Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Memento Mori...

"Memento mori" is a latin phrase meaning "remember your mortality". It expresses the idea that only when we accept and embrace the inevitability of our death can we truly appreciate and value our life.

I was first introduced to this idea by Nate Green, when reading his "Hero Handbook". In this amazing guide to living life as your own hero, he recommends creating a simple spreadsheet, 52 columns wide and 80 columns high. This generously allots us each 10 more years than Abraham Lincoln prescribed, and two more than the current life expectancy of the average North American. Next, take a black marker and fill in a square for each week that you have lived so far. Mine looks like this ... 

My current memento mori - over halfway dead!

Then, each week you fill in one more square. It quickly becomes like the sands of an hourglass, letting you tangibly see your lifetime pass. I found it to be a fascinating experience, reminiscing as I filled in squares... Kindergarten, picturing the classroom, who my friends were, my teacher's face. First puppy love. When I got my driver's license, and only a few squares later when I was in the hospital with a skull fracture after a rollover crash. The summer I got married. When my kids were born. What house I lived in when. Successes. Failures. A friend committing suicide, wiping out the rest of his spreadsheet with one bullet. Each square represents 168 hours and, when grouped together make up all of our significant events and eras.

I was describing this chart to a friend today. Earlier in our conversation I had asked her "What are you excited about this coming week?". She replied, "Nothing. I am just working". Later, when I brought up the idea of keeping a memento mori chart, she told me that seemed morbid and depressing, "Watching your life just slipping away like like that." I explained to her that I am NOT letting my life slip away, precisely because I see how much time has passed and how much I likely have left. I truly value every one of those squares, and refuse to let them go to waste. I suggested that she may feel differently about next week if she kept one of her own. (She messaged me an hour after we met, asking me to send her the .pdf template so she can start her own - kudos to her!)

What inspired me to write about memento mori was the realization that I had not posted my "Thank Google It's Friday" collection of inspiring and entertaining videos, pictures and stories that people have sent me in the last week. It truly felt like I had posted my last one just a day or two ago, but another 168+ hours HAD gone by, yet again, and I began reflecting on how quickly the calendar flips.

Much has been written on the meaning of life and death. Perhaps more than on any other subject (with "love" probably in that mix). A relatively recent expression of the very spirit of momento mori comes from the visionary/powerful/wealthy/brilliant/influential, but dead anyway, founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs.

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

"The trap of thinking you have something to lose" ... exactly. None of us are getting out of here alive. Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, George Washington. All dead. In fact, everyone who was ever born is either dead or very soon will be. So, please, stop taking it all so seriously!

"People tend the take everything too seriously. Especially themselves. Yep. And that's probably what makes 'em scared and hurt so much of the time. Life is too serious to take that seriously." Tom Robbins

Scared and hurt. Regretful and worried. Why would we ever squander our only lives on these ways of being. Regret is useless. If there is something you can do now to correct what you are regretting, do it. If you can't, then turn the page and get on with the business of living. Worry, too, is a nonesensical waste of energy. Whatever it is that you are worried about, ask yourself this - "Is there any action I can take to affect this outcome?" If the answer is "Yes", then do it. If the answer is "No", then don't worry and deal with it when it comes. 

So, how about being joyous and kind and excited and loving? How can we shift our vibration there instead?

We can begin by realizing that there are only two kinds of squares in a memento mori - those that are black and those that are white. In other words, those that are already filled in and those that remain blank.

The black ones represent our past. There is nothing we can do about them now. The only healthy way to regard the past is with unequivocal gratitude. Be grateful for every good thing you have experienced. And be grateful for the lesson in every bad thing, as well as grateful that it has passed. 

The blank squares are blank for a reason. NOTHING IN THE FUTURE HAS HAPPENED YET! So, this is something you can do everything about. The whole rest of your life starts right now, always. I am reminded of a great book I just saw, entitled "It Is NEVER Too Late, As Long As You Start RIGHT NOW!"

Here is a challenge. 

Create your own memento mori. You can even download a blank one in .pdf form right here ...

Really examine how much time has passed and how much is left to come.

And ask yourself these questions... How much of that rapidly shrinking white space am I going to spend watching television? How much do I want to spend feeling sorry for myself? How much am I willing to spend doing things I don't enjoy? What kind of responsibility am I going to take for my health and energy to best enjoy that time? What do I really want to be doing and how can I start doing it? With what friends do I want to share the time I have left in my life?

And then get very excited, not just about every remaining week but about every remaining day, every remaining hour, every remaining minute. Get very excited about your very next breath. AND GET LIVING!

"‎This is our time—the time each one of us has been given. Yet we get lost in semantics—what is good, bad, right, wrong. What do we forget? Everywhere, someone has a request, someone has a prayer. “Make this happen. Give me a better job. Give me a better life.” We forget what we have been given. Somehow, we are unable to look at what is in front of us—the most beautiful, the most magnificent. There is no greater blessing than the coming and going of this breath."              Prem Rawat

Someday, no matter what, your spreadsheet will be totally black. So will mine. So will your kids' and everyone else's. 

So, here is one more question worth asking yourself, from the poet Mary Oliver.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

As for me, I plan on living myself to death!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How I lost a fight to an old man this morning ...

Weird stuff happens to me. Some of it I am even willing to share. This morning is a great example of this.

The Background: I had volunteered to cook pancakes for all of the staff and students at my son's school this morning as part of a fundraiser for their Grade 8 trip. We put together a terrific team of parents, I bought a cartload of batter mix, everyone brought their griddles and spatulas, and it was an awesome event! It was on my way home, after three hours of this - enjoying myself while volunteering to raise funds for children - that my story takes place. (I emphasize that to make sure that you get that I am the good guy in this story! I am intentionally painting myself in a flattering light, because the story is so much better, and makes much ore sense, when you are clear on that part.)

In fact, watch this short clip from the phenomenally funny HBO series "The Life And Time Of Tim". That is pretty much how my day started to go at about 11:30am ...

The Story: As I had borrowed my ex-wife's griddle (that I lost in our split, but I think that was in exchange the wok so I am not complaining) for the pancake making extravaganza, I was dropping it back to her at her workplace. Two of the school moms were diligently scrubbing the other griddles and I figured I could give this one a quick wipe on my own rather than adding to their workload (see the theme here - damn I was being wonderful!!). So, a mile down from the school, I turned onto a country road and pulled over to brush the pancake crumbs off before handing it over.

I had just stepped out of the car and taken the griddle from my trunk when a truck pulled up behind me. An older man (75? 80? White hair. Full beard. About 4 inches shorter than I am.) climbed down from the driver's door. I assumed he was making sure I was ok, as my 4 ways were flashing, so I smiled and wiped a napkin across the teflon surface as I said "Hello".

"What in the HELL do you think you are doing?" old, bearded, short, white-haired guy shouted as he marched right up to me.

"Pardon?" I replied.

"Do you just think you can throw your garbage on my lawn?" he added, the questions starting to build up.

"No, sir. I don't have any garbage at all. I am just wiping some pancake crumbs from this griddle before I return it to the person who lent it to me."

"Well, why don't you wipe those crumbs on your own god damned lawn?"

"Sir, she is just up the road and I was dropping it off on my way home. Please have a look at the ground. You will notice there is no garbage. There is less than a handful of crumbs and nothing else."

"Yes. On my goddamned lawn!" he was now pretty much in a full blown rage.

I decided I had better just cut my losses at this point. "Sir, I am very sorry. I sure wasn't looking for any trouble, so I will just apologize and be on my way."

"Well you certainly found some trouble, boy," he proclaimed, literally balling up his fists and taking another step towards me, "when you decided to dump your trash on my lawn!"

I found myself starting to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, but tried not to smirk and, instead, continued being respectful.

"Sir, I am not going to argue with you. I have apologized and I will apologize again. I am sorry that this has caused you so much stress. There was no harm intended. I wish you a good day and am going to go now."

"You can go after to pick up your god damned trash from my property!"

Finally, I decided that enough was enough. "Sir, this is not your property. This is the road. Your property starts at that fence, on the other side of that wide ditch. And this is not trash. This is a minuscule amount of pancake batter. I have apologized repeatedly despite having done nothing wrong, and you are entirely unwilling to accept my apology. You actually seem intent on us having a fist fight over this, and I don't really see any scenario in which that works out well for me in the big picture, so I am just going to say "You win. I lose". But I am not picking up those crumbs from the road. Some birds will have eaten them in a few minutes, brightening their day. By then I will be smiling somewhere down the road, enjoying my day too. And I sincerely hope, for your own sake, that you get some perspective and don't let this honestly ruin your day."

And I walked to my car and drove away. The story wasn't completely over yet. He then followed me to see where I dropped the griddle off - yes, seriously. I drove right past my destination, not wanting them embroiled in this ridiculous drama. Instead I turned into an adjcent subdivision and pulled into a driveway until he drove by out of sight.

And, true to my word, I carried on, smiling at now having a great story that made my awesome day just that much more interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thank Google It's Friday AGAIN!!!

My last few "best of" posts have been way too long! This is due to my being blessed with a cornucopia of amazing friends who keep sending me links and pics and songs and other blessings. And THAT has a lot to do with why my LIFE IS GOOD!!

So, here is the last week's worth ... enjoy :)

From Margaret Schlachter ... profoundly simple (the message, not Margaret!)

Beastie Boys "Gratitude" from Johnny Ward...

Shared by Jeff Wedge...
Inspirational quotes of Prem Rawat (Maharaji) on subjects of Peace, Life, Love, and Joy!

An extraordinarily emotional 5 minute film, from my own timeline almost 4 years ago...

Simply one of the funniest things I have read in ages, from ...

A gorgeous five minute travel film asking "Have you enjoyed your story?" shared by Tim Holmstrem.

a story for tomorrow. from gnarly bay productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

An exquisite 3 minute look inside the mind of a skateboarder attempting a dangerous trick for the first time. I maintain that these guys are far more impressive than pro ballers, etc. Commitment and courage! (from

What For? from Sebastian Linda on Vimeo.

Wow... (thanks again Tim Holmstrem)

My great friends Reid and Adam, playing their song "It's You" in the official Tourism Vancouver ad campaign!

Great perspective from Frank Fumich ...

Whatever it is that you have to brace yourself for today, watch this 2 1/2 minute video first ... (another from Infinity List)

My lifelong friend Colin Campbell seems to think I look like Steve Jobs ... I do see it to some degree, but I look happier and I am alive (For those keeping score, that is Johnny 2, Steve Jobs 0)


Fantastic 6 minute TED Talk showing how leadership doesn't require a title or a formal role. Shared by the beautiful Brigitte Brousseau ... see what I did there? that is alliteration ;)

Why CAN'T you just be happy? This guy is, so am I, and so is the spectacular Stephanie Beaumont (check out who sent me this ten minute bundle of love and good energy!

Mr. Happy Man from Matt Morris Films on Vimeo.

Reality Checks

You have probably already figured out that I operate a lot like Jim Carrey's character in the movie "Yes Man".

I say "Yes" to a lot of things. This is a function of both my hardware and my software. Physically, I have a ton of energy and a huge tolerance for stress. Emotionally I want to experience everything that I can while I am here on this earth.

I would not change this about myself, and generally it makes for an exciting and fulfilling life. It also has its inherent, and utterly predictable, drawbacks. The biggest being the occasional realization that I have WAY overcommitted myself.

Lately these insights, awarenesses, kicks-in-the-teeth have come in the form of physical, fiscal and familial wake up calls. I posted previously about the exciting 2012 I have ahead, full of races and adventures and festivals and fun. And I am still looking forward to it. But a few things have recently been trimmed, out of various necessities.

One big one is the Canadian Death Race, a 125km ultramarathon in Alberta in August. Last month, an inspiring runner I met at the Haliburton 100 last year, Elise Maguire, told me she was signing up for the race and asked if I wanted to go as well. Logically it made zero sense for me to say "yes". It is 5 weeks after my return to The Spartan Death Race in June, and I will not be anywhere near recovered enough to run 125km, with 17,000 feet of elevation change, summiting three mountain peaks in 24 hours, much less 5 weeks before the Haliburton 100 Miler. I also will have neither the time nor the money to get myself across the country again this summer, after four trips to the U.S., three to The Maritime Provinces and countless local events. So, last week I sucked up my pride and took that one out of my schedule. (It would have already been paid for a week earlier if I'd had a PayPal account, but I had to wait for funds to transfer from my bank to my PP account and this caused the wait during which my common sense kicked in.) When I told Elise, she replied, "Yeah.... I was kind of expecting you bailing out." (Ouch!!) She then graciously added, "But really no worries. Your schedule is quite busy and after all, we only have one body and we need to take care of it, right? Sometimes, we just need to listen to it and calm down a bit." I was actually rather grateful for the jab at the beginning, as it woke me up to the thought that I am setting myself up to disappoint people.

And it's not just the racing that has my schedule bursting at the seams. I have coached wrestling most of the past several weekends, already travelling this season to Renfrew, St. Catherines, Milton, London, and more. With my own kids no longer participating in the sport, this has meant time away from them when it is already very precious. This coming weekend is wide open for both of them - and I am scheduled to run the Winterman Marathon in Ottawa on Sunday (driving across Saturday). I tried to convince myself that this would be a super-fun trip for them but, other than a night in a hotel, the reality is 10 hours of driving to stand in a freezing cold city while Dad runs an inconsequential race. So, instead, I am surprising them with a night in Toronto at a hotel with a waterpark, each also invited to bring a friend. And I can safely reveal said surprise two days in advance as neither gives a rat's ass about Dad's boring blog :)

All probably for the best actually, as I am back to weekly chiropractic visits for my shoulder (old AC injury causing impingement) and Achilles (still nagging) and have an appointment with the elbow surgeon for March 5th (the day I get back from the Winter Death Race). So a bit of time off will no doubt do me some good!

One quick note, whilst on the topic of my amazing kids ... We have our tickets purchased for Electric Forest Music Festival, June 28 - July 1, 2012. And after my transcendentally wonderful trip to Camp Bisco last summer with Jack I am over the moon excited about this adventure with the two of them!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Timeline Wake-Up Call!

As Facebook herds everyone into the new Timeline format, there has been lots of grumbling and moaning posted about the unrequested change. This got me to thinking about how so much of life is also "unrequested change", and about how many people grumble and moan about that too, whereas others simply take stock of what is so and set about making the most of it. There is an amazing short book called "Who Moved My Cheese" about exactly this distinction. I would absolutely recommend reading it, but here is a 12 minute video made by the author if you'd rather just watch it.

But back to Timeline ... Recently I have had almost identical conversations with two friends who have experienced a huge wakeup while playing with their new Timelines. They have both made enormous strides this past year in elevating their energy and attitude, but did not realize just how transfomative this change had been until scrolling back a few months and years in their Facebook postings.

"I was absolutely floored!" reported one. "I had no idea just how negative I was. I must have been horrible to be around. I was honestly embarrassed to read so much of what I had written - to the point that I actually wanted to start deleting it and wiping out evidence that I had ever put so much bad energy out into the world. Ultimately, I decided it should stand as a reminder of how far I have come."

The other put it this way. "It wasn't until I looked back on my old way of being with my new way of thinking that I realized just how much I was actually creating all of the conditions about which I was complaining. I also noticed that I was mostly attracting more of the same, with all of the comments from other negative people validating my disempowering opinions. What is especially incredible to see is how the same thing is now happening on the other end of that spectrum. As I share optimistic, positive posts, I now get messages and links and friend requests from people who share that perspective."

This got me to thinking about my own Timeline. So, this morning I went back 2008-2009. In the previous two years I had closed my successful business to embark on a life in politics, spent all of my savings on year-long campaign that ultimately went nowhere, resigned my candidacy, separated from my wife of 13 years, sold my home to repay incurred debt, and was now living in my truck, bartending (which is actually a great job), and trying to figure out what was next for me. It is safe to say that my cheese had been moved.

I knew my wall would not be too bleak and mournful, as that has never been my style, but I was still somewhat surprised by just how much joy there was! As hard as I looked, there was not a single shred of negativity. The closest I came was my self-deprecating Halloween joke, acknowledging my role in it all.

October 30, 2008: "is dressing for Halloween like a small-town Realtor going through a cliched midlife crisis ... should be a pretty easy costume for me to throw together ;)" 

November 22, 2008: "is in a laundromat - yep, a laundromat. And actually kinda enjoying it!" 

May 2, 2009: "WAHOO ... Katy and Jack have both gone undefeated and won GOLD medals as Canada East wrestling champions!!!"

June 23, 2009: "watching fighter jets practice for an air show over Lake Couchiching and feeling grateful to live in a part of the world where that is a good sound :)"

October 22, 2009: "... I love my parents and am very proud to be their son :)"

November 29, 2009: "makes a solemn promise to never complain about anything, and an equally firm commitment to not feed into anyone else's complaining by listening. I will gladly help solve a problem, but if its just venting count on me to always change the subject. There is always something to be happy about =)" 

There is the old cliche that "someday you will look back on this and laugh", but I was laughing and smiling in the midst of the trainwreck. Rather than focusing on all that was going wrong, and all that I could "justifiably" complain about, I was finding and expressing the good among it all.

I recently had a friend challenge my attitude about... well, about attitude. He said "That is all fine and good, but you can NOT be happy when you are broke and homeless." But I WAS broke and homeless, and I WAS happy. My answer is "If you are broke and homeless, you are already broke and homeless. Why would you also want to add unhappy to that equation?"

"This is our time—the time each one of us has been given.

Yet we get lost in semantics—what is good, bad, right, wrong. 

What do we forget? Everywhere, someone has a request, someone has a prayer. 

“Make this happen. Give me a better job. Give me a better life.” 

We forget what we have been given. 

Somehow, we are unable to look at what is in front of us—the most beautiful, the most magnificent. 

There is no greater blessing than the coming and going of this breath." 
... Prem Rawat

Ultimately, I unequivocally believe that it was my commitment to maintaining that positive perspective that allowed me to bounce back and rebuild a life of which I am proud and for which I am grateful, rather than staying mired in a challenging situation and dragging everyone else around me down with the ship.

I want to suggest that you take the lead of the two friends I mentioned near the beginning of this post, and look back at your timeline to see what energy you have historically put out on Facebook. And notice whether you were helping or hurting yourself in the process.

It is certainly not a coincidence that during that same 2008-2009 stretch, I posted a link to the essay "Glory In The Highest' by Rob Brezsny. I have reposted it on many occasions since but, just in case it has ever seemed like too much effort to click, I am simply copying and pasting it below. Please read it and add it to the list of all the things you have to be grateful for right now!

Glory In The Highest
...excerpted from PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia

Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up. Through some magic you don’t fully understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, even though you’ve been unconscious for many hours. The air is a mix of gases that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, registered by nerves that took God or evolution or some process millions of years to perfect. The interesting gift of these vivid hues comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body into light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Did you know that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? If it were any closer, you’d fry, and if it were any further away, you’d freeze. Here’s another one of the sun’s benedictions: It appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule every day, as it has since long before you were born.

Do you remember when you were born, by the way? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. All of this happens whether or not you ever think about it.

On this day, like almost every other, you have awoken inside a temperature-controlled shelter. You have a home! Your bed and pillow are soft and you’re covered by comfortable blankets. The electricity is turned on, as usual. Somehow, in ways you’re barely aware of, a massive power plant at an unknown distance from your home is transforming fuel into currents of electricity that reach you through mostly hidden conduits in the exact amounts you need, and all you have to do to control the flow is flick small switches with your fingers.

You can walk! Your legs work wonderfully well. Your heart circulates your blood all the way down to replenish the energy of the muscles in your feet and calves and thighs, and when the blood is depleted it finds its way back to your heart to be refreshed. This blessing recurs over and over again without stopping every hour of your life.

Your home is perhaps not a million-dollar palace, but it’s sturdy and gigantic compared to the typical domicile in every culture that has preceded you. The floors aren’t crumbling, and the walls and ceilings are holding up well, too. Doors open and close without trouble, and so do the windows. What skillful geniuses built this sanctuary for you? How and where did they learn their craft?

In your bathroom, the toilet is functioning perfectly, as are several other convenient devices. You have at your disposal soaps, creams, razors, clippers, tooth-cleaning accessories: a host of products that enhance your hygiene and appearance. You trust that unidentified scientists somewhere tested them to be sure they’re safe for you to use.

Amazingly, the water you need so much of comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you want, and either cold or hot as you desire. It’s pure and clean; you’re confident no parasites are lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure these boons will continue to arrive for you without interruption for as long as you require them.

Look at your hands. They’re astounding creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure and privilege of touching thousands of different textures, and they’re beautiful.

In your closet are many clothes you like to wear. Who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they’re made of? Who imbued them with colors, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you? 

In your kitchen, appetizing food in secure packaging is waiting for you. Many people you’ve never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you bought it. The bounty of tasty nourishment you get to choose from is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your many appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they feed on electricity, which could kill you instantly if you touched it directly, you feel no fear that you’re in danger. Why? Your faith in the people who invented, designed, and produced these machines is impressive.

It’s as if there’s a benevolent conspiracy of unknown people that is tirelessly creating hundreds of useful things you like and need.

There’s more. Gravity is working exactly the way it always has, neither pulling on you with too much or too little force. How did that marvel ever come to be? By some prodigious, long-running accident? It doesn’t really matter, since it will continue to function with astounding efficiency whether or not you understand it. 

Meanwhile, a trillion other elements of nature’s miraculous design are expressing themselves perfectly. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. The weather is an interesting blend of elements you’ve never before experienced in quite this combination. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature as they interact with your body.

There’s more. You can smell odors and hear sounds and taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think! You’re in possession of the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings! Do you realize how improbably stupendous it is for you to have been blessed with that mysterious capacity? And get this: You can visualize an inexhaustible array of images, some of which represent things that don’t actually exist. How did you acquire this magical talent?

By some improbable series of coincidences or long-term divine plan, language has come into existence. Millions of people have collaborated for many centuries to cultivate a system for communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading give you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.

Do you want to go someplace that’s at a distance? You have a number of choices about what machines to use in order to get there. Whatever you decide—car, plane, bus, train, subway, ship, helicopter, or bike—you have confidence that it will work efficiently. Multitudes of people who are now dead devoted themselves to perfecting these modes of travel. Multitudes who are still alive devote themselves to ensuring that these benefits keep serving you.

Maybe you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people in the world who has the extraordinary privilege of owning a car. It’s a brilliant invention made by highly competent workers. Other skilled laborers put in long hours to extract oil from the ground or sea and turn it into fuel so you can use your car conveniently. The roads are drivable. Who paved them for you? The bridges you cross are potent feats of engineering. Do you realize how hard it was to fabricate them from scratch? 

You’re aware that in the future shrinking oil reserves and global warming may impose limitations on your ability to use cars and planes and other machines to travel. But you also know that many smart and idealistic people are diligently striving to develop alternative fuels and protect the environment. And compared to how slow societies have been to understand their macrocosmic problems in the past, your culture is moving with unprecedented speed to recognize and respond to the crises spawned by its technologies.

As you travel, you might listen to music. Maybe you’ve got an MP3 player, a fantastic invention that has dramatically enhanced your ability to hear a stunning variety of engaging sounds at a low cost. Or maybe you have a radio. Through a process you can’t fathom, music and voices that originate at a distance from you have been converted into invisible waves that bounce off the ionosphere and down into your little machine, where they are transformed back into music and voices for you to enjoy. 

Let’s say it’s 9:30 a.m. You’ve been awake for two hours, and a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right—your toaster was broken, the hot water wasn’t hot enough, there was a stain on the pants you wanted to wear—you might feel that today the universe is against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing’s going right. And yet the fact is that the vast majority of everything is working with breathtaking efficiency and consistency. You would clearly be deluded to imagine that life is primarily an ordeal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Even more of my favourite things ...

As I have two more half-finished blog posts that remain unpublished, and my supply of awesomeness (videos, pictures, ideas and the like that people have shared with me over the past weeks) is beginning to overflow again, here is another installment of "MY FAVOURITE THINGS!"

Pick and choose. Enjoy. Share!

Well under two minutes and absolutely beautiful! Slightly change how you say things and you can drastically change how the world occurs for you <3

A self-explanatory chart on how to stop worrying!

2:26 trailer for the movie "Beauty is Embarassing" ... "It's so beautiful it hurts my feelings"

Wonderful advice for all of my creative friends ...

3 minute trailer for the movie "Transcendence" ... looking at what inspires extreme athletes. 

Transcendence Trailer from Southern Underground Productions on Vimeo.

"Nuf Said!

I LOVE this guy! 6 minute YouTube video about a 92 year old skier back on the slopes less than a year after breaking his femur in a 75mph fall. Quotes include ... "I had such a good recovery ... because we made it fun!" and "I don't have bad days! I just don't have bad days. Every day is a miracle, and every day brings about opportunity and wonderfulness."

My attempt to justify posts like this one ;)

For every every time I thought I would die halfway through a workout!

Exactly ...

Jason Mraz continuing to show us just how beautiful the world is! (7:40)

The creative geniuses at OK Go with their latest 4 minute masterpiece...

A race I am doing in April in Des Moines, Iowa  :)

A question a friend sent me after I posted that I was without cell phone for a few days ... AWESOME!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some friends indeed ...

"No man is a failure who has friends."

... from "It's A Wonderful Life"

This is an area in which I am immeasurably blessed. I have amazing friends. So many of them are up to so much, and I decided I wanted to share a few of them with you here. These are extraordinary people who are celebrating recent successes, and by whom I am incredibly inspired.

So, with no further ado ... some of my friends!

Brian Wilson ... I have known "Beach" since high school, where he was a talented runner and basketball player. We ended up next door neighbours in residence at McMaster University, and that is where our relationship went from acquaintances to lifelong kindred spirits. Still flirting with a sub 3hr marathon time, "Dr. Wilson" is now a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia, and a world renowned expert on sport and peace and development. Brian has recently published a second book ...

... but, incredibly, this is not his biggest achievement so far this year. On January 5th, Brian became a father when his wife, Desiree, delivered their daughter Bailey into the world <3

Steve Van Kessel ... Steve Van Kessel is a success in every sense of the word. He is an accomplished business leader. He has a beautiful family. He has many good friends. Here is someone who could easily coast along and still have a remarkable life. That is what makes me so proud that, in the last few years, Steve has pursued his biggest passion (besides his family) with a vengeance. First, Steve quietly began writing songs (he has always been a strummer and a picker but mostly just around the campfire). Last year Steve shared one of his songs with me, "Proud to Call Home", and said he was thinking of sharing it with our local development officer and offering it up as an unofficial theme song for Orillia (a bold move, given that Gordon Lightfoot has also called Orillia home!) The song was received enthusiastically and wonderful things began to happen. A Juno-award-winner agreed to record the song with Steve and they put together a cast of very talented musicians. Steve had the humility to surround himself with more experienced musicians who, in turn, were happy to let him front the entity that became known as "VK and The Narrows". They have become a familiar sight around town, playing fundraisers, community events and concerts. The big bucks aren't there yet, and he still has his "day job", but VK is walking the walk.

Margaret Schlachter ... a new friend, made through mutual endurance racing compatriots, Margaret is a force to be reckoned with. Though a varsity athlete in university (lacrosse and alpine skiing), she had not been involved in any competitive sports for several years when she was introduced to obstacle racing, at a Spartan Race, in the spring of 2010. By her second season she has risen to elite status, always one of the top finishers in every race in this exponentially exploding sport. What is even more incredible is that, by sharing her experiences this season through her blog at, she has been nominated for a Bloggies award - meaning her blog is rated as one of the TOP FIVE sports blogs in the world! If you would like to help make her #1, please click here and scroll down the Bloggies page to vote for her (as well as other remarkable entries like The Oatmeal, Hyperbole and a Half and The Bloggess). I will be seeing Margaret lots this year, as our paths cross at The Death Race, Winter Death Race and (likely) other ultras.

Matt Lennox ... The son of my high school wrestling coach/mentor, Matt Lennox is a true warrior poet. He served as a Captain in the Canadian Army, including two years in Afghanistan. While there, Matt wrote many of the short stories that were later published in the collection "Men of Salt, Men of Earth". February 28th sees the release of his first full length novel, that The National Post has already declared one of the "12 most anticipated books of the year". Here is some of the advance buzz on this debut! So, I am staking out that I knew Matt long before he became a national literary icon, and that he is a funny, brilliant, irreverent, cool dude. His parents, Wayne Lennox and Lynn Abbott-Lennox have raised two wonderful human beings in Matt and his sister Katy.

Ed Konda ... I have known Ed for years in a number of capacities - friend, real estate client, landlord (I rented an apartment in a building I had sold to him after inquiring about his success with the investment as he flew me over it in a small plane he pilots out of an area airfield). Ed was General Manager of a thriving aerospace manufacturer, and took an early retirement to build custom sports cars. Now, as owner/operator/Chief-Everything-Officer of Ontario Kit Car Builders, Ed helps people design and build their own dream machines. And these are the real deal! Every bit as fast and as beautiful as most Lamborghini or Ferraris, each of these street-legal race cars is hand built from scratch. mixing and matching the very best parts to create a unique, and truly incomparable, driving machine.

Tim Cormode ...As much as anyone I know, Tim Cormode is "living the dream"! Mountain climber, surfer, philanthropist, bon vivant. Tim is the founder and Executive Director of "Power To Be Adventure Therapy Society". Tim and his dedicated team work with people with disabilities, at risk youth, and others facing significant life challenges, helping them discover their self-worth and passion for life through participation in outdoor adventures. While never seeking attention or acclaim for himself, Tim has still been awarded the British Columbia Community Achievement Award, nominated as Citizen of The Year, Entrepreneur of The Year and Business Leader of The Year for the City of Victoria (capital of British Columbia), and featured in stories in Today's Parent and (most recently) The Globe and Mail.

He recently returned from Haiti, where he and his pediatrician father, Ted, provided health care support for an orphanage and replaced a wall of the school that fell during the earthquake.

Karen Johnston Waite ... When the chips are down, some people crumble and give up. Others surprise everyone, not least of all themselves, with their remarkable strength and resilience. Karen definitely falls into that latter camp. After 13 years of marriage, Karen's world was turned upside down in 2008 when her husband (cad/adventurer/blogger/me) told her he had decided to leave. Having not worked outside the home in over a decade, Karen soon found herself in a rented house, with inconsistent support (as her husband worked to reestablish his business and income), a used car, 2 kids and a dog. When the kids were in school, it was this dog, Spencer, who was Karen's constant companion and confidante. Together they hatched a plan. Karen would let her life truly "go to the dogs". She gathered the courage to introduce herself (no small feat for a textbook introvert) at the fantastic kennel across the street, Snuggles. As fortune would have it, they were thinking of hiring someone to help with the animals. Karen soon became indispensable there, fitting in beautifully and managing the business when the owners traveled back home overseas. She also established her own business as a dog-walker/dog-sitter, and is now in great demand among discriminating canophiles in the Greater Orillia Area.

Right back "on top of the world", Karen and her terrific beau, Shane, recently purchased, and moved into, a gorgeous log home on 6 acres, with a big fenced yard for Spencer, his new pal Willow (a Wheaten rescue) and their various four legged guests. I am truly honoured to count them both (Karen and Shane, not Spencer and Willow) among my very closest friends

There are many more friends to whom I will give kudos in future posts, and I hope you have enjoyed getting to know these incredible individuals.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.

A song reminding you to always love your friends ...

Song For A Friend
Jason Mraz

Well you're magic he said
But don't let it all go to your head
Well I bet if you all had it all figured out
Then you'd never get out of bed
No doubt
All the thing's that I've read what he wrote me
Is now sounding like the man I was hoping
To be
Keep on keeping it real
Cause it keeps getting easier indeed
He's the reason that I'm laughing
Even if there's no one else
He said, you've got to love yourself

You say, you shouldn't mumble when you speak
But keep your tongue up in your cheek
And if you stumble on to
You better remember that it's humble that you seek
You got all the skill you need,
You got something
Call it gumption
Call it anything you want
Because when you play the fool now
You're only fooling everyone else
You're learning to love yourself

Yes you are

There's no price to pay
When you give and what you take,
That's why it's easy to thank you

Let's say take a break from the day
And get back to the old garage
Because life's too short anyway
But at least it's better then average
As long as you got me
And I got you
You know we'll got a lot to go around
I'll be your friend
Your other brother
Another love to come and comfort you
And I'll keep reminding
If it's the only thing I ever do
I will always love
I will always love you
Yes you
I will always, always, always, always love
I will always, always love
I will always, always love, love

Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You've got to find out for yourself whether or not you're truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.