Archive for November, 2013

Hi everyone:

It’s a cold late November day in Hamilton, and this time I wanted to offer a blog entry that just might make you think about your life, and in particular what you really feel led to do with it. To be more specific, what I really want to talk about is the following: what do you really want in life?

I first wrote this blog earlier in November (on the 20th to be exact) and got the inspiration for this text earlier that morning, at our regular Wednesday meeting of HAPPEN, held as usual at the Burlington Art Centre. If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I have been involved as part of the HAPPEN Executive almost right from the time I attended my very first HAPPEN meeting at St. John’s Lithuanian Church Hall in Mississauga in November 1996. That’s something like 17 years ago this very month, and it seems like only yesterday.

Over the years I have been blessed to hear many great speakers at our meetings. Some of whom, including Brian Bassett, Barry Shainbaum, Lior Samfiru, Donna Messer, Dick O’Brien, George Torok, Judy Suke, Daniel Rutley, Martin Buckland and countless others, have become good friends and I look forward to seeing them every time they come to us.  And if any of them read this paragraph someday, thank you all so much for your friendship, kindness, support and encouragement of my life. I hope that in some small way I have been the same to each of you.

But our November 20 speaker was right up there, to the point where he has inspired me to share this message with all of you. Our speaker was Phil Johnson, and he is the President of MBL Inc.(Master of Business Leadership). The title was: “You Are The New Economic Currency: Authentic Leadership and a Look at Emotional Intelligence”. During the almost two hours that he spoke to the assembled gathering, Phil did a superb job talking about one of today’s growing issues in the workplace and in particular how it relates to organizational behaviour and how people function in today’s economy: Emotional Intelligence. This is nothing new, EI has been a growing trend for many years now. But I must confess that up until this morning, I had not really participated in a serious examination of the subject.

Phil spent a lot of time talking about the human brain, the various parts of the brain and which sections control which parts of our human behaviour. Does something scare or frighten you? Your reaction comes from one part of our brain. Do you feel pleasure and happiness? That’s another area. We also looked at how all this triggers human behaviour, very much along the lines of personality tests and other such measures. And given that this was a business meeting, aimed at an audience of men and women who are unemployed and are actively seeking their next job opportunity, much of Phil’s content was placed within the context of the business world, how Emotional Intelligence relates to corporate North America, and also how it can impact on the hiring process. Who gets that new job and who doesn’t.

What I have just noted is, of course, a generalization of what took place over a two hour period. And without a copy of the Powerpoint presentation that Phil used, I would be hard-pressed to remember it all enough that I could deliver the essence of the whole thing to all of you reading this now. Indeed, if any of you are interested in learning more about things like our brains really work, Emotional Intelligence or any of the other issues Phil talked about, do an online search or visit your local bookstore. Or better yet, why not visit your local library – just like the one I am sitting in now as I type this entry? Any or all of those methods will really help get you started. But instead of talking about these subjects, I want to briefly focus in on the key message of his talk and ask you an important question. So important that I will give it its own new paragraph right here and now – and in bold text, no less!

What do you really want in life? What is the most important thing, above all else, that you want to accomplish?

We could talk about this for pages and pages on end. But how often have you considered this? How many times through the years have you really considered what you want in life? Give it some thought right now as you read these words. What ideas come to your mind? Do you want a large and caring family? Lots of close friends who will love and encourage you? Financial freedom? Peace of mind? That special someone who really does love and accept you for who and what you are? I would wager that there are as many answers to this question as there are people on this planet.

There are countless ways of addressing this subject, and if you know me well, then you know that being concise and writing short articles is not one of my strong suits. So as a way of tackling this weighty matter (and giving you some things to consider when drafting your own answer to this question), let me tell what I want out of life. What do I want more than anything else in the whole world? Is it any or all of the above? Yes and no. In fact, the answer may surprise you.

My answer to the question may be considered both simple and complex at the same time. That’s because what I really want out of life are in part the things I noted above. And which to some extent I have already found during my now 57 years of life on this planet. Such as having a large and caring family. I have also made some great friendships with many people who do indeed love and accept me for who and what I am. And there is one person in particular – suffice to say that I believe from the depths of my heart and soul that I have met that special someone as noted above. Although I will not tell you her name if only out of respect for her privacy and personal dignity, I know she will recognize herself if and when she reads this far. So will others who know both of us and will no doubt know exactly who I am talking about. Someone that I truly love more than life itself and always will. Someone that going the extra mile for is not nearly enough. I want to go the extra infinity for her 24/7, 365 days a year, for the rest of her life. In her own way she does indeed love and accept me and has made my life a billion times better than it was before I met her. I hope and pray that not only have I done the same for her and improved her life immeasurably, but that we will have a strong and powerful bond that will last for the rest of our lives. And could some day be more than just a friendship. Only time and being open to all possibilities will tell. I am, and I truly hope and pray that she is open to those things too.

Financial freedom? Nope – still searching for that one. Peace of mind? Being a Christian and having Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour certainly puts me on the road to achieving it, but I suspect like everyone else on this planet, I am not quite there yet and may not reach it until I get to the end of life’s journey and go to whatever afterlife awaits us whether you call it heaven or another term. Some of you are probably reading all this right now and saying that so far this is no big deal. I am really no different from anyone else. I want and believe in the same things as all other human beings. Fair enough, and I agree with you 100%. Wanting to have our needs met and asking others to help us get there is all just a part of being human. I would even argue that if you don’t have any wants or needs at all, are you human? I’ll let you be the judge of that one and move on to our next section.

But wait a moment because there is more to my answer than what I have just written. Much more. If you really want to drill this down and get the “real” no-holds-barred answer to the question, here it is. In addition to the above answers that we can all identify with and appreciate as fellow human beings, what I really want in life is to help as many people as possible achieve their own goals and objectives. I want everyone to achieve everything that they have ever wanted out of life. I want to use my God given skills and talents to make this world a better place and to help everyone succeed. While I expect that most of my help will be given to family, friends and others that I have some kind of relationship with, if the opportunity arises that I can help some total strangers and not expect them to help me in return, I am open to that too.

Perhaps the best way to express it is in a concept that those of you who know me have heard me use many times before. It’s a simple but profound idea known as “pay it forward”. I have explained how it works elsewhere in these blog entries (such as some of the ones I have written about my involvement with HAPPEN), but I think it bears explaining now as well. “Pay it forward” basically means that when someone does a good thing for you, don’t repay them for their kindness. Instead, do something nice for another person. For example, when I first wrote this blog entry, it was just a few days prior to the 2013 Grey Cup game, where our hometown Hamilton Tiger Cats were playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders. So if your best friend here in Hamilton gave you tickets for that Grey Cup game in Regina (including airfare and hotel), I’ll bet you would be tempted to find a way to repay them. Especially if it turned out that Hamilton won the game (they didn’t, the Riders won handily which prompted celebrations all over the province of Saskatchewan and which may still be going on today, some five days after the game took place).

But the concept of “pay it forward” says that instead of doing that, you help out someone else. Do some sort of act of kindness for another person. Buy them lunch at their local restaurant. Tell them about a nice tropical resort to take their family next winter. Or let them use your cottage for their vacation next July while you and your family are travelling to some far off exotic destination. There are many more examples of helping others, you get the idea. In other words, do something that will really help someone make their day. Restore their faith in humanity by making their life a little bit brighter and bringing some joy to their lives. Encourage them to do the same. I think “pay it forward” really works best when you do these acts of kindness for a total stranger.  Someone that you have never met before and will likely never meet again.

For example, as I write this sentence it’s about 4:30 p.m. and I am sitting in a small study carrel here on the third floor of the Hamilton Public Library. It’s one of my favourite places to work, and thanks to my trusty laptop, it means that I don’t always have to work from my apartment. I prefer working elsewhere, if nothing else it can serve to remind me that there’s a world out there. It’s fairly crowded as I glance around me. At the next carrel to my left sits a young man in an orange T shirt and jeans. He’s working on his laptop computer, but I see he also has a cellphone or similar device with headphones attached. Probably checking e-mail or making some phone calls to family and/or friends. Listening to some music perhaps? At a similar carrel a few feet to my right sits a woman who is playing cards (solitaire?) and has a stack of books on the shelf above that I will guess she was reading earlier and will leave them for the librarians here to put back on the shelves. Oops, she was playing cards, now as I take a quick glance her way, it seems that she is now reading a newspaper (although the cards are spread out on the table, she has the newspaper on top of them). In both cases, I have never met either of these people in my life. They don’t even know that I am writing about them, and unless they read this text someday and recognize themselves, they never will.

But I mention these two because they are the perfect example of “pay it forward”. Let’s suppose right now that I get up from this laptop and I go over to the Tim Horton’s in Jackson Square (downtown Hamilton’s major shopping area, located right next to this Library). I buy 3 large “double-double” coffees and bring them back here. One for the man to my left. One for the woman to my right. And of course one for me. I have made their day a bit happier and practiced “pay it forward”. No, I don’t want them to pay me back. Just enjoy your coffee and the next time you have a chance, do something nice for another person. If we all did this, our world would be a much better place. That’s just one example of how “pay it forward” works. A small amount of money to pay to make someone’s day better. Makes me feel good too.

So in a nutshell, that is the answer to my question. What do I really want more than anything else in life? I want to help others. Use my talents to make the world a better place. Restore my faith in humanity, which if you know me well, has been bruised and broken so many times by my life experiences. Some may read this and think that I am neglecting my own needs. Or that my self-confidence or my self-image is so poor that I want to put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. That I will simply be a doormat and let everyone else control my life and take advantage of me. That may be a simple conclusion to arrive at, but in actual fact I am doing none of those things, nor letting people run over me. Instead, I am showing respect for the other person. Showing that I really care about them and that I want to do my part to help make their lives really better.

And more often than not, when others see that “pay it forward” is what drives my life forward, they will feel moved to help others and eventually over time that will come back to me. Then I can share with them what my needs really are. If my needs include love, acceptance, friendship, trust, financial freedom and the other factors I mentioned above (which indeed they do!), people will operate from their own need to help others and will take the time to help me reach my life goals and objectives.  So I am not neglecting my needs or being a doormat. If other people genuinely care and really take an interest in my life, those needs will be met. Oh – and if you want to help me and my special someone I mentioned a while back, my female friend whose name I wish to remain anonymous … hmm, let’s talk about that one in private! Especially if you just happen to know both of us. But if you want to say a prayer or two on our behalf, and that God will show us His plan for us both separately and together, I’ll take that, and I hope she will too 🙂

That’s all for today’s installment of my blog. And as always, thanks for reading this entry. As usual, I have probably written more than I should and if you think I am guilty as charged, my apologies but also my thanks to you for reading this far.

Let me leave you with one final thought to consider: What do you want out of life? What do you want more than anything else? Give it careful consideration. Share the idea with your family, friends and other loved ones.

And if you live here in the Toronto-Hamilton region and if you think I can help you get what you want (using legitimate means, of course!), then get in touch with me and let’s see if we can help not only you, but a whole bunch of others. Including me so that my needs are looked after too!

Thanks for reading this – until next time!

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Hi everyone:

It’s November 2013 and I must begin today by apologizing to all of you because I have not written anything new on this blog for several months. I’ll wager that some of you even thought I had stopped writing and had decided to shut it down. No, that’s not the case and I do intend to give you all new material over the coming weeks and months. Some of which has already been written in “draft” form and I will publish it soon. Let’s just say that life has been busy for me over the past while, especially when you factor in that my old laptop computer that I used to write many of my previous entries died on me this past summer. Which meant buying a new machine (what I am using to write this text today) and all the things that happen when you change from one computer to another, such as reinstalling your old programs, moving files from one to the other and so on. But now that things are under control, I want to revive my blog, and spend some time with all of you because of a sad story that seems to keep getting sadder all the time.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or otherwise completely blind to the news out there, chances are that you have heard about the trials and tribulations of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. How after months of denial he finally admitted recently that he has indeed smoked crack cocaine. That has turned out to be only the beginning. But even before he made that admission earlier in November, Ford had a reputation for getting heavily drunk and going on rants that were absolutely disgusting to listen to and damaged both his political and personal reputations. It’s not only disgusting, but also pathetic and perhaps more than anything else, it’s sad. More about that in a moment.

Now before I go too far, although it is often said that one should not discuss controversial issues online such as sexuality or politics online (and especially in a blog such as this one), I want to make an exception this time because I feel it will help put this subject into context. That’s because I think what makes the Ford saga really sad is that I genuinely admire him as a political figure and believe in what he has trying to accomplish during the 3 years that he has been Mayor of Toronto. I really like his “agenda” of smaller government, lower taxes, less government intrusion into people’s lives and less “red tape” for business. In particular, I appreciate what one might call “fiscal conservatism”. Which I define as being more responsible to the taxpayers of the city. Running a government more like a business and looking for the most efficient ways to spend our money without sacrificing essential services. Drafting budgets and applying other financial practices to gain the best value for our money. If I were a resident of Toronto, I would definitely have voted for Mr. Ford in the 2010 municipal elections. I applaud Mr. Ford and his team for what they have done – it seems that they are well on the way to accomplishing many of the things they set out to do. City council is being run in a more responsible manner. Services such as garbage collection (especially in areas of Toronto where it was contracted out to the private sector in 2011) are saving taxpayers money and from what I understand are actually in better shape than under the previous administration. In short, I think Toronto is being much better run today than it was before Mr. Ford took office. Having said that, I fully respect that many of you will disagree. Especially if you hold more “liberal” or “left wing” political views than I do. That’s the beauty of living in a country like Canada. We can agree to disagree, and that’s great. I will only ask that you respect my right to express my political views, just as I do for you.

Sad to say, but the above paragraph is where my admiration of Mr. Ford stops. Yes, as someone who has “conservative” political tendencies, I may respect and applaud him for the changes he has accomplished at Toronto City Hall. I am sure there are many others out there who hold similar political views and who can appreciate this style of government – after all, that’s why he was elected Mayor in October 2010. Rob Ford the man, however, is an absolute train wreck and every day he says and does things that I and many others in Toronto and around the world find absolutely repulsive. His life is an absolute mess and I really think he needs professional help. And what is worse to me is that I don’t think Mr. Ford even recognizes that he has these problems. It seems that every day now, some new revelation comes to light about his past, whether it is smoking cocaine or drinking and driving – just to name a couple. Some are now even suggesting that he has been seen with prostitutes, drug dealers and other less desirable characters and that his presence with them has seriously impaired his ability to perform his duties as Mayor.

But like many people who need professional help, I strongly believe that Mr. Ford is in denial. To me, he lives in his own little world where everything is wonderful and rosy – and everyone else has problems. How many times in your life have you met someone where they have “issues” that need dealing with? I’ll bet we all have. Until that person knows inside themselves that they need help, and they need to admit their mistakes and take responsibility for their own actions, nothing will happen. This is exactly the case with Rob Ford. The media, citizens of Toronto, their city council and others in Toronto’s municipal government who have frequent dealings with Mr. Ford and even the late night comedy show hosts, along with countless others can continue covering this tragic situation and keep urging him to get professional counselling. The chorus can grow louder every day, and come from all corners of the world. Not only that, but people can also urge Mr. Ford to either resign as Mayor of Toronto or at the very least take a leave of absence to really work on his life and improve himself. But unless he knows that himself and believes in his heart that he must take action, nothing will come of it.

In the final analysis, as I noted earlier in this blog entry, while many people out there are angry and upset with Mr. Ford for his personal conduct and seem to pour gas on the fire with their own strident comments about all this, what I genuinely feel is sadness and concern for him. To me, that’s what all this is really all about. Don’t “trash” him folks. What he really needs is encouragement, support, compassion and most of all our love, concern and heartfelt prayers.  Mr. Ford is a sad and tragic figure, whose downward spiral is only continuing day after day. What also saddens me is that all this has the potential to cause serious damage to Toronto’s reputation as a city which with all due respect to my hometown of Montreal (where Toronto-bashing is as much a part of the culture as the change of season every year), has been admired and respected around the world. But with Rob Ford as Mayor, I honestly don’t know what to think of Toronto these days. I can only hope and pray that people will overlook Mr. Ford and still think of Toronto as one of the world’s great cities. Which in fact it is, and no doubt will be for generations to come.

Another thing which saddens me is that this might also damage the “brand”. I noted back at the beginning of this blog entry that when it comes to politics I have conservative tendencies. That I strongly support those such as Mr. Ford and his allies (often referred to as “Ford Nation”) who feel that governments have become too big and that they over-regulate our lives, that they must live within their means and be accountable to taxpayers. That governments should spend money wisely and look for ways to run their operations more efficiently, but not cutting back on government services that people depend upon. Instead, we need smaller governments. Lower taxes. Less invasion of people’s privacy. More accountability and transparency not just in financial terms but in every aspect of how governments are run and how our elected officials conduct themselves. I called some elements of it “fiscal conservatism” earlier in this entry, but there are of course many other terms which are just as valid. Call it what you will, but this style of government is what I believe in.

But will people in Toronto and elsewhere back away from those values because these days they have their champion in Rob Ford, a man who is now clearly unfit to lead any group, let alone Canada’s largest city? I hope not. Yes, Mr. Ford must leave and give up his duties as Mayor. He should clean out his office at Toronto City Hall and as his final act, have someone call him a taxi and drive him back to his Etobicoke home. Or have his driver do it. Given his admissions of past episodes of drinking and driving, I don’t want that man out on our highways and byways. But the “agenda” that he and so many of us believe in must continue, just under the leadership and drive of other people. I have no doubt that there are many capable men and women of honesty and integrity who can pick up where Mr. Ford left off and implement the values and beliefs implied in fiscal conservatism and related styles of government as I have outlined here. Not just in Toronto, but everywhere. People and parties who believe in these values will always get my vote – I hope and pray that millions of others feel the same and will express that choice at every opportunity.

Let me wrap up with one final thing. I’ll bet you have now read this far and probably wondered where I got the title from. Or at least the part of turning Rob Ford’s last name into the acronymn “Fix Or Repair Daily”. When I was growing up back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, my father and his brothers (my uncles) often got into friendly arguments about cars. My father was always a “GM” guy. He loved to drive Pontiacs, Chevrolets, the now-defunct Oldsmobile and other General Motors products. But my uncles liked to drive Fords, which of course is where the arguments came from. In fact, I remember in particular how almost every September when the new car models came out, one of my uncles who lived near our home in St. Lambert would drop by with his brand new Ford car, loaded with all the latest and greatest features. Dad would scoff at the whole thing and dismissed all Ford cars – saying that Ford actually stood for “Fix Or Repair Daily”. While some of that came from typical sibling rivalry, in those days there was some truth to the acronymn because during much of that era the Ford Motor Company had some quality issues with their vehicles and it was widely acknowledged by both auto industry people and the general public that Ford cars were not as well built as their General Motors or Chrysler counterparts. For their part, the Ford Motor Company knew about these issues – and when things began to improve in the 1970’s (coincidentally around the time that my father died from Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS), Ford’s advertising slogan was “Quality is Job One”. Today, Ford cars have an excellent reputation – hmm, I wonder what my father would think if he knew that my brother and I at one time or another have driven Ford cars and have been very pleased with their performance.

But as I close this look at the sad state of affairs in Toronto that is Mayor Rob Ford, my mind goes back to those childhood days. I can’t help but wonder if Mr. Ford’s last name really should be an acronymn: Fix Or Repair Daily. Let me briefly explain why I think this applies to him. There is no doubt in my mind (and I suspect in the minds of many) that Mr. Ford’s life is in serious need of Fixing or Repairing. And as anyone who has ever gone for counselling, therapy, rehab or other forms of professional help knows (such as my treatments for conditions like social anxiety that I have discussed elsewhere in this blog), things don’t change right away. You need to work on improving yourself regularly and take steps to ensure that every day is a little better than the one before it. Which makes it a Daily process. In order for professional counselling and other forms of self help to succeed and for someone to really improve your life, this acronymn really works. The process really can be called: F.O.R.D. – Fix Or Repair Daily. So is it any coincidence that as 2013 draws to a close, we have a politician in Toronto whose life is spiralling rapidly out of control and who seriously needs to get help. And that his last name actually provides the answer to solving the problems. But will Rob F.O.R.D. really do that? Will he really see that he does need help and go for it? Only time will tell. I pray every day for him, and I hope all of you reading this will too. He needs lot of love, compassion and support. If we really care about him as a person, and about the City of Toronto, that’s the least we can all do for him.

As always, thanks for reading this blog entry and feel free to share this with anyone you wish. Until next time!

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