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.


Building the Circle of Life

March 22, 2010 § 3 Comments

I attended a funeral the other day and was reminded of my own father’s passing on just over 21 years ago. Hearing some of the same traditional hymns like The Old Rugged Cross brought back memories.

It was my supervisor’s father whose life we were celebrating. He’d lived into his 80s and, through the eulogy, I learned more about the person I report to. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at a couple of ‘ah ha’ moments when I heard characteristics that also describe my supervisor and explain more about who she is and why.

Traits get passed on without us even knowing it. I now wonder what people would notice ingrained in my son that would also be true of me.

When my dad died, less than three months before my son was born, it seemed very much like the Circle of Life experience from the Lion King. My father had planned to come visit us after the birth. It’s too bad he didn’t get the chance. It would have been one of the joys of his retiring years.

Within a month, my son will turn 21. His future, like an unpainted canvas, lies ahead of him, particularly since he has not determined a clear direction.

I wrote in this space earlier that I want him to find something he is passionate about with an ever-increasing amount of choices in our global marketplace. Like many young people, he plans to begin seeking his fortune in a larger centre, likely Edmonton.

Once he does, who knows where that will find him. He plans to work a year there to help make some decisions with a broader view of the world.

Maybe he will be like a young friend of mine, Megan Koprash, who worked as an office assistant in my business during high school.  She finds herself working overseas after doing some globetrotting.

She’s supportive of Peter travelling to better understand his options. “There’s a great big world out there. It changed my life,” she told me when we spoke online today.

In her free-spirited way, Megan did a short stint in Taiwan before moving to England to teach, following her graduation from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

It will be three years in August since she began teaching in Essex County, near London.  Megan has considered leaving there a few times, but something always makes her stay. I think the place fits her personality.

“I am a bit of a drifter and a dreamer,” she reminded me.

I have always admired Megan for being both carefree and committed to what she believes in. To this day, she’s the recipient of one of the best letters of reference among the many I’ve written.

Even in high school, Megan got it. I would allow her time off to audition for theatre productions and she would reciprocate on her own volition by working into the wee hours on deadline projects.

Megan is who she is because a great upbringing and support from her parents, Margie and Ron, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

She will cite them when it comes to describing her success story later in life. Megan will go as far as her ambition takes her.

I’m pleased the letter of reference I wrote helped Megan get that job in Britain and to have been part of her early professional growth.

Megan’s parents did a fine job of enabling and encouraging their daughter to follow her dreams.

As a parent, you strive to leave some kind of legacy like that. I would like my son to see that I’ve pursued opportunities as they’ve been presented, allowing me to lead a very rich, rewarding and varied career.

My own father left his own trademark. I always thought of him as strong and invincible – that go to guy who was always there … so much so that months after he died, I went to pick up the phone to ask advice, only to remember that he would not be on the other end of the line.

His departure from this earth just after he started learning to enjoy himself was a lesson to me – to work toward the future but to not forget about living in the moment when good times are to be had.

Circle of Life scenarios are abundant and aren’t all associated with family members. For example, I think it is ironic that my blog mate, Wendy, was born just two months before I graduated from Kwantlen College in 1982. Somehow I think that is one of the things that link us.

In this relay called life, I enjoy passing the baton to others with less experience, helping them to advance into the fast lane with perspective and insight they wouldn’t otherwise have.

There’s no joy like having someone, whether a young friend or a family member, tell you that you made a difference in their lives.

Channel Surfing

December 14, 2009 § 3 Comments

It’s another boring night with nothing on.  You’re on your couch passively flipping through the channels, trying to find something that will spark your interest for at least a minute.  But as you go, the more you surf, the less you find, and the less you pay attention.  You get lulled into a sense that there’s never anything on.  And so you continue to move through channels, now at lightning speed.  Click.  Click.  Click.  Wait, what’s that?  Nope, I’ve seen that before.  Click.

Sometimes you settle on something to watch for a few minutes before passively clicking through to the next channel, but every now and again you hit the right frequency with that click and come across a program that piques your interest. It’s not that you were looking for this specific program, in fact you probably didn’t really know what you were looking for.  But here it is.  Out all of the hundreds of channels at all of the different times of day you’ve been through, for once, here it is.

I’ve been thinking about my life in terms of frequency lately.  What frequency am I on?  Do I like what I’m seeing?  If I don’t, I change the channel until I find something that resonates with me.

There’s a bit of singing advice I heard from Matt Good that fits well here too.  In order to get the most out of your voice and to hit all of the high notes, he’s learnt to sing from a place where his voice resonates inside of his mind, not from his vocal chords.  He said that’s why Thom Yorke from Radiohead is always moving his head around so much.  He’s finding the spots in which his voice hits just the right frequency.

Imagine the practice it takes to find that.  Imagine the kind of head space you’ve got to be in to make that work.  For me, that’s not from a knowing space, that’s from a feeling space.  That’s being aware of your own mind enough to hear when those notes hit the right spot.  And that may take some searching and practicing to find.  But once you do, it’s pure gold.

Think of this now in terms of finding yourself through life, finding a point where things can resonate for you.  You’ll need to have your feelers on as well as your thinking cap for this one.  Think about how off life can feel when you’re not tuned into the right frequency, but how easy it is to just pick up the remote and change the channel until you like what’s on.  Once you’re there, you stay for awhile, if it’s really good, you’ll come back and watch it again.  So try that with your life, the more you find what feels right, what strikes a chord in you somewhere, the more your going to want to come back to that.  The more you come back to that, the more you’ll like what you see.  And soon, you may just find yourself another step closer to living passionately.

Why give 75% at a job you sort of like when you can give 100% at a job you love?

September 28, 2009 § 4 Comments

There can be several reasons:  Family.  Commitments.  Security.  Good Pay.  Benefits.  Stability.

But what about:  Passion?  Fun?  Self-fulfillment?

I believe that the majority of us have been brought up thinking that we cannot have both.  We look at the kind of life we want to have, and think that it’s not possible if we also want something else.  For instance, can a woman really have a career and be the heart of the family?  Many think no.  But what about the career you are passionate about?

Find a job that you love and you will never work another day in your life.” – Confucius

Find that passion, that fun, that self-fulfillment and soon it doesn’t take any work at all to have both.  Because when you love what you do, you’ll always find a reason to do it.

I am in an area I love.  Everything I do has to do with the web.  From web design, social media and marketing to shopping, connecting and sharing.  By day I support corporate websites and their initiatives.  I love the challenge there is across a multitude of industries and finding ways to make a company website work while supporting a variety of goals.

By night, I do the same thing, only for individuals and small businesses because I believe there is a world full of people out there I can help.  It’s not work to me.  It’s where two of my passions meet:  web and helping people.   And it’s something I can make a good living at.  I have time for family, for my commitments.  I have security, stability and benefits.  I’m living by example.  I think I can have it all.  And so far I do.

I haven’t always thought that way.  I used to think in terms of sacrifices.  I had to sacrifice something that I wanted in order to get something else that I wanted.  And sometimes, to prove how much I wanted it, it had to be a big sacrifice.

There was value in what I gave up to get what I wanted.  I slip back into those shoes every now and again, and they feel foreign and uncomfortable. For me it’s been about taking a long hard look at the obstacles I think I face.  And figuring out who put them there.  Most of them I put there myself.  I have set my own limits and my own ceilings.  I took a different stance, the sky became the limit… and all of a sudden it’s attainable.

So, what if we each chose to live our lives from a standpoint of passion?  What if we chose not to settle for any less than work we are passionate about doing and that supports our families AND provides stability and security?  It’s out there.

And because we’re each passionate about different areas, there’s plenty to go around.

I’ve never worked a day in my life

September 21, 2009 § 11 Comments

Find a job that you love and you will never work another day in your life.” – Confucius

I guess that quote from the great Chinese philosopher makes me the biggest slacker in the world because I love what I do. I always have. And I always will.

Oh sure, there have been days where I have not wanted to deal with a certain issue. And there were times when I knew an individual was going to be bothersome. But I can say, without a doubt, I have found enjoyment in every position I’ve ever held.

And there have been a few along the way.

I think this lifetime passion has happened for a few reasons.

I see what I do as a continuum of skill building and experiences. While I have had several positions, and operated my own business in the communications field, everything I’ve done has been a clear stepping stone to the next stage in my employment.

I’ve found variation in what I’ve done and have never allowed myself to get bored or stuck in a rut – common phrases from people who need a change but are doing nothing towards it.

New opportunities, creating greater challenges have always arrived for me long before complacency has had a chance to set in. You can always return to what you were doing before, but if you don’t examine the possibilities, you will likely be saying, “what if” some day.

You will notice I haven’t used the word “job” yet. I see what I do to be more of a calling or a vocation – to distribute information and to tell the stories that need to be told.

In my current role, that means promoting the City of Grande Prairie. When I began my career, my duty was to tell readers about the exploits of the St. Paul Jr. Canadiens. And profiling the local daycare director in the St. Paul Journal would also land me a future wife.

Perhaps my Dad rubbed off on me. It’s always been instinctive to challenge myself to do my best, and then some every day. I have never lost that thirst, that motivation. It was his attitude of striving to always come home having a job well done that inspired me.

Now no one will ever say I am the life of the party. But I do seek to find fun in what I do. And I figure, if you are going to spend most of your waking hours doing something, enjoy it.

I am also not one for setting one-, two- or five-year goals, but I do encourage readers to take action when they know it is time to move on or to move up in the organization.

Don’t wait for your supervisor to recognize you want to do more or that you are seeking new opportunities. As a manager, I try to be in tune with my employees, but I am not a mind reader. A good supervisor will be only too willing to listen to your career aspirations.

And if you really are in a poor work environment, don’t allow yourself to be mired in drudgery. As the words from a popular Trooper song remind us:

If you don’t like what you got, why don’t you change it?
If your world is all screwed up, then rearrange it.

Raise a little hell, raise a little hell, raise a little hell!

I am not recommending you go postal … just be the master of your own destiny so you can find satisfaction in your own career.

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