Inspiring And Being Inspired

February 2, 2015 § 4 Comments

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Co-author Wendy and I started this blog more than five years ago to create content for a motivational/inspirational book(s). While we’re devoted to encouraging others, our thoughts are naturally shaped by events, people, situations, and the moving words of others.

I’ve reflected on some people who’ve inspired me in the past and even in recent days.

I was reminded of the first individual on Jan. 24 when alerted on Linkedin to Ian Nielsen-Jones’ birthday.

Ian was the president of the Ontario Lottery Corporation when I signed on in 1992.

The message he conveyed during new employee orientation sticks with me to this day and has been a strong influence on how I do my job.

Ian told new staff that if someone saw them in a store wearing a company jacket and had a lottery-related question, they should either be able to answer the enquiry or know how to direct the customer.

Now a senior competition expert at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ian encouraged us to consider ourselves as ambassadors. I have adapted that thinking to every job since, particularly when dealing with the public.

Inspiring Global Leaders

At the City of Grande Prairie, I strive to engage residents in recognizing their voices count.

Who better than Nelson Mandela to illustrate how an individual can make a difference? In December, we marked a year since the death of the former South African president.

Mandela could have easily given up after 27 years in prison. Instead, he would see to the end of apartheid.

He once stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Teachers Guiding The Way

I have a soft spot for teachers, having worked in the education sector for many years.

The work of two friends inspired me to tell their stories.

Natalie Richer, a Grade 5 teacher in Ottawa, is a leader in the Be the Game leadership and mentorship program. It’s an initiative to end the cycle of bullying while building strong character in elementary and secondary students.

“I see the effects of bullying and, more particularly, cyber-bullying in my class every single day,” she says.

“In January 2013, I was looking for a solution when CTV Morning Live Ottawa tweeted they would have Joe Drexler on their show to talk about his program. I quickly searched more about it to see if it was something I could implement in my classroom.”

The program is geared towards acts of kindness. By shifting the mindset of students towards the positive, bullying can be decreased.

Always an optimist, Natalie wrote Drexler for details, including whether the program was available in French.

“While it wasn’t, yet, we started to exchange emails about my views on his program, as a teacher. I learned more and tried a version of the program by myself in the classroom. The 21 Day Challenge is simple, yet effective.

“I got more and more involved and offered my input and ideas. The program evolved, the partners are growing and we are touching more and more students. I had the chance to see Joe in action with different age groups and while the messaging differs, appropriately, he manages to impact so many students with his inspirational presentation.

“Especially with high school students, he has an extremely touching story of a young girl that took her life after months of cyber-bullying. It touches them in ways we never thought possible and pushes them to make real, long-lasting change. We believe that talking about the real issues and effects is what makes this program worthwhile.

“The kids want to be better and sometimes don’t realize how powerful their words are. Because they’re so good at manipulating electronic devices, doesn’t mean they know the possible effects of spreading online hate. They want to talk about it and to learn more. I truly believe that our programs make a difference and that every school should get it. With the help of today’s youth, I truly believe that, together, we can create change and make a difference!

Julianna Oligny is a teacher to be. She’s also destined to be a great educator.

“What got me into special education was my work at the summer camp where I helped autistic and children with Down syndrome. I simply fell in love with them and their joy of life, so I can say that my biggest inspiration is them,” she says.

“I love to make people happy and I try my best to help anyone who needs it. Pay it forward is my way of thinking.”

Julianna actually began studying to be a graphic designer but after the first summer camp, she knew what her future was meant to be.

“I finished my studies in that domain and I knew that that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do something better, to help the world.

She’s now in her third year of her bachelor in Special Education at the University of Montreal.

“My goals are to be someone that kids look up to, to inspire them to never give up no matter how hard it can be. I want to be that person who won’t give up on them like so many did before.”

Promoting Mental Health

#BellLetsTalk was an overwhelming success for raising funds to address mental health needs and creating meaningful conversations. It encouraged people to reach out to those requiring help and for those in need to get assistance.

I made many new connections through promoting the campaign in late January, including Natasha Bustos, a student, who lives in Ontario. I was impressed with her as a #BellLetsTalk warrior on twitter.

“I have been very passionate about the importance of mental health for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always cared about making sure that my friends and family are doing well, and helping them in any way that I could if they weren’t.”

Natasha found dealing with her own personal strife over the past year has given her a greater understanding of mental health issues.

“What makes me so passionate about mental health though, is that it doesn’t receive as much attention as physical health. I truly believe that our mental health is just as important as our physical health which is why I am trying to bring awareness to it and want to help people in any way that I can.”

Taking Up the Torch

November 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

“I am obliged to contribute if I care enough.” – Trenton Perrott, 1957-2012, in an excerpt from his personal journal, September-October.

How often have you attended an event and felt inspired by a speaker only to do nothing as a result?

So often we feel momentarily engaged and then return to our routine, not motivated to make a change. The words above are ones I won’t ever forget. They will assuredly make a difference for me and others.

Sadly, I could not receive the message directly from the author.

On Saturday, they were delivered by Trenton’s brother, Dale, as Grande Prairie celebrated the life of a significant community builder, particularly in the arts and culture and business sectors.

Dale went on to say that Trenton, who lost his two-year battle with cancer earlier this month, had it backwards – that he did care a lot about many things – his community, country and family topped the list.

Trenton touched people in many different ways. As a fellow manager in my service area at the City of Grande Prairie, we had regular interaction, particularly since he oversaw the website as well as advocacy initiatives and I’m Manager of Marketing and Communications.

I always appreciated Trenton’s thirst for strategic planning, his passion for history and politics, and his vision for creating change. He was a mentor to colleagues at all levels and got the most out of those around him with his quiet leadership.

Why will the words from Trenton’s journal make a difference to me? He walked the talk. Trenton was a model of courage and class as he dealt with his disease. He lived his final months with a level of dignity I’ve never witnessed.

Even in his waning time with us, Trenton continued to do as much work as he could. He encouraged me and others to do more in the workplace and within the community.

In August, he invited me to attend a Rotary meeting with him. Not just any Rotary meeting. A long-time Rotarian, Trenton was one of the initiators of the new After Five club in Grande Prairie. He was even willing to pay my membership.

We had a good, long chat before the meeting. I always cherished my discussions with Trenton. As I learned on Saturday, I would not be alone in often finding myself in long, drawn-out but rewarding talks with Trenton.

Unfortunately, all my dialogue with Trenton was contained to the workplace so I didn’t get a chance to share any of the wine and scotch for which he is renowned for enjoying.

It would be the last time we spoke at any length. I could tell there wasn’t much time left for Trenton, but that didn’t stop him from sharing even more ideas and demonstrating how much he cared about his workplace and colleagues.

Of course, he didn’t stop there. Trenton arranged for me to speak to the Rotary group in October about the City’s Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP, just a few weeks before the initiative launched on Nov. 5.

I wish he could’ve been there to hear me speak in more than spirit and attend the kick-off event, too.

But he knew how important this initiative is to me as the project leader and the municipality. It ties in with so much he believed in – community involvement, partnerships, connecting people, and making the place you live a better place to be.

And new features on the new website Trenton so much wanted to see introduced last February contribute to involving residents. I’m thrilled he and his team saw that project through to fruition.

I don’t know that I will follow through and join Rotary at this time with two other significant volunteer positions already on my plate. I do know that I will be even more driven to make a difference in the community.

And I think that is all Trenton really expected of me – that I would realize I had more within me.

I was honoured to be asked to assist in the production of the video for Saturday’s tribute. In the process, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes with Joanne, Trenton’s wife, another example of class and strength.

She shared with me that Trenton had spoken of how he had unfinished work to do.

I assured her that others would pick up the torch.

I will be one of them. Rest in peace, Trenton. Your legacy will live on.

Still Searching For Home

November 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Earlier this year, I entered the 2012 Clem and Muriel Collins Writing Contest through the Grande Prairie Public Library. As we used to say in my days working with the Ontario Lottery Corporation, I was a non-winner.

As competitive as I am, I actually don’t think of the outcomes – yet to place in three tries – as winning and losing. It really is more about how the theme resonates with me.

Firstly, although I’ve been a writer for 30 years, it’s only been the last few years where I have really explored my creative, non-journalistic, corporate side. Second, as with my story on Jasper, my dog, these entries can later be converted into a larger project – I continue to tinker with a book manuscript. Third, because I have this blog, I can always feature my work here, as I have with a couple of earlier submissions.

Lastly, I can take the topic in a different direction which is what I’m doing with this post.

The theme for this year’s competition was Home. Instead of pursuing some initial, more emotional thoughts about that word means to me, I tried my first-ever piece of fiction and wrote a baseball-related piece. I want to go back now and share what Home means to me.

When I first heard the theme, I began thinking of the quotable quotes that use Home, like: “Home is where the heart is” or “Keep the home fires burning” or “There is no place like Home”. It turns out that when I actually read the brochure as I started to compose my entry, all these quotes and others were used as examples of what Home might mean.

While those phrases do have some connection, especially for someone who’s been happily married for 26 years, I struggled to put any strong feeling around them. I was challenged to explain what was really on my mind. It was then my wife suggested I attempt writing something totally fictitious.

Now that I’ve given it some deeper thought, Home is a place of the mind – somewhere I continue to seek. I think this relates to an earlier blog where I wrote that I always think there is something more – new things to learn and higher levels of achievement, professionally and personally.

Who knows whether I’ll ever really reach home from that standpoint? It’s the journey that matters.

As I get more life experience and work toward more of that elusive balance people yearn to achieve, perhaps I’m getting closer to my definition of home. Heck, it was just three years ago that this blog was born and I can truly say there have been many more personal and professional achievements since then.

On the professional side, one of my proudest moments occurred earlier this month with the launch of the City of Grande Prairie’s Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP.

Interestingly, at the kick-off the meaning of Home arose. Some participants think of amenities or particular qualities of a community, like friendliness, that make a place feel like home.

Since Grande Prairie has doubled in size since 1991, many residents are from somewhere else. For quite a number, it is that former country or other part of Canada that is Home. Some are unsure yet whether their current location is home.

To me, home in that sense is where you are situated. I’ve found comfort in the places I’ve lived across the country and re-invested through volunteer activities in every community. I have always said, “Home is where you hang your hat.”

I was talking to my friend Nikki Thompson, the marketing co-ordinator for nine10 Incorporated in Grande Prairie, the other day. Her thoughts tie nicely into this piece.

Here is what she had to say: “In 2009, I was in college and I had the feeling I was constantly missing out on what the world has to offer. I thought, ‘What the heck does Grande Prairie have? Nothing, that’s what!’ I felt unsettled. However, I was heading to New York City with our marketing class at the start of the New Year. NYC would surely have what I was looking for as it’s the hub for everything new and exciting. I’d never miss out on anything. I got there and it was incredible but nothing worth leaving Grande Prairie for. It is hard to explain but my world becoming smaller had cured my need to experience everything first.”

“Home is where you feel settled mentally, where comfort and remaining opportunistic meet to keep one engaged in where they are – a sense of belonging with purpose.”

Where is home to you? Is it a specific place? Are you there?

Keep the Passion Burning

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This favourite quote by author, humourist and lecturer Mark Twain came to mind when I read blogmate Wendy’s recent post about turning 30 and how she’s determined to go for it all.

Wendy once paid me a great compliment by acknowledging that we’re very much alike, particularly in terms of our outlook, though I’m nearly 22 years older.

She will live a dynamic life and flourish at whatever she sets out to do. But then Wendy’s no slouch now, whether it’s the enthusiasm for her job at Yelp Calgary, her passion for ultimate Frisbee or the emotion her writing exudes.

I can predict this with certainty because the one advantage I have over my younger friend is experience.

I’ve seen how attitude drives altitude in life and I thrive on being connected with driven, ambitious people.

Now it’s true that I’m not a millionaire yet. While a paid off mortgage would definitely be great, I’m rich in many other intangible and important ways.

For example, I take great comfort in knowing the phrase “I’m bored” has never crossed my lips and never will.

It’s also exciting to realize I’ve yet to reach my own potential, Far from it, though I have no regrets. In fact, I know I’ve mentored and inspired others to reach greater heights. That is a powerful feeling.

There is always something more to accomplish, whether in relationships, hobbies, careers or self-improvement, in general.

The key is to continually stoke the fires of passion in all aspects of life – whether that’s examining new employment prospects, taking on volunteer opportunities or finding activities that broaden your friend and interest bases.

I draw energy from people like Wendy who strive to live life to the fullest. That’s easier said than done at times. On the other hand, have you ever noticed how much life is sucked out of you by people who are constantly negative or miserable?

Any sustainable life success is bound to occur by surrounding yourself by like-minded people.

Sometimes you can’t control these factors, particularly in the workplace. It’s certainly a rush when you provide someone with an opportunity to work on a project and they react with excitement.

As legendary football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

I recently received a random jolt of inspiration when I spoke to Vanessa Besharah, a summer student at the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association office, for the first time.

She’d turned down a previously held job to take on this one because of her passion for it.

Her words resonated with me. Not too many others speak about their employment in that way.

I’ll share some other comments. They were a breath of fresh air.

“My outlook in life is that people need to stop, breathe and realize there are so many things in the world that are more important than their career and money,” she says.

Vanessa completed her business studies at Grande Prairie Regional College this spring. She believes a job should be taken because it provides happiness and enjoyment.

“To me, family and my relationship are more important than work and I would drop anything to help them because they’re the ones that are going to be there when you need them.”

Finding balance is quite simple, but it takes effort, she says.

“A lot of people stay in their comfort zone and do not take chances,” she says. “There are so many places to see in this world; people just have to jump in their car and start to drive. We need to get away from work and try to find that balance in life. On a day off, just jump in your car and explore. I was surprised how many people have not even been to many places that are only two hours away and they’ve lived in Grande Prairie their whole life.

“What inspires me so much is when you realize that it’s the small things in life you do for other people that makes them so happy and thankful.”

Vanessa leads a running group in Grande Prairie and helped members reach their goal of achieving a 10 km distance.

“I never knew it meant a lot to people, just the small things and time spent helping people. So next time just say ‘hi’ to someone or lend a helping hand or just hear someone out. It means a lot to people in ways you will never know.”

Vanessa plans to take some time to travel this fall and discover more about herself before pursuing Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association training.

“This will allow me to teach fitness and get paid for what I enjoy doing.”

She also plans to take human resources courses online.

“My life isn’t mapped out but I have come to term with that. I think that it’s fine not knowing what’s going to happen so you are more likely to take chances and experience what life throws at you.”

I’m certain Vanessa will go as far as her ambition takes her.

Music is often a topic when Wendy and I speak, so I can’t think of a better way to end this blog than with lyrics from Fleetwood Mac’s song Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow:

 Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Don’t you look back, don’t you look back.

Communities Need Love, Too

February 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

Over the past few weeks, with St. Valentine’s Day being celebrated in February, people around the world have focused on love and how to express it.

For me, after being married for almost 26 years, I’ve come to know that love in a relationship is something that is nurtured by both people involved. It continues to evolve and you see it illustrated in different ways, physically, through gestures or words.

Does love extend beyond individuals to larger groups of people, to communities? Do people have a relationship with the place they live?

I think so. It gives me goose bumps every time I hear of someone performing a random act of kindness. It brings tears to my eyes when I see someone recognizing they can make a difference to those around them.

Jody Kettyle is someone who realized she could do her own part to make Grande Prairie a better place by focusing on the good news – which there is plenty of – that doesn’t make headlines.

She started the Kinder Gentle Side of Grande Prairie Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/groups/334373066581266/

It has 360 members as I write. I’ve included some of the entries below. But first, I thought I would share a bit of Jody’s story.

Like me, Jody has lived in Grande Prairie twice. My job as Manager of Marketing and Communications with the City involves promoting the municipality and the community. In her job as a delivery driver, she sees and hears of negative things that can and do happen anywhere. She wanted to create a forum for people to celebrate what’s good here.

“There are a lot of wonderful things that happen in this city, but unfortunately happy, good things don’t sell papers,” she told me. “I came home on my birthday and saw the wonderful greetings people had put on my Facebook wall, and I was feeling the love. I wanted to share that feeling with as many people as I could so I started the group on January 5th. Someone told me once to be the change I wanted to see. I have wanted to do something like this for a very long time. I am so happy to live in this city and even more so now that I feel the emphasis is definitely shifting to the more loving, caring side of humanity.”

Jody wishes there could be a good news channel staffed with reporters who circulate through the community looking for the wonderful things people are doing.

“I guess I am a bit of a dork and a dreamer but it won’t stop me from believing we should celebrate the good things,” she says.

Here are some recent posts I wanted to share:

Ruth Hamm (Post 1): I am amazed by the huge hearts of the people of Grande Prairie. Three of us from Grande Prairie leave for Uganda in 3 days to do some relief work in a village as well as work with street children in Kampala where 50% of the children live on the street.

Individuals that I do not even know have come through with huge hearts and generosity. Thank-you hardly seems adequate for how this project has been blessed by you. May you feel blessed in return.

Ruth Hamm (Post 2): Today as I was busy trying to settle my clients prior to leaving for Uganda for a few weeks, one of them called and asked me to come by his home for a bit. As I was preparing to leave after our chat he handed me 2 balls with the Canadian flag on them. He had gone to the Dollar Store to purchase them for the street kids I am going to work with in Kampala!! I just wanted to cry as I accepted them…this from a man who himself was homeless up until a few weeks ago.

Michelle Wurtz Dana Wall: A wonderful story. I went to the Co-op with my daughter and grabbed a few things. When I was standing in line, I realized I’d left my purse in the car. I asked the lady if I could leave my stuff there and she could ring in the next guy… no prob…When I got back with my purse the lady in front of me paid for my groceries for me!!! Wow!! All she said was “pay it forward”.

Jen Simons: I would just like to thank everyone who stepped up over the last couple of days to help out those affected by the cold snap. So many people have given up their own time to be out in the cold rescuing others with boosts and rides, not because they were obligated to, but out of the goodness of their hearts; I hope they know how appreciated they are.

Tracey Matchett Silliker: I go to Sun Capsule fitness and I went for a tan and left my gold necklace hanging in the tanning bed. I did not realize I had left it there until the next morning. The necklace means a lot to me as my hubby bought it for me for our 12th anniversary. I called them first thing and the lady said she didn’t see anything. So after dropping my son at school I went to the gym…. And after looking, it was in the desk taped to a paper with my name on it. Someone could have easily taken it but thankfully someone kind found it and did the right thing. I was almost in tears when they found it 🙂

Darlene M. Astle: I just want to shout out a big ‘Thank You’ to a fellow GP resident who came to my house yesterday to drop off a chopping block for firewood. My husband was out at the bank to get some cash to pay the guy but wasn’t back in time, so the nice guy gave it to me free of charge! It’s refreshing to know that there are still kind people around to help when you need it! :).

Patricia Colosimo-Andreeff: I have had a very rough 2011. Out of the blue, a yoga-instructor friend of mine invited me to her classes for free. Her friend offered me the same gift. OMG! Totally unexpected and right what I needed.

Janice Kretzer-Prysunka:  Two nights ago my crazy golden retriever found an open gate and took off … The coldest night and he’s off by himself. We looked and looked, posted on Facebook and called the radio stations. Very kind people in my neighborhood recognized him and noticed he was loose. They watched as he found a dryer vent across from their house to warm up under and then they called him over (he came of course, he’s a retriever!) I was so relieved to get their call and thankful that someone noticed a serious situation and took action!

Vicki Vienneau: I would like to give props to DeAnne Conway-Podolchyk!! DeAnne offered to purchase a bed for a lady with cancer who is sleeping on an air mattress!!! We definitely need many more people like her in the world 🙂 She totally made someone’s day and is going to make a huge difference in that person’s life :).

Angie Kipke:  A huge THANK YOU to my neighbour for snow plowing my driveway yesterday. I so appreciate it!

Meanwhile, this past Sunday evening, a gathering of 40 residents assembled for the first gpsoup event, an initiative that emanated from the City of Grande Prairie’s Love for Cities workshop. After a meal of soup and bread, participants voted on ideas for projects that were brought forward at the meeting.

The $10 collected from attendees at the inaugural event will go toward a bird house building project with kindergarten students (A total of $402.60).

The gpsoup (check out www.gpsoup.com, #gpsoup on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/groups/334373066581266/#!/gpsoup) concept is intended to be an ongoing initiative.

Congratulations to Heather Renner and Lloyd Piehl for taking the leadership to spearhead its development.

Perhaps they have adapted the famous John F. Kennedy quote for local purposes – they are doing for their community without asking what will be done for them.

Reconnecting

November 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Nodal Relationship

Image via Wikipedia

I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I was disconnected with many uncles, aunts, cousins and second cousins. That was, in addition, to the internal strife.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve always found that my better friends became closer than family. I never really made an effort to reconnect with any relatives, located mostly in B.C. and Alberta and the Western United States.

However, about five years ago, I made an exception to my rule. I followed my curiosity and, this summer, brought my sleuthing on an impromptu family search to a happy conclusion. No sweat for a former newspaper reporter. Ironically, it is Joyce who is the genealogist in the family.

It all started when I Googled myself. I do this every once in a while to see how articles or information containing my name appear on the World Wide Web since I am routinely quoted in the media. Also, there is a David Olinger at the Denver Post. I have never connected with him, but since he’s a journalist, I like to follow the trail of the scribe with the same name.

As I was scrolling down through the entries on this one occasion, I came across the name Kelley Olinger in Victoria, B.C. I was intrigued by this name since there are many Olingers in Southern B.C., particularly the Okanagan. However I couldn’t remember seeing the name Kelley.

So, I dug a little deeper and discovered that Kelley is a real estate agent in Victoria. I sent a note via email just to see if she could be part of my extended clan, particularly in Kelowna.

Sure enough, she is Peter Olinger’s daughter.

Kelley and I emailed back and forth several times and later connected via Facebook. Then when Joyce, Peter (our son) and I moved to Grande Prairie in 2007, there was always a greater chance we would get to the West Coast in the not-too-distant future. Kelley long ago suggested that if we ever got over to the Island, we should look her up.

So, when we knew would be going to Vancouver Island in August, we followed up on that invitation. We met for a lovely lunch in Victoria.

It was during that encounter that Kelley reminded me that she had located her father’s birth mother through Facebook a couple of years ago.

As a result, Kelley facilitated a reunion in Edmonton and the families continue to correspond. It also closed chapters for both mother and son. As well, Kelley now has more family background for medical purposes.

It was a terrific story that would never have been possible without technology. In fact, my connection with Kelley would likely not have occurred without Google and my curiosity about my own name.

I have no idea what prompted me to reach out and enquire specifically as to Kelley’s connection with me. God knows, there are closer relatives than a second cousin I could have tracked down. Family dysfunction does that to you. Someone has to make the first move.

It just seemed right at the time. I am glad I did. Kelley is, too. After our visit, she offered to be our tour guide if we returned to Vancouver via Victoria. With balmy conditions in Parksville, however, we stayed extra time there and returned to the mainland via Nanaimo.

Next time, Second Cuz!

Making connections with long-lost family is a tricky business. Certainly, it was a lot more challenging for Kelley to connect her father with his birth mother. There is always the fear that they don’t care to be reunited. In my case, Kelley had never heard of me until consulting with her parents when I first contacted her. I could have been some wacko.

Having gone through the experience and hearing the story of Kelley’s family, I would certainly encourage anyone with the urge to reconnect to long-lost relatives to do so. Sure, you might get turned away. But looking at the cup half-full, you are more likely to be opening up a whole new world to yourself.

Go ahead, hop on the phone or get typing!

What’s In An Age?

August 24, 2010 § 3 Comments

Birthday Cake Cupcake

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr

So, I turn 50 on Saturday. Yes, a half-century old. The Big Five-Oh.

While this blog focuses on motivation and inspiration, you won’t find me using phrases like, “you are only as old as you feel” or “age is only a number.”

In fact, I’ve never had any strong feelings about reaching any significant age. This year is no different.

However, a colleague gave me pause for thought the other day. She remarked, “We are getting older, David.”

There is no doubt we are. But any reflection I do on the subject revolves around realizing that I continue to grow as a person and as a professional. I learn about myself and the world around me every day.

I aspire to the phrase that when you stop learning, you stop living.

Certainly the signs of advancing age are there – less hair and what I have left has streaks of what I refer to as “Arctic blond” otherwise known as grey.

I can’t do some of the physical things I used to do as well or with as much stamina – the onset of Type 2 diabetes has had a noticeable effect on my eyesight and is likely responsible for the degenerative discs in my neck.

And because I take medicine for diabetes, I don’t drink alcohol. So, if I want to party hardy, I won’t do it by consuming booze.

However, I am content that virtually all the things I have ever really liked to do, I can still enjoy wholeheartedly.

I remain an avid sports fan. I still like to crank up the tunes – and I have yet to reach the stage where I need to. Live theatre is a great interest and being in the great outdoors is an enjoyable daily occurrence with my wife and Jasper, our dog. I still relish hiking and tent camping.

I continue to maintain the motto: Never grow up. Just age gracefully.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of fostering great friendships.
I’ll be marking The Big Day with Joyce by visiting some of them – the family I celebrated with while boarding at their home 30 years ago when I was attending college in Richmond, B.C.

Friendships can also occur with anyone of any age and background. It’s really a matter of connecting with people who are meaningful and enhance your life. It’s not just who you connect with but how.

For example, my blog mate, Wendy, has become a close friend since we met at a conference in May 2009. Soon after, we realized we had much in common and decided to create this blog to develop content for inspirational and motivational book(s) and collaborate on other projects.

Wendy is 28 and I am old enough to be her parent yet we can readily finish each other’s sentences and routinely one of us says something that sparks ideas for the other. We often enjoy long conversations via Skype between Grande Prairie and Calgary.

She has remarked that I am her 20 years from now.

It would be a great loss if either one of us had put up barriers to this connection.

I’ve been inspired by other younger people lately.

The City of Grande Prairie’s Economic Development Officer, Brian Glavin, just turned 25. He has the wisdom and poise of someone much older. This makes him a joy to work with and talk to on any subject.

Brian is bound to be a leader in our organization for many years to come and will have a great impact on his community or in any venture he takes on.

Then there’s Mary Leong who I had the occasion to speak with a few times this summer through her internship in Grande Prairie helping youth seek employment.

Mary, who grew up in Singapore and has been in Canada just five years, will go as far as her ambition takes her. I was immediately taken by her enthusiasm and wide array of interests.

She’s studying political science and psychology at the University of British Columbia. Her future will see her doing either research on how technology shapes cognition and its subsequent effects on political behaviour or something in foreign relations. Perhaps she will be an ambassador or a diplomat. Who knows, maybe she will be Prime Minister.

Mary has already accomplished much in her short life. I look forward to keeping tabs of what are sure to be many success stories authored by her in the future.

At the other end of the spectrum is my mother-in-law, Mary Black, who turned 87 in April. Visits with her bless you with her peacefulness and sense of simplicity. Plus, there is probably not a kinder, gentler, classier person in the world.

So, what is in an age? It’s up to you!

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