Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your Story Is Important

He's never been a mayor, a govenor, or even a corporate executive. He's neither a high standing military player nor has he lead a powerful and large organization. He has never drafted any major piece of legislation or even served a full term in the Senate. Until today he has never even run a national campaign.

Add to this wonderful list of "never done its" the ominous "has" tried both marijuana and cocaine... and...his name in the post September 11th world has both Hussein and Obama in it!

Probably about 1,000,000 to 1 chance that in 2003 this man, Barack Hussein Obama, would be poised to lead the entire free world by taking the Presidency of the United States of America. You don't even need to be partisan to exclaim "incredible!!!"

Barack Obama, love him or hate him, has a few lessons to teach us all.
  1. Don't worry if you are qualified or not. 'Men are from Mars Women are from Venus' was written by former celibate monk John Gray, who then got married and consequently divorced. Good marketer but probably not what we call qualified. You can do whatever you want if you think you are qualified. See above for more research on subject.
  2. What you get from within you is more important that what people believe after they know they facts. Obama is a story teller. He tells his story and now people overlook the resume. He takes great strength from his experiences and that they can help America change. His experiences helping others...
  3. Obama tells everyone how he learns. He tells them about what he has done and not done. Most importantly he tells everyone who will listen, face to face, what he learns from all these experiences. He helps them through showing what he has done and how he has overcome.
In 2003 Obama wrote the first of his books, Dreams From My Father. It was ostensibly his story. It was about his challenges and his experiences.

In 2003 Obama wrote himself the best resume one could ever get. He wrote and probably learned why he could eventually stand on the precipice of leading the free world.

What could telling your story do for you?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Are you really listening?


A lot of leaders ask for information but not necessarily for feedback. Many will listen to feedback and then end up tossing it and doing their own thing. It is something that I have found myself unconsciously doing on occasion and I want to find out exactly why so many people do this? Is it a pride issue? Or in some cases, do you think leaders hesitate to ask for and implement advice because they think in some people’s eyes it shows a sign of weakness?


We often work with leaders who listen intently to what’s unfolding before them and even though some of the issues are critical, respond by saying “I would have done it this way” or “Yes, I see what you mean but you should do this instead”, totally discounting all advice. They are downloading information, perhaps using bits and pieces of it to validate what they already know or feel, but they’re not doing anything with the advice they were given. Most of the time its unsolicited and they let you know they didn’t ask for it either, making that one of the main reasons for not taking it into account.


If this type of behavior happens frequently, people will stop suggesting or giving well based feedback because they know it’s falling on deaf ears. They will learn to circumnavigate that leader ultimately causing a break in the team dynamic. Is that leadership or dictatorship? And we all know what that kind of dynamic does to self-worth. Is it power, politics or self-preservation? It doesn’t matter how secure we are, don’t we all want to be on top, the head honcho, to dominate those who we feel might just know more than we do?


Ego at play; no matter how much we want the best for the organization and its people, we all need to have our egos stroked now and then, don’t you think? This is a selfish play that seems to get in the way of so much potential success. Even if we think we know all there is to know, mastery comes from practicing from a position of having been there, done that. There is always something more to learn. You might be starting from a higher plane but just think of how much you’re going to pick up that you missed the first time around.


Whose responsibility is it to encourage people to give feedback, to bring ideas, thoughts and concepts to the table by actively engaging others with the intention of listening and learning? The leaders or the employees, or both?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

want me to 'show you the money'?

The acclaimed catch phrase, once spoken by Tom Cruise to Cuba Gooding Jr. seemed to preempt a real life tidal wave of greed that swamped almost every institution from pro sports to wall street.

Ironically our complex democratic system of kings, serfs and peasants, disables the little guy to having relevant input (after they have voted their leader into power). And unlike the past we insist on re-living, there is no modern day Robin Hood who stops the greedy owner / CEO / leader from stealing our hard earned bag of coins.




Here are 5 things that can be done to ensure we are no longer duped by his highness.

1.show me the plan.
no offence, but I’ve heard a lot of people claim a lot of things - few deliver. Nothing happens without a well executed plan and we’re done standing passively by while you toss out grandiose ideas that don’t come to fruition. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail – so before I pay $325 for a ticket / parking & food because you paid a guy $200 million for 7 years – show me my roi.

2.show me the track record.

if you want me to invest with and in you show me your past victories and I mean beyond the mile wide inch deep campaign you run to get me to like you. I’ll take inch wide mile deep because I’m smart enough to know it’s impossible to be everything to everyone like you insist on promising.

3.show me the value

the value to me. I realize you are super excited about how great it’s going to be for you, your city and your star player – but I’m one of the people who fills the seats and supports the game. let’s get back to how your entertainment relies on a bunch of little guys believing & investing in you day in and day out. When we lose the value, you lose the ability to make millions.

4.show me the tangible results

they are black and white. You succeeded or failed. Don’t launch a thank you Yankee’s tribute for your facility. Launch a why do we keep paying players obscene amounts of money before they have performed when we know historically that usually leads to them under performing. Reality is, if you said today $1/2 million for every single player per season, you would still have players. Give them another 5 when they make the playoff’s and another 10 when they win the world series. How much harder do you think people would work? You would never pay me 25 million prior to bringing my wheat to market and I've been farming for 7 generations. If you did, i'd likely care less if it was top quality either (just being obvious here)




5.show me the accountability

and listen closely. if you are going to open you yap about being the best, team / city / country etc, back it up with some tangibles in the accountability. even better, if you fail – don’t run away into exile – step up and take responsibility. eg: during my term as your leader I have a) taken us into war, b) lied to you all as people, c) not paid attention to crisis that were brought to my attention early and d) let greed and mismanagement go unpunished. All of this has led to the worse term ever by a leader by any leader in history and for that… I am deeply sorry and promise I won’t ever try to lead again, because obviously… I’m not that good at it and here is the money back for failing.



so… show me the plan, track record, value, tangible results and accountability and then I’ll be more than willing to show you my money.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Knowledge

Thomas Hobbes (born 5 April 1588 – died 4 December 1679) was an English philosopher, whose famous 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.

In one of his many philosophical discussions, Hobbs examines the difference between absolute and scientific knowledge. Absolute knowledge being unconditional and created by sensation and memory, while scientific knowledge being conditional and based on reasoning through causes and effects.


So, why is this important? Primarily because if we plan to evolve into better humans we need to have a certain amount of knowledge that will allow us to grow into what we desire. Ultimately this evolutionary process is described as living in reality, but learning your reality is easier imagined than acted upon.


The easiest, but not best way to know your reality is to amass as much absolute knowledge as possible because of its unconditional nature. Sensation and memory are powerful tools in attaining an understanding of our position in the world. Our primary instinct is to obtain positive sensations through our actions so that we can collect the memories necessary to remember how we can achieve positive sensation. While this is an essential step in acquiring absolute knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the positive sensations we are feeling are actually good for us personally. Our quest for positive sensation is the root of all negative action because our focus is on sensation and not on cause and effect, or scientific knowledge.


Just because of its conditional nature, scientific knowledge is not inferior to absolute knowledge. Scientific knowledge allows us the opportunity to actually see the effect our decisions have on our surroundings internal and external. While we might act on achieving euphoric sensations and have great memories of similar past actions, we are still capable of causing great damage to ourselves and those we surround ourselves with. Immediate satisfaction might be absolute, but it is not limited to one particular moment because its consequences have effects that will last far beyond our positive sensation.


In achieving knowledge of our reality we must be able to decipher what is an immediate need for positive sensation and an action that is actually good for us. This is the hardest battle we will face in life; go for immediate satisfaction or do what is best for ideals larger than us. Automatically our pull will be towards achieving instant gratification and in doing so we alienate our surroundings creating unforeseen negative consequences for our behavior.


If we actually take the time to combine our absolute and scientific minds we will learn that acting on sensation and memory alone will achieve great personal satisfaction, but if we incorporate the idea of cause and effect we will empower ourselves to make a greater impact on not just the lives we live, but in all the surrounding lives we potentially can influence. Essentially that is the point of understanding our reality; enhance our lives so that we can pay it forward and enhance the lives of those that are lucky enough to come in contact with us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who's Along For The Ride?


We've all heard that life has it's ups and downs.
The problem with human nature is- when we heard that, we were sunbathing on a beach or watching our plasma TV, or having a beer with great friends. The reason I say 'problem' is- human nature tells us most of our counterparts want to go touch that hot element we just got warned about.
Life isn't fair? Why wasn't I listening when so and so told me about this exact problem? Because we often lack the skill, experience, or desire to step outside our current reality to learn a preventative lesson. We'd rather crash the car first, and then practice safe driving second.

This is not to say that we are all headed for an inevitable 'crash' at some point in our lives. No, even though we are all headed for more adversity in our lives, the point of this blog is not to be the doomsayer. It's more to ask, who's in the passenger seat?

Who is along with you for the journey of your life? Why does getting out of bed in the morning make sense? Who adds value to your life?

At the end of the day, we all need something to look forward to, and pillars to pick us up when we have been battered to a near pulp. When things get so tough (even in good times) we need to have someone to share the trials, tribulations, and successes, or it doesn't make any sense.

Look at the politicians up for candidacy in the US federal elections. Why do we know about their wives, children, running mates, and their families (ie Sarah Pallin)? The reason is, we don't trust them unless we see them sharing/ involving/ deflecting credit to their families. We cannot as members of a society we'd like to keep virtuous, belive in a dictator who doesn't need and give support. We want to know who's joining them on their journey and we define their 'credibility' based on seeing their soul-mates.

The same is true for all of us. It's been said that success is defined by getting up one more time than you've been knocked down. Perhaps a better way to define success, is the reasons we have to get up. Chances are, those reasons have names, not dollar signs attached to them.

Take some time to reflect on where you are headed, and who's taking you there? Who are you leading? Are you leading anyone uphill through inspirationa? Are you leading anyone downhill through a bad example or negativity? Have you led anyone inside the car crash shown, or out of that car before it crashed?

Those people, and your relationship to them, are definately worth taking some time to think about today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Change is Hard



Last week Stan wrote his blog called ‘Change is Good’. The timing was perfect because it came at a time when I have been contemplating change. Stan’s blog outlined the ‘Stages of Change’ model – a breakdown of the steps one takes to make change in their lives. The model makes total sense and upon reading it one would believe that it can be easily done. Yet the reality is that most people do not make it to the 5th stage where the implemented changes become new lifestyle habits. How many of you reading this right now need to make changes in your own personal lives? Chances are that every one of us has changes we wish to make for the betterment of our lives. We as human beings have the ability to recognize these areas of our lives that need transformations and we have such good intentions to do so but rarely do we ever follow through. In most cases, we do not change because it is “too hard” or “too painful”. I asked myself why must change be so difficult for us to make?

The process of making change is not easy and the ‘Stages of Change’ model failed to give warning to us that to make change in our lives there will be experienced discomfort and that most of us will stop right there. I kept asking myself why? And how can I get to the last stage outlined in the model? We decline change in our lives for so many reasons, everything from it creating that sense of discomfort to some irrational fear that tells us that making change will expose us to pain. By undergoing change we fear making ourselves vulnerable, our pride may become broken or even our dignity taken away from us - even if it is false sense of dignity to begin with that gives us a feeling of security. This is all more than we can handle… Or (let me re-word that by saying) it is more than we want to handle.

I heard a great quote the other day: “Change moves at the speed of our pain”. Wow I thought, how true this is and how it resonated with me as I thought back to one year ago when a loved one of mine experienced a mental breakdown. I thought of his life and the changes he probably knew he had to make but did not for all the painful reasons one could give as an excuse. Until one day, all the emotions and negativity that existed in him manifested itself into a mental illness complete with anxiety disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts. It would not be until he almost experienced death where he would then consider making change in his life and how at that point it was even harder than one would ever imagine.

Is the speed of pain bringing you to a stop in your life? For most of us it is not until we experience pain at a higher level do we then begin making transformations in our lives. Only then, when the risk of not making change is greater than making change do we then take action. Funny is it not? Why do we wait so long and end up letting pain dictate when we make change? How about thinking this way to create change: Change moves at the speed of the love and support we get in our lives? Why wait until it is too late before making change in our lives? We must recognize the love and support we have before us through family, friends, teams, god and anyone else that is willing to stand beside us and help us take action. Do we really want to wait until the darkest hour to make change in your life? The last thing I would ever wish for would be to look back and say: “I should have done this when I had the chance”…. Don’t ‘should’ on yourself and get busy living by doing what it is you know you must do as opposed to doing what you want to do. The change road is not an easy road but it is the right road so take the exit.

Embrace the love and support you get and make change!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Depression My $#@

We all sit here reading the news and reacting like the end of the world is near. What we aren't hearing, which is the same as the last 100 years of the media, is anything good. We clearly live in a headline world where only a negative topic really yields viewers.

It does surprise me that we aren't hearing much about the fact that 19 in 20 people in the U.S. have a job. It does surprise me we hear little from the real estate moguls, who must have a buy signal right now. The news of Warren Buffet making 3.2 Billion last week didn't hit as hard as it usually would. The times they aren't really as bad as they appear. Certainly odd things are happening but if culled down we really are seeing only one thing:

"The winners are still winning."

Big businesses that make poor decisions aren't different from a small business or a person who has made bad financial decisions. The only thing is that they are bigger. And thus fall harder. Poor decisions are still poor decisions.

Winners are the people we most want to be and they display characteristics like these:
  1. Winners rely on themselves. They don't care if the market is up or down. the market will always be changing, they look within to get the answers and the courage to move in any situation.
  2. Winners understand the importance of relationships. Relationships help during "tough" times but because they rely on themselves they don't seek scapegoats or blame others. they use their relationships for and edge in the most human way possible.
  3. Winners understand their own faults. they don't strive to "look" like the CEO, they strive to minimize where their faults can hurt them. Looking like the big business guru is what gets others into problems.
  4. Winners listen to everyone, learn from everything and ultimately act upon their own gut.
  5. Pursuing goals with a relentless nature. the game may change but the goals remain the same. The market doesn't alter the end goal. The tactics needed and the pace perhaps but the goal remains fixed.
  6. Winners care more about the accomplished goals than the accolades.
So we look at the decay of the United States with rose coloured glasses because we know that under neath it all winners reside. We know underneath the veneer of the front pages lay brilliance. We know an economy that is stronger resides on the other side based on a foundation of 94% of still working and wanting better things for their country.

The winners are winning right now and they will underpin the next chapter of this economy.

p.s. If you haven't seen this, take a look. Our friends with Team H2V are back at it again. Going bigger with more people and raising more money.

Click to see the video:
http://www.potentialpictures.com/Cyclebetes_2009.html

Be a great family member

My grandfather turned 90 years old yesterday. We had a birthday party where the entire family came together to celebrate this amazing milestone. I can’t tell you how lucky we feel to still have him so mentally coherent, positive, caring and grateful for the life he has lived at such an old age.

He got up at the end of the party to speak and had the entire room silent. Everyone listened with open ears to every word he said and it was amazing see how much of a presence he had over everyone. It was not until that moment in time that I actually realized how and why family is so strong and started thinking about what I could do to be a better family member and came up with these points that I will live by from this day forward.

Here is some advice to ensure you do your part as a valued family member:

· Tell them you love them on a consistent basis (you never know when you will never be able to again)

· Call or visit them as frequently as you can

· Spend your time effectively by having quality conversations about life and don’t think that time with is good enough

· Learn as much as you can from your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents (they have been in your shoes before and we can benefit from their experience)

· Remember birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions

· Learn to forgive and forget (life is too short to hold grudges)

· Make an effort to help and show thanks where possible (after all, they are the ones who have helped you turn into the person you are today)

· Make them proud to call you family (be honorable, honest, caring and selfless)

· Help a family member in need

· Pay it forward to younger brothers, sisters, cousins and keep the learning cycle moving

· Ensure you keep them updated with your successes or struggles as they will be there to celebrate or provide advice where possible.

· Be proud to have family – whether you agree or disagree with whatever they do, they will always be a part of you

You can take or leave this advice – it is there to help draw closer connections to your family and work on being the best family member you can!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

a world without accountability is chaos.



there’s really not much sense in rehashing what’s been flogged like a bad #1 radio hit except to point out what happens when there’s no accountability or tangible repercussion to ignorant behavior.

recall naïve is making a mistake that we are truly unaware is a mistake, stupid is making the same naïve mistake twice & ignorant is deliberately setting out to make a stupid mistake. when there’s no repercussion to making ignorant mistakes, there’s little apprehension to the frequency of their roll out.

if we are looking for who to ultimately hold responsible, we need look no further than ourselves and ultimately our elected decision makers who have the ultimate control in intervening. the state of affairs in the US is a culmination of ignorant decision making by many, facilitated by what would appear to be leadership trying to bridge the gap between complete economic anarchy and a few remaining months in office with yet another short sighted bail out “plan”.

what’s worse is the lack of accountability is reflected by the tolerance barometer right across the spectrum from boundary-less children to ‘3 strikes and…’ to deliberate financial irresponsibility. I’m amazed at how little emphasis is put on bringing people to task in the name of learning wanton acts of ignorance… in the name of the dollar will not go unpunished.

if we step back, we can see how a few institutions ‘oversights’ almost collapsed WORLD MARKETS. read that again, an entire globe – affected by the ignorant GREED of a few, who now – because they have done so much harm are being bailed out instead of tarred and feathered.

perhaps the most unfortunate reality of all of this is the fact (very recent) history tells us that few are even paying attention and fewer still will be compelled to do anything about it even if we did.

me? my part? well, I’m starting now with my 7 & 8 year old by explaining (despite what they read and how they are now taught), there actually are repercussions for almost every decision they make – hence, they had better learn really quickly the difference between good and bad decisions.

further if I ever heard that my son took a 5k mortgage on a 2k income, sat in the front office and approved an obviously errand transaction or led a company or country into this deep of economic disaster... in the name of greed. I will kick his ass!

a world without accountability is a prelude to disaster. Funny, we seem to be well informed and driven to take action when other countries leadership sabotages it’s people... right, that's because we are led to do so by our leaders.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Vision Quest

In some Native American cultures it is a rite of passage for a person in their early teenage years to journey alone into wilderness seeking personal growth and spiritual guidance. This vision quest is obtained through fasting, guidance of a tribal Medicine Man, and finding a place deemed special enough to “cry for a vision” while bringing nothing from society minus water. During this two to four day event, the subject is forced to look into their soul and find their purpose in life.

In today’s society we are all on a type of vision quest, we are all trying to look into our souls and find our purpose in life, yet we try to do it with the constant noise that surrounds us. By getting caught up in the surrounding noise (responsibility, expectations, perception, obligation, observation, etc.) we fail to allow ourselves to truly listen to what our souls are telling us. In doing so we become sidetracked with external clutter that litters our insides, preventing us from achieving what we feel we are here to accomplish.


Long after our teenage years have passed and we have finished what we believed we had to do, we allow ourselves to focus on us, wonder why we didn’t follow our passion, and are desperate to gain time lost. While entering the proverbial midlife crisis we go to extremes and once again fall out of our true purpose only to spend more time collecting noise and ignoring our soul.


If we allow ourselves to listen to what our insides tell us is right, if we allow ourselves to diminish the noise that surrounds us, and if we allow ourselves to pursue our passion based on what we want to do instead of what we believe we have to do, then we will finally become our best selves and live our lives accordingly. In order for our passions to be achieved we have to let go of the bindings (fear, regret, perceived responsibility, unhealthy attachments, etc.) that create our hindering noise. We don’t need a journey into the wilderness alone or a medicine man, we need the vision to be able to actually hear what we are telling ourselves and the personal security to actually carry out our calling. When we allow ourselves to become empowered, we can silence the noise we allow ourselves to hear and actually begin to live our life with our goals and objectives.


Our passions are within us and will be found when we allow ourselves to look for them. Our modern day vision quest is no different than what the Native Americans have been doing forever, we just don’t allow ourselves the time to actually understand who we are because we are too worried about becoming what others want us to be.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Change is Good


Unless you've committed the unthinkable, or done really evil deeds in your life, I would think that one of the worst ways to look at your life on your deathbed would be to see a straight line; no highs, no lows- consistent blah as a result of no risk and no achievement.

Today we are talking about change... stepping away from the norm and into the new- away from the seen into the spectacular, away from redundant and into refreshing. And the great thing is we can start very small and manageable or we can take about death-defying feats... it's all good.

The first thing we need to understand about change is the psychology of change. Not just why people change (ie positive motivators or rewards), but more importantly, why people DON"T CHANGE (the fears involved and the aversion to risk or the unfamiliar). A great way of understanding the psychology to avoid change is called the 'stages of change' model. It was originally developed to help people quit smoking, but has been introduced effectively to weight loss clinics, and pretty much anywhere motivation is required to overcome limiting or negative behaviors. The stages of change model is as follows;

1) Pre-contemplative stage. These are the people who haven't even considered change. They are the people who are either unaware there is a problem (or need for or benefit to change). They are either happy with their current state or (often the case) naive to the fact that they are unhappy with their current state. An example would be an overweight man who chooses to eat fast food and drink to excess but does so in the company of his friends and family and considers his behavior the norm- calling abusing his body spending quality time with loved ones.

2) Contemplative stage. In this stage, the pain in his back has registered, the winding after ascending the stairs, and the barely audible comments about his weight made behind his back are getting to him. He is not ready to do anything about it, but the fact that he wants to change is on his radar. "you know, I've been thinking about walking every day" or "I've been considering eating organic food lately" followed by... fast food and beer while having the same conversation over again.

3) Preparation stage. Coming home with brochures from the local recreation center programs, tuning in to "The Biggest Loser" on tv instead of American Idol, reading nutrition labels on the food products at home for the first time, buying a pedometer or heart rate monitor... all preparation stage signs. Even going to a gym for a consultation or purchasing a membership are great signs that change is on the immediate horizon.

4) Action stage. Seeing a personal trainer, attending gym classes, walking on your own, keeping a food log, throwing out the pop and chips, etc are all great action stage initiatives. In this stage- buddy boy is putting his money where his mouth is and where his muffin used to be.

5)Maintenance stage. In this scenario, our husky but habit-changing friend has been repeating the positive new behaviours for a period of at least 3 - 6 months. He has probably seen some results that have been a great source of positive reinforcement and motivation. He is probably also telling anyone who will listen about the journey.

at this point, the tale of our changing friend can take two turns.

6a) Relapse. Illness, injury, work stress, divorce, letting loose on the drinks one night, or any other trigger can threaten to knock our slimmer pal right back into his unhealthy old habits. OR...

6b) Re-invention. Or he can continue to implement new positive actions and turn those he has momentum with into habits that he maintains. This means making healthy eating and exercise into a lifestyle instead of a crash diet or bootcamp program. The end result- he is still the same great guy but with boundless energy, a new lease on life, and possibilities he has opened up for himself and even those around him- instead of someone who struggles to get through the day.

Please realize that this model is not limited to fitness or smoking or weight loss. My wife and I are getting close to the maintenance stage of some financial changes we've implemented for our household. My brother is a few years into the re-invention stage of his career and is loving it.

Change (and the possibility of more positive change) is all around us, and either it will happen to us to keep us on that straight line... or we will embrace- no, INVITE change into our own lives to add a roller-coaster of enjoyment, lessons, growth, and purpose into our lives and the lives of those around us.

What are you changing today?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stop Running - Start Living


We all at one time will run away from something – a situation, a person, a past, friendship, success, love, an opportunity, making mistakes, etc. We run out of fear, out of a previous negative experience. We run from the unknown to something safe and comfortable. We will run because of the past and the marks that have been left upon us – put up walls, avoid getting hurt at all costs, avoid getting taken advantage of or used. Survival and instinct will tell us to run, and again - run we will. Eventually it will dawn on us that we will continue to have the same merry go round existence by repeatedly running away from what we fear.

But what if someone told you that you would not fail and no reason to fear – that you have no reason to run because you will succeed – you will not get hurt, used, abused, taken advantage of; the opportunity will allow you to grow and become a better person, the past can be dealt with. How many of us are running at any given point from something. Think of what you could accomplish by staying put and facing the situation head on. How much you would learn, how much you would grow, how you would be a happier and more satisfied person by dealing with what you are running away from.

Running does not make anything go away – staying put to face what you are running from head on and getting to the root of the problem will. Easy, right? Not at all - It takes a strong person to face their demons and to fight the urge to run. But we are all capable of staying and seeing what transpires by facing the inevitable. Uncomfortable – yes, unknown and scary – yes; but that’s life. Of course we have to deal with unpleasant situations, of course things don't turn out exactly as expected. But, we must persevere and do what we can to make things better. Life is about constant struggle and the lessons learned during these struggles. Too many of us see ourselves as long suffering victims instead of the strong, fearless person we are capable of being.


No matter how sad our stories, we all have a choice – run or stay. There is no getting around this. Most people in the world, could only dream of having the opportunities we have. Next time you are feeling sorry for yourself and running, think about how lucky you really are. Buck up. Work through the difficulties. It's part of growing up. Life is meant to be lived, and living means moving forward – in a metaphorical sense; continually growing, learning, becoming a better person.

One day you will be 80 – will you look back and think:

‘I sure am glad I didn’t take that opportunity – that would have been way to much work’
‘It was a good thing I turned blind eye to my own mistakes - avoiding rather than handling them straight on.’
‘I’m happy I never confronted the person who hurt me – I enjoyed carrying this baggage around because of it’
‘I didn’t deserve to be loved – good thing I never allowed anyone to get too close for comfort’


Or will you have no regrets, no what if’s and instead be thinking:

I am so fulfilled and satisfied, I have lived my life by facing situations head on; I have grown, I have taught and been a mentor, I have loved and been loved, and I have taken every opportunity to create my own successes. I made many mistakes along the way. Things that I have done "right" have helped me move my life forward. Things that I have done "wrong" have provided me with valuable lessons to help me move my life forward. I have learned too much to have any regrets.’

Personally, I think the choice of which any of us would rather have is easy.

Stop running and start living.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Important Words to Remember

The six most important words: "I admit that I was wrong."
The five most important words: "You did a great job!"
The four most important words: "What do you think?"
The three most important words: "Could you please..."
The two most important words: "Thank you."
The most important word: "We"
The least important word: "I"

-- From the Hospitality Jungle, Max Hitchins

Monday, September 15, 2008

Knowing how to do it right









This past weekend a group of us went down to watch the USC vs OSU football game. This game was touted as the #1 sporting event to watch in 2008 by Maxim Magazine and didn't disappoint its fans. Although the final score was a commanding win of 35-3 for USC, the game was very entertaining.

For those of you who have never experienced a US College football game live, I highly recommend planning to attend one. You will experience:

  • The electricity of watching 95,000 fans, dressed in their respective team's colors, cheering on every play and discussing game strategies all around you is indescribable.
  • Having everyone singing the national anthem while watching 4 fighter jets buzz over the stadium to kick the game off just gives you chills up and down your spine.
  • The hype and anticipation before the game by everyone mixing and mingling at the tailgate parties
  • Watching the band members (who covered the entire field) play their hearts out between quarters.
  • The massive amount of media coverage you see on tv's strategically placed all over the place.
  • The actual game itself - these kids are true superstar athletes and put on a show. The touchdowns, interceptions, big hits, huge runs and overall teamwork is amazing. It is comforting to see atheletes playing a sport they are so passionate about, not getting paid and have yet to be tainted by fame and money in the NFL.

I have to say the Americans have done college football right. It would be nice to see Canadian university sport in Canada get to that level one day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Seniority

It is one of the great misconceptions of life that leads us to believe that we are deserving of position and title because of our seniority status within a certain environment. This misconception leads us to rest on seeking achievement because we believe that experience will enable us to advance despite our inability to continue to produce results. Because of this belief, better qualified and better prepared people are passed over only to move on and generate greater results within an environment outside of the one we reside in.

Status according to greater age, higher rank, or longer service (aka seniority) means nothing when it comes to advancement. In a world where reality should create rule, we are looking to the wrong area when we look to promote or advance those within the environments we reside based on senior status. To set the record straight, length of service is not an indicator of qualification, all it means is that you have endured longer than others. Your ability to endure does not make you the right person for what you seek and does not entitle you to privileges you have not earned.

In every facet of life, length of service does not qualify you as the best candidate. Just because you are the older parent does not mean that you are the better parent, being the longest serving employee does not mean you are the best employee, and being the oldest of the group does not mean you have the most knowledge. The greatest indicator of your ability is in your ability, no strings attached.

Yet we have created a world of self entitlement where we believe that we are deserving of position because we are the senior person within our environment. This belief of self entitlement is strong, so strong that we continually see businesses, teams, and families stay stagnant because of a hierarchy based on seniority and not on skill set. Within this hierarchy we are ultimately disempowering those that are capable of displaying the skill set and knowledge necessary to take us to the next level of success.

If you want to see a successful environment, look at an environment that promotes achievement over any other qualifier. Their success is no mystery; they reward achievement above tenure and celebrate success over seniority. Successful environments don’t waste time on people who believe that their length of service qualifies them as the best fit; they look at people who have put in the most time and ask them why they have remained in the same place for so long.

If you are the person who is waiting for your chance at advancement, know that you are not acting on patience, you have become stagnant. If you are the person who believes that your senior status within your environment will produce results, know that someone more eager than you does not care that you have been there longer; they only care that they will outwork you and that it will be noticed. If you are the person that believes seniority means you posses more knowledge, then get comfortable where you are because you will not be moving anytime soon, that is if your environment cares more about success than it does blind loyalty.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You, Defined.


The picture above is a topographic image of Highway 97 in British Columbia, Canada; specifically the stretch between Kelowna and Vernon. This 52km stretch of road has piqued my interest as of late, ever since my wife and I watched an epidsode of "X-Weighted". In it, a woman weighing 234 lbs decided she would commit to exercise and a healthier diet en route to her goal of losing 50 pounds in 6 months (which she acheived exactly to the pound). What was more impressive was this dedicated mom of a 15 year old handicapped girl decided to summate her journey by working towards a goal of riding her bike the 52 hilly km towing her daughter on a chair attached to her hybrid bike.

As may be expected, she went through all the classic signs and symptoms of challenge, adversity, and then victory in any meaningful life challenge. From self doubt she emerged full of self worth, and declared in that instant she was worthy...
- the unemployed mom decided she had marketable skills employers wanted
- the sweatsuit wearing old mom changed into a dress wearing diva
- in short, she came into her own and decided to own her life.

It got me to thinking of life-defining or life-altering changes... moments that will stick with you as though they happened yesterday that forever alter the course of your life's direction. A few jump out from my life;
- the first time I put on football pads
- the confident feeling I had after I got up the guts to ask a girl out 3 years later
- moving to Vancouver and meeting the great people I did
- coming back to Calgary and diving in 100% to what I was doing instead of the fear of chasing my own path while still trying to please others and hold a million roles and a hundred friends intact.

What was interesting after I compared the 2 stories was that all the moments above had the common thread of CHOICE. Some impactful moments that did not alter the course of my life in any profound way were;
- 2 weeks in traction after nearly breaking my neck in football
- getting my heart broken
- addiction in the family
- not being the smartest kid in school, toughest player on the filed, or best looking guy around

What these stories had in common was that I had little choice in their outcome. Just as the mom in the aforementioned story of victory did not define her life by her daughter's disability, not having a job, or being overweight... she defined it by acting on the motivation to change, and by being a great mom despite challengin circumstances.

Shit happens. It's not if, it's when, and how much. This is a fact that is not up for debate. Having said that, what is up for debate, is the quality of life you will forge for yourself based on the tools you have available to yourself (which are far more plentiful than you can imagine).

If an unemployed 234 lb mother of a disabled child can generate the willpower, dedication, time, energy and consistency to brave a hilly 52km bike ride towing over 100lbs of fidgeting daughter... I don't see the wiggle room for the rest of us to have much of an excuse.

The question, then- is not whether or not we are capable or able to effect change.
No, the million dollar question is- how do your daily choices define you, and is this what you would intend?

It is high time we raised the bar for ourselves based on our daily choices, just as it is high time we stopped giving a shit about those people too lazy to fix their own 'problems'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beyond Comfort

Last weekend someone asked me how I came to be a more confident person today than I was in years past. I paused for a moment looking out of the window and rather than pretending to know with a quick reply, I simply answered, “I don’t know”. For the past few days I have given the question more thought and realized that I have been fortunate enough to have a family and a group of people in my life who support and challenge me to expand my comfort zone on a regular basis. This has been significant in the building of my own esteem and confidence. Going beyond ones comfort zone isn't quite the same as building self-confidence but they do go hand in hand - one begets the other. Getting myself out of my comfort zone over and over has been integral for my self-confidence and overall personal growth.

I have met so many people in the course of my life who feel like they are stuck in a rut, being bored from the same routine and have low self-confidence. It is the same people who do nothing that get themselves out of their safe and comfortable routine into something different and which may even hold a bit of risk. Newsflash people: Taking risks is one of the most important things to do to get yourself where you want to be.

Most will not take any risks, stay comfortable for too long and even their whole lives because there exists an underlying fear that reaching out beyond that cozy life created will lead to falling flat on the face and looking foolish. This fear stops people before they even make an attempt. If you fall, get your ass back up – simple as that. Stepping out of your comfort zone enough times will eventually lead to greater self-confidence and what once was feared will become nothing. You will actually begin to wonder why you ever doubted yourself – and this is perfect timing to step outside of your comfort zone again. Don’t let it end with the mentality ‘ahh, I am finally comfortable’ because each time you cross that line into the unknown you are setting yourself up to learn more about life and yourself. Whether you succeed or not isn’t the main concern but what you learn along the way. Life is about living and learning. Live to learn and learn to live – make an attempt at least.

moving to Europe in 2001 to try and start something new. I did not fail completely but instead had to back track to Halifax to think up some new ideas. This was simply going back to square one (lost time) to then come up with a plan B because I knew Halifax wasn’t for me. Vancouver was that plan B so I went west and I have been here for 4 years and have been blasted into many uncomfortable situations and have learned so much (I think I could even get another degree for what I have learned doing what I have been). For 3 years in Vancouver I have done a lot but one big thing I have been afraid of is saying I want to start a business. I realized this and I also realized that I have been in a place that is relatively comfortable. Though I take on challenges each week, month and year that have led to a lot of personal growth, I have been pretty comfortable and have not taken on any huge risks as of late. I have chosen to go for something big now which may move me again. Yup it is scary to think about being uprooted again but it is where I want to go - outside my comfort zone for sure and I may fail. But I am not going to concern myself with failure instead focus on how I will be a success and just do it because I will never know what I can do if I don’t try. I will dip my pen in the blackest ink and not be afraid to fall in.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
-Wayne Gretzky

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On Being Direct

Candor. The special trait that can cure societies ills.

Classic philosopher Immanuel Kant spoke to candor and being direct quite regularly. He believed that not being frank or candid was actually about self-interest, which in effect made your own life easier.

He further saw that people were more often shown not to be candid because they lived in the microcosm of the very moment they were living rather than seeing how their lack of candor affected the overall relationship with someone in the long term. people basically worried they would alienate someone if they gave feedback which wasn't good. Kant argued that because they didn't speak openly and with candor, basically that they weren't able to give feedback for fear of hurting someone, that their lack of action was actually destroying trust, and because of that, they were actually destroying society!

Society. Not that relationship but the fabric of our society.

If only Kant could see us now. How rare is the person that gives direct and honest feedback? Businesses, teams, partnerships all require the ability to be candid in order for them to function properly. The speed, or lack there of, required to find resolution of problems or new ideas is directly related to one's ability to accept and give feedback. It is directly related to the ability to be candid. To shoot straight and tell it like it is.

Being candid should be something we as a society exalt. Instead we avoid being candid thinking we are solving the problem by not dealing at all. All the while the problems stay and increase in scope.

Dealing with relationship issues candidly and head on is the only way forward. It isn't easy but when it comes to success, what is?

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Thrill of Seeing Others Succeed




This weekend marked the 3rd annual Innovative Fitness/Canuck Place Adventure Challenge. This race consisted of 2 courses: the short – 5km kayak, 20km mountain bike, 5km trail run and the moderate – 8km kayak, 32km mountain bike, 8km trail run.

At the end of last year’s event, I challenged my girlfriend to compete in this year’s challenge with me as a team of 2. Now, to make this clear - this is a girl who had never ridden a mountain bike (off the road), suffered from poor running biomechanics (because of her flat feet), and was not a fan of the kayak. There were many things going against her but she said yes – and so the training began. First order was to take care of her various nagging injuries – a tight illio-tibial band that caused most of her pain everytime she ran over 10minutes, shin splints and tight calves.

She decided to join Innovative Fitness 2x/week to build up her strength, posture and core, purchased orthotics to take care of her feet, religiously rolled and stretched, and consistently went to physio’s, massage therapists and chiropractors weekly.

The next order was to get comfortable on the bike, which took coming out to the training clinics to practice technical riding, training on her own on the road bike to develop the strength and stamina and pre-riding the course a few times. After enduring a huge mental and physical learning curve being off the road, she started to get comfortable with it and continued to get better.

The trail running was an issue in itself – anytime she ran downhill, the knees would start to hurt, anytime she ran over 30minutes, the shins started to go. Well after the continuous rehab training and staying positive that it would get better, she was able to get out in the trails more and the training began to increase.

By the time race day rolled around, she was ready to go. She had done an excellent job raising money for Canuck Place through communicating with family, co-workers and clients (who were all in shock of what she was doing). She also had learned and purchased all the required gear needed for an adventure race.

We raced in the short course division and had an amazing time. The kayak was beautifully scenic in the Indian Arm, the mountain bike was just like we had practiced and the trail run was performed injury free (although I am sure the adrenalin had a part to do with it as well!).

As I looked at her as we crossed the finish line, the biggest smile of happiness, accomplishment and victory overcame her as we had just won the short course division. This was the first time she had ever felt the taste of victory and made me so proud of her accomplishment and her never quit attitude.

This is a great example that anyone can achieve greatness – all it requires is the dedication, determination and tenacity.

I am very proud of you Can!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Set the bar.... high

This weekend marked a fantastic occasion for the important family value of believing in yourself. It took place at a charity adventure race event called the Adventure Challenge. Hosted by IF & the Canuck Place Hospice, it’s an opportunity to combine activity / fitness and fundraising for an important cause. End of day the event raised over $200,000.00 for the hospice.

This year, we decided our children would participate and as such, spent the summer hiking & biking at elevated levels with the boys (6 & 8) in order they understood what it was like to put in the time to prepare for something long term. This was not a negotiation and after initial push back, they both settled into the routine and reality we were going to do this 4k kayak, 20k bike and 5k hike / run.
Training went well leading up to the day of and with anything that’s been planned, the day went off without a hitch. The boys completed the event in 2hrs and 48 minutes, and placed middle of the pack. The take aways from this lesson were two fold.

#1. Life isn’t all about ‘getting’. Both raised the $1000 entry fee needed to participate of this event. This process helped them understand what it was like to ask for something for someone other than themselves. Many times kids (by default) grow up to believe life is all about them... And more specifically, all about them getting something for doing something. Through the entire event we disproved this myth with great examples of others giving – from petrified racers getting out there to people giving back their prizes for the cause, it was the right environment.

#2. Each time we set the bar high for our kids – they meet the expectation. We see the exact same thing when we set the proverbial bar low. So many times through the day people kept telling them and us how great they were – can’t believe, holy smokes etc. At the end of the day Marshall asked me why people kept saying that... Why were they so amazed? He didn’t connect their age with the accomplishment because that ‘variable’ was not a factor over the entire time we prepared for it.

While their accomplishment was amazing by others standards, it was business as usual for two boys who have been empowered and supported to believe they can do anything with a plan and support. Now the qualifier is we don’t think our boys are the cat’s ass – that’s not the point. The point is it would be great to see other children (and adults for that matter) have confidence in themselves to know the same.

Set the bar high... people will aspire to clear it
Set the bar low... people will aspire to clear it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Patience

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” ~ Leo Tolstoy

Success in life is not measured by the speed at which we ascend; it is measured by what we have accumulated along the journey. Very few of us will enter our first job out of school making huge salaries and having an income that will allow us to live the financial lifestyle we think we deserve. Parallel to this thinking, very few of us will decide to change our personal lifestyle today and actually begin living that lifestyle tomorrow. Reality is the bearer of all truth, and reality dictates that our upward mobility through life will take time and test our patience.

For those of us who need immediate external rewards in order to achieve satisfaction, we are in for a long tough fight against ourselves. If we are able to understand the working order of the world around us, if we know that the only thing that will be handed to us is the ability to work harder and smarter than others, then and only then will we be able to endure and preserver calmly through the difficulties that life will surely throw at us.

In collecting large amounts of experience and wisdom through time and effort, we will enable ourselves to live our dreams. To become a life warrior we need to understand that what we see in life is not actually what is available to succeed. In success there is no commuter lane, there is no easy checkout, and there is no broadband. To measure success through speed and the least amount of resistance means that we are failing to measure the quality of what we do and instead focused on the quantity of what we create. While quantity does matter when it comes to results, we must be able to measure success on how we achieved that quantity not on how quickly we achieved it.

Learning patience means that we are willing to get in line and evaluate the order of that line. There will be people in front of us who don’t belong there, but our success will not come by cutting in front of them, our success will come by proving over time that we have been put in the wrong position. There are very few accidents in success because success is an indicator of hard work over time. Success comes from establishing a proven track record that is not based on what was done today, but based on what was done all of the days before today.

Despite our knowing that time will allow the cream to rise to the top, we look at what is in front of us and experience envy. We envy those above us who don’t put in the same amount of work, we envy others positions without the knowledge of what that position entails, we envy those who have the possessions we wish were ours, and then we blame circumstance and other uncontrollable scenarios for our perceived lack of forward movement.

If you have your sights set on something worthwhile, know that it will not come to you tomorrow. It might not even come to you next year, but with patience and focused effort, it will eventually come. Our ability to maintain focus for long stretches of time and our willingness to wait in line until it is time for the world to see what we have amassed will then allow us to achieve the success we have dreamed. Through calculated patience, we will show the powerful warrior who has earned every ounce of success that was rightfully earned.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

80/20, 100, and 24/7


numbers.
If we don't know what they mean, they're useless as leaders, teachers, anybody.
Today, we are going to delve into a few numbers that should mean something to everyone, and it is my hope that they start as numbers and finish as maxims to lead your life day by day.

80/20
You've probably heard this one is business but shame on you if that's the only place you apply the rule. Quite simply, the average worker will yield on average 80% of their productive results from only 20% of their time. Why? Because we often engage in time wasting, or pursue endeavors that don't pay off in the end if we don't carefully weigh how we invest our time.
The lesson from the 80/20 rule is identify what you are doing well in your 20% of your time, and try to flip the ratio so that you spend 80% of your time on such worthwhile engagements. By simple math, our productivity should quadruple, and our stress levels brought on by wasting time or energy should be reduced by 75%.
Hence, if we can get quadruple the results and 1/4 the stress, why on Earth would you limit this logic to work?

The 80/20 rule should be applied to;
- relationships first and foremost
- hobbies
- leisure pursuits
- physical pursuits
- finances (budgeting and investments)
- the activities you do as a family or help your kids get into
- in today's society, limiting the 20% - tv, video games, IM chat, etc 20% of the hours we are awake and not at work or school or commuting there = 1 hour a day combined from all the above.

100
As in the 100% rule.
When you are at work, WORK. No internet solitaire, facebook, 5 coffee breaks, or wasting other people's time by chatting at the water cooler incessantly. Get productive, finish your most important tasks each day if not all the tasks you set out for yourself and then leave.
When you are at play, PLAY. Don't leave some work to take home that will distract you from playing catch with the kids or really getting into the barbeque you're supposed to be enjoying with friends. Have a life, get excited about it, and don't think good times just happen... you need to be the driver of your social life or that busy work schedule will scare your friends away.
Plan vacations, even plan when you intend to have a few extra drinks than normal (not the day before work or a tough physical event, don't drive there, etc)
The 100% rule simply states be 100% in whatever you are doing. It doesn't mean you have to be 100% at everything. That is, be as effective, efficient, and productive as YOU can at work- someone may be better but be your best. Be the best mom you can be and who cares what Sally Jones did for her entire kindergarten class. Don't slough off your friends by being distracted on your Blackberry at social functions- even if you can only make it out every 3 months, be 100% there when you decide you can be there (or be 100% someplace else).

The 100% rule should be applied to;
- everything in your life
- everything else you can think of

24/7
As in, Sundays count, holidays count, retirement counts.
If you think it's okay to bust your ass at work and then shut down when you come home- ask yourself how divorce sounds.
If you think rest is not counted above, think again- but be 100% resting. There is a huge difference between planned rest and procrastination. Sunday may entail planned rest and unstructured down time with the family- but it should not include ditching responsibilities because you need a rest.
Sound unfair? Don't want to take out the garbage and pay the bills on-line when you get home? No problem. Watch your neighbor move into a bigger house and buy a cabin on the lake based on their due diligence and application of the 3 number rules, but DO NOT after the fact ask how they did it or claim that life is unfair because you haven't got a break.
These 3 rules (laws if you will) that are based on hard, smart work are your key to 'getting all the breaks'. It really is that simple.

The 24/7 rule should be used;
- every day
- every hour
- in conjunction with the 80/20 rule and the 100% rule

While we on swim upstream may not be math professors, we're pretty sure you can remember 3 number-based rules. If you think there's exceptions to these rules, remember - all we know about people is what we see. Just because someone has money doesn't mean their content; and just because someone is content doesn't mean they have money.

The consistent application of these rules will both a) be it's own reward and b) will also if a is true lead to more financial, time, health, and freedom benefits.

Test out the 80/20 and 100% rules today and see how you feel as you lay your head to be 100% invested in sleep until tomorrow. Chances are, you'll get up refreshed and ready to apply the first 2 rules 24/7.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Do not tell us 'we can't' because 'we will'




This past weekend had myself and 19 others trekking through the BC forest on the West Coast Trail. If you have not read Josh’s blog from Monday, then do so for a great synopsis of the event. What he did not tell you was how many had doubted that we would complete it in our allotted time (from 1-3 days). From those here at home who laughed at us, to those we met along the trail. The group that wanted to do it in 1 day – now this one really was impossible – it can’t be done – not by you folks - you’re just average.. no super trail runner, no past experience running these types of distances, you don’t know what you’re doing – you can not do it! The trail orientation guides rolled their eyes at us, those we met on the trail thought we were joking and wished us a sarcastic good luck, and the local trail runners made bets on how far we’d get before giving up. Well guess what, we did it – all 20 of us – even the 5 ‘average’ folks that were attempting it in 1 day completed the entire 75km of muddy, rainy, cold, river crossing, sand running, bush whacking rainforest in 22 hours and 37 minutes.


Now we could have chosen to listen, and think ‘what if they’re right.. what if I fail, what if I don’t make it, what if I have to get someone to carry me out... what if, what if what if..’ .. well What If you could – what if you didn’t listen to those who told you that you couldn’t and at least attempted. Who’s going to be the better one in the end – the person who attempted and failed, or the person that did not try at all out of fear – fear from listening to all the others state ‘how hard it was, how it would be impossible.’ Well I’ve got news for those who doubt – anything worth celebrating is going to be hard..in fact the more impossibly hard it is, the sweeter the victory in the end. Do you think when we landed on the moon that those involved thought ‘wow, that was easy.’ No – because they had dedicated their entire lives to accomplishing this impossible goal – despite many who said it could not be done – it was tough, it was hard, but in the end it was achievable. What if they’d listened to those who said ‘nope, you can not land on the moon'


No one ever achieved anything great without taking a great risk first. Sure this is the west coast trail we’re talking about – but it could be related to anything in your life. We are constantly going to be doubted and told we cannot do it – DO NOT LISTEN! Instead listen to those that say ‘yes you can do it.’ There are very few that will tell you ‘yes you can.’ Don’t be one of the ones that tells others they can’t – start cheering on other’s impossible goals, and then start cheering on yourself by not listening to the ‘you can nots.’ At least attempt to make your moon landing – if you don’t make it all the way, you will still land among the stars – which is better than remaining on the ground out of fear in the first place.


We had 20 attempt this past weekend, and all 20 made a moon landing – and to those that thought we could not – take a number – this won’t be the first or last time you will doubt us and we’ll gladly continue to show you ‘Yes we will!’

Monday, September 01, 2008

Challenge, Adversity, Victory



For those who already understand these three words and accept challenges and their associated adversity then this story will simply reinforce what you already know and live by. For those who have not thought about these 3 words and their connections I will tell you what it means to me and I hope that it will make sense so that you will consider them as you move forth in this world striving to be the best you can be at whatever it is you do.

In spring of this year, I joined a group with 5 others who signed up to do the West Coast Trail in 3days. The plan was to cover the entire 75km trail through British Columbia’s temperate rainforests on the west coast of Vancouver Island. At the time I knew that it would be a challenge but not until the day we left did I realize that I was in for more than what I expected. Last week my group and I set out for the West Coast Trail, a beautiful but rugged terrain of going up and down steep cliffs, passing through powerful river currents and trekking slowly through mud pools that would swallow half of your leg. To make all of this even tougher was that we were hiking in the rainy season and each day we were drenched from the pouring rain that hardly stopped falling upon us. Sometimes a challenge in life can become greater than anticipated and in this story the degree of readiness as well as unpredictable elements such as weather had a major influence on how hard this challenge was going to be.

On day one I started the journey with my group feeling strong and confident but by 30km I was beginning to feel the pain in my legs and blisters on my feet that would slow me down and make me question myself as to whether or not I was actually able to finish it. We lucked out with being able to find a spot to camp out that first night away from the rain. On day two, again we started strong but the sore muscles came back even sooner as the terrain became more difficult with colder temperature and the rain getting heavier. It was not long into the second day before my mind was telling me how much I hated doing this adventure and that I would never do it again. It was my group against the wilderness with the rain pouring down on us and me slipping backwards into pools of thick swampy water covering the entire backside of my body.

Usually I am good at psyching myself up to push on but in this case I was finding it mentally very difficult. Even though I never said it aloud, I truly wanted out of this muddy jungle! Ha! Out was not a choice at half way nor was stopping due to the onset of shivers that would only lead to hypothermia. Even if there was a way out I knew that giving up would be the last thing I would ever do. Though the West Coast Trail challenge brought more adversity than expected, it was something I always wanted to do. It has been written in front of me since I moved to BC 4 years ago and if I was to back out then I could not cross it off my list as one of the things I wanted to accomplish in this life. I kept hiking forward and thought to myself a quote from the book "Think And Grow Rich":
"Every adversity, every failure and every heartache brings with it the Seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit".
Day three was a bit better with only had 23km left to trek and more importantly I accepted that pain, perpetual mud and rain which was inevitable with this challenge. The last 5km of the hike felt like an eternity climbing vertical cliffs and then down the other side just to have to go up and down another once again. We inched forward and each kilometer became slower and slower with one as slow as 36min per km. We were almost done and believe it or not, the sun was actually coming out! From high above the rainforest, shafts of sunlight came through the treetops and illuminated the mist around us. The rays of the sun gave us warmth as we passed through them and the forest mist danced in the light like magic dust. For how painful the last kilometer was, it was a beautiful feeling to see the end approach and to step out of the forest and see that we had finished trekking the West Coast Trail.

We did it! We traveled a tough 75km through rain and sun, through mud and sand and through silence and song. Victory was won and though I am sure for each member of my group the feeling of victory can be described as something different, mine was one of great accomplishment along a historic trail of beauty and wonder. The West Coast Trail with its breath-taking views was harder than I ever thought it would be and despite the rain I was so happy to have experienced it and to have without quitting. The aching body and sore knee that will need to be iced did not matter against this sense of achievement that made me feel stronger, more capable and confident to take on other challenges in life. If I can do this, I can do anything. Would I do it again? Yes! Perhaps in 1 day or maybe another trek elsewhere in the world that will give me experience that strengthens my spirit. Why? Because anything is possible should you embrace challenge, adversity and believe.

This story spoke of challenge in the physical sense but know that challenge does not have to always be physical and that you can experience victory and its associated personal growth with any challenge that takes you outside of your comfort zone. Examples can be something small like signing up for Toast Masters, a group whose aim is to become better at public speaking or learning how to play an instrument. Or it can be as large as taking on a new career or quitting a harmful addiction. With all these challenges you will experience adversity – it is part of the deal so that you may get to that higher level of personal growth. Do not let any obstacle great or small stand in your way of success. The more you overcome them, the closer you will be in getting to your destination. If you let your obstacles overcome you and then turn around and quit then sadly you deserve the fate you’re in.
Just remember…

…"Every adversity, every failure and every heartache brings with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit." This line has great meaning in my life and I hope for yours as well. Challenge, Adversity and Victory!