Home

2015 The Year To Be Great – Part 2, The Sequel

6 Comments

Some days I feel a bit low and there doesn’t seem to be any explanation.

Gun Man

That is, until I look more closely inside myself and realize that the get-up-and-go-gun isn’t loaded.

What good is a gun without fire power?

Actually, as a peaceful kind of guy, I could debate this with myself, but let’s not go there today, OK?  When my gun is unable to blast away I know I’m lacking gunpowder – a fervent feeling, a drive of passion.

I love passion in all its forms.

Passion is what makes me – like my investing guru Warren Buffett – tap dance on the sidewalk with glorious abandon …

Give Me PURPOSE! Give Me GOALS!

NOW I have a Loaded Gun!

I am rarely happier than when I’m working and playing with purpose.

Give me a road to travel on and headlights to show me where I’m headed, and I’ll have a smile on my face. But it’s up to me to make the power to run those headlights.

That’s what makes this such a great virtuous circle … I feed power to the headlights with goals that give me purpose and passion –  and the purpose and passion light the way forwards towards achieving my goals.

PRESTO … I’m on a supercharged highway with great spin-off effects … an autobahn with no speed limits …

Examples of how this might play out:

  • a 10k running race event in May gives me the initiative to work out and train hard for 4 months leading up to it … A strong, healthy body is a side effect of reaching my goal.
  • I sign on to perform 2 songs at a local summer festival … so I practice and write music until it all sits comfortably inside my muscle memory so that when I get on stage, when the nerves rise up, the music is there inside me even if my head is too jangled to realize it.
  • I listen to people speak and really listen and praise them for the little things they do right (we all have some things we do right) … it makes them feel good about themselves and this makes me feel good about myself … another virtuous circle in action. Our relationships with others are always better, stronger if we take the time to make the other guy/gal feel good about themselves, rather than knocking them down with a competitive response… “oh sure, I did that a long time ago, what took you so long?”

My blog post last week spoke of what happened in 2014 … now it’s time to look forward and plan … after all, you do know that “those who fail to plan, plan to fail“… sorry, I swear I’ll lose kitschy cliches in 2015!

So, does 2015 have a THEME? Hmmmm, what would my theme be?

2015 The Year of Simplify

Rock in stream

SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. SIMPLIFY. Sometimes, I try to take on too many goals and I lose focus and concentration. This year I think I’ll choose fewer goals and work harder to make each of them happen.

……………………….

2015 GOALS

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

1. PHYSICAL/HEALTH

a) Climb Mount EverestHaaa, not quite what you’re thinking, although I like that idea too.

No, this Mount Everest is a cumulative hill climb that equates to the distance needed to surmount the king of Mountains. Mount Everest is what? … let’s Google this… 8,848 metres (or 29,029 feet) high.

My local Summerland “mountain” called Giant’s Head is 296 metres in height from the lower parking lot to the summit overlooking the picturesque Okanagan Valley.

I’ll have to summit Giant’s Head 30 times in 2015 to make the equivalent climb to the tip of Mount Everest. That means a weekly average of 2 climbs bottom to top and I can plant a flag at the top of Mount Everest. My friends Jennifer and Pam are taking this challenge on too which will give us all some motivation.

I think this is going to be a stretch challenge … I like stretch challenges!!

DSCF6054

Peak of Giant’s Head… er… my Mount Everest…

 

b) Run 2 Half Marathonsjust like last year, 2 half-marathons will be my “big” running events for the year. I’ll probably throw in a few 10k and 5 k events too, but they will be the little siblings to the main objective of running 21 k in the half-marathon event. Usually I set time goals eg. sub 2- hours for these, but as I age and become more … let’s say “mature”… I’m going to simplify and relax and make completion of these runs, regardless of time, my HAPPY PLACE.

2. CHARITABLE

a) 10% Charitable boost – adding 10% to my monthly automatic charity contributions is a great goal because it requires next to no sacrifice or sweat. Two phone calls (hang on a second … there … done!!) and the year’s objective has been met.

b) Volunteer Time – In the past few months I’ve begun volunteering some time at the local soup kitchen, and assembling Christmas hampers at the Salvation Army – my goal here is simple (see? Simplify!)… keep on keeping on. Chopping vegetables and making sandwiches a couple of days a month is fun for me (I love to cook) and there’s a warm and fuzzy factor that settles in when I survey the tables of folks chatting and enjoying a steaming bowl of soup. The downside (there’s ALWAYS a downside) … these poor unfortunates have to eat MY cooking!

3. WRITING

a) 50 Additional Blog Posts + 75 views/day on blog – Writing blogs is my therapy and my routine. In this post-paid-work world I now inhabit, there’s a big need for day markers and deadlines, otherwise couch-dom and sloth become my best friends (well alright, La-Z-Boy is already my best friend). But I’m not just physically lazy, my mind needs the push of writing blog entries to keep it fine-tuned like a Maserati that just happens to motor along more like a Rent-A-Wreck version otherwise …

2014 brought an average of about 54 views to this blog each day. My fragile male ego would be really swollen in gratitude if enough new folks came along to bring this to 75 daily.

4.  MUSICAL 

a) Purchase 12-string guitar this carryover from last year will be looked after soon dear friends, I promise. I’ve done most of my homework, now I’ll only need to haggle for price and terms eg. does it come with guarantees of perpetually perfect tuning (after all, 12 strings is a lot to keep tuned, right?)?

WAIT... I said a Taylor 12-String Guitar... not a Taylor Swift guitar!

WAIT… I said a Taylor 12-String Guitar… not a Taylor Swift guitar!

b) Build A Guitar – This is a brand new idea that powered its way into my head this past year. There are a number of places worldwide that offer the opportunity to build your very own guitar over a 2- to 4-week period with lots of instruction and expert guidance. What could be cooler than to craft your own musical instrument and add Luthier (no, not LOSER!) to your resume?

c) Write more Songs and perform original songs publically. I hesitate to give a number as far as writing my own songs goes (SIMPLIFY), but I know I have momentum pushing me in the right direction. So rather than choose a number of songs to write as a goal, I want to press myself to make the pieces as high a quality as I can manage … great, meaningful lyrics enshrouded in wonderful, harmony-laced melodies with a fantastic chorus that draws one in and sets the happy or melancholy emotions aflame.

Stepping further into the musical abyss, beyond the writing lays the performing side. Here I’ll need to kick myself in whatever direction gives me an opportunity to throw myself at the public audience.

5. TRAVEL 

a) Visit New-To-Me Central American country – learning and improving Spanish has been on my agenda for about 5 years now (hence “school” trips to Peru, Spain, Cuba). But we’ve never touched ground in any of the Central American countries, so this is the year to say HOLA to one of Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, or Guatemala.

b) American States? I think I’ve managed a visit to about 26 states of the little country to the south. I’m barely past the halfway point of my goal to see ’em all, which means I’ll have to live to … oh, about 110 years old at this pace. I’d better find a way to get my puny Canuck ass into another state or two. Maybe a visit to those old carved Presidential dudes on Mt. Rushmore is in order, or a whirlwind tour of  tornado alley to catch up on Dorothy and Toto.

6. FINANCIAL

a) 15% returnI spent the first 30+ years of my working life saving and accumulating a financial base. Now it’s time for that base to pull its weight. Slavery has found a home in my investment account.

I can live indefinitely with about a 7% average annual return, but I enjoy the research and stimulation of investing, so why not be entertained and make a few bucks along the way. Besides, the better investor I am, the more I can drop into my charitable contributions bucket. I’d call that a WIN-WIN…

My investing hero...Warren Buffett... hey, wasn't he in the movie "UP"?

My investing hero…Warren Buffett… hey, wasn’t he in the movie “UP”?

My 5-year average annual return is looking a bit light of my 15% goal at 12.2%.  Intriguingly, my 10-year average is now identical at 12.2% also.

Despite a bit of underachievement here, these numbers don’t make me unhappy. After all, the 10-year record includes a pretty precipitous drop in 2008. But I’m thinking that as I get older and wiser, maybe I should be capable of bringing that average up a bit without bumping up the risk levels.

So… help me out here please, OK? Perhaps if each of you could buy just a few more APPLE products and drop by MCDONALD’S for the occasional BIG MAC while making sure to chat/text with your friends on your BELL CANADA cellphone? Am I asking too much?

8. FOOD & EATING

a) Study Cooking for One Day in any Travel Destination – I’ll make reasonable attempts to catch at least one day of cooking classes on local cuisine for any locale to which I travel. Last year was TAJINE in Morocco… maybe this year, GALLO PINTO in Nicaragua.

c. 2013 www.GretchenAlms.com

b) Develop a Repertoire of Egg Recipes – the chicken palace under construction in my backyard should be finished by early spring. This means an abundance of fresh eggs by summertime. I’ll want to get innovative and creative and ply friends and relatives with fabulous frittatas and Green Huevos Rancheros and Ham.

……………………..

Look Into Your Crystal Ball and Read the Tea Leaves of Your Tarot Cards (huh?)

In 2015 I’m trying to release any pretensions of perfection as part of my SIMPLIFY theme. And it truly is pretension – I’ve never approached perfection in any segment of my life. I discussed my simple thoughts for this in an earlier post about my 1,000 hour rule.

This life “thing” is fascinating. Each year I find out something new about myself as bits of inner flotsam are released and rise to the surface where I can see them. This is one of the very cool things about aging – and aging is a concept and process I struggle against. One of these years I’ll likely have an epiphany and gracefully accept the creaking ship that is life.

But for now, I’ll be who and what I am and run madly off in all directions in search of adventure in all its forms.

Adventures that come in physical form such as building things, cooking things – maybe even skydiving – and also mental adventures in the form of ideas. There are a ton of great ideas out there that set my heart and mind on fire just waiting to be plucked and mated via idea sex.

I’m seeking a simple, balanced life that accommodates an ADHD kind of personality like mine.

So … simply tomorrow … take in a boot camp class but not snack (physical), write a thank you email to my sister for her Christmas gift (emotional), come up with 10 ideas for future blog posts or songs (mental), spend 10 minutes in meditation feeling grateful (spiritual).

Load up your gun with all of the passion and goals you can muster and let’s head into 2015 together, OK?

 There are worse ways to start …

… or finish … a New Year. 

2015 goals

2015 The Year To Be Great – Part 1 …

2 Comments

Life flash

– Gerard Way

OK, I’m not the SuperHero I make myself out to be.

No Oscars, no Emmys, no Grammys. NOPE. No tony international agency will declare 2014 as the year I accomplished everything I set out to do and then some.

But on the other hand, I did do some pretty cool things.

  • I felt blood rushing into my ears as I screamed like a little kid while ziplining a hundred metres above a rock-strewn canyon.
  • I dressed top to bottom in funky, furry green and played a chilly Mr. Grinch for thousands of passersby.
  • I wrote (and sang) songs with joy – sometimes sorrow – and passion in my musical heart.
  • I stood on the grey-clouded shores of north Africa and looked out on the endless Atlantic Ocean as Humphrey Bogart did years ago in Casablanca. And in Marrakesh, I sat naked in a Hammam (Moroccan spa) amongst locals before being propositioned by a male prostitute.
  • I perched on Arizona’s southern edge of the immense Grand Canyon – giant Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons soaring overhead and below.
  • I said so long to a 37-year long career as a Medical Lab Technologist and many wonderful co-workers that I enjoyed more than the work itself.

But all joy and cool things must be interspersed with sorrow and, as we all do in various measures, I said a few sad goodbyes to family members and friends who shared their life’s journey with me – giving to me, often without ever knowing.

If you’ve travelled this blog road with me a little – or a lot – you’ll perhaps know that I take stock of my life at the end of each year, reviewing where I’ve been, and charting a course for whatever mild flowing river or ferocious bounding seas that lie ahead.

It’s some instructive fun for me and I hope it gives you pause to think about the direction of your life.

I’ve come to an age and a stage where I know my productive, active years are passing quickly through the sands of time and there’s a touch more sand in the bottom of my hourglass than there is on the top. So, an urgency passes through me to see, do, taste, love, smell, grab a hold of … what I can while I can.

I’m a happy, lucky dude with the amazingly good fortune to live in a time and space that allows me to jump into my passions with fervour … today I’m healthy and alive so what more could I ask for?

Well, to answer my own question, I need to pursue another year’s worth of goals. Goals are what and who I am.

Next week, I’ll pull out my New Year’s Crystal Ball and go through my list of 2015 BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

But first, this week, let’s have a look back at the year of 2014 and get a sense of where I held up my end of the bargain I made with myself and where I let myself down. The dark type below is my 2014 goals as I wrote them a year ago, and the blue is the year-end results: positive or negative: pretty, ugly or indifferent.

On Casablanca Atlantic shores...

Playing Air Piano On Casablanca’s Atlantic shores…

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!

RESULT? For once, procrastination was put aside and my friend Pam (who I did 100 non-stop pushups with last year) and I conquered this challenge by the end of July, adding 10 Burpees each couple of weeks until we hit the 100. They’re oh-so-tough but oh-so-satisfying. To kick it up a notch we could have pushed further by doing the 100 in less and less time, but instead we chose to move on to other physical challenges for variety. 

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.

Sports? Hmmm … how about physical adventures? In one fine August week I joined Irish cousin visitors for a zipline cruise above deep, rocky canyons, then flew skyward overlooking Okanagan Lake with the help of a parachute towed behind a boat. 

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.

YUP… well … NOPE. I ran through torrential Vancouver spring rains in one half marathon (Time: 1 hr. 58 mins) then began another race in Penticton 2 weeks later but withdrew from the event after 5 kilometres with a painful calf muscle. My spirit is ALWAYS willing, but could someone please talk to the flesh …

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.

Yes and No … I did drop a few pounds over the course of the year which is the ultimate key to a 6 pack, so if I tense my ab muscles REALLY hard I can see subtle signs of ripple if I tilt my head in just the right direction. Alas, the young lads on the beach have little to admire in my 6 pack (unless it’s labelled MOLSON).

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.

TOO Easy… this one gets done in the first week of January each year with 2 phone calls … to label this a goal achieved is really an overstatement, but because sharing is so important, it needs to be here. CHECK! 

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

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

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

Oh BOY I’m bad … I forget about this one so often despite it being so simple … maybe it’s the lack of caffeine in my system. Anyway, I can go for 3 or 4 months without doing this, so I have to make up for it by tossing a twoonie ($2 for the non-Canadians out there) through the Tim Hortons drive-thru window on consecutive visits to make up for lost time. I’ve had this happen to me on one or two occasions before and it brought a smile to my face, so I hope others have had the same experience when I leave my $2 behind for them …

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.

BIG YES! I love writing my blog posts. All 51 that I wrote in 2014. Fifty-two if you count this one.

I love the challenge of thinking of ideas to share. I love the focus of pulling disparate thoughts together into one cohesive whole. I love it that blog writing helps me to consider my beliefs in a deeper way than I might otherwise. I love exploring and teasing with sometimes naughty thoughts. And I love that many of you take the time to read and respond to what I have to say … thank you!

40 views per day as a goal? I remember a year ago when more than 20 views of my blog posts was a good day. The year 2014 brought me 20,000 readers meaning the daily average for 2014 is… drum roll please…. 54 views. From 149 countries. My most viewed post of the year? Your Castration Awaits: 8 Reasons Women Will Dominate Men in the 21st Century.

b) Take on Writing Another Novel – this past November (2013) 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.

WOW… a total MISS. The focus needed to make a novel materialize on a screen or page was directed elsewhere in 2014. As the year moved along, my passions became more intensified in the area of songwriting.

Songwriting takes time, lots of time.

Writing novels takes time, lots of time.

Songwriting was the winner of the battle and National Novel Writing Month was something I merely observed as an outsider. It was a worthwhile sacrifice in my eyes. But I hope to visit and participate in the writing challenge once again in future days.

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.

ALMOST! I’ve been on the hunt, doing my research, trying out various 12-string models for the best sound, great projection, soft, easy action on the strings. I think I’m gonna have to pull the trigger on this goal early in 2015, so listen for the strains of Hotel California wafting in the breeze, OK?

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.

I called this one right when I said it likely wouldn’t happen in 2014. It didn’t. But it won’t be coming off my list because the rich tones of a lovely piano are life-enhancing, the musical equivalent of sipping from the Holy Grail.

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.

A big SORTA. I did play the mandolin some. I did improve a little. But really, I do need to spend more “quality time” with this instrument if I ever hope to come close to the picking abilities of my friend Jimmy Ferguson in Oregon. The nice thing about mandolin is that I can pick a few notes in the background as accompaniment to develop some depth when I’m recording songs with my guitar as the prime instrument.

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.

YES. I did write at least 6 songs and had a great time pushing into this underdeveloped area of my creative “me”. I’m so excited about this that I hope to spend even more time trying to get my 1,000 hours (10,000 hours is way too much for this ADHD dude) of practice in. Here’s a little teaser of a song I wrote (and play/sing) about an old songwriting hero of mine, Harry Chapin… Only Half a Lifetime

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!

NOPE. This didn’t happen but I know I’m ready to climb the stairs to the stage of public performances of my own works. I’m feeling more confident than I ever have and I look forward to the sky-high adrenaline boost when the day arrives.

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.

DONE … CHECK! This fall we wandered south for a road trip on the western side of this continent… add Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to the finished side of the ledger – I felt the unfettered joy of legally driving at 140 kph in Utah and Idaho. 

IMG_4568

Grand Canyon

 

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…

AGAIN…CHECK! Africa has been breached, although it only counts as a taste. Morocco sits atop the African continent leaving a HUGE land mass beneath to be seen and “tasted”.

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.

I’m on a roll … CHECK! While in Casablanca, I passed by Rick’s Cafe where Humphrey Bogart hung out, I bought a FEZ hat overlooking the medina of Fez, then crossed the Strait of Gibraltar where I had my locks shorn by a Barber of Sevilla. A trifecta accomplished!

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.

The end of that roll… NOPE. I listened to maybe 3 or 4 talks over the year but didn’t prioritize this sufficiently. I love inspirational journeys by those who have lived to talk of their great experiences. Now I need to walk the talk and listen to their talks. Got that?

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.

Thanks to KOBO (electronic reader) and their 15%, 20%, 30% discounts, I’ve been sucked in, totally seduced into purchasing and reading books regularly. What is really nice is that I’m reading more fiction than I’ve read in years. Three of my favourite reads (2 fiction, 1 non-fiction) this year have been Jodi Picault’s Nineteen Minutes , Joshilyn Jackson’s gods in Alabama, and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing – The Perils and Pleasures of A Creative Life.

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%.

OK, I can breathe again as the year comes to a close.

The goal? 15% overall return.

The final tally with 3 market days remaining in the year? 15.2% … whew!!

My investing choices this year largely concentrated in the higher tech area, which is unusual for me. However, looking at the financial results for companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Intel made these easy choices given their ability to print huge $$ and Mr. Market not giving them credit for their huge sales. A buyout of Tim Hortons by Burger King late in the year didn’t hurt my results any either, although it did bruise my delicate Canadian psyche.

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.

I DO hate the word retirement, but for now, let’s just go with it and say that YES, it happened in 2014. I turned 57 on my last day as a paid laboratory technologist… ate some wonderful “BYE BYE PIES” with my wonderful colleagues to celebrate, then walked away after 37 years spent in labs from Ontario, to the Northwest Territories, to B.C. DEBT-FREE.

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.

EASY PEASY … CHECK!… Need I say more!! A boy’s KD dream come true …

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.

AND finally, one last CHECK! A few stalks of Caribbean sugar cane have lived this past year to tell their sweet story to their GrandCanes because of my daily sacrifice of the white stuff. But the sugar assault ends here … chocolate will never be so lucky to escape my clutches!

………………..

So, there you have a year all balled up like a pair of comfy, favourite socks and gently placed in a time drawer.

Why don’t you come back next week, and we’ll bang our heads together to plan out BHAG’s and LFEG’s for a fantastic 2015, shall we?

 

Well that sucked

What Doesn’t Kill You ….

Leave a comment

Unbeing dead

Did you die this week?

I’ll take that as a NO.

OK then … Are you happy this week? Are you feeling warm and contented? Do you feel an inner excitement, a zeal for getting out of bed?

I know that I only feel all of these things if I’m feeling the challenge: working on a beloved project, starting out on something new, learning a new skill or creating something fresh like a blog post or a song, and it’s always enhanced if the sun is shining.

Anyway, it gets easy to feel down about yourself sometimes, and maybe more so in the winter when days are shorter and gloomier. Nothing substantive has changed, but everything just feels less bright when there’s less light. Or maybe I just have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Damn, one more set of initialized credentials to add to my ADHD!

The cure? Become an adrenaline junkie … an AJ.

A little story for you:

When I was 10 years old I was called out of my classroom at Glen Brae School to go and visit the Principal’s office. I was a “good boy” and so I shook violently in my shoes all the way down the halls until I arrived at the Principal’s door. Inside sat two very official-looking guys in uniforms sitting across the desk from Principal Russell.

They invited me in and introduced themselves as officers from the Hamilton Police Department. My sordid life of crime was officially beginning. Soon, I’d be someone’s bitch.

Hamilton cops

Don’t let those smiles fool you … they haunted my 10 year old dreams for weeks …

 

I sat down, shaking, no doubt beet-red faced, a great tsunami of cortisol-driven-nervous urine trying to force its way out.

I don’t remember the expressions on the cops’ mugs at the time, but I’ll bet they were gobsmacked when they saw this short-for-his-age 10 year-old cherubic lad that they were preparing to grill about car theft.

Son, where were you last Tuesday at 12 noon?”

“Ummmmmm.”

So this – I must have been telling myself inside – is what an anxiety attack feels like. I had no idea what a panic attack was. Actually, I didn’t know what it was called then, I just knew I was terrified.

“A car was stolen from in front of one of the apartment buildings that you deliver newspapers to and a reliable witness tells us it was you they saw breaking in and taking the vehicle… so … again … where were you last Tuesday at 12 o’clock?”

“Ummmmmm.”

I probably couldn’t have told them my name at that moment.

I squeaked out that I couldn’t remember, so they asked me to go sit in the library across the hall and think about it for a bit. When I was able to remember, I could return and fill them in on my whereabouts at the time of the heinous crime.

Eventually I recalled the details that exonerated me and the cops moved on to my older brother Gord next door at the high school as the next most likely culprit.

Neither of us ended up in criminal court – we were innocent – so the Green family integrity was happily preserved and my poor Mom’s nervous heart was no doubt robbed of at least a year or two’s worth of lifetime beats.

It was a traumatic experience, but I felt so alive afterwards from the nervous excitement.

I was attacked and I survived.

Survive a Zombie Attack

Granted, this may not be a great or even appropriate example of the things we should pursue in our days to make them more full of life. I’m really not trying to suggest you steal cars to boost your inner zeal.

I’m just using this as an example to show how the inner feeling of fear and then the resulting exalted relief and cathartic buzz of knowing we are truly alive is magnificent.

For me, the best highs seem to come about after I’ve taken on a great personal fear in the form of a challenge – in years past this would most likely have been public speaking or performing a song on my guitar in front of a gathering. Right now I think it would be performing one of my own songs publically.

For you it might be taking off white-knuckled in an airplane, learning to swim, going sky-diving, or encountering a snake in the middle of your path. There are a million things to fear.

Some things we fear are outside of our influence to control. Some fears are reasonable and are there for good reason. I SHOULD be fearful of dark, dangerous alleys and avoid them. Confronting that fear is just plain stupid.

It’s the fears I can do something about that I’m trying to stand up to now and face head on, knowing that the end result will be worth it. My sense of shame and embarrassment have slowly dwindled through the years and I can allow myself to look foolish. And, might I add, to my adult kids’ chagrin, I do this so well.

The adrenaline levels skyrocket, my heart pounds, my breath grows short, my brain totally fuzzy.

It becomes a total fear, total fight-or-flight scenario. The first 30 seconds seem like hours and then … as if by voodoo magic, the flood levels of hormones begin to dwindle, breathing settles a bit, and my mind engages and starts to concentrate.

Stand up to your fears...

Stand up to your fears…

We only have one life (unless we’re Buddhist… yes, I really must become a Buddhist).

We need variety. A job will eventually get boring. Daily routines will grow stale. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or move to a different city or country.

But always look for new things to learn.

Always look for new ways to surprise.

Always look for new ways to break out of your comfort zone.

I’ll love you even more if you show me how silly or ridiculous you can be if you’re doing something that you’ve always wanted to try but were too afraid.

Unless it’s stealing a car, then I don’t know you.

Dance like no one is watching

 

 

The Zen of Travel and Bucket List Maintenance …

4 Comments

Map of the United States-4

12 Days … 8 States… a “taste” of many places and sights… Nevada (blue surrounded by red) will have its own stop one day later on …

Why don’t you go on west to California? There’s work there, and it never gets cold. Why, you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange. Why there’s always some kind of crop to work in. Why don’t you go there?
 The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck

 

Salinas, California – Huddled gangs of male, dark-skinned immigrant workers sway swiftly, expertly in the skin-searing sunshine. Salty drips of sweat glisten on their faces as they creep steadily forward, feeding the machine.

It’s a synchronized dance – bent over at the waist, quietly swinging their arms and hands back and forth, cutting off the lettuce head at its base, then flipping the green, leafy bundles upwards to the hungry motorized contraption that semi-automates the harvesting of vegetables.

A quiet mix of Spanish chatter accompanies the work train as it inches, like a fuzzy caterpillar, over the landscape.

Women workers sit crouched under the shaded canopy of the moving machine, catch the lettuce head tossed their way and rapidly strip any stray or dirty leaves before layering the head into a waxed cardboard box that is whisked away across the country to your neighbourhood supermarket or restaurant.

 

Harvesting Romaine Lettuce in Salinas, California

Harvesting Romaine Lettuce in Salinas, California

Hundreds and thousands of store shelves are filled with heads harvested every day in this very same way, using the inexpensive sweat of a Mexican worker’s brow.

If you had a salad this week that crunched with lettuce, chances are it came from this field, or one just like it in California’s famed Salinas Valley. 80% of the lettuce consumed in North America is grown in the seemingly endless trench of flat, fertile farmland south of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

On the dirt roads that line the edges of the field are mobile Porta-Potties… 5 to 10 upright pee and poop houses pulled on wheels like a wagon train behind dusty pickup trucks that follow the workers from field to field.

Field after crazy long field look the same – endless rows covered with leafy greens stretching off to the far-distant hills.

It’s a modern, ghost-like vision of the 1930’s Depression-era John Steinbeck novels Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

Of course in the 1930’s harvesting was done with the grunt labour of the displaced mid-western sharecropper forced off his land by drought and dustbowl conditions.

Today, the Mexican labourer is the standard-bearer for the 30-40C hard work while his American counterpart drives an air-conditioned Hybrid-powered Prius to work in Silicon Valley’s shiny Apple and Adobe office buildings just a few miles north of here.

Reading Steinbeck’s stories of the Depression and the Salinas Valley was a treat for me in high school – his detailed, painted descriptions put me in the hot field alongside the poor emigrant farmer from Cimmaron, Oklahoma or Dallas, South Dakota.

Depression workers in field

……………………………………

We’ve been off driving through 8 western U.S. states for the past two weeks – absorbing the stunning views and the sounds, smells, and tastes of the country and its people – a fast-paced 14 day “tasting” tour.

This journey is another slice of the pie that makes up my bucket list goal of visiting each of the 50 American states – a slice bitten into and consumed in years past has been walking the roads of each Canadian province and territory.

Of course, this one blog post can’t bite very deeply into such a large pie. And so I’ll share with you an appetizer “taste” from each state we passed through of the larger impressions and themes that swirl in my head from such an odyssey.

But firstan important starter.

Music.

I always find a way of cementing a trip like this or any other into my mind, is to choose one song that somehow connects with the memory and impressions of the scenery and the people. We all know a certain song heard years later re-immerses us in the sights, sounds and smells of a moment in time.

With the exception of California, the musical sounds of the western America’s radio airwaves are dominated by country station after country station, while the talk radio is all evangelical scripture and deep-voiced preacher types.

One song played over and over again each day that I couldn’t resist singing like my hair was blowing long and unfettered in the breeze – Bartender – sung by the trio Lady Antebellum –  a harmonious blend of voices, pop-country beat and great banjo picking at the end of the chorus (I even enjoyed the song before I’d seen the video featuring blond eye-candy Kate Upton — BONUS!!). This song will project a clear vision of the highways of the western U.S. onto my interior TV screen for years to come.

And so now, my quick and dirty impressions:

  • WASHINGTON – Known as a huge apple-growing state I was taken by surprise to find a prairie landscape on its interior roadways. The stretches of blacktop between Spokane and Grand Coulee Dam were surrounded on both sides by monstrously huge grain and hay fields stretching into the distance. It only seemed appropriate to eat a COW PIEmashed potatoes, corn, crumbled meatloaf smothered in gravy – at the Cowboy Cafe in Davenport. YeeHaw!

    IMG_4798

    Where are the apple trees?

  • OREGON – Sparkling sun interspersed with fog and mist along the twisting bends of craggy shoreline, azure sea and royal-blue sky. Scents of salt and slightly fishy breeze had me dreaming of the next serving of clam chowder and crab with each step along the long, sandy beaches.
  • CALIFORNIA – Towering redwood and sequoia forests made tunnels every few miles along the weaving highway north of San Francisco. When you entered the grove, the air became damp in the dark and cool, as if someone had turned out the lights in the room. The car danced between the trees that hugged the edge of the roadway. Deep, vertical striations in the bark of the grand trees lead your eyes upwards, straight up like pencils because the trees have no signs of any bend in them. There was no branch growth going up for 40, 50, sometimes 100 feet.

Further south and west of L.A. – beyond Palm Springs and gargantuan “wind-turbine farms”, the hot, dry, desert highways were lined with mile after mile of plantations of almond and pistachio orchards.

  • ARIZONA – Scrubby desert, McDonalds billboards, and 44C temperatures led us to the precipice of the striated, colourful Grand Canyon. Despite being the “shoulder season”, licence plates from across North America jammed the numerous parking lots leading to the Visitor Center and the edges of the immense canyon. Yes, it was GRAND!IMG_4562
  • UTAH – 80 mile-per-hour (135kph) speed limits carried us northward like a strong tailwind. Evenly-spaced green grass clumps speckling the wide valleys like a measles epidemic collided with hillsides of red soil and rock. And then the white white granite architecture of Salt Lake City arose, the spotless homebase of Latter Day Saints. Immense, shuddering musical notes emanating from the colossal pipe organ inside the Mormon Tabernacle leave me breathless and at an unexplainably heightened spiritual level.
  • IDAHO – Highways that in most areas normally rumble along with a happy mix of auto and 18-wheel freight truck traffic, are taken over by heavily-laden potato trucks running just-harvested tonnes of spuds to markets and storage depots and french fry processing plants. Yes, Idaho really does grow potatoes, lots of potatoes. I pulled out a bottle of ketchup and began to salivate as I drove alongside.
  • WYOMING – Yellowstone Park has an amazing landscape of geysers, steamy outbursts, and bubbling mud flats. And then, of course, each 90 minutes, Old Faithful, the lover that never tires, recreates its explosive show over and over. It attracts tourists to its ritual performance, like a popular Broadway play in New York City, or, for a trip like this, like the Grand Canyon’s quietly impressive presentation further south.IMG_4711
  • MONTANA – This is truly big cowboy country. Lacy, translucent mist in the valley bottoms with sun that streaks the upper surfaces and hillsides in the early morning dawn. Smooth-sloped hillsides that are grassy on one side, and furry with evergreen trees on the other side like a man’s unshaven back. Montana is replete with big skies, big fields, seemingly ubiquitous casinos and big, huge bellies. It’s a surprise to me that I haven’t encountered it before, but Montana is the first U.S. state where I’ve eyed the modern-day stereotypical American we all hear of with a huge appetite and belly to match.

…………………….

The road trip journey just ended has added another 8 states to my list and left me with a lifetime count of 22 states sampled. Yes, I’m not yet halfway finished in my search to make a call on all 50 states. It’s a dirty job …

But I’m carrying out my wanderlust pilgrimage by free choice and personal desire.

I look on John Steinbeck’s depression-stricken characters like Tom Joad; or today’s Salinas Valley, filled with desperate immigrants working for meagre pay – all impressive in their resilience and strength, carrying out their own journeys to survive – a necessity for existence.

For all of that, I feel myself so lucky, so fortunate, to live in a place and time where I’m not scrabbling hopefully, desperately, across the landscape searching for a meal and a dollar to survive.
IMG_4617

Next time you’re in Utah, drop by my new enterprise!

 

80% of Life is Showing Up

Leave a comment

plato-quote

My favourite philosopher and great thinker/doer never lived in ancient Greece or Rome like Aristotle or Cicero. He never conquered a nation like Napoleon or Hitler. He never started a society-shaping company like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford.

Philosophers come in different shapes, genders, sizes and spring forth in every era with their shrewd and perceptive observations.

You might even consider Joan Rivers as a late, great philosopher of the recent epoch.

But for today’s post, who is this orgasmically-astute philosopher I’m referring to?

Woody Allen

Yup, the little neurotic pessimist.

Like so many others I reluctantly admire for their accomplishments (Lance Armstrong, Kevin Spacey, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump) I don’t necessarily like Woody Allen as an individual mortal.

He’s not a perfect person. I identify.

He has weaknesses and has made some poor choices. I identify.

To all appearances, he’s just an ordinary schmuck with nothing to physically separate him from the masses on a busy city sidewalk. I identify.

Some would say that being an asshole is a requirement for great accomplishments. I don’t know the answer to that one yet for sure although it seems to me there are some creative geniuses who shine as delightful human beings as well.

BUT …

Allen’s written 49 movie screenplays: directed 46 of those: acted in all but 17 of them: he’s produced some documentaries: guest hosted the Tonight Show in the 1960’s: written 3 books …  AND …  he crafts amazingly clever perspectives on the absurdities of the lives we lead.

Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.

 

Basically my wife was immature. I’d be at home in the bath and she’d come in and sink my boats.

woody-allen-80%

Some of the wisest words that I’ve ever come across about making a mark in life were spoken in an interview Woody gave a few years back after finishing his movie, Vicki Christina Barcelona. This is a long passage, but each sentence has a powerful message, so I’m giving you a big chunk to absorb, OK?

 I think that the biggest life lesson I learned as a boy that has helped me and is still with me is that you really have to discipline yourself to do the work.  

If you want to accomplish something you can’t spend a lot of time hemming and hawing, putting it off, making excuses for yourself, and figuring ways.  You have to actually do it.  

I have to go home every single day, no matter where I am in the world, no matter what I’m doing, and putting 30 to 45 minutes of practice on my clarinet because I want to play.  I have to do it.

When I want to write, you get up in the morning, go in and close the door and write.  You can’t string paper clips, and get your pad ready, and turn your phone off, and get this, get coffee made. You have to do the stuff.

Everything in life turns out to be a distraction from the real thing you want to do.  There are a million distractions and when I was a kid I was very disciplined.  I knew that the other kids weren’t.  I was the one able to do the thing, not because I had more talent, maybe less, but because they simply weren’t applying themselves.  

As a kid I wanted to do magic tricks.  I could sit endlessly in front of mirror, practicing, practicing, because I knew if you wanted to do the tricks you’ve got to do the thing.  I did that with the clarinet, when I was teaching, I did that with writing.  

This is the most important thing in my life because I see people striking out all the time.  It’s not because they don’t have talent, or because they don’t want to be, but because they don’t put the work in to do it.  They don’t have the discipline to do it.  This was something I learned myself.  

I also had a very strict mother who was no nonsense about that stuff.  She said ‘If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.’  

It’s as simple as that.  

I said this to my daughter, if you don’t practice the guitar, when you get older you wouldn’t be able to play it.  It’s that simple.  If you want to play the guitar, you put a half hour in everyday, but you have to do it.  

This has been the biggest guiding principle in my life when I was younger and it stuck.  

I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up.  

People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.  All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack.  They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening.  

So that is my biggest life lesson that has worked.  All others have failed me.

 

Thanks for that Woody, I couldn’t have said it any better.

I like to accomplish things, but I also lean heavily towards laziness … such a conundrum.

I’d like to stretch and attain a height of 6 ft tall but I’m too lax to go and get myself a hanging rack to lengthen my spine, so I’m stuck at 5’10 1/2″. Also, my goal of running a sub-40 minute 10K run, will just have to roll into the grave – sorry – cremation oven along with me.

Sad? Not really.

There are so many other wonderful things to focus on … and so many of them are attainable still. I’m going to leave some of those truly unattainable dreams behind and move forward with what I can do.

It’s not a failure to discard some goals and dreams, adjust course, and move on with others. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing for Dreamers to also be Realists.

One day I’ll grow sick and die.

The plaques in my arteries and little bastard cancer cells are setting up camp somewhere, adjusting their little tuxedoes, just waiting for the curtain to rise and make a special announcement.

Now is not the time to perch in my leather LazyBoy and watch the clock in anticipation. Like a boiling kettle, the Grim Reaper will come in his own time without my assistance, or invitation.

So, the race is on. The finish line banner is in place and it’s up to me to keep putting one foot in front of the other with daily practice and enthusiasm.

I’m gonna grab that sage old philosopher Woody Allen’s hand, SHOW UP AND PRACTICE.

And, no offense Woody, but as much as I admire your witticisms and accomplishments, I hope you make to the final finish line well ahead of me.

I need a lot more practice!

Do Something …

2 Comments

Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who bought a Volvo.”

-> Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

 

From time to time I feel a rant coming on and that time is now.

I want to stand on the pulpit like Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts, my welcoming arms spread wide, and preach to you about how to live your life.

I can sense a warming Pastor’ish aura descend over me, like a rich multi-coloured woollen cloak.

And the really wonderful thing is I won’t make a pitch for you to send money… hmmm, hold on a minute … if you want to send me a few dollars I won’t object.

So, friend … Join me today in the esteemed CHURCH of LAWRENCE.

Church Sign

Do you want to be the one who left this earth and they said at your funeral:

he read a lot of books.” (although that’s good too!)

 

I want to be the one who reached his final breath, where they said :

there were a lot of books written by and about him.”

 

In other words, I DID something.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Lose the passive, lose the inertia … become the active. Physical. Mental. Spiritual.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, really important stuff to anyone other than yourself or the small world around you. If you want to be Nelson Mandela or Maya Angelou… go for it. But it’s good enough to be a better Joe Schmidlap.

In Grade 13 Physics class at Sir Wilfrid Laurier school in Hamilton, Mr. Miedema tried to teach me all about the various forms of energy. I was bored stiff other than when I was ogling sweet-faced brunette Charlene, dreaming of what she looked like naked, but this much I absorbed:

It isn’t enough to have potential energy… you can store up all the energy in the world but unless it’s released, there ain’t nothing happening.

I need my energy to become kinetic … active energy that makes things happen.

potentialkinetic energy

 

Because I’m preaching and ranting today, you might think I’m claiming to be perfect.

I wish.

I know people who brag to me about not watching any television. BULLSHIT…

Not me …

If you don’t watch “television” you’re most likely watching your iPhone or Netflix or downloading movies and TV series from the internet … it’s all semantics. I love good TV and there is some very good TV available, just like there are great books, great movies and great music.

Like the food I eat, I try to limit the junk TV (did someone say Reality TV) and seek out the quality screenwriters and performers that nourish my mind and inspire my funny gene or my idea machine after I click the box off.

I even like to watch nighttime soap operas like The Good Wife, House of Cards, and Nashville (of course the music negates the “soap” component here).

But if I sit in my La-Z-Boy hour after hour, day after day, after sitting at an office desk 9 to 5, my muscles atrophy and I slowly dwindle. My strength shrinks and fades as surely as my gut swells and my chin clones multiply.

If I think and do … build chicken coops, write books, ride bikes up mountains, play some piano, cook a gourmet meal … my kinetic energy builds and multiplies.

growth mindset

We have to measure our time carefully so we don’t become strict observers of life.

The kinetic energy that makes us grow smarter and better needs to be used over and over again and then it grows like a voraciously hungry trumpet vine or a wisteria, wild plants that once started, sprout new tendrils at an astounding pace.

It takes sweat and effort. It’s hard work to think and grow and generate ideas and make things.

Just like in the gym though, the muscle won’t grow until the effort creates heat and rivers of sweat.

And sometimes it’s not what we do, it’s what we don’t do that makes the difference.

For example, I’ve stopped buying the Globe and Mail newspaper every day. I can spend a couple of hours easily each day, reading news that means nothing to my life.

By cutting this back, I can use that time to do and create, or maybe just think. I still buy the Saturday Globe, it has the Books section and lots of pretty pictures of models wearing swell clothes, so I won’t give that up.

Our electronic world is filled with wonderful time consumers, little bastard time-wasters that vacuum up precious moments of our lives.

Time waster

I’m learning not to waste my time with negative people or those that are draining … I want positive interactions with those who plan to live life in an uplifting fashion.

I have a friend Henny who seeks out newness in her life to the tune of her birthdays. For each year of her age, she finds something that she’s never done or seen, or even eaten, to accomplish in the year between birthdays. So, for example, at age 35, she finds 35 new things to be a part of her life.

They’re not all big items – most aren’t actually –  just something unique and different to her.

It keeps her fresh and excited about her life.

Things like a trip down a zipline, a bottle of wine from a country never tried before, reading a book about something totally foreign to her, riding her bike down every street in her small town at least once in the year.

These are little exploits that take a touch of effort but reward her with an ongoing profusion of experiences and enthusiasm.

So, my friend, dive in … I’ll cheer you on.

Do something that makes you catch your breath, even if just a little.

We can all become minor Superheroes. No cape required.

Maybe your earthbound days will roll to the finish line and the immortality of your name will live on as an eponymous adjective.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have the newest “IT” thing described by the masses as … not Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Wagnerian or Napoleonic or Shakespearean, but … maybe Fergusonian or Fisherite or Swidzinskian … or perhaps  best of all… Greenesque.

There you have it good friend, this concludes today’s sermon.

Go forth and be kinetic. You have the potential.

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me ...

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me …

10 Things I Would Take if My House Was Burning

4 Comments

willferrellstreaking

HELP!! My house is on fire … ma’am, my eyes are up here!

Do you ever have that unsettling dream where your house is on fire?

You’re hugging the floor – thick, grey, impenetrable smoke surrounding you and clogging up your breathing passages. You crawl through the acrid lung-choking miasma and eventually – thankfully – run shivering into the street … and then you look down …

Naked … totally naked.

You’re vulnerable, you’re cold, and you’re exposed, buck naked just like when you first squeezed out into the world.

You can feel the eyes of your neighbours peering through the smoke, boring into you with pity and perhaps just a touch of jealousy at your incredibly toned body, “Wow, those clothes hide an amazing set of abs, and look at those biceps.”  – look, I have to get some enjoyment from this scenario.

The dream is scary (I hope that it has only been a dream in your life)  and it gives you a panicky feeling inside, wondering what you would possibly save if you could rescue a few items along your escape route.

You will never be put in a situation ever again that requires you to assess your life and what’s important to you more than at this moment. Your life flashes before your eyes and what do you see? What do you think? Is it a pretty picture?

.

My dream at 10...

My dream at 10…

 

You know, when I was 10 years old my greatest purpose in life was to score goals in ice hockey … that was what was important to me.

I didn’t have a bucket list, or a long set of aspirations that guided me through each day.

My goal was to put a hockey puck into the back of my opponent’s net… that’s it. It was both fun and serious to me.

If my childhood home had lit up with angry hot flames, I would have saved my treasured little red velvet-covered autograph book with Gordie Howe’s signature, my hockey stick, and our family’s black and white water-spaniel Nipper.

Somewhere along the way, I left my childhood innocence behind – perhaps when my Mom died when I was 15 – and other things rose in importance. And now that I’m practically – well, let’s just say – aged like a fine cheese, my goals and the things that are important to me have changed, just as they have, no doubt, for you.

There was a book published in 2012 called The Burning House that interviews a host of people about what they would rescue from an inferno.

It’s fascinating to read and see what items others would salvage with only a moment’s notice. It’s filled with happy and often poignant impressions and desires. There’s such a slim hairline of difference between laughter and weeping sometimes.

the-burning-house

Now, imagine with me, in a metaphorical sort of way, that it wasn’t your house but your WHOLE LIFE that was on fire and you had to decide what comes with you and what goes.

Your life has just crumbled because of a meltdown of purpose and meaning.

And some omnisciently shitty devil has given you the “Sophie’s Choice” of deciding what about you will remain in the little suitcase that contains who you are.

People will often think about the tangible items they would carry from an inferno, but this blog post is a fusion of the fiery physical and the blazing soulful.

So right here, right now, I’m listing the important things, physical or psychological, that I would toss over my shoulder and drag out of the holocaust of the burning embers that threatened to destroy me. Think about it yourself … what would be on your list?

.

 10 Things I Would Take if My House Was Burning

.

1. My support and love system, my wife and my kids.

I’ve been so fortunate to find a stable base to springboard my life upon.

How can we pursue our objectives and desires, when the sub-structure to our personal self is crumbling or rotting? It’s the most basic of human needs and yet for so many, the most unattainable.

I’ve said before that I don’t believe in luck, but this is one area of my life that comes closest to changing my mind.

2. Guitar

Funny, but I almost feel like including this under #1 above.

My guitar (Martin DX1AE) has been a lifelong friend and comforter since I first picked one up at about the age of 10 (probably when my hockey stick first began to wane in importance).

John Denver wrote a song years ago called This Old Guitar that sort of sums up the deeper connection we can sometimes feel with the objects in our lives. Music connects us intimately with our emotions, drawing them to the surface where we find and embrace the laughter or tears or anger.

I play a lot of different instruments (none really well), but the guitar always charms its way into my arms like a long lost lover who always returns.

JimandLarry_Play_Music

Me and pal Jimmy channeling Simon and Garfunkle …

3. Courage to try new things.

If I had to wake up each morning and live life like in the movie Groundhog Day, each day lived over and over just the same, I would jump off the nearest rooftop.

A life lived repetitive, routine and colourless? No thanks. New opportunities, new experiences, new challenges, make my heart beat with just a touch more enthusiasm and spark.

That first bite of guinea pig in the high Andes Mountains of Cusco, Peru? Barbecued bull’s testicle in Athens, Greece? Drinking snake wine in Suzhou, China? Nibbling on Ptarmigan in the Canadian Arctic? Cod cheeks and tongues in Newfoundland?

Sure, maybe a bit unnerving, but who in the world would turn away and miss these chances? Well, not me at least. Mmmmmmm …

4. My memories

It’s a sign of my age that past memories are now as important to relive and enjoy as are the things to look forward to. Life is a rolling collection of experiences and moments: good, bad and indifferent.

The fond memories that sit in the rocking chair in the back corner of my mind are like a favourite TV show or movie that I can watch over and over, savouring and enjoying. These memories have a script only I could have written.

It scares me inside to think of a day when age ravages my brain cells so those memories could be locked behind a door that I’ve lost the key to.

5. Strawberry Jam and Ketchup

It’s often the really little things in life that mean the most to us.

There’s absolutely no way that my life would be as rich, sweet, and full, without the sugary and salty condiments that take the bland and boost it up a notch. A bagel or slice of buttery toast without strawberry jam? A french fry crying out for ketchup? Gotta have it … BAM!!

6. Courage to look stupid, no matter what.

It took me a LOT of years and internal embarrassment to reach the point where my father’s voice wasn’t whispering to me, “What will the neighbours think?”.

The voice now murmurs, “Larry, it just doesn’t matter.”

This blog is evidence of my growth here. I could never have revealed some of the (many) shortcomings I possess so publically in my earlier years. I like this aspect of not being afraid to be seen naked.

You may not like my new-found naked soul, but I figure that is no longer my hangup.

7. Passport

I’m Canadian by birth, and I’m also a curious traveller on this earth of the human race. But to be and to stay an explorer, we all need this little magic book that convinces stern-looking uniformed people behind glass windows all over the world to let us through their doors.

Why anyone would have a look at the photo of me inside the front cover and still allow me to pass is beyond me, but it eventually works its charm every time.

8. James Taylor “Gorilla”  /  Carole King “Rhymes and Reasons”Albums

Certain singers, certain songs define us for some reason.

I’d guess that most of us are seduced by the music of our teen years when so much personal tumult, excitement, and change is occurring. This pair of singers carried me through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and thankfully have somehow stayed around for the rest of the ride.

These are the early albums of their’s that soothed and charmed and reminded me that “You’ve Got A Friend” .

James and Carole

James and Carole

 

9. Imagination/Creativity

I talk a lot about using our inner creative powers to enrich and learn about ourselves.

I’m in constant awe of those who create – movies, books, music, art of all kinds, business solutions, personal connections.

Every one of us houses enormous potential to dream, envision and create. Beauty abounds in life when the creative spark is kindled.

This just has to come along. Escaping the fire that destroyed everything around me would bring out the need to create and re-imagine my  life.

10. Positive Attitude and Smile

Who are the people that you enjoy being around? Who makes you smile? Who makes you feel passionate and enthusiastic?

For me, it’s those surrounding me with a way of finding positivity, not 100% of the time, that’s too phony. But given the challenges of making it through the good times and not-so-good times, the ability to dig down and find something good, something worthwhile, something positive from the sweetest red roses and the rankest grey ashes is the greatest gift of all.

I want to be around those people … I want to be one of those people.

………………….

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to wake up and put on my clothes for the day.

Yes, I was naked this entire time since I opened my suitcase and exposed the items I would carry next to me through the hungry flames. You’re OK with that, right? You can breathe again, it’s over now …

Fortunately, my nighttime dreams were just a mirage, ghostly images that remind me of the ingredients of my inner spirit.

……………..

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile

Charlie Chaplin

How Do You Become A LIST Whore?

Leave a comment

Hello my name is Larry and I’m a List-aholic”

mens-health-march-2014-1

 

Follow me here…

Every day, I check the Huffington Post, or Zite, or Flipboard or The Globe and Mail on my iPad or Kobo and there are lists.

10 WAYS YOU CAN BECOME… 5 REASONS YOU SHOULD… 8 TOP SECRETS OF…

Every time I stand waiting in a supermarket line, I sheepishly – is anyone watching? – glance over the covers of magazines like People and Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health filled with rules and Top 10 lists.

  • 30 Rules For Boyfriends From Two Wise Little Girls (Huffington Post)
  • 17 Things Women Think During Anal Sex (Cosmopolitan)
  • 13 Ways To Prevent Excessive Gas (Huffington Post)
  • 73+ Pivotal Blogging Shortcuts and Tips (Blog Tyrant)
  • We Shit Glitter: The 9 Unsexiest Secrets Of Being A Burlesque Dancer (Sabotage Times)

A lot of it is pure BS, but I can’t pull myself away from the lure of the car crash scenario. I don’t want to be drawn to them, but the curious irresistibility factor suckers me in. “Read me, read me!”

One more list and then another, just one more list will make me a better lover, or athlete, or father, or pickle maker. You name your interest and there’s a list to help you become a better (fill-in-the-blank).

It’s an addiction that I need to feed, and there are idea nutrients spread everywhere like a military carpet bombing. Lists are mind candy – the succinct conduit for delivery of ideas and inspiration.

Honestly, I crave lists and rules like I hunger for creamy sweet chocolate, french fries, and oxygen.

Lists play into my insecurities.

.

It’s no secret to me that the success of all these lists is that people, myself included, are feeling a veiled dissatisfaction with some area(s) of their lives.

At its root lies the question, “What is my life about?

That might sound bad, but it’s really not. Let me explain, OK?

A couple of times over the past year or so, I’ve shown you the picture of actor Sally Field clutching her Oscar “Best Actress” trophy in delirious victory. I love that picture and the honesty that poured out from her throat.

People made fun of old Flying Nun/Momma Gump Sally when she stood on the Oscar stage in 1984 and emotionally declared, “… you like me, right now, you like me!”.

SALLY_FIELD

…of course I like you Sally…

Sally blurted out the hidden but truthfully obvious fact that 95% of the actors, directors, camera operators and the general public in the audience just want to be liked, whether on stage acting, or in the everyday trenches of real life.

We want others to like us and to recognize that we are good at something. And a great way to show us that we are lovable and worthwhile is to give us a gold statuette and clap at us while we stand on a stage basking in glory.

It’s no different than when we were little kids and we badgered our Mommies and Daddies to watch us jump into the swimming pool: “Mommy, watch this… Mooooommmmy, WATCH THIS!”

These needs to be loved and admired within most of us are what lead us to push harder and try to be better at something, which feeds into our sense of self-esteem.

Most of the wonderful advances and improvements in our world and society (yeah, a lot of the bad stuff too) came from those who wanted to be recognized as achieving excellence, and hence, received love and admiration from their peers, friends and family, and the world at large. So what’s wrong with that?

The great innovator Steve Jobs loved to wander back and forth on a stage in his black turtleneck sweater, basking in the glory of the spotlights and hordes of admirers before he would utter those famous words, ” Oh, and one more thing…” , just before making a huge i-whatever product announcement.

That was just a grown man standing by the edge of the kiddie pool, yelling, Mommy, watch this…”.

When I crossed the finish line of an Ironman race many many years ago now, would I have experienced the same joy if there was no one there watching? Of course not.

I craved the adoring gush of the throngs of people and my family acknowledging what a wonderful achievement I had accomplished. Mommy would have approved of me and I would have smiled inside.

Ironman 1990

This is one of MY Sally Field moments …

 

There are very few of us who don’t have underlying insecurities, little voices in our head telling us that we need to be better.

Lists and rules offer up handy – and often, admittedly, too facile – solutions to our insecurities.

But they CAN help to give us tools and innovative ways we hadn’t considered to become new and improved.

CREATIVITY CAN BE FOUND IN A LIST

29-ways-to-stay-creative

I choose to look at lists positively. I’m seeking the bravery to push outside my comfort zone, to subdue my insecurity if you will.

If it takes a list of ideas and suggestions from outside, I’ll happily look at it and decide if my choice to create something new for me – within me – is worthwhile.

Creativity doesn’t always have to be newly invented from within. Epiphanies come in lots of costumes. Let’s make like Bonnie and Clyde, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, like Bernie Madoff, and make off with as many ideas that are offered freely from others as we can.

The choice is ours, steal what looks useful and leave the rest of the dreck behind, like yucky canned peas on a plate of hot, fragrant fish and chips.

Finally, let me offer you one little list I’ve come across. It’s a list for cynics and for those List Haters that I know exist out there who smirk and scowl at us dreamers aka List-Lovers.

FIVE RULES TO REMEMBER IN LIFE

  1. Money cannot buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Range Rover than on a bicycle.
  2. Forgive your enemy, but remember the ass-hole’s name.
  3. If you help someone when they’re in trouble, they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
  4. Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
  5. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then neither does milk.

 

Are YOUR Goals YOUR Passion for 2014 – Part 2

2 Comments

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 …

Leave a comment

 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.”

.

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…

.

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.

.

  • 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…

.

  • 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.

.

  • 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.

.

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!

.

  • 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……

.

  • 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

.

  • 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!

.

  • 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!

.

  • 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…

Older Entries Newer Entries