Reflections 2008 
Written by Robert Kirwan

The following articles were written during 2008 and were published in The Vision Paper.

For your convenience I have provided you with the titles and will try to give you a brief introduction to each editorial. The articles appear in the order in which they are listed, so when you see one that interests you, simply scroll down until you find it.

If you have any comments, please send them to me at 

bullet " Hilda Kingsley: We Will All Remember How She Spent Her Dash!"
bullet"How To Deal With Stress During The Christmas Season "
bullet"The Day I Didn’t Get A Thing Done! The Best Day of My Life!"
bullet"Tangled Christmas Tree Lights "
bullet"Some People Do The Kindest Things "
bullet"If Something Is Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Right "
bullet"It Doesn’t Take Any Talent To Grow Old"
bullet"Critical Moments…Discovering What Really Matters In Life..."
bullet"Ways To Keep People Guessing About Your Level of Sanity"
bullet"Time For Quiet Reflection This Weekend As We Give Thanks"
bullet"Valley East The Town Where People Are Free To Follow Their Own Path"
bullet "Never Be Too Busy To Respond With Kindness And Compassion To Strangers"
bullet "Uncommon Decency Is All Around Us If We Look Hard Enough"
bullet "Wow! My Granddaughter Is Going to School Already"
bulletChoosing A Life That Matters"
bulletThe Brownie Recipe
bulletKnowing Where To Look Comes From Years of Experience
bulletApplying The Chaos Theory To Life


bullet We Are All Being Used For A Higher Purpose In This Life… 
bulletPreparing For The Rain... 
bulletWe Are Stronger When We Work Together
bulletThe Tipping Point Has Been Reached 
bullet Go Above And Beyond What Is Expected   
bullet Buy The Steak…Life Is Precious  
bullet Can We Ever Do Too Much For Our Children or Grandchildren?
bullet To All Research Associates in the Field of Child Development and Human Relations  
bulletIt’s Hard To Be Innovative In The Land of Penguins
bulletInspiration From The Other Side of The World  
bullet“Human thoughts have a tendency to transform themselves into their physical equivalent”  
bulletLet’s Give Our Young Students An Opportunity This Summer
bulletGo Out And Make It Happen 
bulletThe Importance Of Finding The Right Mentors In Your Life
bulletLife Is Not About What You Have, But What You Do With It… 
bullet“What Will You Be Saying Three Years From Now?” 
bullet“You Do Make A Difference To The People In Your Life”
bullet “You Have No Idea How Powerful Your Words and Gestures Can Be…Use Them Wisely"
bullet Battle Wounds From A War of Words Take A Long Time To Heal”
bullet“The Root Cause Of Most Problems In The World Today Is Stress”
bullet“Why Are You Waiting? Pick Up The Phone And Call”  
bulletWhy You Do What You Do Defines Who You Are
bullet“There Is No Such Thing As An Educated Person”
bullet"Culture of Fear Spills Over Into Our Schools"
bulletThe Theory of Continuity Poses The Question: What’s Next?
bullet"Make 2008 The Year We Shift From Success To Significance


" Hilda Kingsley: We Will All Remember How She Spent Her Dash!"

December 15, 2008

   When I first heard that Hilda Kingsley had passed away, my first reaction was simply, “WOW!” I have known Hilda for as long as I have lived in Valley East , which was since 1974. Hilda was “everywhere”. She seemed to be involved in just about everything that you could imagine and her passion for working for children in minor sports was legendary. All I could think of was WOW! I could sense a loss of much more than a friend and acquaintance. I sensed the loss of a community icon. A loss that will change the face of Valley East forever. Hilda was everywhere and now she is gone.
   I thought about Hilda again, and wondered, “How can Valley East ever be the same without her?”
   At the same time, I began to realize just how much of a difference Hilda meant to
Valley East and now it is up to the rest of us to step it up a notch and carry on in her memory. She served for so many years in minor hockey with the N.O.H.A., was a driving force behind the Consbec ‘AAA’ Midgets, was instrumental in the development of minor soccer, and volunteered with the Club Richelieu. She was also ready to give of her time to help anyone who needed her assistance, and she will be forever known as the First Lady of The Renegades Organization, perhaps her greatest contribution of all.
   Hilda was the first inductee in the Volunteer Category to the Valley East Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. There was no question as to who the first inductee would be. It had to be Hilda Kingsley. She made such a difference in the community.

   Even though Hilda was someone who always had time to volunteer to help out with minor sports, she also had time to be a very devoted wife to Jean-Paul and a loving mother to her two sons, David and Mark, both of whom are still living in Hanmer. Her greatest joys in life were her two grandchildren, Rebecca and Kaitlin.

   A lady named Linda Ellis once wrote a little poem that I think best expresses Hilda Kingsley’s life. The poem is entitled, “The Dash”. As you read it, if you knew Hilda Kingsley, think of how it is a fitting description of this very special woman. Also, think about yourself and ask if this poem could be used to describe your own life one day or to describe someone you once knew who is no longer with us.

March 14, 1946 December 5, 2008


The Dash, by Linda Ellis:

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile…
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash,
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

   Joseph Epstein once said, “We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents, or the country of our birth. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.”
   A lot will be said about Hilda Kingsley and about how she lived her life, but the most fitting tribute of all will be that she showed us all how to spend our dash.
   Have a good week.



"How To Deal With Stress During The Christmas Season "

December 8, 2008

   I’m sure I don’t have to say much to convince you that Christmas is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. There is so much goodness in the air and it is a time when we can all take a deep breath and see everything that is wonderful with this world despite the economic and political problems that exist today. It is a time when it is perfectly acceptable to see the world through “rose coloured glasses”.
   So why do so many of us also find that this is the most stressful time of the year as well?
   Many experts tell us study after study has found that Canadians in general and parents in particular, declare they are under more financial and emotional stress than ever before in the history of our country. Canadians of all ages are suffering from chronic emotional health problems because of the pressure on families today. And if you happen to be one of those persons who disagree with these comments then you are most likely in the worse shape of all.
   When asked to identify the causes of the stress, many people indicate that they are working too hard and too long for too little money; there is a lack of job security; taxes are too high; the cost of living keeps going up faster than wages; there are relationship problems between spouses and children; school concerns among children affect the entire household; and the list goes on and on.

   Admittedly, no family can escape the stress of everyday life, but at no time of the year is the stress upon families greater than it is during the Christmas holiday season. And often this stress, mixed in with all of the wonderful things about Christmas, goes unnoticed, even though the effects are building up inside. Perhaps that is why so many people “go wild” on New Year’s Eve to release the stress.

   Therefore, as much as people may look forward to Christmas, and even though it is a time for people to get together and visit with friends and relatives, few will argue that Christmas is also the most hectic, stress-filled time of the year.
   If you are going to make it through another holiday rush, you must develop strong survival techniques which will control your stress level and allow you to enjoy the beautiful moments of the season. In other words, you must become a calming influence in the middle of a stressful storm of commotion.

   The most important thing you must do is convince yourself that it is absolutely useless to get upset about things that are beyond your control. You can’t always get your own way, no matter how much you complain or wish you could change things. If you must go shopping between now and Christmas, don’t complain about the crowds, the traffic, the rudeness or the chaos in the stores. When you are the tenth person in line at the check-out counter, accept the fact that this is the way it is and nothing you can do will change it. Once you surrender to this reality you will find a strange sense of peace take over your mind and you can actually enjoy the time spent in line, talking to fellow shoppers.

   Secondly, take the little things that happen every day in stride and accept them for what they are – simply life happening. The next time one of your children accidentally knocks over your favourite glass vase, causing it to break on the floor, don’t get upset and rant and rave about their carelessness. Accept it for what it is – a moment in life that includes a broken glass. Use it as a teaching moment to show you child how to carefully pick up the pieces and dispose of them so as not to endanger anyone else. Show the child how to safely get every last little sliver off the floor. And while you are doing it, think about how many times in your own life you accidentally broke items around the house. It may actually be hard to hide your smile. When it is all over, give your child a hug and remind him/her to be more careful next time.

   If you can change your reactions to negative events so that your response reflects a calm and peaceful acceptance, you will discover that the solutions to these negative moments are readily at hand. And even in the midst of the chaos of the Christmas holidays you will be amazed at how much easier your life will become.

   During this stressful period let’s all try to see everything that happens in the spirit of the season. After all, there is no better time to be alive than at Christmas.
   Have a good week!



"The Day I Didn’t Get A Thing Done!
The Best Day of My Life!

December 1, 2008

   Friday, October 24, 2008 was one of those days that I will remember for the rest of my life. As it happened, my daughter-in-law, Angele, was scheduled to be in the hospital to deliver her third child. My son and both grandmothers were naturally with her for the blessed event. That meant that Grandpa (me) was chosen to accompany my four-year old granddaughter, Hailee, on her first ever field-trip.
   Her teacher, Mrs. Renee Brunet was taking her JK class to Neil’s Independent Grocers for a tour of the store and to carve pumpkins to take home. It was “Pumpkin Day!”
   I recalled that when told I had to go on the field trip my first thought was about how I was going to have to rearrange my entire schedule and put all of my work on hold for the trip. It seemed like a lot of trouble just to end up watching Hailee spend 15 minutes carving a pumpkin.
   When the day finally came to an end and I was preparing to crawl into bed on October 24, I lay there for a few moments thinking about what had happened to me that day.
   I thought about the excited sound of Hailee’s voice the night before as she told everyone she saw that her Grandpa was coming with her on the bus for “Pumpkin Day”. She had been looking forward to it for days.
   I thought about the look on her face when I walked outside into the school playground that morning as she ran up to me with open arms. She had me carry her around the school yard for a few minutes. She was almost shaking with joy as her friends and classmates watched the two of us. Then we spent the next ten minutes holding hands walking around among the other children – just her and her Grandpa.
   I thought about her smile as she kept looking back at me from her chair in the classroom while her teacher took attendance and went through the opening exercises. She seemed so happy to have Grandpa in her class. It didn’t seem like such a big deal to me at the time. After all, I had spent 28 years doing the same thing with my own classes. I never saw it through the eyes of a four year old.
   I thought about stepping into the bus that was going to bring us to the grocery story and how excited she was to lead me to a seat at the back of the bus. She kept looking over at me, smiling at the sight of Grandpa on the bus with her. And then her teacher sat in front of us and Hailee was so proud.

   I thought about the time spent walking around the store with Hailee and her class, looking at all of the things that she had seen hundreds of times before, and yet, I could sense that it was different this time for her, together with her classmates, holding her Grandpa’s hand.
   Hailee didn’t seem to mind as much as I did that the tour took so long before we finally sat down in the community room and were given the pumpkins to carve. Her Grandpa had never carved a pumpkin before, so thankfully her teacher, Mrs. Renee Brunet gave us a hand.
   I thought about how proud Hailee was as we entered the bus again to go back to Jean Paul II, with her pumpkin in a plastic bag and how excited she was that Grandpa was going to drive her home when we arrived at the school. She was going home early with Grandpa because this was a special day – she was going to get a new brother that day.
   I thought about the look on her face as she was seen by all of the other children walking hand-in-hand with her Grandpa to his truck to go home. She waved to them with a pride that only a four-year old with her Grandpa could understand.

   I thought about our ride home and how she sat there quietly, holding her pumpkin and grinning from ear to ear. What was going through her mind on this very important day in her life?
   I thought about spending the entire afternoon at the hospital with my wife, waiting for Angele to deliver the baby, and how I then had to leave at around
5 p.m. to go back and baby-sit Hailee and her sister, Hannah. After all that time waiting at the hospital I was not even going to be around at the time of birth.
   I thought about how excited the girls were when Grandpa arrived to finish giving them dinner and to stay with them.
   I thought about how their faces lit up with joy when the phone call finally came that evening from the hospital and they spoke to their mother who announced the arrival of their baby brother, Cade. I know now how fortunate I was to be with them to witness their joy at the news of the birth.

I then, for a brief moment, thought about all of the things that I didn’t get done that day. Things that I had to reschedule for another day.  And then, as I drifted off in one of the most peaceful sleeps I have had in a long time, I realized that I will always remember October 24, 2008 as one of the best days of my life. Thank you, Hailee.
   Have a good week!



"Tangled Christmas Tree Lights "

November 24, 2008

  Let me begin today with a story about a man and his son who were walking in the forest one day.  Suddenly the boy tripped, felt a sharp pain and screamed, “Ahhhhh."
   Surprised, he heard a voice coming from the mountain screaming as well, “Ahhhhh!"
   Filled with curiosity, he screamed:  "Who are you?", but the only answer he received was:  "Who are you?"
   This made him angry, so he screamed:  "You are a coward!” and the voice answered: "You are a coward!"

   He looked at his father and asked, "Dad, what is going on?"
   "Son," the man replied, "Pay attention!"
   Then the father screamed, "I admire you!"
   The voice answered: "I admire you!"
   The father shouted, "You are wonderful!", and the voice answered: "You are wonderful!"
   The boy was surprised, but still couldn’t understand what was going on. Then the father explained, "People call this 'ECHO', but truly it is 'LIFE!' Life always gives you back what you give out!  Life is a mirror of your actions.  If you want more love, give more love! If you want more kindness, give more kindness! If you want understanding and respect, give understanding and respect! If you want people to be patient and respectful to you, give patience and respect! This rule of nature applies to every aspect of our lives. Life always gives you back what you give out. Your life is not a coincidence, but a mirror of your own doings.

   Whenever I come across that story I am reminded that no matter how complicated or challenging life may seem at times, true happiness and fulfillment is still just a matter of following some pretty simple principles.  I mean, how much more basic can you get. “Life always gives you back what you give out. Your life is not a coincidence, but a mirror of your own doings.” It is as simple as an echo. Whatever you put out, you get back.
  I also like reading reflective quotes about life and I would like to share some with you right now. I’m not sure where this came from, but it is something I enjoy reading from time to time. It is called “Things I’ve Learned During My Life…”
1.   I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
   2.   I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 
   3.  I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, long grocery check out lines, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
   4.  I've learned that regardless of the differences you have with the people in your life, you'll miss them when they're gone.
   5.  I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life."
   6.  I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

   7.  I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.
   8.  I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
   9.  I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
   10. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
   I’m sure that you can come up with many more statements of your own to continue the above list. But there is one more that I’ve saved to the last because it is truly my favourite one of the entire bunch. Point number 11 in the list is, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” Perhaps that is one of the true benefits of growing older. You come to realize that no matter how much you’ve learned about life, there is still so much more to learn and that is what makes life so fascinating.
   Have a good week!



"Some People Do The Kindest Things "

November 17, 2008

   I was watching a Canada Post television advertisement recently that was giving direction to parents and children on how to mail letters to Santa Claus. The promotion also indicated that EVERY letter sent to Santa will be answered if it contains a return address.

  As I was watching the commercial I thought about the thousands of children who were going to be thrilled to death when they receive their letter from Santa. The good people at Canada Post who are taking care of this initiative must get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing how much happiness they are spreading.
   That night I opened up my emails and discovered that my good friend, Cecile Coutu, had sent me another one of her special stories. Perhaps it is because I have a four-year old granddaughter just like the little girl in the story you are about to read. Perhaps it is because I have always owned a dog and understand how much it hurts when you watch your pet get sick and die. Perhaps it is because I had just watched one of those Canada Post commercials. Whatever the reason, I was deeply touched by the story and felt that I just had to share it with my readers.

   Understand that in most post offices around the country there is usually something called a “dead letter office or box” where letters that have no discernable address end up. I suspect that there are postal workers just like the one in this story who end up going through some of the letters to see if there is any way of delivering them to the proper recipient.
   This story is about a 14 year old dog, Abbey, which died after a long illness. The day after she died, the dog’s owner, 4 year old Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed her dear pet. She asked her mother if they could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. Meredith’s mother agreed to the request and wrote down the words that were dictated by her daughter:

Dear God,

   Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
   I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

   Meredith and her mother put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith, and addressed it to God, Heaven. They put their return address on it.
   Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. Her mother told her that she thought He would have received it by then.
   The next day, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on the family’s front porch addressed, 'To Meredith'.

   Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter that Meredith and her mother had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith as well as this note:
Dear Meredith,
   Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
   Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
   Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.
   Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.
   I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

Love, God 

  This apparently is a true story. It is definitely one of the kindest things I have ever read about.  No one knows who wrote the letter, but there is no doubt that whoever it was, God was certainly part of her life.
   Have a good week!  



"If Something Is Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Right "

November 9, 2008

   At the outset of this article please let me explain that this is not a personal political statement, nor should it be interpreted as my own particular position on the so-called legacy projects that have caused such a commotion in the Sudbury area in recent weeks. Nonetheless, I have been monitoring the situation with much more than just a passing interest. I do have my own personal opinions about this matter but I am not about to share them in this editorial.
   As the time approached for City Councillors to make a decision on the Multi-Use Recreation Centre and the Performing Arts Centre I was quite intrigued with some of the decisions that were made to “reduce” the overall price tag of the projects. It had become painfully evident to politicians and City administrators that public support was quickly diminishing in light of the $165 million combined cost of the two projects. These were undoubtedly two highly anticipated developments the likes of which had never been seen in the Sudbury area and, despite the cost of the projects, I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that having these two beautiful facilities would do the city any harm in terms of our reputation and image.

   However, because of the mounting opposition, measures were taken to downsize the original plans and thus reduce the projected cost to $110 million. This, it was felt, would be far more acceptable to local ratepayers.

   All of this reminded me about a story that I like to use when I want to demonstrate how very important it is for people to do the best they can in everything they do in life. I have always believed that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

   The story is about an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife so that he could enjoy more time with his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
   The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
   When the carpenter finished his work the employer- contractor came over to inspect the finished product and handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."
   What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.
    So when I examined the new cost proposals for the “downsized” Multi-Use Recreation Centre, I couldn’t help but think about that poor old carpenter. I couldn’t help but think about all of the young children living in Sudbury today and even those have not yet been born. I even thought about those proposed projects as I held my newborn grandson, born a mere three days after the City Council meeting during which councilors voted 7 to 6 against the projects. Instead of maintaining the original plan of building a facility of which we could be proud for decades to come and which would better satisfy our needs both today and in the future, our “city planners” decided to put saving money ahead of quality. In order to do so they decided to take away a full ice pad; take away the swimming pool; move the facility to a less desirable location; and downsize the structure in many other ways. In other words, instead of having a Multi-Use Recreation Centre that would fulfil all of our dreams and desires, we would be forcing future generations, including my tiny grandson and his sisters to “settle” for a building that was much less than they deserve.
   No matter what your opinion may be about the “legacy projects”, most of you will undoubtedly agree that when it comes to a Multi-Use Recreational Centre or a Performing Arts Centre, if we ever decide to build them, we should do it right the first time and make sure that they are buildings in which we will be proud to live for a long, long time. If they are worth doing at all, they are worth doing right. This is a philosophy of life that we should all continue to promote in everything we do.
   Have a good week!



"It Doesn’t Take Any Talent To Grow Old"

October 27, 2008

   I never really gave much thought about being a member of the “Baby Boom” generation when I was a young adult. As a husband, a father and a teacher, I was too busy taking care of my day to day responsibilities to think much about a particular philosophy of life that was peculiar to when I was born. It wasn’t until I made the decision to end my teaching career over seven years ago that being a member of this “generation” actually began to mean something to me.
   If you talk to people who are between the ages of 44 and 62, you may notice something different about them. Very seldom do they talk about “retirement” in the traditional sense of the word. They may talk about “retiring” from the career they have held for the past 20 or 30 years, but when you get right down to it, most are simply looking for a “change”. They are looking for a new adventure that will allow them to perhaps work on a part-time basis, perhaps out of their home, in a role that many would not have felt possible years ago when they were younger. It’s as if “retirement” is an “escape” from the adulthood prison we were destined to enter as we grew up.
   We constantly hear about people who have begun a new career or a new hobby or opened up a new business at an age when most others would be thinking about retirement. The initial reaction to such news is often one of astonishment that the person would want to ‘spend so much time and energy’ during the final stage of his/her life instead of sitting back and soaking up the sunshine. Often it is easier for an older person to deny him/herself the pleasure of living out a dream rather than face the pressures from loved ones who provide all sorts of advice about ‘how to enjoy retirement’.

   I recall reading an article one day that referred to a speech that was made to a graduating class by a valedictorian who was 87 years old. At the age of 84, this courageous woman, named Rose, decided that before she died she wanted to realize a life-long dream of earning a degree. Contrary to the advice of her family and friends who told her that it was ridiculous for a woman her age to go through all of the trouble of getting a degree which she would never use in a career, Rose persisted and four years later, she graduated. 

   During the course of the four years, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she revelled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
   When it came time to graduate, Rose was the unanimous choice of the class to give the valedictorian speech. She stood up in front of them, cleared her throat and gave her fellow classmates some of the best advice they ever received.  

   “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success.

   First, you have to laugh and find humour every day.

   Second, you’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it.

   Third, there is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change.

    Finally, have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

   So the next time you find yourself wondering if you should work at fulfilling a dream of yours, remember what Rose said to her graduating class. “It’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.” A year from now you will still be a year older. Take advantage of all the opportunities that come knocking during the next twelve months.

   Have a good week.



"Critical Moments…
Discovering What Really Matters In Life...

October 20, 2008

   Last week, Kevin Shanahan, a respected local resident from Valley East who has established a reputation as an inspirational newspaper columnist, granted me the honour of appearing as the special guest on my weekly radio show at CKLU 96.7 FM, broadcast every Monday night at 6 p.m. from Laurentian University. Kevin and I spent the entire two hours of the program sharing our personal philosophies of life with the listening audience. We talked about everything under the sun, but one of the topics that stands out in my mind was about how, as grandfathers, we are both discovering through our grandchildren, many of the things that we seem to have taken for granted as we were raising our own children.
   There is an old saying that if we knew how much fun grandchildren were going to be, we would have had them first. There are also people who say that being a grandparent is God’s reward for being a parent. I never understood what that meant until I became a grandfather myself. All kidding aside, I must admit that I am very surprised at how much I am discovering about my own view about life from observations I am making of my young grandchildren.

   Admittedly, it isn’t really fair to compare grand parenting with parenting. In the role of parent we find that we are consumed with career development; with keeping a healthy relationship with our spouse; with raising our children; and with all of the other pressures that face young adults. No wonder most of us find it extremely difficult to “slow down” and truly appreciate life during this parenting period. However, there are certain critical points in your life when you suddenly come face-to-face with the reality that the most important things in your life are not things at all. What really matters are the relationships you have with your loved ones. For me, one of those moments of awareness took place when I became a grandparent for the first time and I found that my whole approach to the world around me changed.
   The other night, after the radio show, I was reflecting upon some of the things Kevin and I discussed and my thoughts turned to a story I once read called “The Hymnbook”, written by a man named Arthur Bowler. I would like to share it with you at this time.
  Mr. Bowler wrote about an incident that occurred during his childhood. “I watched intently as my little brother was caught in the act. He sat in the corner of the living room, a pen in one hand and my father’s hymnbook in the other. As father walked into the room, my brother cowered slightly. He sensed that he had done something wrong. From a distance, I saw that he had opened Dad/s brand-new book and scribbled across the length and breadth of the entire first page with a pen. Now, staring at my father fearfully, he and I both waited for his punishment.

   My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully, and then sat down without saying a word. Books were precious to him. He was a pastor and the holder of several degrees. For him, books were knowledge, and yet, he loved his children. What he did in the next few minutes was remarkable.

   Instead of punishing my brother; instead of scolding or yelling or reprimanding, he sat down, took the pen from my brother’s hand and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles John had made.

    “John’s words in 1959, age two. How many times have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal? You have made the book sacred, as have your brothers and sister too so much of my life”

   Wow, I thought. This is punishment?

   From time to time I take a book down—not just a cheezy paperback, but a real book that I know I will have for many years to come—and I give it to one of my children to ‘write’ their names in. As I look at their artwork, I think of my father, and how he taught me about what really matters in life: people, not objects; tolerance, not judgement; and love, which is at the heart of a family. I think about these things, smile, and I whisper, “Thank you, Dad.”

   People, tolerance and love—the things that really matter in life. Parents have an awesome responsibility to help their children grow up to show respect to others and to behave in a socially acceptable manner. We also have a responsibility to demonstrate by example how to treat all people with tolerance and love.

   Have a good week!     



"Ways To Keep People Guessing About Your Level of Sanity"

October 13, 2008

    I’ve met a lot of former students in the seven years since I retired from my career as an elementary school teacher and I always find it fascinating to listen to what they remember about being in my classroom. Many of them remind me about the number of essays and short stories I made them write. More often than not, however, we talk about the “learning environment” I was able to create in the room. We talk about the manner in which I was able to maintain a consistent level of discipline and respect without coming across as being heavy-handed and threatening.
   When asked to explain how I was able to maintain control of the classroom for 28 years and yet still be able to make education fun for the most part, I tell people that I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I kept my students guessing about my level of sanity.
   Yes. You read it correctly. I didn’t make a mistake. You see my students never really knew how to take me. We would often engage in learning activities that were “outside the box”. And from time to time I would have to appear to “snap” to regain control of students who were getting out of hand. This ability to change instantly, in a Jekyl & Hyde kind of way, allowed me to do a lot of things with my students that were far more fun and interesting than otherwise suggested. When things began to get a bit out of hand I could usually regain control of the class because students had a hard time telling whether I was joking or serious. In fact, there were times when I had to tell the students to stand up while I repeated a joke because the first time I told it they were in their seats and the punch line went right “over their heads”. Some remember how I would I hand out pencils with no eraser and tell them it was an experiment to find out how long it would take them to decide which end to sharpen.
   So when I came across the following list on the internet recently, I knew I just had to share it with my readers. If you have a good sense of humour and want to have fun at work (please don’t do things like this at school or you may get in trouble), try a few of these and let me know how things turn out.

   1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.

   2. Page yourself over the intercom but don’t disguise your voice. See the reaction.

   3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

   4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “In”.

   5. In the memo field of all of your cheques, write, “For smuggling diamonds.” 

   6. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

   7. Order a diet water whenever you go out to eat. Remember to keep a serious face.

   8. Specify that your drive-through order is “to go”.

   9. Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.

   10. When money comes out of the ATM, scream, “I won! I won!

   I’m sure many of you have other ideas that would produce the same results as the above. If you have any you would like to share, please send them to The Vision and perhaps I can publish “List #2” before Christmas.

   The bottom line is that life is too precious to take seriously all the time. It is important for all of us to have a few healthy strategies for dealing with day to day stress. Every now and then we just have to do something that keeps people on their toes. Ask your waitress how much your next pizza costs per square inch. The next time you are walking on a busy street corner stare into the sky and see how many others do the same as they walk by.  The next time you are in a crowded elevator, face the back instead of the door. Just remember that there is nothing wrong with “keeping people guessing about your level of sanity.” It makes life a whole lot more interesting.
   Have a good week!



 "Time For Quiet Reflection This Weekend As We Give Thanks"

October 6, 2008

  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays. Even though it has traditionally been a weekend when I try to put everything in the yard away for the winter in preparation for the long cold months ahead, I find I still have time to do a lot of reflection about my own life and the things about my life that I have to be thankful for.
   Every year as I approach Thanksgiving Weekend I recall a little story that illustrates just how easy it is to take the things we have for granted. Let me share this story with you before I make a few comments afterwards.
   “One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor some people can be. They spent a couple of days and  nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

    On their return from the country, the father asked his son how he liked the trip. The son replied, “It was great, Dad.”

   “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

   “Oh, yeah,” said the son.

   “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

   The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our back yard and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve each other. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”

   With this the boy’s father was speechless.

   Then his son added, “Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are.”

   I love this story! It reminds me of the number of times I have been guilty of overlooking all of the good things I have in my life and instead concentrating on what I don’t have? I’m sure this applies to all of my readers in some ways.
   We’re obviously aware that one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. Just look at the yard sales in the summer. Thousands of people go from one yard sale to another finding treasures that others are willing to part with. Value is all based on one’s perspective.  In the story, the father thought he was the rich person with all that his wealth could buy. However, in the eyes of his son, the family on the farm had things that were of immense value. They were the wealthy family.
   This weekend I am going to spend a few moments in quiet reflection about what is truly important to me. I extend an invitation to all of my readers to do the same. Make a list of all the things in your life that you could live without. Be honest and true to your self. For example, if, for some reason, you were taken off the face of the earth today, what would you miss the most?
   We have all accumulated many possessions over the years, but when all is said and done, I think you will discover that what you would miss the most are not things at all. You will miss the people in your life and the loving relationships you developed most of all. The expensive cars, clothes and houses will mean nothing when you look back on your life. What you will miss the most are your loved ones. The people who truly care about you and the people with whom you look forward to sharing your precious moments on this earth.

   And so as we head into Thanksgiving Weekend, let’s all take a little bit of time to look at the things in our life that others would consider valuable but for which we may have long taken for granted. Let’s also spend some time looking closely at the people around us and see what “makes their life so rich”.
   Above all, let’s all show appreciation for the parts of our life that we would miss the most if they were taken away from us. And let’s tell the people who are closest to us just how much we appreciate their love.   

   Have a good week!



"Valley East The Town Where People Are Free To Follow Their Own Path"

September 29, 2008

  I had an interesting phone interview last week with a young man named Maxwell Leighton. Max is a writer for a local quarterly magazine.  He is currently working on a feature article about Valley East . We spoke for about an hour, discussing the history of the community and touching upon some of the main characteristics that make Valley East such a special place to live.
   Max grew up in
Southern Ontario , but he spends a lot of time in the Hanmer area. As such, he has been developing a fondness and appreciation of what the Town of Valley East has to offer from an outsider’s perspective.  In fact, he sincerely believes that he would one day like to call Valley East his home.

   We spoke a lot about the positive things that Valley East has to offer to all age groups from all walks of life. In my attempt to try to define what it is specifically that makes Valley East so attractive, I simply had to tell Max that our greatest strength as a community is that we allow everyone living here to “define themselves”. In other words, we don’t force people to fit into any one particular life style.  We allow people to develop their own personal identity and character in a very comfortable, secure and accepting environment.

   Valley East is a great place to raise a family; a great place to start a business; a great place for finding satisfaction in recreational, cultural or sports fields; in other words, it is a great place to grow and develop, regardless of your personal preferences or goals. Growth also means progress. If you are looking to improve yourself spiritually, intellectually, psychologically, socially, culturally, physically – or in any other way you can think of, Valley East will offer you that opportunity to achieve your goals and dreams.

   Moreover, Valley East is a place where you can grow and discover your own passions in life without feeling that you are being forced to conform to a pre-determined “identity”. Valley East therefore is a community of individuals, each with the freedom to develop their own particular personality. That is in fact our true identity! Valley East is a community that doesn’t define the individuals who live here; the individuals who live here define Valley East !
   After we finished our interview, I hung up the phone and recalled a story I like to tell young people who feel that they can find something better than what Valley East has to offer.
The story is called
, “The Golden Windows”.
   There was once a young boy living on a farm which seemed like it was so far away from everywhere. He needed to get up before sunrise every morning to start his chores and then go out again later to do the evening ones. During sunrise he would take a break and climb up on the fence so in the distance he could see the house with golden windows. He thought how great it would be to live there and his mind would wander to imagine the modern equipment and appliances that might exist in the house.
   "If they can afford golden windows, then they must have other nice things too." He promised himself that some day he would go there and see this wonderful place for himself.
   Then one morning his father told him he could take the day off and stay home to play while his father did the chores around the farm. Knowing that this was his chance, he packed a sandwich and headed across the field towards the house with the golden windows.
   As the afternoon went on, he began to realize how he had misjudged the distance, but something else was also very wrong. As he approached the house, he saw no golden windows, but instead a place with a broken down fence. He went to the tattered screen door and knocked. A boy very close to his own age opened the door.
   He asked him if he has seen the house with the golden windows. The boy said, "Sure, I know." and invited him to sit on the porch. As he sat there, he looked back from where he just came where the sunset turned the windows on his own home to Gold.
   The message in this story is pretty clear. Regardless of your age or personal circumstance, what appears in life to be "golden" is sometimes just an illusion. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of things about living in Valley East that people in other places would love. To them, you are the lucky ones. You have everything they are looking for - all you have to do is look at things the right way.
   In the story, the first boy saw the sun reflecting on the distant windows each morning. To him, that was the place where all the riches lie. To the other boy, who saw the sun reflecting on the first boy’s windows as the sun set in the evening that was where the riches must surely lie. It’s all a matter of perception.
   I want to thank Max for contacting me by phone last week and helping me see my own “golden windows” right here in Valley East .      

   Have a good week!


Never Be Too Busy To Respond With Kindness And Compassion To Strangers"

September 22, 2008

   Just the other day I was walking through the mall on my way to a meeting when a stranger stopped me and asked for directions to one of the local churches. The hallway was crowded and there were many people she could have approached, but she picked me out of the crowd over all of the others. After I provided her with the information she was looking for, I continued on my way to the meeting. I was three minutes later than I had been before stopping to help out this stranger, but I felt a whole lot better about myself. I also realized that even though I was the one helping this stranger, in her own way she also had a profound impact on me.
   The incident reminded me about a story I read several years ago. As you read the story, keep in mind the saying made famous by a former country music singer, “There is no such thing as a stranger, just a friend I haven’t met.”

   It was a bitter, cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.

  He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.”

   Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure thing. Hop aboard.” Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.

   As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night; you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and left you there?

   The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied. “I’ve been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.” The old-timer continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”

   Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply. “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man. “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”

   It made me feel special inside to know that out of all of the other people in the hallway that day, a stranger ‘knew’ that if she stopped me I would likely help her. She felt confident enough to step forward and reach out to me – none of the others. For the remainder of the day I kept thinking about what the old man had said in the story, “When I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.” I hope I never lose that look of kindness and compassion. Nor do I ever want strangers to feel uncomfortable about approaching me for help.

   As you go about your business the rest of the week, use your eyes to talk to the people you meet. Show them that you care, even if ever so slightly. The person at the counter of the corner store; the carry-out person at the grocery store; the parking lot attendant; and any other person, young or old, male or female, who happens to cross paths with you for any reason, are all just “friends you have not met”. Show them with your eyes that you respect them and make them feel like they too have met a new friend. Make them understand that you “welcome the opportunity to give them assistance in their time of need.”

   Have a good week!


Uncommon Decency Is All Around Us If We Look Hard Enough"

September 15, 2008

   It is easy to become disillusioned about the world in which we live if you watch too much television or read too many newspapers with the emphasis on our weaknesses as a human race, and our inability to treat one another with common decency. Everyone seems to be in a constant battle for supremacy where there no rules, only survivors – winners and losers.
   And yet, if we look hard enough we can all find examples of what I call “uncommon decency”. These are examples of people helping each other and looking out for each other with no expectation of getting anything in return other than the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference. If you turn off the television and take the time to truly observe other human beings in action, it will surprise you to learn that this truly is a great world in which we live and that there are wonderful people all around who do reach out to others with a level of care and commitment that is too often overshadowed by the high profile negative elements that we have come to expect through the media.
  I want to share a story I have in my files that demonstrates just what I mean. This is about a young lady named
Sara Tucholsky, a 5-foot-2-inch softball player who was in her senior year for Western Oregon University . She was playing in a big game with Central Washington University . Both teams were vying for the Division II NCAA playoffs. Sara, who was batting less than .200 all season, hit the ball over the fence with two runners on.
   She had never hit a ball out of the park before, even in practice. She was so excited, she missed first base. Realizing this, she turned to go back but collapsed in agony as her knee gave out. Her first-base coach yelled that she had to crawl back to first base because if anyone on Sara's team touched her, she'd be out and her home run would be nullified. Her coach encouraged her to try to crawl around the other bases to preserve her home run, but it was out of the question.
   That's when the star player on the other team, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if she and a teammate could carry Sara around the bases. It was an unprecedented request from an opponent fighting for a playoff berth, but the rules allowed it. Without hesitation, Mallory and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Sara and carried her, lowering her to touch each base with her good leg.
   To Mallory it was simple: "In the end, it's not about winning and losing so much; it was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and deserved a home run."
   Mallory was right. It's just common decency.
   Sadly, such kindness isn't common at all in sports, and that's why all the coaches, players, and spectators who were stunned by this spontaneous act of sportsmanship wept. And that's how Mallory became a national hero. By the way, her team lost 4-2, but in my eyes, everyone won.
   Closer to home, my daughter-in-law, Angele, told us that just the other day she was preparing my granddaughter for her first day of school by bringing her to the edge of the driveway so she could see the school bus go by in the morning. This was the same bus she would be taking in a couple of days. They noticed a young girl a few houses down, crying and holding on to her mother, begging to stay home. As the little girl finally was put on the bus, still crying, my four-year old granddaughter, who herself had never ridden on one of these huge vehicles, turned to Angele and said, “Don’t worry mom. I will help her feel better when I go on the bus.”
   The story about Mallory and her teammate helping an opponent in need and the words from my four-year old grandchild give me the strength and inspiration to go forward in my own life, in search of opportunities to demonstrate “uncommon decency” to others. Perhaps if we all look for ways to reach out to others in the same way we can go back to the future when decency wasn’t uncommon at all.
   Have a good week!

Wow! My Granddaughter Is Going to School Already"

September 9, 2008

   This may be a very stressful time of year for many parents who are sending their young children off to school for the first time. As a parent myself who was also a teacher, I never really felt a great deal of anxiety when my own children started school. After all, I had other things to worry about what with getting my own class in order.
   But let me tell you, as a grandfather, witnessing my oldest granddaughter take her first step into that world of formal education, it is the most frightening thing I have ever been through. So if parents feel the same way, I can certainly relate.
   It’s not that I have any doubt about the abilities of the teachers at her school. She is going to be in the best of care as she begins Junior Kindergarten. I even know her teacher and her principal personally and it is a marvelous school she will be attending. It’s just that I am fully aware that she is now entering a “system” that for the next 18 or more years will be having a significant impact on molding her into a young adult.  Moreover, it is system from which she cannot escape and which will require her to go through so many emotional and personal challenges as she tries to tries to discover her true passions in life.
   As I think about my granddaughter beginning school I can’t help thinking about an article I once read about processionary caterpillars.  

   Processionary caterpillars travel in long, twisting lines, one creature behind the other. A famous social scientist once lead a group of these caterpillars on to the rim of a large flowerpot so that the leader of the procession eventually found itself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.
   Through sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible for all to see, but it was outside the range of the circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path until they all died.
   Now I realize it is hard to get emotional about a small group of caterpillars that were unable to see that the key to their survival was simply a matter of breaking out of the line and moving over to the food that was within sight. However, the really sad thing about this article is that human beings often behave in a similar manner. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become so deeply entrenched that it seems easier and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change and uncertainty, even when that change may give you a good chance for freedom, achievement, and success.
   It's extremely difficult for most people to accept that only a small minority of people ever really develop a true vision about life, about living abundantly and successfully. For some strange reason most people are content to wait passively for success to come to them - like the caterpillars going around in circles, waiting for sustenance, following nose to tail - living as other people are living in the unspoken, implied assumption that other people somehow know more than you about how to live successfully. The older you get the more you realize that most other people, especially people who are deemed to be experts in their field, “don’t have a clue”. They are simply blindly following, nose-to-tail, just like the processionary caterpillar.
   And so as my granddaughter begins the first step in a journey that will last at least 18 years, my only hope is that the teachers to whom she is entrusted have the confidence to break out of the line every now and then to help her develop her own true vision of life. I hope her journey does not go the way of the processionary caterpillar.
   I truly believe that you can achieve anything you want in life if you have the courage to dream it, the intelligence to make a realistic plan, and the will to see that plan through to the end. This is what I hope my granddaughter learns while she is going to school. This is the essence of all learning and education. This is the legacy of all good teachers. 

   Have a good week!


Choosing A Life That Matters

August 18, 2008

   Please allow me to share a little passage with you that I have found helpful in keeping things that happen in my life in their proper perspective. I like to look at this short verse whenever I need motivation in dealing with circumstances that may be holding me back from my dream of living a life that truly matters. I have not been able to identify the author, but I am sure he/she will be happy to know that it is being used to help other people in this world.

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So too your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.  So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built. Not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

   George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming circumstance for what they are. I do not believe in circumstance. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstance they want and if they can't find them they make them."
   I once heard a motivational speaker named Bob Proctor explain that, “Successful people use circumstances to catapult them on toward their goal, while the masses use them as road blocks. A circumstance may cause a detour in your life but you should never permit it to stop you.”
   Over the years I can honestly say that the greatest obstacle to achieving success for many people I came in contact with came down to the use of the circumstances of their life as an excuse for not following their dreams. And yet, I have also witnessed many people turn those very same circumstances around into something positive and find ways to accomplish their goals. It all boils down to the making a simple decision. You just have to set your goal and then find a way to get it done.
   The first thing I do when I have an opportunity to work with young students in high school, college or university is ask them to describe what they would like to do with their life after they finish up with their formal education. It is imperative that they choose the type of career they would like to pursue so that they have something on which to focus.
   I learned long ago that no matter what your age, or what your situation in life, if you don’t have a goal, nothing else matters. It’s like saying that you want to go on a vacation but you don’t know where you would like to go. Once you decide where you want to go it is easy to determine what you must do to get there. Without a destination you can spend the entire trip traveling in the wrong direction and be further away from your eventual destination.
   It’s the same way with everything that is important in life. Once you make a decision; once you know what you want to do and where you would like to end up, you can use the circumstances of your life to help achieve your goals. We all have it in us to be successful. All we have to do is make a choice and then go for it.
   Have a good week!



The Brownie Recipe  

July 21, 2008

   Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world. The older your children get the more challenges you face in the establishment of an acceptable level of standards for your family while the rest of the world seems to be adopting an “anything goes” way of life. So when the following story came across my desk the other day I immediately knew I had to share it with all fellow parents, grandparents and teachers who read this column. If you are a teenager, my advice is that you hide this copy of The Vision Paper from your parents or you will never win another argument with them again.

   The story is called, “The Brownie Recipe”. |
   A father of some teenage children had the family rule that they could not attend PG-13, R or X rated movies. His three teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that was playing at local theaters. It was rated PG-13. 
   The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their family's church to find out what was offensive in the movie. The teens made a list of pros and cons about the movie to use to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it.
The cons were:
    It contained ONLY 3 swear words! The ONLY violence was a building exploding (and you see that on TV all the time they said). You actually did not 'see' the couple in the movie having sex. It was just implied sex, off camera.
The pros were:

   It was a popular movie, (a blockbuster). Everyone was seeing it. If the teens saw the movie then they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The movie contained a good story and plot. It had some great adventure and suspense in it. There were some fantastic special effects in this movie. The movie's stars were some of the most talented actors in Hollywood . It probably would be nominated for several awards. Many members of their Christian church, including the pastor, had even seen the movie and said it wasn't really 'that bad'.
   Therefore, since there were more pros than cons the teens asked their father to reconsider his position on just this ONE movie and let them have permission to go see it.
   The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes He said he could tell his children had spent some time and thought on this request. He asked if he could have a day to think about it before making his decision.
   The teens were thrilled, thinking; 'Now we've got him! Our argument is too good! Dad can't turn us down!' So, they happily agreed to let him have a day to think about their request.
   The next evening the Father called his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. There on the coffee table he had a plate of brownies. The teens were puzzled. The father told his children he had thought about their request and had decided that if they would eat the brownies, then he would let them go to the movie. But, he explained, just like the movie, the brownies had pros and cons.

The pros were:

   They were made with the finest chocolate and other good ingredients. They had the added special effect of yummy walnuts in them. The brownies were moist and fresh with wonderful chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an award-winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been made lovingly by the hand of their own father.
   The brownies only had one con:

   He had included a little bit of a special ingredient: the brownies contained just a small amount of dog poop. But he had mixed the dough well and they probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop and he had baked it at 350 degrees so hopefully any bacteria or germs from the dog poop had probably been destroyed.
   Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the brownies which included just a 'little bit of crap' and not be affected by it, then he knew they would also be able to see the movie with 'just a little bit of smut' and not be affected.
   Of course, none of the teens would eat the brownies and the smug smiles had left their faces. Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he KNOWS THEY SHOULDN'T BE DOING the father just asks, 'Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?'
   I think this story speaks for itself. I encourage all parents to keep a copy of this handy and use it when needed.
   Have a good week!



Knowing Where To Look Comes From Years of Experience  

July 14, 2008

   Hardly a week goes by without at least one person telling me how lucky I am to be retired. Then I tell them what I am doing with my time and they quickly understand that the word “retired” is not in my vocabulary. In fact, I feel as do many other people of my generation, that our traditional retirement years are going to become the true “defining period” for the baby boomers as they emerge from their “primary careers” and enter what I like to refer to as the “age of significance” . This is going to be a time of their life when older adults who are over the age of 50 will truly be appreciated for the knowledge, wisdom and experience they have accumulated.
   I often recall the story about the head office of a large national company that had problems with its computer network system a few years ago. Something went wrong with the network one day and no one in the office could find the problem. The IT department tried everything possible and still the system couldn’t be restored. Not only were the existing files unable to be accessed, the staff couldn’t communicate with other business clients and the company was losing $250,000 a day in revenue while their computers were out of commission.
   The Office Manager contacted several computer consulting companies and one by one they came in to look at the system and were equally baffled at the problem. No one, it seemed, could come up with the solution and get the system back up and running.
   Then in one final attempt, the Office Manager called the phone number of a “retired” computer engineer who had decided to open up a little business and run it on a part-time basis out of his home. This individual did not have the resources of some of the larger companies that had been unsuccessful in solving the problem, but the computers had been down for four days and had cost the company over $1 million in lost revenue by this time. The Office Manager was desperate and so as a last resort called the older consultant.
   The “retired” computer engineer arrived and was shown the system. He examined the master control room and then walked directly over and unplugged one of the computers in the main office. Immediately the entire network system was back on line and working properly allowing everyone to get back to work.
   He went up to the Office Manager and said, “Get rid of that computer and you won’t have any more problems.”
   Three days later the Office Manager received an invoice from the consultant in the amount of $10,000. The Manager was furious at the ridiculous amount of the bill and demanded an explanation as to why the bill was so high for less than 20 minutes of work. The consultant agreed to revise the invoice and itemize the charges.
   A couple of days later the Office Manager received another invoice with the total amount broken down as follows. “$100 for making the trip to your office to do the repairs; $9,900 for knowing where to look.” Total charge of $10,000.
   I think this story is a perfect explanation of the value older adults will provide to society in the decades to come. You can’t teach experience. It is something that you earn and accumulate over time. In my own case I find I am able to take on so many different things right now precisely because for the past 58 years I have been learning “where to look” and “what to do”. I find I can get a lot more done than I could when I was younger simply because of the knowledge, wisdom and experience I have collected over the years.
   Most baby boomers and older adults are capable of the same. That is why so many of them taking on part-time jobs and new careers at an age which is traditionally known for “retirement”. A life of travelling, golf, fishing and relaxing is being replaced with a life of significance and fulfillment as older adults are able to put their wisdom to work. We are a generation that doesn’t have to work harder – we work smarter!
   The message for the younger generation is clear. Learn from the years of experience of the older adults around you. The future that awaits will be more demanding upon that one precious commodity that can’t be increased or produced artificially – TIME. And the people who will be able to get the most out of their time are the ones who “know where to look” and “what to do”. You can learn a lot from older adults if you know how to listen.
   Have a good week!


Applying The Chaos Theory To Life…  

July 7, 2008

   Edward Lorenz was a 90-year old professor at the Michigan Institute of Technology who died this past spring. The associated press, when reporting his death, stated, “Professor Lorenz’s discovery of “deterministic chaos” brought about one of the most dramatic changes in mankind’s view of nature since Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity.” Dr. Lorenz received the 1991 Kyoto Prize for basic sciences.
   Dr. Lorenz became known as the father of the famed “chaos theory” in the 1960’s when he came up with the concept that small effects lead to big changes. He called this the “butterfly effect”. His theory explained how something as minuscule as a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil changes the constantly moving atmosphere in ways that could trigger tornados in Texas . Meteorologists today base many of their forecasts on his techniques.
   As the story goes, Dr. Lorenz inadvertently ran what seemed like the same calculations through a computer twice and came up with vastly different answers. When he tried to figure out what happened, he noticed that a slight decimal point change – less than 0.0001 – wound up leading to a significant error. That error led to his theory of the butterfly effect.
   The concept of small changes turning into big effects influenced many basic sciences, but it also explained a lot about relationships, sports and many other things that occur in life.
   Even something like a simple smile affects the behaviour of both the sender and the receiver. The person doing the smiling may just be expressing a friendly gesture, yet to the receiver it may mean a whole lot more; it may even change a person’s whole outlook on life knowing that someone actually cares enough to smile at them.
   Small things always make a difference in sports. How the pitcher holds the seams of the ball on his fingers will affect the delivery, movement, and speed of the ball differently than if he doesn’t hold the seams. He could throw a two-seam fastball, a slider, or a splitter depending upon his ever so slight adjustments.
   This small difference in how the ball is held will dramatically affect the batter’s behavior once the ball crosses the plate. If the batter connects, the behavior of the outfield changes. The base runners will stay or go. Umpires will quickly move to different positions on the field. Thousands in the stand will scream, stand, cheer, or moan. And it all started with how the pitcher gripped the seams of the ball. Small things make a difference.
   As individuals, we should always be looking for ways to apply the ‘chaos theory’ or more commonly known as the ‘butterfly effect’ in our day to day activities. At work, should you make one more sales call before calling it a day? Should you comment on how nice the store clerk’s new uniform looks or keep it to yourself and say nothing? Should you go to your child’s open house or spend the time cleaning the dishes? Should you send one more email to a friend you haven’t contacted in months or should you wait for her to contact you first? Should you answer the phone or let the answering machine get the message and check it out later on? Should you phone your own parents today, or put it off until you have more time?
   These all seem like small, miniscule things at the time and often seem like they would have no more effect on your life than a butterfly flapping its wings. However, one thing always leads to another. Then another. And another. You change your own behavior whenever you act. But you also change the behaviors, knowledge, and goals of others by your butterfly actions. Small things lead to big results down the road.
   So the next time you find yourself wondering if what you are doing will have any effect on the total outcome of your life or the lives of others, just remember Dr. Lorenz and the butterfly wings. No matter what you do; no matter how insignificant an action may seem to you at the time, it is going to have a huge impact on the rest of your life and on the rest of the lives of those people around you. Don’t take anything you say or do lightly. Everything you do or say is important, so make sure that the impact of your actions and words create the kind of ‘chaos’ that will have positive results.
   Have a good week!


We Are All Being Used For A Higher Purpose In This Life… 

June 30, 2008

   The summer vacation period has officially arrived! We are now into the month of July and for many of us it means that we can slow down and relax a bit as we reflect upon a few of the more important philosophical questions of the day. Questions such as "What is the meaning of all of this? Where is it leading to? What difference am I making?"
    Whenever I find myself asking those questions, I recall the story about a man who worked as a carpenter during the Great Depression. One day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to an orphanage in
China . On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what had happened. The glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were now heading for China !
  The carpenter had six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair, especially during the height of the depression. "It's not fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration. "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this...”
   Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the
United States . He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China , so he came to speak one Sunday at the carpenter's church. The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage. "But most of all," he said, "I must thank the people of this parish for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top."
   The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued. "Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that."
   The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.
   The truth is that we are all being used by the Master Carpenter in extraordinary ways of which we may never ever be aware. Imagine how often you may have done something which had a profound affect upon the life of someone else; something of which you had no idea, much like the carpenter in the story. If the missionary had never visited the
United States , the carpenter would never have known what a difference his lost glasses made. Things like this happen all the time. Giving directions to a stranger which helps him get to his destination safely; helping an elderly woman carry out her grocery bags; consoling a friend who has just lost a loved one; smiling at the attendant at the take-out window; and many other little things that we take for granted. Who knows what may have happened to the stranger if he had become lost; to the elderly woman if she had fallen down and broken a leg; to the friend who felt as if there was nothing left to live for; or to the attendant at the take-out window who was feeling the tremendous pressures of having to work two or three jobs to support her young baby.
   You never know just how the Master Carpenter works. But you do know how often people in your life have made a difference, and how you felt when you were on the receiving end. And just think of how often the person who reached out to you had absolutely no idea just how much their act of kindness meant to you. Well, you too reach out to others, and you too, often do so without realizing the full value of your gesture.
   So, next time you are feeling a bit philosophical and wonder if you are making any kind of difference in this world, just remember the Carpenter's glasses, and remind yourself that you are being used in extraordinary ways to provide a real service to the people in your life. You may not know it, but you are definitely making a difference and it does matter that you are here on this earth.
   Have a good week!


Preparing For The Rain... 

June 23, 2008

    Summer vacation is now into full swing for all students in secondary and post-secondary schools of the Greater Sudbury Area. For many, this time away from their studies provides them with an opportunity to pave the way for a great future. This editorial will be of particular interest to all students who have summer jobs as well as all parents of those children. It will also bring back memories for everyone else who can remember the first job they ever had.
    As I was going through some old photos recently, I came across a picture of myself in my back yard at Lively the day I received my first pay from my very first summer job. I was 17 years old at the time and was hired as a labourer for McConnell & Sons Pipe Fitters. We were working at the INCO smelter in Copper Cliff. With that particular company we were paid in cash every Friday, so you may be able to make out the wad of bills in my hand. I don’t think I ever worked so hard or got so dirty in any other job I have ever held. Perhaps that was the summer I decided to become a teacher.
   The photo reminded me of a story about two farmers who were praying for rain during a particularly dry spell one summer. They were both very devout Christians and felt that if they prayed hard enough, God would help them by providing enough rain for them to grow enough food on which to survive during the winter. Every morning the two farmers would meet at the Church to pray. Then they would return to their respective farms. The first farmer would sit on the porch in his rocking chair, looking into the sky for clouds that might signal the end of the drought. The second farmer would spend the entire day “preparing his soil” for the rain. He wanted everything to be ready for when God answered their prayers and delivered the rain. Which farmer do you think God helped the most?
   My grandmother’s favourite saying was, “God helps those who help themselves. Pray as if everything depends upon God, but act as if everything depends upon you.” Both farmers prayed to God to get help in the form of rain, but only one of them actually went out and prepared for the rain.
   Students who have summer jobs are all in fact preparing for “rain” that will one day take them to a bright and prosperous future by developing on-the-job transferable skills that will remain with them forever. It doesn’t matter how much research you do about a career. It doesn’t matter how many courses you take at college or university. It doesn’t matter how many books you read. NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING will mean as much to your future happiness and satisfaction as an individual as the experience you gain from your summer jobs.
   If you are a parent with a child who is fortunate enough to have a summer job, show him/her this editorial and talk about the summer jobs you had when you were young. Share your experiences and help your child understand just how important your summer jobs were in the development of who you are now. Make your child understand that it is up to him/her to prepare his/her own “field” for the time when the “rain will surely come”, just like the farmer in the story.  If you just sit back and wait for your future to arrive on its own, you are no better than the farmer looking up into the cloudless sky. When the rains finally do come, the farmer won’t be ready.
   So no matter what kind of summer job you may have this year, remember that you only get out of this life what you put into it. Use the time to learn everything you can about responsibility and commitment. Prepare the way for your future and you will be ready when the rain comes to help you grow into all you can be.
   Have a good week!


We Are Stronger When We Work Together 

June 16, 2008

   The title of this week’s “reflection” may seem a bit obvious. Of course we all know that we are stronger when we work together, but if that is the case, then why don’t we do it more often.
   Last week I watched Phil Landry of Nature’s Haven Parkland Estates & Condominiums talk to reporters during the media event that was held to introduce his residential project to the general public. You can find a story about the event in another section of this week’s Vision Paper so I won’t go into all of the details. As I listened to him explain why he and his wife, Louise decided to begin their ambitious development it became evident to me that this was a man who had a dream fuelled by an intense passion for fulfilling that dream. He is also very clearly a man who plans on doing whatever he can to achieve his goals while at the same time helping others around him accomplish their own goals as well.
   Phil stated convincingly that he hopes all other developers in
Valley East are able to sell their own lots and homes and that the Valley will remain the fastest growing section of the region. He truly believes that everyone can be successful and achieve their goals while providing for the needs of the people in this community. In other words, if we all work hard to help each other we will all have a better chance of succeeding. He has not created Nature’s Haven Parkland Estates to take business away from others. He has created his development so that some people can have a wonderful place to live.
   It reminds me of the story about the farmer who had a reputation for growing prize-winning corn. Every year he entered his corn in the county fair and every year he walked away with the first place ribbon. One day he was asked by a reporter to reveal his secret.
   The farmer stated that each year he would take enough seeds from his harvest so that he could plant another crop the following spring. That way he would always be planting the seeds from his prize-winning crop. However, the reporter was astonished at what the farmer said next. The farmer said, “I then give each of my neighbours enough of my seed to plant on their farms as well. I realized a long time ago that in order for my own corn to grow strong and healthy it was important that the crops around me were also strong and healthy.”
   In keeping with that same philosophy, another local business, Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre, is planning on working with other businesses in the community to develop an effective way for them to network and communicate with each other. Grill Marks is going to create a year-round centre that will help all businesses grow stronger together by giving them a place where they can meet each other and also provide for the needs of their clients and customers. Grill Marks has more information about this in another section of this paper.
   Once again, it demonstrates the power of working together. Just consider for example, how easy it is to tear a phone book in half when you tear the pages one at a time. However, take a whole phone book at once and try to tear it in half when all of the pages are together. It is almost impossible.
   And so, through the efforts of people like Phil Landry of Nature’s Haven, the ownership group of Grill Marks Bistro, and the Charette’s of The Vision Paper, we can all be inspired to join together as one large business network, looking out for each other and sincerely striving to help each other succeed. We are much stronger when we work together. If we try to go it alone, we are easy to destroy, just as it is easy to tear apart a phone book, one page at a time. Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder about how strong we can be when we stick together.
   And so, as we move forward as a community, let’s all remember that we are in this as partners. If we all show support for our local businesses they will be in a better position to provide for our needs as consumers.
Valley East is on the verge of some pretty exciting developments and I think we will all be amazed at how much we can achieve – together.
   Have a good week!

The Tipping Point Has Been Reached 

June 9, 2008

   Malcolm Gladwell is the author of a book called “The Tipping Point”. He defines a “tipping point” as a “magic moment when a trend crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Keep this definition in mind as you read the rest of the article.
   My wife and I moved to
Valley East in 1974. We raised three sons in this town and are now watching our two granddaughters being raised by our oldest son and his wife. There have been many changes to Valley East during those 34 years. In fact, it has been argued for a long time that this has been the fastest growing segment of the region.
   During the past five years in particular, we have indeed witnessed an emerging trend as more and more families have chosen to set up residence in
Valley East . Subdivisions have been rapidly expanding with new homes being built continuously in that time.
   We have also watched our retail sector grow a lot during the past few years. The Hart Department Store arrived at the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, ushering in a new era of development which saw Canadian Tire, Marks Work Wearhouse and Shopper’s Drug Mart soon set up their facilities in what is becoming the “power centre” of the Valley. The retail establishments in Val Caron have continued to maintain their level of activity and local residents realize that they now have pretty much everything they need to meet their personal and family needs.
   Our social and recreational growth has also been phenomenal. Some of this growth is a direct result of The Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre emerging as a “community centre” with local organizations utilizing the indoor facility as a place for registering soccer, hockey, baseball, ringette, swimming and many other activities. Schools, churches and groups are using the site as a place to hole their penny table, bake table and raffles as they raise funds to help support their various initiatives. Even the seniors of the community are using the shopping centre to gather and meet on a regular basis to keep in touch or just to enjoy walking around in climate-controlled comfort.
   Personally, even though I have lived through the trends of the past 34 years, I have never been as excited about the growth of
Valley East as I am right at this moment.
   There are two big reasons for this excitement, and my understanding of how the “tipping point” phenomena works gives me even more reason to believe that we definitely have arrived at the “Tipping Point” in
Valley East . From this point forward we are going to experience growth in this community the likes of which we have never seen before.
   About two months ago I met a man with a dream. Phil Landry told me about the dream he and his wife, Louise, have had for many years. I immediately recognized the “tipping point”. You can read all about their dream in the article about Nature’s Haven in the cover story of this issue of The Vision Paper as well as on the back page. The $100 million 77 acre development in Hanmer will not only provide all of the usual economic benefits as well as additional housing for new residents, it will be the starting point for a whole domino effect of new development and expansion throughout this entire community.
   Shortly after I met with Phil Landry, I met another wonderful family in Val Caron who also have a dream. Their dream is to turn the “Clearview Golf Club” into a fantastic, multi-purpose bistro, golf and conference facility, raising our community profile even higher among a whole new market. Jim, Lynda, Christina and Tyler, along with Dave and all of the staff at Grill Marks are drawing people “back to the NEW Clearview” in droves. And people are absolutely amazed at the changes they are discovering.
   The Nature’s Haven Parkland Estates & Condominiums development in Hanmer; the Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre in Val Caron; the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre in Val Therese; and The Vision Paper are all part of the “Tipping Point”.  The trend has been here for a long time. We just needed that “magic moment”, the “tipping point” to cross the threshold. I think we have reached that “tipping point” and we are about to experience growth and expansion in
Valley East like nothing we could have ever imagined.
   Enjoy the ride during the next few years. Good things are going to happen and they are going to happen fast. I’ve always been proud to tell people I live in
Valley East , but I have never felt this pride more than I do now. This is definitely “A Place To Grow”.
    Have a good week!


Go Above And Beyond What Is Expected   

June 2, 2008

   Charles Kendall Adams was a Professor of History and an Author who died in 1902. One of his most inspirational messages lives on as a timeless reminder of what it takes to be successful in whatever it is that you are doing with your life.
   "No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction."
   I’ve read that message before, worded somewhat differently, but nonetheless with the same intent. Yet with the passing of yet “another” birthday it seems to have had more of an impact on me than usual. Another reason why it is stirring up a passionate response within is because in recent years it has become evident that many people in our society are missing out on success because they don’t understand how important it is to go “above and beyond” what is expected of you in every aspect of your life. This is the only way to get noticed and it is the only way to truly make a difference.
   No matter who I speak with, everyone has goals and dreams. It doesn’t matter if you are 10 years old or if you are 80 years old. We all have dreams. We all have visions of what we want to achieve and of how we would like our life to turn out. I’m not just talking about the “big goals”, but even things as simple as baking a cake, building a deck or painting a room.
   It is often while we are doing those “little things” that we experience the frustration and despair of knowing that our plans just haven’t turned out as we wanted or had hoped. You may have felt you had done everything you possibly could to achieve a particular goal. It may be something as simple as trying to grow flowers in your garden, or as serious as how to cultivate a better relationship with your child or spouse, or something to do with your job. Whatever the case, there comes a point when you simply feel you can’t go on any further.
    The other day someone asked me how I find the energy to do so many things with the time I have available. They asked me what it is that fuels the inner passion that makes me want to always go above and beyond what is expected of me. I told the person that a number of years ago I read an article by Jeff Keller that taught me the importance of going the distance and doing that little bit extra. I can never forget this message because twice a day I am reminded about the article.  

   The article is entitled “There’s A Lot More Left In The Tube”.  Keller wrote the following: “Every time I come to the end of a tube of toothpaste, I am completely amazed that just when I think the tube is absolutely empty, I can squeeze many more brushings out of it. I’m sure you have all gone through the same thing. I look at the seemingly empty tube in my hand, then I look at the new tube in the box, and I have to decide whether to throw away the old and open the new, or try to squeeze a few more out of the old. Without fail, just when I think the tube is absolutely empty, I get to squeeze another 12 or 15 more brushings out of it. So, next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel you just can’t go on any further, remember the "tube". It’s usually when things haven’t been working out and you feel like quitting, that you experience a major breakthrough. We can all recall times when success came when we were on our last chance or when we were doing something for the final time. It is when you dig deep down for that one last burst of energy that you find your goal.”
   Unfortunately, too many people I come across today quit too early - just before they could get around that final corner to success. All they needed to do was squeeze one more drop from the tube.
   If you have a goal; if you truly believe in yourself; and if you have the passion, enthusiasm and commitment to go for your dream; then keep squeezing that "inner tube of toothpaste" one more time. It is only when you run out of the "passion" that you will know that your "tube is empty". Just make sure that you don’t quit too soon. Success may be just around the corner. Just one more squeeze.
    Just remember that it doesn’t always take much to do more than expected. Water is hot at 99 degrees Celsius, but it only takes “one” more degree to make it boil. You may be able to get away with doing most jobs and activities with 99 degrees of effort, but all it takes is that one “extra” degree of effort to turn a good job into a great one! Go the extra degree.
   Have a good day!


Buy The Steak…Life Is Precious    

May 27, 2008

   Even though there is so much focus in the media about how the Sudbury economy is booming, I know for a fact that many people in this area are having a difficult time making ends meet. Not everyone is earning over $100,000 a year where they work and regardless of what you are making, you can’t escape the challenges that life throws at you from time to time.
   This week my thoughts are for everyone out there who has ever played the “I wish I could...” game. I know I find myself playing it often. I wish I made enough money to drive a car like that. I wish I could take exotic vacations to far off countries. I wish I could own a bigger house. I wish I could buy something nicer to wear.
   Sometimes I get into the “I wish...” mode and it takes a jolt to knock me back into reality. Then I play the “I’m glad...” game. I’m glad I have my own health. I’m glad my wife and children are all healthy. I’m glad I can see my two grandchildren every day.
   Let’s face it! Life is too short for regrets. We should all be thankful every day for who we are and what we have, instead of wishing for more or wishing that we were someone else or in someplace else. I found a little story which clearly demonstrates this message. Too many of us don’t realize just how lucky we are until it’s too late.
   The story is told by a 60 year old lady.
   “I walked into the grocery store, not particularly interested in buying groceries. I wasn’t hungry. The pain of losing Rudy, my husband of 37 years was still too raw. And this grocery store held so many sweet memories.
   Rudy often came with me and almost every time he’d pretend to go off and look for something special.
   I knew what he was up to. I’d always spot him walking down the aisle with the three yellow roses in his hands. Rudy knew I loved yellow roses.
   With a heart filled with grief, I only wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was different since Rudy had passed on.
   Shopping for one took time. It required a little more thought than it had for two. Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and remembered how Rudy had loved his steak.
   Suddenly a woman came beside me. She was blond, slim and lovely in a soft green pantsuit. I watched as she picked up a large pack of T-bones, dropped them in her basket, hesitated, and then put them back.
   She turned to go and once again reached for the pack of steaks. She saw me watching her and she smiled, “My husband loves T-bones, but honestly, at these prices, I don’t know.”
   I swallowed the emotion down my throat and met her pale blue eyes. “My husband passed away eight days ago,” I told her. Glancing at the package in her hands, I fought to control the tremble in my voice. “Buy him the steaks. And cherish every moment you have together.”
   She shook her head and I saw the emotion in her eyes as she placed the package in her basket and wheeled away.
   I turned and pushed my cart across the length of the store to the dairy products. There I stood, trying to decide which size milk I should buy. One litre, I finally decided and moved on to the ice cream section near the front of the store. If nothing else, I could always fix myself an ice cream cone. I placed the ice cream in my cart and looked down the aisle toward the front.
   I first saw the green suit, then recognized the pretty lady coming towards me. In her arms she carried a package. On her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen. I could swear a soft halo encircled her blond hair as she kept walking toward me, her eyes holding mine. As she came closer, I saw what she held and tears began misting in my eyes.
   “These are for you,” she said and placed three beautiful long-stemmed yellow roses in my arms. “When you go through the line, they will know these are paid for.” She leaned over and placed a gently kiss on my cheek, then smiled again.
   I wanted to tell her what she’d done...what the roses meant...but still unable to speak, I watched as she walked away as tears clouded my vision. I looked down at the beautiful roses nestled in the green tissue wrapping and found it almost unreal. How did she know? Suddenly the answer seemed so clear. I wasn’t alone. “Oh, Rudy, you haven’t forgotten me, have you?” I whispered, with tears in my eyes. He was still with me, and she was his angel.
   Whenever you find yourself playing the “I wish…” game, think about this story. And the next time you have to make a decision, buy the steak! Life is too precious.
   Have a good week!

Can We Ever Do Too Much For Our Children or Grandchildren?    

May20, 2008

   One of the most difficult challenges facing parents today deals with the whole area of how much you should do for your children. I don’t think there are any right answers to this parenting dilemma. If you do too much for them, they will never learn to fend for themselves. If you do too little, they will think you don’t love them. And what kind of example are you providing for them when they have children themselves?

   My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed our children. We live for them and have devoted our entire life to caring for them and being there when they need us. Now, we are thoroughly enjoying our grandchildren. We couldn’t imagine a life without being directly involved with them. Our own children have “left the nest”, but we still worry as parents and do whatever we can to help them enjoy life to the fullest and meet their own challenges, while at the same time facing new challenges as “aging baby boomers”. I have spoken to a number of parents who have looked back over the years and listed many things that they have done and accomplished, but who also seldom mention their children. Whenever my wife and I recall the high points in our life, it always involves something we have done with our children and grandchildren.

   One day I was wondering whether or not we may have made a mistake by centering our lives around our three boys and  now around our granddaughters, perhaps doing too much for and with them. Then I came across the following story and have never again questioned the decision my wife and I have made about how much we’ve been involved with our children and grandchildren.

   The story is told by a young lady speaking about her father.

“For 52 years my father got up every morning at 5:30 a.m., except Sunday, and went to work. For 52 years he returned home at 5:30 p.m., like clockwork, for dinner at 6:00 p.m. I never remember my father taking a “night out with the boys,” nor do I ever recall my father drinking heavily. All he asked from me as his daughter was to hold his hammer while he repaired something, just so we could have some time to talk to each other.

   I never saw my father home from work ill, nor did I ever see my father lay down to take a nap. He had no hobbies, other than taking care of his family.

   For 22 years, since I left home for college, my father called me every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. He was always interested in my life, how my family was doing, and I never once heard him lament about his lot in life. The calls even came when he and my mother were in Australia , England or Florida .

   Nine years ago when I purchased my first house, my father, 67 years old, spent eight hours a day for three days in the 80-degree Kansas heat, painting my house. He would not allow me to pay someone to have it done. All he asked, was a glass of iced tea, and that I hold a paint brush for him and talk to him. But I was too busy. I had a law practice to run, and I could not take the time to hold the paint brush, or talk to my father.

   Five years ago, at age 71, again in the sweltering Kansas heat, my father spent five hours putting together a swing set for my daughter. Again, all he asked was that I get him a glass of iced tea, and talk to him. But again, I had laundry to do, and the house to clean.

   Four years ago, my father drove all the way from Denver to Topeka , with an eight foot Colorado Blue Spruce in his trunk, so that my husband and I could have a part of Colorado growing on our land. I was preparing for a trip that weekend and couldn’t spend much time talking to Daddy.

The morning of Sunday, January 16, 1996, my father telephoned me as usual, this time from my sister’s home in Florida . We talked about the tree he had brought me, “Fat Albert”, but that morning he called the tree “Fat Oscar”, and he had seemed to have forgotten some things we had discussed the previous week. I had to get to church and I cut the conversation short.

   The call came at 4:40 p.m., that day. My father was in the hospital in Florida with an aneurysm. I got on an airplane immediately, and on the way, I thought of all the times I had not taken the time to talk to my father. I realized that I had no idea who he was or what his deepest thoughts were. I vowed that when I arrived, I would make up for the lost time, and have a nice long talk with him and really get to know him.

I arrived in Florida at 1 a.m.. My father had passed away at 9:12 p.m. This time it was he who did not have time to talk, or time to wait for me.

   In the years since his death I have learned much about my father, and even more about myself. As a father, he never asked me for anything but my time. Now he has all my attention, every single day.”

   So next time you feel like doing something for one of your children, go ahead and do it. The next time you feel like doing something for one of your grandchildren, go ahead and do it. Never mind if others think you are doing too much for them. They are your children and your grandchildren and you can give them as much as you want.

   Have a good week!

To All Research Associates in the Field of Child Development and Human Relations    

May 12, 2008

   Mother’s Day 2008 has come and gone. This is one day when people go out of their way to show appreciation to mothers and grandmothers by saying thank you with phone calls, gifts and spending time together. It is truly one of the most special days of the year and the attention is certainly deserved by the women upon whom we all owe our existence.  Personally, I like to wait until after the hoopla of the day has passed before paying tribute to the women who have the most important job in the world.

   This week I want to thank my good friend Cecile Coutu for sending me an email with the following little story that uses a bit of humour to demonstrate just how misunderstood and underappreciated mothers really are. Unfortunately, people in our society tend to “define” a person by what they do and where they work rather than by who they are as an individual. I admire women who have the confidence to state proudly that they are a “mom” first and foremost without feeling as if they must also have some other career title to go along with their name. For it is the role of “mother” that is the most demanding of all careers, and it is that “occupation” that should be revered above all others.

   Read the story below and see what I mean. It was told by an unknown woman who was “just a housewife”, but I think every mother in the world, whether you have a career outside the home or not, will appreciate the opportunity to use this approach at some time in the future.

   One day a woman who was renewing her driver's license was asked by the female clerk to state her occupation.  The woman hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.
   "What I mean is,” explained the recorder,  "do you have a job or are you just a ..?"
   "Of course I have a job," snapped the woman.

   "I'm a Mom."
   "We don't list 'Mom' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it,” said the recorder emphatically.

   The next time she found herself in a similar situation she was in front of a clerk at the Town Hall. The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, Town Registrar. "What is your occupation?" she probed.
    The woman wasn’t sure what made her say what followed, but for some reason the words simply popped out. "I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations."

   The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right.  
  The woman repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. Then she stared with wonder as the clerk wrote the title, “Research Associate in the Field of Child Development and Human Relations” in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

   "Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"

   Coolly, without any trace of fluster in her voice, the woman replied (note that the words in brackets were what the woman was thinking while she spoke to the clerk), “I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field, (normally the woman would have said indoors and out).  I'm working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters).  Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (Any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it).  But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money."
   There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered the woman to the door.
   As the woman drove into her driveway, buoyed up by her glamorous new career, she was greeted by her lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3.  Upstairs she could hear their new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. She felt she had scored a beat on bureaucracy!  And she had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another Mom."  

   Motherhood!  What a glorious career!  Especially when there's a title on the door.

   To all grandmothers, congratulations on your fabulous career as "Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations" And congratulations to great grandmothers, our new "Executive Senior Research Associates?"  
   Happy Mother’s Day – Every Day!

   Have a good week.


It’s Hard To Be Innovative In The Land of Penguins    

May 5, 2008

  I read a quote the other day by Tom Peters. He said, “I've spent a good part of my life studying economic successes and failures...above all, I've learned that everything takes a back seat to innovation.”
  It is hard to argue against what Mr. Peters said. Innovation, after all, seems to be the “ultimate goal”, the “key to survival” in business and government today. Everyone is being encouraged to “think outside the box” and use their creativity to come up with new and improved ways of doing things. After all, it’s been said that “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  In other words, it is ludicrous to expect different results if you continue to do what you’ve always done in the past.

   So when businesses and government organizations have a chance to hire new graduates fresh out of college or university, it must be just like striking gold! These young men and women are eager and ready to use their talents and passions to change the world.

   And yet, every time I read about innovation being the next big “thing” when it comes to a philosophical approach to the world of business, I am reminded of some of my own personal experiences when I entered new chapters of my life. I once recall being cautioned by a friend and colleague of mine who warned me AGAINST standing out from the crowd. He advised me that if I wanted to be successful in my career I should hold back my enthusiasm and passion to avoid “showing up” everyone else around me who did not share my attitude. He told me to go with the flow, do my job, and I would get along fine with everyone else.  If I did too good a job, my fellow workers would resent it and they would work against me to make it impossible for me to succeed.

   I had almost forgotten that conversation until I read about “Perry the Peacock”.  The following is a brief excerpt from “A Peacock In The Land of The Penquins”, written by B.J. Gallagher and Warren Schmidt. As you read it, see if you recognize anything familiar about the story and where you work or the organizations to which you belong.

   Perry the Peacock was in for a number of different challenges when he left the land of Learning and went to work in the Land of Penquins .

   He was used to hard work and fighting for his ideas and competing with many different kinds of birds, but nothing in his background had prepared him for the unique ways and special customs of the Land of Penguins .

   He wanted to do well and be successful. He was flattered that these powerful and prestigious penguins had recruited him into their ranks, and he wanted to please them.
   He studied the penguins’ walk, their talk, and their style. “How strange,” he thought to himself. “They all look alike. They’re like clones of each other”. He was intrigued and puzzled at the same time.
   And as time went on, his troubles began…
   Some of the penguins began to grumble that his distinctive peacock voice was too loud. You see, penguins speak in subdued, modulated tones, and the peacock’s laughter and excited exclamations startled their time-honoured sense of propriety.
   His feathers began to show more and more all the time, as he worked hard and accomplished many great things. Everyone agreed that he was quite talented and productive, and they liked the impressive results of his work. But his flashy, colourful style made some of the senior penguins uneasy.
   Some of the junior penguins privately speculated about how long he would last in the Land of Penguins . They saw how unpenguinlike he was, and wondered how long this would be tolerated by the elders.
   You can imagine where the rest of the story is heading so there is no need to go on. I think you can also see that Perry The Peacock likely didn’t remain in the Land of Penguins very long.
   The Land of Penguins exists in far too many places today. Many businesses and organizations may “talk about innovation and the need for employees to be creative risk-takers”, but it quite another thing to “walk the talk”. If you stand out from the crowd, the crowd will quickly put you back in your place. The biggest problem we have in society today is not a lack of innovative ideas, but rather a general “acceptance of mediocrity”. We know what it takes to be successful, but many of us are happy and content right where we are, without having to put in more effort than necessary. When a “Peacock” comes into our midst, many people feel the need to undermine this innovative spirit lest it makes the rest of the group look bad.

    I have met a lot of young, innovative students during the last few years. Many of them are definitely Peacocks. I only hope they don’t get turned off when they enter the Land of Penguins .
   Have a good week.


Inspiration From The Other Side of The World    

April 28, 2008

   People often ask me where I get the topics for my weekly editorials and articles. I explain that there is no magic formula or plan of action that I follow. I just go about my life knowing that each week something will come up that moves me in some strange and powerful way and I will know what to write. It’s a lot like shopping for a new jacket. You may not know exactly what you are looking for when you enter the store, but when you see the right jacket you’ll know it was what you were looking for.
   Just for a little bit of background about today’s editorial, let me explain that The Vision Paper is available online by going to the web site You can read all of the articles in many of the past issues. Also, for the past five or six years, I have been personally publishing a community web site called Valley East Today, at That web site contains a massive amount of information and stories about the people and places of
Valley East . It has become an online living history of Valley East .
   Therefore, news about
Valley East is travelling all over the world through the power of the internet. As such, we have no idea who is reading our articles and editorials. So imagine how I felt when I sat at my computer the other morning and read the following email:

Hi Mr. Robert Kirwan

How are you this morning?

I am a young man from Namibia who has been reading your articles on Valley East Today's site. I just wanted to say I appreciate what you are doing. By writing these inspiring stories and articles, you don't know how many lives are changed and transformed. Currently, I personally am going through some tough times. I am married with three children. And since the beginning of this year I did not work since the school where I have been serving closed last year in December. There are times I feel like God has forsaken me. But every time I read the bible and your articles, I feel elevated again. I feel encouraged again to face life's challenge. You are such an inspiring writer, please keep up the good work and may the almighty GOD bless you with more wisdom.

Inspired reader


   The Republic of Namibia , a place I had never even heard of before, is a country in southern Africa on the Atlantic coast. It has a population of just over 2 million and its economy consists mainly of mining and manufacturing. Because of significant investment, Namibia is expected to be the world’s largest exporter of uranium by 2015. It also produces a great deal of gem-quality diamonds as well as many other precious minerals. Despite what would seem to be a strong economy, about half the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. The majority of Namibia ’s people live in rural areas and exist on a subsistence way of life. Namibia has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world together with a 30-40% unemployment rate.
    I realize a lot of people read my editorials, but it is so humbling to realize that a person like Seth, living half way around the world, in a country where there are so many challenges being faced on a day-to-day basis, is able to receive strength and inspiration from my words. It makes all of my own problems seem pale in comparison.
    The internet is a powerful tool. Many people focus on the negative aspects of the internet, but when I see what the internet can do for people like Seth, it blows me away. I just can’t find the words to express how that little email has inspired me personally and is proof that each and every one of us has a purpose and that all we have to do is live each day to the fullest and be nice to each other.
    I really don’t know what to say to Seth, other than I wish him and his family all the best and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for the way he has inspired me. He may not know it, but indirectly, HIS words of inspiration will give me the motivation to continue to write these editorials, and so he is also partly responsible for the positive impact these weekly editorials may have on others around the world.
    Have a good week!


“Human thoughts have a tendency to transform themselves into their physical equivalent”   

April 21, 2008

   It has been said that a person can read or hear something a thousand times, but for some strange reason, we cannot discover the true meaning of the words until we are ready to discover it.
   Perhaps that is why these weekly editorials are so popular among readers of the Vision Paper. Many of the stories and examples I use have been around for decades, and most of you have likely seen them countless times before, but no matter how often you have seen one of these stories, the affect it has on you depends on what is going on in your life at the moment you read it. The last time you read the story it may not have had any impact on you. But this time, it may have a profound meaning because of something that has happened to you recently. The next time you read the story it may have a totally different implication. I know this is true because I often go back and read my editorials over again and each time I read one it has a different affect on me.
  So I want you to read this next sentence carefully. I used it in the title and I am repeating it again.  “Human thoughts have a tendency to transform themselves into their physical equivalent.” That quotation apparently comes from a man named, Earl Nightingale. I’m not sure who Earl Nightingale is, and I doubt if the quotation would have meant much to me if I had read it last year. I’m also aware of different versions of the concept. Nevertheless, a number of things have happened in my world during the past several months that have given a whole new meaning to those words.
   The first time I saw that sentence I had to stop and read it over again. I don’t know why, but it seemed to illuminate me in a way I had never experienced before. Each time I looked back at the sentence the feeling became stronger and it seemed as if I was somehow going through a transformation. I couldn’t quite explain what was going on, but I knew deep down that I was no longer the same person I was before I read that sentence.
   Within a few days of reading the quotation an opportunity came up for me to do something I have always dreamed of doing for my community. Most of you know from past editorials that I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and the meaning behind what takes place in your life is serving your own evolution as a person. So I didn’t find it unusual one morning a couple of weeks ago to be sitting down talking to a man I had never met before about a project he was about to begin.  The result of that brief conversation is that many of the “thoughts” that have been with me for years are about to “transform themselves into their physical equivalent”, just as it says in the quotation.
   What’s even more astounding is that everything I am currently doing in my life that seemed to be disconnected is actually coming together in a way that will make it much easier for me to “transform those thoughts into their physical equivalent”. It’s almost as if by reading that quotation I was able to see the relevance of the opportunity this man was providing me. I have never considered myself to be a person lacking in self-confidence, but my state of confidence has risen to a new level since reading that quotation and I have no doubt at all that this new venture will succeed and in so doing make all of my other activities more fulfilling at the same time.
   And so as I sat down at my computer to write my editorial for this week, I realized that as human beings we all have such a tremendous responsibility to each other. You must wake up each day with the understanding that your actions will be absorbed by the people around you and they will experience the fullness of life to the level of your influence. Never take this level of influence for granted. Your thoughts will “transform themselves into their physical equivalent”, so make sure that your thoughts are going to result in a positive transformation for whomever it is that you exert your influence.
   Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are men and women who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”. I hope this week I can somehow give you the courage and motivation to hold on just a bit longer to those dreams you once had. Look for the opportunities to “transform your thoughts into their physical equivalent”. The conditions will one day be perfect and everything will make sense. You will never know from where the motivation or illumination will come, but it will eventually come as long as you hold on to those dreams. Don’t give up too soon. Success may be just a day away.
    Have a good week!



Let’s Give Our Young Students An Opportunity This Summer   

April 14, 2008

    We’ve been listening to warnings for many years that our young people are going to face fierce competition for the best jobs in the future. The main competition is going to come from immigrants from foreign countries who come to Canada armed with an excellent education and a work ethic that is making business owners drool with anticipation. It’s been said that in Japan alone, the TOP 25% of their graduating students outnumber ALL of the students graduating in North America every year. And many of those Japanese graduates dream of coming to Canada to start a career.

   Even if our government creates immigration policies that protect our young people from some of this competition, we can’t guard Canadian businesses from the global marketplace where the strongest companies will prevail. Canadian companies must be prepared to adapt through innovation and creativity in order to withstand the competition from abroad. Consider the following story as a simple example of what we are up against.
 “A Japanese company and a Canadian company had a boat race. The Japanese company won by a kilometre. The Canadians hired analysts to figure out what went wrong. They reported that the Japanese had one person managing and seven rowing, while the Canadians had seven managing and only one rowing. The Canadian company immediately restructured its team. Now they had one senior manager, six management consultants and one rower. In the rematch the Japanese won by two kilometres. The Canadian company fired the rower.”

   University and college students will soon be finished school for the summer and will be out looking for work. Local businesses should do whatever they can to find a spot for these young, energetic “rowers of our community”. This is the perfect time to begin that project you have always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time or the manpower. Hire a couple of students for a few months and see what happens. Who knows, this may be the shot in the arm that your business needs to generate more customers. Our young people have a lot of energy and some good ideas. Give them a chance. Here is another story for you.

   Consider the story of the American, the Scot and the Canadian who were killed in a car accident. They arrived at the gates of heaven, where a flustered Saint Peter explained that there had been a mistake. “Give me $500 each,” he said, “and I’ll return you to earth as if the whole thing never happened.”

   “Done!” said the American. Instantly he found himself standing unhurt near the scene of the accident.

   “Where are the others?” a medic asked.

   “Last I knew,” said the American, “the Scot was haggling price, and the Canadian was arguing that his government should pay.”

   We should all follow the leadership of the American in this story. Never mind worrying how much you are going to pay the students. And don’t wait for government grants to subsidize the wages you will have to pay. The American saw an opportunity and immediately seized upon it. The availability of eager, well-trained, energetic young students who are willing to do any type of work for the summer, is an opportunity which business owners cannot let slip away. These young people do not demand much in wages and can add a great deal of creativity and ingenuity to any local operation. In fact, many are taking courses at school which may end up being very helpful in establishing strategic planning for your business. Furthermore, it is a chance to pass on some of your valuable experience to students. This will help them greatly in getting through their future courses and graduating as contributing members of society.

   I leave you with a final story about a young man who applied to a finance agency for a job, but he had no experience. He was so persistent that the manager gave him a tough account with the promise that if he collected, he’d get the job. The manager thought that he was rid of the person for good.

   Two hours later, the young man came back with the whole amount paid in full. “Amazing!” the manager said. “How did you do it?”

   “Easy.” the young man replied. “I told him if he didn’t pay up, I’d tell all his other creditors that he already paid us.”

   So give the kids a chance this summer. Let them “earn” experience in your business and give them the tough assignments. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. They will need all the help they can to develop the skills necessary to help them compete for jobs in a very competitive global economy. You can help!

    Have a good week!



Go Out And Make It Happen   

April 7, 2008

   The root of most of the problems in society today is that many people are unwilling to engage in the hard, honest work that is necessary in order to achieve personal success.

   We all want the easy way out! We want to ‘win’ the big lottery so that we can retire and live in the lap of luxury! And when things don’t go exactly the way we planned, instead of increasing our work effort, we seek others to blame for our misfortune. Furthermore, instead of being happy for others who are successful, many of us tend to find fault with them or accuse them of using less than honest methods to achieve their rewards. In other words, we all want to be successful ourselves, but we are often jealous of others who are successful.

   The other day I read a little story in one of my emails about a young man in high school who obviously has a very bright future thanks to his focus on three letters, M.I.H. This kid has a passion for excellence in everything he does, particularly in his favourite sport, wrestling. Last year he had what most considered an amazing wrestling season and ended up coming in second place in the provincial championships.

   The day after the finals, he was back in the same old gym working out in the same old sweats with one small change. He had placed white tape on each of his three middle fingers, and on each piece of tape was a letter. M.I.H. His friends, family, and teammates all repeatedly asked about the letters, but he refused to divulge their meaning.

   He kept the letters on his fingers all year, and he trained harder than ever, until he again found himself at the provincial championship tournament one year later. This time the outcome was slightly different and not a surprise to anyone who had witnessed his daily determination in the gym; he was crowned provincial champion.

   Finally, he was able to share with everyone that while they cheered his second place finish the year before, he vowed to himself to get better – to be the best. Displaying vision beyond his years, he developed his clear goal, designed a plan to achieve it, and created a tool to provide focus. He knew that if he really wanted to be the best, it was up to him. He was determined to Make It Happen. The letters M.I.H. became his inspiration. Make It Happen!

  We all have to face a basic fact of life and the sooner we realize it the better. Success is not going to fall in your lap. You have to work for it. Sure, we will come across the odd person who was fortunate enough to come into success by chance, but for the vast majority of people in this world, nothing comes easy. The sooner in life we learn this lesson, the better. It is only through hard, consistent effort that we will reap our just rewards. And only through hard, consistent effort will we appreciate, and cherish those rewards.

   Perhaps we all need to take a field trip to a farmyard and spend some time watching the lowly hen go about her daily business. It was once described in a book I read that “hard work means nothing to a hen”. Regardless of the price of eggs, she keeps on digging worms and laying eggs.

   If the ground is hard, she scratches harder.

   If it is dry, she digs deeper.

   If it’s wet, she digs where it is dry.

   If she strikes a rock, she digs around it.

   If she gets a few more hours of daylight in the barnyard, she digs a few more hours.

   Have you ever seen a pessimistic hen?

   Have you ever seen a hen cackle in disgust at the prospect of her job?

   Did you ever hear one cluck because the work was hard, the conditions were poor, and some of her eggs were taken from her before they hatched?

   Of course not!

   Hens save their breath for digging. They save their cackles for the eggs that are laid.

   So next time you find yourself wishing that things would begin going better in your life, think about the hen in the barnyard and start scratching. Think about the young high school student and the initials, M.I.H. Make It Happen! Go after your dreams! Don’t wait for them to come to you! And for goodness sake, be persistent in your efforts and never give up. Only then will those dreams come true.

   Have a good week!



The Importance Of Finding The Right Mentors In Your Life   

March 31, 2008

   I have had the opportunity to interview some very interesting people from a number of different career fields recently. I am the host of a radio show on CKLU 96.7 FM that is broadcast from Laurentian University every Monday night beginning at 6 p.m.   It is a live talk show that is done in a “Larry King Live” format where I get to take part in a very relaxed and informal conversation with a special guest each week. We talk about a wide variety of topics that revolve around education and the different careers they have been in, all the while trying to provide young listeners with some good advice and food for thought.

   The show is called “Inside Education” and has been on the air since the beginning of January. Guests have included Brandon Dougan, a teacher at Confederation Secondary School ; Dr. Nancy Rebellato, a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine; Ted Conroy, a noted trial lawyer from Sudbury; Gilles Lebeau, Vice-President of Mansour Mining; Mike Gribbons, President of Synergy Controls Corporation; Kim Donaldson of Cambrian College; and Derek Newman, Youth Program Coordinator of the Sudbury Action Centre For Youth. The show is booked with different guests right up until the end of June.
   Even though these people all come from a wide variety of situations what has stood out the most to me is that they all give a great deal of credit for their success to the “mentors” who have provided them with guidance and assistance in their education and in the development of their own particular career skills. If there is one message that has come forth in virtually all interviews, it is that no matter what you choose to do with your life, YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE! You MUST find someone who will take you under their wing and pass on knowledge and wisdom that you can incorporate into your own life. You MUST do what you can to find good mentors who will act as your “education coaches” and your “career coaches” and who can give you the confidence and ability to make your own way through life.
In order to help you understand the importance of this message, consider the following fishing story:

   One day a fisherman was on his way home when he came upon a man sitting by the side of the road with his family. The man explained that he had no money to buy food and that his family was hungry. He asked the fisherman if he had any fish to give him so that he could feed his family. 

The fisherman reached into his sack and gave the man a few of the fish that he had caught that afternoon. The man was grateful for the food. He then lit a fire and fed his family a meal of freshly caught fish. 

The next afternoon a different fisherman was on his way home when he came upon the same family sitting by the side of the road. The man once again explained that he had no money to buy food and that his family was hungry. He then asked the second fisherman if he had any fish to give him so that he could feed his family.

The second fisherman reached into his sack and gave the man a few of the fish he had caught that afternoon.

Instead of leaving, however, while the man's wife was preparing and cooking the fish for dinner, the second fisherman took the man to the nearby stream that was running by the side of the road. The second fisherman then showed the man how to break off a branch to turn it into a fishing pole. The fisherman then gave the man a piece of fishing line and a hook. He showed the man how to attach a berry to the hook and then showed the man how to hold the fishing pole in the water with the hook and berry floating on the surface. The second fisherman stayed with the man until they caught a few fish from the stream. Once the second fisherman was satisfied that the man was able to catch fish on his own, the second fisherman continued on his way down the road, satisfied that the man and his family would never again be hungry.

The first fisherman provided the man with the means of satisfying the immediate hunger of the man and his family. However, the next day the man and his family were hungry again.

The second fisherman not only satisfied the immediate hunger of the man and his family, he then showed the man how to catch his own fish and left the man with suitable knowledge and skills to make sure that he would never again go hungry. In fact, the man now had the ability to catch fish for sale to make money to purchase other things for his family. The second fisherman gave the man hope and the ability to make a good life for himself. That is what a "Personal Mentor" does.

A "Personal Mentor" recognizes the need to solve immediate problems, but also realizes that it is even more important to develop skills which will ensure that those problems never again present the same challenges they did in the first place.

   I am enjoying my new experience as a radio show host. But moreover, I am pleasantly surprised to listen to so many guests confirm my own belief in the “Mentoring Philosophy of Life”.

   Have a good week



Life Is Not About What You Have, But What You Do With It…   

March 24, 2008

   Most of us are doing quite well in this life. Admittedly, we all have moments when we seem to be too busy to get everything done during the day or there just doesn’t seem to be enough money to go around. There are also times when other people, often strangers, ask us for help, and while we would like to help them, we just can’t find the time or the money to comply. We’re too busy thinking about ourselves.

   This week I came across an old story that I want to share a story with you about a lady named Ruth who found out that the way to true happiness and satisfaction is not about how much you have, but what you do with it.

   Ruth went to her mail box one day and found that there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening. There was no stamp and no postmark. Only her name and address. She read the letter.

Dear Ruth:

I’m going to be in your neighbourhood Saturday afternoon and I would like to visit.

Love always


   Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. “Why would the Lord want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.” With that thought Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets.

   “Oh, my goodness, I really don’t have anything to offer. I’ll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner.”

   Ruth was a widow who lived by herself and barely had enough money from her pension to get by. She hurried down to the grocery store and purchased a loaf of French Bread, some sliced cold cuts and a carton of milk, leaving her with less than fifty cents until Monday.

   Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.

   “Hey lady! Can you help us, lady?” Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans; she hadn’t even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags.

   “Look lady, I ain’t got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we’d really appreciate it.”

   Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty; they smelled bad and frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. “Sir, I’d like to help you, but I’m a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I’m having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him.”

   “Yeah, well, okay lady. I understand. Thanks anyway.”   The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley. As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. “Sir, wait!”

   The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. “Look, why don’t you take this food. I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.”

   She handed the man her grocery bag. “Thank you lady. Thank you very much!”

   “Yes, thank you!” It was the man’s wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering.

   “You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one.” Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street...without her coat and nothing to serve her guest.

   “Thank you lady! Thank you very much!”

   Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn’t have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another letter in her mailbox.

   “That’s odd. The mailman doesn’t usually come on Saturday.” She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.

Dear Ruth:

It was so good to see you again. 

Thank you for the lovely meal. 

And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

Love always,


   The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.

   As you go about your normal routines this week, pay attention to the people in this world who really need your compassion and understanding. The next person who asks you for help may be that important guest you were expecting all along.

   Have a good week! 


“What Will You Be Saying Three Years From Now?”   

March 17, 2008

    During the early years of my adult life I had a tendency to examine new interests and goals of mine from the point of view of how long it would take and how much effort was going to be required. Many of the things I wanted to do were abandoned because I felt it would take too long to get them done. I often convinced myself that because of my responsibilities at work and at home I just didn’t have time to pursue many new dreams.
   A defining moment in my life occurred when I was “thinking” about getting my Masters Degree back in the early 1980’s, and it changed my entire philosophy of life.
   Central Michigan University announced that weekend courses would be offered specifically for teachers seeking their master’s degree.  To earn credit for a single course required spending three weekends in class over a period of five weeks with assignments done in between each weekend session. The classes were offered in Sudbury and North Bay . It would take ten courses and almost three years to complete the program. I had always wanted to pursue my Master’s degree but since I was in my mid-thirties I wasn’t sure if it was worth the time and effort.
   While I was deciding whether or not to take advantage of this opportunity, my wife asked, “If you don’t start taking these courses today, what will you be saying three years from now?” That question hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that in three years I could either be saying “I have my Master’s Degree.” Or “I wish I had started my courses three years ago because now I would have my degree.” The next day I enrolled in the program and ended up with my degree two and a half years later.
   Ever since then, whenever I am faced with a decision about whether or not to begin working towards something worthwhile that will take a lot of time and effort, I ask myself that same question. “If I don’t do this, what will I be saying three years from now?”
   A few weeks ago my wife informed me that she had always wanted to get into “pet therapy” on a volunteer basis. This involves bringing a highly trained dog around on visits with seniors and children who are disadvantaged, ill or just in need of company. Apparently this is very popular in some parts of Canada and the United States . You visit with a small group or with individuals and they get to talk to you, pet the dog and generally feel a little bit better for the time spent in your company. Dogs have a tremendous therapeutic affect on seniors and children and have been found to greatly reduce anxiety and stress.
    It takes a long time to train a dog to be a good therapeutic pet, and even at that, there is no guarantee that the dog will be suited for this type of work. This was apparently something that my wife has thought about for a long time, but she had put her own dreams on hold while devoting her entire life to fulfilling her family responsibilities. Now that all of our children are on their own, she has time for herself, but she finds herself at an age when most people are looking at slowing down and taking it easy, not considering getting into a new venture that may take years to develop.
   Last week the opportunity came up to buy a wonderful new puppy that is a good breed for “pet therapy”.  The last thing I wanted to do was get another dog, but once again the question popped up in my mind. “If we don’t buy that puppy and start training it for volunteer work in pet therapy, what will we be saying three years from now? Will we be saying, ‘ It is so nice to be able to brighten up the lives of hundreds of seniors and children with our three year old therapy dog’, or will we be saying, ‘We wish we would have bought the pup when we had the chance.’?”
   By the time you read this editorial we will have had our new puppy, Cooper, for almost a week.
   How many times during your own life have you wanted to do something but put the idea on hold, simply because it seemed as if it would take too much effort and time to accomplish your ultimate goal. Think of all the books you could have read if you had read just one chapter per day. Think of all the letters you could have written to family and friends if you had only written one letter a week.
   Always keep in mind that the sun will rise and fall 365 days a year. What you choose to do in between sunset and sunrise will determine many things in your life. Time will go on regardless and it waits on nobody.
   If there is something that you have always wanted to do, forget about how old you are; forget about how long it will take; just ask yourself, “If I don’t start today, what will I be saying three years from now?”
   Have a good week!


“You Do Make A Difference To The People In Your Life”

March 10, 2008

    Over the course of my life I have learned that there is no person born on this earth who doesn’t make a difference in the lives of others they touch. Everyone is important, and everyone has the ability to make a tremendous impact on each and every person they meet. More often than not, we have no idea how much a simple gesture or kind word means to another person. Consider the following story I came across the other day, and send a copy of it to someone who means a lot to you.

   “A teacher in New York decided to honour each of her senior students by telling them the difference they each made. Using a process developed by Helice Bridges of Del Mar , California , she called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told them how the student made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with white letters which read, “Who I Am Makes A Difference”.

   Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honoured whom and report back to the class in about a week.

   One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honoured him for helping with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons, and said, “We’re doing a class project on recognition, and we’d like you to go out, find somebody to honour, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgement ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened.”

   Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who was well-known as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, “Well, sure.” The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss’s jacket above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said,   

   “Would you do me a favour? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honouring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people.”

   That night the boss came home to his 14-year old son and sat him down. He said, “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I’m a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’ on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honour. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honour with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honour you. My days are really hectic and when I come home I don’t pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you!”

   The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, “I was planning on committing suicide, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.”

   There are many people in your life who mean a lot to you. Let them know how much you care. You never know what kind of difference a little encouragement or recognition can make to a person. Give out your own blue ribbons; give out your smile; give a compliment to a person who has helped you in any way; let them know that in some small way, they make a difference to you. And always remember that there are many people in this world who think you are special and mean a lot to them as well. They may not always tell you so, but it is more true than you can imagine. You do make a difference!

   Have a good week!


“You Have No Idea How Powerful Your Words and Gestures Can Be…Use Them Wisely"

March 3, 2008

    What a world we are living in today!
   It is possible to communicate to hundreds and thousands of people all over the world in an instant through email. We are constantly connecting to people all day long by cell phones, land lines, emails and through the internet with newsgroups and Facebook. You can pick up your phone and talk to people thousands of miles away just as if they were in the next room. We often find ourselves running from one meeting to another, or one organization to another, or from one activity to another, with never enough time to really sit back and truly enjoy the significance of what we are doing. People come into our lives one day and they are gone the next. We meet so many different people during the course of the year or even during the course of a busy day.

   And yet, despite all of this involvement with other people, we are also living during a time when many of us feel disconnected and lonely. We can live for years beside a next door neighbour without ever speaking to them. We can have family members in the same town and not have time to visit them or call them. We have so many casual acquaintances and we are around so many people, but many of us still feel as if we are on our own, alone to fend for ourselves in a hostile environment where very few people really care about us or what happens to us, especially when we are down on our luck and things are not going well. They are all too worried about themselves and their own problems to be concerned about ours.

   Fortunately, even in “down times” there is often that one person, sometimes a complete stranger you have never met, who comes along and does just the right thing to pick you up and restore your faith in mankind. For some, it is the slightest gesture of good will that is enough to make all the difference in the world.
   To illustrate this point more vividly, consider the classic story I came across recently about a high school student named Mark, who was walking home from school one day when he noticed that a boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. They were walking in the same direction, so he helped the boy carry some of the items.
   As they walked, Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill and that he loved video games, baseball and history. Mark also learned Bill was having a lot of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just recently broken up with his girlfriend.
   When they arrived at Bill’s home, Mark was invited inside for a cold soft drink and to watch a bit of television. The two boys spent a couple of hours with a few laughs and some small talk, and then Mark went home.
   They continued to see each other around school the odd time during the next few years and had lunch together once or twice, but that was the extent of their relationship. Finally, three weeks before they were both to graduate from high school, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.
   Bill reminded Mark of the day several years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” Bill asked. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.”
   The next time you have a chance to say something positive or encouraging to another human being, or to make the slightest gesture to show that you care, do so! If you see someone who looks discouraged or down, stop and talk to that person. Let the person know that there is someone who cares, even if the two of you have never met. Don’t let those opportunities get away from you.
   Your words and gestures have a tremendous amount of power. Use them wisely. You really never know just how much they can mean to someone else.

   Have a good week! 

Battle Wounds From A War of Words Take A Long Time To Heal”

February 25, 2008

     I have often thought about pursuing a career as a professional mediator. Admittedly, I do not have any formal education or certification which would qualify me for this line of work, but during my career as a classroom teacher and in my role as a father of three boys, I have certainly had enough experience in mediating disputes and conflict management.
   In most of the disputes to which I have been witness, whether directly involved or as a bystander, inevitably the parties end up engaging in an exchange of unnecessary and unkind comments that are clearly intended to cause anger or injury to their adversary. Those comments usually result in counterattacks that are thrown back and forth until one side is victorious or a compromise is reached.
   The truth is, we are all
flawed human beings. That means at times we make a personal comment, or react to a situation in anger, only to wish we could take back our words or say what we really wanted to say in a different manner. Human beings are, by nature, confrontational animals. We like to get in the last word! We are quick to strike back with a negative comment when we are angry or when we are insulted. We don’t like to sit back and take criticism. Many times, our verbal attacks make us feel good for the moment, but then we feel a sense of remorse and regret afterwards when we realize that what we actually said may have inflicted great pain on those around us – most often to someone we love dearly.
   Whenever I find myself forced to step in and help two “warring parties” resolve a conflict that has escalated into name calling and insults, I have found that the quickest way to settle things down is to interrupt the assault and ask one of the people involved what they expected to accomplish by making their negative remark. I try to get them to examine whether their comments made things better or worse. This period of calm reflection is often enough to begin the process of resolving the conflict. Once people focus on what caused the conflict in the first place and they clearly state what they hope to accomplish once they get beyond their dispute, they are in a better position to begin the process towards a positive outcome.
   The use of words as weapons is not something that is common only among children. Indeed, it is the weapon of choice for many adults, and the battle wounds in a war of words are often injuries that never heal.
   Many years ago I discovered a little story that best explains the damage that can be done by words. It is a story I have told countless times to students in my classes and it is indeed one of my favourites. The next time you find yourself mediating a dispute between your children, or even your adult friends, acquaintances or co-workers, ask them to take a break for a few minutes. Ask each of them what they expected to accomplish by their negative remarks. And then tell them the following story.

   "There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
   Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."
   So the next time you find that you are about to lose your temper or you want to make a negative remark to someone with whom you are in conflict,
remember the lesson that the young boy learned. "It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."
Wounds inflicted during a war of words take a long time to heal, especially if you love the people you hurt.
   Have a good week!


“The Root Cause Of Most Problems In The World Today Is Stress”

February 18, 2008

     Stress management is a very important part of my life. Over the years I have been involved in many different activities, often at the same time. If I had not developed a strategy for coping with stress I never would have survived this long.
   In my current capacity as an Independent Education and Career Development Advisor, I am seeing first-hand that stress is the root cause of many learning problems plaguing our young people today. It is also the root cause of many health problems, both mental and physical, among adults, especially parents.
   Some time ago I attended a seminar about Stress Management. I forget who the lecturer was at the time, but I do remember the lesson he taught. It was the best explanation I ever heard about stress and how it works. You may want to try this experiment at home.
   The lecturer gave everyone a glass of water and asked us all if we could lift it without any difficulty. It was an 8 oz glass of water in a plastic container, so obviously we all told him that it was very light and we would have no problem lifting the glass.
   He then told us to pick up the cup with our right hand and hold it up in the air with our right arm stretched out straight.
   While we were doing this, the lecturer explained, "The absolute weight of the cup doesn't matter. You can all hold it with ease right now. What does matter is how long you try to hold it. If you hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If you hold it for an hour, you'll have an ache in your right arm. If you hold it for several hours, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes."
   As the participants in the room began to moan and grown under the strain of holding the cup at arm’s length, he continued, "And that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burdens become increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. With the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.  When we're refreshed, the glass feels lighter again and it is easy to hold. The same is true with the things that cause stress in our life.”
   It didn’t take long for most of us to eventually put the cup down and begin rubbing our arm to get the circulation going again. The point was well taken.
   Ever since that day whenever I find that a problem or situation is beginning to get to me, I think about the cup of water. I examine the problem and realize that while it may seem like a simple matter, the longer I let it eat away at me, the worse the situation will become and eventually it may get the better of me.
  And so, I have developed several effective ways of “putting my burden down for a while and resting” so that when I face the matter again, I will be refreshed and it won’t seem like such a big deal. Everyone can find their own ways of relaxing. In my case, I find that exercising for a couple of hours a day in a little fitness room we’ve created in our basement helps a lot. I also like to take a break every day to read for an hour or so. Going for a walk around the subdivision with my wife works wonders for my mind. This year I find spending an hour or so shoveling the driveway is great for reducing stress and I’ve certainly had a lot of opportunity for this activity.
   Regardless of your age or current situation, try to remember to put your problems away for a while every day. They won’t go away. They’ll just get “heavier” unless you put them down for a while and get refreshed. 
   Just remember the cup of water. You can pick up that same cup over and over again without any difficulty as long as you put it down to rest every so often. If you try to hold the cup continuously without moving or resting, eventually it will become so heavy that you will no longer be able to carry it.
   And a special final message for parents – your children are also under a great deal of stress today. Help them develop positive stress management strategies or you will run into serious problems as they grow older.
   Have a good week!


“Why Are You Waiting? Pick Up The Phone And Call”  

February 11, 2008

  Thursday, February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Millions of cards, boxes of chocolates and flowers will exchange hands as a sign of love and affection. Friday, February 15 is the day after Valentine’s Day and everything will return to normal.  Many people will even spend time making mental notes about the people who FORGOT to send them a message of love the day before.
   Author Stephen Levine once asked the question, “If you had an hour to live and could spend that hour making phone calls, who would you call, what would you say, and WHY ARE YOU WAITING?”

   “I Like Not Only To Be Loved, But To Be Told That I Am Loved - The Realm of Silence Is Large Enough Beyond The Grave.” Those words, spoken by George Elliot, ring out loud and true, not only on Valentine’s Day, but throughout the entire year.
   To answer Stephen Levine, who knows what we are waiting for? Do we think we will live forever and that someday we will get around to telling or showing the people about whom we care just how much we love them? How often have we attended a funeral and wished that we had made that phone call or personal visit that we kept pushing aside until it was too late?

   We all know that there are many people who love and care for us. We also know that we love and care for many people. So why the big fuss about sending cards, letters and gifts to those people on Valentine’s Day? BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS AND WITHOUT LOVE WE WILL PERISH – THAT’S WHY!

   Many of you may have heard of a man named Leo Buscaglia. He was the professor at the University of Southern California who started a “love” course. Within weeks it was filled to capacity as students enrolled to find out more about this basic need of mankind. He quickly became famous through lectures and books about love as he expressed in words and feelings what living is really about.

   To Buscaglia, love is about expression. To learn how to love you must LIVE LOVE.  One of his students once stated “I find love much like a mirror. When I love another, he becomes my mirror and I become his, and in reflecting in each other’s love we see infinity.”
  Buscaglia always held the belief that one of the greatest miracles of life is that when you share your love with others, you don’t lose any of it. For example, you could teach a person everything you know and still know everything you know. You don’t lose this knowledge; you are merely sharing that knowledge. Therefore, in the same way, it is possible for you to love many people and demonstrate those feelings and still have all the love energy you ever had.

   And so we find ourselves approaching another Valentine’s Day. School children are busy preparing Valentine cards for their classmates. Husbands and wives are busy purchasing that perfect card or gift. Restaurants get ready for one of their busiest days of the year. All so that we can express our love to others and receive expressions of love in return.

   All of this may seem a bit artificial. So do your self a favour this Valentine’s Day or even during the days after Valentine’s Day. Take time from your busy and complicated life to express your love. Pick up the phone and call that person you haven’t spoken to for a while. Send a little note to a friend telling him or her how much you care.  Make every day Valentine’s Day. You may even want to make a list of people you want to call. Even if you only contact one person a week, in a whole year that means you will have spoken to 52 different people who may never know just how much you care.

   Remember, people like to be told they are loved, and the more you share your love, the more you will feel love yourself. 

   Happy Valentine’s Day!  


Why You Do 
What You Do 
Defines Who You Are

February 5, 2008

   A couple of things happened recently that made me think about my personal identity and purpose in life.
   I was talking to an acquaintance in preparing for an article for The Vision when we began discussing how I’ve become more involved in education once again and she said, “Well of course. It’s not a big surprise. That’s who you are. You’re returning to your true passion.”
   After our meeting I thought a lot about what she had said to me.  She didn’t say “That’s WHAT you do.” She said “That’s WHO you are.” In other words, WHAT I am doing now in my life is more about WHO I am rather than WHAT I do.
   Then, as if to reinforce the point, a few days later I came across a quotation in a book from a person who happens to work as a family therapist. She said, “We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”
  At that point I tried to recall the people I had come across during my daily activities during the previous week. There were so many. Some were people who I saw several times; others just in passing. I then realized the extent of my own “limited perceptions” of those people. All I knew about them was WHAT they did. Some were serving me in retail stores, banks, gas stations, or just walking by. Others were doing what they’ve always done whenever I’ve seen them. I realized that I did not know much about WHO they were as a person. All I know is WHAT they did when they were around me – obviously a “limited perception”.
   And then I thought about myself again. I wondered about the perceptions people had about me. I wondered just how many of them could say to me the words that my acquaintance had stated when she said, “That’s who you are”. She knew enough about me to be confident in making a statement about WHO I was and not just about WHAT I do. And she was right!
   I sat down and thought about how I introduce myself when I meet people I’ve never met before. It is an interesting exercise that you should do when you have the time.
   Pretend you are meeting someone for the first time. Your relationship with that stranger quickly becomes their “limited perception” of who you are. But it also becomes how you define yourself in the manner by which you introduce yourself. For example, depending on the circumstances of our meeting, I many introduce myself in many different ways. I may say, “Hi. My name is Robert Kirwan. I am the writer for the Vision Paper. Or, I am a retired teacher. Or, I am the marketing manager for the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre. Or, I own a tutoring agency. Or, I am a web site publisher. Or, I am a radio show host.”
   Suddenly, while I was going through this exercise, a strange thing happened to me. I suddenly realized that in each of those above examples, I wasn’t introducing WHO I was. In fact, the way I introduce myself to people is entirely dependent upon the “limited relationship” I think is going to be established with the person to whom I am speaking. I was actually creating a “limited perception” in the mind of the person to whom I was speaking.
   In order to give a stranger a better idea of WHO I am, I would have to say something like, “Hi. I’m Robert Kirwan. I’m a husband. Or, I’m a father. Or, I’m a grandfather.” None of those terms would really tell a stranger much about me. Yet, when all is said and done, I can write, I can teach, I can organize marketing activities, I can find tutors for students, I can design web sites and I can talk on the radio. I can do a lot of different things, but so what? A lot of other people can do those things as well, but they are not ME. I do them differently because of WHO I am. But how can I really know WHO AM I?
   Finally, after a lot of deep thinking and reflection, I suddenly came up with the answer by asking myself another question. In order to discover my true identity, I asked myself the question, “WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?”
   I came up with the same answer in virtually every area of my life. I do what I do because I like helping people. I actually feel uncomfortable when people do things for me. But I do like helping others and that explains a lot about WHAT I DO in the different areas of my life.
   I encourage you to go through the same exercise. Take a look at WHAT you do. Look at all of the different things you get involved in that could be used to introduce yourself when meeting a stranger. They ask yourself WHY you do those things. I guarantee that you will then be able to identify WHO you are. It will explain a lot about WHAT you do.
   Have a good week!


“There Is No Such Thing As An Educated Person”

January 29, 2008

       I came across a profound quote by Eric Hoffer the other day that really hit home for me. The quote went something like this: "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the people who consider themselves educated find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
   Hoffer’s comment reaffirmed one of my own basic philosophical principals, for I take the position that there is no such thing on this earth as an “educated person”.
   In other words, as long as you are living and breathing, and as long as you experience life itself, you can never consider yourself “educated”. Every single moment in your life is a new learning situation that you have never before experienced.
   Perhaps this might be an oversimplification, but the following example will give you some idea of what I am getting at. It doesn’t matter how many times you have gotten up in the morning, walked over to the toaster and put in the bread for your morning nourishment. This morning when you walked over to the toaster was the only time in your life you will ever experience going through that action, on this particular day, at that particular time, during the entire period of your life here on earth. Tomorrow will be different, precisely because it will be a different day. And even if you do everything exactly the same as you have done every day in the past, when you do it tomorrow, you will be learning something new because you will be experiencing that “moment of your life” for the very first time. You may not think you are learning much in the greater scheme of things, but as you are going through the process of preparing the toast, you will be reinforcing some skills that form the total essence of your being. You may simply be learning just how important it is to take the butter out of the freezer the night before so it is soft in the morning. You may have learned that before, but this time you are learning once again how important it is to have soft butter to spread on your toast, so what you learned previously will be even stronger than it was before.
   If we examine how this principle applies to the world in general, it becomes much clearer. Take a look around you. The world is definitely changing and it will never, ever be the same again. Admittedly the world has gone through changes at other times in its history, but the enormity of what is happening to day is without precedent. Unfortunately there are many people who still insist on continuing to do what they have always done, and who want to live by the old rules. These people are experiencing frustration and failure around almost every corner. They are the ones who think they can rely upon the knowledge they have accumulated in the past to deal with the world we are living in today. They are, as Eric Hoffer says, “Beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”.
   In fact, in times of change such as what we are currently experiencing, the only ones who are going to be able to cope are those among us who are continually striving to learn how to adapt to change and who are willing to prepare themselves for the future. They are the ones who are willing to do new things and have a thirst for expanding their knowledge of the world around them. They are “life-long learners” who wake up each day with renewed excitement about the prospects for the future and respond to the ever-changing world in an appropriate manner instead of constantly trying to fight change and make the new world adapt to them.
   And so be it. We are all students of the world. We are all, no matter what our age may be, going through “transition periods” in our own evolution. Each stage of life is preparing us for the next and each stage can be more wonderful than the one before, if only we accept the principle that life itself is one huge school system in which we will never be able to say we have completed our “education”. There is no such thing as an “educated” person. There are only those who embrace learning and those who don’t. As long as we are of this world, if we want to get the most from our experiences, we must embrace our role as learners, equipping ourselves for the world we are living in today and preparing for the world that will be tomorrow.
   Have a good week!


"Culture of Fear Spills Over Into Our Schools"

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

January 22, 2008  

The release on January 10, 2008 of a School Community Safety Advisory Panel report suggests that there may have been hundreds of incidents of violence within the Toronto District School Board that have gone unreported by teachers and students. While the report has caused quite an uproar in Toronto, all cities across the province should look at the report as a “wake-up call” to take a close look at what is going on in their own jurisdictions.
    Most teachers will readily admit that they are not equipped or trained to deal with some of the serious behaviours of kids today. One teacher from Toronto was quoted as saying, "There are kids whose behaviour is so bad that 20 years ago they'd be told to leave school - they don't want to be there, they're not respectful, they're aggressive and quite prepared to be violent if they need to be - and yet the school system is trying to keep them in school and trying not to disaffect them by punishing them for everything. So consequently, there's a bit of a mixed message."
    The guidelines from the Ministry of Education are quite clear about the duties of a teacher with respect to reporting incidents involving students. Nevertheless, there is so much pressure in schools today to uphold a positive public image and to focus on student success that some teachers are hesitant to bring forward reports to authorities.
    This should come as no surprise. The “culture of fear” that is prevalent in our world today is merely exhibiting itself in schools since schools are nothing more than a “mirror of society”. For example, many adults who consider themselves to be good citizens think nothing about turning their backs on incidents or activities that should be reported to police simply because they do not want to become involved in long, drawn out investigations that will merely make them “targets for reprisal” once the courts hand out “meaningless” punishment to the criminals. Not wanting to place themselves or their family at risk, they simply pretend not to notice what is going on and let someone else take care of reporting the incident. And so it is that many people who witness others carrying weapons in the street, committing acts of sexual assault and violence, vandalizing or stealing public and private property, and a whole list of other misdemeanours feel too intimidated to report what they have seen. They are just happy that they have not been the ones who were victimized this time around.  This “culture of fear” has been created by a “society of bullies” that comes in all forms.
    And so it is with teachers who must deal with many students in their classrooms who come from such a wide variety of backgrounds. The pressures these students are facing in their personal life spill over into the classroom and into hallways, resulting in “flare-ups” that should be dealt with severely. In many cases witnesses to the incidents feel it is best to turn and walk away rather than get involved in something that may in fact have a negative impact upon themselves. Thus, we have created a “culture of silence” whereby an unwritten rule has evolved to the point where students accept the “risks” as part of the normal process of going from adolescence to adulthood and simply hope to get out at the end unscathed.
   During my own career as a professional educator I was well aware of the fact that students can easily get back at teachers and administrators who make life difficult for them. Students can make a teacher’s life horrible through forms of retaliation that inflict serious, long-lasting consequences on anyone who reports them to the authorities. The penalty for “reporting a crime” is often far more serious than the penalty for “committing the crime”. That is not only the case in our schools; it is true for society at large as well.
    You can provide teachers with all of the information necessary for them to know their duties and responsibilities. However, when all is said and done, the fear of making false accusations, of alienating students and parents; of facing the wrath of parents whose children have been accused of wrongdoing, and the fear of retaliation against your home and your family members is going to play a huge part in whether a person actually reports an incident of abuse or violence or other inappropriate action he/she has witnessed. In most cases, it makes far more sense to simply be happy that no one got seriously hurt, forget about the situation, finish your job and go home; hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. Is this wrong? Perhaps. But there are many who have followed their duty to report and lived to regret getting involved.
   Regardless of all the publicity that has been generated by the recent report out of
Toronto , our schools are still much safer places for our children than the world they face outside. 


The Theory of Continuity Poses The Question: What’s Next?

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

January 15, 2008  

   I want to thank all of my readers who have commented on my editorial from last week dealing with the “shift from success to significance” that many of us from the baby boomer generation as well as our parents from the generation before us have felt.
   Most people over the age of 40 will experience this “change in philosophy of life” as they approach retirement age, and in some careers, with retirement coming in their early 50’s, this shift will be something that is even stronger. As those of us in this demographic face our own mortality we continue to ask the question: “What are we going to do with the time that’s left?” This is being referred to as the “Theory of Continuity” where you stop looking at the end of a particular career as a time to sit back and wait to die, but rather as a time to look to what you will be doing next. Since most people living today can expect to be healthy and vibrant well into their late 70’s and 80’s, there is still a whole lot of living left during one’s normal retirement years.
   And while the baby boomers are changing the way we look at retirement, there are tremendous implications for the younger generation currently in secondary and post-secondary schools and for those who are just beginning in their own desired careers. For example, recent surveys show that up to 80% of all baby boomers interviewed plan on working beyond the age of 65. They intend to work in the type of jobs that will bring them the most satisfaction and are willing to work flexible hours for less pay.
   Imagine what it will be like for business owners who are facing the prospect of hiring a new graduate from college who has absolutely no experience, is expecting to receive a high starting salary, and despite all of the time and money you invest in training him, is likely to leave you the moment he finds something better. On the other hand, this same business owner could outsource the work to one or two baby boomers who already come with decades of experience, are willing to work “on demand” whenever the owner needs them, during any time of the day, for a much lower salary, and since they are at a stage in life when they have no desire to move away from their current home, will likely be available for as long as the business owner needs them. Who do you think is going to get the job?
   When you speak with people from the baby boom generation you will find some common paths to happiness. Many of us indicate that that as we get older we discover that the secret to life comes from living in the moment, making the people you love a higher priority, and understanding that happiness comes from the inside, and not from material possessions. We find that no matter at what age we are right now, when we look back over the path we have followed it is what we “gave to the world, not what we took from the world” that gave us the most satisfaction. Now that we are more financially secure and do not have the pressures that we faced while raising families and meeting our responsibilities to our former careers we can spend the rest of our days in more meaningful activities doing what we always wanted to do.
   In many ways, life is just beginning for people in their 50’s and 60’s. It is as if you are entering a second adulthood with all of the advantages of the life experiences you have gained during the first 50 years. Many of us have often said that if we only knew when we were younger what we know now, we may have done things differently. Well, the reality is that most baby boomers still have a good 25 to 30 years of good productivity left inside them. I know many people in their late 70’s who are still going strong and still making tremendous contributions to society.
   And so, here I am at the age of 57, “retired” from teaching for the past six years: the writer for The Vision Paper; the director of public relations for a shopping centre; publisher of a community web site; one year into the creation of a tutoring agency; two weeks into a new venture as a radio host; “working” seven days a week; and my wife and I still have time to enjoy our granddaughters, our children and our leisure activities together. If you had told me that this is where my life would be when I was 25 years old I never would have believed you. I can’t wait to see what my life will be like a year from now, but I do know one thing – whatever it is that I am doing, it is going to be my choice and it is going to make me happy.

   Have a good week!


"Make 2008 The Year We Shift From Success To Significance

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

January 8, 2008

      I receive a number of online newsletters through email every week. One I always take time to read comes from a man named Michael Josephson who operates a web site called “Character Counts”. He recently sent out a commentary about something that was written by Peter Drucker, a management consultant from the United States . I think it is worthwhile sharing this with you as we begin the New Year.
   Drucker pointed out that as highly accomplished people get older, they often feel a need to measure their lives more in terms of the impact they have rather than by what they have.  Read that last sentence again. He calls this the shift from “success to significance” and explains that. “Success is achieving your goals; significance is having a lasting positive impact on the lives of others.”
   Drucker stated that for some, particularly those people who have accumulated enormous amounts of money and worldly possessions, “This desire to be significant is just another form of vanity or yearning to achieve a kind of immortality through good deeds long remembered. For others, it’s simply a desire to live a worthy life.”
   “Whatever the reason, when people begin to think more deeply about significance, they tend to place greater emphasis on enjoying what they already have and enriching their lives through service to others,” he went on. “The irony is that living a life focused on the pursuit of significance is much more personally gratifying than one devoted to climbing the ladder of success. As author Stephen Covey warns, it’s no good climbing to the top of a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
   During the Christmas holidays I had a chance to read some articles in local newspapers about the economic future of the Sudbury area. There were some startling figures in these articles, especially with respect to the fact that some 20% of the population lives at or below the poverty line; that over 10,000 people visit the area food banks each month; that up to 60% of all jobs in the Sudbury area pay less than $10 per hour; that the vacancy rate is so low it is beginning to have a direct impact on our ability to attract newcomers to the city; that there is a waiting list of 1200 for affordable rent-geared-to-income housing; that up to 30% of our hospital beds are occupied by people who are chronically ill and waiting for space in long-term care nursing homes.
   Now I know that there are an awful lot of people living in the City of Greater Sudbury who have achieved a huge amount of success during their lifetime. Many of these people are now reaching the age when they will feel the call to shift from “success to significance”. The opportunities for these people to do positive things for the community will be tremendous during the next decade.
   I see many examples of this shift from “success to significance” occurring every day. I see people who have worked in a career their entire life and who are now volunteering for a number of service organizations and giving of their time and money to help others. I see successful business people going out of their way to help the less fortunate, demonstrating that it is important to give back to the community. I see struggling families who still have time to help out others who are struggling even more than they are. I see young and old alike volunteering to organize recreational activities that are affordable and yet still allow people to spend time with their family, friends and neighbours.
   I don’t make New Years resolutions. But if I did, I would resolve to make 2008 the year I begin my shift from “success to significance”. While my own measure of success has not resulted in huge financial accumulations, it has certainly provided me with a network of contacts and acquaintances which will make it easier for me to launch initiatives that may have a significant impact on the quality of life of others around me, especially children and students of the area. This will be the year I make my own move towards “significance”. How about you?
   Have a good week!


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