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BITCHES Have All the Answers …

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Driving along the Penticton beach strip, I looked out at the dark, foreboding, icicle-cold water of Okanagan Lake.

Just a few months ago, I had swum across this lake on a bright and balmy summer morning – my annual 2.6K cross-lake paddle with my amiga de swimming Jennifer.

IMG_0127

Today, it wasn’t really all that cold outside, maybe slightly above the freezing point, but the dusky colour of the lake and the sombre grey sky gave the impression of an Arctic-frigid kind of day.

I felt a little chill run through me as I gazed out at the small ripples on the water. Even the stately, visiting Trumpeter Swans looked shivery bobbing out there.

Motoring along just in front of me was a big, dark-toned pickup truck, the kind driven by men with tattoos that cover their entire meaty arms and shotguns in the back window.

A large black dog with a sleek, shiny coat of fur was zig-zagging across the box in the back of the truck … one side, then the other, then the other, over and over again. It was hypnotic the way she floated like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth.

Just so you know – and I know I shouldn’t make snap judgments – I’m calling the pup SHE because her owner probably likes the idea of owning a bitch.

(Aside: It’s illegal to carry untethered dogs in the back of your truck in B.C. but I don’t think doggy knew she was at risk of being jailed. She maybe even smokes forbidden pot without realizing this isn’t Washington State or Colorado… some dogs can be so nonchalant.)

Black Dog in Pickup

Anyway, I wondered.

What was this dog thinking?

Was she taking stock of her situation just for the moment at hand, or was she trying to determine if this was the life she really wanted to lead?

Searching for life’s key, she flashed a thoughtful look out in all directions, imploring, begging for the answer to find a windy pathway into her nose where she could digest its meaning.

Did this canine have a secret, a secret that I should know?

Of course. Right then, I knew the black doggy had the right approach. She was actively absorbing and questioning her life’s choices and taking stock.

If she could be so perceptive and insightful, it seemed only right that I should do the same.

But. When is the right time to take stock of your life?

Should we even try to take stock of our lives?

Should we spend those Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to think, become curious and become masters of our own lives?

Pssst… Let me share a small secret with you.

The laws of biology dictate that our “life road” will come to a dead end at some point.

Turbulent but brilliant Steve Jobs knew that when he spoke at the 2005 Stanford University Commencement ceremony:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs Candle

Absorbing this important message, taking stock isn’t something we should wait until later in our lives to contemplate, is it?

When we’re driving to work, when we’re relaxing by the fire in the evening, when we’re running or knitting, or having sex – no, forget that last one – those are the times to ask ourselves if all is settled and as it should be, or are changes needed. Asking the question:

Am I living the life I thought I’d lead when, in Grade 11 Math Class, I dreamed of the future instead of listening to Mr. Warneke?”

Today, just like Steve Jobs said, I’m in the process of becoming naked.

Just like the black dog in the truck. Naked.

My young adult kids think I’m way too undressed already, and maybe they’re right. But I don’t think so.

I think they’re young like I was just a few … weeks ago. The wisdom of roaming the earth in metaphorical nakedness is something that grows cunningly inside as our hair grows grey on the outside.

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices...

Maybe someone should be really taking stock of their life choices…

Becoming who we want rather than what our friends and family and media tell us to be is a huge courageous step forward. Taking stock and being honest to ourselves can be slow, it can be difficult, maybe even painful.

There are still some parts of myself that I can’t bring myself to share with the world because of my pride and fear of embarrassment.

I’m not fully naked and I probably never will be. But there are fewer and fewer secret coves that I’m protecting, and it feels good to let go of my pride.

Taking the time to look out the window. To think. To digest the robin or chickadee songs, the views of luscious green hillsides, breathing and smelling the lilac in the air, tasting a bit of sandy grit in my teeth as dust swirls when a truck passes is useless dreck.

Maybe that’s just stuff to be ignored. Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I have less and less to lose and I have a black dog to thank for reminding me that I don’t have to hide the parts of me that used to scare me. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Taking stock of where I am and where I’m going is a sign of strength. I love that feeling of risk and fear.

The rush.

Like the carriage return when I hit the Publish button.

Click.

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I Secretly HATE Perfect People …

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Children are not small adults …

Baby adult

but adults are small children…

child_adult

When I was a little gopher, I believed all adults were perfect.

Adults knew everything and they understood the right solution for every problem that crept up in life.

I would gaze upwards into the lightly-lined face of my elementary school teacher Miss Taylor – on whom I had an enormous kiddie crush – or my aunt or uncle, and I knew that no earth-crushing challenge was too difficult in the faultless mind of this big person.

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I have never written for children, for who knows where childhood ends and adulthood begins?”

P.L. Travers (Author- Mary Poppins)

……………………………

A lot of life is about discovery.

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Discovery about who you are and who others are.

It took me longer to figure out the truth about adults than it did about Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or that you had to cook rice in water before you could make it into fried rice (I still appreciate my parents and siblings for not laughing me out of the house when I put the bowl of CRUNCHY fried rice on the dining room table.)

Adults are kind of like those creepy characters in Sci-Fi movies who peel back a big body zipper on their “human” selves revealing the green alien that lies beneath.

If we as adults just unzipped ourselves, we would all see the innocent, but clueless little kid with the freckles and the peanut butter and jelly stain on our T-shirt.

But there is no faultless “adult”, no wizard, inside the zippered skin, no font of all solutions. Dads and Kids I’m not an expert at life.

And I’m definitely not perfect.

Let me give you just a few examples of my non-perfection viewed from a Curmudgeon‘s perspective:

Sometimes I’m just a crabby old dude.

  • Years ago when I worked in Yellowknife, I was furiously pissed off at Joanne, a young lady lab tech who inadvertently opened a piece of mail that had my name on the outside.

I yelled at her. I enjoyed yelling at her. Crabby. Not perfect.

  • Later on in a lab job in Comox, I quit, sold my house, and ran away because I didn’t like the way the union protected people who weren’t there to do a job. I was angry that I had to do some of the things like dipsticking urine samples looking for sugar and protein that they should have done.

I yelled inside my head. Then I escaped. Crabby. Not perfect.

  • I wasn’t the world’s best Dad … I wasn’t the worst either, but I ran short of patience. I held doors closed so kids couldn’t get out of their rooms. We screamed back and forth at each other like crazy banshees.

I yelled. I cajoled. Crabby. Not perfect.

…………………………..

Did I mention that I’m not perfect?

I don’t look like George Clooney (feel free to disagree anytime, OK?). I don’t sing like Keith Urban. I don’t have the gorgeous muscular physique of Ryan Reynolds. I can’t tell jokes like Jerry Seinfeld. Or eloquently speechify like Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela.

Ryan-Reynolds Muscles

There are countless people out there that I’ve admired over the years.

Some of them were distant and I knew about them from news stories or magazine articles, reading books or watching TV and movies: actors, singers, musicians, politicians.

But many of those I admired breathed the same air that I did, standing and sitting next to me in my workplace and in the world around me everyday, all the time. These are special and magical people. Oftentimes they don’t realize the superpowers they possess.

I’ve paddled through life swimming in a sea of men and women who have talents and abilities that I would kill for. And because they were so good, and I was so small and inconsequential, I would secretly hate them. Why should they have all of the talent and beauty and perfection? Why not me?

YES … I hated them.

That was then. Now is now, and I’ve tossed away the hate.

I gave up looking for perfection in myself SO long ago now that I can’t remember what it even smells like in the distance.

I’ve struggled for a long time with my imperfection. I haven’t wanted the people I know and love to know that I make mistakes, that sometimes I’m stupid, that sometimes I am so far from perfection that NASA hasn’t created a rocketship with enough power to reach me out here in the cosmos.

But are others really perfect? Of course not. 

All of us have talents and abilities that take us a notch above.

The joy isn’t in being perfect, because there is no perfect.

There’s good and there’s better.

The joy to be had is in pursuing the “better” and knowing that there is always MORE BETTER.

I’m past being perfect now. People know I’m not perfect and I want them to know I’m not perfect.

That’s just too much pressure.

But what I really want you to know is that I’m working and playing hard to be better.

And if it works today, I’ll run a bit faster, or play that guitar lick just a teensie bit better.

But I know too, that if my race time is a few seconds slower, or I can’t quite touch my toes in a yoga stance, or I can’t put together the right Spanish tenses in a sentence, the important thing is I’m trying and I’m enjoying the process of reaching.

And for me PERFECTION is making the reach.

salvador-dali perfection

Are YOUR Goals YOUR Passion for 2014 – Part 2

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Have you noticed that sunny days smell so much better than cloudy ones?

sunflower

Food tastes better … snow sparkles whiter … girls look sweeter and smell more ravishing … beer is more refreshing – when it’s sunny.

Having goals to aim towards is like having balmy sun rays warming the skin on your shoulders every day – or John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High in your ears.

Your senses are fired up and you feel the glowing burn of internal enthusiasm rising knowing that you’re choosing a positive road.

Life is just sunnier and tastier.

……………………….

I can talk a good story.

I can post all of my incredible achievements with full glossy, colour photos on Facebook. Everyone is smiling and living the best life ever on Facebook. It’s true.

WRONG.

I can make myself sound like perfection while writing this blog, even though I’m not.

When we’re born, we contain all of the promise and disappointment, the fate of our lives buried inside. But it’s not really fate. We can choose the direction of all that promise or devastation.

I have fears. I’ve laid in my bed staring at the ceiling so many times through the years, worrying and fretting about a host of concerns, real and mostly imagined.

I’ve worried that I’m dying, or my wife has cancer, or what will become of my kids.

When I was a teenager, I cried myself to sleep worrying about my Mom dying. That wasn’t an imagined dread, it was real. She stepped out of the car one spring evening and collapsed on our driveway and died when I was 15.

But worries can’t stop us from making the most of the days we do have. I’m not Christian, or Jewish, or Islamic, or Hari Krishna, or a follower of any religious icon.

I’m just one of 7 billion living people on this planet and however many billion people that have lived before me searching for a meaningful – significant and worthwhile in a way that means something to me – life.

7 billion swimmers

The whole world must be swimming here …

Some days, some weeks, some years are long, but an entire life is SOOOO short.

One day soon, like my great-grandparents, I’ll just be a few yellowed pages of smiling, but essentially personality-less pictures in a weathered photo album or on a computer hard drive. That, and a bit of dust or ashes feeding the next season’s growth of flowers and grass.

……………………….

What’s that you say? Larry, you sound like Donny Downer.

Some of what I’ve said to this point does makes me sound like I’m wallowing in a depression, but don’t believe it. I’m an idealistic optimist.

I’m just pointing out that life isn’t 24/7 happiness and joy. And I’m glad for that. Life is a process, a road we travel.

I’m travelling hopefully, and I wish you the same.

Goals are a hugely important part of my hopeful travels. 

How can I tap dance on the sidewalk with glorious abandon if I have no direction?

This year I’m setting up my 2014 goals by category because a number of areas of my life contain more than one item in their little compartments.

I want to share these with you to make me accountable. I like the subtle pressure of you knowing where I’m headed because of the inner need I have to achieve and please.

I’m a terrible dancer, but if I could tap dance like Fred Astaire, here’s the fuel that would feed that ability:

……………………….

2014 GOALS

BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and LFEG’s (Little Fuzzy Everyday Goals)

1. PHYSICAL/HEALTH

a) 100 burpees including pushups. I’m going at this lung-busting challenge with a few of my co-workers, so we can all DIE together. Most people I know, including me, hate the BURPEE. It’s hard once you get past 3 or 4 of these up/down/pushup/jump contortions, which is exactly why I’m doing it. I’ll enjoy the pain … afterwards!

Now THOSE are burpees!

Now THOSE are burpees!

b) 2 more New-To-Me Sports (eg. Paintball, Kickboxing …). It’s important to keep refreshed with new things to keep our enthusiasm levels high. If you have any great suggestions for innovative new sports I can try… add your comment at the end, OK? Pole dancing is NOT an acceptable suggestion for this dude.

c) Run 2 Half Marathons – both in sub-2 Hour time and as a stretch goal, finishing one in sub-1 hr and 55 minutes. Half marathon running is the perfect distance for feeling a sense of accomplishment without having to give over your life to training.

d) Lose Enough Weight to See the Subtle Signs of a 6 pack Abs.- I work hard in training. A lot of that work includes the core (ie. Abdominal muscles). Isn’t it fair that I should see even a tiny ripple or two of ripped muscle that says that yes, it’s finally paying off?

Muscle definition is one part health-related stuff to one part ego matter, and my ego needs a teensy little meal to feed on here. I don’t have an actual weight loss goal, just enough to see the small sandbar ripples in the mirror.

2. CHARITABLE

a) 10% Charitable boost – I’m so lucky to have won the life lottery that gives me an unbelievable lifestyle. Supporting charities  (Plan International /UNICEF) that assist in enabling others to proudly develop their own systems and economies to live the way I can is a tiny tiny price to pay.

b) Buy a coffee for the next person in the lineup at Tim Hortons once per month – Coffee is mentioned in the Ten Commandments given Moses:

Thou shalt be provided and drink coffee in healthful abundance“.

Huh, it’s not a commandment? Really? Well it should be.

Coffee Commandment

3. WRITING

a) 50 Additional Blog Posts + 40 views/day on blog 

I’m not the most stylishly eloquent guy when it comes to verbal communication. In some ways, I suck at the whole talk thing.

That leaves writing as my favoured way of expressing what I have to say. A weekly blog allows me to think about and ponder the things that are meaningful to me, and then allows me to share my thoughts with you.

b) Take on Writing Another Novel – this past November I participated in the month long National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an internet-based 50,000 word novel-writing challenge.

It’s free, it’s motivating, and they give you lots of feedback and encouragement. I wrote about 2/3 of a novel that is really bad, but I loved doing it.

I’m psyched to take it on again and make my own sexy 50 Shades of Green.

4.  MUSICAL

a) Purchase 12-string guitar – The guitar has been one of my best friends in life. It’s been there all through the peaks and valleys. But sometimes, a song just needs a little more depth than 6 strings radiate and a 12-string guitar can add that richness, like a teaspoon of full-fat cream in coffee.

b) Purchase a Baby Grand Piano – This is probably not a goal that will be attained this year, but it’s too important in my mind to not at least put it on the list for the next year or two.

Piano is a great late-night instrument that satisfies my spirituality needs. Singing a love ballad on a richly-toned grand in the semi-darkness at 11 pm. …well, it just soothes my savage soul.

mickey_mouse_piano

c) Learn more mandolin – I got a lovely mandolin gift last year. Like a 12-string guitar, the double sets of strings on a mandolin add musical dimensions that lift us dreamily towards the heavens. It’s time to give a bit of quality time and develop at least a minimal skill set.

d) Write 6 more Songs and perform original songs publically. Writing songs is hard, but rewarding. For variety I’d like to write 2 country, 2 folk-ballad, 1  jazzy, and 1 rock’ish-style. This should stretch my imagination and creativity skills to the breaking point.

Performing publically is nervously challenging but fun. But now, finding the steely nerves to take my own songs to a stage and perform them publically is, for me, a huge leap. 2014 is the year for me to brace myself and do this. Besides, why should only my family suffer through hearing my dulcet vocal tones!

5. TRAVEL

a) Visit at least 5 more American States – one of my long term goals is to visit each of the 50 American States – I’ve visited all of the Canadian provinces and territories in previous years. Last year I wandered and added 9 states (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and DC) to my list that includes 9 others. This year I hope to knock off a bunch of western U.S. States and make it near to the halfway point.

b) Touch Ground on One More Continent – One more of my long-term goals is to step on each of the continents. Africa, Australia, and Antarctica are out there calling my name like sweet sirens in the mist. See next item…

c) Buy a Fez Hat in Fez, Morocco + get my hair cut by a “Barber in Seville” – A touchdown in Morocco this year would take me to the African continent, and allow me the opportunity to do a couple of things that are iconic of the area: Visit Casablanca and talk like Humphrey Bogart, buy the Fez hat that Steely Dan sang about in the 1970’s , and while in Spain, be sheared like Rossini’s famed Barber of Seville.

A Fez of the Heart...

A Fez of the Heart…

6. MENTAL/EDUCATIONAL

a) Listen to at least 1 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk per month – I’d be hard-pressed to find a finer source of creative and thought-provoking material than is found in the inspiring TED talks. This is a Lego-block piece of the grey-matter material that makes the internet so great.

b) Read at least one new book each month – whether it’s for escape or education or relaxation, books (PAPER or ELECTRONIC) are one of life’s wonders more crucial and dear to most of us than the physical 7 Wonders of the World.

7. FINANCIAL

a) 15% return – Each year, my goal is to bring home an additional 15% on my investments.

And each year I start out feeling nervous as hell because no matter how well I did the previous year, January 1 is right back to the starting blocks. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day and each year I have to prove my investing chops all over again as if last year never happened.

My 5-year average annual return is looking pretty fair at 22.7%  but then when you cook in the 2008 stock market plunge, my 10-year annual average is only 12.4%.

b) Retire, Debt-Free –  The year 2014 is my “Freedom 57” year.

I hate the word retirement, it’s kinda like saying “I’m done with life“. We live in a golden age with countless choices of paths to wander.

As Yogi Berra said: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Retirement is just another fork in the road, and I’m choosing to take it.

8. FOOD & EATING

a) Eat at least one box of Kraft Dinner per month – mmmmm. Kraft Dinner. God’s flavourful gift to men. Like the humour of Monty Python, Kraft dinner seems to be favoured by the male set. With or without ketchup, it’s a simple box of orange-hued macaroni ambrosia.

Gourmet KD

If I had a million dollars …Gourmet KD…

b) Drink Coffee with Only One Sugar – to counteract the ill effects of all that delicious Kraft Dinner, I’ll resolve this year to scale back my sugar (and/or Splenda) use. A couple of years back I shed my Canadian-ness by cutting back the double cream to a single dose in my coffee. This year will be the year of my sugar assault.

……………………..

The chapter of each of our books that is 2014 has been opened and the juicy story of what will be, is waiting to be discovered.

Like a good Canadian lad, I grew up playing hockey with fervour and enthusiasm. When I jumped onto the ice at Parkdale Arena in Hamilton, the first thing on my mind was:

I wanna score a goal!”

Deep down, I’m still that little guy with the rosy-red cheeks, skating on this rink of life. I might not score on every shift, but I’m rushing up and down the wings, enthusiastically sucking in the air that sustains me.

And when I score a goal, inside I feel just like Bobby Orr soaring through the air, caught up in that moment of elation.

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal...

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal…

Are Your GOALS your PASSION for 2014? Part I …

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 I’ve leapt off the 2013 cliff and landed clumsily but safely on the slippery shelf that I’ll cling to for 2014.

2013 to 2014

Brace yourself and take this jump with me, OK?

My goals are really important to me, perhaps because as my friend Jennifer tells me:

My delusional optimism is greater than my depressive disorder.”

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There are some who hate to set goals (resolutions, call it what you will) because of fears they’ll just be disappointed by what they haven’t been able to do.

Cowards…

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I don’t think I can, so I won’t even try!”

Nonsense, says I !

Having goals means I’m in control.

It’s a good feeling to take the wheel and drive – even if danger exists – because it always feels better to be the one holding the controls, doesn’t it?

When I’m motoring the nail-bitingly steep switchback roads plummeting downwards into British Columbia’s coastal town of Bella Coola, I feel less terror – even though I’m sweating bullets – when I’m behind the wheel than I do while in the passenger seat. I could still deftly tumble to a ferocious, fiery death, but it’s within my sway and command.

car_off_a_cliff

No Goals … I’m passive. I’m the passenger, terrified by the plunging depths laid out hundreds of metres below. I’m at the whimsy of the world, controlled by outside forces.

With Goals  I’m active. I’m the driver… I’m the one in charge of the potential fireball that is my life.

The changes you make in life are the preferable, fun ones. The ones pressed onto you are part of the squeeze, part of your prison sentence.

Get paroled. Make your own choices.

I love the glorious feeling of achievement … consummation … completion. I’m pretty sure there’s a wonderfully juicy sexual metaphor to be found in that statement … oops, a small extra shot of testosterone must have snuck its way into my system.

But reaching our goals means living a disciplined life. Discipline is a tough commodity to hold onto in the 21st century with so many distractions.

How many distractions can there possibly be in our lives?

Every year … nay, every week, more online distractions  (yeah, even this blog) jump into our path with eye candy and Angry Birds, countless diversions that pull us, like the serpent in Eden, away from living the life we really want.

Just thinking about this and I can feel my eye twitching. There’s too much activity – I feel a rising urgency and sense of panic.

To battle these distractions, you have to be sure YOUR goals are:

REALLY.

IMPORTANT.

TO.

YOU!

What truly matters is … what are you seeking to attain this coming year?

So, without further ado, I’ll jump into a review of my 2013 goals, laid out here in this blog one short year ago. I’ll even foolishly include a grade score (HIT, HALF HIT, or MISS) at the end of each line.

Next week, I’ll dive into my 2014 list of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG‘s:  from author Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great).

Be sure to check my year-end score at the bottom. It’s barely a passing grade, but you’ll see that I don’t mind not hitting every goal. It’s a process, right friends?:

GOALS for 2013

My 2013 goals…………………………………..

  • Pay off investment loans in anticipation of debt-free retirement in 2014- HALF HIT

This was really a two-parter right from the start.

In 2013 I did pay off half of my investment loans by selling a portion of my Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s). I’ll kill off the rest in 2014 in order to retire this summer totally debt-free.

Borrowing the $$ to buy REIT’s 10 years ago worked well as a way to accumulate a good investment while letting the investment itself pay off the cost of the loans. CAUTIONARY NOTE: This use of financial leverage can be a double-edged sword. Fortunately, it worked well in this situation, but I’d be very careful about doing it again.

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  • Bring blog posting total to 100 and views to 7500…HIT

As the year 2013 awoke, I wrote and posted blog entry #40, entering the year with a total of 2,383 viewings to Dec 31, 2012.

Well, I didn’t quite score top marks with my goal of 100 total blog posts by year end 2013, but I’m happy at a 1 post-per-week rate that brought me to a total of 91 entries.

Writing a weekly blog post is a wonderful bit of self-discipline that holds my lazy feet to the fire.

More important though is that searching my mind for words and thoughts each week makes me more keenly aware of what is going on around me. I have to observe the sights, the smells, the sneers and smiles of family and friends if I’m going to pass comment – or describe the beautiful vision of a scruffy, tan-coloured coyote nervously trotting across my front yard.

In 2012 I had an average of 12 views per day of one or another of my blog posts. In 2013, this number rose to 26 views per day.

I was aiming for a year-end total of 7,500 views but crushed that number, finishing the year at 11,920.

It might sound impressive – or it may not, if you consider that REALLY popular blog writers accumulate that many views per DAY!

A good deal of what attracts viewers to a blog (other than content) are keywords that are picked up by search engines like GOOGLE and BING. I stumbled into writing a blog post mid-year that contained the keywords Women dominate men and castration. Well, who knew it, but apparently the world is swelling with people whose minds gravitate in that particular direction when doing their GOOGLE search.

One other interesting factoid? Viewers came to the blog from 122 different countries.

The real writer of this blog...

The real writer of this blog…

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  • Write 12 songs…one per month. HALF HIT

The year 2013 was the year I finally found a way to pull a song out of my magic rabbit’s hat.

I’ve struggled and been frustrated with songwriting attempts for many many years, but just haven’t found the muse or the wizardry to really make it happen.

Not this year! I took a free online course on Songwriting. Instructor Pat Patterson at Berkley School of Music in Boston mined into my musical head and extracted what was needed to get me on track.

I receive just a half hit for this goal because I wrote only 6 songs.

No matter. I’m excited and jacked to know I can do this. Quantity isn’t the important thing here. The quantum leap has been achieved and I know now that I can move forward.

Stay tuned this year for a tune or two, penned by Yours Truly, attached to this blog. Advance warning : maybe buy some ear plugs now.

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  • 20 Pullups Non-Stop – MISS

Complete failure here. Nope, didn’t even make an attempt at this. I was too intimidated by last year’s successful attempt at hitting 10 that I couldn’t summon the mental energy to make the physical assault on this goal. No excuses … let’s move on.

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They can't do it ... neither can I ...

They can’t do it … neither could I …

  • Take cooking classes in Spanish-speaking country (Argentina?/Costa Rica?) – MISS

Perhaps I was too ambitious trying to squeeze this one in to 2013. Your invitation for spicy, steaming empañadas must wait another year I’m afraid.

Trips to icy Saskatoon and then to autumny Ontario and Nashville put a delay in the “cooking” trip. I see this as just a postponement and not truly a MISS, but I can’t give myself a passing grade for something that didn’t happen, can I?.

This will be accomplished…. MAÑANA!

.Cooking class in Argentina

  • Try 2 more “new-to-me”sports (eg. kettlebells, curling, paddleboarding) – HIT

Check!

I started the year with a Kettlebell session with my friend Charlie, who taught me the proper techniques for swinging these big chunks of metal without destroying my back, or flinging them through the plate glass windows at the front of the gym. For someone like me with probable ADHD, it’s just one more way to stay fit and stave off the boredom of the same-old same-old.

Twice this summer I found myself standing on a paddleboard aside Angus or Catherine Anne, precariously paddling and gliding over Okanagan Lake, sun glittering its diamonds across the water’s surface. Balancing on one of these suckers requires non-stop concentration, but I’ll admit it is much easier than trying to stay upright with a windsurfer.

Unexpected benefit? The lengthy paddle is perfect for smacking over the head of noisy Seadoo‘ers too!

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  • 100 pushups Non-stop – HALF HIT

I’m happy but slightly disappointed.

My friend Pamela and I hit the gym on New Year’s Eve – at lunch break, still lots of time for excessive drinking later. With colourful cheerleader pompoms and backward somersaults we rooted each other on to hit the 100 … and …

Pam started the session and knocked off 50 before she decided that surely I must be standing on her back. A short 15 second rest, then she smiled out of her fire-engine red face and continued on. It took 4 more sets before she made it to 100, but she gutted it out and arrived in good finishing form.

Nervously, I started and was pumping them out strongly at 35, then 40, 45, 50, yes, I was pleased and feelin’ fine … but by 55, the pain was really beginning to settle in and I reluctantly halted at 60 for a half-minute break.

“OK, Not a big deal“, I said to myself. Pam smiled a beam of supportive encouragement at me, and, I, like a woman in labour glaring at the man who brought her to this painful moment, don’t think I ever hated anyone as much as I did her when I saw her cheery grin.

I got back into position and carried on. 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90. My body shrieked and cried, my arms jiggled and quivered. Just 10 more. Mental talk and imagery…”I can do this“.

Each extra pushup was a painfully slow and drawn-out event. Finally, when I hit 96, my bum was inching skyward to help the physics along, and my earthquaking arms let go, sending me crashing mightily face-first to the hard floor. NOOOO, just 4 short.

I laughed when what I really wanted to do was cry.

Feeling slightly defeated, I knocked off the remaining 4 pushups a half minute later.

I’m pleased to have reached the 100 mark, but that gnarly non-stop component is gonna go down before I go down –  six feet under!

. 100 pushups

  • Purchase 12-string guitar – MISS

Nope, didn’t happen. I might need an inspired push from my friends Jim F. or John C. to get a move on. Not much to say here, but I will talk about this one much more in next week’s 2014 GOAL BLOG! Oh, the suspense……

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  • Overall Net Worth Return of >15%  – HIT

Final tally for the year shows a 21.4% increase, well above my aim of >15%.

Of course, it’s all relative. The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)  rose 10% and New York  (S&P500) blew ahead by 30%. It was a GREAT year for the North American markets.

Happily, I’ve managed to sit astride each of these ships and benefit from the rising tide.

Markets ascend, markets fall. Today I’m smiling – it’s a wonderful feeling to sit back and watch your money multiply.

But I’m not going to celebrate all Leonardo-Dicaprio-Wolf-On-Wall-Street-style.

A strong ship needs a level-headed captain watching for icebergs. I’m sipping my champagne on the bridge with my hands on the wheel!

Growing money

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  • Increase Charitable Contributions by 10% – HIT

As I’ve said before, this is an easy but important goal.

Each January, Maureen and I make a phone call to Plan International and UNICEF, our chosen charities.

“Hello, please add 10% to the monthly withdrawal from our bank account.”

Simple. Accomplished!

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  • Grow larger vegetable garden and process more for winter use. – MISS

Every year I seem to need to find a new and better excuse about why this one doesn’t quite happen.

We plant more seed, we add more compost to our garden beds, we water religiously. We weed regularly. When no one’s watching, I sing James Taylor songs to the lettuce and tomatoes.

But the yield just never seems to increase. You can’t freeze or can or dry more produce when the produce isn’t producing!

So, my excuse for the year 2013? It’s the damned walnut tree’s fault.

Walnut trees elaborate toxins in their roots and in their leaves that suppress and sometimes kill other plants. We have a walnut tree that is reaching mature size in the southwest corner of our yard that is, I’m convinced, systematically destroying our efforts. It thinks it’s the Godfather running its turf.

And for this, the walnut MUST die.

I’ve begun cutting it down limb by limb, and with each limb lopped, I laugh a crazed, demented belly laugh. Doesn’t the Old Testament tell us something about an EYE for an EYE? Well, starting right now, I’m an Old Testament kind of guy.

That walnut wood is going to look so good burning in my woodstove next winter. Bring on the giant, juicy vegetables!

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  • Run 2 Half Marathon races (sub 2 hrs) – HALF HIT

Yep, I ran two half marathon races last year, one in Vancouver alongside my daughter Emma (well, for the first 13 or 14 Km anyway before I kindly let her pull ahead).

The second one was a couple of weeks later in Penticton.

All good.

But it’s the second part about running in under 2 hours where I came up short. We all know that close doesn’t count, so this means I only get a Half Hit for this goal.

………………..

OK, so let’s add this up …

Final Score for 2013 – 12 out of 24 (50%)

HIT =2 points, Half Hit = 1 point and a MISS, well a MISS is of course, ZERO (0)

That’s it, 2013 goals in a nutshell. A 50% grade and yet I’m happy.

Now I’m pumped and ready to tackle a whole new set of goals for 2014 … the list of which, as I said earlier, will follow next week.

I’ve enjoyed going through my list, but it’s just that. It’s MY list.

What about your list?

Reading along, did you say to yourself, “Yeah, I did that” or “I did something like that”. Or maybe, “I’d like to do something like that”.  Or maybe you even said, “what a stupid thing to do!“.

I don’t know what’s running through your mind this first week of 2014, but I’d love to hear what goals or dreams you reached in 2013 that made your heart beat more enthusiastically, your breath quicken with anticipation, your eyes open wider, telling you you were alive.

What goals lit your fire and stoked your internal sense of passion?

There's passion...

There’s passion…