Let The Real You Shine Through

October 16, 2017 § 1 Comment

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

This quote by author Ralph Waldo Emerson struck a chord recently when I mentioned my last blog to friend Alysha Samec. I had written about adapting to change and growing as a professional and told her I was now considering how my personal side has evolved.

I actually began thinking about this topic in the summer when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation reunion was held in in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. I didn’t actually attend because of my work schedule.

However, it was almost exactly 20 years since I left the OLG to start my communications business so I felt a little sentimental.

I also reminisced a lot as a result of getting reconnected with many former colleagues through Facebook at the time and thought about who I was still in contact with and what kept us connected.

In August, we travelled through the Sault on our summer vacation so I had the opportunity to visit a few friends I’d made in my newspaper, lottery and school board days and while operating my communications firm.

As I visited with these people, I considered whether my personal brand had changed over time. If so, would these connections remain just as strong?

Great friendships and business associations endure the test of time – you pick up where you left off as if time hadn’t stopped when you’ve been apart for some time.

I’ve been friends with some people in the Sault for up to 27 years. We stayed connected invariably over shared beliefs and interests.

Alysha asked me if I could define a time when I knew who I am. That’s tough to put a finger on but I think the basic David was formed in my early 20s.

On one hand, I’m much more confident than the guy who it took three weeks to ask out the lady who would become my wife. Now it would take me three seconds.

At the same time, I have always pursued what is really important to me so I had to put my shyness aside to be a news reporter.

I have always known there is something more. Even in high school, I transferred out of a class where I wasn’t being productive to the one that produced the school newspaper, which would lead to my pursuit of journalism – and that newspaper interview that would have me meeting the above-mentioned wife-to-be.

I’m proud of the professional me and happy with David, the person.

Would I do some things differently? Most assuredly so. Do I live with regrets? Never.

A quote from actress Jennifer Aniston sums up my feelings ever so powerfully: “If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop trying to please everyone. You can’t please everyone. All you can do is be yourself and whoever likes you, likes you and whoever doesn’t like you, doesn’t.

“Live your life to the fullest and take chances. Don’t let bullies get to you. Be strong. Just stay true to who you are.”

The late technology legend Steve Jobs had some further great counsel: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

These thoughts on personal brand tie back to my professional life. I recently met up with Ryan Townend, CEO and owner of William Joseph Communications, headquartered in Calgary with offices in Saskatoon and Red Deer. He was doing marketing presentations in Grande Prairie where William Joseph has now expanded.

Ryan related he’d gotten contracts on a couple of occasions, in particular, because of his personal/professional brand. In one instance, he worked his butt off over a long weekend to make a presentation and his competitors didn’t respond to a quote request for several days.

I already had a strong affinity for Ryan’s style as it reflects my own work ethic and practices. This just added to my enjoyment of his business philosophy.

In another instance, Ryan received work because he’d personally responded to every person who commented on a social media campaign that went sideways. His demonstrated willingness to handle a sticky situation up front and honestly impressed a client to be.

Ryan’s outlook is simple: “We only have one life to live. Let’s make it a good one!”

All of this tells me that when you’re authentic, either personally or in business, you’ll get connected to the people you really want to be around.

As a side note … I’ve struggled getting fingers to keyboard on this blog for several weeks but wanted to complete it as a tribute to former Daily Herald-Tribune editor Bill Scott who I worked with for 3.5 years in the mid-1980s. He passed away Oct. 3 and his celebration of life was last week.

Bill authored the column Potpourri for more than 45 years. As much as he was an excellent writer and editor, Bill exemplified how you can work hard and play hard. He enjoyed inviting staff to his home and sharing his love for cooking and music. He organized car rallies for employees and always got the hockey pools going. And then, of course, he would hold court on Fridays after work at Dar’s, a popular watering hole back in the day.

Bill also walked the talk when it came to volunteering. That connected with me at the time and I’ve given back to the community in some form or another almost continuously since.

RIP Bill. You were certainly true to yourself. Journalism and Grande Prairie will never be the same.

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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.

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.

 

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.

Being the Dad of a Grad

June 22, 2015 § 2 Comments

Okanagan College BannerThirty-three years ago, I received my Diploma in Communications and Certificate in Journalism from what is now Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, B.C. Earlier this month, it was my turn to watch our son graduate from Okanagan College in Kelowna.

While it’s a milestone in our family to watch our only child take those next steps toward launching a career, thousands of other parents go through the same experience every year.

Countless other dads get to show their sons how to do a Windsor knot in a tie this year.

However, what I found remarkable was that all the speakers stepped to the podium combining to deliver essentially the same message I’ve already been sharing with young people – that youth today have more opportunities than ever before.

When I graduated to pursue work in journalism, you could find employment in print, television and radio.

I determined that I had a face for radio but not the voice and that sports writing was what I really wanted to do when I began my career.

In today’s world, you can specialize in social media and there are other numerous other niches such as green marketing. You can author copy in Canada about events in another country without stepping foot in that nation.

The range of other communications jobs that have emerged since my own graduation includes web content production and creating podcasts.

Even blogs were not yet a thing when I entered the workforce. Yes, there was life before the Internet.

And as graduates were reminded, jobs have been invented even since they began their college careers.

Pursuing a Writing and Publishing diploma wasn’t Peter’s first post-secondary choice. After trying a couple of terms at college, he decided to work in retail and construction before determining what he really wanted to pursue.

While Peter will be working in communications, something I can relate to, it’s much more important to me that he’s passionate about whatever he does.

I’m fond of the Confucius quote, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

If I’ve inspired Peter and other young people about anything, it’s to find enjoyment in their employment and to think of what they do as more than a job.

That doesn’t mean being a workaholic – I’ve been called that – it’s more about considering what you’re doing fitting into the bigger picture, either for your current workplace or future opportunities.

I cringe when I hear people say they are bored or stuck in a rut at work. Even in a less predictable economy, we should still be masters of our own destiny.

That’s why the words of Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton, in particular, resonated with me. His key messages were:

Be present in all that you do. Take the time to engage with those around you – the best ideas are born of collaboration.

Be intentional about how you spend your time and about the work you choose to do. Follow your instincts and find a career and a life that aligns with your values – engage in work that is personally meaningful to you.

Give back. Use the skills you have acquired to transform yourself and your community.
Okanagan College graduates were told that most people will work in several careers in their working years.

A continuum of jobs has contributed to one career for me.

I began in journalism, moved on to corporate writing and editing, operated my own communications business, then returned to the public sector, first as a communications officer and now as a manager.

Okanagan College graduates would be wise to follow Mr. Hamilton’s advice.
Some sage words they might also heed come from the late Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator and author.

He once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Son Peter will go as far as his ambition takes him. I wish him and all graduates much success in the next chapters of their lives.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments

Desk 1I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks, but the timing is best now.

Tuesday would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He’s been gone for 26 years but a surprise reminder occurred when my older brother, Bob Jr., delivered our dad’s rolltop desk from Canmore, Alberta, recently.

The old piece of furniture has endured a tough life. When I first grew up, it remained at the old farmhouse where my father was raised in North Rolla, B.C. It was moved into Dawson Creek, thankfully, before vandals burned down all the buildings at the farm.

Once at our house, the desk, probably more than 100 years old, proved to be a landing spot for my father’s paperwork. I think I inherited my lack of filing prowess from him.

My father willed the desk to Bob and I snapped up the opportunity to take it when my brother began downsizing.

I remember always being fascinated with the desk – its many cubby holes, the deep drawers, the handiwork behind the rolltop, and the solid oak structure.

The arrival of the desk was an opportunity to connect with Bob, my sister-in-law, Louise, and their son, Logan. I hadn’t seen my nephew in a few years and memories of my dad rushed back into my head.

I’ve been without my father almost as long as I had him – I was 28 when he passed away.

The desk is a reminder of my father, beyond its physical presence. It is strong. It has character. Its dark stain makes it appear stoic. My father had an enduring quality, though he passed away much too young at age 66.

Although it needs some tender loving care, the desk is reminiscent of my dad’s relentless drive to excel as a highways foreman, a position in which he rarely missed a day’s work, even when seriously ill.

Dad might have been called a workaholic though that term wasn’t used widely in his generation.

I believe we share a lot of the same qualities – caring, compassion, generosity, a sense of fairness and justice, and a wry sense of humour. He was shy until he got to know people. I am the same, though my career choice has found me coming to grips with public speaking and schmoozing upon occasion.

He preferred talking one-on-one to people, often workmates about a project. Through practice, I have learned to be comfortable in crowds, though I like smaller groups, talking about shared interests like sports or music.

I gained my work ethic from Dad but also learned the value of playing hard, something he was just figuring out how to do when he passed away.

Ironically, he died on the way home after watching his first NHL hockey game in person. I have been to many professional sporting events live along with going to numerous concerts, another love of mine.

Dad’s idea of going on vacation was to get from points A to B as fast as possible. I enjoy compiling hordes of information and then plotting out a general plan, with room to be spontaneous.

I’m thrilled the arrival of the desk provided a new opportunity to think about my father.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We’ll take good care of your desk and continue thinking of you often.

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