today's blog is brought to you by Jason Sarai - a huge swim upstream supporter, not to mention a genuine leader & educator.

The definition of a Pit stop is; “When a racecar stops for service during competition for fuel, tires, chassis adjustments and mechanical problems”

If you have ever seen a Nascar or Formula one race you would fully appreciate how vital they are to the success of their team, driver and to their sponsor.

Executing a successful pit cannot be done alone — it takes an entire
 race team working together from the start. The team includes a crew chief that makes the calls and determines the overall pit stop strategy; the spotter who notifies the driver 
when it is clear and safe to pull into the pit road and make its stop; the Pit support crew members (5-6people) hold a sign board to
 attract the driver and show him exactly where to stop, wash the windshield,
 get a drink to the driver, change the tires, topping off the fuel, make adjustments to the chassis and cleaning the cooling air tanks. From when the driver stops at the pit, all of the above is done in less than 14 seconds!!

How can a group of people of this size manage to do all of these tasks within such a short period of time?

Here are the steps that set them up for success:

1. Prepared at all times. Before, During and After the Pit Stop
2. Attention to details
3. Timing is crucial
4. Everything has to be executed as planned - Each crew member must do his/her tasks without any error so that everyone can complete their tasks without any conflicts or interruption
5. Communication is essential - It is the key to their success
6. Training and Practice - Practice every move and task till perfection. Each individual understands their role as well as the person next to them therefore allowing a Standardized method of work.
7. Have alternate plans for last minute/second changes
8. Have clear expectations for each member of the team
9. Review after race of what went well and what still needs work
10. Do not blame anyone. Find out the root of the problem and fix it. You succeed and fail as a team.
11. Maintain the team’s integrity at all times

After reading the points above, one can see why Pit crews are able to do so many tasks and roles with such efficiency on top of being done in short duration of time. It is for these reasons that many companies around the world are now choosing to change their business models around that of a Racecar Pit Crew.

The amazing thing about race car Pit Crews is that this same approach can not only bring success to businesses, but also to relationships and families. If everyone was to understand their individual roles and strengths while acknowledging what each and everyone else brought to the table, the easier it would be to accomplish any task or challenge at hand.

Preparation
Attention
Accountability
Practice/Training
Communication
Integrity

The KEYS to success

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If It Ain't Broke...

I am constantly amazed at how stupid I can be. At times I am like so many of us that just float along hoping things will get better.

Every day we see and hear the doomsday fear-based headlines from the media and we can watch them change our spirit, affect our mood negatively and influence our mass actions. We know that media driven information can totally change our demeanor yet rarely do we use that same power for our own benefit.

Repetition, especially when linked to our emotions, works. Our mood can be changed.

I wonder why we don't take more time to positively influence our thoughts if we know it can and does work. Repetition of the right messages, the ones we want to affect us, can help us change our thoughts, actions and life.

The model for guaranteed success is readily available. The cost is not prohibitive and neither is the accessibility. Yet we look to re-invent the wheel and, more importantly, we ignore the ideas that have already been proven to work.

What we should do is already in front of us.
Repeat the positive thoughts and actions you want to happen and they will.

This system has worked for years and like a wise prophet once said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The success is always in following the system.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Sweet It Is!








On Sunday, in Raleigh, NC, 23rd ranked Davidson pulled out an incredible upset over 8th ranked Georgetown 74-70 in the Midwest Regional division to advance to the "Sweet 16" of college basketball's NCAA tournament.

Not only is this story special because Davidson hadn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1969 and now they had won their second straight, but it was because everyone wrote them off after the first half, myself included. "Ah that game is over, the Hoyas are just too big, too strong, too talented and have a 17 point lead going into the second half."

Well, the beauty of sports is that anything can happen and stars find a way to win. Davidson's star guard, Stephen Curry, who carried them to their first round win on a record breaking 40 point performance, only had 2 points and had been sidelined for most of the first half because of foul trouble. When he entered the game in the second half, something clicked, he believed that his team was going to win. He helped stage a remarkable Davidson comeback, scoring 25 of his 30 points along with 20 Hoya turnovers in a complete defensive collapse in the second half, pulling out the amazing upset over Georgetown.

At the end of the game, while everyone sat their stunned about what had just happened, Davidson players proceeded to "bump chests" at mid court celebrating their spectacular victory.

How everyone gave up on them is a major problem with our society. Too many of us do not have the patience or vision to look ahead and see people crossing the finish line or overcoming their adversity. Instead we decide to make judgements and assumptions based on our own perceptions of their abilities. The saying "it's never over until it's over" is great because it teaches us that anyone, or any team who never gives up and truly believes in themselves, can over come adversity to win anything, even when the odds are not in their favor.

A great lesson for all of us:
  • Believe and trust in yourself
  • Believe and trust in your teammates
  • Believe and trust in your abilities

It is never over until the final whistle.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Leadership

There was a fairly interesting happening in the world of sports this past week and it had nothing to do with your March Madness office pool. The Boston Red Sox were set to leave for Japan where they would play their opening games for the 2008 season. In order to get the players to agree to play in the game Major League Baseball promised $40,000 per person to make the trip. Days before they were set to leave, the Red Sox players found out that only they would receive the money and not the trainers, coaches, and other support personnel. Upon finding this out the players unanimously decided that they would rather forfeit the three games instead of seeing the rest of their “team” not receiving the same benefits as they were to receive.

Whether the players are right or wrong, greedy or thoughtful is beside the point in this matter. We all know that $40,000 is more than many people make in a year and that the ballplayers make enough to where they could have just forfeited their money to the others. What is of interest in this story is a simple matter of leadership.

Somewhere in the Red Sox organization someone has done an amazing job of getting each and every individual within the organization to believe in the concept of team.

Authoritarian, Participative, and Delegative are the three basic types of leadership that are practiced by anyone in a position where they are responsible for the performance of others. No one is better than the other, and any good leader blends all three styles within their leadership structure.

The process of authoritarian leadership involves the leader making the decisions for the people they are supervising. This type of leadership frequently gets mistaken for abuses of power, but in reality you are saying “I know what needs to be done and I know exactly what you can do to make it happen”.

Participative leadership is when a leader gathers information from those they work with and then makes the final decision. This is the most democratic style of leadership where you say “I want your input before I make the decision I need to make”.

Delegative leadership happens when a leader allows those that they are leading to make the decisions for them, but still holds themselves accountable for the decision. In essence you are saying “I trust that you will make the correct decision for us, and I will stand by whatever you choose”.

Solely relying on any one type of leadership is not really leadership at all because the results earned will be attached with employee backlash.

The authoritarian leader eventually begins to degrade those that they are leading and garners much earned resentment for not allowing people to use their valued input in the decision making process. Authoritarian leaders begin to lead through fear and threats, where they will get results, but at the cost of high turnover rates.

Primarily participative leaders will face followers who believe that the leader is taking credit for decisions that are not totally theirs. These leaders will receive accolades for accomplishments that they do not have full ownership over, while the team is not fully recognized for their talents.

A leader who is strictly delegative will create employees who believe that they are more capable than the leader because they are the ones making the decisions. A delegative leader also leaves the door open to absolve themselves of failure because they did not make the decision therefore it was not their fault.

The reality of leadership is that you have to wear many different hats because you will face many different situations. There are times when you must put your foot down and say this is the direction we are moving in. You will also face situations where you need the input of others before you can make the proper decision and there are situations where you need to trust that you have trained your team well enough to make a decision that you believe in as well.

The goal of leadership is to empower those that you are leading so that they form an understanding that no one person is greater than the whole, you included. When that bond is formed, you know that you have achieved success as a leader and can comfortably move forward with your group knowing that each person, no matter their title or status, is striving for fairness and success for all.

The fairness sought by the Boston Red Sox players says more about their leadership than their recent success, but don’t fool yourself and think that their success has nothing to do with their leadership.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Part of the problem or part of the solution?

That is the choice we all have. The problem is, there is no one asking the question.

This may seem like a bit of a conundrum- until we consider the facts. This week in the news we saw that The United States is considered the worst contributor to global warming - not per capita- total impact to the environment. This is a country of 330 million people doing more damage than a country with 1 billion, 330 million (China). Second worst contributor per capita? Canada.

The fact is we are oblivious to our own impact on the environment while we pay attention to such provocative and inspiring events and the recently announced television reality series, "Paris Hilton's New BFF"- a reality elimination show where debutantes are scored according to their ability to come off of scandal looking okay, and be a trend setting shopper (this is what was advertised, not a mockery of the show).

This is not to paint everyone with the brush above- but we do need to realize that we (in North America especially) live in a very egocentric society where we grossly undermine the impact we have on the world around us... just because we can only see or contemplate the 5 feet around us, doesn't mean that our reach isn't much greater than that.

Take it as a compliment: you are such an important person- such a key cog in the wheel of life- that your actions ripple through possibly the entire Earth. As such- it is crucial that in a position of such vested power; we must ask ourselves...

"Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?". That's step one- ensure someone is actually asking the question... then we get to step two- have the right answer by displaying the right actions.

This goes for our impact on the environment, the legacy we pass on to our kids- everything. Your actions do not just affect you... better make them count.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Balancing Act.

All of our lives, as human beings, we become absorbed with the 'pursuit of happiness' & the drive at winning the 'rat race' of life. We compare ourselves to those rare people that seem driven by a deeper mission, who move effortlessly towards their goals fueled by an internal passion. And then we continually wonder why we are unable to find such a drive & mission.

During this process, we develop a misunderstanding of what true happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment are. We begin to believe that more money, power or personal items will make us happy. In fact, we actually tell ourselves that we are not happy, when in fact, we are most likely already quite happy. Think about it? Most of us that are reading this live in a free country that minimizes life threatening poverty, are currently employed in an environment that is way above average, and have a surrounding support from family or friends.

The reality is, when we pursue our goals, like a higher income, a promotion or a new house, sooner or later after obtaining something, we will rapidly become accustomed to the new reality, and then it will soon cease to provide much pleasure. So looking for the answer of happiness in these exact items - will in fact, push you further away.

When we come to terms & finally realize this, we automatically change our focus to find a deeper reason for our 'unhappiness'. We look at ourselves & have a focus of self-interest. We try to understand the person that we are, why we do the things that we do, and what our underlying mission is. This in itself, will allow us to understand why we are not happy & satisfied with who we are & where we are at. Unfortunately for some, this self-interested focus can result in a full circle of change and lead to self centeredness and becomes all about 'ME'.

So how do we make the focus on ourselves and our own personal awareness & growth, yet avoid the tendency towards self-centeredness? In other words, how do we find our true selves without being obsessed with ourselves?

Here are some starters:

1. Find the Worthy Challenges of Life.

As humans we like challenges, particularly those that play to our strengths. We respond to the positive feedback of early successes, so choosing something that we do well will give us the confidence to charge ahead. Whether it be a sports activity, solving a business problem, or taking on the challenge of a new hobby, as long as there is a challenge, with a sequence of activities that require skill to complete a sense of 'flow' will occur. And when we establish this 'flow' we become so absorbed in the execution & completion of the task that we lose the track of time. The concern for self disappears.

2. Find the Relationships of Life.

Realize that a relatively small group of family members and friends will satisfy our long-term memories. So, consciously choosing who to invest in relationships with, makes a difference. If you want to be better, surround yourself with good people as close friends will have the most positive effect on fulfillment. Another suggestion is to have friends of a variety of generations: a generation below you will add freshness & energy, your generation will add companionship & understanding, and the generation older than you will add perspective & wisdom.

3. Find the Purpose to Thank, Appreciate & Pay it Forward.

Firstly, if you choose to see life as a gift, most likely you will have the daily passion & positivity to create positive actions. Remember, positive thoughts bring positive actions - it's NOT a secret.

Secondly, don't compare yourself to people who you believe are 'more fortunate'. Comparing upwards & believing that life is better 'up there' will only bring you further down.

Lastly and most importantly, don't make it about YOU. Because in fact, it isn't all about you. It isn't about you being 'better than' anyone else or trying to be better than the person next to you. It isn't about trying to keep up to or compare yourself to what the person next to you is doing / having / experiencing. It is about being the best that you can be & at the same time helping others to be the best that they can be.

Truly, the ultimate reward & fulfillment in life comes through paying it forward. However, as we can all see, it takes a person to be in their own 'right' place to not only pay it forward but to see & feel the reward and fulfillment in doing it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tortoise and the Hare

No, it's not the story you know and love so well. That story is so 1990's. The Internet has changed everything. Now the Hare and Tortoise try to virtually compete by playing with their Wii...lame.

However, there is a new story and it begins like this:

The Tortoise and the Hare were to have a race to see who would win. Everyone knew that the Hare was by far the better athlete but the Tortoise, just like back in the day, insisted that he could compete. So off they went to Badgers to get a referee, set out the course and then began preparations for race day.

Tortoise began with some stretching and merely continued on to practice his racing right on the actual course.

The Hare, he worked on a few things. He got a watch that he could download the course details. It took him a while to figure it out and in the middle of dealing with the software he had to go to work because a new project was due. Coming home he began a series of running pilates, they were apparently good for preventing injury, and then he went back to work on the watch. Hare had worked out that his entire program and all the details would help him beat the Tortoise. He signed up for the gym, aquacise, spinning but everything was coming at him and he couldn't keep to his tight schedule.

The Tortoise just kept plugging away with his practice. Inch by inch, day by day. Same course, same style. Not pretty just consistent. Probably wrong but something was getting done.

Hare then took on some new Swiss ball exercises and needed to research how to use the apparatus properly. Again he spent time on the Internet researching the appropriate sites and exercises. The damn watch still didn't work but he was sure his heart rate was going up...going up because of his frustration. Between work, research and the family their was little or no time at the end of the day to actually work out. Hare was managing his time well and getting a lot done but there was just so much that went into the preparation for a huge race. Hare reflected that this was how he felt whenever he started something big, whether it was planning the family vacation and all the things they would do, a race like this one, or doing a house renovation. There was always so much to do.

Well the short story finishes like this:
Race day came and went. Tortoise won easily. It wasn't due to his excessive speed or fitness either. Actually Tortoise won the race by default because Hare became so stressed out that he merely dropped out due to anxiety. He is now on meds. Poor Hare.

Focus
The moral of the story is really that new age tactics to get us all better at multi-tasking are a complete crock. The countless courses and management styles that preach multi-tasking are solely missing the point. We are mentally busy enough. Focus is the key. Hare was probably fine with all the things he picked up, like the watch and pilates, but his inability to do one thing at a time, like Tortoise, merely confused and confounded him. We all have these moments in our lives. Time management is key but the ability to block out all other things and focus 100% of your effort in one direction is probably one of the unsung success secrets. Truly trying to avoid life getting in the way of life is where real success can come from.

Too many of us stop just before the finish line. We work hard at a task, get it going and then drop it because something else comes into our conscious. Pick your task for the day, break down all the chores that it will take and be relentless with finishing it. If you can do three jobs in one day then great, but if you are unsure start with one and actually finish it. the sense of accomplishment far outweighs the multi-taskers who are stressed out without anything being finished.

One thing done well is a lot better than a whole bunch of cool things not done at all. Dreamers beware. You can't do everything. Just ask Hare.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Contributing Member.



It is with great pleasure we welcome the literary talents of Kris Schjelderup to the SUS team. Kris, a longtime team mate and personal friend of Matt, Stan, Curtis and Willie approached us with the request of sharing like minded perspectives on the SUS blog.

In the name of legacy, progressive writing and inclusion Kris has been added to the SUS rotation. We are certain you will enjoy his fresh perspectives.

Welcome Kris.

Are we really that significant?









At the beginning of this month, a group of us from Innovative Fitness completed a trail running race in Tunisia, Africa called the 100km Del Sahara. It was an amazing race that was both physically and mentally challenging which saw many personal victories. It also allowed for a lot time thinking and reflecting on how lucky we have it in North America.

I would like to share 2 of my big take aways.

1. We are very insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

Spending many hours per day running in the middle of a desert is a great reality check for ones ego. No matter how big you think you are, the desert puts you back in your place! The vast terrain, the endless dirt roads and sand dunes, the desolate landscape, the bright sky distant at night and the weather's unforgiving power really put ones life into perspective. I suggest that anyone who's head is getting to big for their body go to the Sahara! They will come back a lot more humble.

2. Drama? We really have nothing to be dramatic about.

In the age of North Americans complaining about pretty much anything that doesn't go our way, ("My Starbucks is too cold, my cleaning lady was late this morning, my air conditioning is acting up", etc) this trip was an eye opening experience to see how others in third world countries really live. To see people in the middle of absolutely no where, with no water, no heat, sitting in front of their huts made out of plaster with no one in sight for miles and miles, really puts things into perspective and confirms all the drama we create as a society is completely unnecessary.


Take aways:
  • We can not take our life for granted, we really are lucky and others would do anything to be in our shoes.
  • If we ever need a reality check, we should take a trip to a 3rd world country to see how others live and how the simple necessities of life can make them happy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Natural Hierarchy

“Living in accordance with natural hierarchy is not a matter of following a series of rigid rules or structuring your days with lifeless commandments or codes of conduct. The world has order and power and riches that can teach you how to conduct your life artfully, with kindness to others and care for yourself”. –The Sacred Path of the Warrior

There is order to every action of every day. The sun rises and the sun sets, winter becomes spring and spring becomes summer, we will feel great joy and we will feel immense sorrow. While this order is constant, we also must understand that the position we are in right at this moment is only temporary.

Often when we are riding a high we create a set of rigid rules that become superstition in order to continue riding the high. We began to base our success on a self created hierarchy where we firmly believe that A+B=C, and are afraid to deviate from that sequence because our success is a product of our structure. In becoming too structured we lose the creativity and imagination that helped create success in the first place.

Our success will only last for so long before we fail, and when we are stuck in our superstitions and self imposed structured cell, we prolong our failures because we do not have the internal identity to escape from our creation. Instead of fighting, we create the mentality of a victim and place the blame of our sorrow on what surrounds us, failing to understand that we created our surroundings.

In accordance with natural hierarchy we need to understand that within success and failure there is a message for us to grow from because both are created from the same place; emotion. If we are ever to get to a place where we can understand and embrace our success just as much as our failure, we first must be able to become aware of ourselves and where we fit into the natural hierarchy of our existence. This awareness does not lie within structure, but lies within authenticity. The more authentic we are the more aware we will be of our failures and learn to create success from them. We will also become more aware of our successes and what led to them so that we can overcome failure when it confronts us.

Ultimately what comes from our understanding of natural hierarchy is our ability to conduct our lives in a way that will help produce our best self. We will be able to admit to and hold ourselves accountable for our shortcomings just as easily as we will be able to accept acknowledgment and praise for our abilities.

Life is not a set of structured steps, there is no owner’s manual, so to conduct ourselves that way is counterproductive to truly living. There is order to our lives, but that order is not self imposed, that order comes from our ability to sway with the natural hierarchy presented to us every day and within our willingness to act artfully in success and failure.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Resources To Swim Upstream By

For all the time we on swim upstream try and inspire you to chart your own course... it must come as some solice that there are a number of valuable resources out there to shed some light on many of the topics we have covered here, and some we may not have (yet).

Here is a list of books that put great perspective on some of our favorite swim upstream topics;

Personal Accountability
QBQ: The Question Behind the Question- John Miller

Success
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen Covey
The Wealthy Barber - David Chilton
Hire Me! - Matthew Young & Willie Cromack

Dealing With People
How to Win Friends and Influence People- Dale Carnegie
The Wisdom of Forgiveness - The Dalai Lama & Victor Chan

Perspective, What is important in life
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari- Robin Sharma
A New Earth- Eckhart Tolle
The Seat of the Soul- Gary Zukav

Leaving a Legacy
The Alchemist- Paulo Coelho

Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

and of course, tying much of the above together, but by no means the only book you should read on such topics, "Swimupstream: Unsubscribing to 'Conventional' Wisdom" is available by clicking the link just to the right of this blog on our main site www.swimupstreamlife.com

Read On!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pathetic or NOT?



In New Haven, Connecticut, Michael Sheridan, an eighth-grade honors student, was stripped of his title as class vice president, barred from attending an honors student dinner and suspended for a day after buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate.

Yes...you heard that right - for buying a bag of Skittles. Are you f&^%%$ kidding me?

Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, the school's spokesperson, says the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a districtwide school wellness policy. And although, Michael's suspension has been reduced from three days to one, he has still not been reinstated as class vice president.

So, we all know that child obesity is at an all-time high in North America - in fact 19% of children between 9 and 16 years old are classified as obese. However, this is pathetic from a society standpoint and parenting standpoint that it has come to this. That is truly an all-time low when kids get penalized for buying a bag of candy...let alone enjoying some.

Just another example of ALL or NOTHING...never in between. And if this is what it is truly going to take to bring it full cycle the other way (living & eating healthy) then I guess that is what it will take -

but we will leave that for you to decide.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A List

  1. We'll start tomorrow.
  2. Can we just concentrate on what we are doing.
  3. Ownership won't agree to start.
  4. We'll have to go through the executive committee.
  5. My plate is already full.
  6. We'll put it on the agenda for next meeting.
  7. Accounting needs to sign off.
  8. I just don't have the education to take that on.
  9. We are under manned.
  10. I just can't work with those people.
  11. I'm too busy.
  12. We're struggling with what we have already.
  13. We'll have to increase our technology.
  14. Who will take the leadership role.
  15. I just don't have the money.
  16. We will never be ale to bring that to market fast enough.
  17. The economy is in the tank.
  18. People just don't want that kind of product any more.
  19. People won't accept this, it's too new.
  20. Your ahead of your time by 2 years.
  21. Good idea, come back to me when you work through the details.
  22. It is a great idea, but...
  23. But...
  24. I'd love to but you are so much better than I am at...
  25. My family would never let me take that much time to...
  26. What if we fail?
  27. I need more details before I can agree.

A list of excuses. What about concentrating on what we CAN do and not the details on why we can't do something.

Just a thought...or 27.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Oakley TAJ 100k Del Sahara

Today, we thought we would share our Team Average Jo race report to inspire the week.
You can check out our site and www.teamaveragejo.com

Destination: The Oakley Team Average Jo 100k Del Sahara
Location: Africa
Duration: 4 day running stage race.
Rating / 10: 10
Extreme factor: High
Cost Factor: 4k total
In Attendance: 10 Average Jo’s
Group recommendation: This event is a must in terms of teaming up!



As we boarded the plane it occurred to us this would be the 4th & 5th continent we had visited over the past 6 months. Having the ability to combine family, friends and physical activity while traveling, meeting people and learning cultures all over the world is precisely why we do what we do. Ordinary people, extraordinary destinations!

We would depart a few days early so we could spend some time exploring Rome. Having never traveled to Europe, we were excited to take in as much as we could. Arriving mid day we set out to see as much as we could however the city was too beautiful, the history too rich and geography too expansive to be force fed. We would convene at a local pub, mingle with the locals and then retire to our hotel.

Day 2 & 3 were spent talking in all f the masterful sights Rome had to offer while desperately seeking fresh fruits & vegetables & non smoking policies. Through the week we would welcome more average Jos and anticipation began to mount for our departure to Africa. Finally on Saturday, we would meet the remainder of the group at the airport and fly from Rome to Djerba. Once in Djerba we would overnight at a hotel on the Isle of Djerba where we would spend our last night in a hotel before 4 days of desert camping.



Sunday morning we would depart to the start line of the 100k. En route, we would take in the African landscape before attending the welcoming ceremonies in Tatooine (at the original Star Wars set). It was interesting to witness the Italian, German, Hungarian, Armenian, Mexican and Brazilian cultures interacting at the start line. Our group of average Jos comprised all of the Canadian participants and we were excited to represent the country at this 10th anniversary.

Mid afternoon we drove to the start line, which was a giant camp site with wood and blanket tents set up at the start line. Check in was quick, some more white bread, water, cheese and wine for dinner and it was off to bed on a ½ inch thick foam mat and sleeping bag atop of the hard desert ground.





Day #1: 24k

The 1st day would have us start with a 5k ascent through the village and monastery to get into the desert. We were forewarned this would be the toughest day of all 4 because of the elevation gain right out of the gates and the 32 degree heat, yet because of the training we had completed at home, this turned out to be less of a challenge than anticipated by the Canadian team.
The plan was to take it out slowly, take pictures and video of the Canadian team. We succeeded, much to the wonderment of the media team who couldn’t understand why we were taking pictures and video instead of logging personal bests. We were not here for personal bests., we were there for the event experience.
We completed the day with our system of recovery drink, stretch and rest, which proved to be invaluable over the 4 days. This day concluded in a remote Oasis setting with the usual dinner and was highlighted with dancing and cultural entertainment.

Take aways
o Stage races are about the long term. You have to prepare for day 4, on day 1.
o Sleeping on the desert floor, isn’t conducive to a relaxing run prep
o Executing a properly laid out plan prior to race day, is the key to success.


Day #2 : 20k + a 7k night run.

The expectation for day 2 was quicker times over a flatter course. There would be two runs on this day. A 20k mid morning run followed by a 7k night run. The heat wasn’t that bad for Africa and day #2 and the course was indeed flat and fast with the only real challenge coming in the form of running through sand dunes that had washed over the road. This really slowed the group down as participants came to grips with just how difficult it is to run quickly in sand. After taking things out too quickly, we humbled our way into the finish line and began our post run routine. Each day, the bags would have to be packed and unpacked and the tents set up and broken down immediately after racers would cross the finish line. We would have about 6 hours off prior to the night run.

At 9:00, groups were sent out into the desert night for 7kms. With the marathon the following day, the plan was to take it easy on this run, yet when the start whistle went off, it was full speed ahead. We finished the run in a Canadian cluster in about 35 minutes (5 min k’s)

Take aways
o The faster participants get into a race routine during stage races, the greater the chance of success.
o When running through the desert, one realizes just how insignificant they really are in the big scheme of things.
o Sometimes, you just have to let loose when the time calls.

Day #3 42k marathon
This was to be the equalizer for those who took things out too fast over the 1st two days. Picture doing a marathon, across the desert, in the sand, with the heat & wind… after running consecutive back to back half marathons. Our plan was rock solid. 10 minutes running and 2 minutes walking…. the entire marathon. Myself, Kris, Curtis and Jen started out together and would take turns leading each 10 minutes section so as to conserve energy. Participants could not believe how effective and efficient we were as we continued to eat away at their lead and make our way towards the finish line. Kris and Jen took a little off while Matt and Curt had to elevate their games to keep pace. In the end, it would be Kris’s day of unbelievable leadership that brought us home.

Just over half way I bonked and were forced to take an extended 10 minutes which ended up bringing us across the finish line in 5:12. The weather turned from hot, to extremely windy “the windiest in the 10 year history” to raining and cold. (-1 degrees all night long!) We finished in the cold, wind and rain and had to completely construct a closed in tent in order not to become hypothermic. Again, teamwork was the order of the day! Our TAJ team mate Isabelle took a different approach to the marathon, mixing it up with other runners and organizers and capturing photo’s along the way. She was quickly becoming a national favorite of the race.

Take aways
o The team approach saved many of us and greatly added to our element of enjoyment.
o Running a marathon in the desert was one of the more difficult things many of us had ever done in one day. It was relentless, long and grueling.
o At the end of the day, the time difference had we run solo was negligible and we all would come to realize this, particularly on this day.
o The desert is unforgiving. Climate changes and the elements can not be taken for granted.



Day #4 22k
Being our last day, the feeling of getting it over with was palpable. 4 days of waking, eating, running, stretching, resting, showering with water bottles in the desert, squatting to urinate & defecate, tending to blistered feet, huddling up in sleeping bags under a blanket tent held up by wood in sub zero night time temperatures had become taxing for many. This day would be a 15k flat run followed by 7km’s of running in sand dunes (some 10-20 feet high). We took things out quickly, but with some reserve. By the time we made it to the dunes, we had come pretty close together and it was time to really think strategy. If you ran the dunes well, you stayed to the high wind swept side and avoided bogging knee deep in soft fine grained sand. Your shoes would be completely full of sand and you knew it was shaving your feet like sandpaper, but with each km, you knew you were one step closer to the finish line.
It was not an overly hot day today, but it was blindingly windy and at times, you had to stop and wait for the wind to die down before beginning to run again. It was relentless! With 3k left, an Oasis came into sight and autopilot kicked in. You would forget about everything else and hone in on the finish line and like Salmon returning to their place of birth, you just felt yourself going home. We finished well and again close to each other. The sense of accomplishment hadn’t yet overridden the sense of exhaustion we all felt. That would come later.

Take aways
o Running is sand dunes is incredibly challenging
o At the end of a stage race, it’s all about getting it done.
o We completed a 4 day stage running race, across the desert… in an Oasis! (enough said).



It was the 1st of 4 days we had access to a hot shower, real toilet, decent food and beer and pretty much in that order we rounded up the rest of the team and began the international celebration. Perhaps the best part of the event, coming together to celebrate a collective goal is what makes these events 10 / 10. Of course the Canadians were the toast of the Oasis doing what we do best; bringing people together. we partied well into the night and TAJ member Isabelle received the award for the most spirited participant!



The next morning, we would convoy out of the desert in 46 Toyota Land Cruisers. It was a scene right out of a movie, which afforded us a great opportunity to see how people in the desert of Africa live. It was desolate, bleak and impoverished and obvious that we were all thinking the same thing was we burned though small villages. Back at the Isle of Djerba we would rest, pack, eat and celebrate at the awards dinner. By that time, everyone wanted to get the hell out of there. back home to their families, friends, kids and significant others.

Reflecting on this experience, there were many positive take aways from this event. We were very fortunate to experience this event with our team mates, we were lucky to enter an event with such excellent race directors and volunteers, we were more than suitably put outside of our personal comfort zones and we got to experience a piece of the world like few others have & or will. A very special thanks to our excellent sponsors (especially) Oakley, who saved our eyes, Ogio who made our travel seamless, Helley Hansen who clothed us and North Shore Athletics who made sure we had all of the gear we needed!

Next Stop: The Great Wall of China.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Perception and Reality

Understanding your own personal reality is an essential step in becoming successful. If we do not understand who we are and what our place is in the universe, then we will consistently search and struggle to find meaning in our lives. The importance of knowing our reality is great, because it allows us to make realistic decisions which then leads to realistic opportunities.

Unfortunately, understanding our reality is struggle enough, so when others perceive our reality as something we know it is not, our challenges to change external perception become even greater than understanding our own reality.

At this point in life we all should know that perception is no way to judge a person’s merit, but let’s not kid ourselves either and realize that to others, perception is reality.

Look at the lemming for example. We all believe that the lemming is an animal that commits mass suicide as one by one the jump off of cliffs to their death. This is the perception we have of the lemming and even have allowed our vocabulary identify followers as lemmings.

The truth about the lemming is this. The idea that they commit mass suicide is pure fiction. This fallacy was fueled in 1958 by the Disney documentary White Wilderness. In this movie, lemmings were imported into Alberta where their “migration” was produced by filmmakers. Their mass suicide was a product of creative “herding” where the lemmings were forced off of a cliff and into the sea below to create the illusion of follow the leader. Anyone with a map can recognize that Alberta has no outlet to the sea, so their plunge would have been quite a leap, and anyone who was interested in doing some research would also know that Alberta is not a native habitat for the lemming.

Despite reality, for the past 50 years, lemmings have been the reference for many followers of the human race. Even though science has proven myth from reality, the lemming can’t erase the reality that has been bestowed upon them by perception.

If we are to take anything from the lemming, we need to understand that the perception we show to the rest of the world, in many cases will become our reality to others. When we take our perception lightly in any facet of life, it has the ability to stick with us despite any efforts we might make to show our true selves to those around us.

In every action we take, someone is not only watching us, but judging us based on those actions. By slacking off, cutting corners, cheating, lying, or acting in a way that isn’t who we are, we are making ourselves susceptible to external perceptions that will become external realities. If our legacy is to be an accurate one, we must present ourselves for who we really are so that others have no choice but to perceive us for who we really are. Unlike the lemming, we have a say in the matter of perception and reality.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Autopilot is a "Sheeple" Thing

It's getting to that time of year- the changing of the season... the snow melts and the sun comes out and people's spirits are lifted. The days are longer, complete strangers are nicer to one another, and the world seems to have taken on a fresh perspective... so what can possibly be wrong with that?

The answer is nothing on the surface... days where everyone gets along, stops honking their horn, and smells the air as they wake up with purpose and vigor- they are what life is all about. The problem is 10 months from now when, by the same collective behaviour (call it seasonal affective disorder or sheepish behaviour) when we all get depressed, complain about the weather, and stop making the most of our days.

There are very few people who need to read swim upstream to find motivation to get busy living during the summer when activities and social engagements abound: the problem is we almost all need a healthy kick in the rear when the days are shorter, darker and colder.

The real lesson to take from today is that the first sunny day of the year that gives you such purpose to live life is that same sun that makes you feel lazy in the dead heat of August... the only difference is the 'newness' of it; the change from the norm.

If we wait for the weather to change, or for our boss to give us a raise, or for our birthday for an excuse to celebrate- we are living on autopilot. As a society, we spend a lot of time getting into routines (some of which are necessary and needed to make us feel sane) which can easily lead us all to act as "Sheeple". Examples;

- getting the car washed on the first sunny day
- getting your oil changed on saturday morning
- going to IKEA on the weekend
- going to a movie on opening night
- going to the gym as part of your new year's resolution, or to get into that bikini for summer; instead of staying committed all year round to a routine or to lifestyle activities you enjoy
- lavishing tons of time, money, and flowers on your loved one on Valentine's day and then forgetting your wedding anniversary
- doing your Christmas shopping at the last minute
- honking at the car in front of you in a traffic tie-up even though there are hundreds of cars in front of them

the funny thing is every one of those situations causes our blood pressure to rise as we wait in line-ups; even though we had a choice every time to a) be more organized and do said tasks on a different day or b) choosing not to conform (some of the happiest couples I know boycott valentine's Day, you always can get an oil change at lunch hour or after work, and you can always hit the most popular movie in an intimate setting with a near empty theatre if you are patient)

The fact is- most of these stressful line-up-involved "Sheeple activities" can be avoided through insightful planning. By remaining on autopilot and only realizing you need to do something because it pops onto your radar as a 'must' or a 'threat' to your day or week- we become a slave to errands, tasks, deadlines, homework, and everything else that was supposed to increase our comfort and enjoyment levels.

Want to get your comfort, enjoyment, and free time back? Well then switch off the autopilot, and make sure you- not the day of the week or your circumstances, are making those decisions for you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Some Rules Don't Have Exceptions

We've all heard that rules were made to be broken, just like we've heard that there's an exception to every rule... fortunately- this is not always the case. Some of the most important rules that we govern our daily lives (and thus our universe) by are constant and apply to you no matter how much you fight it. When you read on though, you will see that this is very much a good thing...

1. The Law of Attraction
"Where your mental focus goes, energy flows". In other words- what occupies your thoughts most often (and the emotional environment surrounding that person, state or thing) becomes your reality. Worries over debt lead to debt as you miss the solutions (opportunities) that present themselves. Wondering if your spouse is cheating is going to lead you to over-analyzing every one of their actions until you inevitably lead them to dump you (in your mind for someone else) or to actually cheat. Or you can always see the bright side, and be rewarded with a silver lining no matter how awful a situation may seem... perhaps even a life so positive others will sit back and ask how you did it. The great part is you can answer "I willed it to be" and be right.

2. The Law of Association
Let enough time pass, and like will attract like. Trash will rummage with trash, and good people will let go of the baggage to find other good people. In any lasting relationship- people either deserve each other (in the best or worst way), or they will be dragged to the lowest common denominator if they stay long enough. In an abusive relationship- the great girl everybody loves falls for a controlling abusive a##hole... now while many factors such as fear for her life (or their children's lives) may come into play; the longer this girl has a choice to leave and stays the lower her confidence, charisma, and overall attractiveness slips until she is so worn down she becomes a ghost, and passers by stop asking "what's she doing with him?"
OR... you can aspire to reach the level of a partner who inspires you- and as you both do this for one another; you are both lifted to higher levels through association than you ever would have been independantly.

3. The Law of Legacy
We all leave a mark on this planet and those people we touch while we are here and hopefully well beyond. The hard part of living by this law is that in order to have people say what you'd like about you after you're gone- you must take every opportunity while you're alive to make the world a better place for you, yours, and people you just met.
People will either be;
singing your praises (if you helped people without want of return and loved unconditionally)
chastising you or paying left-handed compliments (if your good deeds always carried an agenda), or
they will forget you or use you as an example of "how not to" if you are selfish, impatient, and self-centered in your daily interactions and decisions.

None of these laws are rocket science, and none of them carry exceptions. To those of you who say "oh, yeah- what about so and so- they are the worst person and they get all the breaks???" well you are breaking a fourth law that has no exception...

4. You can only change the world by changing you.
If you focus on what you don't have, or why so and so is luckier than you, or that the rules don't apply to them- you are focusing on negative energy, and the Law of Attraction will reward them with more and you with less (at least in your perception). You will also spend more time complaining, which means good people who have no time for that negativity will up and leave your side, leaving you with other like-minded negative people as per the Law of Association. Finally, the Law of Legacy will have you remembered as a victim of circumstance rather than a champion of will.

So always remember the pitfalls of these 4 laws, and that by letting others control their own fate as you do your best- you may just create an example that others want to emulate, and in the process create an amazing life for yourself as dictated by 4 laws that have NO EXCEPTIONS.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Control or Order?

If you ever get the chance to stop by and watch a triathlon event in your little area of the world make sure you do it. It is an incredible orchestra of bodies, machines, water, pavement and food. The term "organized chaos" comes to mind.

Ironman events in particular can illicit some strange emotions from even the most athletically declined of us. As many as 2500 participants, thousands of fans, and a bevvy of volunteers are rolling over the course at any given time. The tasks to keep it all together are monumental. The time to have it all happen is so short. Yet the best events run brilliantly. Each event has a hitch but the good ones hide it well and take care of their competitors, participants and fans accordingly. The people in charge have done what they can do at 110% and the chips always seems to fall into place.

In your business, team or non-profit are you embracing the organized chaos or are you over working the details.

People cannot be controlled but they can be organized. Control is a problem. Order leads to success. The best events and groups understand that people don't just do what you want. They know they won't and prepare for it. The worst expect people to do what they want, the leader hoards and covets information to keep control, and the greatest strength people can bring to the table, which is their personality, is lost.

Look at your teams [whether family or business] and see how you can begin bringing order while removing control. The results will astound you.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Average Pays Poorly

My wife did her taxes online last year. When there was a problem she called the help desk. The nice gentlemen there walked here through the issue and solved the problem professionally and reasonably quickly. He was in India, had never been to North America and had no idea about how our taxation worked.
  • the person on the other end of your drive through conversation isn't in the same postal code as you either. Maybe not the same country.
  • help desk information for airlines are rarely even people. Mostly they are computers.
  • hoteliers operate out of a single hub
  • online ordering has consolidated certain industries almost entirely [travel, books, music]
Employers everywhere can hire perfectly average staff members almost anywhere or just assemble a system to eliminate them entirely, and it costs a fraction of what they are spending now.

Why should the business owner carry the burden of you doing "just good enough"?

Average people roll slowly downhill, exceptional people always have a place in any part of the world.

Deciding which one you are is really just a choice.