Monday, June 30, 2008

Always Under Promise and Over Deliver

I will give you a little background on why I feel the need to write about this concept and I will explain why it has been on my mind ever since I arrived at my destination this past weekend.

We traveled up to my girlfriend’s parent’s summer-getaway condo in the Okanagan last weekend. It is an amazing place which they purchased pre-build 2 years ago. The complex is a massive project with over 140 units. They have been fortunate to be one of the first to have their unit completed and have been able to move in and get settled.

Now, here is what gets me and what I don’t understand about people. One of the owners of the entire complex, who we have just found out (after they purchased) has a terrible reputation in Kelowna for being cheap with deals, give unrealistic promises and is bull headed in day to day interaction with customers is at it again with his this new project.

He has told all the investors and condo owners that the building would be 100% complete and that everyone would be able to move in before this summer started. As of today, only half the units are complete and there is absolutely no urgency to finish them in a timely manner. Almost all the units are paid for and he has his money and apparently has decided to take his time with completing the development. I say this because it is not to do with the demand for trade workers in Kelowna because the complex down the road, which is just as big and started at the same time and has different owners, is fully completed. I tell you, walking around the grounds and meeting all the other frustrated customers who were told the same thing and were treated with the “I don’t care attitude” and “how dare you demand anything from me” – were all singing the same tune. I am sorry but the customer always comes first and do not promise things that you know aren’t going to happen, or are just not going to put a concerted effort towards doing.

What also gets me is the fact that he had current owners bring in investors from out of town who had the money and were looking to buy; only to find out when they got there that the units had gone up $100K and the boat lifts another $50K from their asking price that day. This prompted over 4 sure-thing deals to turn around and walk right out with no sale. Who does this in business? Another example of him over promising something and under delivering by increasing the price because of greed and poor attitude.

This situation was an eye opener for me as I have never seen so many unhappy people because of the service from one person. How do these people stay in business? Why do they have to conduct deals this way? Something to think about when purchasing a unit is to do your research on the developer to ensure they have a great reputation for construction as well as continued, stand up service once you have put your money down.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Popularity vs. Respect

One of the hardest areas you will ever have to face in leadership is the battle between popularity and respect. Both are instrumental in your quest to effectively lead, yet both are not equal. In an ideal world we would be able to find a balance where we are as popular as we are respected, but this holy grail of leadership is rarely achieved and a temporary state of circumstances.

The simple difference between popularity and respect is that popularity is a state while respect is a trait.

The state of popularity is a condition of others perception that elevates us in status. Identified as a state, popularity is temporary and easily achieved, all we have to do as leaders is make decisions that make the people around us happy. Because of this our popularity is dependant on the circumstances we find ourselves in. In leadership, if these circumstances benefit those we are leading we become popular until the circumstances do not assist those we are leading. If our goal is popularity we have a very simple job, make others happy by giving them what they need and watch them become dependant on us to make them feel good.

Understanding respect as a trait means that we also must understand that respect is something that distinguishes us from others and is not easily achieved. Respect, when earned, is something that is not a temporary identifier; instead it is something that creates legend. Respect is a trait that is not attached to circumstances because it has the ability to survive in good times as well as in hard times. Respect is not a simple job because in order to become respected you will have to make others question your decision making process. Unlike popularity, respect is earned through making tough decisions and facing times where people are looking to you not at you.

There are moments where you will be both popular and respected, but eventually a situation will arise where either your state or trait will take over and identify your leadership abilities. You will be face with the decision of making all the people happy to achieve popularity and some respect, or making some people happy while achieving everyone’s respect. You can be respected by the majority without everyone’s approval, but you cannot become popular without a majority decision. Your defining leadership moment will expose you to the masses and you will be categorized as a popular leader or a respected leader based on the action you take.

Weather you are the leader of your business or the leader of your household, your job is not about becoming buddies with those you are leading, rather your job is allowing them to function without you. This is not achieved by always making people smile; it is about making people learn to make the best decision for themselves as hard as that decision might be. Years down the road, when you retire or your kids are grown, you can then enjoy the popularity that respect has given to you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Commitment Over Compliance = Victory For All

Why do you do what you do? Is it because you have to or because you want to? As an employer, do you tell people what to do, or implore them to do what is mutually best for all parties concerned?

Today folks, we are disseminating commitment from compliance. In other words, understanding the company vision and getting behind it, or doing something because you were told. The end results of each line of task orientation are staggering.

A committed employee (or parishioner or family member for that matter) has keen interest in the betterment and health of the organization. They are the kind of person who doesn't report their overtime hours because they already feel compensated and rewarded in their work, and they don't need to "nickle and dime" their employer.

An employee who is merely complying, will use up every sick day, every holiday, and clock every hour of O.T. they have even spent going to the washroom. They will give the absolute minimum, because that's what they feel they're receiving in terms of recognition, pay, and job satisfaction.

The scary fact is- these are not 2 different kinds of people. They are different circumstances. We all need to realize that as employees, we will be much happier and feel more involved and more valuable to society acting out of commitment. We also need to realize that sometimes we are doing something just because our wife asked us to. The decision to commit or comply is charged to us every day.

If you go to church because it's important to your wife, it will feel like a bigger and bigger pain in the ass every Sunday, unless you commit (to her and to why it's important to her and to you). Otherwise, you will just stop going and be as committed to golfing instead as she is to bettering your souls. The same is true for your boss, parents, whatever example you'd like to insert here.

As an employee or partner in any relationship- you must find common purpose that you can feel is important and that you can commit to- otherwise you'll be half assing it until you'd rather be putting your whole ass into a more selfish endeavour. Put another way, life is less about compromising what you want than it is about agreeing what you can want together, and where you will never agree off the bat.

As an employer (or parent or coach), it is even more important to know the difference. If all you're after as a boss or mom is the right behaviour; all you're likely to get is compliance. If you are willing to be a leader and take the time to find mutual interest in a common goal, you'll be surprised how fast those around you 'get it' and act in a way that moves everyone involved forward.

If we don't understand this difference, than as the picture shows, we can paint the truck and give the driver a Pepsi shirt, but they're still going to drink Coke. Demand better by explaining and leading rather than demanding.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Differant Kind of Child Abuse

An article in Time magazine this past week had a special health section on America’s Super-Sized kids. The main points of the article summing up that it’s not only genetics (no kidding) and we only have ourselves to blame (this one I’m sure was hard to print.. no one to blame..). I know, not big revelations for the already swimupstreamer, but the article did go into further details. The likes of being the amount of tv watching/video games kids play, the lack of physical activity in and out of schools, the awfulness of school lunches, the general availability of junk vs healthy options.

It’s actually quite appalling and makes you wonder how we let this happen – because I assure you it wasn’t overnight. The article also goes into to detail how the parents are not taking responsibility – like, it’s not their fault, he’s just big boned. Right – so we have 40% more big boned kids today than we did 20 years ago.... right, nice try.

Only 1 in 4 kids takes part in sports or any physical activity today, kids used to have 3 cups of milk for every cup of soda, and up to 4 hours a day are spent in front of a TV now. And that goes along with a slew of physiological health complications – From liver and kidney failure to type 2 diabetes – ailments that used to be an old persons problem. All of this is easily preventable if the parents were to take responsibility over it. Who does the grocery shopping and buying the sodas? Who’s buying video games and cable TV, or choosing to opt out of investing time with their children’s well being by finding a sport they enjoy and can gain some valuable life skills from? I’m sure there are a billion and one reasons (ie: excuses), but the fact of the matter is that someone needs to take control and it starts at home. If I were one of these fat kids and grew up to be constantly having to battle with my weight and health problems (nevermind the emotional stress) I’d be questioning and interrogating my parents well into my adult years: ‘why did you feed me that crap and watch me get fat? Why didn’t you do anything to prevent it?’

This has always been a topic that has bothered me. It really is child abuse in every sense – the child is being set up to deal with a lifetime of physical, personal, and emotional issues having to do with being overweight and overindulging. Every day while walking down the street we see overstuffed and overfed 5-year olds while their ‘parents’ are seemingly oblivious.. and we’re talking about toddlers and kids here, not adults. Kids are innocent in the sense that they really have no concept of the foods they are choosing and have no clue of the later repercussions, but the parents often do. I mean, seriously, if your 3 year old weighed 80 lbs would you not think something was wrong – would you not listen to your doctor, friends, or your own parents telling you (because someone would have to be telling you, if you didn’t already know the obvious) that your kid can’t continue to chow down on McDonalds and sugary sodas. ‘Oh but that’s what Susie likes.’ Uh huh.. and if you were given the choice between eating a snickers bar and a bowl of steamed broccoli and you thought both were nutritionally equal in value which one would you choose... thought so.

In a world that is already full of corruption and numerous other kinds of abuse, would you not want to start your child off on the right foot? Give them the greatest advantage they possible could have? Why would someone have kids if they didn’t want the best for them? I mean if this was survival of the fittest, America would have been extinct long ago. It is beyond me how parents can willingly stand by and watch their kids become enormous - Do they not care? Are they really that impartial to their kids health and well being? Because It’s not genetics and it’s not big bones. It’s the parents and the choices they are making every day – do we or do we not instil healthy habits onto our kids – it’s a choice – so make it and stand by it. If the answer is no, then you are placing yourself in the same category as all the other types of abuse inflicted on kids. If yes, then start today – throw out the Oreos, stop going through the drive through on the way home because it’s easy, spend time outside being active with your kids, demand more PE time at your kids school, don’t let your kids dictate their diet (say no to the junk – yes, a few tantrums will ensue, but in the long run it will be worth it). And most importantly educate your kids why, why it’s important to eat healthy and be active. They may not understand now, but I guarantee, they will be thanking you later. And if you need to educate yourself first (ignorance is also an excuse, not a reason) then do that and set an example. Because until you can take responsibility, you are continuing to subject your sweet Susie to child abuse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Adversity is a fact of life. It will come and it will challenge you. How we deal with it begins to define us. How we plan for our reactions to it is what allows for personal growth because dversity is the single greatest conduit to personal growth.

So how do you react to your own personal adversities?
Do you become stressed? Do you run around without a plan? Do you talk out the problem with others who are empathetic? Do you move into action or enlist support? What are the characteristics that lie deep within you that you cannot run away from?

Adversity will bring out the characteristics you genetically have and unless you are working on understanding the person you are in those situations, then you will always react the same way. The same old way each and every time something odd should happen. Every person internally is a little like the Myth of Sysiphus. You may remember him. His punishment was to carry a massive boulder up a hill every day only to have it roll mercilessly back down the hill battering him in the process. He would then need to begin again. Sound familiar. We are all a little similar to Sysiphus. We will take the battering and then do it all over again. We expect things to change and yield a new result, yet we rarely do anything different. It is when adversity hits that we see the result of running with the status quo.

The challenge is not to avoid adversity but to remember that is coming and prepare yourself to react to it and grow from it. Today, you need to push yourself beyond your regular boundaries and see how you react. You need to ask more of yourself on a regular day and see what happens. You need to study you.

When adversity does strike, however big it is in your world, you will react differently because of the experiences you have practiced with. And practice makes perfect.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Summertime Mentality - How to keep your team on top this season

As we enter into the summer months, the common trend is for people to start to lose focus from work and pay more attention to the local beach or their favorite patio. There are different strategies to ensure that employees stay focused and driven to continue to stay focused and perform during this sunny season…

As a leader you need to be transformational. The kind of person that motivates and inspires people to perform at levels far beyond anything that they had previously thought possible. This needs to happen on a consistent basis all year round – including summer.

1. Have a plan - Ensure that they are tangibly working towards their goals and you hold them accountable. One way to do this is to have them form a summertime or quarterly plan including all 5 spheres (social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical) on top of their professional sphere.

2. Set targets – Whether that is personal hours worked, increasing a billout, or bringing in more customers, people need targets to hit. Otherwise they will lose focus and if they slip during the summer, it will be harder to notice or hold them accountable.

3. Keep them busy – If the typical workload goes down due to people being away, ensure they are given new tasks to keep them on track – this way, the onset of boredom or dreaming about that patio does not become a constant struggle.

4. Slow times are the time to get ahead – Think about it, when many people take off for the summer or spend all their time at the beach and get minimal work done, this is the time to be working even harder, planning and prepping for the busy season. It takes the load off and you start miles ahead of the next person come September.

5. Constant feedback and time with are key – Just like anytime of the year, regular feedback on performance and results is very important. People need to know how they are doing so they can improve their performance and be proud of their successes especially during summer. If they are slipping in the work productivity and don’t even realize it, they need to know before it becomes routine. Same thing goes for if you spend the quality time with them educating and inspiring, they will respond.

If you are able to use these 5 points with your team this summer you will experience much success, both with your employees growth as well as your company's productivity. Come September, you will be miles ahead of the rest!

Friday, June 20, 2008


I was having a conversation about education with my wife the other day and she said something that was an ah-ha moment for me. Her comment was “your education is not what you learned in the classroom, but understanding the process of learning”. This is not a new thought for many of us, but the way it was presented to me forced me to do some research on the topic of how we learn.

The traditional learning process is gathering information and memorizing that information so that we can show that we are proficient when asked a question on the topic. This is great way to become good at Trivial Pursuit and other games where what you remember is more important than what you do with what you remember. Despite what we spent our K-12 years doing, in real life we seldom need to rely on memorization, because performance is a higher priority.

Learning is a life long process that consists of some memorization, but primarily is made up of a sequence of problem solving experiences. Our use of memorization is in remembering situation specific experiences that then create our decision making process. Through this process we can remember that the last time we were in a specific situation our action caused a specific reaction. If that reaction was positive, we choose to repeat that action, and if the reaction was negative we figure out a new action plan where we can achieve different results. The end result comes from trial and error rather than memorization, yet we still emphasize remembering that facts, structures, and theories when educating our children, and have the adults we work with memorize rules, quotes, and constantly changing systems.

In the area of learning process, Princeton University has a 70/20/10 formula. This formula states that 70% of learning and development comes from real life and on the job experiences, tasks, and problem solving; 20% comes from feedback and observing role models; and 10% comes from formal training.

The interesting idea of this model comes from the 10% of learning being related to formal training because if you look at how we educate people we emphasize this 10% through memorization and pen to paper tests. By doing this we are placing our definition of proficiency through the least important aspect of the learning process. Businesses and schools alike do the same thing, spend large chunks of time drilling information into their employees/students instead of letting them actually use experience as the greatest learning tool.

Princeton goes on to say that the learning process is built on three principles; 1) the identification of gaps between one’s ideal self and one’s real self, 2) the development of a challenging and realistic development action plan, and 3) ongoing development dialogue between learners and supervisors. In essence they are supporting the idea of understanding your reality, setting goals, and fostering communication to enhance learning. These are the same three principles that in real life are replaced with trying to get everyone to believe that they are equal in ability, that to succeed you need to reach for the path of least resistance, and if you do as I say you can be successful. After this educational experience is fulfilled we wonder why so many people are not prepared for the real world, especially after they did so well on our standardized tests and force fed training programs.

If you want to get the most out of your child, employee, etc., stop holding their hand and shying them away from learning to compete and allow them to experience life on their own, observe them in their situations and provide feedback based on your experiences so that they can develop their own identities and place in the world, and provide them with the information they need to memorize in order to succeed. If the order of this learning process is reversed, you have not created empowerment; you have created a robot who knows how to respond under ideal conditions only.

Guiding your way through the world is not something you learn in the classroom or board room, and success is not a process that comes from a text book. Learning to succeed comes directly from understanding why you failed and failure is only possible when you are allowed to understand the process of learning through living.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We Have The Wrong System

What if, just for taking vitamin C, you could be thrown in jail for up to 2 years and fined up to $5,000,000?

That scenario could very well soon become a reality in Canada. The Canadian Government is trying to pass a bill known as Bill C51. According to some interpretations of the bill, it would remove all supplements from over-the-counter availability, by only allowing MD’s to prescribe them as they see fit.

This would mean that if you wanted to take a multivitamin, you would have to book an appointment with your doctor and try to convince your doctor that you are in need of these supplements. If your doctor decides a certain drug would be better for you, then you won't have access to your supplements anymore.

Consequences of the bill could include:

No more supplement stores
Supplements made illegal unless obtained through a prescription; 70 percent of all current supplements on the market could be removed
Fines of up to $5,000,000.00 and/or 2 years in jail per incident of being caught breaking this law.

Now the question to ask ourselves here is WHY would this bill be considered, let alone passed?

The answer has 2 perspectives so let's consider each...
If our government has our best interests at heart, than the answer must be quality control and preventing the uninformed consumer from self-medicating and potentially harming themselves. This makes sense from a consumer perspective, but it violates the choice and competition we associate with a free market economy so we will have many grateful citizens (who feel protected), yet many angered citizens who feel their health care is being run like a profit venture and not what it should be. In short, the bill doesn't make clear sense for the consumers.

If the answer is protecting revenue sources derived for doctors through prescriptions, and revenue sources for the government through taxing prescriptions, than the bill makes perfect sense for the supplier side of the equation.

We have spoken here on swim upstream on the backwards "treatment-prevention" approach to health care where we only see our doctors if something is wrong. The Chinese typically see their health care providers when things are going right to see what they can do to keep it up.

As consumers, if we keep treating our doctors as drug peddlers ("I need something to make me feel better") we empower them to profit off of disease and to treat us as the rats we are. We hand a monopoly to them on a silver platter and we pay the consequences through means like bill C51.
If we go to them with prevention in mind, we retain an element of choice ("I don't NEED their help, I'm asking for it, so I won't allow their specific brand of high priced supplements to be forced down my throat"). Choice is what keeps a free market economy acting like it was designed to, and exactly what prevents extreme measures like closing supplement stores so that the government can dictate what we're allowed to take for our health.

If you aren't pissed off at the prospect of the government going into your medicine cabinet pre-emptively, you're not getting it- this affects you at the highest level. Go see your doctor BEFORE you have to, and if you have never written your MLA before, this might be what prompts you

or you can wait for the hammer to fall and then complain after the fact to no avail

Read on (just 4 of 124,000 Google links that came up, starting with the legal interpretation)...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Never Give Up on Someone

In 2003, there were 3, 800 deaths to suicide. What is startling to find out is that on a yearly basis, statistically, more deaths are caused due to suicide compared to that of fatal vehicle accidents. The causes of suicide were not determined and can be caused by multiple reasons.

Based on stats of the 80’s and 90’s, suicides fell in the age ranges of 45-60 and primarily with men. Sadly, today we are seeing more and more teenagers and young adults fall victim not only to suicide, but also drug and gang related deaths.

This leads to the question: Of the youth that are currently passing away, how many do you think lacked a support system or had people give up on them?

In the past 5 years I have lost a childhood friend to a drive-by shooting as well as a couple of former team mates to suicide. Two of which I lost contact with several years before they passed.

This really made me question if I could have done something or if I could have made a difference earlier?

Going through a process of self-actualization by writing my own personal story, I now understand through sharing this with my peers and close ones that you can not judge a book by it’s a cover. Everyone has a story. There is a reason for everything we choose to do and our present actions can easily be explained by what we have gone through in the past.

Too often human beings in general give up on people because of change of attitudes, difference in morals and values, different lifestyles or poor decisions. Having fall-outs with friends is going to happen in life…that is inevitable. However, one should think really hard about leaving those individuals that are not on the so-called correct path. What we must remember is that there is good in everyone and there are reasons why we chose to be friends with these people in the first place. Not only can a friendship be salvaged but more importantly you can help your friend:

• Get back on track
• Make better decisions
• Seek professional help
• Surround themselves with positive people
• Get out of the situation before it is too late
• Possibly save their life

Collectively, we have to look beyond people’s decisions in the now and look at ways to help them overcome their issues that they are facing. Don’t take the easier road of moving on. Do your best to help them face the challenge ahead.

Jason Sarai

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Balance = consistently planning.

people often ask the question of how to fit everything in on a daily basis and although i am no expert, the advice i give is to think about balance as a long term pursuit rather than a daily right.

if we listen to the radio each day, it tells us we deserve to take a break, work less, enjoy a vacation and purchase x-y & z because they can offer us that elusive "lifestyle" we all yearn to have. what we don't understand is the sales grab on the back of that message. they are not sharing that message because they actually believe it, rather they know it appeals to our collective sense of 'most for least'.

let's face it, we all want to make our lives easier and there is no shortage of messaging willing to tell us how. however, balance is not always a day to day thing and if you haven't got a plan, all that will happen is you will quickly find yourself out of balance whether its now or later! our plan was to put our heads down for 5 straight years, in order that we could enjoy the next 10. to a large degree it worked.

awhile back, we spoke to a young group of people using an example of how quick it is to get out of balance. we used the example of coming home to your house.

you come in, throw your coat on the chair, shoes off in the hallway, head for the fridge to grab the can of coke, crack it while you hit the send / receive tab on your computer to see if you have mail / myspace / or anyone is online etc. you click it to see there are 100 (too much) you just got home, so instead, you head to the living room, sit down and watch mindless tv. when you are finished, you look around the house. its a mess and you have shit all over the place and 200 emails in your in box. too much to get to after a tough day's work. you eat, leave the dishes in the sink get half way through your things and become depressed bcs your house is such a mess.


walking through the door and hanging your coat up, taking off your shoes and finding them a home (everything has a home). pouring yourself a coke, in a glass, with ice and throwing the can in the recycle bin. siting down to relax. not with mindless tv, rather a paper, or news of the day, or your family to TALK. after you have had a chance to wind down, get on your emails during your scheduled time and get through them all. respond to the ones that need to be responded but stay on task. when you are done, finish the night with entertainment, or even better, read a book that will get you ahead intellectually instead of behind.

what's the difference between the two approaches. mindset & attitude. you see, people are all searching for this elusive 'balance' without understanding it's yours to create on a short term and most importantly long term basis.


plan to work, plan to rest, plan to live.

Monday, June 16, 2008

what / why & how.

They key elements of every communicated message, that when answered, maximize our opportunity to yield great results.

Think about how many times we have had to repeat messages, because the recipients just don't fully understand what it is we are looking for. well, instead of the usual 'may as well do it by myself, they don't get it, or why bother negativity after the fact - we could try to be thorough before hand.

Ensuring what / why & how are clearly spelled out in every instruction not only helps the receiver with the message, but also the sender in formulating clear instructions rather than ambiguous instruction. It slows down the delivery and in most cases to the advantage of making sense. Take some time to look at your instructions and ask yourself - have i answered the big 3 before you hit send or walk away.

If you have... and you still don't get the desired response - then yes, the recipient clearly has a challenge with taking direction.

quick one today folks - use it with your kids, spouses, students, employee's, boss's and friends - WHAT / WHY & HOW on everything you communicate. You will be surprised by how much less you have to speak, how fewer people it takes to do a single task and how much more effectively tasks are completed.


The "Me" Factor

You know those people who all they do is think about themselves no matter what the situation? Ever ask yourself why they are like that and what motivates them to be so selfish? Or how about how they can't realize there are actually people in this world other then themselves?

Now, before I start, I have to come clean and say that this is an area of my personality that I have been called out for numerous times in the past as well as something I have identified as a negative trait that I am continually working on and paying attention to. I guess that is why I am so aware of when others are acting selfish or drawing attention to themselves, whether in a quiet, discreet or an out there, rediculus manner.

Well, I have to share this story with you from this past weekend. I was at one of my best friend's weddings and involved in the wedding party as a groomsman. This meant I got to witness a lot of the internal ongoings of the wedding over the day.

Now, the wedding was beautiful and for everyone on the outside, looked like the perfect event. However, being on the other side, there were unfortunately some bumps in the road due to the "me" factor. On one of the biggest days in a girls life, her wedding day, she asks her 3 sisters to be her bridesmaids (which is a big honor, and for those of you who have never been a part of a wedding party, a very significant responsibility - and on that day, it is all about the bride...period.)

Here were a few of my observations:
  • One sister texting her friends at the head table while her sister is having the first dance with her new husband (and the glares that followed)
  • Or one missing the speeches because she was fighting with her boyfriend
  • Or the single other one out there bouncing off all the guys all night and not paying any due attention to her newly married sister

I thought about this as I watched it happen all night and finally couldn't keep my mouth shut and spoke up to each of them. Was it the right move? Well, not for my popularity among the sisters, but it did shock them into taking the focus off themselves and back onto their newly married sister.

So my question was what actually made them lose focus and act that way? Was it a lack of actually caring? Hard to believe that one. So what was it?

In analyzing this some more, I think it really comes down to the fact, the attention wasn't on them and it was hard to take all day so they went searching for some equaling the "me" factor.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I had the great honor of giving the commencement speech at a graduation earlier in the week. The graduates were kids who have been removed from their homes for various forms of abuse, many whom I have known since they were 10 years old. There were two things that made this such an honor, 1) it was a place I used to work at and they thought enough of me to ask; a tremendous complement, and 2) looking these kids in the eye and gaining a much greater perspective about life; a very humbling experience.

So much of our life is spent complaining about anything and everything. We gather at work and complain about high gas prices, yet we are privileged enough to be able to afford transportation. We complain that our boss mistreats us, yet we have never felt what it is like to have your lower body dipped in a pot of boiling water. We complain that food is becoming too expensive, yet we have never experienced what it is like to have to go through a neighbor’s garbage hoping to find something to fill our stomachs.

We complain because we have lost perspective of what we do have and continually think of who is taking advantage of us. One of the realities in adult life is that if someone is taking advantage of you it is most likely your fault. Rarely are there victims as an adult because you have the ability get yourself out of the situation you are in, you have choices. Your choice in victimization is that you choose not to change your circumstances because it is much easier to complain about these exact circumstances.

If you want to see a champion in life look at an adult that survived child abuse. They don’t complain because they know what it is like to be a true victim. They know what it is like to be powerless and through their perspective nothing will ever be as bad as having someone who is supposed to care for your every need take advantage of your trust.

There are a lot of things that are ridiculous in this world right now, I’ll let you decide what these are, but your victimization in these circumstances is your fault because you choose to talk about them instead of do something about them. If you are unwilling to be change, stop complaining about change. There are people out there who have it much worse than you do and are doing more with it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lessons From Greece

Travel is certainly a way to broaden horizons. In North America as much as anywhere else on the planet we tend to become egocentric towards other cultures, often thinking our way is faster, more advanced; in a word- better.

In a society that is so regulated and rule (law) driven, it was very interesting to gain an appreciation for how in many cases the letter of those laws tends to trump the spirit.

Example: Driving in Greece
We rented a mini-van for the occasion, and were shocked at how poor the signage was, the condition of the roads, and the seemingly insane behavior of the drivers. Pulling into on-coming traffic against a double solid line is common practice, as is speeding by a good 30 - 50km/h (20-30mph). Citing driver safety and accident prevention, we have far more signs, slower speed limits, and better maintained roads in Canada and the United States (not to mention, someone pulling in to oncoming traffic to pass on a busy street or highway would have their licence revoked!). The problem is, I witness accidents almost daily in Calgary, and did not see one accident on the islands of Crete or Santorini, or the city of Athens (with a population 5 times that of Calgary).

Could it be that when we try to think for people they assume we will do it all the time? Are our governments coddling our citizens to the point where we need them to think for us?

Example: Culture
Admittedly, art isn't really my thing. If I see a portrait I like, I buy it, and my appreciation of what is art ends there. I tend to relate with the unassuming, rather than 5 bright splashes of color on a canvas that costs ten grand. I have to give a lot of credit then, the the Greek community, as for as much credit as The Akropolis gets (pictured), places like Knossos on the island of Crete don't make it onto the radar of a guy like me, yet there is so much history and culture wrapped up in every histogram that date back to 7000 BC or before.

There is a great and diverse artistic and cultural side to life in North America, but one cannot help but be moved wondering if they are standing on the same ground Plato or Socrates may have while contemplating the cosmos.

Example: Family
My favorite example, of course, stemmed from the fact that I was married while in Greece. With divorce rates at about 50% here, 2004 statistics have the Greek national divorce rate below 24%. After my wife Maria and I tied the knot in the beautiful town of Chania, restaurant owners, passers by and other tourists stopped to congratulate us or clap; and an Italian news crew even filmed us reciting their catch phrase... there is just a different importance on family and marriage displayed by people's actions there versus what any of us say we feel. Work trumps family here and we see it all the time.

I could go on, but it is important to take everything above with the proverbial grain of salt... the economy, diversification, tolerance, and relative safety we enjoy in Canada every day are luxuries we take for granted.

I may border on the side of national offense by pointing out where other nations may be strong or stronger than we are, but it is only to serve as a reminder that we can never get too big for our britches, and there are always ways that we can improve...

This is from one PROUD Canadian to all the other proud North Americans who want what's best for their country- having all of it's citizens constantly strive to be better without acting like they are.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

nothing is a guarantee.

Yesterday - If you listened to a Canadian radio station this morning, you would have heard the big news in Canadian hockey - the rights to the infamous "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song is no longer owned by CBC Sports - the television network that broadcasts many of the NHL hockey games and has become a HUGE part of Canadian heritage.

The rights to this song (which has been owned by CBC Sports since 1968) now belongs to CTV (another Canadian broadcasting company). This is something that every Canadian hockey fan would have never expected and never thought would ever happen. Now, they are thinking that tuning into Hockey Night in Canada will never be the same...and although it doesn't change the game & the score, for some fans it will change the experience. And that is the thing that CBC Sports should be worrying about...this song is well known and gets people excited about watching the game. Less people excited = less people watching. And although it seems's true.

So, what was CBC thinking?

Although the specifics have not been shared (and many people might truly not find out), apparently they did not expect anyone else (broadcasting company) to out bid them. They believed that it was a guarantee. A guarantee that they would have & own the rights for the song so that it can continue to be played on Hockey Night in Canada on the station. However...

NOTHING is a guarantee.

This past weekend - If you have been following horse racing this year, your eyes would be following a horse by the name of Big Brown. Different than most, this horse has a combination of ALL the characteristics necessary to excel in the sport - the speed, strength, stamina, and soundness. With his undefeated record and because of these characteristics & abilities, Big Brown was a favorite and a "guarantee" to become the first Triple Crown winner (winner of all three major horse races - Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Park - in the same year) since 1978 this past weekend.

Although Big Brown was given the odds of 2/7 (meaning you would have to bet 7 to win 2) and the talk around the track was that Big Brown was a shoe in, last weekend he did not win the Belmont Park - and in fact, never came close. Which leads to the topic of today's blog...

NOTHING is a guarantee.

That's life. We really only have one guarantee - it's death. Other than that, everything & anything can happen. We can't be surprised if we experience the unexpected or if the ordinary achieves the extraordinary. At the end of the day, we don't know when are time is done or what is going to happen next BUT what we can do is make the decisions to put ourselves in the best positions to enjoy what we have & what we are doing. When we do this and it is our turn for our only guarantee...we are hopefully leaving this place loving what we have left behind...

BECAUSE even that can't be guaranteed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Leaders, please stop lying.

I just can’t let this one go.

The fuel crisis that’s sparked the food crisis.

Yesterday Saudi Arabia (who knows a thing or two about oil) went public with the statement this fuel crisis has zero merit. In fact, they were so adamant there is no need for this scare we all seem to be in they have summoned all of the world leaders to talk about it.

Now, this coupled with the fact we have numerous customers who seem to be finding oil, gold and money at a ridiculous rate – begs the question from myself when are people going to stop letting themselves be taken advantage of.

We reviewed this last week in the policopaganda blog outlining the ‘energy crisis’ and subsequent housing crisis and I just want to go on record (prior to the big blockbuster that this oil crisis was a product of a greedy government with massive ties to gass and oil running up the tab one last time before turning a fractured business / country over to a new government) as saying I’m not buying it.

when the price of gas is 120 in one part of Canada, 150 in another and 130 where everyone got money back from the government because they were making so much money off of gas and oil – I draw my own conclusion.

#1. again fear and greed have been used as tactics to sell us things. like sheep we flock to hybrids, stocking up and increased spending to make sure we are not affected.

click here to find out how much oil companies NET PROFIT for Q#1

#2. because so many of us float passively through our day and don’t question anything – let a lone do something about pretty obvious scams…. we’ll jump on the victim bandwagon when it drives by later and wonder how these “crisis:” keep happening (maybe sue someone)

#3. on the not paying attention theme, we are not making the time to care to see who is leading us. we are so busy with ‘us’ that it’s too much of a hassle checking out the babysitter to see if they are a sexual offender (analogy).

#4. corporate America needs their asses handed to them. everyone who’s proven to have part in irresponsible representation of facts, needs to be held accountable – MEDIA - headline here, you are 1st!

until next time, keep gassing up. because in the span of 2 months it seems like all the gas in the world is drying up. extra extra – pay through the nose – hurry – buy me now – you need this – emergency!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Life of a Father

Age 4: "My Daddy can do anything!"

Age 8: "My Dad is the smartest guy in the whole world. He knows everything."

Age 13: "My Dad doesn't really know everything."

Age 16: "Are you kidding me? There is no way that Dad knows about that."

Age 18: "Who? The old man. No way. He's way out of date."

Age 25: "Dad might know a little about that."

Age 35: "Before we go any further let's get an opinion from Dad."

Age 45: "Wonder what Dad would do in this situation."

Age 65: "Wish I could talk it over with Dad."

Live like you're 65 and live with no regrets.

Friday, June 06, 2008


As we begin to lose control over our personal lives our first response is to tighten up our grip and reign in what we have let slip. This happens in relationships as well. We feel distance being created between us and others, so we tighten up our grip and try not to let the distance get too far away. Work is no different. Professionally we see too many projects and inevitably something steers out of control, so we grip harder in order to get things back on track.

The fact is, the more we feel like we are losing control the more we try to gain control by gripping harder. The force of our grip has and interesting effect in all spheres of life and our natural reaction to increase our grip is potentially facilitating our loss of control.

There is a lot we can learn about life through what we know about sports. In sports we know that the tighter we grip an object the less control we have over that object. The reason being that the tighter our muscles are the less mobility they have and we restrict our range of motion. This is not a new revelation or cutting edge philosophical thought, it is simply what coaches and athletes have known for years.

The way that this relates to life is by analyzing the grip you have on anything in your life and the returns you are receiving through your grip.

Keep your kids under a microscope and prevent them from actually learning by trying, and your kids will rebel against you causing tension in your relationship (while still doing what you are trying to prevent them from doing). Rule your employees with an iron fist and see how long it takes them to resent you (while still doing what you are trying to prevent them from doing). Cut yourself off from enjoying life’s pleasures to try and create a greater sense of discipline in your life and see that you mind will focus on what you are trying to avoid (therefore causing you to do what you are trying to prevent yourself from doing).

In every aspect of life the tighter we grip the less chance we have of succeeding. In life, like in sports, everything needs wiggle room, everything needs to have the opportunity to fail, and everything needs to breathe independently from your control. Our inability to figure out the right amount of tension in our grip is the difference between success and failure, the difference between flourishing and floundering.

Our greatest strength is not how strong of a grip we have, but our willingness to loosen up our grip at the right time. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said that “method is more important than strength”. If you are experiencing loss of control in your life it is time you focused on the methods you are operating under, not the strength you have over your operations. Master this and you will see better returns with less expended energy, just like any great athlete.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pay attention to your kids & sport.

Scott touched on this subject a long time ago and a real time example just brought it back to me the other day. The idea of kids learning sport is to provide them with a foundation of skills with which they can a) become competent at said sport (through movement patterns) and b) understand how to transfer those movement patterns to other sports and c) experience many of life’s lessons [winning / losing / responsibility / roles / team work / communication etc] in a relatively controlled environment.

Prior to enrolling your child in a sport there are a couple of very important things to think about

1. are they interested in this sport. by the ages of 7-11, your child will have likely participated in lower levels of organized sports. If they have and indicate an interest in continuing, this is a natural progression. If they are not interested and are playing because you’ve told them to, chances are – they will not get that much out of the experience.

2. are you interested in participating in their development. The misnomer is that through 1 practice and 1 game / week – your child should be able to pick up the skills and master the concepts of a sport. They don’t and they won’t. You should decide whether you will make the time to practice with them in addition to their coached time.

3. are you both committed (for said period of time) to make the team needs a priority over your individual wants eg: showing up when it’s raining, attending practice when you are ‘tired’ etc. The lesson here extends beyond winning and losing the games into the core fabric of responsibilities in life. It’s actually not all about “me”.

As a coach, it’s fantastic to see those who are interested, engaged and on task a high percent of the time. America’s past time is going to continue to become a more challenging sport to manage at lower levels because of the fact it doesn’t provide the instant gratification factor that dominates our children’s cortex on a daily basis.

What is frustrating is having to entertain disinterested children, facilitating on one end and overbearing on the other – parents and the reality that for most – organized sports has become more of a babysitting service than an opportunity to model life skill behavior.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


something that seems so simple yet is rarely seen.

being consistent could arguably be the single most important trait in leadership (both for leading others & yourself). think about the importance of this word when it comes down to leadership, messages, attitude, performance, etc.

consistent efforts = consistent results.

and when we talk about leadership consistency, it is not about having the board meeting at the same time every week like clock work and it is not about continually using the same marketing strategy for your business. it is about being consistent with your efforts, thoughts, and actions to get towards the end goal that you have set out to achieve.

everyone is looking for consistency. whether it's the customer with restaurant service or the employee with their manager's leadership style and expectations, people require leadership consistency for behavioral response, expectations, and judgement. for most people, the downfall lies in the consistency during the rough times, the slow times and during the crunch of deadlines and that is when consistent leaders are defined. the ability to stay the course, on track and maintaining a solid vision forward demonstrates leadership confidence and control.

so, when you are struggling to perform in a physical activity, lead an individual at a high level, or lose that last 10 pounds, ask yourself if you have been consistent with your efforts because chances are you still need to remove the two letters, I & N, that reside in front of the word consistent.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fire Chief or President

The challenge that all small business models and owners have is how to wear all the hats of a business owner. Just how does one get all the roles accomplished?

Marketing is but one of the goals. Payroll, opening, closing, selling, fulfillment and the myriad of other jobs that need to get done; they all ultimately fall on your plate.

The question that you must ask yourself is "what is going to get me where I want to go?" Are you a fire chief, putting out daily fires and dealing with the little things, worrying and scurrying or are you the president of your company, knowing what is going on, dealing with the larger issues of how the future will look so these fires don't continue to happen and asking the tough questions of your business. Fire fighters deal with the little stuff almost as much and some times more than the big issues. They can't decipher big from little or vision from day to day. The president, on the other hand, looks at all things as a result. The symptom is the fire, but what is the bigger issue that needs to be solved...and who is better than me to solve it.

Marketing is truly the yellow brick road that leads a company towards its desired goals.
What? You don't know what you want your company to do or where you want it to be in the future?

There is nothing cheaper, nor more powerful for you and your business success, than finding the answer to this question.

Decide what you want and where you want to go now, or, forever be a fire fighter. Your life depends on it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Power of Community

What is a community?

A group of indiviuals that come together to accomplish a common goal.

How is a community powerful?

It has the ability to challenge, support, teach and motivate people acheive extraordinary results.

Why be involved?

To meet likeminded people, pay it forward, provide hype, excitement and knowledge for others to want to join and the biggest reason; because it is so much more fun to celebrate victories with a team than as an individual!

Here is a great example of community that has developed over the last 8 months within Innovative Fitness and has proven very successful and produced many victories:

This past weekend saw a large group of Innovative Fitness customers and coaches compete in the Oliver 1/2 Ironman. For those of you who don't know, a 1/2 Ironman is a 2km swim, 93km bike and 21km run and takes a lot of time, dedication and sacrificing to train for. The location of this great race was in Oliver, a beautiful town located in what's called "Wine Country" in British Columibia's spectacular Okanagan.

It was the first 1/2 Ironman for many of the participants and marked the end of 8 months of hard training, overcoming fears and learning a ton about both how hard they can ultimately push themselves as well as the unique sport of triathlon.

When the group first developed, there were people who could barely swim, had never been in open water, never ridden a road bike or ran more than 10km. These were lofty barriers to overcome but with the right program, the right strength training in the gym, the numerous periodized training swims, rides and runs and consistent education, 19 people were able to cross the finishline last weekend. For most, it was the biggest physical acheivement they have ever accomplished.

To top it off, the support from the "community" at the finishline was the biggest influential factor of all. To have people who have sacrificed so much to get to that point, sharing the experience together, was undescribable.

What community are you going to join?