3 Questions from late night Red Lights- Part Deux

In our last episode https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/11/16/3-questions-from-late-night-red-lights-part-1/ we found our “Crusading Contemplator” carefully considering the link between redundant traffic lights and Life Lesson Lists for daughters, after a sleepless night surfing the world wide interweb.. and now the exciting conclusion…(or is it just the enigmatic beginning )?

Sleepless, I found myself reaching for the internet, you know – The Land of OZ where dreams and disasters are sold to tickle our imagination and simultaneously lull us into inaction.

Lost in Facebook’s insidious attempts to expose me to “subject matter“, seemingly telepathically presented to distance me further from or closer to, some divergent political extreme, I happened across Frances Vidakovic homespun “37 Rules for My Daughter” .

As I read, I couldn’t help but wonder ” What gets into people to inspire them to share “wisdoms” learned from life experience” …their life experience

For example #21 – “Ask for what you want, the worst thing they can say is no”, # 30 ” You have enough, you are enough” and the old standby #2– “Don’t wear underwear you aren’t proud of in case you’re in an accident and they have to cut your clothes off.”

You can see the whole list here: https://www.inspiringlifedreams.com/37-life-lessons-and-rules-to-teach-your-daughter-today/ and decide for yourself whether Ms. Vidakovic’s lessons are worth sharing with your daughter. I’m not here to judge…(well not in a “judgy” way anyway)

Further down the list, I was reminded of something I scribbled on my beside notepad in the middle of the night and I was reminded of my father.

Weeks ago I wrote the line “As if to side step pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

I had no idea why I wrote that.

Or even how I could use it, until last night, when alone in the big empty home that once housed my family, aching from their absence, scrolling through insomnia, I began to question what is it that compels people to share lessons learned through the pain their life experience has delivered.

The paradox struck me, what is the inspiration of creating cheat sheets for the lives of others…I mean aren’t we always supposed to be chorusing Pink’s anthem “F&*king Perfect” to those we care most about?

The spoken section of the song kept echoing in my mind- “Why do I do that?…Why do I do that!?!?”

Here check it out if you need a musical interlude from this post, I found a beautiful acoustic version of this powerful song …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3GkSo3ujSY

Challenged by the paradox of leadership of those we care about ( I mean they’re perfect right? So why do we feel we need to add something?), I went through a whole list of negative inspirations. For Example: “We think we know better“, “We are seeking to be viewed as a guru“, “We are ‘ whistling in the dark’ -trying to compensate for our own uncertainty“, but these felt dark, gratuitous and slanderous and as anyone who knows me can attest, I have always preferred a glass half full.

Eventually I came up with 3 possible positive (albeit perhaps equally misguided) inspirations behind the default logic of “transferring the answers of wisdom

  1. The obvious one is : We wish to make life “easier” for them.
  2. We hope to provide a reference point for where the wrong turn occurred, when they find themselves in the aftermath of a tough experience and can’t quite figure out WTF! just happened.
  3. Or maybe it’s to prevent them from wasting time learning lessons that have been tried and tested countless times before, thus giving them a leg up to focus on learning more important shit. Something I like to call the Darwin Model of thinking evolution.

All are noble, responsible and even selfless inspirations.

Or are they?

The flaws in all three of these parental/leadership “best practices” are as glaring as a pimple on the porcelain complexion of a budding adolescent.

In the first approach, as far as “making life easier” I found the answer to the reason behind my late night scribble.

Disappointment Hardship, and Heartbreak are not only inevitable, they are a required component of a complete life. When we hurt, we arrive at the red light and are faced with the opportunity to pause and learn. Some of us choose to drift through the red light but almost invariably, if we distract ourselves from a lesson we need to learn, we simply delay a bigger collision down the road.

To divert those we love from their own pain is to deny them the opportunity to grow from and beyond it.

In the second possible inspiration noted above, while “providing a reference point” may appear more altruistic, like wazers alerting other drivers of a police trap up ahead. The truth is, sometimes when we pull up to the red light of pain, we don’t even know how we got there. Consumed all too often by the pain itself or too focused on where we want to go. So at that point we can’t even even remember the 37 wisdoms imparted by some well intentioned tourist, who has already traveled this route.

Case in point: ever found yourself second guessing your GPS?.

And the third option, “prevent wasting time learning rudimentary lessons” Well that dog just won’t hunt.” Because it’s a proven fact … We learn everything from mistakes.

I mean we learn EVERYTHING… Important stuff like:

  • Never mix the grain with the grape
  • Never answer the question “Do I look fat in these?”
  • No matter how smart you may think you appear in short term, the banks always win the long game.

To share experience with the intention of saving those we love a few steps on their journey, is is a lot like expecting the student in grade 3 to skip to post graduate work in couples counseling without the benefit of having a grade 4 heartbreak.– it’s gonna leave that scholar with only a theoretical exposure to the experience.

This type of mentoring can’t provide some evolutionary leap in our gene pool (or pool of influence ), on the contrary, it will limit the life experience of others to, at best, the limitations of our own.

So dude what’s the answer ?!!?!

Really?!? Have you not been listening…did you not read the title ?

I can’t give you the answer…I’m just sitting here asking questions, waiting for the light to change .

For more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here or @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

3 questions from late night red lights -Part 1

My father got to grade nine before he had to quit school to get a job to contribute to his family’s much needed revenue. At the time, the financial hardship of the great depression made this common place.

Often, that reality divided people into two camps. Judgy perspectives formed between the two schools of thought. Those who harbored resentment to shield the insecurity, from the abrupt loss of the innocence the classroom provides and those who accepted their lot hungrily pursuing life’s other more “self directed” channel of learning.

Dad fell into the latter category.

But he didn’t resent those who had achieved higher academic milestones, instead he placed great importance on the value of formal education as a compliment to the school of hard knocks.

As often was the case he backed up his values with action. On one occasion, when learning of a friend of mine who was financially unable to to make tuition, he quietly wrote a cheque covering the year, to ensure no opportunity to fully evolve was incomplete.

However his legacy extended beyond his accomplishments and material generosity, in that he was one of the best teachers I have ever known.

He read biographies voraciously and shared with those he loved the benefit of his experience through the lens of those he saw as “more educated”. Often quoting Dale Carnegie, cautioning “That’s not the way to win friends and influence people” when I appeared to be ready to take a wrong turn.

Yet his mastery of the skill set required to truly enlighten, never shone so brightly until his mentoring morphed from occasional lecturer to thoughtful questioner.

It’s four AM, you’re at a red light, on your way to work – as opposed to on your way home – and you come up to a red light.

WAIT! Hang on, are either of these options even relevant examples in a covid world?

Anyway, there’s no one around, do you furtively glance in all directions and then slip through the red light to continue on your way?

Why not – right?

No one will see, there are no cameras (maybe), and c’mon, the red light was designed to protect those who needed to cross the intersection at busier times-No?

Besides, isn’t there a rush of freedom when you make your own set of rules?

Damn straight there is!

So you break the rules, feel like a rebel and with that you feel in control of your life, sipping that extra dry soy flat white a few minutes earlier than expected, you start your day with a win.

Or did you lose a moment to just pause and exist outside the rat race?

I was surfing recently and I came across a list of “Rules to Share with My Daughter” (interestingly, there was no mention of flexible morning red light laws).

As I read the list of 37 rules I was to share as a doting patriarch, I was reminded of an early morning thought I recently scribbled about the paradox of imparting lessons learned on those we care about.

I reached for my bedside notepad and sleepily scrawled the following:

As if to sidestep pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

What does sidestepping pain have to do with red lights and sharing life rules with your daughters?

Well that my friends, is a question, that if not comically obvious already, will be evident in my upcoming “3 questions from late night red lights-Part Deux

And for more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here by leaving a comment below or clicking follow @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

Stay Tuned…

Natural selection

Darwin’s vison of the evolution of a species has always been of fascination and inspiration to me.

To oversimplify his life’s work I would summarize his brilliant view as follows:

Individuals within a species who present genetic mutations dramatically inconsistent with the population, that provide a competitive advantage, are more likely to survive to the age of reproduction and thusly possibly transfer the successful, albeit mutated, genetic code to one or more offspring

My man Charles

For years now we have been told that the countless prescriptions of antibiotics issued by doctors, responding to our species insistence for immediate solutions, has created the possibility of a super bug. Now as we face a pandemic, I can’t help but wonder if Covid19 is further evidence of this.

When you really consider it, Nature has a spectacular way of wiping the slate clean when any particular species gets out of hand. Taking up too much place in what needs to be a perfectly balanced ecosystem.

The slow, the weak, the aged and the vulnerable invariably are the first selected in the culling that evens the scorecard, so that all species may co-exist in an environment with limited resources.

When one species’ success runs wildly out of control, destabilizing the delicate balance required to maintain a harmony, some catastrophic event typically hits the reset button. Often eradicating the entire species forever.

In a recent speech Joaquin Pheonix called on us to reflect if “…One nation, one gender, one species has the right to dominate another with impunity

Historically the signs of over dominance have included a species becoming so successful they mistake of interpreting the absence of visible predators for invincibility.

Can you say “Ice Age” Mr T Rex?

This self obsession ironically accelerates the species demise, by taking them off their competitive toes, letting them grow fat, slow and oblivious to threat.

You don’t need to look further than the device in your hands to be reminded of just how isolated from reality Homo Sapiens have become.

Mr Jobs invention, designed to bring us closer together has done the opposite by driving us into a world of chasing “likes” instead of working on being genuinely likable.

And walking through the aisles of the local grocery store, the absence of toilet paper, confirms that while diarrhea is not a symptom of a respiratory virus, it may indicate how our attention to the facts has dropped to Neanderthalic levels.

Even our compulsion to consume without consideration reflects our dog like nature.

A friend tells a story of his big dog jumping up on the counter and chewing through the packaging of three pounds of fruit cake one Christmas. When my friend got home, on the floor lay the dog with the most regretful look on his face, as if to say “ Dude!! What was I thinking ?!?”

The dog survived but my friend had the biggest Boxing Day clean up ever.

In recent weeks we have seen that this same animalistic behavior lies beneath the surface of some of the most fortunate members of our species.

And not even very far beneath the surface !

Witnessing behavior from Televangelists selling coffee, to use for barter in the post apocalyptic world,

Yup, Jimmy Baker is back giving credence to the idea that the most reviled members of any species may in fact survive and thrive.

to fist fights occurring outside grocery stores only days after the first cases were announced in Canada and you witness Homo Sapiens behaving like Lemmings racing toward the edge.

Profiteering and barbarism surfacing so rapidly it leads me to question: What truly lies beneath the thin veneer we paint on before we walk out into the world to spend most of our days noses buried in our devices?

Ironic isn’t it?

Now that we are being told that social isolation is the only hope we have to “flatten the curve” from resembling a hockey stick (Hey! I’m Canadian-eh), we, who spend our days obsessively distancing ourselves from any traditional form of communication- like talking, listening, smiling at a passerby and even eye contact – are now defiantly questioning the epidemiologists on how this unprecedented pandemic can be controlled through social distancing.

Oh sure… we will wear a mask to protect ourselves against illness – but too many of us are so cavalier, we think this won’t affect us! We are too powerful, rich & healthy to succumb to anything!

Uh… hello?

It’s not about you Monsieur T. Rex.

It’s about the fact that while this pandemic is projected to touch at least half of the human population… we don’t actually have the resources to attend to all three and a half billion of us in one waiting room at the same time!

So we won’t stop it’s onslaught but collectively we need to slow its pace.

Enter my hero- fellow twisted thinker & Scotsman Charles Darwin!

Darwin postulated that while the original default color of an Arctic Hare may have been a taupey beige, that didn’t serve the species so well, given the backdrop in which they frolicked was most often snowy white.

Predators could see them miles away.

So the species didn’t do so well.

Until, through some genetic mutation some mama hare popped out a couple of albino hares and those Wiley Wabbits actually got to make woopie with a couple of lighter beige members of a neighboring …(wait for it) …harem… (come on! I had to!)

Ok poetic license on Darwin’s theory aside, you get the picture.

So where the f&*k am I going with this?

I was thinking about how this may just be nature taking care of the overpopulating of our overly self consumed species by introducing a virus that will by all accounts slam our advanced healthcare.

And of course I was thinking about Mr Darwin’s theory.

I began to wonder …

What mutation at this point would be the genetic advantage for members within Homo Sapiens?

Looking around there seems to be one trait that is as scarce as a Black Hare in the arctic:


The selfless consideration of others.

The only way we can possibly flatten the curve and have the greatest opportunity for limiting the strain’s impact on fragile healthcare systems, is if we can all get past our egocentricity and consider the unseen vulnerable individual who may be connected to someone to whom we inadvertently pass the virus.

Not SELF preservation … but actually the selfless preservation …of someone we don’t even know.


In a world of orange men making this an “us versus them” issue or amazon snake oil salesmen jacking prices on Purell, this is as much of a genetic mutation as any Duck Billed Platypus or a black and white donkey on the Serengeti.

Now I’m not sure if Darwin’s theory considered individual or collective social evolution … but I’m thinking we are about to find out if the principle holds.

In my tiny sphere on this planet, I see fledging businesses take leadership positions by making the socially conscious choice to close instead of squeezing out much needed revenue, in the early days of this crisis:


I see established businesses, making the choice to go beyond governmental guidelines because the risk is too high to just take half measures:


I see corporate leaders shifting the focus of resources from strategic goals to employee support.


Most encouragingly I see the next generation of Homo Sapiens choosing to self isolate while reflecting on higher ideals like empathy and mindfulness.


I see tough choices being made by those who very easily could confuse “never give up” over “doing the right thing”

These outliers, deserve our acknowledgment. And further our “Natural Selection” of support because they are mutating against the previous definition of “survival of the fittest”

Their choices introduce a possible alternative to the threat of extinction.

Ok, perhaps not the extinction of a species but certainly of a mindset that can only lead us further beyond nature’s balance.

This may be a stretch in Darwin’s theory but it certainly gives hope to the Origin of a (new) species.

(Editors Note: While I posted a couple of examples of outliers here, I would love to hear of the altruism you are witnessing… please share them with me in your comments)

Tourist Trap!

Light of Dawn

Recently while on vacation, a woman looked over my way and waded across the pool. I panicked. My first thought was “uh oh! Some drunk traveler is going to commandeer my moment in paradise”

You know how some people are all too willing to share their personal pain long before you even ascertain whether or not they are teetering in and out of lucidity?

I figured this is what I was in for, when within 90 seconds I learned she was heartbroken. Her wound, while not visible was palpable.

Three months earlier she had lost her second husband to whom she was married for 23 years – within 3 months of being diagnosed.

I also learned that her first husband was also a 23-year marriage. Eventhough the first didn’t die, she seemed to have a twenty-three year best before date when it came to matrimony.

At first I was trapped in that awkward place of way too much info, way too quickly. But also just as quickly, my initial reaction was eclipsed by awe as her light shone through her pain.

She elaborated on the time she shared with #2 and how he supported her as she had gone back to school to get a degree after her first marriage, to become part of the support network for the abused and disenfranchised.

She spoke so lovingly of her man “he raised my son… without ever trying to replace his father” and how “he had washboard abs well into his fifties”

Then the tears came.

Now it is me who is seeking counseling to move through all this… imagine that? After all I’ve seen and heard on the job- I need a therapist!”

She seemed almost surprised by the fact that there really was a benefit within her own profession.

My therapist says I’m engaging in a little excess … but given the situation he completely understands and he even said he’d be doing the same

Loss of all kinds beats the shit out of our sense of “I got this!”

Loss of love, loss of health, loss of self.

These things, when handled individually are challenging enough, but when they roll into life all together like an oversized KISS tour bus, the most natural response is to run.

And run we do.

Distracting with substance … or worse – with less recognizable dalliances like work or sex … or even tears.

Tears at first are natural and can be cathartic. They change our body chemistry, attempting to provide a release from whatever it is that is saddening us. Tears are such a well designed distraction they even have the built in ability to make us laugh!

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror while in tears boo-hooing?

Check it out!

I remember being a kid and noting just how my contorted face made me pause and marvel at how weird my scrunched up mug mirrored.

At the time I decided to scrunch it a different way and before long I wasn’t thinking of whatever got me started … I was looking at how f$*ked up my face looked.

The tears actually became a distraction from my sadness, in the same way that the sadness itself was a distraction from the pain behind it.

When we are sad, often the first thing we share with anyone who might listen is “I’m sad” and therein we get distracted and resistant. Inspired by the voxpop refraining how we “aren’t supposed to be feeling that way”

Oh ?

Who promised us that?

Tears, booze, work or sex all are great in moderation but they can become even greater avoidance vehicles for actually experiencing through the pain.

Given that at some point we all feel pain wouldn’t we be better off exploring it beyond its discomfort inspired by seeking to answer: “Why has this tourist wandered over to me here in Paradise?”

What if we explored the neighborhood and asked:

What’s on the other side of pain?”

How could we know???

Most of us avoid it like the corona virus. Using hand sanitizer and steering clear of travel just to avoid the possibility of pain. And here’s the kicker – just like the virus, many of us actually carry the virus but never revealing a single symptom!

Similarly most of us feel heartbreak and just stay the hell away from exploring it as if it was our entitled right to never ever feel it.

But just like the virus du jour, emotional pain is for most of us, just temporary. A portal to a place within ourselves that needs our attention.

Not avoidance.

Not obsessive focus either.

Not even the search for a solution.

Our attention.

It invites our investigation, it calls for exploration.

But through some Facata reasoning we typically hope to explore pain…pain free!

Wtf ?

When my son announced he wanted to play hockey, the last thing I wanted to do was get up for 6 AM practices in minus OMG Celsius to drive and sit in a damp cold arena with bad coffee and hangover.

So how did I respond to his request?

By enrolling him in Sunday afternoon library studies !

Naw … (though admittedly the thought did cross my mind as I hoped to escape the inevitable).

No, I remember saying “ well if I’m gonna be there I might as well distract myself by yelling at the kids”.

Ironically, it didn’t occur to me that I could do that from the seats with the other parents.

Nooooo, I was thinking from “behind the bench ”

This full on swan dive into a sport I had not really played was counterintuitive, frightening and sometimes quite literally painful.

Picture unbalanced kids with a long stick right about waist level and you will catch my drift.

Yet dive I did, and through that pain I was lead to a love for the boys caught up in their struggle to learn and grow. And in some cases, just stand up.

That love, my light must have shone through because before long my daughter asked if she could play and then if we could coach her team.

Which I did … for nine years.

Nine years of cold drives, late for practice after work, countless moments of elevated heart rates and nine years of pulled muscles.

Nine years of screaming, cheering, bellowing love!

Love for my son… the young athletes and spirits I coached and love for my role as a coach.

It was Love that was on the other side of the pain from which I was so ready to run.

Love that I would have missed if I had listened to those who said “Oy! That’s a lot of work” and “You really don’t know shit about hockey dude” (we’re in Quebec)

We are hard wired for flight or fight.

A binary code that suggests the only two options are to run or resist.

What about pause and explore?

What lies on the other side of the pain we feel so entitled to avoid?

Why do we feel so compelled to run…(or swim) away from what looks like an overbearing tourist, briefly visiting us, with the gift of ultimately revealing the light that lies on the other side and of our fear?

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others

– Marianne Williamson

What I learned from designing women’s shoes about manifesting desires.

Early in my career I worked with my father in the creation of women’s fashion footwear.

I started that journey in Florence, Italy, where I studied design under the tutelage of a middle aged charismatic fashion footwear designer.

Massimo would roll into class around 10 and give the assignments for the day. He had a disheveled look like Nick Nolte but his flair was effervescent.

“ Toodaya you weel create a plain pump weet a fiva eench heel”

And off he would slip into the Piazza Del Signoria to chat with his other designer buddies over espresso, coming back in time for lunch!

Back in the day, CAD software was not available to facilitate the conception for a 3-dimensional shoe from a 2-dimensional piece of leather.

The designer had to use masking tape to cover the surface of the 3-dimensional form that was used to mimic the foot (called a “Last”). Once the wooden last had been given a surface skin of masking tape, the lines of the shoe were drawn.

“Taping” a “last” required precision because if there were overlaps or folds in the tape they would create inaccuracies in the final look and, more importantly fit of the shoe.

Methodically I would tape the last and then set about drawing the lines of the shoe I imagined on the tape over the form.

When the shoe was drawn on the last I was then required to carefully peel off the tape in one full piece and lay it flat on cardboard to create a 2-dimensional pattern from which a sample could be cut.

Gone is that process today …all is done with the click of a mouse! But you can well imagine the connection footwear designers had with their collections as they repeated this process hundreds of times, twice per year for each collection.

Holding the last in my hands as I would outline the ornamentation really allowed me to feel what I was trying to draw.

While there may have been others who had more of a natural ability to draw, there were none who were more passionate, even obsessive, about details of their collections than I was.

In so many ways this process is coming back to me now – it’s the alchemy of manifesting the imagined into life.

The first similarity between shoe design and life design is that every great creation starts with an inspired thought.

We all have our share of inspired lightbulb moments, in fact while the scientific community still struggles with the exact number, it’s been quantified to be between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day.

That’s a lot of ideas to sift through to arrive at the one that has legs.

Add to that, some people seem more adept at transforming a thought into a physical reality which has lead me to believe that those who are great at manifesting their dreams must have a heightened ability to focus on the one thought amongst a myriad of others.

Now here’s my little hack for that challenge.

The thought focus ability can be at least partially simplified by remembering a couple of other mental fun factoids: up to 85% of those 12,000 thoughts are from the negative view, and 60% of those are repetitive!

The brain then turns the 12,000 total thoughts into roughly 60 original positive thoughts an hour. Conversely, this also means I need wade through 510 negative & repetitive thoughts per hour.

If so many of my thoughts come in the negative form, clearly the first place to uncover my next full life enriching experience may simply be by fostering a clear awareness of the flavor of my reflections as I watch them surface, remembering that only 1 in 10 thoughts won’t be some version of the same dream killer that I already came up with yesterday (and those thoughts will come at a relentlessly feverish pace).

“ I’m gonna be late”

“ Sales will not come in the second half”

“ This job is making my toes curl upward”

“ I’m fat.”

Hotels are so impersonal…Many people just want a neighborhood experience when they travel … you could use the Internet to bring people with rooms to rent and travelers together”

“ I’m not phat”

I suck at math”

We are going to be late”

Now here’s the tricky part – you can’t make a better past by trying to disown your very own negative thoughts.

Contrary to the folklore, it’s not about silencing the negative thoughts… it’s not about whistling the “Happy” tune by Pharrell Williams and having a shit eating grin on my face 24/7 as the world circles the bowl.

Nope, it’s about being the Observer, the witness of ALL those thoughts and recognizing each one for what it is BEFORE I allow it to inspire action from me.

Talking with a friend lately, he shared that during a recent busy period in his life his wife offered the insight “Focus on what YOU want”

I could see that he felt liberated from trying to figure out how to avoid all the negative outcomes and instead had more energy to focus on the outcome he envisioned, by simply focusing and acting on the non-negative thoughts.

This made a lot of sense, just as in design I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying that my “Fiva eench heel” would end up a loafer.

The point is: a lot of our time is spent circling the same old negative thought patterns, so if we can develop the ability to discern and release the negative preoccupations, we stand the best chance of focusing on our truly limitless potential.

Ok so what’s this got to do with taping a last to design a shoe?

Not much.

And everything.

Sometimes in the cycle of fashion there are pointed toe shoes, sometimes the trends demand a more rounded look, other times there’s a squared toe look (think Frye boots), whatever the shape of the form required to create the design, the last must receive a micro thin layer of tape, perfectly mirroring the form beneath in order to create an accurate final prototype.

It was the designers’ responsibility (and no small measure of his talent) to see how flawlessly the tape could be stretched over the form to best represent what lies beneath.

Each new season brought new styles and shapes with influences from around the world, and with each season the process began again.

I never got tired of trying to perfect my pattern skills because each time I held and taped a last I got to understand its complexity better.

I knew what styles would be good fitters on a particular last and what would not work.

But the only critically important aspect of the entire process was how effectively the tape mirrored the form beneath once it was peeled off and laid flat on the cardboard.

Equally, what will next be manifested in my life is a direct reflection of how accurately I represent my truest self to those around me.

It’s only when I really know who and where I am today, and where I envision I can be tomorrow, complemented by the courage to fearlessly represent all of that, that I stand a chance to be “in the flow” amidst all this chaos.

How can I be expected to be recognized if I’m not prepared to commit to – and reveal myself?

It’s only in so doing that life ever seems to fit like of a comfortable pair of well designed shoes.

How to get through the scary, painful disturbances.

“Mindfulness is the handbrake for thoughtless behaviour”

In some of my previous posts, I have written about the benefits of actually going through painful experiences.

We are all of the mistaken belief that our job on the planet is to avoid pain and to pursue happiness.

I’m not so sure.

I’m thinking that the uptick in alcohol and drug use is indicative of the intensity and pace of the world today, not some reflection of the legalization of pot or social acceptance of “Shots! Shots! Shots !”

No one feels it’s their birthright to experience sadness, hurt, betrayal, anger or any of the other so called “negative feelings”.

Ya, I said birthright TO FEEL those emotions, but those emotions are part of our time on the planet and with good reason.

When we allow ourselves to feel those emotions, there is discomfort…hell, sometimes in the last couple years it really felt like my chest was gonna fold inwards because my heart ached so.

But like the Tinman said “now I KNOW I have a heart because I can feel it breaking”.

Imagine the Timman’s loss if he had gone off to get wasted with some of the less scary flying monkeys in order to avoid Dorothy’s departure.

Yes, he may have avoided the pain, temporarily, but he would have learned less about his heart and his strength, and his life experience would be, in part, just an illusion.

Emotionally tough times give us the opportunity to see what we are made of if we allow the experience “to be”, without trying to avoid it or escape from it.

And if we truly desire for these times to pass quickly, (who doesn’t) the practice I have found helpful is to LEAN INTO the pain, rather than try to distance myself from the experience and feelings.

To me, “leaning in” means sitting with the feelings, and often leaning in involves opening my heart fully to a loved one or a friend. Invariably the simple exercise of the transparently sharing my challenge provides me with the perspective needed to work through it.

There is a power in vulnerability.

When we practice this instead of trying to distance ourselves from the feelings through anger, alcohol, drugs or some other distracting behavior, we fully experience life and, more importantly, we wake ourselves to the growth and lessons that the pain is meant to expose us to.

Periods of transition or stress come with the natural desire to distance that pain but the emotional short fuses that ensue will inevitably just end up creating more pain… hence mindfulness.

A willingness to mindfully experience the process may be tough, but it certainly will be our best path to growth.


Light at the edge of darkness

When I forget that I am but one seven billionth of my species on the planet that life itself has existed for more than a few days, it is easy to get endlessly caught up in the pursuit of immortality.

As are the other 7 billion.

Can it not be said that at some point in life we all seek to be identified?

Why would that be?

Perhaps the most innate nature in us all is to be recognized.

In some way.

For some thing.

But by who?

Our peers? This would explain the chaos in our pursuit to amass …stuff.

Doesn’t that kinda foreshadow sharing immortality with your stuff?

Many, seek immortality in the memories of loved ones. Could it be that this is why we say that family is all that really matters?

In the end our children bring with them whatever they can leverage from our folly to move beyond.

Others, will seek the immortality of a reputation. Years doing their life’s work behind the scenes or at the spearhead, inevitably result in the observation and assessment of others.

That sometimes unspoken definition of one is all that survives their passing.

Leadership, tenacity, unsurpassed work ethic are all environment specific recognition.

Therein is the problem with attempting to seek relevance beyond a lifespan based on reputation.

This kind of focus limits the true life of one human to only one dimension.

It’s no wonder we seek the fountain of youth….figuring out the path to extending life is hard work, it’s way easier fooling ourselves with boltons and Botox that we are not actually aging.

Upon reflection the whole immortality thing is complex. I mean the mere fact that more and more people are dying every day means achieving memorability is an increasingly competitive market.

My father went to the enlistment office in Montreal on his 18th birthday.


Was the obvious choice of question from an inquisitive 13 year old. I had seen enough of the Vietnam war on the nightly news to know that it was not a fun thing.

Also, I wanted to know everything about the life choices my dad made…why he did what he did.

And for his part he always did share.

He was always transparent with me. When he felt the query wasn’t an age appropriate question he was clear to set boundaries. He always did his best to spare me the gory details but when asked he would tell me what he knew. And so, in his shares I learned.

Because it was the thing to do. To be of service to my country.

That was it.

My father had his deployment averted by an injury, days before his departure. He never got overseas.

I was thinking about that, today with Remembrance Day occurring tomorrow.

Those who gave the greatest possible “service to their countries” not only achieve immortality on a given day, but moreover in our very actions and expressions. Their service allows us to be who we are and perhaps achieve our potential.

That sounds a little like the objective of immortality – no?

If we are tirelessly of service to others (let alone a country) will we not live on in the hearts and actions of others?

Contrarily if we focus on ourselves and all that we can acquire how will we be remembered by the inanimate objects that are the object of our desire?

It would seem to me that rocket surgery is not required to discern that our best shot to live on in the hearts and minds of those who will outlive our physical existence here, is to leave them feeling supported in their path.

I remember the really hard times but moreover I feel the hope and encouragement I received from those who stepped in shoulder to shoulder and offered me a companion, guide or rescue.

Those feelings I am sure will outlast my memories and in those feelings I root my stories to those around me of the men and women who will remain immortal in me, and I hope in the feelings I transfer to those close to me.

Lest we Forget.


There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I’m falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
“Whoa, so this is what she means”
She means we’re bouncing into Graceland
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Well, everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

Paul Simon

Whenever I hear Simon sing that iconic song I am momentarily paused by his enunciation at the point:

whoa, so this is what she means

As my interpretation of the lyric is the she to which he refers, is the one who calls herself “The human trampoline“.

To me it is lyrically and existentially an “Ah ha moment within an Ah ha moment”

I see Simon paused in reflection at some particularly challenging moment contemplating his options.

He wrote and sings not of the pain of “losing love” but rather what the experience was like.

Interestingly, he speaks of the position of what he sees losing love is like and refers to it from almost an observers perspective. Which BTW is the perspective from where all stories and all experience is shared, I guess.

When we then, as third party listeners, observe Simon’s own third person’s view, we are instantly able to connect with the song because we are capable of understanding the perspective.

For who among us has never had the view of our lives where we witnessed oursleves “Falling and Flying” ?

And isn’t it almost always at that moment when we imagine “Everybody can see you’re blown apart“?

Yes … and no.

For sure, we have all had moments of pause, be they joy or grief, where we sat back and looked at our “selves” and not experienced that perspective of:

“WTF! This is not how I imagined….”

However our feeling that these moments only occur when the future hits the present is simply also a matter of perspective.

Perhaps our real fear is that we are most exposed and “vulnerable” when we are unaware of something.

None of us likes to look stupid.

It’s as if appearing out of control will almost certainly manifest our worst fears.

I understand where this comes from…its in the fiber of our DNA.

These fears are deeply rooted in our evolution of our species to appearing out of control.

Think back to the days of yore when the need for environmental control was of primary benefit at the dawn of our species. Back then we needed to make sure we avoided certain mistakes that would ultimately result in really icky shit.

The idea that we lost “control” or even full awareness of our surroundings made us very much vulnerable to a bigger meaner and hungrier creature that was looking to make “a menu of one”.

However, the value we place on “all knowing” today is creating a pesky little subculture wherein we are seeing interlopers who “Know a little about everything giving the impression of knowing “a lot”.

They bamboozle us with the idea that if you know a lot about everything you are much less likely to be vulnerable at any given point in any given situation right?

Maybe…and No

What about the knowledge of experience? What about the divining rod of intuition? And how about grace?

One act of grace is the experience where tremendous pain and challenge serves to dispel the idea of limitations. Inspiring us beyond past challenges to greatness beyond even previously imagined boundaries. Which enriches one with both intuition and experience.

Grace has the opportunity to occur when we witness our lives from the perspective of the Observer/ Narrator … we actually are aware of where we are.

Aware when when we achieve our dreams and aware when we fall short but grace is also present when we experience something we never imagined.

In all of these moments of grace we are given the choice to witness it.

Whether discomfort or bliss exists it will always be best experienced from the perspective of the viewer. In that from that perch we can observe and learn how often we far surpass our limits physically, mentally and emotionally when we truly surrender ourselves to the experience rather than the outcome.

Even further it is from that perspective, that each gut wrenching heartbreak we wake up feeling, every consecutive 2 week pay period that you just can’t quite make ends meet, every hangover we endure, we can have a moment to see “our selves” facing a new day.

Which surfaces my question… Is it grace that provides the moment that we marvel at our ability to rise once again?

Isn’t it at the precise moment when we realize “ouch, I bloody well woke up again with this issue“,that we have a momentary reprieve to view ourselves. When WE are not consumed in the issue, can we not see ourselves from the place of observation concluding “I’m here again“.

With that moment I am Graced with an opportunity to take a different view and perhaps ultimately a different response to the issue.

Consider the fact that if I find myself aware that “I” am aware that, my head is pounding and my mouth feels like ashtray sand, actually means by extension that “I” survived to witness the aftermath of this particular train-wreck and that if I don’t limit my view to that of of the “suffering fool” I just may have the opportunity to choose from what perspective I want to view the next moment. Assuming, my arms are not still wrapped around porcelain at that moment.

All of which reminds me that when I shift my view from what is happening to me to what I am witnessing, I have seated myself next to Paul Simon on my way to Graceland, which is a very cool ride.

What did “HE” do next ?

I remember as a kid we were inspired by a “Voice Over” style of TV show where the Narrator seems to be watching the same story unfold from the benefit of a different view. Unheard by the characters, the Narrator is free to make observations without impact or consequence on the story .

So my close friends and I thought this was cool and begun narrating every aspect of our stories in the third person…

Donald is such a cool guy” said Don, to which Richard replied;

He would be a radical, way cool guy if he made Richard, a grill cheese sandwich, try

Ya …the language of youth is often peppered with a vernacular incomprehensible to the traditional interpretation.

Or put more succinctly:

Ya … we had a heavy nerd quotient.

I was thinking of this bizarre ritual the other day, when considering how sometimes we see stuff happening in our very own lives, that looks like it is appearing on a screen before us.

Sometimes it feels like witnessing our lives in the third person .

And it just may be from that very perspective, is a place from where some of my best work comes.

In that place I become surgeon like.

I am not drawn down the rabbit hole of my emotional judgement surrounding any given experience .

Consider an event that evokes an emotional response for example.

The third person view allows one the opportunity to reflect on, not only the sensation of the pain experience itself but also where and perhaps even why the pain exists.

It affords the “Watcher/Narrator” the view to identify the underlying perceived threat that is at the source of the pain at the surface, and therein really provides the opportunity to grow or heal.

But, just like the TV show of my youth, growth and healing only happen when the noise of Narrator’s negative observations are muted to the main character.

Another bonus of taking the third person view with me when I go into an emotionally charged experience, is that from the seat of the Narrator, the observed me can first express himself freely, albeit silently, without the threat of manifesting any negative consequences in the world directly in front of me.

Wait … what?

Only our actions – Reactions– to any given circumstance- are our ways to manifest our thoughts into the real world.

Imagine this scene: It’s Wednesday afternoon there are people around a boardroom table, you pitch an idea, for some as yet, unclear reason someone laughs, you feel the flush in your cheeks that usually signals “ someone’s about to be ripped a new one


this time….

From the snipers view, the Narrator intercedes and gently places a question in the your mind:

Why is that guy across the table making your blood boil in beneath your suit… I mean what magical power over you does he possess?” The Narrator questions above unfurling scene in the boardroom.

If I. can manage to be aware and consider that question, from the grassy knoll view, for a moment, I will have necessarily lifted my finger from the hair trigger emotion precisely prior to manifesting my own possible misinterpretation of the laughter.

For the possibility of manifesting our minds misinterpretations into real actions in the world around us, occurs only when emotion lures all our available resources to the scene … will, strength, power, and focus to rally us into action.

Action which is all too often summoned to the scene to combat some romanticized transgression which almost certainly lurks in the past or awaits in the future,

By assuming the less Trumpian position of “a fly on the wall” and viewing the experience from the third person, one actually has the power of viewing and considering all the players and options and thus really being the “best deal maker ever!”

Conversely when we allow emotion to draw us further into an issue we are succumbing to the beauty of a painting by Monet.

Because we cannot help but see our own emotion in the most poignant or gripping color schemes all with the soundtrack of our most heart touching musicians.

Where we are the artist.

By nature … our very own nature… we are seduced deeper into the story our emotions want to tell us, using our very selves as the illustrator and narrator.

And the story will without question occur in one of two places ..the past or the Future

It is incredibly hard to resist our own emotions as once drawn in slightly we become further engaged in the problem and slip further down the rabbit hole of emotion into a completely self absorbed view.

This is not to say that “pain does not appear in life” or that “life’s challenges should never make us emotional.”


The idea is that the less time we spend in problems and pain, the more time we can spend in other parts of life that we perceive as joyous.

However this is not advocating rushing through problems with a stopwatch.

Problems are really opportunities to learn and there is no way to sustainably accelerate the passage of time in any one persons life, so why set the KPI solely on problem processing time.

For example ineffective conflict resolution does not address the conflict it focuses on the damage caused.

So here we find ourselves … doing our best work from the seat of detached observation while simultaneously we are seduced into life’s distractions by the very best temptress our minds can create

As stated earlier the Key Performance Indicator should not be problem solution time alone .

But rather considering solution time as a function of growth experienced, would yield a better measuring stick.

The slowest thing about problem solving is our resistance to acknowledging the problem and that can only come from the third person view.

The weird and quirky view of freedom through the perspective of youth.

And so he started his day …

Even Superman has Kryptonite

My mother had a little quote on the wall that may have contributed to my restless identification of what is missing/wrong.

“When you’re through improving yourself – you’re through.”

I work with a guy and over the years we have both witnessed an evolution in our leadership styles but recently I was repositioned to gain an interesting insight from my colleague’s journey.

He truly lights up a room.

If you asked a dozen people I bet the common theme would be the “positive general demeanor this guy brings to wherever he goes”.

Over the past couple decades he and I have used each other as a sounding board for our next big thing.

I always focused on the area of most vulnerability.

He focused on the areas of most opportunity and what could be.

For the longest time this drove me bonkers.

I actually leveraged this “What If” approach in several complex spreadsheets which later also evolved but more on that later.

How could he avoid leaving the backdoor open to threat unless we considered every possible what do we do if ?

One day during a particularly stressful period of change, I found myself thrashing through ideas.

After I finished my view he asked me for an equal number of positive outcomes possible if we were to leverage our strengths instead of focusing on the risks .

Some might call that clichè

Some might call it naively oversimplified.

But what most recognize in my friend is a positive luminescent creative personality .

A guy who gets things built.

Conversely even attempting to consider the countless negative possibilities that might result, requires reflection, analysis and strategic preparation… all of which when done thoroughly are very demanding in terms of energy.

This time when he said “focus on your strengths not your shortcomings”,

I heard:

“Invest more time in leveraging what you you do well and less time focused on how your shortcomings may be limiting you”

For the longest time I thought the smartest guy in the room was the one who saw the train coming before the crash.

Being aware of the potential vulnerabilities while still moving forward is the benefit of experience and belief in self. Both are good tools to have. Assuming the carpenter has the energy to use it.

And like any tool, experience can only be used if :

A) You can locate it.

B) It’s not all wrapped up in a bunch of past projects

Experience can only be truly leveraged when it’s value is untethered from any past outcome.

The past is not the best predictor of the future, an individuals ability to evolve is.

I thought about it and I contemplated about how my friend is seen by others.

I began to wonder if his perspective of “building from his strengths” affords him the energy needed to get things done.

When we move with confidence in the direction of our dreams we are fully experiencing life.

And that is energizing!

Perhaps the mindset established from a strong proven foundation of strengths is one that lights up the room.