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. 

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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.

The last week of 2009…

December 28, 2009 § 8 Comments

It’s the last week of 2009.  This Christmas has been rare in that I haven’t gotten caught up in all of the hubbub.  My stress levels have been at an all time low.  I’ve enjoyed every moment, every person, and every morsel of food more than I ever have.  And now, with the year on its final legs, I think I’m going to take this week to relive and relish the highlights of 2009, and decide how I will set the stage for 2010.

One way people attempt to start out a new year is with resolutions.  And while the intentions behind resolutions are usually good, so many people have set themselves up for failure.  The reasons for not following through on a resolution depend on person to person.  For me, I think it’s been because there’s always that expectation that you try hard to follow through, but nobody ever actually makes them, so if you give up on your resolutions after a month or two… well, heck, at least you tried, right?  This year, I want my resolutions to stick.  And so they won’t be resolutions.  Because taking one day out of the year to look at what you want and setting a goal isn’t enough.  It takes changing our day to day to really make change in our lives.

I’ve been coming across the quote from Ghandi a lot lately “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”  That has been my focus for 2009, and will continue to be my focus in 2010.  Finding alignment in my own life and in what I want to see in the world.  Being the change.

During the last couple of months, David and I have been talking about a New Year’s feature to do.  We’ve gone to our networks for some feedback, and thought through a couple of iterations of what this might look like.  We will be kicking off the New year with a bit of an experiment.  Over the course of the first 10 weeks in 2010, we’ll be posting 10 Things to Inspire and Motivate in 2010.

All the best for a motivational and inspirational New Year.

Motivating takes more than me.

December 7, 2009 § 12 Comments

I had a Eureka moment the other day during a training session. Now the point of attending workshops and taking courses is to learn new skills be exposed to new ideas. In this case, however, one of my fundamental thoughts about being a supervisor was challenged.

It had always been my thinking that I can and have motivated people.

It turns out, I have only paved the way.

Kris Robins, one of the facilitators of the Essential Skills for Supervisors Program through Northern Lakes College, told our Staying Positive – Rewarding and Energizing Employees class last Thursday that, as supervisors, we can only create the environment where people will be motivated, we don’t motivate people ourselves.

I have to agree when it is put that way. You can’t wave your magic wand and, presto, your employees will be motivated.

I suppose that is much like the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

On the other hand, Kris noted, we can de-motivate people with a single action or word.

The class was asked to cite examples of what motivates and de-motivates us.

Motivating situations include the opportunity to make a difference, having varied and challenging assignments, a sense of pride in the organization, decisive leadership, the opportunity to learn, and the ability to reach new levels of achievement.

De-motivators cited include negativity, no flexibility, minimal or no communication, lack of variety, poor direction, bureaucracy, and employees thinking in terms of their own department and not the good over the overall organization.

I believe the best employees are self-motivated and our job as managers and leaders is to fuel their fire, to nurture their growth and to give them opportunities to succeed to even greater heights than they can on their own. Essentially, we need to take steps to eliminate items on the second list from our workplaces.

Enabling employee motivation to flourish must be an ongoing effort, not something we contemplate once a month or a few times a year.

Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar summed this up well.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”

It was also interesting to note that many of the points cited on the de-motivator list are also factors in employee burnout.

I have been blessed with many good employees over the years, including when I operated my communications company full-time.

It is a thrill to work with people who are highly motivated. It is much like a sense of lighting a torch and then when your own torch flickers, having the employee regenerate your fire.

Working with motivated people is motivating to me!

It has always been my approach that I work with people, they don’t work FOR me. I contend that if people feel like they are stakeholders in the company, they will want the business or the organization to succeed just as much as you.

I am taking the Essential Skills Program to gain a certificate through Northern Lakes College.

There are nine components to the program, including:

Leadership – Giving Employees What They Need to Succeed
Effective Supervision – Directing, Coaching & Facilitating Employees
Communication – Getting the Message Across
Working Together – Building Effective Relationships in Your Workplace
Performance Management – Optimizing Results
Intervention – Managing Employees with Personal Problems
Resolving Conflict – Reaching Agreement at Work
Managing Time – Scheduling People, Paper & Priorities
Leadership – Giving Employees What They Need to Succeed

I’m eager to complete the program in the next few months and continue on to the advanced level. It is great to see how people from other workplaces operate and the challenges that they face. The beauty of this program is that while the facilitators provide instruction, you learn as much from others in the class.

When it comes to energizing my staff, it’s important for me to continue acquiring tools that ensure I’m providing the best environment possible – today and every day.

Part of that is providing those in my charge opportunities to thrive through their own growth opportunities.

That’s a given. I am a firm believer that when you quit learning, you quit living.

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