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TRUE GRIT

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boxer-girl

Over and over and over I played the same 4 bars.

No, not my local Peacock’s Perch, Blue Mule, Barking Parrot, or the Copper Mug. I’m talking music and guitar practice.

I’ve been doing this for almost a week now.

da capo: The same 4 bars repeated over and over on the guitar from the beautiful song Angelina by Tommy Emmanuelle. The song’s intricate-contorted-finger movements and timing have pushed me beyond my level of comfort and ability. My bee-sting-callused fingertips keep squawking at me to give up.

This is good. This is great actually.

This is grit.

I’m working on grittiness. Beethoven was gritty. Edison was gritty. Martin Luther King Jr. was gritty. Lives filled with roadblocks and challenges.

With each passing year I admire and respect the grittiest souls amongst us more and more.  If you’re a gritty person (I’ll define you a bit more in a minute if you’re not sure), I am a drooling fan of yours.

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Along this line of thinking, I’m reading a popular book right now entitled, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. My mind likes to have both a non-fiction as well as a fiction book running simultaneously (my current fiction book is titled Shantaram)

Duckworth has climbed over Malcolm Gladwell’s back, building on his theme in Outliers, another favourite book of mine that popularized the 10,000-Hour Rule.

Gladwell recounts how the Beatles performed live in Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964 before attaining huge fame, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time.

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Bill Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.

I’ve inhabited a relatively lazy life. 10,000 hours was craziness to me. It always seemed like too much work, too much effort. I smugly rationalized my attitude, tricking myself by believing, “Work Smart, not Hard”. 

Slipping into the time travel machine that is my mind, I recall in my early, mainly school-bound years, I was blessed/cursed with a mind that could get by on cruise mode.

One quick review of my Shakespearean Coles Notes and I could score 80% on the English Lit test, so why go bat-crap all-Jeopardy-perfect crazy for 90 or 100%. Hard work was for suckers, right? I felt a sense of righteous superiority.

I was a mini Donald Trump sans comb-over or whatever that thing is that sits on top of his head. Yup, scary.

Hell, even Miss Putns, my Grade 2 teacher at Glen Echo School, commented in my report card that, “Larry needs to work on his superiority attitude.

Grade 2!

Humility didn’t come any easier to me than grittiness.

Wikipedia defines grit as:

“perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Those individuals who are deemed more successful and influential than their contemporary counterparts typically possess traits above and beyond that of normal ability. While ability is still critically important, these individuals also possess “zeal” and “persistence of motive and effort.” Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback. Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and set-backs.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance … great alliteration for a book title, and I love the concept, the idea of passion. But the perseverance part has been my Waterloo.

I’ve embraced passion like sweet chocolate candy to my soul.

When I feel enthusiastic about something: music, renovation projects, gardening, exercise, party planning… I dive in with childlike zeal and fervour. I soar through the clouds in a glider on a sunny updraft. The endorphins drive me forward like a Tesla, no driver needed, the energy is organic and unforced.

And if the project or object of my zeal is short-term, well, I know I can pull off amazing stuff (oops, there’s that shitty righteous superiority rising to the surface once more!).

Passion I possess.

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Running Passion…

But if the undertaking grows long-winded or too tough, creeping too far out of my comfort zone, I’ve generally felt an inner weariness that infects my enthusiasm like a nasty virus. I feel my gusto and energy drain away back to the ocean in low ebb.

I’ve eaten all the pizza my appetite can handle, and I leave the less desirable crusts behind for the scavengers to finish up. Another unfinished, another incomplete project.

I’m a big boy now and I wear big boy pants.

I’ve seen enough evidence in my years to know that those who succeed in their worthwhile efforts are often not the smartest, the brightest, the most gifted. It’s more about the determination, the perseverance, the grit.

I know what I have to do. How about you?

Chewing away at my lack of perseverance and growing my grit is a project, a goal. I like goals. Always have.

My new attitude going forward is “Work Smart AND Work Hard”.

Those of you who have grit learned that lesson long before I did. Thank you for your patience waiting for me to catch up.

By the way? Those 4 bars of beautifully harmonic Angelina?

They sound FANTASTIC… now… only 106 more bars to go!

GRIT!

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Passion AND Grit…

 

 

 

 

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There Is No Try…

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Yoda

Yoda said it… there is no try.

Everybody knows the influence of Yoda in their lives.

Luke Skywalker didn’t believe he could use the force. Yoda told Luke that trying is just a form of doubt.

I’ve teased my kids for years when they say, “OK, I’ll try that!“.

I morph my voice into that fuzzy green Buddha-of-Wisdom Yoda and squeal out a squished and really really atrociously uttered,

There is no try… Do or do not”. 

They just wince, shake their heads, and walk away like they’re dealing with a crazy man.

try to be Yoda. I love it when my kids try anything that they’ve never attempted before. To try is to reject failure as an answer. Trying is a synonym for bravery.

To try is to hope. And what is life without hope?

And so, much like I see 50 shades of grey in just about everything I touch with my eyes and my mind, I understand the black or white value of “Do or do not” power BUT also its limitations.

Yoda said, “There is no try…“, and like an approaching steam train where you’re anxiously holding on by your fingernails waiting for the whistle to blow, he adds…

“… Do or do not.” 

It’s a simple statement about an unfertilized ovum line-dancing its way down a fallopian tube broadly grinning with dreams of promise and potential.

Without the charm of trying in life, we leave that poor wee egg without a sperm donor to kiss Sleeping Beauty to life and fulfill her destiny. Soon to be flushed away in a bloody flood out to the Dead Sea of Tampon.

medicis

I was at an Open Mic night at Medici’s Gelateria – an old restored Catholic church –  a couple of weeks back.

I did my 3 tunes, then after a really nice a cappella song by a pair of teenage girls, an elderly lady climbed the two stairs to the stage with an elderly guitar in her fragile elderly arms.

She shuffled to the microphone, her silver-grey hair poking out in waves beneath a wide-brimmed flowery Minnie Pearl hat, her pale purple cotton dress edged with lace swaying lightly against her thin calves.

Smiling brightly, she introduced herself as Angela, and then launched into an overly lengthy, high-pitched story about her diabetic health issues and the difficulties in eating well while living from a motel room.

There was a sweet sadness in her smile and a blue halo around her as she spoke in a little girl voice, not looking for pity, but wanting to explain and make a case for her musical deficiencies.

After a few minutes she stopped talking. She played and sang.

The song was Paper Roses ( a #1 country music hit for 14 year-old Marie Osmond in 1973). Although she strummed very simple guitar chords, her voice was strong and well-keyed. Her smile and voice resonated through the high-ceilinged former church, now Gelateria cafe.

paper-rose

All was well until partway along she strummed an off-chord… then another and … flustered, she stopped mid-song in embarrassment.

She looked out at the audience and plaintively asked, “is it me or is my guitar the problem?

I only took up playing the guitar 2 years ago and so I don’t always play the right chords…

She was trying her best to perform publicly after trying to learn the guitar in her elder years.

 

Looking down at her old guitar, she started up again and played a couple of lines from the song but it became obvious that her singing melody wasn’t in sync with the chords coming from her guitar.

She broke off strumming her instrument and continued singing in perfect pitch, embarrassed but determined…

…until all of us in the audience smiled back at her bravery and joined in singing along the simple words to her song…

I thought that you would be a perfect lover
You seemed so full of sweetness at the start
But like a big red rose that’s made of paper
There isn’t any sweetness in your heart

Paper roses, paper roses,
Oh how real those roses seem to me
But they’re only imitation
Like your imitation love for me

As Angela and the audience sang the last few words of the song, a cloudburst of joyful, enthusiastic applause rang loudly through the room.

I don’t think that most of us would have ever walked up those stage stairs the way Angela did that evening. It was embarrassing, right?

Her musical skill and ability was mediocre at best.

But it was her strength of positive spirit and character that endeared and entertained us despite her lack of high-level talent.

Angela had tried so hard, and if you were Yoda, I think you would have said, “she not only tried, but she did”. 

You know by now that I’m always looking for mentors and inspiration in the words and deeds of those around me and afar.

Sometimes I actively search for a bright beam of light in the night sky, a beam filled with ideas and strength and passion where I can catch a ride to a new destination.

More often than not, that beam of inspiration emanates from a bright star, a guitar playing mentor/hero like James Taylor, Eric Clapton or Keith Urban, a writer like Stephen King or Rachel Joyce, a chef like Jamie Oliver.

But I love those unintended surprises of encouragement and motivation that radiate from a back eddy, an unknown tributary of innocence and secrecy that flow in like a gentle old lady with a voice and a guitar.

She tried. We should all try.

I don’t think trying is doubt. I think trying is hope.

I’m not sure we should be relying on little green creatures to be our life consultants (and definitely not large Larry GREEN creatures either!).

I’ve told you this secret before but I’ll repeat it again.

I use you. I use you so I can try…

I use you to motivate me to write and to explore the minutiae of life, the little things that may seem meaningless… yet still, in their simplicity, like a statement from Yoda, contain BIG messages and stories.

When you converse with a good friend, you realize that life is a series of stories on a tender scented breeze, that slowly turns the pages… pages occupied with the boredom and exhilaration… the smiles and tears… of our book… one-by-one-by-one…

Book of life.jpg

 

 

 

The Scent of Love Floating on Air…

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I want a little sugar in my bowl
I want a little sweetness down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’, oh so bad
I feel so funny, I feel so sad”
Nina Simone

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A warm wafting garlic scent intermingled with fresh tomatoes, oregano and cumin hang-glides like a heavenly wispy cloud, drifting insistently through the walls and under doors into bedrooms beckoning lovers like a magnetic force, irresistible, trance-like.

There is a sensuous beauty in cooking a scrumptious meal. Cooking… at its best… is like making delicious love while standing.

Chicken Shawarma, Aji de Gallina, Lemon Risotto, Rogan Josh, Guinness Irish Stew, Lamb Tajine, Roasted Red Pepper Lentil Soup, Moros y Cristianos, BBQ Ribs, French Onion Soup… such sweet carnal names that call out so insistent and charming.

Cooking is Patrick Swayze with his arms cozily wrapped around Demi Moore (or vice versa in my personal dream), caressing wet, slippery clay in their hands together… absorbed in the flow of warm moisture, the sinewy ooze between interlocked fingers, the light texture of warm soothing breath on the back of the neck…

Preparing a meal is foreplay where the pleasure is in the process – the cinnamon smells, the coriander tastes, the soft melding of complementary spices and oils…

There’s the lovers’ experimentation of trying this and that, seeking out a variety fun-pack where slower or faster pacing of the preparation become critical components of the whole experience… the joy of new discoveries.

And finally the moment arrives, everything is laid out in anticipatory beauty, that moment where shared pleasure heightens as we sit together as a group or face-to-face, smiling, sipping deeply-tinted Cabernet Sauvignon, nipping at summery Pinot Gris, the swirling stream of conversation weaving with the flavourful blend of colour and texture on the plate, on the fork.

Messy, noisy sucking of succulent tender meat off the rib bone and the rich feel of it melting, coating the inside of our mouths, the tangy sweetness rising through our nose hitting all the pleasure centres in the brain.

All we need to complete this delicious metaphor is a taste of something chocolatey or some other sumptuously sweet “climax” to bring the whole erotically lustful event to a satisfying finish.

A truly happy ending. With hopefully no buns left in the oven afterwards.

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Cooking is like investing or really almost everything we might do in life… each year that passes makes us more experienced, more in tune with the magic that makes it work and what doesn’t.

Fine cooking improves in our personal aging almost like a well-cellared wine.

All of the experimentation, the trials, the errors, the frustrations. And finally the successes.

You want trial and error? How about the fried rice I made at the age of 11 for a family gathering. As a young culinary neophyte, I lacked the knowledge to cook the rice in liquid first before frying – yup… CRUNCHY!!  Big Oops!

But the frequent failures blend with the successes over time… the 80:20 ratio of failure:success which was unsettling and frustrating has now flipped to a debatably 80:20 ratio of success:failure.

When my kids visit now and vocally remind me about how I’m”cooking the garbage”, I’m pretty sure they’re saying it tongue-in-cheek. Or perhaps I’m just delusional…

The 10,000 hour rule of mastery plays its part, in cooking as in our other passions.

I’ve known a few really wonderful cooks in my life beginning way back with my Mom and her incredible deep-brown caramelized roast potatoes followed by delicious flaky-crusted Northern Spy apple pies at our family Sunday night dinners.

My sister-in-law Lois was a superb cook with an amazing arsenal of ethnic food dishes learned while living in countries like Malaysia, India, Egypt and Nigeria.

My good friend Denise who, despite growing up in a British family (Brits can’t cook, can they?!), has developed a wonderful and richly-deserved reputation as a cook extraordinaire.

In the past year or two I’ve worked alongside a few other creative, skillful chefs in the Greek Restaurant where I bartend occasionally; also, even surprisingly in the soup kitchen where I do some volunteer work. I’ve discovered that great cooking doesn’t only waft in the air of kitchens in high-end spots. Passion for cooking can flow from any kitchen, any locale.

The best I can do is to watch and learn from all of those who take pride and delight in their cooking. And then mostly, I learn from cooking.

Again and again. Try this. Try that.

This flavour combination is marvellous. Oh, that one really sucks! How could I have never used fenugreek before?

I’m pretty lucky to live in a time where I have access to an amazing assortment of food ingredients. Ideas for recipes and flavour delights surround and hug me like wonderful foamy bubbles in a large bathtub.

I can prepare meals today that my parents and grandparents would never have dreamed of in their lives. Meat and potatoes are my heritage but not a major part of my current reality.

Cooking is an act of love we share with our friends, our families, our lovers.

That love may be fraternal or familial, but sometimes… when we want that sweetness down in our soul, the scents and flavours spin and whirl and twist in the spicy evening air in erotically, sensuously charged pleasures.

food sex

 

 

Screw Retirement…

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latte.jpg

Here… would you like a cup of fragrant coffee, a steaming green tea, or one of my… ahem… superb lattes?

You might need one because I feel a “sermon from the mount” moment coming on…

Look out, here it comes …

IF you’re retired now … get out!

Hurry!!

Or… if … IF … you’re thinking of retiring… think again.

Lose the word retirement from your vocabulary. Just chuck it out the window of life’s fast-moving train. Clickety-clack… clickety-clack… gone.

Escape like super-stud Steve McQueen on a motorcycle jumping razor-sharp barbed-wire Nazi fences in The Great Escape.

mcqueen_motorcycle

Retirement is a crappy word and a shitty concept. Truly-retired people die. Fast.

A May 2013 report published by the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs found that retirement increased the chances of suffering from depression by 40%, while it increased the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical ailment by about 60%. That impact was assessed after controlling for the usual age-related conditions.

Now, I’m not telling you to stay or to leave your current job. Nope. Not at all.

As a matter of fact, if you truly love what you’re doing in your work – if you feel a glow of enthusiasm about what you do (almost) every day when you awake that doesn’t relate to morning nooky  – then please DON’T move on because the world has told you that’s the thing to do… stuff like, “you should just relax, you’ve earned it“… “you’re 65 and should retire” … “you should make room for younger folks to have opportunities“.

Nonsense. Don’t let yourself be should upon.

But really… REALLY!! My message here is don’t quit life. Move on to a new world but don’t retire. Re-invent and renew.

Never retire.

I love the La-Z-Boy as much as the next guy, but let’s make it a restorative tonic to clear our heads on our way to the starry constellation of our passions.

Never stop learning and pushing to grow. Never stop finding new experience in your days.

Die soon list

The SIX FEET UNDER Club List …

A half dozen years ago my friend Jennifer gave me a cool Sudoku techie-machine to exercise my brain.

I packed it with me it to the high oxygen-thin Andes of Cusco, Peru, where my wife and I sat and mind-sweated Spanish immersion classes alongside other enthusiastic young travellers in a school for 4 hours each weekday for almost 4 months. Aye ay ay Dios Mio! Divertido, si!!

In a strange twist, this Sudoku “machine”, the exerciser that was supposed to pump heavy iron in my dumbbell mind became my go-to relaxation elixir.

The brain stimulator became the soothing pillow to relax my poor worn-out head at the end of a challenging session of verb conjugations and long vocabulary lists en espanol.

I… we… you and I? We need to exercise our brains just like we exercise our bodies. Four more, three more … A holistically healthy approach to life necessitates exercising our physical, our mental, and our spiritual bodies.

For me, one of the main reasons and benefits of writing this blog each week is the mental workout it puts me through. I’m – marginally – more coherent in my day-to-day life because I do my weekly “exercise”.

I was strongly reminded of this last week when reading a chapter in Neil Pasricha’s book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything (what can I say… I’m a self-help junkie! HELP!!). (Aside: I try to have at least 2 books on the go at any one time… one a non-fiction one like the book above, and a fiction book to nourish and stimulate my creative side … my (pseudo-) fiction book choice currently is The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer)

Pasricha talks of the final column, written in 2005, of famed New York Times columnist William Safire. Offered as Safire’s “retirement” column, it really was something far more than that.

William Safire

William Safire

I’ll let Safire explain in his own words…

The Nobel laureate James Watson, who started a revolution in science as co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, put it to me straight a couple of years ago: “Never retire. Your brain needs exercise or it will atrophy.”

Why, then, am I bidding Op-Ed readers farewell today after more than 3,000 columns? Nobody pushed me; at 75, I’m in good shape, not afflicted with political ennui; and my recent column about tsunami injustice and the Book of Job drew the biggest mail response in 32 years of pounding out punditry.

Here’s why I’m outta here: In an interview 50 years before, the aging adman Bruce Barton told me something like Watson’s advice about the need to keep trying something new, which I punched up into “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” He gladly adopted the aphorism, which I’ve been attributing to him ever since.

Combine those two bits of counsel – never retire, but plan to change your career to keep your synapses snapping – and you can see the path I’m now taking. Readers, too, may want to think about a longevity strategy.

We’re all living longer. In the past century, life expectancy for Americans has risen from 47 to 77. With cures for cancer, heart disease and stroke on the way, with genetic engineering, stem cell regeneration and organ transplants a certainty, the boomer generation will be averting illness, patching itself up and pushing well past the biblical limits of “threescore and ten.”

But to what purpose? If the body sticks around while the brain wanders off, a longer lifetime becomes a burden on self and society. Extending the life of the body gains most meaning when we preserve the life of the mind…

… So I told The Times’s publisher two years ago that the 2004 presidential campaign would be my last hurrah as political pundit, and that I would then take on the full-time chairmanship of Dana (a research foundation). He expressed appropriate dismay at losing the Op-Ed conservative but said it would be a terrible idea to abandon the Sunday language column. That’s my scholarly recreation, so I agreed to continue. (Don’t use so as a conjunction!)

Starting next week, working in an operating and grant-making foundation, I will have to retrain parts of my brain. That may not make me a big man on hippocampus, but it means less of the horizon-gazing that required me to take positions on everything going on in the world; instead, a welcome verticalism will drive me to dig more deeply into specific areas of interest. Fewer lone-wolf assertions; more collegial dealing. I hear that’s tough.

But retraining and fresh stimulation are what all of us should require in “the last of life, for which the first was made.” Athletes and dancers deal with the need to retrain in their 30’s, workers in their 40’s, managers in their 50’s, politicians in their 60’s, academics and media biggies in their 70’s. The trick is to start early in our careers the stress-relieving avocation that we will need later as a mind-exercising final vocation. We can quit a job, but we quit fresh involvement at our mental peril…

…how many of us are planning now for our social activity accounts? Intellectual renewal is not a vast new government program, and to secure continuing social interaction deepens no deficit. By laying the basis for future activities in the midst of current careers, we reject stultifying retirement and seize the opportunity for an exhilarating second wind.

Medical and genetic science will surely stretch our life spans. Neuroscience will just as certainly make possible the mental agility of the aging. Nobody should fail to capitalize on the physical and mental gifts to come.

When you’re through changing, learning, working to stay involved – only then are you through. “Never retire.”

Yup. Never retire.

Find a new sport to delve into. Volunteer at the local college. Take an online course in winemaking. Sign onto a building crew at Habitat for Humanity. Study to get certified as an Undertaker. Join a theatre club. Join a book club. Join a bowling or golf club.

Whatever… wherever…whenever… you find that youthful lightning bolt of enthusiasm or excitement? That will be the magnet that pulls you out of “retirement” and into a sense of usefulness and aliveness in your days.

Make sure your brain sends new signals through the synapses of discovery feeding the fires burning inside you as surely as your heart pumps life-giving blood to your active muscles.

Reach toward that crimson sunset of each day with an eager anticipation of a beautiful sunrise to greet your morning eyes.

Yup. Screw retirement! Oops! Sorry about the language.

How thoughtless of me.

Your cup is empty. Can I offer you a refill?

Race to the Finish.jpg

The Retirement Race?

Wanna Do’s … or … Gotta Do’s

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Q – How are bloody car wrecks and Donald Trump the same?

A – As morbidly terrible as they are, you just can’t look away from the carnage …

Donald Trump 2.jpg

I’m sorry, that isn’t part of this week’s post, I’m just being my normal distracted self.

Let’s see …

Last week I:

  • made bread pudding and banana bread and Chicken Tikka Masala
  • swam 48 laps and went to spin class and 2 boot camp classes
  • wrote a blog post
  • ate popcorn and watched the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (in THAT order!)
  • did a 16 k. run
  • went grocery shopping
  • helped build a Little Free Library (LFL)
  • watched Donald Trump be Donald Trump (we are soooooo screwed!)
  • prepared my tax return
  • went to a local hockey playoff game
  • researched possible investments in Monsanto and Transforce (I didn’t buy shares of either), and lastly,
  • took in the final episode of Downton Abbey (Hallelujah, Lady Edith finally got her man!).

For someone like myself, an undiagnosed mild form of ADHD kind of person, this is the perfect week.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

Yup. The Perfect week.

I’m not trying to boast about all the things I’ve done, because I know many of you do far more than this in any given week.

You have to. It’s called survival.

But if you look a bit more closely at my list, you might notice that all of these things are what I would describe as recreational, my Wanna Do’s.

Yup, even grocery shopping and doing my tax return are fun Wanna Do things for me.

In earlier days, I spent long years where my weekly To-Do list included necessary things like vacuuming the carpets, washing clothes and dishes, doing the grocery shopping, doing the banking, driving the kids to ballet or soccer, making Shepherd’s Pie that my kids hated.

They were much more obligation-oriented Gotta Do’s, than fun, desirable, Wanna Do’s.

All that time I was slowly constructing the base of the chocolate layer cake that would become my life … preparing for the day when the sweet cream-cheese icing was all that was left of that yummy cake.

But my cake was never a single flavour indulgence. I built layers of different flavours to preserve my sanity and to allow my many outlets – passions, if you will – to flourish.

I purposefully placed my life on a teeter-totter, balancing the needs and desires and enjoyment of the moment while looking out on the golden sea horizon, attempting to see the life I wanted to be living in 25 years.

Did I do a perfect job of it? Of course not.

But I did have the good fortune of working with a lot of people in my jobs that I enjoyed being around. And when I didn’t, I made the tough decision to move on.

I never earned a whopping sum of money, so I saved and invested what I had in a reasonably successful way.

Inspirational guru Tony Robbins always talks about “should’ing” all over ourselves.

should

I made sure I didn’t “should” all over myself and bow to the expectations of the societal voices that try to dictate what our lives should look like.

I worked a 3 day work-week for the last 20 years of my lab career. My sanity was preserved, and my energies were able to be expended in directions that made me happy even though I wasn’t climbing the rungs of any corporate ladders.

When I found foul-smelling stool sample testing tiresome (I said to myself, “enough of this SHIT!”), I purposefully became a transformer and slipped on the clean underwear of a laboratory database miner for a number of years.

My sense of achievement and self-esteem was sourced in different life drawers.

I was self-aware enough to know the things that I enjoyed doing rather than the things others thought or suggested I should be doing … competence in the technical aspects of my job wouldn’t naturally lead to me being the good people manager that was often the expectation.

Last week at boot camp class I was talking to Marjana – an energetic Iraqi woman who, forcibly displaced, moved to Canada a couple of decades back.

Years ago, she opened a restaurant in Vancouver, a Middle-eastern bistro with special Arabian Night theme events.

Marjana worked every day, 12, 14, 16 hours a day for 4 years, non-stop, just like my current “boss” Georgios. He owns the Greek Restaurant where I play the role of bartender occasionally.

Both of these folks were/are incredibly dedicated to their work. My brother Gord did the same as the owner of a Mexican restaurant a few years back.

All of these people made a success of their projects by immersing themselves fully and passionately.

I am in total awe of these people.

But I don’t want to be them. Nope.

For all of those who love or need to focus solely on one matter at once, I will tell you how much I admire your ability to do the same.

This is what makes a great entrepreneur – a laser focus on one objective and doing everything everyday that takes you towards that goal.

Frankly, it would drive me crazy to be an entrepreneur. I would lose my zest for life like a grape shrivelling into a raisin under the scorching sun.

Such intense focus never made it onto my Wanna Do list.

I can only focus on one area for an hour or two before losing my enthusiasm and drive.

As Marsha my dedicated, delicate yoga instructor smiles and softly sings, “there are many paths to the same objective.

I’ve spent my life hound-dogging a diverse path leading towards the jelly-bean bowl of Wanna Do’s.

Selfish? Indulgent?

It might appear to you that I’m narcissistic and self-centred.

Perhaps, although I try to balance the scales of self-indulgence with volunteer and charitable Wanna Do’s. But even fruitful charity has the seed of ego at its centre unless you’re Mother Teresa.

I think that a truly perfect week should have the space and freedom to accommodate a cathartic moment of Shakespearean mixed comedy/tragedy.

And that’s why Donald Trump is gonna stay on my Wanna Do list for the foreseeable future.

todo-list

 

 

Passions and Reflections …

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Ruby:  Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war “a cloud over the land” but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say “Shit, it’s rainin’!”

COLD MOUNTAIN (Movie)

cold mountain

Certain movies come to have extra meaning for us.

Stories of longing, or joy, or sorrow, or zany moments…

It’s because they reflect ourselves back to us as if we’re standing buck-naked in front of a mirror… we realize, “This is MY story” … sometimes we don’t even realize why we’re feeling this …

Or we watch longingly and tell ourselves, “I wish this was MY story“…

And of course there are many that we view and genuflect, “Thank God this ISN’T my story.”

I think this is why I’m not a big fan of sci-fi or horror movies (But of course I’ll be going to see the new Star Wars!). I don’t see my reflection anywhere in the picture.

And most times I definitely don’t want to see myself there. I don’t feel a personal connection to having a spaceship battle or slashing someone’s throat, spattering pools of hot crimson blood. They can be fine for an hour or two of escapism and entertainment, but they won’t find a place on my favourite flick list.

Movies – when I stop munching popcorn long enough to pay attention –  are often my mirror and where the reflection unearths my passions and what the future holds.

Quotefancy-12466-3840x2160

Throughout life, passion is a result of struggle.

For the young, the struggle is to attain an identity and become a functioning adult.

For the middle-aged like myself, the struggle is to find meaning whilst a blanket of heightened sense of mortality envelopes us.

Meaning and purpose for these years should revolve around issues bigger than which buffet to patronize, or which toilet paper is softest on my bum.

…………………

There are light fluffy Christmas flakes, tiny little daytime shooting stars wafting from the grey sky outside my window as I write this.

Little pillows of cotton fluff adorn the tips of the towering Ponderosa Pines and I can hear chickadees chirping through the chilly air as they forage for seeds to keep their systems running warm and smooth.

December, with it’s shorter, colder days is a perfect month to reflect and take stock …

To me, a balanced, healthy person needs to look after a number of areas within their life to sustain what we might describe as happiness, a calm reflection of what is important to them.

We can wake up each morning and allow life to happen to us, wearing a blindfold while teetering on a cliff’s edge, waiting for a sharp breeze to send us plummeting …

… or we can arise with a determination to shape our direction with our eyes wide open and bright, skipping confidently along the rim of the Grand Canyon, seeking ideas and plans for a vigorous, well-lived life.

Life should be a little like doing core exercises at the gym. It’s not always obvious that as we pile on the crunches, strengthening the middle, it supports all of our other regions so they perform at their best.

In this life that is MY movie, my core … here are just a few of my miscellaneous December life reminders and reflections:

  • look after my own well-being – if you always give those around you the oxygen mask first, what good are you when you’re the first to die?
  • writing – helps me discover the inside me that hides away, even from myself. Life is filled with mysteries, none so great as who we ourselves are.
  • creativity – I have to nurture the seeds and persist in writing, music, cooking, anything that requires imagination and deeper thought. Not every moment, every attempt produces a work of fine art, but fine art will never appear unless my bum appears in the seat to make the attempt. Over and over.
  • investing – the life I live and person I choose to be is not going to come about unless I can sustain a livelihood. Taking time to read and digest, and then make good judgments about investments is critical.
  • physically – life itself is under threat if the physical body isn’t maintained. Our ability to function and thrive in daily life rests on a healthy, fit-based lifestyle.
  • finding growth – the mind needs its workout as much as the physical body. Learning and growing by experiencing new and unique challenges gives us verve and enthusiasm.
  • spiritual peace – a calm place to breathe and reflect – whether through religion or meditation or yoga or laughter – supports and cushions each difficulty we face. Life isn’t ever going to be easy no matter the amount of $$ in our bank accounts, so a steady base carries us past the trials we inevitably encounter
  • love – family and friends are the personal glue that holds our lives together. The Christmas spirit is alive in each of us when love is a part of our days.

Passion of many colours, textures and flavours is what makes my heart beat loudly in my chest.

If Cold Mountain‘s Ruby is right and “Every piece of this is man’s bullshit

… isn’t it reassuring to know it’s bullshit of our own making … finding our own joys in the days we have, choosing to be a true reflection of the person that looks back at us in the mirror?

rockwell_mirror

On The Lightness of Being An Evangelist of Positive Passion …

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Two wolves

BEWARE!

Look both ways before crossing my path because I’m not always sure that I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m sorry. Don’t worry.

This is all just a metaphor for my choices in life.

We ALL have a direction. We ALL have choices.

We ALL make choices, even if we choose to do nothing … that’s a choice too!

positive passion

This is where my concept of Positive Passion vs Negative Passion comes into play ….

Many dive into politics and weighty issues. This is a good thing in most cases.

With lofty intentions they dive into the stinky diapers of the world and try to make changes, or try to change the opinions of others, or fight injustice and inequality.

The most common form of this arises in protest of government edicts or legislation.

Unions and armies have fought their negative passions for eons. Protesters have died in Tiananmen and Tahrir.

They are filled with passion, but it’s a negative passion. It’s a contra passion… an “against something” passion.

I feel inferior when I encounter people like this and yet I don’t change.

I’ve made my choice. Why? What choice?

I’m not a negative passion kind of person.

I decided some time back that I want to fill my life with positivity. I want to do and live positive things with positive people in a positive way.

Happy dog

I want to fill my life with Positive Passion, not Negative Passion.

Check out this Letter to the Editor in my local Penticton newspaper last week. It suggested we find something we don’t like in the world and then fight against it as our life’s passion. Negative Passion.

I hear, “what can I do” or “nothing is going to change.” 

There are many people and organizations tackling challenges we face; environmental, social and economic challenges that have the power to cripple if we let them. In the face of these challenges, these people are making changes that few of us hear about, or if we do hear, our hopelessness doesn’t allow us to register. 

I say, “Get mad, get motivated and get moving.” Action is the only thing that ever has, or ever will, change anything.

First, what bothers you?

Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion, and when a person is passionate, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.

Second, “get motivated.”

Who else shares your pet peeve? I can guarantee there is a person, people or an organization already tackling the challenge you see.

Third, “get moving.” Contact one of those people or organizations. Start your own movement, volunteer, donate, whatever you can do with  whatever you have is good enough. Never let anyone tell you your efforts will never be enough.  

It’s noble and elegant, isn’t it? Superheroes fighting crime and injustice.

But I don’t want to fill my mind with negativity. I don’t want to be mad. Why do I want to be bitter and angry?  “Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion” just doesn’t work for me.

I try to float a bit lighter, filled with positive thoughts, positive energy; perhaps I can lessen just a teensy bit some of the problems that exist by the approach that I take.

Will I solve all the issues, the myriad of problems that beset us? Nope, not by a long stretch.

Don’t call me Polly’annish.

But I know that when I smile and see a grin mirrored back by others, problems somehow seem less significant, less bothersome. Smile dynamics break through where confrontation fails.

Here’s another approach that I’d describe as Positive Passion… this is from my local Penticton Herald newspaper Letters to the Editor, same as the example above. Positive Passion.

 

As the Okanagan summer draws to a close, we gratefully acknowledge the tremendous support given to the Soupateria.

Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards, farmers and home gardeners have been delivered. Merchants have donated bread, baked goods and various food items. Service clubs, churches, businesses and individuals given assistance in various ways. These  contributions have enabled us to continue providing a hot, nourishing lunch each day.

To the end of August, 30,506 “signed in” lunches were served, an increase of 945 over the same time period in 2014. Due to the influx of seasonal transient workers, numbers grew exponentially.

These numbers will drop dramatically at the end of harvest time. However, as a result of the downturn of the economy, the local clientele continues to grow. Many new faces appear in the lunchtime lines. 

Our dedicated volunteers have been champions, giving of their time and talents throughout this long, hot summer. The smiles of appreciation from clients, their compliments to the soup makers, and their cooperation during a busy season have made the effort well worthwhile.

On behalf of everyone here at the Soupateria, to the community of Penticton,  we say, thank you.

What a beautiful, thankful way to deal with a problem that exists. Feeding the positive wolf.

I respect, sometimes even admire, those who choose to fight with negative passion.

BUT.

I’ve made my choice.

I’m choosing to feed my positive wolf.

ACCENTCHUATE_THE_POSITIVE!_

My Supercilious Superpower…

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I was born with a superpower…


superman

 

I’ll bet you have one too …

Check out my cape … nice, eh?

Life is about the little things … the small stuff.

Our lives are like tiny grains of sand on a huge expansive beach. Over the years we get swept up in the swells of the tide, running in, slipping out … sometimes we’re blown by a sharp gust of lush tropical wind, sometimes laying stock-still under the burning rays of the sun.

But always, we live a tiny existence in a huge universe where we bump into other grains of sand, spend a few brief seconds rubbing close together – liking, loving, hating, laughing, crying – and then migrate to another area of the beach to where other grains oscillate and do it all over again.

I don’t know if grains of sand, like snowflakes, are each uniquely different, but I suspect that is the case.

My grain of sand is called Larry and I’ve rubbed up against lots of other sand grains over the years.

And each grain I met had a superpower uniquely fashioned by them. I have a friend who can repair any mechanical motor with his eyes closed. I have another friend who can multitask so calmly and effectively in her job that she can solve 3 people’s problems simultaneously. Yet another old chum from high school and college can teach blood banking concepts that are so complicated they make my head spin. I have a sister-in-law who can crochet anything. SUPERPOWERS…

Here’s just a partial list of things I (sometimes) enjoy and try to do, but technically, I pretty much suck at – NOT superpowers:

  1. Windsurfing
  2. Triathlons
  3. Playing violin
  4. Surfing
  5. Writing Novels
  6. Golf
  7. Dancing
  8. Small talk
  9. Holding my Alcohol
  10. Patience
  11. Kissing and Sex
  12. Knitting
  13. Drawing
  14. Board Games
  15. Auto Mechanics

And now, a listing of things I’m pretty good at – only ONE a superpower:

  1. Spelling
  2. Playing Guitar
  3. Running Long Distance
  4. Remembering Numbers (SIN, Credit Cards, Drivers Licence)
  5. Writing Blogs and Short Stories
  6. Listening
  7. Kissing and Sex
  8. Cooking
  9. Hockey/Football
  10. Learning Foreign languages
  11. Gardening
  12. Swimming
  13. Tennis
  14. Trivial Pursuit
  15. Cycling

 

Notice how kissing and sex made it onto both lists? I’ll leave that for you to figure out …

But truly, my SUPERPOWER is Spelling … yup, I don’t try, but I can’t make an error.

Sorry, that’s not true … I can, but it’s infrequent and even if it’s wrong, it’s likely because I’m not paying attention, and not that I don’t know how to spell the word.

primitive spelling bee

It’s a really silly superpower, but it is what it is… I didn’t ask for it. Blame my Mom and Dad.

But, like Superman’s powers… my spelling superpower is one that was bred into me.

I’ve spoken before about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule of practice for developing mastery in any area that requires skill and knowledge. It’s a great concept and if absorbed fully, you can accomplish just about anything in life.

For me, spelling skills didn’t require 10,000 or even 1,000 hours on my part and so this makes it different. This is a genetic trait that allowed me to spew out the spelling of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (I want you to know that I double-checked the word’s spelling in GOOGLE … hit it dead on first time!) right after I made my first cry in the delivery room … waaa … S-U-P-E-R-C-A-L-I-F-R-A-G-I-L-I-S-T-I-C-E-X-P-I-A-L-I-D-O-C-I-O-U-S waaa … the nurses were shocked as they wiped the cheesy vernix off me. I’m a legend on the maternity ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario.

cry baby

But spelling doesn’t give me the buzz, the internal WOW, that I get when I work hard at something that doesn’t flow naturally, and see improvement.

I’ve adapted Gladwell’s guidelines into my approach to life. These work for my own purposes and my ADHD personality. I use the 1,000 hour rule where I pursue and learn skills to a highly satisfactory+ but not mastery level.

I accept that I’ll never be a true master of anything except spelling because I lack the patience. But I get enormous happiness in my days from trying new things and improving even just a little bit in those areas that I really enjoy… playing guitar, writing, running, songwriting, cooking …

Personal Aside: I’ve been arrogant all my life about my superpower and I’ve looked down on others who can’t spell accurately because of it. If I went to therapy the psychologist would likely say it’s a result of my inferiority complex over so many other things I don’t do well.

But put aside the folly of my arrogance. Why?

Because I want to encourage you to find and acknowledge, or better still, develop your own superpower. You might be like me and discover it’s something you were born with … bred in the bone.

Or, maybe you’ve developed a passion for and persisted at something that was important to you and unearthed a potential talent.

What’s the role of talent? Very small. But you have to start with it. Talent is the seed of skill. Passion is what makes the seed grow into a beautiful flower.

Don’t force yourself to learn something if you don’t burn for it or it’s not a natural aptitude. If you’re not fully engaged and passionate about your potential superpower, it won’t happen.

When you find yourself waking up at 5 am wanting to jump from your bed with eager, fiery thoughts to learn and move forward with your budding talent, you know you’ve found a potential superpower that is all yours.

Find your unique voice. And when you speak in that voice, the world hears something it has never heard before. Use the concept of idea sex to mix and blend your diverse, seemingly unrelated thoughts and develop something that belongs to you.

So, pick up your cape… or maybe first, recognize that you have a cape that fits only you.

Then love yourself for owning that cape.

bright bulb

 

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

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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

Are YOUR Goals YOUR Passion for 2014 – Part 2

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

sunflower

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

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

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

Life is just sunnier and tastier.

……………………….

I can talk a good story.

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

WRONG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 billion swimmers

The whole world must be swimming here …

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

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

……………………….

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

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

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

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

Goals are a hugely important part of my hopeful travels. 

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

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

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

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

……………………….

2014 GOALS

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

1. PHYSICAL/HEALTH

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

Now THOSE are burpees!

Now THOSE are burpees!

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

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

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

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

2. CHARITABLE

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

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

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

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

Coffee Commandment

3. WRITING

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  MUSICAL

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

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

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

mickey_mouse_piano

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

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

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

5. TRAVEL

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

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

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

A Fez of the Heart...

A Fez of the Heart…

6. MENTAL/EDUCATIONAL

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

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

7. FINANCIAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. FOOD & EATING

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

Gourmet KD

If I had a million dollars …Gourmet KD…

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

……………………..

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

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

I wanna score a goal!”

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

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

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal...

My boyhood hockey hero reaches his goal…

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