A Post On Planning

July 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

planning-web

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

This saying is adapted from a line in a poem entitled: “To a Mouse,” written in 1785 by Robert Burns. It is said that Burns was ploughing his fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, leaving the mouse without adequate shelter to survive the winter.

It’s meaning – it doesn’t matter how carefully something is planned, there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong with it.

Over the last several months, I have been stuck in planning paralysis. Everything I looked at, I would envision down the last detail, spending days, if not weeks, coming up with action plans and detailed descriptions and dreams for everything from wall decor ideas for my home to events I thought would be fun to full-blown business and marketing plans.

I kept coming back to wanting an instruction manual as to how I was going to proceed in the coming months, my blueprints to success. The problem was, as much as I was spending time in the dreaming and “planning” of what I wanted, I wasn’t executing on any of it. Six month later, I had moved a couple of rocks, but for the most part I was in exactly the same place as before… minus a few more dollars.

My coach said to me:

“Wendy, you’re such a prairie girl when it comes to your dreams. It’s like you can see the details for miles. Come spent some time in the twists and turns of the mountains and you can’t see around the next bend until you get there.”

I’ve since stopped “planning”. That is, I’ve stopped writing down action steps I’m probably not going to take.

There are some people for which having their instructions written down before they begin their journey works very well for them. They’ve studied their maps, made their routes and know their milestones and points of interest.

What I’ve learned is that I’m not one of those people. But I have also had to learn how to harness my dreaming and scheming and move between the imaginary and the reality of what I’m trying to build.

When I think about how I approached my 18 months of travels, I knew the big broad picture – I was going on an adventure – but I filled in the details as I went. I booked flights a couple of months in advance for when I wanted to switch continents, I booked my accommodations a few days out from my arrival and I decided what to do with my day to day often the day of. The best part – I liked it like that and I still travel that way. Ebbing and flowing in a general direction while I twist and wind my way through interesting stopovers.

Could there be a clearly instruction manual for me on how to proceed than that?

In my experience, my best laid plans often do go awry – or more like they don’t go at all.

What about you? What have you found is your preferred approach to life and planning (or not)?

Adapting, Advancing, Accelerating

January 9, 2017 § 1 Comment

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

The above quote is one of my favourites, wisdom I’ve shared with others many times.

I’ve recently found myself practising what I preach with a new job at the City of Grande Prairie. I became the Manager of Intergovernmental Affairs on Oct. 17, through a small restructuring. This new position involves focusing on advocacy, strategic planning and, as the title would indicate, relationships with other municipalities and levels of government.

Up until then, my entire 34-year career had been concentrated entirely on communications, from newspaper reporting to corporate writing and editing, operating a consultancy, along with communications co-ordinator and manager roles.

There’s certainly a significant learning curve that goes with this position, relatively new in Alberta municipalities. Some duties are tasks that I would have done off the side of my desk in the past are now essential elements of my new position. Others involve skill building and opportunities for training.

My focus is more on City Council-related activities and priorities and our Corporate Leadership Team’s strategic directions. I now report to the City Manager rather than being part of a service area. I move from managing a team to having functional leadership responsibilities.

I was asked to take on this new role in a Sept. 8 meeting. Ironically, this discussion occurred immediately after a City of Grande Prairie Leadership Network Meeting where Leadership Coach Alan Goff presented on the 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.

He underlined that  … “What got you HERE, won’t get you THERE.”

This is a reminder that we can’t stop learning, making changes, adapting to the evolving environment around us and being visionaries who will foresee changing circumstances.

Moving to a newly developed position within your organization has its challenges. It’s not like picking up and leaving to a job at another employer. There is personal transition and an extended period of passing the torch.

I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a mercenary – doing whatever is asked of me to complete a project, often with competing priorities. That was certainly the case when I operated my own business. I was routinely working around the needs and expectations of up to four clients daily to make things happen.

Reminding myself of this experience and that I had also pioneered the first communications officer position at the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board certainly helped me to adapt. So did this quote from Ekaterina Walter, a recognized business and marketing thought leader.

“In the midst of change we often discover wings we never knew we had.”

Here are some highlights of Goff’s 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.

  1. Face Reality – Take responsibility for your results and those of your team.
  1. Relinquish what is in your way.
  1. Rely on the process – stay positive and avoid the ‘crabs in the barrel’.
  1. Reform to a better way – Change small, but often.

I follow the work of Tony Robbins and am fond of using his quip, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

I just discovered another piece of wisdom from this American businessman, author, and philanthropist: Change is automatic. Progress is not. Progress is the result of conscious thought, decision, and action.”

These lessons are great advice as we embrace new challenges and changes in 2017.

2017… Thank You Now And Every Day

December 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sometimes, we won’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. However, for me on the other side of loss, it’s a different story.

I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve hurt. I’ve numbed. I’ve retreated into isolation. I’ve fled. I’ve explored. I’ve come home.

Somewhere along the line, the numbness receded. I went from unfeeling to living again.

Throughout 2014-2015, I accomplished a life journey through 18 countries and across 5 continents that I hadn’t dreamed possible until well into my retirement.

Much of my 2016 was spent wondering, “What now? Why am I here?”

Many of my travels were done solo. As I explored, I grew. I learned so much about who I was and the woman I wanted to become.

I typically spend my time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day reflecting on the previous year and planning for the year to come. This year, I’m focused on the people in my life today and how to share more moments together.

My co-author on The Muse and Views, David, once posted a great post about friends for a season, a reason or a lifetime.

We all have important people in our lives, friends, family and spouses who think the world of us and who continue to support our dreams and our journeys.

In 2015, three different people, one of whom I had just met, a close family member and a family friend all had the same comment… almost word for word, they each said to me: “You’re surrounded by people all of the time… and yet you’re alone.”

They saw the results of my isolation, my being numb.

I’m hopeful in 2017 we’ll see the efforts I’ve made to open my home and my heart this year.

Consciously choosing to open myself up again is how I appreciate the people – friends, family and otherwise – that are in front of me today, while they’re here.

Friends, family and otherwise… I love you. Thank you for everything you bring to me now and every day.

Happy New Year.

 

The Music Never Dies

August 29, 2016 § 3 Comments

I’ve written in this space previously about what music means to me. Lately, I’ve also observed how it impacts friends and other people in Canada and around the globe.

Music can get muted on a sound system and performers head to the stage and studios of the afterlife. However, it can never be snuffed out.

In his 1971 song American Pie, Don McLean is said to be drawing reference to hearing of the untimely deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson with the words … the Day the Music Died.

However, even 57 years after their deaths, people who enjoy early rock and roll music continue to play their tunes.

The power of music on a nation was evident on Saturday, Aug. 20. It will go down as a day I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.

Joyce and I were part of the 11.7 million viewers – about one-third of Canadians – who watched what is said to be the final concert of the iconic Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. It was telecast commercial free on CBC, our public broadcaster for those reading from outside our country.

Although there are talented Canadian performers who have achieved greater acclaim outside this country, I can’t think of another band the CBC would interrupt Summer Olympic coverage to present their concert live.

While the band will stop performing now with the announcement frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, the music of this venerable band will not die. If anything, a new generation of listeners will be created by the outpouring of love and appreciation for the group.

Andrew Jones, Owner of Checkered Owl, media manager for Tasman Jude, Caleb Hart and Black Indie agrees: “There is something eternal about GREAT music. Something that resonates with us for years after it was written. It’s that feeling you get when you turn on an old Ella Fitzgerald record, a Nirvana track, stream some Run-D.M.C., dust off your record where Dylan went electric and something captures our heart. The best music, the music of a band like The Tragically Hip, never dies, its honesty reverberates throughout the culture, it influences the next generation and ensures their music will be at work for a very long time.”

How important was this concert to me? Well, typically when a concert or music special that I want to watch is on TV and the Toronto Blue Jays or Montreal Canadiens are playing, I PVR it for later viewing. I’m also not one to forego a chance for a campfire with friends but I took a raincheck on an invitation.

This time, it was music that had to take precedence. I knew the concert wouldn’t be just the final appearance of The Tragically Hip. It would be a celebration of a band that told the story of Canada and Canadians over the years, References to communities and storylines from across the country are peppered through its albums.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned of Gord Downie’s diagnosis in May, he tweeted: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.”

Those words sum up my feeling for the band. Although I have a greater collection of music by several other artists, this band is really the one group that has always spoke the fabric of this country.

I told Jessica Allossery, a singer/songwriter friend in London, Ontario, that I was writing this blog. She was eager to share her feelings about music and the impact of the band.

“The Tragically Hip’s final show brought Canadians together as one. As we paid our respects in gratitude and awe, the band put on their bravest faces, to perform their incredible final show. What a night we will all remember! This is a band that will forever go down in history, as it united Canada with our love of music, story and soul.”

Music evolves. It heals, tells stories, cheers us or helps us understand a situation. It creates conversation.

I used the phrase, “turn the page” with a work colleague the other day and he exclaimed, “Metallica!” I reminded him the song was originally produced by Bob Seger. The workmate told me I was showing my age. I responded that I was simply showing my taste in good music.

How many songs of the Beatles have been remade over the years? Bruce Springsteen devoted a complete album to the music of folk artist Pete Seeger.

Gord Downie himself once said: “Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives — when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.”

Earlier in August, we attended the first-ever Bear Creek Music Festival in Grande Prairie. This three-day event brought musical acts from around the world and attracted thousands of music lovers from near and far.

The event was a success on several levels. First of all, we were treated to a first class event. I was introduced to acts that I’d not previously heard of and as much as fiddle music is not my favourite, I couldn’t help but tap my toes and join in on a standing ovation when a set featuring a collection of artists came to an end.

That’s the thing about music. Just like millions of Canadians were moved to join together for a televised concert, it has the power and energy to get us to do things we might not normally do.

The Beatles penned a song titled While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This final concert of The Tragically Hip had many Canadians doing just that.

Thank you, Gord and bandmates for all you have done to entertain and move us.

 

Remembering Montina Rose Moffett

November 30, 2015 § 2 Comments

10007467_227876624064741_2126647087_nDuring the first month of my travels in 2014, I spent close to 2 weeks in Bali on a tour with a group of women from across North America – many of whom I had never met before. Nearly two years later, we are almost all still connected. We check in on one another, sometimes manage a visit if we’re in another’s part of the continent… and over this last weekend, I’m sure all of our thoughts have been with a member of our group in particular.

Before I landed in Bali, I had no idea who Montina Rose Moffett was. But after two short weeks with her, she is someone I will never forget.

When I met Montina, she had already been undergoing treatment for cancer. She had accepted it and was living every moment more fully than I’ve experienced any one else do. I admire how up front and open she was  about what she was going through – this is something I continue to struggle with on my best day with the people closest to me.

I have many fond memories of Montina, but there are two in particular that stand out:

The first was while we were staying in Kuta. We split up to visit different areas of Poppies Lane. We had all been talking about some of the spas that we saw with the little fish in them that would eat dead flesh off your hands or feet if you put them in the water (your hands or feet, not the fish. They, obviously, remained in the water). As I walked down the lane with a couple of the other women, we spied Montina and two other tour group members sitting outside of one of the shops with big smiles on their faces, their legs and feet dangling into a pool of the little fish! Laughing, because the nibbling tickled more than anything.

The second memory is of our visit to Tirta Empul in Ubud. Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple famous for its holy spring water. We waded through its waist deep pools from fountain to fountain participating in a purification ceremony. Each of us had a different feeling coming away from the cleansing waters, but watching Montina go through each fountain was beautiful. She soaked it all in on a level of profoundness I’m not sure many of us could fully appreciate.

Less than a year after she returned from Bali, Montina passed away. The anniversary of her passing was over the weekend.

Montina, I only knew you for a short time, and there’s so much more I would have loved to know about you. Wherever you are, I trust you’ve found peace. Thank you for being such a shining example of having the courage to live every single one of yours days to its fullest. I think of you often and your spirit and energy continue to shine through as guides on my own journey.

Sending you my love and light.

xoxoxoxox

Wendy

Success is Different For Everyone

November 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Soccer star Pelé.

We took in the 36th GoodLife Victoria Marathon while vacationing in B.C.’s capital over the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend.

Although I’ve never been a runner, I was captivated by the many storylines associated with the event.

Some were entered to train for higher levels of competition such as the 2016 Summer Olympics. Others were preparing for this year’s Boston Marathon. Others were first timers just hoping to complete the course.

There were 9,081 runners entered in total. Of those, 1,569 were competing in the Marathon, 3,855 were participating in the half marathon, 2,570 signed up for the 8 km course and 1,087 were in the Thrifty Foods Kids Run.

The star athletes stood out like in any sport. You could tell by their routines and the way they carried themselves.

As someone who played slo-pitch and ball hockey for a few years, I felt more connected with the participants struggling to make it across the finish line.

I do walk our dog daily but my strongest association with sports now is jumping out of my chair cheering passionately for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blue Jays.

I’ve yet to set and fulfil fitness goals, having abandoned going to the gym on two occasions.

Therefore, setting a target to enter such a gruelling competition, regardless of whether it is a full-length marathon or a shorter distance and then reaching it is quite an achievement in my eyes.

Few reach Olympic glory. Some will enter competitions like this repeatedly to set better times and establish new fitness levels.

For a young friend, Jordan Skidnuk, it was a finish that would see him within two minutes of his personal best. But being one year removed from a broken leg, he was happy with the result.

Jordan has entered in marathons for several years, including being the youngest Canadian in the 2012 Boston Marathon.

His late father, Darrell, was a veteran marathoner.

Jordan’s girlfriend, Casey, eclipsed her previous best time in the half marathon by three minutes.

I’ve been thinking about writing these observations and how success will look different for each of us since returning from vacation.

This past Friday, I was inspired to push ahead.

I’d been invited, along with a couple of other colleagues, to share a talent at a teambuilding session with another department at work.

The department manager had heard I do readings of my writing.

Actually, it was the first time I’d had the opportunity to have a live audience for any of my creative work. I chose to read the story A Day in the life of Jasper, which I wrote for the Grande Prairie Public Library writing competition in 2010.

Since then, I have tinkered with turning the story into a book but have never made it past a second edit.

Another workmate, Arlene Karbashewski, read from her first book, The Treasure Kings.

I purchased a copy of the book and Arlene autographed it with the message, “May this inspire you to continue writing.”

This blog certainly hasn’t had the amount of entries from me over the last couple of years that I had hoped.

I learned that Arlene had only begun writing at age 40.

Sometimes people pick up talents later in life and, for others, it takes time for success to arrive.

Blue Jays fans were treated to the hitting exploits of outfielder/first baseman Chris Colabello this past season.

At age 32, he finally found his place in baseball after languishing in the minor leagues for several years.

Thankfully for the Blue Jays, he chose to sign on with Toronto and not take an offer to play in Korea this year.

Since turning that Jasper story into a book is a bucket list item, it was great timing to receive encouragement from another writer, a colleague who I discovered only recently is a published author.

It was also very cool to receive applause for a beloved story.

I couldn’t ask for better motivation. 

Giving The Gift of Music

July 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

“Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll
Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll …” – Bob Seger, in his hit Old Time Rock and Roll

The Detroit rocker is one of my favourite performers of all time and I’ve seen him in concert twice. In a recent visit to our son, Peter, in Kelowna, I did something better than enjoying music on my own.  I delivered some iconic records from my own collection as Peter has a fondness for playing vinyl recordings.

The Ties That Bind is a tune from Bruce Springsteen, another treasured artist. Music is one thing that connects Peter and me the most.

While our son has expanded his tastes well beyond what I encouraged him to listen to, sharing a variety of music was something I made a priority early on.

Over the years, Peter accompanied us to concerts ranging from B.B. King and George Thorogood to the Rolling Stones, Jonny Long, ZZ Top, Seger, and the Boss himself.

Fostering an appreciation of music is important. From the earliest days of mankind, it’s been considered a vital art form.

Philosopher Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Just as we teach our young to talk, read and write, music is another way to express ourselves. It can reflect our moods or get a message across in ways simple words cannot. It can buoy us when we are cheerful or soothe us if we’re down.

Five years ago, I wrote a blog in this space about what music means to me: https://themuseandviews.wordpress.com/?s=music

I’ve been to a few more concerts since then, including shows by Elton John, Steve Miller and John Fogerty.

The latter performer, as part of his band Credence Clearwater Revival, has long been part of my musical history and brings back childhood memories.

I recall Proud Mary belting out of my older brother Bob’s bedroom along with Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, Mother in Law by Herman’s Hermits and We are Very Sorry Uncle Albert by Paul and Linda McCartney.

I grew up in Dawson Creek, B.C. where the country music fare was the order of the day on CJDC.

Although not a favourite musical genre, I do appreciate that Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Sr., Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, George Jones, and Willie Nelson were giants in the industry.

My own musical tastes range from rock and roll to blues, folk and jazz and I’ve been influenced by friends and colleagues over the years.

I’m glad Peter chose to explore music well beyond what I shared with him. But it was a proud moment when he asked to have some of my records.

These included albums by Elvis Costello, the Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and ELO.

Here’s Peter’s take on the passing of the musical torch:

When you take a look at my most recently purchased records, the influence of my parents on my musical taste is hardly evident.

Last week I picked up Run the Jewels’ second LP Run the Jewels II, and a few weeks before that, my haul from the local independent record store included The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, Canadian punk-rock outfit, Pup’s first self-titled full length, and Modest Mouse’s Building Nothing Out of Something.

That said, others in my collection represent a heavy influence from the music that was directly passed down to me (the guys from Gaslight Anthem might as well be Bruce Springsteen’s kids) via the stereo on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of my adolescence.

Nostalgia plays a big factor in some of the music that I like. I still think of those aforementioned Saturday and Sunday mornings whenever I hear a CCR song and a lot of the bands that I like pull influence from a genre I like to call “Dad-Rock.” But that doesn’t account for my love of Hardcore-Punk, my appreciation for Hip-Hop, my proclivity for Death Metal.

This is because the significance of what you pass on is inconsequential; it’s teaching how to like music that is focal to a shared generational appreciation for music. Sure, my dad instilled in me a love of Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and Thorogood, but it was far more crucial that he nurtured in me a penchant for the eclectic.

I have been to hundreds of concerts ranging from Pop-Rock acts like Bedouin Soundclash to Black Metal ones like Behemoth, from the Punk Rock of SNFU to the folky strumming of Dave Hause.

Some of my fondest memories are of concerts, punk shows, and festivals and I can’t say that a love for live music, no matter the genre, would have been sparked had it not been for my parents bringing me along to concerts when they could have just as easily hired a babysitter.

I look forward to the days when I can pass on a wide-ranging love of music to my future child or children as it is one of the most powerful things you can do as a parent.

While I enjoy sharing my taste in music with Peter, my own musical horizons have been broadened through him.  Some of my collection includes artists Peter recommendations such as the Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and Seasick Steve.

Peter’s desire to carry on our tradition is music to my ears.

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