5 ~ “You Might as well Jump” -Van Halen

I changed my homescreen on Jan 1.

This is a pic that was taken during the last year.

At first glance, it would appear that the player is sitting in the bleachers, but upon further inspection one can see the position of his feet reveal that he is in fact, in the air.

Four short years ago, the depth of his knowledge of the sport was fairly limited, he was considerably smaller in size and had just left home to start out on his own.

An ardent outdoorsman, he always travels light, taking with him only a few mementos and a duffel bag full of dreams.

Amongst those was, one he had carrried since the age of eight.

To make his mark at the highest level of amateur sport.

One day, he shared the latest version of that dream.

“Dad, I want to start in every game, and I want to make a difference on the field for the men’s varsity rugby team.”

Feeling lucky to be included, I sat down and wrote up a multi-point plan to leverage every single variable over which he had control. (Reach out to me in the comments and I will send it to you, it is not limited to rugby, or even sport)

I shared it with him but TBT didn’t know if it was a flight of fancy or if it would resonate with him-you know cuz young men are often easily distracted.

Along the way there were a few things life brought to his game that were beyond his control. They certainly taxed his resolve both physically and emotionally.

For example, he broke an ankle, damaged a shoulder and suffered a neck injury, yet he kept leaping.

His parents separated and the only home he ever knew was sold- yet he continued.

Despite the upside down status of his world, he never stopped leaving his feet, jumping into the air, reaching for his goal.

According to Webster, Alchemy is defined as “a medieval chemical science … aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold

Over the past four years I have had the privilege of watching my son perform alchemy.

Only instead of turning low value metals into gold, he turned dreams into his own precious mettle.

For two consecuctive seasons he was declared a league all-star in his position.`

In his last season his on field minutes were the highest on the team.

His was recognised and respected as a player of consequence and better- of integrity and fairplay.

Acting with passion, he accomplished this with nothing more than rentless self sacrifice, focus and humility – rarely speaking of his progress, neglecting to mention his awards to friends and family.

On the day of the last game of his university career, he captained the team, in the semi finals.

I call that -success .

For many of us though, we choose to clip our own wings, when life drops us from the sky with seemingly brutal indifference.

Sometimes forgetting what we are capable of, despite having flown the plane upside down, we let our misguided, misinformed or mistaken choices force us to a crash landing.

Life pounds us and then all too often we let it ground us.

We focus on a view of the wreckage and regret, which often that appears too heavy for another takeoff. We fear the lift off, frozen by the imagined landing.

We mindlessly anchor our feet, heart and dreams to the ground.

There, we join the others- who have traded the same perspective of life’s threats and challenges for their goals and dreams.

There’s a couple of ways the game of Rugby mimics life .

1) When your opponents score on you, you give the ball back to them.

Unlike football, where, when you get scored on, (beaten, embarressed or mistaken) the team who scored hands kicks you the ball cuz ‘it’s your turn’

In Rugby, after being spanked it’s like your team is forced to say:


The result is, sometimes in Rugby, a team takes control and just never yields the ball again.

And if that doesn’t test your ability to remain willing to leave your feet and chase your version of success- then this little rule will:

2) In Rugby, the opposing team cannot make contact with a player attempting to catch a ball IF the player catching the ball has both feet off the ground.

The game screams..If your not fully commited to success then you’re gonna pay.

Upon landing though -a lot like life- the recipient better be ready for impact.

Cuz the game keeps going and rugby, like life, is a without question, a contact sport.

There is no time for over thinking and self defeating hesitation.

In fact not committing to the leap actually places a player in a position of greater danger.

In order to avoid getting pummelled, by catching on the ground, the recipient must precisely time the moment to suspend animation (and fear) in order to leap into the air.

To hang from the clouds until the ball finds his hands.

And when he does, the opponents will be within arms reach, so most often the player will find himself at the bottom of a pile of sweaty, smelly, and heavy opponents.

Forward progress may be halted, but he will be holding the ball like a briefcase full of cash.

I changed my homescreen Jan 1 … for several reasons:

  1. Because I can literally feel the fearless commitment to a goal in this picture.
  2. So I remain grateful for the privilege of being his father.
  3. Some days I really need to be reminded of how it feels fly.

Yet, I changed my homescreen mostly because there’s one other similarity between the game of Rugby and a life fully lived:

When you score … it’s called a “TRY

4~ “Steps to Immortality”

The Buddhist principle of all suffering being rooted in attachment is conceptually easy to understand but often difficult to apply .

What’s with that ?

I mean how can a practice that is, by nature, austere be so complex ?

Let’s back up … we die … (actually that’s fast forward) and when we do, everything that we had here is, in the absence of a heartbeat, free from our attachment to it.

First in line for your attachments will be the Government. They deserve their cut …right ?🙄

Then you have the family members who feel an entitlement to your assets …And then the rest is left in some storage facility until it is given or thrown away .

And where are you?

In ashes. In an urn, on someones mantle or floating across your favourite body of water.

You have no clutching hands and no space in that urn to cling to anything .

Last time I checked pretty much everyone dies… eventually.

So considering the inevitable reality of the two previous points (gonna die and can’t take much along for the ride) why do we cling to things material at all ?

How is it possible siblings destroy family bonds in the name of something that happened decades ago which at some point in time was attached to some physical item or some position of status?

The lengths gone to in the name of settling scores and control are far greater than any distance between two points in the physical world .

So why ?

At this point, my best guess is that as we age our sense of self is all too often defined by the memories and stuff of days gone by.

Thing is though, that makes about as much sense as defining any individual existence in the way articulated by the late great drummer and eccentric Keith Moon who once said “ the one with the most toys wins”

Today, to me, this feels like a fools errand.

When we die, it is the memory of us that lives in the moments our survivors connect with the items we once used or the cash left behind.

It is our love and energy that is missed not our loge at the Bell Centre.

It is what we did with adversity, how we evolved as a person and the love we showed to those we held space for in our hearts that will be immortal… not our cash and stuff.

When we touch the lives of others we are able to witness, fully our existence and how we fit into a bigger picture.

It is our qualities and characteristics that transcend death and it is the smiles we aimed for in those left behind, that they use to remember what it felt like to be with us.

So to achieve immortality the surest way is to create a heart connection, invisible to the eye that slips back out of sight

It’s like we are Obi-Wan facing the storm trooper saying to death “ these (necklaces, rings or whatever) are not the Druids you are searching for and death must surrender the departed to you heart, they live forever.

The secret to immortality then is simply that … be of service to others – create a smile in their hearts and you will prepare a place therein for your existence for the remainder of a life after yours

Further if one has a practice of effort to bring smiles to the hearts of all she touches, then the logic prevails that if immortality is the goal then the greater the number of people one can warm the heart of the greater the number of homes one can posthumously live on in.

This to me seems to be a far more direct path than to spend you’re life trying to amass material or worrying about what form of life your karma will reincarnate you as.

Which simply confirms that “ Immortality can be “a thing” if we can abandon our attachments to the physical and practice existence in the ethereal simply by attaching our existence to hearts and smiles

2~ Mindful

Words- sometimes, they really flummox me.

Take mindful for example.

When first encountered the word seems to suggest the state of being in ones head…you know, as in full of mind. While this may appear to be a better alternative to being full of shit, it actually is arguably not.

In the vernacular of the generation, to be “all up in my head” or to allow someone “to get into ones head” is synonoumus to to a mindfuck.

Which surprisngly isn’t a good thing.

My dad would use the term mind, as a verb in the sense of ” Mind you don’t knock over that beer with all your hand talking”

To “mind the children” would describe the responsibility of keeping an eye on them or out for them, which lines up with the dictionary defintion : “Conscious or aware of something.”

Yet its the seccond meaning of the word is one that appears more frequently in our currrent language: “Focusing one’s awareness on the present moment”

Everyone is talking about the state of “mindfulness” and this us where I remain flummoxed.

How can I step outside of my head if being mindful requires me to be full of mind?

Now you might recognize the practice of my overthinking here….(is that mindful?)

Recently, plant based psychedelics in the form of mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, et al, have been more publicly touted as treatments for ADHD, PTSD, Alcoholism, Anxiety, amongst other neurally diveregent experiences.

Almost universally, the feedback described a trip that results in some form of Egoic Dissociation

People describe the trip as revealing and enlightening in that it provided a perspective that allowed the tripper to see their role in some grander scheme of things.

They speak of the awareness of themselves as only a small part of a much bigger system, simultaneously providing the humility of the awareness of ones own insignificance as well as the power of being a part of a much bigger force.

One indivual I spoke with saw himself as a piston within an engine, when he became aware of this, he felt momentarily bummed and decided to leave the confines of the cylinder he was relegated to and in so doing the engine ceased operating – he was but a cog, but without him the entire machine was renedered impotent.

It made me think….even more.

Perhaps the notion of mindfulness is exactly the intersection between our stunning, seemingly limitless capacities and the fragility of our humanity.

Perhaps when we practice mindfulness we find ourselves driving to that intersection.

A place where awareness, and acceptance trumps fear and controlling.

Even with this revelation I was still flummoxed as to why a word which was outwardly confounding, was penetrating our current conversations so profusely.

So I shifted to look for a clue from another angle. Perspectice from the other side often leads me to understanding, if nothing else, more holistcally

I thought about the antonmym …Mindless.

Ah …now that’s something that’s really easy to get my head around!

Mindless leads me to the place of the prusuit of the exterior solving issues for the interior.

Mindless work, sex, partying, driving etc, all seem to be a way to bring the body away from that which distrubs it – if only temporarily. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little steppin out on the endless demands of our hyper speed existence, it’s just that it is so seductive as an alternative to the messiness of life that we often choose to reside in shallow mindlessness as a painfree alternative to fully experiencing rollercoaster of the exisitence we are graced with.

Our head down scrolling, or actions executed under the veil of spin doctor blame throwing, all to often lulls us from from that intersection tp a place where we are not quite sure why we do what we do other than “that’s just the norm of the herd

Can mindfullness restore our concisousness?

If mindlessness releases us from the awareness of our actions then it’s opposite, mindfullness must actually be a state of heightened awarness of the moment in which we are.

Case in point “flummoxed

I had no idea what the word meant…until it drew my attention to it and I directed my actions to the understanding of it….which in the smallest of ways moment of mindfullness, despite being in the middle of a kaleidoscope http://www.makingabetterpast.com/2023/01/01/reset-day-one/

Perhaps the introduction of mindfullness into our conversations, will be the antitdote for a society in which responsibilty for our actions, at home, in relationships and in business will finally resurface, so that we can actually get to work on fixing what we broke.

Hmmm, I need to think about that. 😉

Reset …Day One

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go away”

So many of us mark this day with a list of objectives we somehow believe will improve our life experience.

Almost invaribaly we begin our new commitment one by delaying it a day…”until the hangover passes” or maybe two, explaining to ourselves -“just til I get back into the routine“, forgetting that the ” routine” we hope to get back into is the one we hope our resolutions will take us out of.

Other saboteurs of our will, may acutally find residence in our our neual divergence from the polished laquered norm we see in mainstream and social media.

For example those of us with ADHD may find day one in our newly chosen practice never actually comes because of the kaleidoscope of butterflies that draw our attention to other experiennces ….who knew a group of butterflies was actually called a kaleidoscope? I mean it makes sense right? What with all the colors…who comes up with these descriptions of gathering of animals? I mean a group of crows is a Murder! What is that about?…

Dammit! I digress …

Where was I ?

My line of thought was something like… we all aspire toward the favorable upward trending of our existence and we know that no one is going to live for us, so we devise lists of resolutions to attempt to facilitate the conditions that whatever we want more of will be drawn to us.

We target bodywork to improve our self image and health, we target unhealthy habits like daily drinking or smoking to have a more authentic life- or at least one in which we remember what we did last night. We pick up yoga or meditation to mute the static between our ears, we sign up to Audible to expose ourselves to the wealth of the written word, we commit to drinking more water, walking up the stairs instead of the elevator, visiting our mother more often, reducing our tardiness and so on all to tweak the existence of the life we are living.

So why do so many resolutions never make it into our daily practice?

Life coaches, and self help books try to fill the gap where our willpower falls short but all too often the power of old habits shelves the book before complete and finds flaw with the advice of the coach. I suspect this to be because the pain of our currrent habit has not been leveraged to the extent that it is more than just a fanciful wish. Something we thing might look good on us rather than something we can not live without.

And this is why the choice of an arbitrary day that follows the biggest night of partying in the year, may not actually be the most effective approach to achieving our dreams.

So what is?

I don’t really know…

I gave up making resolutions a while ago.

Yet that doesn’t mean my existence hasn’t evovled tremendously since.

It just means my perspective has.

The clarity surrounding the notion that the long term is made of a series of short terms is practice that has heretofore escaped me

More on that later…. assuming another kaleidoscope doesnt fly by and this practice sticks past day one 😉

For now let me simply say there are three hundred and sixty five and a quarter opportunities to see what will and I am looking forward to the walk through 2023, may yours be thrilling too.

Shoemakers Son

My father was a shoemaker.

Dad came from a large family of 8 siblings born to his parents in a transcontinental love story that began in Lin Lithgow, Scotland and was completed in Montreal, Canada.

He always said, “I have two loves: my family and my shoe factory”.

He was not a tall man, but he was big.

He was a big thinker, a big believer in human potential and he was bigger than big hearted.

I am six foot three, and he was no taller than five foot seven but from where I stood, I always felt I looked him squarely in the eye my entire life.

I never saw him fall short of his desired accomplishments. He was that guy who had the discipline and focus to grab the brass ring. Whether it be on the golf course, the dance floor or the board room, when he set his mind to something he worked until he achieved his goal.

Slowly over the last ten years of his life he, like all of us, began to have things taken from him.

The shoe factory was the first to go.

Together he and I fought until the last possible moment to save that factory.

The macroeconomics of the day, made the labour intense manufacturing of women’s fashion almost impossible in north America. I remember noting even our the Italian confreres, an industry with more than 900 years of history were forced to move their factories to China.

I will never forget the moment on the phone when I revealed to him that our bank of 45 years decided they “no longer wanted to be in manufacturing”.

So they “pulled the plug”.

His shock at the first evidence of “cancel culture” was silently palpable. A forty five year relationship tossed aside with but a few words.

Later that day I found myself alone as I heard the life of the machines bleed out of the compressors that I turned off for the last time.

When one falls from a position of prominence to one of uncertainty there are only two options: bitterness and fear, or growth and recovery.

The bounce from privilege can precipitate a temptation to blame and seek fault.

There is a flow that emanates from that place that meanders through arrogance, entitlement, and blame. Founders and their families board a tippy canoe and try to navigate the unfamiliar waters often spilling into substance abuse, mindless consumerism, and confusion surrounding how to enjoy the ride after the theme park closes.

Sometimes the canoe flips and leaving its occupants relegated to deserted iles. Where they remain trapped by a refusal to accept the principle that all suffering is anchored in attachment to form.

In other cases, individual entrepreneurs recover to friendly shores albeit sometimes only after they are re-awakened partly downstream by the splash of the cold water on their face or even complete immersion for just long enough to make them rise to the surface with a will to live beyond simply existing.

My journey took a circuitous path through many of these stops and until his death, my father watched me paddle my own tippy canoe.

Gratefully, along the way I was blessed with an understanding that it isn’t the destination, or even the journey that defines us, but rather, it is what we do with the paddle we are holding.

Dad had a framed needlepoint on his wall, that his younger sister gave him.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference

Shit happens, things change, people disappoint and hurt us. We are even misled by our forefathers who often scar us in error.

Those inevitable scars can inspire us to turn inward and rise or outward and withdraw.

Of late, my own journey has taken me further from the wreckage of my past and the ill-fitting masks I used to cover the man I was and no longer want to be. Yet I have found myself struggling with the wisdom to know the difference surrounding a situation I have lately been forced to accept and requires the courage to change.

I’m reluctant to re-surface past personas, who may have previously served me well when called to action, to bring forth change.

I have a verse of Bonnie Raitt’s haunting song “One Part Be My Lover” on repeat in my ears

He’s like a boxer who had to retire
After winning but killing a man
He’s got all the moves and none of the courage
Afraid to throw a punch that might land.

I found myself thinking of my father’s needlepoint, as I was driving over the mountain the other day, and spontaneously veered left to the place my father was laid to rest.

I haven’t gone there often as I fundamentally don’t believe that place is where he can be found.

But yesterday I just inexplicably  found myself there, crouching in  front of the monument and talking to out loud?!?

As if afraid to feel foolish I repeated:

“Look, I know you’re not here, but I wonder if you can guide me. Help me take the path that serves the greater good, best.”

Really, I know… I know, you’re not here, but I just hope to be reminded of your approach.

I know you’re not in this place Dad, but come find me will ya? I could use some help with this one”

Now, I haven’t ever had a posthumous conversation with him, and I’ve visited that site only a couple of times in almost 10 years, so not expecting an answer I stood and walked back to my car. Cuz he isn’t there right?

But Before I got back to the car, I had an afterthought… “uh, maybe you might listen for an answer”?

I turned and walked back.

With the spring wind rustling the trees and the sun on my face, I felt serene.

And then from well within I had a thought… no…. it wasn’t a thought– they come from between my ears- this reveal came from my center.

“Through Love you will find true Wisdom.”

A while ago I made the choice to accept the things I cannot change, and I have rarely been short of courage, in the face of things that need changing, but I have long since struggled with the wisdom part.

All of the sudden, this was such a clear revelation that it felt like finding the last piece under the couch, of the puzzle left on a table after the family had gone, following the Christmas Holidays.

I walked back to the car and understood how to govern myself with the challenge I am facing.

“I need to continually audit my actions to ensure they are sourced from a place of love for when I do so, there is no fear present, and I am serene.”

Getting behind the wheel I drove 100 meters.

I stopped on the mountain side as something dangling in a tree, caught my eye.

A tiny pair of christmas elf shoes hung on the roadside.

Completely out of place …right?

Lessons from the heart.

I’ve got money in my pocket
I like the color of my hair
I’ve got a friend who loves me
Got a house, I’ve got a car
I’ve got a good mother
and her voice is what keeps me here

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Facing forward
Be yourself

-Jann Arden “Good Mother”

I had just received the call any father wants from his eldest.

She was on her way out for the evening and was just calling to say, “I miss you”.

We chatted for a long time, and I could hear the happiness in her voice and the awareness of how the challenges of being 4,000 km away had actually served her.

The conversation was one I was waiting to have for 25 years, er no she’s almost 26 now.

i recognized it was that call because my heart was soaring.

She told me that she mightn’t have emerged from the shadow of … shall we say, her sometimes “larger than life” father and an inspirational mother, had she not decided to face her fears and move.

I feel she has little idea how much she inspires me.

Her willingness to look at a challenge and take it on came to her early in life.

At birth our first child was given a 2/10 chance of survival after complications created several challenges for a tiny little fighter.

But fight she did.

When I would visit her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, while everyone there was wonderful, no one could answer the question “Why did this happen to my little girl”?

When the day came that they asked if I would like to (finally) hold my daughter for the first time, that moment was etched amongst the quintessential moments of love in my life.

It is my belief that this auspicious start set us both up for last Saturday night.

When we hung up my heart was full, I felt a beam from within, cross my face and my smile seemed frozen in place.

Hours later, I was still trippin, I had gone home, made my favorite meal, and plunked down in front of a show that caught my eye.

I was content and fulfilled.

I even put that Jann Arden song on and sang from a happy heart, (yes, even the part about the color of my hair-which in my case is sort of a flesh tone).

To me the song is about finding (finally) joy in the most simple of life’s gifts,

A lesson which took way too long for me to learn. I felt tears of happy gratitude for the simple fact that my daughter has a good mother (she’s outstanding actually) who was equiped to cover all the lessons I had yet to learn.

I fell asleep with the smile of Buddha on my face and in my heart.

A few years ago, I separated my clavicle and sometimes it gives me grief if I sleep on it wrong.

So, when I woke Saturday night in discomfort, I assumed I was on my right shoulder and rolled over.

A few times.

It wouldn’t stop hurting, so I sat up.

When I started to rub the shoulder realised this was the left side.

“That’s weird”, I thought, not recalling doing anything to have caused the pain I begrudgingly chalked it up to age.

But still, I couldn’t sleep.

I looked out the window and saw the hospital across the street and thought, “Hmm I wonder if this is why I picked this place?”

By now the arm was hurtin pretty good, but as I turned to lock the door I saw my dog standing there waiting to come with me. I grew concerned for him. “What if I am not back before later in the morning?” “What if I go into surgery… or what if….”

“How will anyone know he’s there?”

I hesitated to leave him, for a moment and then I had no choice, the left arm was way worse than any ‘man cold’ pain I had ever experienced.

I locked the door wondering what fate awaited us both, yet something surrendered me, assuaging my fears.

At the door of the hospital it was a security guard by the name of Blair, who identified the state I was in, flicking his cigarette away, (that’s ironic no?), he set a land speed record racing me down the endless corridor in a wheel chair to the emerg.

Lying on a gurney waiting for one of the tests, at three a.m. I was struggling with feeling alone, and maybe a little …nervous?

I couldn’t see sending a message to any loved one. I mean it was 3 AM. Nighttime is the most fertile land in which the seeds of worry grow. I didn’t know what to say, my condition at this point was just speculation.

First, I distracted my racing mind with thoughts of my eldest, how she had faced down similar threats and won,

….and then I did the natural thing and opened social media 😊

The very first post in my feed was one of an old friend who had undergone a massive operation to fix his ticker, he had written a beautiful post about the value of friends.

It was well written, and I commented.

He replied!

It’s 3 AM dude what are you doing up?

I always get up early, it’s the best part of my day

He engaged me, literally walking me through the hours ahead and distracting my errant mind with funny old memories and promises to ski together in days to come.

The news came and it was the least settling kind:

We aren’t sure what happened but it sure seems like you had some sort of coronary episode

My first thoughts were for those I love, I am NOT ready to leave them. Upon realising none of us ever are, my next thoughts were “ I have so much yet to do, a lot I have promised to do, a lot I am responsible for and I’m only halfway through writing my first book!! Why did I wait so long to start?”

Why is it that all that I have ever learned about anything of real value in life, has been anchored in heart pain?

The loss of our family business.

The loss of my father.

The end of my marriage.

There seems to be an undeniable link between learning and loss. Between growth of the heart following pain caused to it.

And at that precise moment I had like an awakening, precipitating a trascendant shift in perspective and awareness.

I began to become acutely aware of the grace, patience and understanding with which the orderlies and nurses were doing their jobs.

I began to consider the “coincidence” of my friend’s post and felt the familiar awareness of something greater than me, manifesting a lighthouse by which to navigate my way through these scary-ass waters.

I began to think of my daughters call and her journey to happiness, from that little tent in neonatale intensive care.

I concluded, that while the world may be a mess, there are people who muster caring compassion and tolerance, every day- like Blair.

I understood that when I feel alone, that’s almost always a choice. As there are always those who have walked before me and whether I connect on Facebook or not, the path is tracked with their experience and I need to just keep looking for footprints.

Yet most significantly, I became aware that Life REALLY does want you to succeed.

The Universe is in your corner, it wants you to beat the odds. Think about it, the chances of you being alive and reading this are something like one in 10 trillion!

Let that sink in.

Yet life insists that we leverage the love that lies within us all, to find our own will to emerge. Then we must hook our wagon to that will and let it deliver us from the darkness that also exists in all our lives.

I walked out of the hospital late in the afternoon Sunday, stunned that they released me, with a spray pump of nitro and an appointment to come back tomorrow.

But I walked out with way more.

I left with an understanding that the French word for heart is coeur and the that roots the word, courage.

It takes great courage to face the darkness that surfaces in all our lives but as my 5-day old daughter taught me so many years ago and then again Saturday night:

My light is not eclipsed by darkness; it is defined by it

Your thoughts, comments and subscriptions mean the world to me



Is Integrity at the forefront of your workplace?

Previously on “Making a better past”:

In the last two episodes of Ray Donovan, er (that’s the pandemic binge watching speaking), I mean makingabetterpast I have been looking at the value and absence of integrity in the current theatre of business.

Part one: https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/12/01/integrity-thats-the-ticket-part-1/

Part Deux: https://makingabetterpast.com/2021/01/18/is-integrity-the-black-rhino-of-the-business-serengeti/

In part one we discussed the idea of integrity as an overstated objective and underachieved manifestation in today’s business community. While in part two we looked at the scarcity of it, in this segment we turn toward the challenges and true value of integrity within corporate leadership.

Throughout my career as a consultant, partner and employee, I have been lucky enough to work with several ‘captains of industry’.

Part of my approach has always been to try to understand the human behind the title before I tried to make a contribution toward the success of the business model.

I have found it important to align my own perspectives with what circumstances influenced the pursuit of the entrepreneurial vision and understand what lines in the sand define the character of the corporate leader.

With that said I have never been a “fake it ‘til you make it” kind of guy, and with but one short exception, have not worked with someone I genuinely didn’t like.

It’s not for nothing that the one exception to that was also the highest paying gig in my career.

Nonetheless, I have found that I am simply incapable of bringing my passion to a team that had values that didn’t consistently align with mine and when I tried, the result was self-evident.

For example, in the case of that lucrative gig, the owner was a man who hid his insecurities behind narrowminded, egocentric and misogynistic practices.

We would meet for breakfast and his comments about our waitress at 6:30 in the morning killed my appetite and shattered my respect for his abilities. Yeah, call me judgy but if you can’t order two eggs over easy without making an objectifying comment about the woman who serves them to you -then I’m not your guy.

In another gig, I brought my full passion to the project at 1/3 my usual rate for a guy, who inspired me with the opportunity, and the eloquence of his words. He repeated endlessly “when I win WE win”.

I criss crossed the continent for 3 years developing market awareness and negotiating a license agreement for this previously unheard of technology, and in the end brokered a deal wherein the technology was sold for $10 million to an industry leader. And that’s where part of my story ended up like so many others I have heard- cuz when “we” won, HE turned out to be the only winner.

Now some might say: Did you have it writing?

And to those I respond…

We are talking about Integrity here.

I understand the purpose and place for contractual documentation; it helps people remember the things that were said and sets the expectations of all parties.

However, in my practical experience, for all of us who have paid for the swanky cars and private schools of our lawyers’ children, we know too well that the hours we spent on paragraph 5 of page 4 of said contract, invariably were wasted as the document goes into a file and we forget the negotiated phraseology until the shit hits the fan and our ego fuels the exercise to fund our lawyer’s yacht.

Now let’s not be so cliché as to blame the lawyers, the French have an expression.

C’est gratuit” meaning that’s too cheap an approach.

We need to remind ourselves that if there was no market for slippery wording and opportunities crafted through omission, there would be no opportunity for the slickest of snake oil salesmen to get a law degree.

I have had the pleasure of working with visionary leaders who understood that integrity was the legacy that would follow them long after the office and sometimes even after they left the planet.

They placed that legacy ahead of selling their soul to get to upgrade vehicles.

Speaking of which…my father drove a Cadillac.

In the 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s, that was a self-awarded token of achievement! Not my thing, but I was proud of this poverty-stricken depression child who worked his ass off to achieve his dream.

When he broke away from the family publishing business to reach for his dream, he had to borrow the sum of $25,000 to start his business.

No money and no credit, left him approaching another man who made the loan on one condition: that every year until the loan was repaid, my dad would have to provide the lender with a brand-new Cadillac.

Do the math…that doesn’t work unless you’re looking at a credit card company as a comparable business model.

While it didn’t take 2 years for my father to realize he had made a deal that was blinded by his own ambition, it did take 10 years for him to repay the loan.

And while Dad was never the biggest fan of the lender, he always managed to do what he verbally committed to do. Sometimes it took longer than expected, but he ALWAYS honored his word. No contract and lawyers fees were required.

In so doing, his word became valuable – not only to others – but to himself, resultingly he learned he was not so free to make promises one week that the next he didn’t have the integrity to honor.

He understood that integrity was his and his alone, and even if when it hurt him, he didn’t spin the circumstances to renege on a cheque  his mouth had written.

All too often, today’s leaders lean too heavily on the rules created by those who have the most to gain in conflict- enter the legalese.

All too often, the willingness to disguise the shortfall of integrity with the catchall phrase “that’s just how the game is played …anyone else would do the same” seduces men who at earlier points in their career could claim integrity as their only asset

They sooth themselves with false nobility saying: “I get paid to make the tough choices” and then after cutting expenses, go out and get a new car.

But that’s where the rubber doesn’t meet the road ; often those “really tough choices” involve cutting the expense in the interest of making more money.

And last time I checked, we measure success quarterly in the corporate world,  in 3 month periods- 3 MONTHS!!!  Is that really the period we feel comfortably defines a legacy?

Maybe if the rules of business extended deeper into the eternal nature of the spirit (legacy, honor, or whatever term you wish to use to define the intangible) reaching beyond the rush of the quarterly bottom line, the model might shift from a continuous struggle and lament between employer/employee toward actually fostering the loyalty and heartfelt passion of a team.

Now, I’m not saying the captains are the only source of blame, remember the statement “if there was no market there would be no snake oil salesmen”?

The same thing applies if to those who choose to work for someone- if people didn’t mimic the pursuit of more! More! MORE! there would be a much smaller market for lopsided deals that handcuff great talent to the limitations of the vision of the leader or at least perpetuate a cycle of Metro-Boulot-Dodo (DM a Quebecer to translate that for you)

It’s on all who play the game to fearlessly challenge and openly  discuss the brokenness of the capitalism model. To actively invest in moving this vehicle  along its evolutionary path.

The challenge is the balance of power obliges that this metamorphosis must start with leaders accepting to do more for less in the short term by learning and believing that true value comes in the long term. That is super scary and can feel like pulling a rabbit out of a hat within the A.D.H.D climate that permeates the traditional model of capitalism in it’s current iteration.

Now don’t think I am advocating abandonment of capitalism in favor of some mamby-pamby-everyone-gets-a-share-regardless-of- individual-contribution-or-risk.

Not this serial entrepreneur!

I still love the thrill of the challenge of adding value to goods and services to sell for a little more than was paid.

I’m just suggesting it’s time for leadership to understand its role in creating new rules, practices and objectives for business, that extend beyond the old adage “Buy low/Sell high.

For example, I am inspired by increasing presence of “social enterprises”. These organizations that have shifted their raison d’etre from making so much money that they can choose to give some away, toward a new breed of enterprises that start with the specific intention to change some part of this connected ecosystem we all coexist within.

These leaders often savvy in the traditional sense of the game, orient themselves and their talents to make a change in the world and leverage the power of capitalism to do so. And because piety is not the objective, they can exist free from judgment to actually drive a Cadillac if they so choose, because their intention was spawned from a will to use the vehicle to make good for something beyond their own ego.

With this shift they look at every product sold as an opportunity to make an impact on something beyond themselves rather than making that a an afterthought or worse yet a marketing opportunity.

When the union showed up at the shoe factory there was a court appearance for ratification of their presence.

My father drove me down with him to testify.

The union lawyer thought himself crafty when he asked: “Mr. Wallace, what kind of car do you drive?” 

I remember the direct transparency, and shamelessness in his voice when he replied: “A Cadillac- why do you ask?”

 “Mr. Wallace, how many others in your organisation drive a Cadillac?”

I don’t know what they drive at home, but I don’t see any others in the parking lot

The lawyer then went for the jugular- “Are you comfortable with that?”

The room went quiet and I will never forget his answer:

Perhaps a better question might be ‘how do you compensate your employees compared to your competitors, or how many of your employees own their own homes?’. I have tried to create a business that can provide people with a chance to grow and then I get out of the way to let them choose their own path as I did. Now I know, from personal experience, that in some cases my Cadillac inspires people toward competitive growth and in others it fuels collaborative growth but as long as I build a small vehicle for people to grow, my business serves the purpose I intendedto provide a chance for people to go beyond the hunger I felt when I borrowed the money to take the risk and start the company

Afterwards, on the drive home, I asked my father for the answer to the question he referred to, without pause he told me the company paid 18% over industry standard and more than 35% of his factory floor team owned their own homes and three of his top employees had left to start their own competitive business. This was at a time when the gap between management and factory floor was very broad.

But how did he know this? Because his true intention shone through when he had co-signed on several mortgages, when other employees trusted him enough to seek his counsel and to share their moments of joy with him.

And therein, I learned the true value of integrity:

People rarely give their whole heart (and passion) to Leader who changes their word when it becomes painful and puts his own gain and desire to win as the primary objective.

It is about the leaders’ true INTENTION – Is it to see oneself in the fancy car or is it to pave the road just a little more so someone else can drive comfortably on it too?

But how did we get here?

Well…for that you might want to tune in to part 4.

In the meantime if you feel this is shareable I hope you will so we can move this along – together

Is Integrity the Black Rhino of the Business Serengeti?

If you recall when we last left off, we were entertaining the idea of how, despite how we all claim to be consistent, maintaining integrity over a lifetime is a pretty tall order. https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/12/01/integrity-thats-the-ticket-part-1/

Integrity itself is a word that I have filed in my grey matter RAM under A for architecture, as opposed to H for human quality. I wonder if that’s because I have more evidence of it in the linear notion of “Structural Integrity”?

Or could it be because there feels to be an increasing absence of palpable integrity in a world in which one rarely places oneself in the position to express, with the vulnerability of ownership, one’s own failures.

While this is often true with interpersonal relationships, integrity is never challenged more than in the competitive arena of the business community.

In business, we have seen the burgeoning presence of spin doctors, lobbyists and lawyers who have developed the art of deception through omission. They professionally assist “Management” in reframing the situation and the omission typically surrounds a responsibility “Management” wants to avoid the cost of.

The rationale skillfully leveraged by these creative persuaders seems to consistently circle one theme- Entitlement.

They sooth us, saying: “This is your Business/Career/Life… it’s your right to behave as you want. We can redirect you from the responsibility of your actions by leveraging jurisprudence…for a reasonable hourly rate”

To the profit-focused capitalist, this approach is as seductive as a portside peeler bar to a newly docked sailor. Our captains of industry are easily tempted to drift toward this thinking justified by the need and companionship cuz  “anyone else would do the same thing.”

And so, the standard is lowered. But is that the only reason?

When I was apprenticing in the wild world of women’s fashion, I worked in Valencia, Spain immediately before reporting to design class in Italy. While I learned a bunch in Florence, one thing that has given me pause throughout the years that followed, is how I totally lost my ability communicate in Spanish the minute I crossed the border.

For a long time I thought it was because of the complexity of the verbs.

 I now know the reason I couldn’t keep the two languages functional in my head was because of one simple 3 letter word.


Now, if you are aware of some little tingle of anticipation of a smokin’ hot story of drunken dalliances in both of those countries and how they ended abruptly because of an unfortunate choice of words, well you can stop reading right now, or prepare for your tingle of disappointment. You see my daughters skim these posts every so often so I can neither confirm nor deny those occurrences.

However, I will tell you that the need to fit in, to be perceived as less of an outsider in the eyes of the sultry Mediterranean women, in my early twenties, was almost as much of a driving force as my desire to learn to design women’s shoes…

…ok, maybe more.

“So, uh…Dude – apart from the name-dropping sex talk, what could possibly be the point of the Spanish/Italian reference?”

I guess I was observing how sometimes our brains seem to block out one skill to build another, and I wondered if that same thing could equally apply to human qualities?

I mean, the forum of business has become more like a WWE championship where the skill of fearless rationalization has replaced the art of true competition. Everywhere you turn leaders are brashly throwing down for their right to behave like an ass.

I wondered, if by developing talent in the art of spinning, justifying and rationalizing our foibles, we have ended up completely atrophying our capacity for integrity.

We have rationalized integrity to the point of losing our true understanding of it in its purist form.


Again, we have to look at the way the business world often operates behind the slick marketing it carefully crafts to keep us in the checkout line.

Even the most savage are wise enough to not bite the hand that feeds, and so when our business community has blurred the lines of integrity, individuals who live within that community must question the return on the investment of demanding a higher moral standard at the risk of losing the ability to pay the rent.

All too often business owners and leaders handcuff our “trusted associates” (employees) by disguising gag orders as loyalty to the cause.

Those of us who embraced capitalism as a path to independence, have learned that what we as individuals know to be “right” is rarely the easiest or most profitable path.

So, we quietly do the math and realize if we choose the high road and negatively impact profitability, then we may soon be the cutback required to offset the cost incurred, by the team, so we focus the blame elsewhere.

There is a story of a young V.P. in the Ford Motor Company in the thirties, presenting himself to none other than Mr. Henry Ford, resignation letter in hand. He was assuming responsibility for a production error that would cost the company $100,000, in the 1930s that was a whole whack of profit. Mr. Ford took the letter and tore it up saying at the time “I cannot accept your resignation sir; I now have a one hundred-thousand-dollar investment in you!”

Ford understood that witch hunts are far less valuable over time, than the acquired experience of a loyal team member.

But today, the pressure to perform is so characterized in fantasy based media that it seems more appropriate for leadership to turn outwards and “clean house and turn the page”instead of turning inwards and assuming responsibility.

How could this erosion in strength of character, once so valued in leadership, have advanced so rapidly?

That, dear readers is the focus of tomorrow’s post.

Integrity; that’s the ticket! – Part 1

Ask anyone and they will find some single word that best defines a life well lived.

While the average adult has typically more than 25,000 words in her mother tongue, (French or English) invariably, we tend to choose one word that sums the path to “success” and “fulfillment”

Tenacity, Transparency, Honesty, Ambition, Charity, Drive, Enlightenment, Sacrifice, Commitment, Selflessness, Discipline, Flatulence, Forgiveness, Focus, Resilience, Nurturing, Humility, Self-Awareness, the list is endless.

Well not actually endless, as it turns out.

More like about 1,710 words to be more accurate.

This according to “A Hierarchical Analysis of 1,710 English Personality-Descriptive Adjectives” by Ashton, Lee, and Goldberg, as published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004.

Wait -What the…!! Why would anyone spend the time analyzing the adjectives used in the description of another person?

For the same reason, a fifteen-year-old boy would approach his father, on a warm summer night as he vacuumed the pool to ask:

Dad, what the most important thing to you, in life”

We all seek to identify the personality traits required that will orient us toward “success”, and since in my younger view, my Dad was amongst the most successful that I direct access to, I sought his.

Well at least from the perspective of the definition of the term of success, that my 15 years of life experience afforded me.

Is it human nature, hardwired within our genetic composition, to emulate the traits we identify as ‘winner’ in others?

I’m thinking yes.

Yet, that can be argued in the many ways my sister, brother and I are remarkably different.

Which begs the question “Were we three watching the same pool cleaner?” Or at the very least our lives raise further ambiguity surrounding the eternal “Nature vs Nurture ”debate.

While the answers to these questions are more complex than I can begin to answer,  I’m thinking we three were in fact eyeing the very same guide. Albeit through different colored lenses, influenced both by our own baggage and the different points in the personal journey of the man who set the pace for us.

For example, the age difference between my siblings and I resulted in my sister undoubtedly identifying with his more youthful qualities of willful commitment and limitless bravado. While my brother seemingly was more influenced by my father’s aptitude for acceptance and forgiveness.

If each of our lives is nuanced by the moment and personal experiences (at that time), as well our own interpretation of the behaviors of the Sherpa we choose to follow up the mountain, does that explain how, despite being equipped with the greatest potential, all too often many of us end up at the top of a mountain overlooking an unfulfilling panorama? Or worse yet, measuring our lives in missed opportunities as we sit on the sidelines, hat in hand in front of others passing us by?

The words of David Byrne in: “Once in a lifetime” brilliantly capture the moment of emptiness when we realize the destination didn’t result in the feeling anticipated at the onset of the trek:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

And now time for our musical break. Here’s the link to get you jostling with this sublime, funny, and existentially questioning tune. Which just so happens to be one of echoing refrains in the soundtrack of the middle part of my own little life movie:

So often, we allow others to identify the target of our limitless capacity. And so often that happens at our most impressionable moments. Like adolescence-the fun years when pimples and values simultaneously surface.

Some of us make the ascension to follow the parents we see as successful, forever setting our watch to the accomplishments of our predecessors to ensure we are “making good time” in comparison.

Others, who may find the influences of an upbringing that left them hangry or alone, choose a divergent path, resolved to never be “that poor”, “that late”, “that mean” or ” that rigid“. And please note, by “poor” I refer to spiritually, emotionally, or financially. They are guided by a not too distant horizon, quite literally allowing the darkness to define the light within them.

Photo credit- Aaron Vincent

Today, in my own journey, I have come to recognize that when the obsession of how to get there superseded the objective of where to get to, it was precisely at those moments, that I felt the least aligned with the flow of life and ultimately my most authentic self.

Which brings us to Integrity.

Ah …Integrity…we all claim it.

We write it into our mission statements. We hope to live a life that we can be identified by it, but in the end how many of us actually are?

Where the rubber meets the road, when we kiss ass because we fear losing our jobs, when we remain silent in the face of racism, sexism or any ism, when we put our thirst to fill the hole we feel within ahead of the work required to fill it, can we really claim we have integrity?

Not me…at least not with consistency, in the earlier base camps along my journey.

I spent too much time worrying that you were smarter, faster, or more of anything I was not. I bit my tongue, wore what you asked, and behaved like the salesman you rewarded me for, as I secretly felt the emptiness of not being aligned with my truest self.

But I did get super good at all! Or so I thought.

I spent a lot of time confusing myself between the value of practicing “Social Graces” and the fine Art of selling out.

I felt I had no choice.

Rationalizing my misunderstanding of – this was the path of a “responsible” adult. Aftercall there were loved ones to whom I had to step up for and for whom I felt I had to provide.

Talk about the walking wrong trail up the right mountain!

More on the ascension, and my Dad’s response to my teenage question in the next episode of “As the World Turns” (Aka my next post).

Oh and btw, no, that wasn’t a typo – I just wanted  to make you smile as you were reading the entire list of adjectives above.😉

3 Movies to remember along the path of Social Distancing :

Cool Hand Luke

I went to a Starbucks with a friend the other day, when asked for ‘my name for the order’ I replied “Wilson, and can I ask you a favor please? I’m a little hard of hearing at the moment, when our coffee is ready would you mind calling my name in your best booming Tom Hanks voice?”

My friend is a therapist and as we waited, I turned and commented:

There certainly is no shortage of crazy going on with all this COVID-19 new world order bullshit eh? Your business must be booming

Her reply made me think “No, but there sure is a shortage of available help!”

Social distancing, confinement and mask wearing has created more than a physical distance between us. It has atrophied one of our most primary needs – to feel a part of -to connect.

Added to these protocols is the change for most of us in our work life – which we all too often allow to define us. Where we do it, how we do it and who we do with, in most cases has been dramatically altered.

Further, the other third of our waking lives- our social life– has equally been turn on its ear.

Closed are the restaurants, decimated are the daily water cooler connections, beer league hockey, even the community of the classroom within Universities has been redefined as 4 people trapped in a basement apartment watching Zoom.

Heartbreak is rampant, as birthdays pass without contact, graduations pass without congratulatory hugs and deaths pass without the closure of gathering.

All this has amped up our sense of isolation and detachment to an 11.

So what?

Is not isolation and detachment the path to enlightenment chosen by wise monks? They seem respected and serene, so, what’s the problem?

‘The problem’ occurs when we do isolation and detachment not in the pursuit of something but when it is forced upon us. Remember “The Box” in Cool Hand Luke?

 “What we have here is a failure to Communicate!

And the “problem” is subversive and insidious.

Many like to call it Covid Crazy- and as we all know it’s raging more epidemically than the actual pandemic itself.

Evidenced initially by the gold rush to buy toilet paper, we all became consumed with a me-first-protectionist-survival-mode mentality. This was followed by an “us versus them” divisive flame -which is further fanned, as we now know, by the “social” media we use to “connect”. Now it would appear we have arrived at the spot on this Country Fair Fright House Ride, I like to call  the “Fuck it! Fork in the road

Cute little euphemistic names apart, the impact on us as individual elements within the blanket of society is not to be underestimated.

Anger seems to surface more freely as a symptom of the frustration with heartbreak we all feel as a result of life not unfolding as we had grown to expect.

The new normal has exiled many among us to spend far too much time in the confines of our own mind, which for most is a dangerous neighborhood never to be ventured into alone.

Let’s go back to the Monks for a moment, while isolation and detachment can produce serenity, they would also tell you that the road to serenity meanders through A Wizard of OZ type of Haunted Forest of the mind, BEFORE arriving at the awareness that the mind and feelings need not to define us.

The Wizard of Oz

Sadly, in detached isolation many do follow the first whispers of the mind and “Turn Back”, or at least momentarily turn away.

The most poignantly clear evidence of which is witnessed within in the escapist solutions that are most readily available to todays’ society:

 In a recent study in Quebec daily substance use have gone from pre confinement levels of 11% to 27%-, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/substance-use-is-up-but-montreal-health-officials-say-people-aren-t-seeking-help-1.5185068

Online purchasing has shot through the roof, arguably not simply because of the obvious convenience/necessity but also due to the escapist tickle that creates the endorphin rush of clicking BUY online.

Bulk buying is also a new trend. Buying more than we need reflects our will to feel surrounded by supplies pre apocalypse. Ok while this may be hardwired within us to ensure our survival, recently I listened to a report on a new trend “Convenience Store Bulk Buying”


How many cases of overpriced Sour Patch Kids packs can one consume prior to slipping into a hyperglycemic coma?

Wait don’t answer that- I will let you know in my next post.

The point is, while the pursuit of serenity, may pass through isolation, detachment and even silence, the actual goal can only be achieved through growth of connection. Often as part of a community, be it fraternity, sorority or LGBT cribbage club.

Isolation without a purposeful sense of attachment to a connection greater than oneself will inevitably lead to the autopilot world of “every man for himself”

The good news is that we are genetically coded to connect.

Over the millennia we have been far more successful as individuals within a species when we were genuinely connected as individuals within a community.

Enter LOVE.

I’m not referring to the romantic kind, I’m referring to the Fearlessly SELF-less kind

It’s the other direction of the aforementioned “Fuck it! fork in the road

Only through selfless & fearless love can we have a shot at the ‘monk like’ experience of isolation and detachment as we simultaneously grow from within.

The brilliant light of serenity at the darkest times, shines through the simplest gestures: encouraging the struggling artist in all of us, by acknowledging and sharing the artform of any individual with others.  

This can easily  be done by  telling a friend about a local tea store, giving business to the corner restaurant as they set up a takeout counter, subscribing to the works of an online artist or simply sharing an moment with a stranger that leaves you both smiling.

Upon so doing, we instantly become aware of how much more important our own position is, woven into the fabric of something greater is than our self obsessed attempts at individuality.

Not only will this raise self worth and thus lower anger, escapism and the frequency of finger flips to others, more profoundly when we make this effort to stop self centered scrolling and reach outward, we satiate the most primal need we have, the one that roots itself at the moment of our conception- The need to be connected.


I turned to see the Barista reaching out with my coffees-smiling from ear to ear and heart to heart.