Fulfillment, happiness, and reward...

The other day I was wandering around one of the local artisan boutiques in my neighbourhood and came across a young woman preparing for spring — with Christmas behind us the next big commercial event is SPRING, and as you know, the commercial machine is well oiled to sell us something. I suppose we do need somewhere to direct our tendencies.

I could not help but take a moment to watch her put the final touches on what she was doing — I will admit it was visually stunning, and the positive energy that was coming from someone doing something they love was "palpable" (and infectious). As I watched, she caught my eye and smiled at me; she looked back to what she was doing and then bounded over to someone I can only assume was her boss. Their conversation seemed full of positive energy.

As I looked back at what she had done, I could not help but think that she definitely has talent, seems to very much love what she is doing, and has a long runway for success.

"Do something you love, get really, really good at it, and the money will follow"

I can't remember if I read this or if someone mentioned it, but it still resonates to this day. And I believe it to be true!

There is a self-awareness and an understanding of where your strengths lie that is needed — knowing what you are good at, and conversely what you are not so good at, is important. And just as important, the definition of your strength needs to be yours and not anyone else's (and most definitely not with what you see on the internet). HAVE THE SELF-AWARENESS TO UNDERSTAND YOUR STRENGTHS.

It should be pointed out, particularly if you are under thirty, that there is a big difference between being good at something and its other advanced iterations — great, elite, master, expert, best, number one... and the ever popular "best ever in the whole, wide, world". The advancement of good takes practice, work, continued development, coaching, more practice, more work and time... lots of time. WHEN YOU FIND YOUR STRENGTH, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT PRACTICE, HARD WORK, AND TIME IS NEEDED TO GET REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

Share what you are doing with people and discard the concept of perfect. Everything we do is an evolution from good to great. In fact, there is something to be said about watching your progress — it's motivating; not only for you but also for those who may be watching you. IF YOU WAIT FOR SOMETHING TO BE BULLET PROOF IT MAY NEVER GET DONE — GET YOURSELF STARTED, SHOW PEOPLE WHAT YOU CAN DO, AND KEEP DOING IT.


And one more thing, if you leverage your strengths, do what you love, and the reward never comes the way you think it should, you still have fulfillment and happiness — and let me say that if you have this, you pretty well have everything.

I wonder where that young woman will take her talents over the next thirty years?


Bloggers note — when I sent the first draft of this blog to my daughter her response was, "Dad, that's not exactly what happened". To that I suggested it was artistic licence on my part. Her response was something about the integrity of information on the Internet. So in the spirit of not feeding "fake news" and staying a hero in my daughter's eyes, I will say the young woman is my daughter — I didn't watch her put the commercial merchandising display together or watch her bound over to her boss (although I was told her boss did like her work). The picture is real, and the thoughts on Fulfillment, happiness and reward" are mine. In the end, my position is I'm practicing my creative writing skills to tie all of this together.

What can I say, I'm a loving father — sue me.

A Story of Catching the Wind... and maybe a metaphor for success.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here

Is there anything that invites nostalgia more than the thought of a spring fed pond? Long carefree days filled with the sounds of laughter and the endless escape into the cool water from the hot summer sun; a harmonious balance with nature - Except when it isn't. 

It seems a pond is a dynamic creature with thermal layers, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, a constant amount of "nature" going in, and unpredictable movement; all of which can lead to an overgrowth of algae and pond scum if not in balance, and this was very much my pond.

In looking for a root cause, it seemed to be an imbalance between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria; as oxygen in the water is depleted, the anaerobic bacteria flourishes and creates ideal conditions for algae, pond scum and bad smelling water. The solution it seems is to simply put oxygen back into the pond that encourages the aerobic bacteria to restore the harmonious balance of nature.

So, with an environmentally friendly windmill to aerate a pond on order, the Story of Catching the Wind begins.

An unassembled sixteen foot windmill comes in six boxes that includes a compressor, a large number of galvanized metal pieces, what seems to be a countless number of bolts, nuts and washers, and an abundance of one off parts. Also included is one very detailed twenty-five page manual to aid with assembly. 

There was never any doubt that I would do the work myself; with the help of Big Red and a long in the tooth Toyota Tercel named Doris we planned to start early Saturday morning, under what turned out to be a cloudless sky. I suppose I could have hired someone but skills and competencies are developed when you do it yourself; to truly understand something, including yourself, you have to become a practitioner - In the end, this windmill (as well as catching the wind) was an exercise in patience and perseverance.

The assembly process was systematic and not to be deviated from; the legs, cross supports, bolts, washers and nuts were put together but left loose; as the tower took shape, the holes did not always align, necessitating the need for shear muscle to coerce the bolt through the hole. With the sun high in the sky, we were now able to divide and conquer with Big Red working on the blade assembly and I (awash with déjà vu) readdressed the nuts and bolts of the tower to fully tightening them. With the tower and blade assembly complete, that left us just with the compressor assembly and then final windmill assembly. 

The compressor housing assembly consisted of inserting a pivot tube through two holes in the compressor housing (and fastening it) and then sliding a brass bushing over the pivot tube. What we quickly discovered was the pivot tube too large to go through the holes of the housing and the brass bushing was too small to go over the pivot tube. Two and a half hours later (after some cursing, creativity, tools used outside their design specification and lots of muscle and sweat) the "what should have been a 15-minute" task was complete.  

With the top of the tower now resting at a 15 degree angle on a bench, the pivot tube was greased and inserted into the hole at the top, the blades were attached to the compressor shaft (involving the ongoing equal tightening of bolts and nuts until the blades were balanced) and the tubing that would carry the air to the pond was secured - With he windmill now fully assembled, all we had to do was get it vertical! After two failed attempts to lift the windmill into place and the shadows around us started to get long, the possibility of leaving the windmill lying on its side was a real and would be a monument to our failure.

Now enter the ever-dependable Doris whose only desire is to help you get from here to there. With Big Red behind the wheel, Doris strapped to the windmill, and me guiding and directing progress, the windmill started to rise. There was a moment where it almost fell over onto Doris and then back onto the ground but in the end the windmill settled majestically into its new surroundings. After celebrating a little, we secured the windmill to the ground, attached the air tube to the air diffuser and sank the diffuser in the middle of the pond. We were now set; in theory the wind would turn the windmill, the windmill would pump air into the pond, and the diffuser would inject micro-bubbles of oxygen into the water.

As we looked at the water and then at each other, we slowly looked up at the windmill with the realization that the early evening air was dead still - The windmill was motionless. Our day was now done, so we packed up and left the property to its own devices. In the end, the 16-hour day positioned us to "catch the wind" and that was all right by me. Literally it is about being in the right place at the right time and I knew the wind will come. 

Metaphorically speaking in a professional sense, "Catching the Wind" (or "catching the wave" if you identify with surfing) means you are in the right place at the right time to catch the energy of the "moment" to propel yourself fast and far in your career. Metaphorically speaking, the assembly of the windmill that day was a reminder of what it takes to position yourself to "Catch the Wind that propels your career far": 

  • Depending what you are positioning yourself for, it may come with any steps and some are such that you just can't "skip over" them - Know what you need to do.
  • You can't do it alone, and you need good people to help you along the way - Their support is crucial to learn, to develop and motivate you.
  • It is hard work. Don't think otherwise.
  • Unforeseen problems will arise and they have to be solved before you can continue - This will most likely take creativity and perseverance to work through them.
  • The only one stopping you from quitting is you - Don't quit!
  • Sometimes the wind just isn't blowing. Make sure you are positioned in the right place and have a little patience.

So my windmill is ever vigil and waits to catch the wind.

So does my pond for that matter.


Learn to be "comfortable with being uncomfortable".

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Inevitably two or three months into their new job, after the raw enthusiasm had worn off, I would often hear something along these lines, "Now that I am getting into the new job, I'm starting to realize everything I don't know; it makes me feel a little uncomfortable." *

With a "big knowing smile", I would always respond the same way, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." And then I would proceed to explain what I meant.

The first part of the conversation would focus on the technical process that comes with people development, and I would use "Situational Leadership" as the model for understanding. Situational Leadership was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, and is a wonderful leadership model (and framework) that articulates the leadership style most appropriate for the various stages of an individual's (or team's) development. See Ken's website.

Development Stage 1: Low Competence, High Commitment. (S1 Leadership: Directing)

Development Stage 2: Low/Some Competence, Low Commitment. (S2 Leadership: Coaching)

Development Stage 3: Moderate/High Competence, Variable Commitment. (S3 Leadership: Supporting)

Development Stage 4: High Competence/High Commitment. (S4 Leadership: Delegating)

I found this part of the conversation very effective, particularly with the Y Generation as it re-enforced there was "in fact" a development plan in place, what it was, how it worked, allowed for discussion and outlined the milestones for progress. I re-enforced that "being uncomfortable" was natural and in fact a good thing - The process of learning new things invariably makes you feel uncomfortable.

The conversation would continue with long term goals, aspirations and success; we would then get to the heart of what I meant by saying, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." Learning and development, both professionally and personally, are constant endeavours and needed for continued success - You need to get comfortable with this. The comfort with being uncomfortable is the indicator you are pointed in the right direction.

I have refined this conversation over the years, and in one form or another, have had it with every person I've had the privilege to manage and lead; no doubt some discussions better than others, and not all came with that "big knowing smile". 

This "big knowing smile" I refer to was saved for those who have the self-awareness to broach being uncomfortable in the first place... not because it makes it easier to start the development discussion, but because self awareness is another indicator of long term success.

As I look back on the people I had the "big knowing smile conversation" with, this does seem to be the case.


* A compilation of the "being uncomfortable" comments I have heard over the years.