Thursday, July 31, 2008

Inside the Quotes: Work Ethic

It is been said, been made example of, and even put on the big screen in a number of Hollywood films. The fact is, we need to continue to prove, remind, and educate the world on the fact that smart, hard work (not talent alone) is often, if not always, the difference maker between success and failure.

You have heard us on swim upstream write on the merits of smart, hard work or a strong work ethic. Here are some more people that are successful in their respective fields, and what they have to say on the subject;

"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." -- Stephen King

"My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose — somehow we win out." -- Ronald Reagan

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." -- Margaret Thatcher

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." -- Thomas Edison

"Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind." -- Leonardo da Vinci

"Victory belongs to the most persevering." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing." -- Abraham Lincoln

"There are no traffic jams along the extra mile -- Roger Staubach

So what could professional athletes, artists, inventors, politicians, and writers all have in common? Is there any way these people from different walks of life and different periods in time know something we don't? Unlikely.

It is far more likely they pushed themselves harder and farther than their competition; whom most of us can't name because the world does not remember the adequate or the average... only the extraordinary.

Rather than compare yourself to someone you think is better- just BE BETTER. The only way we can do that, say the experts, is to outwork them. Get at it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

City Transport

I have been on a bike since I was a child. My first bike was a BMX that I used to jump off of dirt ramps with. To be on a bike during this time was to be in my youth outside enjoying play. Today I am thirty years old and I still play with my bike as a test of physical fitness as well as a form of leisure. But I also continue to be on my bike so that I may be one less person contributing carbon emissions to the environment by operating a vehicle. In fact, by riding my bike I am making a statement to the world – that you do not need a car for most of the things it is used for!

As responsible human beings we are conscious about the impact we have on the environment and that we must initiate (and follow through on) changes that will have a positive affect on the earth’s present and future. We also know that the combustion of fossil fuels is a major source of pollution and contributes to the global warming epidemic. Furthermore, we know that the world’s oil supply is finite and that prices continually go up. This is not headline news. Yet many of us continue to disregard this information for the sake of ease, comfort, laziness and road status and we fail to implement changes to our lifestyle that minimizes our ecological footprints (and don’t say you don’t care or else there are deeper issues that need to be resolved).

So why on earth do so many of us continue to rely on our cars every time we decide to go mobile? And what makes us think that we deserve to be driving Escalades, Land Rovers and Silverado’s in any situation where it is not needed? For example, slick Steve has a pickup truck that he never uses on a construction site and uses it to put his dog in the back while cruising the strip - wow, Steve looks great wasting gas. And lovely Lisa uses the Escalade to drive 5min from her house to her gym for a workout-great way to get the body warmed up Lisa. We should be ashamed of ourselves for over-consuming gas with these expensive wasteful toys. I would be embarrassed to drive these vehicles in the city. Wouldn’t you?

Yes we need our cars for some things in life but too many of us think that we cannot live our lives without our glass and steel cocoons. At the same time many of us go beyond our financial means support a car that we probably could deal without. How much does having a car cost? Even after your vehicle is bought or leased doesn’t mean you can drive it without spending money. Gas is up, costing anywhere from $100-200 to fill up your car, insurance can be close to $1000 a year, parking fees are $50 a month and then maintenance fees never cease and will set you back even further.

…Everyday I see single drivers in their cars backed up along the causeway. On that same day, there is someone on a bus enjoying a book on their way to work and someone else on a bike becoming more fit as they ride by.

…Everyday people spend money on their cars while some spend what they can’t afford or should be putting into savings. On that same day a bus will escort you for $3.00 without you having to think about traffic and the cyclist puts money into their bank and does not spend 10min looking for a place to park at work.

The bus riders and cyclists save money, experience less road stress and are responsible human beings doing their part for the earth’s environment. If you must have a car for the weekend road trip then rent one. If you must have a car to commute to work then carpool and use it less when you don’t need it – be conscious. Stop being lazy, resorting to the comfortable car that negatively impacts the earth, trade the Land Rover in for a hybrid, support public transit and get on a bike.

Stay tuned for next week - gas powered leaf blowers – the second most laziest machine ever invented.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lessons From Goliath's David

  1. Victory can only be claimed AFTER you have been into battle. That is why they play the game.
  2. There are never obstacles too big to conquer.
  3. Never blame your tools or technological short comings; maximize their potential.
  4. Leadership means doing first what you want others to do. Walk into the fire and your team will walk behind you.
  5. Don't listen to the critics; anything is possible, just get on with the job that needs to be done.
  6. Your spirit is bigger than any foe you may face.
  7. Never look poorly upon those from a a lesser standing. Their intelligence and courage can never be measured by their physical wealth. Chances are they will fight harder to succeed than those who are already comfortable.
  8. You don't get second chances in life. Make every opportunity count and always aim for the bullseye.
  9. When you believe anything is possible.
  10. When you put a higher power on your team, there is always some form of victory.

Monday, July 28, 2008

At One With Nature

This past weekend, a group of avid mountain bikers from Innovative Fitness travelled via float plane and 4x4 up to Tyax Resort to experience 2 days of some of the best mountain biking British Columbia has to offer. Resting on the shores of Tyaughton Lake, Tyax Resort is surrounded by the towering peaks of the South Chilcotin Mountain Range. It is located about 200km north of Vancouver, BC and 100km north of Whistler, BC.

Now, we do a ton of adrenaline junkie style outdoor sports and get to see a lot of the world's coolest places but I have to tell you that this weekend was an amazing opportunity to be at one with nature. Everything from being dropped off by float plane into the middle of a mountainous landscape in the middle of nowhere, to being surrounded by a over abundance of trees, wild flowers, wildlife, lakes, rivers, etc is indescribable.

If you are from a city and never get an opportunity to travel outside of it, I strongly recommend doing so. To be able to sit on the side of a mountain at 7500 feet above sea level and lose yourself in the vast landscape knowing there is nobody around you for miles and miles is an experience I strongly recommend. It puts things into perspective on where we originally came from and is definitely a humbling reality check to think of how small and insignificant we really are.

If mountain biking is not your thing, you could get out and hike or travel via horseback, atv, or 4x4. However you do it, just get out there and experience it. All your stresses and worries back home get lost in time and you are able to think with a clear mind.

Here is the link to the Tyax Resort website and an experience of a lifetime!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

80/20 Rule - The Pareto's Principle

Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, making observations that 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth.

After Pareto created his formula, many others realized that there were similar relations in their own areas of work. This led to Dr. Joseph Juran, who was known as a Quality Management pioneer to develop a universal principle he called the "vital few and trivial many".  Dr. Juran was applying Pareto's observations about economics to a larger body of work.

Dr. Juran eventually came to what is known as the "vital few and trivial many", which is saying that 20 percent of something is always responsible for 80 percent of the results. This was developed based on Pareto's work in 1906 and eventually became known as Pareto's Principle or the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule means that in anything a few (20%) are Vital and many of them (80 percent) are Trivial.

The value of Pareto's Principle is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. Of the things you do during your day, it always works out that only 20 percent really matters. The 20 percent produces 80 percent of your results. Knowing this, it is absolutely imperative that one must identify and focus on those things. When errands/tasks start to stack up in your work/family/relationship setting, remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule isn't going to get accomplished, do your best to make sure it's not part of that 20 percent.

Apply the Pareto Principle to all you do. Time and time again we see people spreading too thin trying to take on every task with the hopes of executing them on a high level.
As the saying goes; "If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one".

The 80/20 Rule should be put on your fridge, on your computer, in your day timer or on the white board at work to provide yourself and those around you with a reminder to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on the 20 percent that is important and needs to get done.

Friday, July 25, 2008


In life we are bombarded with what needs to be done in order to be successful. We tell our kids what they need to do in order to achieve success, our bosses let us know what has to be done in order to gain successful status in the industry, and we are constantly having internal conversations with ourselves on how we can become more successful. Our quest for success is fed to us at a young age and its pursuit lasts a lifetime. So, my question is; are we really sending the right message?

Look at the world today and you see a band of citizens continually seeking success in their lives only to find out that in our quest for success we look to shortcuts and dishonest practices once we learn that success is tough to achieve. In our search for success we find that once we have achieved any semblance of it, it is even tougher to maintain and expand upon, therefore we prey on others to help us gain more success. In doing so we are just fulfilling the prophecy that has been imprinted on us since we were young. In essence we are searching for an idea that has no real definition or measure other than an external perception that will feed our ego. Because humans are an ego driven species we continue to push to have our ego stroked and recognized so that we can feel good about ourselves when we go to bed at night.

My confession is I am just a guilty of this as anyone. I work with people daily where I am trying to get them to understand that the decisions they make will either foster success or create possible failures where they can then learn from in order to eventually succeed. This has led me to question what I am actually teaching. In order to gain an insightful answer we first must ask ourselves an insightful question, and my question is; when is the last time I told someone to become significant instead of successful? I honestly think that the answer is never.

Imagine the message we are sending if we ask someone to think of becoming significant. We are now asking them to become meaningful, to become momentous and influential, to become substantial, and most importantly to become something not merely by chance.

In preaching success our message is muddled and at some point success becomes defined by the amount of fame, wealth, or power one gains. Through significance we go beyond external perceptions or materialistic acquisitions and are forced to look at legacy above individual achievement. If we are to become significant we need to honor the codes of years passed where integrity, honesty, and reputation do matter when dealing with others. In significance we create immortality while our success is a temporary state of perception.

If we are able to get ourselves to honestly answer the significance of our existence over the success we have achieved, just imaging the impact we can have on those we come in contact with. If we lead others to seek significance instead of success the possibilities are endless in what we can get others to actually achieve. It is possible to become both significant and successful; in fact they come packaged together when significance is achieved first. I don’t think the same can be said about success alone, which can go as quickly as it came with no lasting impact outside our immediate surroundings.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Perspective Fable

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, 'How was the trip?'

It was great, Dad.'

'Did you see how poor people live?' the father asked.

'Oh yeah,' said the son.

'So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?' asked the father.

The son answered:

'I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.

We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have t he stars at night.

Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.'

The boy's father was speechless.

Then his son added, 'Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.'

While the above fable may be fictitious, it does point to just how easily we can lose our path, being consumed by what we are supposed to earn, how we are supposed to earn it, and how we are supposed to spend it- all in the name of image consciousness and appearing 'cool'. As a recently married man I am trying to understand what it takes to fulfill the role of being a 'good husband'. I feel very fortunate that I had neither the means nor the insecurity to go for 'the ring' as it was displayed when I was ring shopping- a 5.8 carat, half a million dollar 'gem'.

If any of us were to see that monstrosity on a woman's finger- would we be speechless over how much he must love her- or would we assume she is a gold-diggger married to someone so shallow, all he can provide is a paycheck?

Don't get duped into the material game any more than you can help... spending more on 'better' brands does not make you cooler, it just proves we as a society are putty in the hands of the marketing gurus; that the many exist to feed the few.

Before one more impish parent caves and buys a Mercedes for a spoiled child on their 'sweet sixteen', STOP. Ask yourselves what this action is doing to enable their bratty behaviour, and then think what could I have done differently as a parent to preserve the perspective demonstrated by the boy in the fable above.

I am in no way, shape, or form saying parenting is easy... far from. What I am saying is that because parenting is such an important role- we can't afford to take the easy way out at the risk of being unpopular with our kids. That's not our job. Our job is to provide for them guide them, and then release them into the world armed as best as we can for the uncertainty and excitement (as well as dangers) out there in the world.

Do we serve that purpose best by taking them to that farm, or just buying the Mercedes?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winning At All Costs

With the Olympics quickly approaching the talk will start –

‘how many medals will Canada win?’

‘who is going to bring home gold?’

‘why are we so behind in medal count?’

‘why aren’t our athletes fast enough, strong enough, good enough?’

It’s the last two that bother me. It happens during every Olympic Games. The Canadian athletes head off to Olympic glory and perform their best only to be criticized by the public and media for their poor performance and failing to bring home a medal for ‘us’. In fact, many of these athletes will perform personal bests while there, and give a performance of a lifetime and that still is not good enough. Never mind they are one of the top athletes in their sport and often top 20 in the world!! If it’s not gold, silver, or bronze – forget it. Have you actually thought about that – what does it take to be one of the top 20 in the world?

How many actually ponder this oddity? Are we really looking at the facts before we criticize? Of course it’s always easy to point fingers and blame – and what better person to point at then the athletes.

But there are many other 'unethical' tactics it takes to win gold in today’s world.
How many Canadians will refuse to pay tax dollars so that the Canadian athletes can earn an income for training, and then be the first to say ‘see, I told you , it’s useless, our athletes suck..’ Well, yes, but because being an ‘athlete’ is not a job in Canada we are forcing them to work 2 jobs, while trying to train full time. It’s no wonder they can’t dedicate 110% of their time to winning Olympic Gold. In contrast, the Chinese will spend 20 billion dollars on its Olympic athletic budget (that’s 2 billion more than Canada spends on its annual military budget) – which includes paying their athletes full wages.

Now, that’s not to say we don’t have great programs and forward movement in this area – ‘own the podium now’, and 2’010 legacies now’ are 2 worth mentioning. But these will not accomplish nearly enough to compete with what other countries are doing – and trust me, we don’t necessary want to compete with other countries when it comes to this.

So what about the other countries that are winning all the medals? The ones who are bringing home glory and fame to their country – as if the entire countries economy, wealth, and humanitarian efforts depend on it. Does anyone remember Marion Jones record winning 5 Olympic medals – what about what happened more recently to those 5 medals? And don’t think for a second that she was the only athlete to be doping – she was doing what the majority on the USA Olympic track team were doing. This is an athlete who was winning highschool championships, junior world championships, NCAA titles, and University World championships well before she was doping. So what makes an already Olympic gold calibre athlete go to such extremes to dope? Could it be that everyone else was doping to be faster and stronger, so she felt in order to stay ahead she also had to dope... interesting.

What about China or Russia – 2 other countries who have been consistent being at the top of the medal count?

In the 50’s Russian doctors and scientists reasoned that by giving athletes megadoses of the male hormone testosterone, muscles and body mass should build up more quickly, thus enhancing the performance of their athletes. Their goal was to empower them excel in all power events. As a result, Russian athletes went into the Olympics with a marked edge, dominating most of the sports events at the time. And today these athletes are sterile, look like men, and plagued with chronic health problems. Have you seen a Russian athlete from the Olympics in the 70’s - they don’t look or sound much different than they do today.

And then there’s China – this is the greatest story of all of what it takes to win... 20 years ago in Seoul, China won five golds, then by 2004 in Athens in had won 32 golds. This year in Beijing they are hoping to cap that to be number one in the world for gold medals won. Basically China has built a national sports machine over the past x number of years. Recently China has been called a medal machine that is crazy for gold. For a number of years, scientists and coaches have been coming into villages to take anthropometric measurements – shoulder widths, thigh length, arm length, etc and getting children to perform all sorts of tests. Then the selected, often ages 4-5, are taken away from village life as they know it and thrust into cold steel buildings where 8 to a room sleep on cot beds – here they are forced to train for their ‘new passion.’ These kids train hours and hours, under banners and signs with slogans such as ‘ fight for your country.’ There is no more play time, relaxation, or thoughts of what they’d like to do when they are older. They will see their parents for less than 2 weeks a year, and at the first sign of failure and inability to bring back gold they are thrust back out into the real world – often without the education or life skills to lead a normal adult life, and the belief that winning is everything. 80% of the countries retired athletes are plagued with unemployment, poverty, depression, and serious health problems.

In fact, this method was modeled after old Soviet style systems – which produced the Romanian gymnasts and doped up East German swimmers. But wasn’t this a thing of the past? You’d think, but only 2 years ago a sports school in a northern China province was busted for routinely injecting students with steroids.

So this is what it takes to bring home gold for your country. Yes we have amazingly gifted athletes who will beat these odds that are stacked against them and win gold anyways, but for most, they aren’t fooling themselves – they know what they are up against. Rather then criticizing our athletes who fail us this year, let’s support them – regardless of what place they get. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take the 20th placed athlete vs the alternative. I may not fully understand what goes into getting to even that position in the world – but I bet during their athletic career it’s a lot more passion, work, dedication, sacrifices then most of us will see or experience in a lifetime. And if they can come back personal satisfied with their results, despite the negative media attention, and continue living an existence of happiness and victory then all the better – and besides who said they were going to the Olympics to win gold for ‘us’ anyways?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

youngin's - dowload this.

i always get a kick out of hearing 'this is how the young folks do it and you better learn it if you want to understand them'.

why? so i can lol with them? have 200 watered down relations? are they employing me? do they have something to teach me? did they fastrack my years of education and suddenly know more than me? do they think i subscribe to the 'it's all about me' mantra?

what more can we do to messenger, blackberry, text, pin, facebook, myspace, blog, forum, chat room, email, phone, sign, upload, skype, ring tone, rss feed the reality at some point over the course of their lives they will have to WORK HARD & SMART?

it's not to suggest i don't think their is value in understanding young people, in fact i think young people have infinitely more potential then they themselves are even aware - but the reality is they need to understand that success in life through relationships, jobs, education, athletics, pretty much anything lies squarely on the foundation of focusing on SMART HARD WORK and no matter how many way's to sunday we have tried / try / will try to circumnavigate the R.E.A.L.I.T.Y. It can't be done.

we make a profit from distracting young people with things they don't need. we bombard their sensors with 100 things at 1% instead of 2-3 things at 30-50% and around the world there are millions of people trying to figure it out.

intelligent young people understand this. they understand it because somewhere along the line of 0-19, they were taught by someone who didn't cave into the "you have a voice that needs to be listened to so you can share your perspective on the backdrop of nothingness" campaign we seem to be in the midst of.

ok... text you what, after you've put in your time then come blog to me and i will be more than happy to rrs feed you back, until then, you are likely to be recanting something you downloaded from someone else that appeals to you because it fire walls WORKING SMART & HARD.

and for all those 'majority' who say - you are off your rocker... you need us i have two letters for you. GM. That brilliance started the recession.

WE need each other. Society is an interdependent ecosystem dependent on 3 things for survival.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Live Within Your Means

A very timely article was sent to our leadership forum at the end of last week titled "5 signs that you are living beyond your means". What has happened since is a stream of emails have gone out to our teams around the topic of money and what the realities that surround it really are. In response, we have received great communications back from our coaches who are starting to realize the importance of following their passions, being truly blessed that they enjoy their work and that when they work hard at what they love, the money will follow.

What we are trying to do is educate our teams (who are generally from the echo-boomer generation - the caudled, instant gratification, need and want everything now era) on the importance of taking the right steps to a prosperous future and that they do not need everything right away, just because the media says they do.

One major issue is that we work in a difficult environment that surrounds us around people who have a significant amount of money and all the "toys". What this does is sparks us all to want the same. The only problem is that we usually do not stop and think about what it took these people to get to this point and how hard they had to work to get there. Because of the era we grew up in, and what we are accustomed to (buy now, pay later - the new world of credit), we see it and want it all now. The reality is that it would take us 10-20 years of buckling down and working extremely hard (with a plan) to set ourselves up to reap the rewards.

Some advice - develop a 1yr, 5yr and 10yr plan in which you plan to take the right (smart) steps to ensure you are consistently "living within your means" and have placed yourself in a career that you are passionate about and are willing to work hard everyday at. If this means taking a step back to consolidate, so be it!

Here is the link to the article written by Glenn Curtis, on behalf of Yahoo Finance that touches on these 5 areas you need to consider when assessing your spending:
  1. Your credit score is below 600.
  2. You are saving less than 5%.
  3. Your credit card balances are rising.
  4. More than 28% of your income goes to your house.
  5. Your bills are spiraling out of control.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer Spoilers.

Summer spoilers.

I’m all for getting new and exciting things that make our lives more enjoyable, provided there is real / deliberate / useful and tangible purpose.

We have the great fortune of spending summers at the lake with our kids. There’s nothing like the peace & quiet, warm breezes, morning sunrises or late night camp fires. Having said that, there are some things more annoying than a blind date with Paris Hilton.

#1. Those three words – let’s go tubing.
1st of all, if I see one more sun burnt fat kid with their legs hanging out of a tube as they are towed randomly down a lake by their ridiculously stupid (and lazy) parents, I’m going to hurl. Tubing…. much like downhill skiing where you are dropped off at the top and take a straight snowplowed line down a ski hill….. is not an athletic accomplishment. If your little Johnny is tuckered after tubing, be worried.
For parents, why don’t you just use the money you would spent on gas to start your campfire.

#2. The Z-mans Jetboat.

There’s nothing more annoying than a guy who starts up his bored out - hemi’d up - two on the floor - gypsum saddled v-tech jetboat and hurls himself across the lake breaking the sound, speed and annoying barrier. Oh yeah and 30 foot rooster tails went out of fad at the same time rat tails did in the late 80’s. Get a life, we know you are fast, there’s no functional purpose to that bat-ma-boat other than to annoy the other inhabitants of the lake (and wildlife). You’re a loser.

#3. The Jetski.

Back in the day when you had to start, pull yourself up, and then control that big arm – sure, that was athletic. But to sit on a jetski and do endless donut after endless donut is not a) serving any purpose or b) adding to the value of your intelligence or lake ambiance. It’s annoying – YOU are annoying – yes we saw how tight the turn was - now take it back, slap down the rest of the cash and buy a boat that you can cruise on, waterski behind or entertain your friends with or something equally as functional.
Yes… we know you can get really close to us and bang a left at the last minute, splashing us with your wake, but the only guy that appreciates that is the Z-man. perhaps you can frolic in his wake and accidentally submarine.

Now the big lesson here is don’t impulse purchase. If you take your kids in when you buy the boat, trailer and 9n’s – of course they are going to say ‘get the tube’. Because it’s easy. they can just lay there and think they are cool. Also, don’t ever buy a jet ski. All the cools things you did for the test drive – well, that’s max – there’s really not much more to add and lastly, if you get the equivalent to the Z-mans jetboat – start a group, find yourself a lake that no one else is on and race back and forth to see who had the fastest run, biggest rooster, and the end of the day devour the fastest cob of corn with fewest teeth.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Accepting Feedback - Learning to Change

It would be ideal to live in a world where individuals had the ability to accept constructive feedback and also possess the ability to deliver feedback in a manner that is truly beneficial to the person receiving it.

Unfortunately, this is not how people generally operate and tend to go the path of doing anything to protect themselves from confronting reality and accepting feedback which they may/may not know as the truth. What we usually see, do and hear is outright denial. Most people will deflect the issues instead of accepting them and choose to place the problem somewhere else, therefore not taking responsibility of their own actions. Others minimize the feedback’s importance to make it seem irrelevant or something that is not done on a frequent basis. Many opt to go the next step of attacking the person who provided the feedback, but in a manner that appears to justify the attack with sound reasoning and what have you.

In the feedback process, the problems don’t usually lie in receiving positive feedback. Most of us are willing to hear about it and enjoy paying attention to the things we are doing well. Negative feedback, however, is far more difficult to receive. Addressing negative feedback is to recognize and accept it, and then to make a concentrated effort to change. In order to undertake any change, it is important to recognize that change does not happen quickly or easily. Each of us has certain traits, idiosyncrasies and habits that have been with us for as long as we can remember. Therefore, It is helpful to assess a timeline of what one is capable of changing.

Bottom line, CHANGE IS NOT EASY! We have heard this several times before and I am sure people will not argue with this if you have already tried changing aspects of your lives. In order to change, an individual must be willing to accept feedback and also recognize what behaviors need to be changed and then put forth the required effort to make the change. The reason this becomes a challenge for most is because each of us are secure with our current state and are comfortable without exerting the energy required to facilitate change. There is an uncertainty and discomfort with facing change which leads to people becoming nervous at the possibility of failing to make the necessary changes required to improve one’s overall well being.

Professionals consider three great motivators that initiate change. These motivators are Fear, Pain and Reward. Understand that there will be tough times ahead, however the rewards will be worth the entire process. Learn to work on accepting feedback, share what you’re trying to improve on with your colleagues/friends/family and tackle the changes head on.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Everything in life is run by some type of system, meaning that there is a structure that is defined by its parts and processes. The most successful systems are formed when the objects within the system repetitively follow the procedures in place that allow the system to thrive, or allow the process to take over. Within every system there is a hierarchy that is in place which allows the process of action to form. When each part of the system does its defined duty within the structure, the system gains not only strength, but the sustainability necessary to achieve its desired result.

Bees for example have a three tiered hierarchy; workers, drones, and the Queen.

Worker bees gather food for the hive, clean the hive, and help rear the young. They also collect nectar and water, as well as pollen, which they carry back to the hive. Essentially worker bees are the ones who carry out the day to day tasks of the hive allowing it to thrive.

Drones have only one purpose in life, to mate with the queen. They cannot forage, make pollen, sting, or make beeswax. They are future fathers who after mating die. Their sole existence is in making sure that the species continues by serving the Queen.

The Queen is designed to lay eggs for the hive. She is the mother of the hive and there is only one per hive. Only two things will allow the Queen to leave the hive, 1) to mate, and 2) by reproducing enough bees to allow swarming. In reproduction the Queen is a model of efficiency; producing exactly what is needed for the hive and then creating a new queen when it is time to swarm.

The interesting fact about bees is that in their hierarchy, the Queen is not the final authority on all matters. In fact, worker bees signal the Queen telling her when it is time to start anew and swarm.

There is a lot to be learned by observing successful systems. In business there is a hierarchy that is also three tiered. Successful businesses have people that do the actual work that needs to be done in order for success to happen (workers). There is middle management whose sole purpose is to answer to the boss and help create workers that will do their jobs effectively and efficiently (drones). The boss (Queen) oversees everything that is going on with the business and makes personnel decisions. A good boss will look to expand when the workers have proven that it is time to move on and/or change directions.

Unfortunately for us, the business world is not the same as the world of bees because of three reasons, 1) our workers usually either believe that the system is not going to benefit them (lack of trust in middle management or the boss), 2) that they are deserving of higher stature within the system (reap before they sow), or 3) we believe our systems are successful when they are filled with faults.

What we can learn in order to combat these three reasons for system failure is 1) as management, earn the trust of your employees. Get to know them and allow them to see that you do have their best interests in mind. Allow them to believe that through their ability to follow the systems in place they will be rewarded if they are willing to work the system correctly, 2) recognize hiring mistakes early and make adjustment accordingly. If your personnel are trying to reap before they are willing to sow, cut your losses and move on from your mistake. If you are unwilling to recognize your mistakes, take accountability for them, and then make the changes necessary, then you are the fault in the system not your employees, and 3) analyze your methods of operation and hold yourself to the same standards that you hold your employees to. You can only blame others for so long before you have to look internally and see that you and your systems are the problem. Successful systems do not need to be altered (bees have not changed their systems ever because it is efficient) they just need the proper leadership to make sure that their integrity is maintained.

Success is learned through studying success. There is no need to reinvent systems when there are plenty of examples out there in the world to model. If you want to succeed in life you need to think like a Queen bee. Create your surroundings with what you need to succeed and then when success is achieved follow your workers on the next path, after all, they are just responding to your ability to lead.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If Darwin Were Alive Today

While Darwinian Evolution may be a debateable theory, it has at least given us a model to understand change and adaptation. Giraffe's grew long necks to reach their food, people became more erect which improved their gait and helped humanity cover greater distances which has helped us populate nearly the entire planet; hence our population has survived and thrived.

At the root of Darwinian evolution is the postulation that minor adaptations provide selective advantage to individuals in a species which will be propegated, and unfavorable adaptations will eventually die off. If two giraffe's with shorter necks had a baby giraffe, and it's neck was even shorter, it would not be able to get enough food and thus it would not pass along it's new genetic trait of a short neck.

So the question (and the point of today's blog) is how is the human species continuing to evolve, and what traits are required to survive and thrive in today's world? To be fair, that's a very loaded question. One answer is that physiologic adaptations are slow, and our world changes fast. Greater height, strength, speed, or agility may not make a difference as far as selective advantage for the way the world is changing today.

We don't have enemies to overcome via hand to hand combat to eat or mate.
We do not have to use our bodies for migration or food in most cases.

What the world needs is technology, systems, understanding. On the level that we can contribute, the world needs intellegence and skill. While intelleigence can be improved over time, natural 'street smart' intellegence may be genetic or learned via circumstances (upbringing) that can be hard to control.

What we are really talking about here is that if you want to advance; if you want to gain a selective advantage that will move your lineage forward in this age of the world- you need brains and you need skills.

The kind of skill and the kind of intellegence that really make a difference are those that allow you to stay ahead of the curve. To remain indespensible, a trend setter (like Madonna who has been 'popular' for 20 years). We are talking about the learned skill of reinvention.

Twenty years ago our business culture was based on heirarchial 'silos' where skills were specialized, and within a specialty, all you could hope for was to replace the person above you with a) greater education b) seniority c) proven skill or d) ass-kissing to the Nth degree.

Today we see an integrated business system where specialties co-exist to contribute to the final product or service. To advance to the higher levels of management or ownership, you need better skill (to understand, motivate, and align people), knowledge, and relevent experience.

Twenty years from now, we can only guess how our business world will be organized except to say- expect change.

That means that as leaders (of other people or just of our own destiny) we need to be able to understand threats (to our business or to our jobs) and offer greater value to our customers, teammates, and employers so that we do not become replaceable. You need the insight (knowledge) and the skill (situation or job specific or transferrable skills) to make yourself valuable in an ever-changing business environment.

My guess is that short-sighted individuals who cannot work within a team who insist on instant gratification... are like a short-necked giraffe who is almost done eating all of the grass around them, and is about to realize the only thing left are the leaves on tall trees.

DON'T get left behind. Anticipate your potential fate, and reinvent before you are dispensed. This entry, by the way, is as much warning as you are ever going to get. Your boss or the Prime Minister are not going to warn you that you'll be fired on Monday or to save for a recession if you don't reinvent. The world waits for no one so either get busy adding value for yourself, or you are already losing ground.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pain is only Information

When I was in my 3rd year of University I took a 3-week canoeing course. I was amongst 30 students registered who traveled to Northern Ontario during the late summer to learn how to canoe. We were lucky to experience 3 weeks of pleasant weather yet on the last 3 days during our practical examination our luck ran out and weather worsened. The skies became grey, the temperature was not more than 10 degrees and with the wind blowing and rain falling it became very cold on the lake.
Over those 3 cold days we were on the lake doing our practical examination on all the canoe fundamentals we learned. Most were in the canoe but the last test was the canoe over canoe rescue and this meant we all had to get in the water. We dreaded it because of the weather and some of us even questioned whether or not our instructor would actually make us do this last test. Needless to say, nobody wanted to go into the water during the canoe over canoe rescue. It was freezing outside and even just sitting in the canoe practicing strokes we were all shivering. Just before the last test, our instructor took us into the cabin for a pep talk. What he said to us will remain with me forever:
“We WILL be doing the canoe over canoe rescue. It is the coldest day of the trip but we have to complete the course with this rescue! You will all go into the water and that water will be freezing and you will experience pain. But what I want you to remember is that pain is ONLY information.”
Wow I thought, what a great way to look at this kind of pain. If we can just train our minds to think of it nothing more than signals to our brain then the canoe over canoe rescue will be no problem and most other non-life threatening pain like sprinting to the finish line or even hitting your thumb with a hammer can be easily dealt with.

What is pain?
Pain though a complex phenomenon involving multiple systems can be considered like other types of information our brain receives. But how do our sentient bodies process pain? When we experience noxious chemical, thermal, or mechanical stimuli that has potential to cause damage to our body our nociceptors become stimulated. These receptors then transmit a signal along the spinal cord to the brain and result in the experience of pain that can motivate us to stop harmful activity in order to prevent additional pain or damage to the body.

Pain is highly subjective to the individual experiencing it and therefore thresholds are different depending on the person. Yet, it is in the opinion of this author that like all information that comes our way, we have the conscious choice on how we let pain information affect our decision (and action) after the neurological processing to the brain and body part occurs. Some will choose to ignore the information while others will choose to heed the information. Both ignoring and heeding the information serve to benefit us at different times and we must be wise when it comes to understanding the pain we are feeling. We first must determine what type of pain is being felt because understanding this will determine our action. There are 3 different types of pain:

1)Somatic Pain: This pain originates from ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels fasciae and muscles. Ie: A torn ACL or the burn of the quadriceps muscle during a race.
2)Visceral Pain: This pain originates from the body’s viscera, or organs. Ie: Pancreatic cancer.
3)Neuropathic Pain: Is caused by injury to the nervous system that affects the spinal cord and nerves that conduct information to the brain and body, ie: Sciatic nerve pain.

We must be able to differentiate between the 3 types of pain we are experiencing. Obviously with neurological, visceral and most types of somatic pain it is important to heed what information is being sent by our receptors to our brain but in the case of exercise and minor injuries pain (somatic pain), it is just information that we can do a better job of dealing with.

I did the canoe over canoe rescue that day. I froze and yes it was painful but I kept a calm and collected composure that did not allow myself to think of the pain as an inhibitor. Most students overreacted when they experienced the pain of cold water and it probably prevented them from carrying out the goal of doing a well-executed canoe over canoe rescue. Don’t get me wrong, my nociceptors were fully firing to my brain but mentally I had control over the amount of pain that my brain normally would tell my body to feel.
In the case of physical fitness, going past the pain threshold our muscles usually bear can make us stronger, faster and fitter. In the case of minor injuries like bumping your head on a corner or being punched in the shoulder if we can process this information as simply being a signal that does no permanent damage we can become mentally stronger. We will then be able to go beyond this superfiscial pain, avoid hopping around, swearing and complaining with the feeling of pain. By no means am I saying we have to become masochists but yet consider how martial arts is taught – by showing pain it is considered a weakness. Pain is only information.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Inversely Related

This weekend I was involved with our John Henry Bikes cycling team that participated in the very popular 335km Seattle to Portland ride. Beyond the ride and camaraderie, the time in the saddle allowed me some thinking.

A few of our team members named Jay and Erin Irwin, avid and passionate cyclists, treated us to their version of hospitality. They organized dinner reservations, accommodations with directions, and even laid on breakfast, which they had purchased out of their own pockct for 20 people, set up and had ready for a 4am meal.

Members of our team also all wore the same jersey. Each asking to purchase and be a part of the team and represent our shop.

Neither the two organizers or the group were looking for credit or a special favour. They were just doing what they felt was a good thing. In each of the examples there wasn't the slightest bit of greed or "you owe me one" mentality. It was just plain generosity.

These people aren't doing these sorts of things as an inducement for business or friendship. They just do it.

None of these people expect me to write a blog about them and nor would they want me to talk about them either. They just do what they do and it reaps rewards they would never expect.

Observation: The value of a generous gesture is inversely related to the expectations of that gesture.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Is the most necessary component of personal growth and development. To force people to grow, you must consistently be on them. To be a great leader, you must learn to challenge yourself and those around you to ensure that together you achieve more at every opportunity. Leaders "go get" and make things happen for themselves, they do not sit back and let things happen that they have no control over, in other words, leaders dictate their life path.

There are 3 great ways that leaders can motivate people. These are fear, greed and trust. When you propose a challenge to someone and want a positive reaction, a word of advice is to make sure to utilize these 3 tactics. For example: If someone fears things like embarrassment or that they will miss out on the opportunity - they will be motivated to perform. If someone is driven by greed and always wanting more for themselves (whether recognition or monetary items) - they will be motivated to perform. Lastly, if you have spent the time to develop a trust-based relationship with someone through never letting them down, providing many examples of helping them succeed previously - they will be motivated to perform.

Challenge is the key to every single victory. Without a tangible goal, people lose focus and become stagnant. Such as the popular examples of spinning their wheels or treading water and not moving forward.

Some questions to ask yourself as a leader - Overall - Do I challenge myself on a consistent basis and share that with my team? Do I challenge my team on a consistent basis? - Daily - What did I challenge my teammate today with so that they can become better? Did I adhere to my plan and my challenges today?

The most important part of this entire process is when these challenges are accomplished and the victories are celebrated, shared and reflected upon, another challenge must be created immediately.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friends & Enemies

‘There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself-an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.” –Antisthenes

There are two things every person needs in life to succeed; friends and enemies. Why, because in friendship we gain trust and support, while in enemies we gain a drive. I know I am consistently saying that motivation needs to come from within, which is true, but having a force that pushes you beyond your perceived breaking point is a great asset as well. Your friends will be ones who will catch you when you fall and your enemies will be the ones who allow you to get the fruit at the end of the branch.

Friendship is essential in success for two reasons; 1) because nothing is worth celebrating if you have to celebrate it alone, and 2) without honest encouragement and support you will have a much harder time achieving. Your creation of solid friendships is what has been proven to make you happier, healthier, and live longer. These are the people with whom you confide in with your most intimate thoughts, fears, and actions. These are the people who are at your side when you need them most and are willing to kick you in the rear when you succumb to a victim mentality. True friends are the ones who deserve partial credit for our accomplishments, but are unwilling to accept such accolades because they truly understand the sacrifices it took for you to succeed.

Despite the notion that we all need to get along, equal in importance to friendship is the creation of true enemies. These are not the enemies that you want to see harm done to, or the enemies you wish failure upon, but are the enemies whose sole purpose in life is to make you want success more than you would want it on your own. Enemies are essential in success for one simple reason; they exist and are trying to achieve the same thing as you. A true enemy gives you the opportunity to create great thoughts, they give you a chance to compete, and they allow you to sharpen you mind and generate a greater focus. Enemies also deserve partial credit for our accomplishments, but are unwilling to accept such accolades because you succeeded before they did.

Both friends and enemies are relationships based on dependence. No matter how empowered we believe we are, we are nothing without the formation of these two entities. In success we must depend on friendships as much as enemies because both will present us not only with the opportunity to succeed, but with the opportunity to really live our best lives as well. Ultimately our success depends mostly on the one we can control, which is ourselves, but there are external components in the equation of success as well. It is our ability to use these relationships to our advantage that will lead to our ability to succeed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Test of Time

After seeing some of the most successful people in the world today speak at conventions, reading their books, applying their principles, taking courses, surrounding myself with better people, and even coming up with a few good innovations of my own (I hope)... it has become more clear what separates a winner or a real success from the rest of the crowd. Quitting.

It never ceases to amaze me that every time I would attend one of the above speakers' key note addresses, the same question gets asked, "what's the secret of your success?"

Sometimes the answers vary, as I feel the speakers truly want to give something of a take-away to their audience. The fact is, the most common answer is not impressive, the action behind it is.

Those people we celebrate in terms of real career or philanthropic merit (not the one hit wonder popstars out there) are celebrated because they lasted beyond their 15 minute window, and they did not go out of style. Know why? Because they met every challenge head on and overcame them.

Those people who have a story worth telling- they all had adversity in one shape or form. In fact, even when we look at our swim upstream team, we have collectively been through;
- abuse
- fire destroying a business one contributor owns
- the forced closure of one business location for another owner
- addiction or parental addiction
- overwhelming debt
- relationship issues
- near fatal motor vehicle accidents
- being stabbed
- being mugged
- overcoming weight management issues
- having to start over in a new city
- run ins with the law
- being threatened with a lawsuit
- deaths of those we love
- countless physical injuries taking us away from pursuits we are passionate about
- getting over ourselves

The above list is surprising to look at even after writing it. What is not surprising, however, is that the choice to quit was presented at several times to each individual in the group and, in most cases- ignored.

We've all quit at something at one point or another (be it a job, a course in school, a relationship, etc); but we have also all persevered through some real adversity when we cared enough about the outcome to do so.

Why not write your own list of what you've endured... you're still alive today aren't you? Guarantee there is more capability within yourself than you think is possible. What obstacle have you been dodging that you really want to overcome? Is there a rewarding achievement that is still on the 'to do list' because it's too much work to get there?

Time to wrap your mind around what you've already done, and how much more you can; than to spend one more instant on reasons why you can't.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What will you believe?

The Dove Beauty Campaign is a self-esteem fund aimed at young girls. Whether, you have heard of it or not, check out the following 2 short video clips (45 seconds each)

This is a great example of a high profile company using their ‘success’ to really try and make a difference with one of many examples of backward thinking in our society and culture. Basically, through ads and confidence building programs, Dove is bringing awareness of self esteem issues among young girls – the reasons, how society plays a role, how the family plays a role, and then building programs to educate and get the right messages out. Often low self esteem among girls, and combined with family, and other issues can easily lead to an eating disorder.

A lot of this comes down to media and what we choose to believe vs. what is real. What messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis. And if you think that young girls are not affected, think again. 8 % of women suffer from an eating disorder, and it is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescent girls. Sure, there may be genetic predispositions. But if the genes are the seed then the environment is what makes it grow. Even higher, are the general self esteem numbers - 50% of 11 year olds wish they could look different. 11 years old!

Mixed messages permeate our culture today. Catholic churches emphasize spiritual perfection while protecting pedophile priests. A nation that advocates moral values, supports the world’s largest pornography industry. A government that is fighting a war against terrorism, yet is the largest illegal arms dealer in the world. There are many examples of all sorts of messages. Today, there are more opportunities for girls then ever before, but too often girls receive the conflicting messages of ‘silence and assertiveness at home, school, and from boys.’ Then, they grow up and are encouraged to lead companies, raise families, run marathons, meanwhile taking their fashion and fitness cues from models half their age – most who have been surgically enhanced or whose photos are air brushed. Too many are trained to be meek and taught to be daring, and these contradictions only intensify with social class and age.

If you’re a parent, have you evaluated yourself and these habits? Chances are if you are caught up in the way you look, constantly dieting, or have low self-esteem your daughters will pick up on this. Too many times I’ve talked with women who are very concerned about their appearance and are always on a diet, who have children with eating disorders. Their response is very often ‘ I just don’t know where she gets it from or why she developed this.’ Perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror. It’s not easy, and the above mentioned contradictory messages make it sometimes very difficult. But we need to start somewhere.

Who are our role models today? Are we teaching our daughters, sisters, nieces to look up to people who have accomplished real goals – not just plastered their faces on reality shows and make their mark by copyrighting the slogan “that’s hot”. Do we look up to Oprah and Hilary Clinton? Or how about great male role models – Wayne Gretzky, or Lance Armstrong to name a few.

What if you know someone who has an eating disorder? Do you ignore it, or do you talk to them? Are you a parent, teacher, sister, friend, aunt/uncle and someone you know is affected? Don’t just sit ideally and watch them turn into themselves. Talk to them. Allow them to speak and open up. Don’t blame, or make excuses for them. Just listen and offer advice. An Eating disorder is a complicated psychological disorder – and you’re not expected to cure this person. But a lot of times, the person will feel like they are in their own world, or be ashamed. And it’s surprising how much someone who is stuck with this disease has to say. Allow them to open up and trust, don’t let them be silent. Encourage them to find someone, anyone, to talk to.

What we can do now - Educate girls on being healthy – and liking themselves for who they are. Allow them to realize their many talents other then ‘looking pretty.’ – athletics, intelligence, funny, etc. Get your daughters involved in sports – allow them to build confidence with this. Celebrate athletic and academic achievements. Introduce girls to positive role models, and stop worshipping the Paris Hiltons and Pamela Andersons (this goes for dads too).

There’s lots more to be said, and a lot more we all need to work on, but ultimately it does come to each of us an individual. It’s a choice we consciously make every day – will I fall prey to media advertising and what marketing wants me to believe – or do I use my own very intelligent brain to realize that’s wrong, and make a choice for myself to not be affected and educate my daughters to not be affected?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Challenge to the Dreamer

Many people feel that creativity and innovation are interchangeable terms. However, there lies a subtle difference between them that tells a story of how we can all improve our lives.

Creativity is a skill that very few possess on a day to day basis but it is a skill that each of us has been in touch with throughout some stage of our lives. We will sit and dream and come up with a fantastic idea. An idea we feel will transform the world. Those with incredible creativity will consistently come up with new and improved ideas. These ideas are often the beginnings of world changing concepts and when we hear how people came up with them we are often surprised at the ease with which the connections flowed. Creativity is definitely a necessary and valued characteristic for our world to see constant improvement. Creativity is the concept of thinking up brilliant ideas.

Innovation is the action of creativity. It is the motion of putting the creative idea in place and making it come to reality. Innovators will dream but they will also move through a plan to see their dream come to life. Innovation is bigger than creativity. Creativity is seen as only a part of a bigger process.

In an organization creative people and innovative people are necessary but an innovator is far more valuable because they can do both practical activities, like putting together a plan, and vision activities, like coming up with a brand new idea that will move people forward.

In your organization strive to be called an Innovator. This is highest form of flattery one can be known for as it shows that you have grown from dreamer to someone with a plan to make your dreams a reality.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lessons from a child

The past few days I’ve been fortunate to spend a significant amount of time with my 6month old niece Asha. I had visited Chicago in December and saw her at 3weeks old and to see how many changes there have been over the past 6months is amazing.

She’s constantly trying to figure things out, absorbing everything that’s going on around her, physically pushing herself to her maximum and making it clear when she is hungry, thirsty or tired. Everyday she is figuring things out and regardless of how many times something doesn’t work; eventually she will make it happen.

It got me thinking how amazing babies and children truly are. To think how much they are capable of taking in and relentlessly asking questions until they feel they have an answer that is suitable to their liking. There is no cap on how much they can learn, how much they can do or being tired to do something…. they do everything full tilt.

I found a site breaking down the typical milestones children go through:

Timeline of childhood milestones

2months – Smiles at the sound of your voice
3months – Raises head and chest when lying on stomach. Grasps objects.
4months – Babbles, laughs and tries to imitate sounds
6months - Moves objects from hand to hand. Rolls from back to stomach and stomach to back
7months – Responds to own name. Crawling begins and learning to use both legs and arms to move.
9months – Sits without support. Crawls with both arms and leg
12months – Walks with or without support. Starting to say words
18months – Walks independently. Speaks more. Drinks from a cup
2years – Runs, speaks in two-word sentences, follows simple instructions
3years – Climbs well, speaks in multiword sentences, sorts objects by shapes and colors
4years – Gets along with people outside of family, Tells names and address, hops, skips, gets dress

The point of listing these is to show that so many milestones, accomplishments, and improvements can be achieved in a window of 4 years time. There is no reason why teenagers and adults should not thrive for the same kind of production in their respective lifestyle. We all have the ability to constantly learn, apply information, challenge our self, and ultimately improve mentally, physically and professionally.

Time and time again we see individuals remain content or complacent with their production and performance in their profession, academics, relationships or sports. This needs to stop and it starts by emulating children’s ability to reach new milestones at such a fast rate.

Realise that there is no reason why we can’t set the sky as the limit and challenge ourselves to extend our timeline of milestones.

My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.” Agnetha Faltskog

Jason Sarai

Friday, July 04, 2008


From birth until death positive recognition is something that everyone wants in this life and because of this we are destroying the power of truly being recognized. There has been a shift in the past 10 years from recognizing exceptional talent to recognizing participation. This shift has created a booming need for 12th place ribbons and participation trophies, but has done nothing to prepare people for a competitive world where they will only be positively recognized for outstanding achievement.

Case in point, the Mayor of Beechwood Ohio cancelled the Little League All Star game because having an All Star team hurts the self esteem of the children who do not make the team.

We live in a society where we are now preventing our children from rejection and attempting to make them believe that everyone is equal in talent and skill. We are a society that does not prepare out children for adulthood or the professional world and then wonder why other countries are closing if not surpassing the once existing professional achievement gap. We are a society that doesn’t think our children can recognize that other kids have talents that they do not have, and are ok with it.

I will say it again, we are not all created equal when it comes to skill, learning that you will not be recognized for mediocrity until you are an adult is too late, and our children are smarter than we give them credit for and know when the recognition we are giving them is not deserved.

Sheltering kids, or adults for that matter, from rejection to protect self esteem is asinine, because we learn through failure and rejection more than we do through success. Overcoming failure is a greater boost to self esteem than you saying “good job” for essentially doing nothing. Not recognizing outstanding achievement in order to protect the self esteem of those lesser skilled is even more ridiculous because we are now making excellence a non-achievement.

Competition is a positive for children when it is presented the right way because we are training them for a competitive world. In a competitive world their will be people who are recognized for greatness, while others will go unnoticed for being good. In a competitive world you will have to deal with not feeling that good about yourself while having to build that self-esteem yourself.

If we truly care about the self-esteem of children we will prepare them while protecting them, not just protect them alone. We will allow them to understand how the world works outside of your protective arms. We will let our kids know that they do not deserve positive recognition for simply showing up and participating, but earn positive recognition through special achievement.

If we fail to encourage exceptional achievement and the recognition that comes with putting forth such efforts, we might as well train our kids to accept watching others surpass them in the world, where there are no 12th place ribbons.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How'd You End Up Where You Are?

Yesterday my wife and I were discussing the smart decisions we'd made that allowed us to follow a life direction that led us to meet great people along the way, including of course- each other. To this she replied, "but what about so and so, she's terrific and her husband is an ass".

That is the purpose of today's entry... understanding your "lot in life". That phrase, by the way- is bullshit. It removes any ownership over your own actions leading you to where you are. Now there are rape victims who did not make a decision that they deserved to be raped for- in fact there are many injustices that do not flow from action-reaction or 'bad things happen to bad people'. That is far to general a rule and far too big a paint brush...

What we do have to understand, however, is the enormous impact our actions, inactions, decisions, and indecisions have on landing us where we are throughout our lives.

Let's use the aforementioned great girl. No names here because we all know a woman just like her. You know the kind- puts other people before herself, wouldn't hurt a fly, heart bigger than her body, always first to give others the credit, and married to or dating an asshole. Doesn't add up? Most of the time, it actually does.

Any great strength can also be a weakness from another perspective. The flip side of putting others first is never attending to your own needs. If this everygirl is so concerned with giving her friends advice, helping them out, feeling their pain as her own, etc etc etc... there is nothing of her own strength left for her. No wonder she finds the arrogance radiating from the asshole appealing. With little true self confidence of her own, she seeks that in someone else who has that, if nothing else, to offer her.

Whether this relationship is doomed to emotional or physical abuse- this is often (not always but often) the genesis of such dysfunctional relationships. Just as this girl enables others to keep sucking the life out of her by always coming to her when in trouble, she enables her partner to treat her like garbage little by little until it becomes a push, a slap or a punch.

This is not to excuse the asshole in the above example... he should have much worse coming to him- a wife who will wake up one day and leave him in the dust, never to see his kids again, and the realization that somebody was actually prepared to love him unconditionally but he screwed it up and he has nowhere to look but in the mirror and no one to hate but himself.

The point of sharing is to dramatically demonstrate the cost of our decisions if they are not made intentionally. That is, no decision can be a very bad decision. If your spouse threatens you, belittles you, or tries to break you down to make themselves feel better... no decision or action taken is the same as choosing to let the action continue through your expressed consent.

Just as my mentor can trace his happiness to a string of consistent good decisions and the choice to work hard for what he wants...

I hope that those who are unhappy with their current state take an active part in bettering their situation. Because we refuse to lend an ear to those who are unhappy with where they are, but won't actually DO anything about it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Future Obituary Column

Joshua Andras Allen, owner of ‘My Companies’ and creator of ‘My Creations’ died of natural causes at his family’s summer home. His grand children played in the apple trees next to him and a nearby freight-train rumbled past when he took his last breath while asleep during a break from his daily garden work.

Joshua Allen founded, directed and lead a multitude of companies within the progressive health and fitness industry around the world. Along with authoring books in the field he lectured and educated his research topics that span functional living in today’s society including Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, Athletic Training Principles, Human Potential and Self Mastery. Making his mark was also evident in his creative endeavors. His artistic talents were reflected in his art and multimedia productions through the making of books, documentaries and websites showcasing genres of photography, videography and graphic design. Much of his work in the health and fitness stream touched into his art and can be seen in his photo and documentary collections. Most recognized is his acclaimed documentary ‘My Documentary’ that was created on the heels of his career at Innovative Fitness to which he owes much of his success.

Canadian born in London, Ontario on September 12, 1978 he was raised by his parents, Peter and Katalin Allen who taught him the values of hard work to make something of life and to give back to the world which has supported you. Early years were hard financially as his parents tried to find their place in careers while raising 3 children and completing graduate degrees at school. His parents always preached a successful attitude, encouraged him to be his best, and to learn as much as possible from musc to art to sports. Childhood learning outside of school was spent playing piano, hockey, basketball, swimming, and drawing.

During teenage years he realized his passion for both fitness and art. Music was left aside at age 16 while fitness and art became a greater focus. Graffiti art was a passion of his starting at age of 15 and he developed the skills quickly to be recognized at an early age as one of the best in Canada. Interest in health and fitness grew during these years and when he turned 17 he choose to study Health Sciences in University. Even though this made art more of a hobby, he still created much work. His first project in 2001 was the co-founding of, an international photo and video portal of art works. Later in 2007 he would write, direct and produce his first documentary video called ’Reefer Madness’. Studying Health Sciences led him to begin his career in health and fitness at the age of 20. When he turned 24 he joined Innovative Fitness where he eventualy went on to franchise 2 facilities both nationally and internationlly. During this time of business development he lead himself in many athletic adventures such as triathlons, marathons, hikes and cycling trips around the world. His biggest athletic achievements includes running 10 international Marathons and cycling across Canada & Europe. Not being one to only challenge himself, he empowered those around him to take on the same challenges as himself.
Much of his career work was done in the health and fitness stream. After the opening of his first Innovative Fitness in 2010 he took up writing and lecturing within the field of applied training principles, functional training for athletes and the sedentary. He always believed that with a client base never 100% injury free and only accessing coaches he needed to educate coaches at a higher level. This would ultmetely become another avenue that would make the Innovative Fitness empire even larger. In 2012 Joshua Allen married ’His Wife’ and during the next 5 years fathered 2 children, ’Boy’ and ’Girl’. He would later take his family overseas where he would open up a international Innovative Fitness franchise. Outside of running the buinesses he spent time creating various educational books on personal development, training technique, and photography books. Much of the photography seen in his books was taken during the years of travelling with Innovative and the destinations completed around the world with his teams. Though a difficult transition to take a family overseas he did always make time for them and put them first. This just meant longer harder days which he was definetely not new to. With 2 successful business up and running, in 2020 he began to spend more time on creating documentary films that both touched on subjects outside of the fitness stream and subjects that parelled the concepts of Innovative Fitness. He devloped many wildlife documentares and through this began the Allen Wildlife charity that would gain understanding of marine ecosystems and raise funds for their survival. At the age of 50 he took up a new challenge by opening a restaurant that had a purpose to bring family and friends together. There he had live music and catered an international quisine. In 2038, at the age of 60 he moved onto his farm property outside of the city where he could focus on raising granchildren and re-visiting painting by startng to paint canvases as a pasttme. He spent time visiting his family in other parts of the world.
Joshua Andras Allen is survived by his 2 children, his 7 Grandcildren, his younger brothers Tomi, David and sister Susanna. He was a ripe yet healthy age when he died.

Why Write an Obituary?
First of all, being my first blog on Swim Upstream I thought that this would be a good way to introduce myself to those who do not know me. The second and more important reason to why I wrote this obituary on myself was to allow myself to gain better clarity of what it is I want out of my life. With age 30 around the corner I had better have some idea of what I am going to get out of life before it passes me by. Time passes fast and we must all ceaze the day. Though some may call this process a kind of ’grim’ way of goalsetting I think it is a great way for picturing what it is you want the world to recognize you for. By taking the time in writing this I am now better able to gain some insight into what is important in my life and what values make up the core of who I am. Life is a game and I want to be a player!Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Brain Particles

Your brain is made of millions of synapses. Those synapses firing in the same manner and towards a consistent goal will make your thoughts a reality.

"We don't need to understand first to believe. We must believe first in order to understand."
St. Augustine

"The greater the dream, the greater the potential."
E. Paul Houby

"It is never too late to be what you might have become."
George Elliot

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
John Wooden

"Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure."
Norman Vincent Peale

"You will always move in the direction of your currently dominant thoughts."
Dr. Denis Waitley

"Often a recession is all in your mind."

"We're about as happy as we make up our minds to be."
Abraham Lincoln

"Negative thinking always repels; it consistently produces negative consequences."
Paul J. Meyer

"What you dwell upon be careful."
Paul Tracy

"Act as if it were impossible to fail and it shall be."
Dorothy Brandle

And so it shall come to pass. Fire the synapses in the same way, towards the same goals and in the right frame of mind...and you shall succeed.