On Growth…

March 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

My mom once said to me “You know, I feel like I’ve learnt everything there is to know about myself.”  That thought scared me.  To me, that meant there was a ceiling to my growth, a limit to my potential.  In that moment I vowed never to be in a place where I felt like I knew everything about myself.

You’ve heard that people don’t actually change, right?  Except that we do.  We just may not want to see it, or acknowledge it.  If people don’t change, we think we know them.  If we think we know them, we feel safe, because we think we have them figured out.  We know what their patterns are, their actions, their behaviours.  They’re predictable.  Predictable people don’t change.  But, if we don’t change, we don’t grow and if we don’t grow, what else is there for us to do except to pass on?

I think my vow to never be in a place where I had reached my potential wasn’t really all that necessary.  Because, really, the day I stop growing will be the day that I die.  It’s impossible to go through life without becoming something we weren’t in the previous moment.  And none of us can go backwards, we can only go forwards.  Therefore, we can never shrink, we can only grow.  Yet growth may be in one direction versus another, because where we feel we’ve reached our potential, we’ve automatically put a limit on ourselves as to how far we can go.

We’ll never be the same person twice.  We can never recreate the same circumstances unless in a controlled environment, and yet, if we’re in a controlled environment, there is a limit to what we can learn.  There are a finite number of things that can happen.  That’s what’s exciting about life.  It’s uncontrolled.  We are not in control.  And because of that, we must always grow and adapt to what’s happening around us.

I’ll never be in a place where growth isn’t an option.  At least not until I leave this earth.  Growth is inevitable.  It’s another fundamental truth to life.  Whoever you think I am today, know that I’ve already found new ways and directions to grow and whoever you were in that moment, you’ve grown beyond that too.

Building the Circle of Life

March 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

I attended a funeral the other day and was reminded of my own father’s passing on just over 21 years ago. Hearing some of the same traditional hymns like The Old Rugged Cross brought back memories.

It was my supervisor’s father whose life we were celebrating. He’d lived into his 80s and, through the eulogy, I learned more about the person I report to. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at a couple of ‘ah ha’ moments when I heard characteristics that also describe my supervisor and explain more about who she is and why.

Traits get passed on without us even knowing it. I now wonder what people would notice ingrained in my son that would also be true of me.

When my dad died, less than three months before my son was born, it seemed very much like the Circle of Life experience from the Lion King. My father had planned to come visit us after the birth. It’s too bad he didn’t get the chance. It would have been one of the joys of his retiring years.

Within a month, my son will turn 21. His future, like an unpainted canvas, lies ahead of him, particularly since he has not determined a clear direction.

I wrote in this space earlier that I want him to find something he is passionate about with an ever-increasing amount of choices in our global marketplace. Like many young people, he plans to begin seeking his fortune in a larger centre, likely Edmonton.

Once he does, who knows where that will find him. He plans to work a year there to help make some decisions with a broader view of the world.

Maybe he will be like a young friend of mine, Megan Koprash, who worked as an office assistant in my business during high school.  She finds herself working overseas after doing some globetrotting.

She’s supportive of Peter travelling to better understand his options. “There’s a great big world out there. It changed my life,” she told me when we spoke online today.

In her free-spirited way, Megan did a short stint in Taiwan before moving to England to teach, following her graduation from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

It will be three years in August since she began teaching in Essex County, near London.  Megan has considered leaving there a few times, but something always makes her stay. I think the place fits her personality.

“I am a bit of a drifter and a dreamer,” she reminded me.

I have always admired Megan for being both carefree and committed to what she believes in. To this day, she’s the recipient of one of the best letters of reference among the many I’ve written.

Even in high school, Megan got it. I would allow her time off to audition for theatre productions and she would reciprocate on her own volition by working into the wee hours on deadline projects.

Megan is who she is because a great upbringing and support from her parents, Margie and Ron, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

She will cite them when it comes to describing her success story later in life. Megan will go as far as her ambition takes her.

I’m pleased the letter of reference I wrote helped Megan get that job in Britain and to have been part of her early professional growth.

Megan’s parents did a fine job of enabling and encouraging their daughter to follow her dreams.

As a parent, you strive to leave some kind of legacy like that. I would like my son to see that I’ve pursued opportunities as they’ve been presented, allowing me to lead a very rich, rewarding and varied career.

My own father left his own trademark. I always thought of him as strong and invincible – that go to guy who was always there … so much so that months after he died, I went to pick up the phone to ask advice, only to remember that he would not be on the other end of the line.

His departure from this earth just after he started learning to enjoy himself was a lesson to me – to work toward the future but to not forget about living in the moment when good times are to be had.

Circle of Life scenarios are abundant and aren’t all associated with family members. For example, I think it is ironic that my blog mate, Wendy, was born just two months before I graduated from Kwantlen College in 1982. Somehow I think that is one of the things that link us.

In this relay called life, I enjoy passing the baton to others with less experience, helping them to advance into the fast lane with perspective and insight they wouldn’t otherwise have.

There’s no joy like having someone, whether a young friend or a family member, tell you that you made a difference in their lives.

You do it to yourself…

March 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

You do it to yourself, you do
and that’s what really hurts
You do it to yourself, just you
you and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

Oh Radiohead.  How much truth is in this chorus, well, you probably know because you wrote them.  The song, however has just implanted itself into my brain after a morning of doubt and fumbling, and some resulting blog posts.

I really did it to myself.  I did, and that’s what really hurts, I did it to myself, just me.  Me and no-one else.  I did it to myself.

What did I do exactly?  Well I let doubt get the better of me. As much as I wish I were at the point that I could spot doubt as it was starting to plant its seed and pull it out then and there like a weed that has not yet rooted itself in the ground, I am not.  And as of today, I generally acknowledge doubt after it’s had it’s way with me a few times.  And when it’s done, all I can think is “I’ve done it to myself.”

However, what’s the use in beating myself up over it?  There isn’t any.  Doubting myself doesn’t have to really hurt.  Not if I don’t let it, and not if I choose to learn from it instead of letting it get the better of me.  Because if I did it to myself, I can undo it to myself.  I can move past it, or I can dwell on it.  I’ve never learnt anything from dwelling on an issue, but I’ve certainly learnt much from moving past it.

The choice seems an easy one now… and Radiohead’s lyrics… more a chance to blame than an opportunity to move beyond.

Pursuit Of Excellence Is Ongoing

March 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

Excellence is something that doesn’t just happen. It occurs through commitment, passion and drive to raise oneself, a team, a business or a workplace to increasingly higher levels of achievement.

It can be measured in certain ways. In a factory, for example, new processes can lead to better production. In a workplace, training can make staff more efficient.

In sport, some prudent drafting and trades can turn a mediocre team into a champion and then building an effective farm system can create visions of a dynasty akin to the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders who each won four Stanley Cups in a row in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Both of those teams did a lot of things well and other teams emulated their on-ice and management styles.

When you are building a program like Canada’s Olympic team, it is foolhardy to think in four-year segments of time. It seems that is what Canadian Olympic officials did with the Own the Podium Program when they talked in terms of a goal of leading the way in medals.

I was irritated last week when several days of competition remained in the Olympic Winter Games and already members of the media and even representatives of the Canadian Olympic Committee were questioning the program. They shouldn’t have been questioning the program, perhaps just the goals.

If navel gazing were an Olympic sport, Canada would be a powerhouse nation.

It was probably a mistake to have specific expectations like: Canada will win the medal total. However, the program did help create unprecedented excitement for the Olympics across the nation. It also instilled an attitude that we can achieve excellence across the board. I didn’t see it as a cocky approach or putting too much pressure on our athletes.

It would also be foolish to end the program based solely on some ill-conceived notion on how many medals we received. When I was growing up, I always groaned at how our athletes would be lucky to finish in the top 25 in most sports. Now top-10 and top-five finishes are commonplace. We went into this Olympics having never won a gold medal at home. Thank you, Alexandre Bilodeau for getting that monkey off our backs early on.

To me, if you are in the top 10 in the world in your chosen pursuit, you are pretty damned good and should be proud. The margin for error in any sport, particularly ones involving judging, is often miniscule.

Oh yes, there were disappointments, particularly in skiing events. but that is the nature of sport. Did everyone expect that all or most favourites would come through at the right moment? Let’s give credit to improvement by athletes from other countries.

And consider the unexpected results or the outcomes under extreme pressure.

Think about the courage of figure skater Joannie Rochette winning a bronze medal just four days after her mother died? And on the final day of the Winter Olympics, our 50-kilometre cross country ski team missed the gold by 1.6 seconds. The fifth-place finish was the best by our country in that event since a 16th in 1932.

There were some tearful responses from Canadian athletes who fell short of the expected mark. It is understandable to be disappointed. Our athletes should not feel they need to apologize to the nation when they do not finish atop the podium. They did not let the country down.

Instead of bemoaning our results, even before the Vancouver games were over, officials would have done well to talk about Own the Podium as a stepping stone to the next level of success, that Owning the Podium is just another name for a winning attitude.

It is no wonder why we have sobbing athletes apologizing to the nation when leaders of our sports programs are busy second guessing everything before the closing ceremonies have even been held.

I will borrow the name of a City of Grande Prairie initiative to suggest to Olympic Officials. Let’s call the next generation of Own the Podium … Pursuit of Excellence. That doesn’t have a short-lived expectation attached to it. The name inspires an ongoing sense that we will strive for better performances on an ongoing basis.

I, personally, don’t question the success of Own the Podium if medals are, in fact, a measuring stick. After all, we eclipsed our previous top medal count with our total of 26. Canada also set the new standard for gold medals by any nation in the Winter Olympics with 14.

And, hey, in Canada, when you win hockey gold, that has to be worth at least four or five more medals!

For those armchair critics who question the character or will to win of Canadian athletes, I suggest you pay attention to amateur athletics more than for just a two-week period every two years (Winter and Summer Games are two years apart). It is funny listening to people who are suddenly experts in short-track speedskating and skeleton when they haven’t seen the sport in four years.

To me, it is never is out of season to chant: Go Canada Go!

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