8 Ways to An Inspired Life

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creativity ocean.jpg

We live in a vast swollen ocean of inspiration and creativity.

A sea that, at times, is ugly, frustrating, even tempestuous, but also tranquil and stunningly beguiling at others.

The choice is ours alone… to swim in its liquid warmth, tickled and massaged by rainbow-striped fish swirling around and beneath us… or to remain in the colourless dry “safety” of the boat absent from its beneath-the-surface ethereal wonders.

I was reading an article the other day of an interview with singer/songwriter James Taylor where he said something like: “I never thought of myself as a songwriter, but then I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and over time I discovered that I really could be a songwriter.”

That’s kind of a capsule summary of my thoughts and approach to creativity.

woody allen success

We become something by believing, trusting that we can do, and then, at last, by doing.

By “showing up”.

Every time I:

  • pick up a book
  • sit in a movie theatre
  • listen to a song I love
  • ponder a beautiful painting
  • cheer an athlete cross the finish line
  • spy an airplane passing overhead…

… I’m inspired.

How can I not be?

These are all amazing diamond-dusted creations of an individual person or persons.

They weren’t formed through some supernatural magic (although in some back eddy of my mind I can almost believe they were).

They were all folded and formed and thrust like a volcano from the depths of the sea by the actions and fortitude and dogged determination of the human mind and physical effort.

When I awake in the morning, it’s like I’ve arisen in a stolid prairie field with a wide swath of openness, virgin soil, before me.

My first breaths allow me to decide… to choose… if I’ll leave the broad expanse before me fallow, untended, bereft of new life and growth…


… do I absorb a deep breath of clean, fresh open-sky air and purposefully decide to plant and nurture a pasture filled with verdant growth and beauty, replete with colour and texture and expression.

Sure it involves work, but the rewards are life enhancing.

prairie 2.jpg

In order to fulfill my desire to be inspired, here are 8 rules, the work-to-reward system I follow:

  1. Proactive and decisive – there’s just no way to grow creative flowers without plowing the field and planting the seeds. Do something. Start small but do something. Decide today. Write a paragraph, sew a seam, run a block. It’s one foot in front of the other, over and over.
  2. Fail quickly and gloriously – as I grow older, my “who cares” voice has gained ground, and so failure, a word that once was anathema in my life, has become a calling card to likely success. Failure is rarely “fun”, but it’s a necessary evil to pass through to building a creative life. Failure takes courage.
  3. Laziness – procrastination (I can hear Carly Simon singing right now… PROCRASTIN-AY-AY-TION) is one of my bigly’est sins. The mental and physical effort we need to make ourselves creative takes considerable prodding and spent “calories”. Couch potatoes need not apply.
  4. Focus intently – this is another weak zone for me. I start in and before 10 minutes have melted away in writing a blog post, practicing guitar, preparing a lavish birthday cake… my mind begins a bastardly wander that needs electric fencing to keep under control… if only I had a little sheep-pig named Babe to keep my bemused head “contained”.
  5. Stay actively healthy – whatever paths we follow, the bearing we choose to pursue… we need a healthy physical presence to realize a worthwhile ending. Hemingway undoubtably spent much too much time drinking and smoking, but I’ve seen the desk at his Finca Vigia in Cuba where he wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls... no chair for sitting, it stands upright high where he would stand for countless hours typing his words. Sitting is the new smoking – Hemingway was ironically ahead of his time.
  6. Be willing to adapt – a common theme I’ve observed as I, and those around me age, is that the “mature” mind slowly evolves toward a gelling process that freezes opinion and one’s attitude and approach to life. Old Codger… Old Coot… are often accurate descriptions of a senior mind that has become set and unwilling or unable to bend and adapt. A local senior newspaper columnist remains stuck on the notion that everything is terribly wrong in today’s world, and terrifically right back in his youth.
  7. Pay attention to the world with an open mind – creativity is a sun-kissed virtue that relies on a free and open set of eyes and ears, unlocked to the shadowed nuance of our daily existence. An inquisitive, curious mind bursts opens like a morning glory flower to the subtlety of the breezes, the scents, the minute visions of what is meant and felt, and not merely said. Absorb the texture of a toddler’s gentle fingers, the shadow cast by a streetlight across a moonlit lawn.
  8. Embrace Idea Sex – well, surprise surprise… I’d say embrace sex of ANY kind, but from the viewing stand that overlooks the lyrical valley of inspiration, a swirling and blending of idea juices is what inevitably produces the sweetest fruit on the tree of our lives. Creativity thrives on combinations of thought balloons, ideas, notions, perspectives. The iPhone, as one small but world-altering example, employs a big seductive pile of idea sex where a bunch of technology snowflakes are rolled together to make a huge avalanche of a snowball.


Ho hum you might say.

You may be thinking that a whole lot of what I’ve said above is pretty cliche’ish.

Right. I get it.

Gorgeous scarlet-flamed sunsets are cliche’ish too.

And yet, you and I, repeatedly over our years, gather ourselves on a quiet bench, listening to hushed waves lap at the sandy ocean front as the drowsy sun kisses the ocean goodnight.

Cliches are easy truths… that’s why they’ve become cliches.

Inspiration is the hardest easy truth.

once upon a time


Live Time or Dead Time?

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Press your fingers to your wrist and check your pulse for me. I know it’s crazy but just do it.

You felt a steady bump thump bump, right?

OK, good. You’re alive.

Now prove it.

art making

I luxuriate in reading books, listening to recorded music, watching TV and movies, visiting art galleries, feasting in exotic restaurants… these are all sweet desserts and wonderful preoccupations.

The richness of our lives is a temple built upon the passive enjoyments and imaginative passions we digest and are captivated by.

To a point.

A heart-swelling, well-lived life needs balance, a balance of Absorbing and Creating.

Mental vs. Physical, Sweet vs. Sour, Questions vs. Answers, Minor Key vs. Major Key. You get my point, right?

A life spent absorbing the output of others is either:

  • Entertainment
  • Learning or…
  • Dead time.

I love entertainment: movies, theatre, dance, television, concerts, cooking demonstrations, football games. I confess I may not eat all the vegetables I should, but I can sure play a vegetative couch potato with the very best.

I love learning: Learning is leaning into the sunshine like a spellbound sunflower growing wings to the sky, expanding our abilities and knowledge.

Preparation and study, learning to play a tough new guitar lick gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Grasping, digesting, mastering skills and knowledge from others is inspiring and… well… killer awesome.

But like the second, third and fourth pieces of banana cream pie, too many absorbing muches makes us flabby of body and mind.


Dead time. It’s like living with a corpse in your head.

Walking through a graveyard under the dappled shade of a Honey Locust tree – looking, absorbing, breathing, contemplating –  is calming and peaceful, but ultimately, “life” six feet under really sucks.

Surely living should be more than passing through the graveyard, absorbing others’ products. Reading Shakespeare or JK Rowling is shadow boxing… enjoyable preparation for the real match.

Eventually, consuming what others create is… Dead Time.

When you personally write like Shakespeare or Rowling or even the worst pulp fiction writer, THAT is truly punching the bag. Live Time.

Creating vs. absorbing.

Like saving and investing $$, the best of intentions mean nothing if you don’t actually make yourself put 10% of your paycheque into the investment i.e. the bank or bond or stock or real estate or…

Live time is creating your own output, being active versus passive.

Writing a story, designing a sweater, inventing a new golf swing, writing a song, building a bookshelf, learning the piano, putting a fusion twist on pizza, singing in a choir, planting a guerrilla garden, designing a website. LIVE TIME.

My backyard chickens like to think they are prime examples of active creativity… one of the girls actually told me this the other day. After all, she clucked from behind the wire coop gate, we absorb the chickie chow you give us and create a brand new egg… every day!

I thought about what she said, but I had to remind her that creating the same thing over and over and over is kind of lazy creativity.

We then had a long discussion over the multiple definitions of creativity, the grammatical distinctions between creative and creativity, and whether it was just semantics at the root of our difference of opinion.

Fortunately, she and her feathery sisters didn’t take my criticism to heart, and so I still get to enjoy their boring creative output in a yummy green onion and mushroom omelette as often as I wish.


Because it’s something I like to do, I’ll use writing as an example of LIVE TIME. You can substitute anything that stirs your creative juices in its place.

Everybody has a story within. The seeds are lying quietly dormant like bacterial spores waiting to be watered and exploding to life.

story to tell

No life is too small to find some meaning in words. Why? Because your own interpretation of the beauty or horror of the world will be unique. Own it proudly.

Writing can be personal (diaries, journaling) or shared (books, letters, blogs).

Writing, like reading, is a powerful force that can develop and take us in surprising and unpredicted directions.

When you work on your creativity, you develop a great inner force and become competent.

Each day try to do one creative thing that makes you feel good. This is one way to make yourself your priority.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE and a recent book titled BIG MAGIC- Creative Living Beyond Fear believes there is a creative force that surrounds us.

The creative force is there but it requires an awareness and a desire to allow it to materialize from ethereal nothingness like a fluffy marshmallow cloud in the sky.

Vincent van Gogh, speaking of art and poetry said,

Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum… Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. 

Great ideas need to be nurtured and expressed, and they need work, lots of work. Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Hell, you can probably live a great life without ever dreaming a creative or original thought or idea, bobbing merrily atop the ocean surface.

But I think most of us know that slipping on a mask and snorkel and diving under the waves is where the greater riches lie, the rainbow colours are brighter, the water is immersively warm and that is where you’ll truly Find Dory (sorry, that metaphor just might be the worst I’ve ever floated!)

At some time, think about crossing the bridge from reader to writer (or… HGTV-watching DIY fanatic to project builder) and be patient enough to express your own creativity and emotion.

Creativity and personal expression run through each of us like the tempestuous blood pulsing through the radial artery at the base of our wrist.

Measuring that pulse, appreciating its warmth and cultivating the life force it contains is a heavenly approach to dividing our moments between Dead Time and Live Time.

Omelette anyone?

you and everyone else.jpg




The Determination of Creativity

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They sat around the long table glaring at me like I had 2 heads.

It wasn’t comfortable.

I was determined, more so than usual. It was the right thing to do.

So, instead of just going along with the majority opinion, I held my ground and continued to push. To push for a creative answer.

This is a tiny story with a big message.



It’s beautiful isn’t it?

What’s that you say?

The magic of the creative spark.

That shaky confidence of knowing that creativity – in some configuration – always exists in each of us.

It’s like opening your mailbox and finding a postcard from an old friend you weren’t sure you’d hear from ever again. You’re pretty sure they’re out there. You hope … but you’re just not certain.

Creativity can lie latent until we call on it and obsess a bit. Latent like:

  • The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace on Masada in Israel.
  • A wheat seed sitting dormant in an Egyptian tomb for 1,000 years before being untombed and germinated.
  • A botulism spore patiently pacing for eons in the waiting room, longing for its chance to come to life in a jar of green beans on your pantry shelf.

Every week I sit down to write a blog post with no roadmap. Latent creativity.

I’m travelling blind, my headlight’s beam obscured by the fog.

I inch forward slowly through the mist and bit by bit the road becomes more and more visible. An idea forms, a seed germinates, a few words get typed… then more and more.

germinating seed


I’m reading a book about Elon Musk.

You probably know him. He’s the creator of Tesla Motors (electric cars), SpaceX (rocket building and space exploration), PayPal (alternative payment systems), SolarCity (solar panels).

This guy – we’ve seen it many times – like Steve Jobs or Lance Armstrong, or ? … could probably best be described as an ASSHOLE. A focused, persistent, headstrong #1 Grade ASSHOLE.

But an asshole who can change the world. With determined, non-latent creativity.

With these guys, normal rational logic goes by the wayside, cast into the rubbish heap.

Musk makes a bold decision that something – a battery-powered car – will feature a sports car look, have amazing futuristic design elements, will cost a ridiculously low amount to build.

Then he doesn’t allow ANY roadblock to halt its finality.

No amount of common sense reasoning will hush his personal batteries, his determined creative drive, down. He finds a way to make the unreasonable, the impossible… possible.

tesla car

Musk’s “boring” battery-run car …

How about a personal example on a much MUCH smaller level?

For many years, I was the treasurer of a board that administered a public botanical garden here in Summerland. The flow of funds for this non-profit group, like most non-profits, were perpetually running on fragrant fuchsia and fritillaria fumes.

The new year’s spring brought our 2 long-time seasonal gardeners, Marcia and Kerry back to the fold … to weed, to plant, to stress their bodies fashioning beauty for thousands to savour.

Our volunteer group was paying the ladies barely over the minimum wage and all the other board members wanted to freeze their meagre salaries.

I wouldn’t go for it. I dug my feet into the slippery sand.

I pitched a 2.5% increase for each. 2.5%! That’s all. They deserved it. They were loyal, hardworking, dedicated.

There are sometimes really smart reasons to wait, to pause. To let the seed spend some time in the cool earth, dreaming itself into being. But there is also a time to stick up a little green tendril, to taste the air and feel the sun.

The others argued strongly, loudly, sensibly really, that we hadn’t the dollars to reward their efforts. And it really wasn’t even a reward, just a cost-of-living adjustment.

Somehow, I convinced the doubters.

The end result of the decision to give them a raise required creativity and thought. It held my and my fellow board members’ feet to the fire.

Sometimes it’s the resolve that makes the next thing possible. It involved a mixture of creativity and blind faith.

Creativity and blind faith are partners in crime.

Creativity requires a belief in the power of our subconscious.

The decision to pay more was made. The money had to come from somewhere. We obsessed and focused on ideas that would make it possible.

Our group took a calculated risk.

We boldly increased the amount of stock plants we purchased wholesale and made available at our annual spring plant sale, filling the horticultural shelves like a popular Walmart.

A lack of vegetative sales would mean that we absorbed the costs denting our financial coffers. It would hurt, but not bankrupt the organization. Good sales would grow our financial muscle.

The garden gnomes smiled and what seemed like a bold move turned into a stroke of fortune, and a lesson learned.

An additional $5,000 of plant sale profits flowed in almost effortlessly with this small, shall we deem it, creative decision? The pay raises were easily covered.

And it sent a message to our talented gardeners that they were important to us. They didn’t ask for the tiny raise, but they glowed when told the news.

There you go… a tiny story with a big message.

This is the way I like to try to pursue much of my life – albeit in a far plainer way than Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.

Set a goal and then find a creative way to make it happen.

Elon Musk set his goals to design and manufacture a battery-run vehicle that looked and performed better than the model that had been the standard for close to 100 years.

People scoffed, people laughed, people harrumphed.

This is what people do when the “crazies” out there decide to break the mold, to do something that others haven’t done or even considered.

Steve Jobs broke the mold with the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone.

Creativity doesn’t always come from the rational, the common sense approach. Logic and creative pursuits aren’t always 100% compatible.

JK Rowling knows it. She lived in relative poverty before publishing a book or two you may have heard of.

Creativity doesn’t result in an error-free life. I’ve made and continue to make mistakes.

But sometimes to do something special you have to go off the main roads and allow yourself to be lost for a while until you find a creative path, a path that no one else has followed exactly.

A path that makes your tiny message into a big story.

cute creativity



Passions and Reflections …


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

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.


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?


Achievement and The 7 foot Tall Dude


Little Compton Fair_01

I arrived at the start line of a 10k running race the other day and there was this dude in hot orange fluorescent neon shoes. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch.

We were all gathered there at the start line – about 200 eager runners hopping nervously in the early morning chill, a bit of dew still clinging to the grass blades under our feet, all revved up and ready to go, waiting for the crack of the starter pistol or siren.

Then this oddity-of-height dude begins jumping up and down, probably to keep warm, but it looks like he’s on a trampoline or something because he floats way above the heads of the crowd.

You know just looking at him that as long as he can stay upright on those fleshy stilts sticking out beneath his shorts that he’ll cross the finish line in about 10 lopes of his supernaturally long legs, miles ahead of anyone else.

And sure enough, he did.

I used to enter running races with this imaginary vision of myself crossing the finish line, arms raised in glorious triumph … crowds of well-wishers cheering the winner … yup … ME.

Of course this is a totally imagination-based scenario because I’ve broken the tape of a race at the head of the pack … not once … nope … not even remotely close … not even when I was in my prime 20’s and ’30’s.

And I never will, but that’s OK, because I live my days like a scattergun.

Scattergun smoke

I call it my “ADHD” which probably offends those with true medically-diagnosed cases of the disorder. But, for me, it loosely describes my everyday approach to life.

My ADHD is what allows me to enjoy and feel passion for all of the things I love to do. It’s unrestrictive… it’s like the passing wind, rustling freely through a wheat field with lots of wide open space to reach towards the horizon miles off in the distance.

I like to achieve.

But my life isn’t based only on success in one area that I practice … I pursue a lot of interests each day in a lot of different regions … sports and physical activity, investing, reading, building, writing, cooking, gardening. And that’s where I find my comfort zone… my zen.

Maybe it’s a neurosis or a psychosis or a vicious brain tumour that makes it happen, I don’t know.

I’m driven, maybe even haunted, by reaching for the carrot that taunts and teases me in front of my nose.

If I can’t make my nose bleed with excitement each day with a feeling of “I made this”, or “great forward momentum“, I end my day feeling blah and uninspired, maybe the way you feel when you can’t summon your daily bowel movement routine.

Achievement is my mental “Ex-Lax“. I produce, I achieve, I feel light and unburdened.


Not every day produces something – a blog post, a new song, a gate on the chicken coop run, a chicken parmigiana to die for – I’m proud of … many times I do get achievement “constipation”.

But I know enough that if I plug away day in and day out, leaving worrisome thoughts behind … a day arrives where the stars align and something otherworldly materializes and this is enough to keep me motivated to get up the following day and keep trying.

Maybe this is one of the reasons aging gives us confidence and understanding. We learn about our capabilities and believe in ourselves – we finally believe in our own powers that once locked us in doubter’s prison in our earlier years.

I know what I need is there inside, I just need to be patient, get in behind and push a little, and allow it to surface.

A smile will come to me as I realize that once again I’ve produced something. I’ve achieved, therefore I am …

In 1880, Leo Tolstoy, after he wrote “War and Peace“, published a book that took him 30 years to write called “The Kingdom of God is Within You“.

This book focused not on a supernatural heaven that waits us later but on the choices we can make today that can make us happy and inspired. My “ADHD” is a choice that I’ve embraced and makes me feel happy and inspired.

In the end, I feel like I’m 7 feet tall at the start of the race and I know I’m a winner.

When I’m acting in a creative, productive way, even if I don’t cross the finish line first, or have a million blog followers, or make 25% annual investing returns like Warren Buffett, I’m enjoying the process and getting my little thrills in the little things that I can make happen.

And that’s all I ask, thank you very much …


Childhood Pyromania and Idea Sex …

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fire fist

Why I’m not locked away in solitary confinement is beyond my understanding.

As a youngster, I loved fire.

Kumbaya Campfires, fireplace fires, smoky autumn piles of leaves and prunings, fireworks’ and firecrackers’ fires … sizzle fizzle… BANG!

Nothing made my pulse quicken more than to strike a match and set something … just about anything … aflame.

And if I didn’t have a match… well… a good little magnifying glass could substitute as an igniter. It was gloriously satisfying to see a little whisp of smoke rising from a scrap of paper where the magnifying glass had concentrated the mid-summer morning sun’s rays.

I cringed inside when a couple of friends thought it was cool to sizzle a live ant on the ground with the magnifying glass. The ant would try to run away from the pinpoint concentrated heat, but eventually it would succumb and an ugly, acidic smelling smoke arose from its flesh. The kindness of Buddhism hadn’t filtered into our little lives yet.

Those are the guys who are probably in solitary confinement these days.

On summer mornings, I could sit on the floor of my family garage – after Dad had driven our pale green Ford Meteor off to work – and make fire magic for a couple of hours easily.

The alcohol-based Aqua Velva cologne sent by my Aunt Lilian the previous Christmas was wonderful stuff for fueling flames … plus it smelled great at the same time. I think she sent it to me, her young nephew, to make me feel grown up. She would have had a cardiac arrest knowing the use I put it to.

Aqua velva

I’d pour a few fragrant drops of the blue-tinted cologne into a small jar lid sitting on the garage’s cement floor. Then I’d see how close a lit match needed to be before there was a small “woof” as the flame ignited a hot, almost transparent, blue-green flame that danced in the air over the jar lid.

It burned away for 5 or 10 seconds and I would hold small twigs or twisted wads of paper over it to see if they too would ignite. Those little round red rolls of “caps” for kid’s cap pistols were perfect to hold over the flame and listen to their sulphury loud “crack”.

It was fascinating, and now, looking back, maybe a tiny bit creepy at the same time.

That was then. My childhood pyromania has thankfully subsided.

I still enjoy the primal sense of a dancing flame in the firebox of my woodstove, but I save the cologne for splashing on my weathering grown-up face.

Now, as an adult, I’ve left that burning desire for real fire largely behind – the flames I long to see and feel now are those of creative spark.

Whether I’m crafting words in this blog post, or in creating music, I feel the same searing rushing blood in my temples that I experienced as a child pyro.

The heat produced now is a physics phenomenon of action-reaction.

creative spark

Occasionally, I write something as if someone else has occupied my body and is making up the words that flow from me – a magical mystery.

Or sometimes a melody materializes out of some ethereal spot that I’ve never been to or seen.

I know it’s all related to my active sub-conscious making connections and melding ideas – yup, IDEA SEX – in the brain’s underworld that is largely unknown and mysterious to us all.

But like Virginia’s Santa Claus (from New York’s Sun 1897 editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church ):

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. 

Idea sex exists and it works like Santa’s little unseen elves, creating and cutting and pasting until a new combination of artistic phenomenon arises to the surface and erupts.

The physics action/reaction I spoke of above is to think of a problem, a challenge or an idea that has me scratching my head seeking an answer or a coherent, interesting thought. Another analogy that might make sense to you is when you try to think of someone’s name whom you you’ve just bumped into after 10 years … it won’t come.

I set the challenge quest on a little floating boat, anchored in a safe harbour.

Then with a light shove off from its moorings, I set the craft adrift to go out on the ocean wherever it wishes.

I turn my head and walk away and let the challenge reside in the background, relaxing and trusting that my sub-conscious has sprung into action, searching and bobbing through my lifetime’s file of memories and experiences.

The magic sometimes takes 5 minutes … sometimes 5 hours … but usually an overnight passage is enough to bring the boat back to port and deliver the goods.

Toy Boat 3

It’s as amazing as it is mysterious and wonderful.

It’s comforting somehow to know that my enthusiastic desire for flames still exists after all these years, even in an altered form.

The metaphorical hot flames I create today are far less likely to send me into a locked cage than the real fiery ones of my youth.

And … in fact, the idea sex potential that lies inside us all produces a heat that can make us feel more powerful than we’ve ever felt …


Before he goes into the water, a diver cannot know what he will bring back.” 
― Max Ernst

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


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 …


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)


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!!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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?


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 …


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)


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).


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 …


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.


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.


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. 


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!


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.


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.


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

80% of Life is Showing Up

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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.


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.


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!

Creating Our Own News…

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Do not go where the path may lead: go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


I just had a birthday and in a curious way, it was a keeper.

At my age (57, ouch again) I don’t usually look forward to adding another integer to my sum (see Mom, I learned something in Mr. Warneke’s math class!). But combine a birthday with your retirement and it feels pretty special.

And because you’re reading it here now, my birthday, my retirement, have become the news.

I made a decision to publish my personal information and anyone on this blue and green globe with computer access, can be a customer of my little ego-story.

The world we live in today allows us to jump out of our consumer role and not just read or listen to the news.

We can make the news.

Let me explain more fully.

Growing up I was a paperboy. You too? Cool …

Spectator newspaper-2

Yup, every day except Sunday, I picked up a bundle of Hamilton Spectators from the street corner just down from my childhood friend Dougie Dawson’s house.

(ADHD Aside: I love people who give all of their kids names with the same first initial – two kids I can handle but 3 or more… come on Mr. and Mrs. Dawson, get a Baby Name book –  Dougie Dawson’s siblings were Diane and Donald … in my bizarro head they’re a waddling family of Disney ducks!)

I’d throw the inky newspapers into a big, off-white burlap-like sack with a long shoulder strap and head off over to Woodman Drive to plunk each of those 35 broadsheet papers in front of my customers’ doors.

I even delivered one to old Mrs. Ogilvie who, in her Scottish brogue, fingered me to the police as the 11 year-old car thief she saw driving off from in front of her building.

Can you see the look on the burly police officers’ faces when I was called down to the principal’s office at Glen Brae middle school for interrogation? Shaking in my little Grade 6 runners, I tried to squeak out answers to their probing of “where were you on the morning of blah blah blah?“. I froze up and couldn’t remember. They sent me – trembling –  across the hall to the library to try and recall a few details.

All the cops had to do was look at me. I was short for my age –  if my foot was pressing hard, pedal to the metal of a hot-wired car, my beady eyes would have been staring into the deep, dark bottom curve of the steering wheel.

Yes, it would have been a very short journey and then I’d have ended up in JUVIE, strip-searched and well on my way to a Clyde Barrow life of crime, perhaps even a White Collar Banker!

My life would be so different if Mrs. Ogilvie was right ...

My life would be so different if Mrs. Ogilvie was right …

Screw you Mrs. Ogilvie … CASE CLOSED (but only after they went after my brother Gord, the next older paperboy in my family)!

Anyway, it was a pre-digital era where the only way you or I would be seen or heard by a broader audience is if we:

  • stole a car
  • designed and built a car, or
  • got run over by a car.

But I stopped being a paperboy a little while ago now and I’ve decided that I won’t only be a consumer or delivery person of the news … I am going to create the news.

News comes in international, national, local, and personal varietals. Some of us are meant to be heard on the bigger, macro stage – the Obamas, the Putins, the Jennifer Lawrences – but really, the news I’m talking about here is on the micro level.

The headlines I’m interested in, you won’t be reading about in the Globe and Mail or see Anderson Cooper mentioning on CNN.

I’m creating a local, more personal version of the news. My edition of the news is called Man on the Fringe, and I’ve been your faithful reporter here for over 2 years and – last time I checked – 121 blog posts.

I choose to broadcast my news via this WordPress blog site, which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But really, making your own news isn’t about telling the whole world about yourself, it’s about telling yourself what YOU are all about.

I have a story, you have a story, everyone has a story.

Every morning we wake up and we begin to write our news story. The question becomes… will it be a momentous news day, or just another Pleasant Valley Sunday?

We can lie on our backs and look dreamily to the stars. In the ether between the chill earth and the distant cosmos there are a billion truths, and you have to choose the star that contains the truth that is yours.

Like slowly wafting snowflakes, no two truths, no two stars, no two lives are identical. You can never be identical to someone else but you can manufacture a snowflake life of beauty and meaning that reflects your beauty and your strength.

I can’t tell you what will make your news story special and unique. That is for each of us to discover.

It might be one overarching story that defines your full life existence, but more likely it will contain a gooey, messy, mixed combination of small vignettes that coalesce into a complete and complex story that becomes you.

My own story is a mosaic of writing and music and travel, fitness and woodcraft, reading and cooking and growth in its different forms. Like I said … Messy!

Make your own news, call it passion if you will, perhaps you prefer to label it “life’s shitty meaning”. The title doesn’t matter, the action is the key. Any action is better than no action. And don’t be afraid of mistakes… You’ll never look more foolish than me. Guaranteed.

Write a song: climb a hill that has intimidated you for years: practice hitting 500 putts: make a pie pastry for the first time: shear a sheep: build a spaghetti bridge: start a small business you’ve dreamed of since you were 16: make a life-sized sculpture of Taylor Swift from toilet paper.

In today’s headlines:

I’m creating my own news, and my story will be fabulous!”


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