Wednesday, November 24, 2010


You will lose.  Everyone does at some point.

Read that again, and sit with it a minute.

No matter how amazing, how perfect, how many times you've done something before.  At some point, you will lose.  The question is, what do you do then?

Do you focus on loss, on how bad or evil or wrong it was?  Do you spend time creating animosity and plotting revenge against some outside evil (real or imagined)?  Or, perhaps worse, do you internalize how awful you are?

Or, on losing, do you focus on your strengths, seek to discover what went wrong, learn from it and move on?  If you can find a way to do that, you will emerge stronger, better and healthier.  You will be future-focused, looking to what you can do better and how you can adjust to win next time.

So, what will you do next time you lose?

PS: This is part of a series of blogs about Seth Godin's Linchpin that I'm doing in conjunction with a Twitter-friend, Chett.  Check our her blog for more insights!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lunch with the Mayor

If you live in Calgary, or possibly a great number of other places where the Calgary municipal election has been a big story, you may have noticed that our city recently elected a new Mayor, Naheed Nenshi.

You may have read any one of a number of articles about Nenshi, examining and dissecting every part of his campaignreligious beliefs, social media use and even family traditions.

It seems to me that a great deal of hope and optimism has been placed on Mayor Nenshi.  He's got big expectations to live up to, and a lot of work to do to implement the ideas he campaigned on.  So, on the one month anniversary of Mayor Nenshi's election, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce hosted a lunch with the Mayor event, providing an opportunity for the Mayor to address guests in what would certainly be one of the first of many such events.

The event sold out, over 300 tickets, in just a few short days.  I was fortunate enough that a good friend, Bob McInnis, had a ticket he couldn't use and generously offered it to me.  And so, off I went to have lunch with the Mayor (well, and 300 others).

So, what did His Worship have to say?


He talked a lot about getting used to the new role - did you know that the Mayor gets 125 requests to speak each day?!?

Here are some of the other highlights of Nenshi's speech:
  • emphasized a desire to fundamentally transform the way City Hall operates
  • declared a focus on making Calgary the best place to do business by making our city a great place to live - thus attracting new businesses and encouraging growth
  • spoke about the upcoming budget, and the cuts being recommended to ensure a 6.5% property tax hike, as well as further potential cuts and cost savings to reduce that increase
  • spoke about a desire to change the municipal tax structure to one no longer based on property values
  • talked about legalizing secondary suites throughout Calgary (with stipulations)
  • in answer to a question, emphasized focusing on "getting Southwest Calgary moving" whether by way of the southwest ring road or some other means
In the end, Nenshi left guests with a couple of calls to action, which I would paraphrase as this: get engaged and involved in your community and city, and stay that way.  Volunteer with a local nonprofit, get to know your neighbours, participate in your community association, vote at every opportunity.  Offer your opinions on the current budget recommendations (seriously, do it now - the City of Calgary has set up lots of ways for all of us to take part, and they are inviting comments).  Become part of the conversation about the issues happening around you, and about the city you want to live in.

So, those are the facts (at least, my version of the facts!).

Now on to my opinions...

Mayor Nenshi is brilliant.  He's spent lots of time developing theories, ideas and strategies for improving cities in general, and Calgary in particular; ideas to make it a better place to live and do business.  It may be tough to turn all these good ideas in to reality, though - and there will no doubt be some mis-steps along the way.  And, as already mentioned, there's lots of hope and pressure riding on this Mayor... as citizens, we have a responsibility to not abandon him at the first sign of trouble.

Overall, I believe Mayor Nenshi will be good for our city, bringing positive change, new energy and a wealth of new ideas and strategies.  Our job, as Calgarians, is to do our part in helping build the city we want to live in.

Bob, thanks for the ticket - I appreciate the opportunity to be part of building our city, and to report back on the event!

Now... where can I get a title as awesome as His Worship?

Full disclosure: I was a student of Naheed Nenshi's at Mount Royal College (when it was still a College) fora few classes.  I also chose to vote for him in this election.

Monday, November 15, 2010

National Philanthropy Day

Today, November 15th 2010, marks National Philanthropy Day - a day when, throughout North America, celebrations take place in honour of all the amazing people who give of themselves to make the world better.

Philanthropy may conjure up for you images of really wealthy people giving away tons of money - perhaps the challenge many billionaires have taken up alongside Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

However, the actual meaning of philanthropy - according to The Free Dictionary - is simply "Love of humankind in general".

It sounds so simple, really - love.  Everyone can love.  Of course, it's not always that easy, but we can all choose it.  And, at some point, we have all offered love - a hug for a friend, a favour offered without expectation of return, smiling at a stranger.  These little acts of love - of philanthropy - are ones we can choose every day.

In celebration of National Philanthropy Day, celebrate the love in your life.  Celebrate your moments of philanthropy - the big ones and little ones, the times you can offer love and those you receive it.

What is your favourite story of philanthropy?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Defining Art

Confession: I am a terrible artist.  All the colours blend together, lines are never straight and everything looks "modern" and "free-style"... to put it nicely.  : )  I don't even know if my Mom could name a piece of art that I did of which she may have been proud (beyond the "my child is perfect in every way" sort of proud).

But in Linchpin, Seth Godin has redefined art for me, in a way that makes me see myself as an artist.

Art, says Godin, is a unique expression of each person; something one individual can do that can not be replicated by anyone else.

There are traditional arts, yes - sculpting, painting, acting, dancing.

But there are other kinds of art as well.  The art of caring, of giving, of interacting.  The art of writing a letter, serving coffee, talking with a customer.  Interviewing an employee, meeting someone for the first time, working with a team - each of us performs art, in our own way, each day.

Art involves labour, and it equals change - change in the person who is creating it as much as the change in the environment or what is being created.

No matter what our art is, we will almost certainly be happiest, most fulfilled, when we are using it often - including at work, home and wherever else we spend time.

The process of figuring out what you are uniquely talented to do is a life-long one, but it's worth searching out and putting in to practice.

What's your art?


PS: This is part of a series of blogs about Seth Godin's Linchpin that I'm doing in conjunction with a Twitter-friend, Chett.  Check our her blog for more insights!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Saying No

Sometimes, I say yes when I should say no - and I say no when I should say yes.

In Seth Godin's Linchpin, he describes two possible reasons for respones when asked for something.

There are those who never say no.  They say yes and they find a way to get it done.  These people are problem solvers, trouble shooters.  They see issues as opportunities to change things, to make someone else happy.  This is the gift they can give the world.

There are also Linchpins who say no all the time.  They say no because they are so focused on their goals, their purpose, that anything outside of that is easy to say no to.

Of course, there are responses that Godin doesn't describe (ones that he would not consider Linchpin responses).

One such response is to say no all the time for the wrong reasons - lack of motivation, laziness, etc.

Another possible response is to say yes all the time and not follow through, becoming overwhelmed and failing responsibilities.

The most balanced response, I suggest, is to say yes within areas of priority and talent.  Say yes to solving the right problems, to delivering the most good; and say no to what doesn't fit.

The best each of us can do is to mean what we say, and say it for the right reasons.  When saying yes, mean it; when saying no, mean it.  Prioritize and commit to what matters and do it well.


PS: This is part of a series of blogs about Seth Godin's Linchpin that I'm doing in conjunction with a Twitter-friend, Chett.  Check our her blog for more insights!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why push?

Why do we push so hard to reach certain goals?  Staying up all night to finish a paper for school.  Cancelling plans with friends to go to the gym every day.  Working late and missing family to finish some elusive project.

What's the use?

Motivation can be fleeting.  But there was a reason you started on this path; something that, at one point, seemed important enough to strive and work for.

I go back to the goal.  What's the point?  Will this effort help me get there?  Is the goal still worth it?  If yes, it's worth staying the course - the journey and end result will be worth it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back to blogging... and fear

This week, a friend commented that I haven't blogged in a little while.  He's right, of course... it's been a few weeks.  The reason for this that I've been telling myself is that I'm busy - which is true.  There have been many days in the last few weeks that have been stacked end-to-end with work, volunteering, friends, family and too many good things to list; many nights where I've come home just in time to answer a few emails and fall in to bed.

However, I also know that I've been wrestling a little bit with the purpose of this blog, and also with the idea of putting my ideas "out there".  What if people disagree?  What if you, the few people who visit this space, think I'm scattered or disorganized?  What if I put ideas down here, in the never-forgetting internet, and then in a few years even I disagree with them?  By blogging, I began to fear that I am making statements about myself, my beliefs and my ideas that I would be held to forever and ever... and that was a terrifying thought!

And then, as often happens, I came upon something that spoke exactly to that situation.

You may know that I've been reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, and blogging about various parts and passages (along with Chett, a twitter-friend who's been doing the same and had a great post this week about goals).  There's a section in Chapter 4 in which Godin asks "Where do you put the fear?".  The idea here is that each of us is fearful about something, but that those who are successful are able to move beyond their fear and act anyway.

I have lots of fears, of course, as we all do.  One of my beliefs about fear is that it's healthy, and that it signals something - fear tells us that what we are scared of (losing a friend, making a call, choosing a path) has meaning and importance.  The fact that I'm scared of blogging about some topics means that I care about the opinions that I'm sharing.  If you're scared to choose, that means the decisions matter, and that you care about the consequences and results.

Of course, fear can also be paralyzing.  It can lead us to hide or run from that which scares us.  It can lead us to lash out in anger, or with reactions that don't fit the situation.  If we let it, fear will defeat us by telling us we can't, we shouldn't, we won't be able to.

But, if everyone feels fear about something, then the question becomes: how do those who are successful deal with it?  Or, as Godin says, where do you put the fear?  Where does a lawyer put the fear that they will lose the case?  Where does a hockey star put his fear of not making the perfect shot?  Where does a public speaker put the fear that they will be judged as boring?

Ultimately, does your fear motivate you or chase you away?  Does it inspire you or cause you to cower?

Everyone has fear... lots of fears, in fact.  So where do you put it?

My commitment to myself is to feel the fear - all of it.  To feel it, accept it, and act anyway.  To decide which fears are meant to be moved in to, and which ones aren't (obviously, a fear of running in to traffic is one that should be listened to).  To realize that it's normal, healthy even, to feel fear.

My commitment to myself is to blog, and to know that I will get it wrong sometimes, and to do it anyway.  To speak in front of groups of people, to share what matters, despite fear of judgement.  To step in to the fear of what will come, and let it motivate me to be a better version of the person I can be.

What about you?  Where will you put your fear?

Thanks, Bob, for the reminder to get back to blogging : )

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not just a job

As you may know, I've been reading Seth Godin's latest book Linchpin (have blogged about chapters one and two and three previously).  Currently, I'm in the midst of the intense fourth chapter (which is remarkably long), but ran across a section in the middle of this chapter the other day that deserves it's own post.

This bit, on page 57, is entitled "Your Job is a Platform".  In this, Godin describes that a job is not the end - it is just an opportunity to create, to be generous, to express and create art.  This holds true for any job, I would argue - lawyer, accountant, waitress, soccer coach, each can find a way to give generously, express themselves and create unique art in their role.

In fact, this could be carried in to overall life - each of our lives is a platform, every day an opportunity to create opportunity and situations that no one else can.

Whatever you do, where ever you are, you can find opportunities to contribute in to the lives of others and grow your own strengths.  Every day, every interaction with someone else, is a chance to change the world just a little.

Monday, October 11, 2010


This weekend, October 11th, marks Thanksgiving in Canada - a longstanding holiday which we most people today tend to spend as a celebration of friends, family, food and all the things we are thankful for in our lives.

Through the years, though, Thanksgiving has meant many things.  In fact, this Wikipedia post (and we all know you can trust anything you find on Wikipedia ;) ) records the first official day of giving thanks back in 1578, which was about a happy and safe homecoming.

Later days of giving thanks, according to the post, were in connection welcoming neighbours, meeting new friends, celebrating the end of wars, rejoicing in health, and with each year having an officially proclaimed theme about which to be thankful each year.

And so this weekend, we will cook turkeys, eat pie, enjoy family and friends, and celebrate all that we have to be thankful for.

I don't know about you, but I have a lot to be thankful for.  Friends and family, laughter, health, my home and warm bed, freedom, opportunity... and so much more.

And so I plan to take many moments this weekend to celebrate, remember and be grateful for all of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I'm NOT thankful for

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, a holiday traditionally designated to celebrate the harvest.  Now, it's often built around family, friends and good food - many of the things that make life great.

Many people's thoughts today centre around what they are thankful for - this holiday is a fantastic time to remind ourselves of just how lucky we all are.  And while I've done that as well today (and will also blog about it tomorrow) I was also reminded today of some of what I'm not thankful for - and finding ways that I can change those.

  • I am not thankful for thoughts that allow people (including myself) believe we are somehow less or unworthy.  These feelings do nothing to enhance or improve our lives; they serve only to make it more difficult.  Not only that - they're untruths we tell ourselves (or allow others to tell us) that stifle potential.
  • I am not thankful for apathy that surrounds the many issues our world faces.  There are challenges that we face, and responsibilities we all carry to address those - and ignoring those issues does nothing to fix them.  We are each responsible to vote, to help and love our neighbours and strangers, to think and read and share ideas... and so much more to make our world a better place.
  • I am not thankful for the incredible amount of material things that overtake our lives, causing us to lose focus of what's really important - people.  Not taken with perspective, stuff and things serve to weigh down our lives, create false happiness and lead to stress and comparing ourselves to others - traits that serve no one well.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with stuff - I love shopping as much as the next person : ) - but too much just becomes to heavy to carry.
  • I am not thankful for times when I forget how much I have to be thankful for.  There is so, so much in all of our lives to be grateful for... and it's worth remembering.  I plan to celebrate being thankful even more tomorrow, including with a post on that theme.
Even in these, though, I am thankful for much - including for the opportunity and power to change that which I am not thankful for!

So, to all my Canadian friends... happy day-before-Thanksgiving!

Take some time to think of what you are not thankful for this weekend - and to decide what you can do about it!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My blogging mission

We're all complicated people.  We like lots of different things, sometimes even things that conflict with each other or are incredibly diverse.

Certainly, I'm no exception.  My interests tend to include:

  • running (learning to enjoy) and strength training
  • autism (so incredibly diverse and varied that I may never really understand)
  • baking (dairy-free, please)
  • fundraising (which I am lucky enough to do every day)
  • everything Calgary (because this city is amazing)
  • nonprofits (in support of the essential role they play
  • yoga (especially the hot kind)
  • healthy (and not-so-healthy) food & eating
  • thinking philosophical thoughts (which makes me feel smart)
  • friends & family (with the belief people are more important than anything)
  • reading, writing about & discussing books (such as Seth Godin's Linchpin)
  • kids & teens (and all the stages we all go through to become 'grown-ups)
  • Junior Chamber International aka JCI (specifically, JCI Calgary)
  • Travel (so much to see & learn this way)
  • Learning (formal education and life education)

This variety is what keeps our lives interesting, of course.  However, as it relates to blogging, all this has me feeling my blog is scattered - all over the map, in fact, since I began this blog 6 weeks ago.
So, I'm working to narrow it all down a little.  This will include picking a few topics to focus on and crafting a bit of a blog mission statement.

The challenge, of course, is about what to leave out... but choices are what make life interesting, no?

Help is appreciated!

What is the focus of your blog?  How did you choose that?

Or, what type of blogs do you most enjoy reading?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All that education...

All my life, I've been surrounded by kids.  Babies, young kids, tweens & teens have always been a large part of my family, job and personal life.  In fact, I almost went in to teaching (which, as it turns out, would have been a disaster... but that's a different story) and instead, work on behalf of kids at one of Calgary's largest family-serving organizations.

Outside of work, I coach three of my cousins in their school work - grades 2, 4 and 8 - as well as one grade 8 student who is a family friend.  I call this coaching rather than tutoring as much of the time is spent with me saying "I don't know; let's do some research!" : )

Finally, my interest in education also is part of my commitment to my own life-long learning, and belief that mentoring, continuing education and simply learning new things are be important parts of everyones life.

All of which I say to provide some backdrop as to how excited I was to reach chapter three in Linchpin by Seth Godin, which you may recall is the subject of a blog-collaboration involving myself and Chett.

To this point, Linchpin has focused at length about the new economy and work environment.  Through these readings, I have wondered how we can all adjust to this environment, and how we can raise and teach our next generation to grow to this world.

In teaching and coaching kids, I've learned that just like each student has their own learning style, so does each teacher have their own teaching style.  The best situations happen when the two styles collide.

For decades, as Godin writes, our school's have taught with a structure that creates "factory workers" - people who can follow rules, listen to bosses, do their work and go home.  Not ask questions, not colour outside the lines, not create their own art or work.  This was what the economy demanded, and this is what our schools taught us to become.

But now, says Godin, our changed economy requires people who can take initiative, come up with ideas, invent new things and question the status quo - in other words, linchpins.  These invaluable people will become essential as they change work, life and society for the better.

In Godin's view, this requires a complete overhaul of our school system, encouraging students to explore, question and discover instead of memorize and recite answers.  Generally, I agree with this position; certainly, my favourite teachers in school and since have allowed and pushed me to find my own answers.  As a teacher/guide for the kids in my life and for myself, I know that teaching to ask questions and explore is far more complicated - but also more fun and interesting.

But, I also believe there's a point to be made about the importance of structure, and of learning the basics.  Yes, kids today will always know a world with spellcheck, but they will still need to put a basic sentence together.  And, kids truly do benefit from having rules, routines and structure - whether they know it or not.  They need to question and learn, but they also need stability.

It's important to find a balance there, and to work with it in a healthy way.  As learners in this new economy Godin describes, we must all find such a balance.

One more point from Godin - he points out that leadership and asking questions are skills that can be taught and must be learned.  This is an important fact, but easy to forget; and these skills can be learned at any age.

So, you may be asking what this means to you, if you don't consider yourself a teacher or guide.  Well, I would suggest you reconsider - there is someone in your life who can benefit from your knowledge and experience.  When you connect with that person and begin sharing of yourself and learning from them, you both will benefit.

You have much to share - honestly!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What does the future hold?

In the future, work will look very different from today.  No longer will it be enough to just show up at a job and be told what to do.  The people who are successful in this environment - who not only earn the most money, but also are important and an integral part of the organizations they work for - will be those who share their gifts, who make connections and who are truly remarkable.  These people - Seth Godin calls them "linchpins" - are the ones who will be critical to this new world of work.

This first chapter of LinchpinSeth Godin's latest book about which Chett & I have been blogging (see my first post about it here and Chett's first here), did not disappoint.

In it, Godin introduces us to the idea that our current way of work - which he describes as being primarily factory-based (whether those factories are doctors offices, car makers or restaurants) - has existed in this form for only the past 400 years or so.  And now, he says, we are transitioning to this new way of work - a world where each person has access to their own factory (either through the internet, accessible to most anyone, or through each individuals own mind and abilities), a world in which each individual will produce something unique, something which no one else could.  This uniqueness is what will make them indispensable.

In fact, Godin describes a world in which the jobs that require someone to just show up, the jobs almost anyone could do, will become fewer and fewer, and the businesses that employ them less popular.  Customers are becoming more willing to do business with those who are remarkable and extraordinary.

And when I think about this, I see it happening often.  For instance, two recent grocery shopping experiences fairly well illustrate this.

At one large, well known department store chain known for low prices, I fell - after somewhat dramatically slipping on a banana peel (a real banana peel - it actually does happen).  My feet went one way, my basket of groceries went the other and, before I knew it, I was looking up at fellow shoppers trying their best to help me up.  No major injury - I got up, dusted myself off and walked away minus only a little pride.  One of the things that struck me, though, was that there were 2 staff working in this produce section - and while they both saw my little incident, neither of them came to ask if I was okay or offer any assistance.  Of course, I was fine and didn't need any help; but still - they didn't offer.

I've recently had an opportunity to visit a different, much smaller and more local grocery store on a couple of occasions.  This store is certainly known to be higher-end and higher priced, but it was a pleasure to shop at. Every little department and section of the store had large trays of samples out for customers.  The staff were all full of smiles and helpful.  I didn't have occasion to slip on a banana peel in this store (perhaps the fact that no banana peels were lying on the ground is an indicator in itself) but I have no doubt that if I had, there would have been a number of staff who jumped to my aid.

Between the two sets of staff, I wonder what the difference is.  Is it wages - more incentive to do a good job?  Is it better training?  Or does the second store simply hire staff who are friendlier, more willing to take initiative and help customers?  Either way, I know which type of staff would be more indispensable and remarkable if I was doing the hiring!

For those who have worked and adapted to the old system of work, it may be challenging and even terrifying to consider adjusting to this new way of working and thinking - which is why Chapter 2 reads much like a pep talk for why we all can (and really, must) adapt and change in an effort to become a linchpin.

I think there are a number of challenges and obstacles that someone could face when attempting to become indispensable: the fear of change, of more responsibility; the discomfort of being vulnerable and doing things that they don't really know or understand; and a simple uncertainty or unawareness of how to make this change.

The good news is that each of these challenges can be overcome if each of us chooses to be.

A final note: the thing that most struck me in this chapter was the encouragement to consider what qualities an ideal candidate for the job you have (or want to have) would possess - and then work to build those skills and develop those competencies.

So - if it's not clear - I am very much enjoying this book.  It's confirming some things that I strongly believe while challenging some other thoughts and assumptions - great combination!  I can't wait to share more with you.

What qualities do you think a linchpin (or indispensable person) possesses?  Are these qualities different at work and in real life?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Week

This post is inspired by One Week, which I watched for the first time this weekend.  I'm not a big movie watcher, but I've wanted to see this one since it came out.  So, when I saw it come up on my Tivo, it was a must-record.  And, it didn't disappoint!

Don't worry - no spoilers here - though I will say that the movie challenged me to think and consider some parts of my life, as well as contained some gorgeous views of Canada.

The thing that most challenged me, though, was in the beginning.  It opens with a simple question: what would you do if you had only one week to live?  That's 7 days. 168 hours.  10,080 minutes.

Of course, this is an impossible-to-answer question - most of us have never been in a position where the answer to this would really matter, or result in any more than a few thoughts.

When I seriously consider it, though, I hope that I would choose to spend that one week loving, encouraging and being with those around me - family, friends and all others - and experiencing the joy in every moment.  Especially in the little things: laughing at a bad joke, a hug from a small child, an early morning walk or homemade cinnamon buns.

I hope my one week would be spent being present, in the moment - and soaking it all up.

And really, aren't these the things that should already be enjoyed every day anyway?

What about you - what would your one week look like?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Linchpin: The Introduction

A couple weeks ago, Amanda Matchett (@Chett12 on Twitter) mentioned the latest book by Seth GodinLinchpin.  I love to read Seth's blog every morning, so was naturally interested when Chett mentioned it.  When I mentioned an interest via Twitter, Amanda invited me to join her in reading and blogging about the book... and since you're reading this, you know I agreed!

This weekend I've read the Introduction to Linchpin, and am excited to share some of it with you! Also, check out Chett's blog for more thoughts - she'll be writing about the same chapter this week as well!

So, without further ado:

Godin is a great thinker.  He writes a lot about the changing world of work, of industry and of economy.  He is full of big thoughts and perspectives. This is clear from the first page, which boldly states:

  • "You Are a Genius" Pg 1

This brilliant opening declaration (and yes, I do believe it is a declaration - you are a genius!) is followed by an outline of what the book will explore: Godin's idea that our current, industrial model of work is falling apart.  He promises to look at how success is created and how each of us, in our current jobs and situations, can make ourselves indispensable.

I suspect that such indispensability would be valuable, for obvious reasons, but would also be fulfilling, empowering and really would permeate every area of life.  It is my hope that the patterns and ideas in this book will spark conversation and new ideas, and perhaps even new goals and new direction.

I can already tell that the book will have a lot of quotes that I want to write down and share.  Lines like:
  • "Stop settling for what's good enough and start creating art that matters." Pg 3
  • "You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious." Pg 3

I'm excited to get more in to this book, and to explore it with you and with Chett on her blog.  If you've read it, or want to share your thoughts on what we blog, I'd love to hear your perspective!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What can I give?

You may know that I work for a charity in Calgary.  Every day, I get to see the difference that people make when they give of themselves - of their time, energy, money, ideas and of all that they are - to make our world a better place.  And I see the results - the supports that encourage kids to flourish, the opportunities that are provided in safer housing and the hope in the face of a teen who realizes that ending their life is not the only way.

That's why I was excited and inspired when I heard this story.

You may have heard of the giving pledge.  40 billionaires (yes, billionaires... take a minute to think about what that means) have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth during their lifetimes.

Of course,  Warren Buffett and Bill Gates personally called each of the contributors to ask for their gift.  That`s not exactly a call it would be easy to avoid, or a conversation easy to say "No" to!

Anyway, to the point... proportionally, half of my income is not nearly as much as half of a billionaires.  Giving away half of my income prior to my death would be exciting, empowering and hopefully make a huge difference to the issues I chose to support.

While the idea is exciting, it's not very practical for my life.

But, this giving pledge has inspired me to think about what, exactly, I can do.  I can give my time, energy, ideas and passion.  I can commit to, share about and generate donations and support for issues that I believe in and want to support.  Without giving half my wealth, I can still make financial investments in things I care about.

Stories of this giving pledge have inspired me to do more for issues, charities and people that I value and care about.

What about you?  What can you do?  Your contributions make a difference to the issues that are important to you - give something today!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shout outs

This is a quick shout out to some amazing organizations in Calgary that I had an opportunity to enjoy this weekend...

  • I was on 4th Street on Friday night, and only had time for a quick dinner.  Stopped by Purple Perk for something quick - and the service was fantastic!  The food was good too, but mostly, I was impressed by the service.  This is definitely the kind of place that, if I lived closer, I know I would be there every day.
  • Following dinner, I went to The Tech Shop to pick up my Calgary Women's Run race package, and also picked up some shoes.  Again, fantastic service - I showed the staff my shoes, they recommended 2 new kinds that were good, explained why they were good and helped me to try them.  One pair was perfect and I now love them.  Check them out for all your running/walking stuff!
  • For an early dinner on Saturday, I checked out Local 002 in Glamorgan (not yet listed on this site, but owned by the same company).  The salad was wonderful, and there were so many other yummy-looking things on the menu that I know I will be back.  And, they were super understanding and supportive of my crazy food allergies, even explaining the menu and adjusting food so that I could enjoy it.
  • Finally, the Calgary Women's Run on Sunday morning - many wonderful sponsors, including Amp Radio CalgaryLululemonFast & FemaleCommunity Natural Foods and a number of others came out in support of the Calgary YMCA and put together a great women for a whole bunch of runners.  Good times!
Huge recommendations for these businesses - if you're interested in any, I'd definitely recommend checking them out!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calgary Votes...

So, in case you didn't know, Calgary will be electing a new city council on October 18th.

Today, I attended a Mayoral Forum hosted by the Calgary Leadership Forum.  There were 11 candidates for Mayor in attendance - some I had checked out the policies for, others who were somewhat known to me and still others that I'd never heard of at all.

Before I launch in to some thoughts, a bit of background on me... I'm 26, have lived in Calgary for forever, and have voted in every election (civic, provincial and federal) since I turned 18.  I've voted for lots of different parties and candidates, but have never volunteered on any campaign and am not a member of any party.  I very much enjoy watching politics from the sidelines, and following what's going on... and I look forward to the day when I am passionate and excited enough about any candidate to put my heart and effort in to working on their campaign.

So, some thoughts on the forum...

  • The forum didn't help me to decide who to vote for... but it certainly helped me decide who not to vote for.
  • I realized that I want specifics - more than knowing that a candidate has good values or platitudes, I want to hear specific ideas and strategies.
  • In addition to a vision that I believe in and can follow, I want a Mayor who is stable, confident and trustworthy.  
  • Issues that I think are important include affordable housing, budgeting and planning (short and long term) and council functionality.
  • I'm looking for a candidate who communicates well, and who will continue to communicate well with citizens when they are elected.
  • In some cases, the candidates would have been better off running for an aldermanic position - some just seem like they would speak much better to and on behalf of smaller, local communities.
  • 11 candidates is a lot... and the full slate of candidates for the Mayor's job is even more than that!  Add to that the candidates who are likely to come forward before the official nomination day (September 20th), and it will be a very full ballot.  Unless a number of them drop out, I suspect many candidates will have a hard time being heard through the din.
Finally, an over-riding thought... VOTE!  Every Calgarian has rights, responsibilities and a role to play in our city.  Everyone should vote!

So, what do you think about this election?  Were you at the forum?  Do you know who you will be voting for in October?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What does leadership mean?

I've been thinking a lot lately about leadership.

What is a leader?

What makes a leader?

Why some people (organizations) and not others?

I don't know the for sure answers to these questions, and I don't know if I ever will.  But I am learning, as I meet leaders both good and bad.

Don't get me wrong here: I know some absolutely lovely people, good friends and whom I admire in many other ways, who simply aren't leaders.

Some characteristics that I would suggest make a good leader...

  • vision
  • confidence
  • respect for others
  • ability to delegate
  • genuine love for and interest in people
I believe that some people are born with these traits, and others learn them - and that neither is better or worse.

I aspire to be a good leader, and believe that I can be... but also believe I have a lot of progress to make.  Fortunately, I am fortunate to know some excellent role models and mentors in this area.

What do you think?  What makes a good leader - and why?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Carrots + quinoa = dessert??

I don't know about you, but I love a good celebration.  Frankly, any excuse to eat cake is a good day for me : ) That is why I am a huge supporter of a tradition we have at the office - every time someone has a birthday, we all take half an hour and have some cake.  There are only about 10 of us, but that's 10 mini-celebrations a year!  We try to have the favourite cake of the person being celebrated - there's been black forest, red velvet... and this week, the birthday girl wanted carrot cake!

Normally we just pick up one of these cakes at a local grocery store or bakery, but this time, I wanted to try my hand at something new.  In some exploration, I discovered this recipe (taken from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming) and thought "hey, I bet I could turn this in to carrot cake".  Hahaha... at least I am crazy ambitious in the kitchen at least, if not talented!

So, I made some modifications (obviously) and came out with a pretty tasty creation!  It was super moist, and with the carrots, I'm pretty sure it counts as a veggie serving!!

Without further ado, I present...

Quinoa Carrot Cake!

2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup milk (whatever kind works - I used almond milk)
4 large eggs (I used egg whites)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 shredded carrots
1-1/2 cups white or cane sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Bring 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil, add the quinoa, lower the heat and put a lid on the pot.  Cook until all the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes).  Stir with a fork and let it cool down.

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and grease 2 8- or 9-inch pans.

Shred the carrots in to small or long pieces - whatever makes you happy!  In a blender, combine milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add the cooked quinoa, butter and carrots and blend.

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Pour the quinoa mixture into the bowl and mix to moisten all.  Pour batter in to both pans and bake for 40-45 minutes (I baked for about 45, but probably could have done with 5-10 minutes longer to make it firmer).  Cool and ice the middle, then put the two cakes together and ice the top.

I used a basic cream cheese icing (cream cheese, butter and icing sugar).

The original chocolate version of this would be tasty too.  Definitely gonna have to try that!

Let me know if you give it a shot... would love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Come on down!

JCI Calgary, an organization that I'm a member of and sit on the board of, is the local chapter of an international group that provides opportunities for people ages 18 - 40 to network, learn and enjoy themselves.  We're having an event on Wednesday night at 7pm at the Kahanoff Centre (200, 1202 Centre St S).

Part of the session will be a presentation by Robert Vanden Heuvel.

How can we do well in business... while also doing good? Whether it goes by the name social enterprise, social investing, or philanthro-capitalism, this is an exciting and growing phenomenon. Where trillions of dollars of aid has largely failed, business has a unique ability to effect social change which is also sustainable!

Robert Vanden Heuvel is one of the top Account Managers at Calgary-based Bedford Biofuels. At August's JCI Member Opportunity Night, Rob will be presenting Bedford's compelling "triple bottom line": profitable, environmental, and humanitarian. Where is the demand for oil -- and biofuel -- headed? Do practical and economically competitive biofuels even exist? What about "food versus fuel"? How can a business help meet the needs of poor communities and why does it make great sense to do so? How can I get involved and do well while also doing good? Come learn the answers to these and more!

Find more information here, and let me know if you can join us!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The right tools

I ran 8.6 KMs today!  This is a huge first for me, an increase of almost a full kilometer.  I'm working up to a 10K at the end of August, and am happy to be making progress.

Post-run, though, my knee began really aching - a reminder that I need to upgrade my tools.  Specifically, I need to buy new runners - it's been about a year since my last pair (probably at least 3 months too long) and now I'm starting to feel the ache in response.

The pain didn't last, but it was really just a quick reminder that, though I like to think I can do just about anything, the right tools, the right support and the right mindset put together make all the difference.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's your why?

I love my job.  I consider myself incredibly blessed to go to an office every morning that I look forward to (most days, at least), to do something that I'm passionate about and to know that I'm making an impact.  That's not to say every day is perfect; frustration happens, successes don't always come easy, and there are days when it feels like I go in circles.

And, my job isn't everything - there are other passions and other loves that compete for attention, time and energy.  I believe this combination is healthy, and for me, it fits.

Many, many people don't consider themselves so fortunate.  So many spend their work days willing away the time, just waiting for it to be over.  Fortunately, there are other ways to find fulfillment - family, friends, volunteering and interests can all be passions and driving forces in our lives.  The opportunity to find joy through work remains for many though, however elusively.

All of this contributed to my excitement at discovering the Live Your Why project, which is about compiling stories about people who found part of their passion in their work.  I hope to submit a story and look forward to reading the many other submissions.

Kudo's to Katie for putting together such a cool project!  And congratulations to those who have found joy and passion in their work, and to those who are still seeking the same.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Who Knew?

Growing up, I detested veggies.

Not only detested, but also never ate. Never learned to enjoy them. Used to torture my Mom about not including onions, or peas, or anything else that may be a veggie on my plate.

Then, I moved out and had to start cooking for myself... and it got worse. I began only eating food that came in a package, cooking with one pot and a thin little frying pan.

Fast forward a whole bunch to tonight... when I ate asparagus for dinner. With onions, peppers, mushrooms, and kale. Without, I might add, anyone threatening harm or death for not eating.

Recently, I've also been experimenting with eggplant, cabbage, brussel sprouts and... horror of horrors... swiss chard (this experiment didn't go well, but I will be getting back on this horse).

It doesn't always work - I've been known to throw out entire frying pans of food - but I almost always enjoy trying.

This has also become a bit of an analogy for ny life - trying new things, stepping into fear, doing things I never thought I would or could.

And learning to live in the moment and enjoy every second.

Tonight, I ate (and enjoyed) asparagus.  Here's to adventure and experience!