Thursday, April 30, 2009

the sound of opportunity...

  • we all will face the unexpected & experience challenges in our lives
  • we all have a support network that will rise to the occasion to help us out
  • & we all have the opportunity to maximize our own potential
  • don't wait to face the challenge before you maximize your potential. 
  • start taking advantage of the endless amounts of opportunity before it passes by.  

it is up to ourselves and no one else.

thanks to Matt Young for the inspiring words

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Do It

This month's issue of Outside Magazine has a great article wherein many of the world's most savvy adventurers tell their story. One that stuck with me was the story of Mike Horn. In his words on "why I do it"...

"The question is, What puts a smile on my face at the end of the day?
That's why I do what I do.

"When you have to rely on yourself to survive, you find that inner strength we all have so much difficulty finding in our daily lives. Once you've discovered it, you get such a sense of satisfaction, such a sense of being alive.

"We all want to take time off to think, to concentrate on that one thing we really want to resolve in our life. But that time is very difficult to take in the modern world. There's always someone around you, always something to do, always a phone ringing. Now imagine all that is taken away.

"All of a sudden you find yourself with so much time that you say, The only thing that I can really do today is look at myself. That is the freedom that we're all looking for that we can never find. Being alone gives you the freedom of choice, the freedom of thought, a moment to have bold ideas. I'm not doing what I do for the risk or to die. I'm doing it to live."

Horn, 42, has completed motorless circumnavigations of the equator and the Arctic Circle. During the winter of 2006, he skied to the North Pole.

This got me thinking about a) what I do and b) why I do it. The first part; the what- is under construction. I have a few tough events (a half ironman & the west coast trail topping the list) and many runs, bikes, hikes, etc but still need to come up with that "I can't believe you did xx or yy". The second part is a little more clear. I do destinations to inspire my team, our customers, myself, my family, and especially, through the body of my life's work (physically and otherwise) my son.

It's amazing how greater purpose and vision have changed how I think about my own comfort zone and how I need to redefine myself (yet again) physically.

It is so true and so important for all of us to realize even those who achieve the most inspiring feats - have the same time pressures, responsibilities, and opportunities to quit or join the rat race that we all do... they just find a way to win.

They find a way to win at their game and thus they find a way to win at life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boston Marathon!

Innovative Fitness joined 25,000 other runners this past month at the 113th Boston Marathon – one of the most prestigious races in the world!

For us, this started many months earlier. The Boston Marathon is one of the only marathons in the world that you have to qualify for. For some it’s a dream to run Boston, and they will try again and again to qualify – finally to make the trip and take part in the experience of the event.

Every adventure starts with the journey to get there and we had planned ours last summer – specifically we wanted to get a large group there to race together. Some had done it individually, but to have an entire group there to support, cheer, and take part with would be much better. We ran and trained, chose our qualifying races (New York, Victoria, and Honolulu) and raced our hearts out to qualify. In the end – 11 in total made the qualify standard and would be heading to Boston in April!

The 11 of us arrived throughout Friday & Saturday – a few days before the race so we could relax, adjust to the time change, check out the course, and experience the expo. We picked up our race packages and numbers and were able to purchase the famous Boston Marathon jackets… and shoes, shirts, hats, socks, bags.. etc etc.! We were also able to take in a few Boston sights – a beautiful city full of historic buildings, beautiful churches, and American Monuments. Among many places we visited Harvard, Little Italy, local markets, and the downtown core.
The day before the race, and for the first time ever, the Boston Marathon Association decided to hold a 5km event for those who were spectators of the marathon to take part in. This worked out great since many in our group had friends and family that had come out to cheer them on. So Sunday morning, bright and early, we all headed to the 5km start line to cheer on those who would be cheering on us the next day. 6 in total completed the race – and they all got their own experience of the Boston Marathon weekend!

Race evening was relaxation; a small wine toasting congratulating each other on getting this far – to even qualify and make is a huge accomplishment in itself and we didn’t want to forget that! Regardless of how the race would turn out the next morning, we were proud to be sitting here together and taking it all in!

Race morning – up bright and early to catch the buses to a location 26 miles from the start line. There would be 2 waves to start the race – the 1st being for the fastest seeded runners. Arriving at our location we were shuttled towards a school where we would attempt to stay warm for the next few hours with 25,000 other Boston Marathon runners, representing at this moment the largest and most concentrated collection of physically fit people on the planet! As well as the largest single concentration of nervous energy from 85 different nations! Emergency blankets and hotel pillows would come in handy for this! Before long it was time to go – getting rid of our layers we headed to the start line to begin.

I can’t begin to describe the race itself. After the initial downhill start (which we would eventually figure out feels great in the moment, but not so much on your quads as you progress into the race) we were able to settle into the race. It was absolutely incredible and gives me shivers just thinking of it. The crowds were amazing – from the very first step on the course people lining up to cheer – 10 people plus deep the entire way; little kids with their hands outstretched to give you high fives.. and not for a few miles here and there, but the whole way! Going past the colleges and having the students all lined up, people yelling out their apartment windows as you ran by. The Wellesley College girls lined up with signs saying ‘Kiss Me’ and the men marathon runners taking a break from the running to line up and get their good luck kisses!. The continuous up and down hills and thinking ‘is this heartbreak hill, maybe this one is?’ Starting to feel your quads cease up more and more as at the beginning you’re thinking ‘yes, a downhill!’ and near the end ‘no, not another downhill!!’

The entire race was remarkable and words can’t begin to describe it. Heading into the finish line it was the crowds and the knowledge that you actually did it propelling you for the final steps. And that’s what we did – we did it! Every single one of us had an amazing race – personal best times, re-qualifying, pushing through unforeseen aches and pains to get there. In one sense this was 26.2 mile journey. In another it was a three-day weekend. In yet another sense it started about this time last year when we decided this was where we wanted to be - testing our physical limits at one of the most prestigious races in the world – Toeing the line at Hopkinton start and arriving on Boylston street – we ran our hearts out! We Ran Boston!

A huge congratulations to Boston runner Anna, Darcie, Jen, Sue, Cindy, Barb, Catherine, Caroline, Molly, and Joyce. An even bigger thank you to our supporters, fans and 5km runners – Sid, Pete, Lesli, Carlota, and Marie!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who do you want to be?

Somebody once told me that if I wanted to be somebody then to start being them

..... everyday or I would NEVER reach that person.

1. determine who it is you want to be.

  • Not who your parents, spouse, television set tell you who need to be – who you want to be.

  • if you don’t know who you want to be, don’t waste other peoples time by pretending to be who they need you to be while you figure it out.

  • if you change your mind mid way, no problem – re-invent yourself in a professional manner.

2.. determine what/how you need to do to be who you want to be.

  • That’s right. Planning. The reason why 5% of people succeed and 95% of people fail.

  • if you sit and wait for others to determine who you want to be or what you need to do.... You will do nothing / get nowhere.

  • this is one of those things you have to make happen. Don’t lie, justify, or defer.

3. determine why you want to be who you want to be.

  • if it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s not going to make sense to anyone else.

  • you have to be anchored by a strong conviction to a tangible cause / reason.

4. communicate all of the above.

  • to yourself – each day

  • to your family and friends

  • to people who ask.

  • to those who will listen.

  • The more you reiterate what/why & who you are, the more you will become that person.

5. be focused, urgent and relentless with who / what / why & how you want to be.

  • too many people stop after the big statement. Well, a statement is talk and the world is filled with BIG TALKERS.

  • every day is checks and balances, did I get closer, was I my best, am I making it happen?



Friday, April 24, 2009


I think we might have it all wrong. There is so much strategic thinking going on right now to cure the ills of the world and the emphasis is on how we are going to get to a certain point. When that point is within reach or already attained, we then go to the “think tank” again to strategize once more. This is the process bought into by the large majority of the population; strategize, achieve or fail, repeat.

Our hope is that we succeed, in which case we can chalk it up to great strategy. Sometimes we fail and blame it on our narrow mindedness and inability to strategically “think outside of the box”. In either success or failure, we place great importance on our ability to adapt in a way that promotes evolution, but forget the most important piece; what specifically is our desired outcome.

Greatness decides the outcome first and then plans the strategy to fit the desired outcome. It does not hope or wish that their strategy reaches their outcome because greatness is empowered and knows that the order is to know where you are going and then figure out how to get there. What this does, is allow us to hit a snag in life and reframe our strategy in a way that gets us back on the path to greatness. What this doesn’t do, is allow us to hit a snag, panic, and then initiate the strategic process from the beginning.

20th Century sociologist Robert K Merton coined the expression “self-fulfilling prophecy”, which is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. These prophecies, either through fear or logical confusion, can sufficiently influence people, including ourselves, by declaring something as true when it is actually false.

How this works in our favor is that instead of saying if we do AB&C then we will ultimately get to D, we can start out saying we are D and then figure out what AB&C actually is. The important piece of the puzzle is that we believe we are D and our strategies (AB&C) will ultimately prove that we are so. By defining situations as real, then the consequences we face from the situation we become real as well; both positive and negative.

By defining our behavior through the situation we are in, we don’t become a victim to the situation, hence empowerment. If we are to let the situation define our behavior, then we are being pulled in whatever direction the situation decides to pull us in. This puppeteering act puts us on the wrong end of the strings and causes us to strategize our way to the other end. If we reverse our process, we see ourselves as the puppeteer and allow ourselves to manipulate our surroundings so that we gain the control over what our destiny should be.

Strategic thinking is ultimately what will lead to our success if it is placed in the right order. When we can visualize what we are to the extent that it is real, strategy will then complete our self-fulfilling prophecies and allow us to spend each day moving forward towards greatness.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

find your niche

George Parros, resident tough guy for the Anaheim Ducks, hardly fits the image of your average NHL hockey player. The 28 year old, 6’5’’, 230 pounder has become one of the more popular and recognizable players in Ducks’ history. Partly because of his distinctive mustache and flowing hair but also because he led the league in fighting majors last year as the team’s heavyweight enforcer. He has quickly become a fan favorite and a thorn in the side of all opposing teams. You know you’ve made it when children dress up as you as a Halloween costume (which was apparently very popular in Southern California this past year).

But George hasn’t always been a goon who drops the gloves as often as he touches the puck. Few realize that he has an Ivy League education with a degree in finance from Princeton and that he was a skilled goal scorer in college. He was the team captain in his senior year of university and managed to get drafted. Instead of insisting that he retain the role that he had always known, Parros soon realized that it was very unlikely he could hack it as a goal scoring forward in the pros. He decided that it was time for re-invention:

“It started after the Kings drafted me and I came out to their summer development program. I realized I’m a big body and I like to hit. So, I figured if I was going to play that way professionally, I would have to defend myself. I might as well learn slowly and get my feet wet in the summertime, go out there and fight and feel my way around. Then when I turned pro, I realized that if I had a chance to make the NHL, it would probably be as a fighter. Otherwise, it would be a longer road trying to make it as a scorer or a checking line guy. I figured, as big as I am, that would help me make the team".

We are all on the same path of personal and professional growth. We identify our strengths and weaknesses, understand our tendencies and try to improve upon areas that are deficient. For instance, thorough and analytical types strive to be louder and more dynamic while Mr. / Mrs. Personality try to be more technical and detail oriented. I’m of the opinion that there are situations when there’s no need for a bunch of people who are great at everything. Often your best bet is to embrace your tendencies and what you excel at and run with it.

Group dynamics are incredibly important on any team or at any workplace. The most successful teams often succeed because they have individuals who know their role and do it extremely well. When we try to be something we’re not there’s the risk of spreading ourselves thin and forgetting to execute what we naturally do well at a high level. It may be a great idea to take a lesson from George Parros and find your niche. Analyze your surroundings, identify what is missing from the group dynamic, decide on what you can offer consistently and assume that role. Otherwise, it may be a longer road trying to make it to the next level as someone who is perfect in absolutely all facets.

thanks to Kevin Hendry for sharing "find your niche" 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Inspiration

Pictured above is Greg McMeekin, and one of his Personal Training Coaches Darren Pardy, and Yoga Therapist Jessica Beck. Greg has given me permission to tell his story behind why he was awarded our "Iron Person" award, or client inspiration award. He tells it best, as do his practitioners...

“What has the Innovative Personal Health and Fitness experience meant to me?”

By Greg McMeekin

Joining the Innovative Personal Health and Fitness team as a client really has been a positive life changing experience for me. My workouts have become fun again! Since my first day as a client I have been treated with dignity and respect from all staff and clients that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be part of a team with such passionate, caring, and dedicated individuals.

Having had Cerebral Palsy since birth, on various occasions, I have been asked "What keeps you motivated or going?" My general response to that question is that people keep me motivated, as well as my desire to live a normal, healthy, life. The energy that surrounds Innovative Personal Health and Fitness is infectious and amazing! I truly enjoy coming to do exercise. My workouts in the past have focused on rehabilitation. Now that I am a client with Innovative Personal Health and Fitness, I wake up in the morning on workout days, looking forward to the fact that I can actually sweat and push myself to become healthier and stronger. My trainers Darren and Mike have done a phenomenal job in helping me to do that.

I have been told by many individuals that you won't grow as a person until you try something new. I am a strong believer in that statement now more than ever. For the past month or so, I have been doing Yoga with Jessica Beck. Until now, about the only experience I had with Yoga was watching my grandmother and sister do it during summer vacations. Boy was I missing something! With Jessica’s assistance I have become more relaxed, and more flexible than I ever thought was possible. I can hardly wait for my next session. I would encourage everybody to try it.

Greg McMeekin

“What Greg’s trainer Darren Pardy and Yoga Therapist Jessica Beck have to say about his Iron Person Award”

When Greg first came in to the yoga room it was a hit right from the first minute because he came into something so new and unfamiliar with the most open and gracious mind, a dedicated and focused body and this is for Greg, a heart like a lotus flower....

Yoga is for everyone and Greg defies any misconceptions of what one is capable. Recently I spoke to a group of yoga teachers about the practice of yoga therapy. I gave an example of working with someone with Cerebral Palsy with limited mobility. I asked a group of 20 plus teachers, "What would you do?" I received basic answers like; meditation, breathing, visualization etc. These are great, however no one said I'd move him. I'd find his limit and explore the boundaries of mobility and work to expand those boundaries.

Greg has expanded his boundaries. He stretches, he twists, he reaches, he relaxes, he moves. With his openness and willingness Greg is teaching us what is possible and by doing this he is changing people's lives because each and every person I now encounter I see a part of Greg and what IS possible.

Thank you Greg. The teacher in me sees the teacher in you.

Jessica Beck

When Greg first came in he was pretty shy and nervous about being around the new crowd. He quickly became familiarized with innovative and became good friends with all the trainers and other clients.

We started out lifting weights and using range of motion exercises for his lower extremities. Surprising me the whole way along Greg was super excited about progressing to heavier weights and has done so with ease. He'll never turn down a challenge and is eager to test new limits.

With the physical challenges Greg endures he always manages to be early for his appointments and makes them on a regular basis twice a week. Greg is extremely busy with certain organizations and groups which require a lot of time and effort. Aside from these commitments, he was able to reach a tremendous achievement by making it into Law School at the University of Calgary.

Perseverance is one word that I could describe Greg and hopefully he'll be around Innovative for quite a while as he has become a valued clients and a great friend.

Darren Pardy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Inspiring... Sun Run 2009

Event: Sun Run
Distance: 10km
participants: over 57 000
Number of inspiring stories: probably over 57 000

We wanted to share this one with you....

My biggest concern was getting to the care home and finding my Mom not well enough to get out of bed.
But there she was - all dressed, breakfast eaten, coat ready and big smiles!
We had to get her SunRun official t-shirt on, load her up, and we were off downtown.
Norm drove us down right to Howe Street (the "whites" lineup)
We had to wait until the whites has run through then we were at the front of the line for purples.
Mom was cosy with a blanket around her knees, mittens and her touque.
I think it was pretty overwhelming and pretty loud for her - but she was so excited she kept looking at her watch.
I tried to keep active by jumping around a lot.
Finally it was our turn to start running. Someone threw us down a party pompom from the radio stands.
So Mom started waving it at anyone on the sidelines.
The hardest part of the whole run was going down Georgia Street and keeping control of the chair.

My next concern was making sure we didn't hit anyone in the heels with the chair.
A bit of a bottleneck down around the lagoon, as we were wanting to run, but lots of people were
in our way walking. We ran as much as possible where we had a path to get through.
Someone helped me push her up the big hill to the Burrard Bridge which was sweet.
I burned 884 calories and had my heart rate up in the 170's almost the whole time.
We got so many "high 5's", smiles, and good comments along the way and Mom was so cute waving her pompom at everyone.
I don't know our official time yet, but it was around 85 minutes.
I was anxious to run more, but we were always trying to get around people walking - it was nice passing so many!!
At the finish line, I got Mom out of her chair and she walked across the mats on her own.
It was amazing!!
It was the best run I've ever done. Not the fastest, but so much fun.
Mom told me in the car coming back that she would never have missed it for the world!
(We only saw Josip down on the field when we got into the stadium and got a yogurt and banana) 
I guess you guys were already home and eating lunch by the time we got through!! 

Anyways, we left Mom at the little kitchen counter at the care home eating Norm's mom's cabbage rolls.
She was in her glory telling everyone about the run.
I think everyone in the whole building is going to know about it!

What a challenge!! What a great way to do my 5th Sun Run. 
I don't know how long my mom is going to be around
and it was so great doing something so special with her.

Thanks for being so supportive and helping me know that I could do it.
My arms and neck are killing me - I'm going for a stretch now and a nap!!!

Sharon Gramchuk

Monday, April 20, 2009

Socratic Questioning

Socratic questioning comes from Socrates the Greek philosopher who inspired the Socratic Method, a form of philosophical inquiry in which the questioner explores the implications of others' positions, to stimulate rational thinking and illuminate ideas. Whereas questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues, answers can often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life and ultimately leads to a higher level of learning by exploring ideas, understanding truths and analyzing concepts.

When the right questions are asked we begin critical thinking. The goal of critical thinking is to establish an additional level of thinking to our thinking, a powerful inner voice of reason, that monitors, assesses, and reconstitutes - in a more rational direction - our thinking, feeling, and action. Great teachers encourage critical thinking with their students by asking ‘Socratic questions’ that engage them to think deeper about the answers given - or in other words; the thoughts behind the thoughts.

Swimupstream blogs are meant to evoke thought in their readers. Last week’s blog titled “Concrete Mind” for example brought about thought by someone who commented: “This is a good one, glad you shared it. We forget the importance of baby steps & you can't ever overstate the importance of character strength.” I agreed with the comment and thought - I must learn to jump over one-foot poles before attempting a five-foot pole first. Going deeper and asking Socratic questions, my thought results in this Socratic self-dialogue:

Q: Why would you want to jump over a five-foot pole first?
A: Jumping over a five-foot pole means becoming the best.
Q: Being the best is different for everyone. What does being the best mean to you?
A: When I am the best I will be smarter than I am now, more acknowledged than I am with more money and more freedom.
Q: Whoa! Slow down. More money? More freedom? Why do you want more money?
A: So that I can have more freedom in life, always be debt-free and to be able to buy nicer things.
Q: First of all you have no debts and don’t be fooled by those around you who appear to have more. Most people that have more money than you have much more debt also. What is freedom to you and how does spending money on nice things have anything to do with you wanting to be the best?
A: Freedom is living the way I want to without any restrictions. Spending money has nothing to do with being the best so I guess being the best does not mean having more money.
Q: Exactly! Now back to freedom - are you living within any restraints or being restricted in any way right now?
A: No. Not compared to many other people in the world who get persecuted for what they believe in, have to live in fear of being killed or fight for their next meal. When I think of it, life here is pretty good. I have a home, clothes on my back and food to eat. I am pretty well off. But it would be nice to have some money to be able to go travel to further places.
Q: Yes we are doing much better than others so never take it for granted. Why is travel important to you?
A: I place high value on travel. I like to be able to go places because of the experience I come back with. I believe that traveling and getting away from home once in a while can give you a broader perspective and make you a wiser person.

This dialogue could continue for much longer and it does not matter that the above did not follow with content of the “Concrete Mind” blog. What is important is that every thought we develop has a deeper thought behind it. In the above conversation, we see that I had become to think about the bigger picture in life as well as get to some of my personal values. When we ask Socratic questions we start critical thinking allowing us to think more rationally, therefore making sound choices in life and better understanding why we do the things we do. If you are reading these articles on Swimupstream, chances are you have committed to a lifetime of learning. On a personal level, ask yourself Socratic questions to get to the route of your thoughts. This will better shape your behaviors and promote better actions that are harmonious with your values. At another level, consider this type of thinking with those you are trying to educate. Teach by encouraging them to express their thoughts for further discussion and ultimately higher learning.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I came across this story the other day and thought I’d share it.

Three brothers had a fun evening together. One of them put a couple of pieces of alder on the fire in the wood stove before they went to bed. A couple of hours later, the fire was out of control. In their groggy state the brothers didn’t know what to do. One panicked and jumped a second story window. Another, with amazing calmness, found his way to the door and got out okay. Later, firefighters discovered the third boy by a bedroom window. He had died of smoke inhalation.

“Didn’t anyone try to get him out?” And the same answer was given, again and again. “We thought someone else would help him!”

In response, an unknown author wrote this about the story.

“This is the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

After reading this story it reminded me that we act on value, not values, and because of this we have limited our significance as human beings.

The numerical quantity of value has become our main driving force towards defining success and progress. Constantly we are asking ourselves “what is in it for me” when presented with one of life’s challenges. This shallowness of thought has led to our motivation by external returns; always trying to quantify our time as value and our actions as worth. As this process has taken the forefront of our thinking, we have lost sight of our values and no longer have the ability to act on the principles and standards that we should hold ourselves to.

Our values are those beliefs that we personally accept as truths. When understood and practiced, values are our standards by which we lead our lives and base our decisions on. This is what leads us to empowerment and enlightenment because our actions are based on what we will receive internally while giving to others externally.

Because our focus is on what we will receive externally first, we lose the ability to control our moral actions and in turn act on greed and the philosophy of “me”. Without values we lose accountability and blame Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody for what is Our fault. We do this not just because it is easy, but because we never have to admit fault in any action that blurs ethical lines.

Our lives are not quantifiable but qualifiable, and we are not measured by how much we die with but by how we lived. When we allow ourselves to create values within our lives we then define the type of lives we will allow ourselves to live. Through our defining principles and standards, we allow ourselves to see before we achieve, therefore never allowing self interests to interfere between right and wrong. In this we gain the strength necessary to applaud us when we succeed and point the finger at us when we fail. The action of the empowered is progress by exterminating Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody when accountability is at stake.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

what do you learn from people around you

In Canada, the standard work week is 40 hours. This is the standard, some might work less some more. This means, in a year, the average person will have spent over 2080 hours at work. There is 8 736 hours in a year in that case, 1 /4 of your year is spent at work. 

My point is.... Do you go to work everyday with the same motion of "good morning" to each co worker and go about your day? Have you ever thought about asking yourself:

 "what am I going to try to learn from the people around me today?" 

 Will I teach them anything?
Will I make their day better? 

Just a few simple thoughts I wanted to share since I feel very privilege to be learning each day from the people around me. 

Will you go to work with a different perspective tomorrow?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Concrete Mind.

It has been argued by some (including myself) that at least some of the cause of the collapse of the US economy lies in every day people aspiring to live like their Hollywood ideals... living the American Dream (or the contemporary version of a dream that was once freedom and liberty).

When people aspire to false idols, and chase symptoms of success without implementing the principles of success... they fail. Often we want without going out and getting - we wait for our wishes to come to us and we take no action or the wrong actions... effectively removing the power each of us has to exert influence over our circumstances.

The more we patiently and diligently seek out, learn, and practice the principles of success - the more power we have to affect our own lives in the manner we choose. We move from observers of our life and it's course to the directors of that course.

One could argue that wishes or thoughts without action is like trying to build a skyscraper out of water - it flows through every opening and you are left; after much frustration- no closer to the skies than you started. A skyscraper is a great analogy because when we view a skyscraper we often marvel at it's height and exterior; with little regard to the structural integrity that allows it to surge over hundreds of feet to the sky.

We often view successful people the same way - we want their money, their fame, their success - without appreciating or wanting to put in the work they have to get there (see Justine's Monday post about 10,000 hours).

If we want to build a skyscraper out of our life- we need to start with the concrete foundation and not the beautiful glass exterior... hence we must adopt a 'concrete mind'. Spend all of your time improving your strategies and your character before you worry about the polished exterior. If you've ever seen a skyscraper under construction- all you see is wood and concrete for probably 75% of the building process. By the time the first window has gone up- the foundation for the top floor has usually already been set.

As a good friend of mine says, 'the hardest part of any race is getting to the start line'... well this is a great example of a concrete mind- tackle a race by training consistently (pouring the concrete foundation) or you have no hope of hitting a personal best time goal (nice, shiny windows).

The same goes for relationships... before you can marry a beautiful spouse (window)- you'd better start by being a great person yourself (concrete foundation).

The same goes for any part of your life that you can set goals for. Being that is the case, we must ensure our decisions are long term focused (concrete) rather than short term, instant gratification (windows).

We see what happens in an economy/ relationship/ business when you try to build a skyscraper out of fancy windows... it must collapse.

The oldest company in North America, however - the Hudson Bay Company- has a location in downtown Calgary that proves this point- the building looks old- but it's fundamentals have allowed it to prosper since the company's first business transaction in 1669.

It is very okay to want material things and success for yourself and those close to you. It is simply more important from your habits, development, and leadership of others that you focus on the habits first and the fruits of that labour second.

Develop a concrete mind, and you can accomplish all the flash and wonder you could ever want.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My first trail run

My First Trail Race – Sunday April 5th, 2009

By taking that first step, your goals are that much closer to being achieved. This was a firm slogan for many who participated in this year’s My First Trail Race as they simply got out there and did it.

For many, this was a huge stepping-stone, showing that it really is possible to get out there and compete in a race. This year’s race was such a success that participants are still talking about how much fun they had and what they accomplished on a personal level.

It was a brisk Sunday morning where over 200 participants gathered to embark on their first sanctioned event and complete either a 5km or 10km trail race. The atmosphere was filled with energy, the emotions were high and some nerves were rattling, but all that quickly dissipated when the race announcer asked runners to take their mark and start the race.

Off they went…. Barreling down the trail starting their watches (and HR monitors) and wondered what lay ahead. A sea of IF jackets lead the way with eager runners following along side. For many, this race was their first. It was a great event to kick start not only their running careers but their running season. It offered them the chance to get out there with others in the same boat and give it a try…sort if a “test the waters” race if you will. 

Participating in a local destination like this allows a person to experience the gratification and successes with others just starting out. Connie is a great example of a person just starting out in the trail running scene. She was lead by IF coaches to this event having never run in a sanctioned trail race. Her experience was very positive and she did very well. In asking her after-the-fact her thoughts about the race and how she personally felt about her experience she went on to say that this was a great event for beginners and that she is now hooked into doing many more similar events! She is a great example of a person that has the drive and ability to do many events, each more difficult, but needs an event like the My First Trail Race to get the ball rolling. Connie has plans to run a marathon in Oregon and is pumped that she is in the racing scene now.

Peter is another great example of a person with the determination to succeed and who is now just getting back into the swing of it. He was thrilled with the turnout of beginner runners which made him feel at ease. He’s always been a go getter and has competed at the highest level of competition before – but running has never been his thing. He is now totally stoked on doing more events as this event was very positive and has left him with a need to do more. Peter continues to run on his own and with friends, both at home on his treadmill and on the trails shown to him from this race and he looks forward to surpassing his expectations of what is possible down the road for a running career.

Overall, this race was a huge success! It was able to grab the attention of runners who didn’t think they would ever run a race in the trails and who now can’t wait for the next race to start. For all those involved, they left with very positive experiences, a chocolate medal and for those not on the nutrition challenge, even a cup of hot coffee!

Until the next one…

Steve Bell-Irving

Monday, April 13, 2009

10,000 hours

Most people probably don’t think they have much in common with the likes of Mozart, or The Beatles, or Bill Gates. However, according to Malcolm Gladwell, we have more in common than we ever realized.

Gladwell is the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, currently sitting on bestseller lists acorss the world. In the book, he analyzes countless factors – many of them unknown to the people they most impact – that determine why some people enjoy abundant success in life, while others toil in frustration and obscurity.

One of his revelations is the “10,000 Hour Rule”: in order to maximize any given talent, you need to spend approximately 10,000 hours practicing it. In other works, practice makes perfect.. who hasn’t heard that before? And specifically 10,000 hours of practice makes perfect.

For example, Bill Gates is considered a genius – and you might say ‘well, he’s prodigy, he’d make it to the top nyways.’ Or would he? There are many prodigies and child stars that don’t do much with their talent at all. On top of being a genius, Bill Gates also happened to have extraordinary access to cutting-edge technologies as far back as junior high school, and he spent every night and weekend of his youth experimenting with computer programming. Mozart wrote symphonies at age 4 (yes, child prodigy), but his main work recognized was composed another 10 years later – after hours and hours of practice. And by the time The Beatles made it big in North America, they had developed their songwriting and music in Europe by spending endless 7 day weeks, 10 hours/day in pubs, studios, etc playing all different kinds of music.

The 10,000 Hour Rule has implications for athletes as well. For example, some may have heard of the 10-Year Rule for runners. Basically, it says that ruuners will get gradually get batter (faster, stronger, etc) during their first 10 years, before their performances plateau for another 10 years, then decline precipitously over the next 10 years.It doesn’t matter what distance you run, or what age you start at: whether you’re 15 or 55, your best race times in any event will improve for up to 10 years if you train consistently. If you could somehow manage to run 1000 hours per year, you’d develop abilities on par with some of the greatest achievers of your age. Yes, natural talent also plays a role – but not nearly as much as most people attribute to it.(Sure, at first glance, training for 1000 hours per year – 3 hours per day, every day - seems shocking. However, if you ask just about any Olympic athlete, they’d tell you this is consistent with their typical regimens. There’s a reason why it’s so hard to make it to the Olympics.)

There’s a book called Once a Runner by John Parker. In one famous passage, the author ponders how somebody becomes a great runner: “What was the secret, they wanted to know … and not one of them was prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes."

In other words, there’s no secret, and no trick. Do you want to be a better runner? Go for a run. Wake up the next day and do it again. Keep doing it until you wear out the bottoms of your shoes, then buy some new ones and start again. Repeat that process over and over until you’ve done it for 1000 hours, then 2000, then 10,000. Do you want to be a better piano player, a better pilot, a better doctor.. the rule applies to anything.

You can not substitute time and hard work for anything. It’s really quite a simple process. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Religious holidays, no matter your denomination, are always a great time to learn not just about others beliefs and worship practices, but about ourselves and our lives as well. Religion is rooted in the personal beliefs and values one has with a divine involvement in the universe and human life. This Sunday is Easter, the Christian holiday whose central doctrine is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most of us know that this is why Easter is celebrated, but what many do not know is that miraculous resurrection of one sort or another has been a recurrent theme in not only Christianity, but Judaism, Islam, and other Abrahamic religions.

The reason resurrection is such a recurrent theme in religion is because it directly relates to what we, common mortal people, can achieve, therefore connecting us with the immortal deities we worship.

There are two meanings of resurrection; 1) rising from the dead, and 2) revival. While religion celebrates the rising of the dead, something that we as common people cannot do, we can take note of this holiday and focus on our ability for revival.

In fact, the state of the world today demands our ability to revive ourselves in one way or another in order to succeed. In work we are either in a position of reviving ourselves into something more productive so that our position within our work environments are secure, or we are reviving ourselves into something new because of an unfortunate dismissal from our jobs. In our personal lives we are looking to revive our relationships in a time where we must understand that these relationships are the only certainties we have amidst chaos. Essentially, tough times create new opportunity for renewal of interest so that we can recover consciousness and flourish again.

Through resurrection we allow ourselves to move past negative feelings or the mentality of a victim and regain control of our own destiny through our ability to experience positive feelings through memory and productive action. Overcoming hard times is as much about restoring a sense of normalcy in our lives as it is about being mentally and physically equipped to weather the storm that surrounds us.

While we might not know how long we will face difficulties, we need to know that if we do not resurrect ourselves from what we are now; our process towards enlightenment will be much longer and more painful by waiting for times to change before we change.

Our takeaway from this Easter Sunday is that we don’t have to celebrate a holiday in order for a holiday to affect us. In understanding why millions of people celebrate, we can apply the principles of the holiday in our own lives to make us personally stronger, therefore more viable to those we surround ourselves with.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What I saw on Sunday.

On Sunday April 5th I did hiked the Grand Canyon. I had done this hike last year and was lucky enough to go back. I wanted to take the time to share what I saw during this unbelievable hike.

I saw 4 kids, all under the age of 17 who took a risk on themselves. 

  • They didn't know if this hike was going to be possible for them. 
  • We had enough food and water for all of us
  • They knew we wouldn't leave them at the bottom. 
  • We told them they could turn around anytime they felt like it. 
  • The rest, was all up to them!

We see it everyday with adults, we don't believe in ourselves enough. Take this as an example and just go do it!! Not necessarily the Grand Canyon but what you are scared of, what you always wanted to do, take your kids away from the computer screen and share some of these experiences with them. 

These kids decided to believe in themselves in a big way and the rewards were huge. 

I wanted to thank them for making my day so special and congratulate them on taking that risk. You really inspired me on that day.

Congratulations to Ben 12- Chelsey 17- Chantel 16 and their friend Chelsey 17

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twice the beauty... seen when shared.

Two great examples this week are (above photo) 18 people stepping outside their comfort zone to hike the Grand Canyon top to bottom to top in 1 day. There were seasoned veterans there like Isabelle; and we had a great mix of first timers as well, who came back beaming from the trip and not able to talk slow enough to convey their excitement.

I was one of those first timers last year, as was my wife. She was quite the trooper on that trip- accomplishing the same feat 2 months pregnant! This brings up the second example of 'twice the beauty is seen when shared'. Last weekend we got to take our son Chase to the zoo for the first time - he's still a bit young for the whole experience, but his eyes were pretty wide nonetheless!

What makes me feel really good about stories like this is surrounding yourself with people who do so many good things in a year that sometimes; you have to miss out on the achievement personally, but you can still get a high from everyone else's victories.

Also, having a kid makes some of the things we as adults think innocuously about - grandiose. It's a great perspective changer and if I ever get caught up in my own problems- the way Chase looks at the simplest of things instantly makes me forget why I was stressed.

Not everyone will experience hiking the Grand Canyon- let alone the thrill of supporting other people through their own doubts and empowering them to do it.
Not everyone will experience the joy of seeing the world through a child's eyes.

BUT - everyone can be a part of someone else's happiness, achievements, and success - and all it takes is lending a little bit of you. We have to remind ourselves in these busy (and potentially stressful) times not to get stuck in silos worried about our own problems. Sometimes opportunities for you are hidden as other people's challenges.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Cyclebetes spin-a thon

Event: Accu-Chek Cyclebetes Spin-a-Thon 
Location: West Vancouver, Rockridge School
Duration: 24hrs 
Extreme Factor: 10/10 if you can’t stay up all night, but a light 2hr spin would top the carts at 2/10
Cost: by donation
Number of participants: 100 teams limited entry

What is Cyclebetes?

It began in 2007 with one promise, one Champion and it spread. It began with a promise that a father made to his 12 year old daughter.

Vancouver businessman Kyle Balagno promised his daughter Taylor he would do everything in his power to help find a cure for her juvenile (type one) diabetes before her 18th birthday. He had 6 years.

That commitment spawned Team H2V, a 5 man team who cycled across Canada at break neck speed in September 2007. They made the epic ride in just 8 days, set a Guinness World Record and raised $900,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and millions of media hits.

The journey of Team H2V was remarkable and inspiring to all Canadians. The simple goal that fuelled the team was the desire to do….something that hadn’t been done…..something big.

Cyclebetes is the legacy of Team H2V - built on themes of community, responsibility, leadership and promise. Cyclebetes gives Canadians the opportunity to become Champions in four events that will take place across the country with donations benefiting the JDRF.

This past weekend, Rockridge Secondary school hosted their second annual 24hr indoor spin-a-thon. The Accu-Chek Cyclebetes Secondary Spin-a-Thon is an opportunity for Canadian secondary students to get active in their communities and develop leadership capabilities by organizing and participating in 24 hour community spin relays.
Throughout the 24hrs, we had 40 Innovative Fitness customers participating by spinning and fundraising for the JDRF.


We drove up to the school after work, parked in the lot around 5:40pm and unloaded spinners and bikes. When er walked into the gym we came to a table with students who signed us in a guided us to our spin area. The gym was buzzing with people and bikes. There was music and motion everywhere. Our spin area was alive with riders. There must have been 5 or 6. We got set up and spent 2hrs spinning with a great group. Chatting it up, people/movie watching and drinking water. The time flew by. I made it home, had a light dinner and I was in bed by 10.

My alarm went off at 6am and I was spinning by 7. The gym was still going. There were people who looked very tired and lots of fresh riders already zipping along. With 2hrs of riding under my belt, I had my fill. But the day was far from over for the spin-a-thon.

throughout the 24hrs

The entire event had over 700 people walk through their doors over those 24hrs and raised over $110,000 dollars with funds still coming in. This was a very successful event and everyone who participated should be very proud of what they helped accomplish.

Written by Richard Alm

Monday, April 06, 2009


Defined by Merriam-Webster, a switchback is a zigzag road, trail, or section of railroad tracks for climbing a steep hill. On Grouse Mountain, in Vancouver BC, there is a trail called The BCMC. Those who have hiked it know that it can be more pleasant of a trail than its neighbor, The Grouse Grind. The ‘Grind’ as people call it, is an almost vertical hike up 853 meters that makes one feel like they are climbing stairs up the CN tower except some of these steps are high as ones waist. I often hear people enjoying the BCMC because it has switchbacks going back and forth, slowly ascending the same distance as the ‘Grind’. Switchbacks allow for one to enjoy the journey by taking small breaks and seeing more along the way. Life is like a steep climb (March 9th Swimupstream titled Facing Adversity) with constant switchbacks that parallel life’s detours and provide experience and lessons to learn. What interests me is that we have a choice to take the switchbacks or ‘Grind’ it all the way to the top.

Today’s blog combines perspective with a personal account of switchbacks that I have experienced or sometimes that I have chosen not to. I have always been a goal-oriented person, So much so that at times I would skip out on social events or steer clear of unnecessary conversations just to get closer to my goals and avoid wasting valuable time. There was always the feeling of urgency over me and sometimes when I was with others I felt extremely bored just wanting to get back to the ‘Grind’ of an unfinished project. I remember many times when I was young leaving a party early so that I could go home and practice drawing letters. I wanted to be one of the best graffiti artists in the city! And so I became… In recent years I found myself to remain similar in some ways in that I was still so focused on achievement that I did not allow myself to be sensitive to other things and people around me. When bumping into someone I would often be curt when asked; “how are you doing?” just so that I could stay on task. Often when asked to come to a party I would say “not tonight” and stay home to work in effort to get ahead with my career. And so I am…

It was never because I was socially inept for wanting to get back to my desk, nor was it that a million ideas were in my head waiting to be written down, but it was more due to my impatience - always just wanting to get better and better as soon as possible and reach goal after goal. After all, I had never found anything to come naturally to me without a lot of hard work and discipline. So it was accepted that time is of the essence and I must not sit around if I am to accomplish something. Somewhere along the way I realized that I was missing some valuable insight from not allowing great conversations to develop and not appreciating some of life’s simplest things while taking the long way home. I am trying to change that…

I have decided to embrace encounters with others and observe details on the way to and from home or towards goals. The other night I went out to have dinner with a friend who brought someone who I know casually. I usually will not go to many dinners in effort to stay with my financial goals but decided to go for it and as many friends have told me “live a little”. The late afternoon and evening were great! We talked about relationships, marriage, shared ideas on how to become successful, the law of attraction with personal examples we have all experienced as well as some philanthropy work that they do overseas which was both inspiring and encouraging. It was a successful evening that was well worth going out for and probably benefiting me in the long run. I got some great ideas during the night that are without a doubt going to help me towards my goals. It turns out that it is not just about knocking off goal after goal (and then die) without a few pauses and detours along the way to learn and observe.

On the path to each goal there are switchbacks disguised as conversations with others or roads less traveled. And it is these unexpected experiences that provide us with greater understanding, insight, perspective, wisdom and even skill to better our overall characters. This does not mean that every night you should go party or that you should take an extra 30 minutes each night to get home because at the end of the day, we do need to create some action after each thought. Once in a while, take the time to ride the switchbacks of life and know that you are not coming off task but simply gathering some great ideas for the bigger picture. Live and learn all while being able to go wide but staying centered. Have fun with life!

Friday, April 03, 2009


In the world of music, harmony is the use of different pitches simultaneously. Derived from the Greek word harmonia (joint, agreement, concord); harmony is the peaceful coexistence between contrasted elements.

Personally our worlds can be broken down into two simple spheres; internal and external. Also contrasted elements; our internal and external selves need to find a way to coexist if we are to find harmony in our lives.

Many times our internal beliefs do not match up with our external perception. We try and show something that we do not believe inside and therefore must play a role we are not structurally fit, nor mentally adept enough to actually pull off. Because of this imbalance we create a split identity of what we actually are and what we allow others to see we are.

If we really aim to succeed, if we want our internal and external to coexist, then we must find the ability to attain high levels of openness. This openness first begins with being open with ourselves, so that we have the ability to be open with others. The difficulty here lies within our ability to know where our faults lie, expose them for what they are, and summon the courage to accept them. Typically we spend so much time and effort repressing these faults that we undo any chance of harmony within our lives since we don’t know what chords to strike at what time. Our contrasts turn into contradictions and we lose sense of who we are supposed to be in what situation and around which people.

In creating such personal confusion, we create chaos, never allowing ourselves to stay true to any one belief system or set of personal standards therefore disrupting any chance for harmonic existence.

In attaining openness we allow ourselves to maintain harmony. When we are open with ourselves first, we allow others to harmonize with us through their understanding of who we really are. Our lives become enhanced because we allow others to simultaneously fill in the chords we lack therefore creating harmonic progression, or perfect pitch.

In the same way an orchestra cannot make amazing music without knowing when to join the others, we cannot expect to succeed without allowing others to join us when the time is right. If we are too busy hiding our melodies, then we do not allow others to join in, therefore making our music offbeat and artificial.

In a world where our success depends on the help of others we must understand that openness is not an option but a necessity. If we plan to successfully move forward as an individual within a group then we must face the fact that our contrasted pitches can only create harmony through openly communicated simultaneous action.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What is your reflection?

I would like you to think about this story today, tomorrow and the next day when you meet people, it might change the course of your day.

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again."

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

Japanese folktale author unknown 

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Get Excited

Ever notice how most days of the week (can) have a feel?

Monday can be blah, slow, depressed to be back at work
Tuesday is busy, catching up from a Monday that wasn't too productive
Wednesday is hump day- "if I can just get over the mid-week hump"
Thursday we start to get happy about the weekend
Friday we are either pumped or drained from the week
Saturday is most people's favorite - family time, sports, party, or all of the above
Sunday can be lazy and the dark cloud of Monday looms ever nearer.

That's what a week can and unfortunately often does look like. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian life expectancy is now 80.4 years. That's getting on the hamster wheel and repeating the above rat race week 4,181 times.

We could do that; or we can start to make certain days have a different feel.
Today I am super pumped some great friends are coming from Vancouver to catch up, ski, and enjoy each other's company. It's not everyday you can rely on some great friends popping in; especially those who have been so instrumental in my own development; but we'll be enjoying a Saturday feel on a Wednesday and Thursday. That's the point.

While we all have responsibilities and roles that we must fulfill, and we also all get 24 hours in a day. Having said that, here's some very quick ideas to maximize mid-week or weekends and avoid running around the rat race track 4,181 times;

1. Hire a babysitter (mid-week or weekends). A dinner on a Wednesday out on the town sure changes the routine and helps to improve your relationship. A date night a week for life is my goal with my wife.
2. Read a book. Sharpen your mind and your skills or go on an intellectual journey.
3. Take a course. Learning should never stop and whether an art class, an adult education workshop, or whatever else - register for something that you find cool or exciting.
4. Get to the gym. Working out burns calories and helps you achieve your goals but it also helps keep you energized to get through those extra tough weeks; especially these days.
5. Get outside the gym. It's spring. Even if there's still a bit of snow on the ground, the warmer fresh air does your lungs and your mind good. Run, ride, rollerblade, kayak; whatever. Bring your iPod to help you get through it, or find a rare hour in the week to be alone with your thoughts.
6. Be thankful. On your own or with your friends, family, or whoever, write a list of what you are appreciative of in your life right now.
7. Review your goals. Take an hour and review long term, short term, and this week with what you are doing to move forward; not just what you have to do. Adjust what you need and tomorrow you'll hit your day with new vigour.
8. Go somewhere you've never been in your own city. Look at the tourist maps and be a tourist in your own town, or just wander somewhere you've wondered about. Many people take some of the best parts of living where they do for granted.
9. Play a board game, card game, or anything else to have fun and get the competitive juices flowing within your household or by having a few friends over.
10. Work a Saturday and take Tuesday off. Get as busy doing things for yourself as you are doing them for your boss on a random day; and make up the time by working on a day where the workplace setting is often more relaxed and you can still meet your friends on the patio by 5.

These are just 10 ideas. There are probably 4,171 more. If you could go through life never once hopping on the hamster wheel; well that would be a blessed life indeed. Now everyone's homework is to have a non-hump day and create their own feel for how today plays out.