Making Your Goals A Reality

February 14, 2011 § 4 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?

Decisions.Decisions.

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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The Journey Continues

November 10, 2009 § 12 Comments

Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane had it right: Life Is A Highway.

My blogmate, Wendy, won’t be surprised I’m using a musical reference in my blog. We both do that with regularity to explain things.

In her last post, Wendy described the search for herself as a long one. She wondered if she would stand still for a moment or if she’s destined to keep moving and to continue in search of herself along the way.

I’m certain Wendy’s journey toward more knowledge of herself will be ongoing, just as mine about me will.

Anyone who constantly looks for more out of life, who is not content with the status quo, is bound to wonder what role they play in the scheme of things. There is going to be an ongoing search of who we really are because we continue to evolve and grow with the new circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Yes, life is a highway. Mine is just significantly longer than Wendy’s since I am several years older.

Sometimes we can whip into fifth gear and zip into the fast lane on our life’s highway – things are going great and we haven’t a worry in the world. Other times there is road construction and we are forced to travel along at a snail’s pace – perhaps we are overwhelmed with competing life or work priorities that are bogging us down. Sometimes there is a blizzard and we are storm stayed, stalled from moving forward – a death has occurred in the family or maybe we’ve had a relationship go south.

Events and people along the way can serve as jet fuel to thrust us ahead while some individuals and circumstances can clog up life’s carburetor.  It is always a good idea to do a maintenance check to see our personal engine is firing on all cylinders.

In my case, I was flying through my 20s. I had the fortune of meeting my bride-to-be and my best friend by interviewing her for a profile while I was a newspaper reporter in St. Paul. I was married at age 25 and she has been my rock ever since. If I had any doubts, having my wife follow me across the country for my latest job when she loved her work and the people she worked with would have removed any questions.

My life euphemistically veered for the ditch when my father died in January 1989. Somehow I knew when I moved to Ontario, that I would never see him alive again, but you can’t live life on premonitions.

It wasn’t that my father and I were that close. We were alike in many ways – our work ethic, values, kindness, our friendliness once we get to know people, and our concern for the underdog. But we had little else in common in terms of interests, other than we shared the Montreal Canadiens as our favourite hockey team.

My father’s death became something of a Circle of Life moment in that we knew he had plans to come and see my son once he was born in April 1989.

Although I have never developed the prototypical work-life balance we are reminded to find, his untimely passing did underline for me that it is important to live in the moment.

I was able to launch my communications consulting business, The Write Stuff!, and have some flexibility in my life because my father had left an inheritance. However, I would give all that back to have seen him live longer. He was just learning how to enjoy himself when he died. In fact, Dad just attended his first NHL game on the night he passed away.

I have strived to find my own level of conformity with the work-life balance ideal, but I do love what I do, so it is not a 50-50 proposition to me.

So, I have found myself working hard like he did, but playing hard when it came time to see some of my favourite performers in concert. Between 2005 and 2006, I saw the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger live. I have also taken in numerous hockey and baseball games over the years.

After my mother died in 1991, it was back into the fast lane again. I refocused my career to move from newspaper reporting to corporate writing, editing and photography at the Ontario Lottery Corporation.  Five years moved by quickly and I learned a lot of things that would help me find opportunities down the road.

When restructuring began occurring in 1997, I knew it was time for me to revamp my career. It was in that year that I started my company. That led to my position with the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, which in turn, paved the way for my current position with the City of Grande Prairie as Manager of Marketing and Communications.

When I think back, my highway of life has been mostly bare and dry, allowing me to travel at top speed most of the time, changing gears as needed.  Setbacks, such as my diagnosis of diabetes in 1999, have not been debilitating.

When I found out I had diabetes, I said that the D word is a whole lot better than the C word – cancer.

My good friend and best man, Darrell Skidnuk, was not so fortunate.

He was taken from us after a lengthy battle with cancer in April 2004 at the very young age of 42. Darrell and I met as reporters at the Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. He would become associate publisher of Fort McMurray Today. Darrell was the consummate professional, husband, father, volunteer and citizen.

Even though I believe in God, I have not been able to rationalize why He would let a great guy like Darrell suffer and perish when he had so much to offer the world. Many others hate their existence and wish to die.

Darrell was one guy I could talk to about anything, so it seems natural now to wonder when I am having a dilemma, “What would Darrell do?”

Another friend, Diane Sims, has ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis, along with other related ailments, yet still has a strong spirit to continue writing and helping others through their pain.

Again, I wonder, “Why Diane?” Is it that there are certain people put on this earth simply to inspire others?

So, how does all this relate to me and my life?

I have been motivated by them and try to be better at what I do when I think of them.

Although I don’t know where my highway is taking me, I know my role is to make every workplace I have been to better and to encourage others to be the best they can be. I am here to foster better lives for others who have not had the same fortune as I have while constantly raising the bar for myself.

Wendy is right, we only have one shot at life. Darrell packed a lot into his short existence. Diane continues to fight the odds.

I haven’t always lived up to their standards, just as I don’t always heed the Serenity Prayer when I should.

But as long as I remember where I should be on that highway of life and follow the signs, I will enjoy a rewarding journey.

Where Am I?

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