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. 


Bucket List Or A Game Plan?

September 15, 2014 § 3 Comments

hotairballoonBeing on vacation recently, I had a chance to talk to a lot of people – family, friends and even some new contacts.

Some of my older friends and family are in the throes of determining how their futures should unfold. Often, they have been busy caring for others – children, spouses and elderly parents – and have never really carved out their own niche.

A few younger friends are also busy charting their own courses, trying to weigh all the possibilities and capitalize on opportunities. One young marketing and communications professional has a small business sideline. Another is employed in the restaurant sector contemplating how to parlay her post-secondary education into a relevant career. A third is exploring human resources related prospects in between positions.

I noted that while decades separate the people involved in these conversations, one thing is common – bucket lists include some similar themes: world travel, seeing favourite entertainers live and even pursuing new hobbies or interests.

This got me thinking of my own bucket list and I determined that in order to qualify, entries must be achievable – without intervention of circumstances such as lottery wins or acts of God – thankfully I don’t cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For brevity, I have narrowed my list to 10 and there are some commonalities with friends, young and old. These are in no particular order:

  1. Bruce Springsteen is a favourite performer and I’ve seen him do a solo acoustic show but now I want to see him play with the E Street Band.
  2. Like my friends, global travel is on my list, but I will be specific: I want to travel to Belgium and Luxembourg – my grandmother and grandfather on my dad’s side were from those respective countries. I have no links there, but would love to see where the Olinger legacy began.
  3. I also want to travel to every region of Canada. I have yet to visit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Yukon so I have a great start.
  4. Now that I have begun going to the gym, I want to get rid of the pot belly.
  5. Eliminating my dependence on diabetes medication and pills for related afflictions, for that matter.
  6. To ride in a hot air balloon.
  7. For blogmate Wendy and I to complete a book(s) from the content of these blogs.
  8. My short story on my dearly departed furkid Jasper will be published as a book.
  9. Retirement to Vancouver Island. Joyce and I have travelled there four of the last five years and a few times earlier. It appeals greatly to both of us as a place that has it all.
  10. Finding another #furkid for our home. This is not just a matter of getting another dog. Both of our previous pooches and their personalities have been an integral part of our family life.

Now, of course, achieving any goal means setting realistic action steps.

In his Book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey referenced the second of these as:  Thinking with the End in Mind.

Completing a book, for example, takes investments of time, money and courage – we need to be certain others will be as excited about our writing as we are. Similarly with Jasper tale, I have to take the necessary publishing steps, most importantly, completing the task of converting the short story into book form.

Committing to bring another dog into the home, likely a puppy, takes a lot of time and energy since we truly believe pets are part of the family.

Taking on diabetes with a plan of eliminating medications means a daily commitment to exercise, managing diet and controlling stress (the heredity factor is already there). Admittedly, the necessary dedication has not been there.

I must admit that health-related items really shouldn’t be on a bucket list. They should be musts to pursue. However, having them there helps to set priorities.

So, the question I have to ask myself or anyone else, what are you willing to do to cross items off your list?

Since most of us have multiple things we want to achieve, maybe we should view our bucket lists as an action plans.

It’s Okay To Get Help Achieving Goals

July 10, 2014 § 2 Comments

Flickr credit: Jinx! Creative Commons License

Flickr credit: Jinx!
Creative Commons License

So I’ve started a new venture. Well, actually going to the gym is not unknown to me. I had a membership once before without success.

This time, however, I’ve taken on a personal trainer to help me realize my goals – the first of which is to not suck air by doing minimal physical activity and the second is to make fitness part of a daily routine.

My first attempt at getting in better shape occurred in 1998. After I started my communications business, I really embraced the change in my career by taking on a few personal development pursuits, including going to the gym and enrolling in Toastmasters.

I made a valiant with both in the beginning, but as I got busy building the business, I began rationalizing why I couldn’t go. Eventually I dropped both because I had felt the need to be going all the time as part of my new lifestyle.

It didn’t occur to me that doing something less frequently but still regularly was better than doing nothing at all. The required commitment just wasn’t there for either.

Fast forward to 2014

I decided to buy a bike in May. My last one died in 1997 as I pedaled to work at the Ontario Lottery Corporation one morning. I hadn’t cycled since.

Despite initial excitement about even cycling to and from work, I have only gone for one spin.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted via LinkedIn by Taylor Jarvis, a personal trainer who works at Winston’s Health and Fitness Centre. She’d heard through a mutual acquaintance that I might be looking for someone to coach me at the gym.

I thought there would be no harm in going to speak with her and doing an initial orientation.

The first time out was frustrating. I wasn’t able to get through what I felt were easy exercises on some of the equipment without help and I bailed out of lunges.

It also felt awkward to have someone coaching me on something I felt should be up to me to take care of – my own fitness.

In the workplace and out in the community, I am a mentor to numerous people. I wasn’t sure about this turnabout. I am very independent, competitive and take pride in everything I do. I rarely seek help on anything unless I have a problem with technology.

Taylor checked in that first evening to see how I was feeling and to make sure that I’d enjoyed working out. She told me had done well even though I was disappointed.

That encouragement helped make sure there was a next time.

By my second visit to the gym, I was feeling sore. I knew that was in part because I hadn’t worked some of my muscles hard in years. In between, diabetes had taken its toll on my body, too.

After that workout, Taylor asked me how I felt. I told her the dilemma was that I could quit and the soreness would go away or I could get stronger and it would also go away.

She said I could think of it as a good hurt.

Today, the role reversal came full circle.

After going through my first exercise, Taylor asked me how I felt. I replied, “Okay.” She countered with: “You mean, not awesome or great?”

That’s exactly how I might speak to someone who provided a less than enthusiastic reply. I wondered if Taylor had read one of my first blogs which was about banning iffy word and phrases like hope, try, may, might, if and would like to. She hadn’t. I usually cringe when others use the word okay as is equivalent to mediocre to me.

Inspiration to Continue

It was after this third workout that I decided I’d continue going to the gym regularly and that I would carry on with Taylor to coach me to higher levels of fitness. I realize that, in time, I can be more self-directed and work out on my own some of the time or at home.

I just know this time, I want to maintain fitness as something I just do and not let things get in the way. The one bit of exercise I did get in recent years was Jasper’s need for daily walks. As his health waned up until his death in February, we’d been taking shorter, less invigorating jaunts.

This spring, Joyce and I began walking up to 10 km per day which, combined with workouts, will put me in much better condition.

This fitness venture has reminded me that it’s okay to get help setting goals, reaching them, establishing new ones and measuring success. While I was skeptical that a personal trainer would be the solution, it helped to click with someone whose encouragement has already kept me going.

Reinforcement From Others

I tweeted out about my fitness pursuit today and received a lot of encouragement. I will share some of the responses:
Glenna Cross, a communications consultant in Calgary said: “Keep going David. Just pace yourself. Listen to your body’s messages about limits.”

Another communications colleague, Dan Huang, who lives in Edmonton, said, “keep going to the gym, sitting on our butts is shortening our life span daily…just going to the gym is half the battle.”

Friend Samantha Evans in New Jersey who also described the soreness from workouts as a “good hurt” told me how much she cherishes her gym time.

“It’s worth it, trust me. Think of it this way: You are bettering yourself. Push yourself, just not to the point of harming yourself.”
With the help of Taylor and encouragement from friends and colleagues, I’m sure to succeed this time.

One thing is for sure, I am not a woulda, coulda, shoulda type person.

Listening To Internal Voices?

July 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

My wife came home from a recent psychic fair to advise me the psychic told her that I’d been ignoring my internal spirit for the last 25 to 30 years. As someone who’s done a lot of self-assessment, I was intrigued by this.

In fact, I saw a strong connectedness with some other thoughts I’d had recently.

You see, I’d considered reflecting on a related topic for the Grande Prairie Public Library Writing Competition this spring in which the theme was Home. However, I chose a different tact and entered my first-ever piece of fiction. But I digress into a future topic.

This blog is an opportunity to explore both what the psychic said and my own sentiments about what the word home actually means to me.

Aside from the obvious clichés like, home is where the heart is, I’d originally thought about expressing my feeling in the writing competition about that word – a place I haven’t been yet in my life journey.

I’ve continually felt there’s always something more – knowledge and skills to gain, new accomplishments, higher personal satisfaction, deeper relationships, and more meaning in life, in general.

In my career, I’ve always recognized for myself that while you never stop learning, there can become a time where the potential to get flat outweighs the ability to grow significantly. As a result, I’ve explored several positions along a continuum in the communications world.

Away from work, there’ve always been additional volunteer opportunities, more places to travel to, new music to check out, and I could invest more time in rooting for my favourite sports teams. Co-writing this blog developed out of an interest in publishing a motivational/inspirational book(s) and I’ve entered three writing competitions.

I can also always strive to be a better husband, friend and father.

Will I ever have a sense of arriving home? I don’t know that I won’t feel driven on a personal or professional level, that there won’t be another “adventure”, as my wife’s cousin, Nancy McGuire, described it the other day in a Skype conversation.

So what about what the psychic said?

Like I mentioned earlier, I do think a lot – sometimes too much – so I’m very familiar with an inner voice.

Have I been ignoring mine, as the psychic said? If she is on to something, I would say it is more likely a case of not recognizing what the inner voice is saying.

Could it be that my continued thirst for knowledge and readiness for change are attempts to satisfy a voice I do not understand?

I mentioned this dilemma to a couple of people who know me pretty well for their thoughts.
Friend Hope Maurice said while I’m clearly not dissatisfied or lacking in contentedness, the psychic’s comments could mean that I don’t live enough in the moment as a result of constantly striving for something beyond today.

Hmmm. Interesting.

I truly do get fixated on a great hockey game and love to rock out at concerts. There’s nothing like hiking to a spectacular viewpoint.

I recognize I have yet to reach my full potential.

Although my motivation is always high, I don’t have long-range plans or specific goals to reach. Many people my age are already contemplating retirement and I continue to think that there are still many more possibilities – more to do.

Chelsea Lewis, a colleague at the City of Grande Prairie, says this contemplation I’m writing about is something she can certainly relate to – though she is just beginning her career.

She wondered: “Is this a case of “the grass must be greener on the other side” or perhaps a feeling that you deserve more than what you currently have – that you were destined to achieve something greater and won’t settle for less?”

Perhaps Hope is right, she says.

“Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t enjoy the moment enough because you are caught up in the ideal – the notion of self-realization/inner peace that hasn’t been achieved yet – that you don’t find the current moment fulfilling enough.”

Could all of these thoughts be partially right? Is it possible that I have simply not recognized what that spirit is saying? Are all these thoughts just a sign that I am still just trying to figure out everything?

Perhaps I really haven’t determined what I want to do when I grow up.

Maybe there are many competing voices in my head and it’s resulted in scrambled messages.

It could be that while I do have moments and enjoy them at the time, my mind is already conjuring up the next possibility.

What’s that you say, Spirit?

Making Your Goals A Reality

February 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

A few weeks ago, my friend, Elizabeth, was abuzz with excitement about how 2011 would be a year of significant change including her return to school next fall and starting a marketing-related business.

But where to start?

I’d read recently that while you go through a book from front to back to find out the ending, authoring a success story occurs with the goal in mind and working back.

So, I told Elizabeth that she needs to determine what her ultimate achievement is to be and then visualize the steps required to make it happen.

Organizational consultant and author Stephen Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, describes this as beginning with the end in mind (Habit 2).

  • Habit 2 is based on the principle that all things are created twice – a mental or first creation and a physical or second creation.
  • Most endeavours that fail, fail with the first creation.

The highway to success is littered with the wreckage of countless abandoned dreams. How many of us have had ideas we didn’t pursue because we didn’t dare to go to that next step?

Perhaps we were fearful of failure or simply just comfortable. Maybe other priorities got in the way.

I know Elizabeth will succeed. She’s a driven individual, passionate about her company idea and has a good business sense. Returning to school part-time will be a key to her success.

When you’re starting a company, there are all kinds of considerations, beginning with a business plan. Then there are factors such whether to be home-based or located in an office space. Should you hire staff or just bring on associates as needed? Even choosing a corporate name can be a challenge. Should your own name be attached to it or do you select something unique?

Having operated a successful business, I share Elizabeth’s excitement. There’s nothing quite like taking an idea and nurturing it into reality. In a sense, it’s like producing a child and watching it grow.

Earlier, I described reading to the end of a book to see how the story turns out. My personal goal involves writing books – the first based on a story I penned for the Grande Prairie Public Library writing competition last year – and others to be developed from the content Wendy and I produce for this blog.

So, in a sense, I’m already on my way with Book Number One. I’ve set next Christmas as a target for being on bookshelves.

But, considering Covey’s end in mind guidance, there are many steps to go. The story needs to be fleshed out further. I need to determine whether it’s a kids’ book or something for older audiences. Should it be done in a series? Will I find a publisher or self publish? Perhaps it will be an e-book. If I print, how many copies do I want to publish? What about an illustrator?


I enjoy these kinds of questions. They mean I see opportunities that I’m passionate about, that I have a purpose and before long, I will have steps in place to reach my goal. When I started my business, I remember colleagues at my former workplace telling me how lucky I was.

It was good fortune to be making a quarter of my former salary with a fledgling company? Hmmm. Yeah, right! Joking aside, I do know what they meant. They wished they’d had the motivation to try something new, to follow a dream.

I never want to be left saying, woulda, coulda, shoulda, to have regrets. Admittedly, it does take strong resolve to follow through on a goal, especially something that is significantly life-altering.

American comedian/author/educator Bill Cosby offers this advice: “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”

So, as we reach month 2 of 2011, what are your goals for the year? How will you get there?

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