The new book, ‘What is Next’ is now available for Pre-Order from Amazon
What is Next: Lacrosse and Life Lessons | struggle, hustle and succeeding on purpose
The new book, ‘What is Next’ is now available for Pre-Order from Amazon
What is Next: Lacrosse and Life Lessons | struggle, hustle and succeeding on purpose
Have you ever felt so motivated that you could take on a giant? When it feels as though nothing can bring you down from cloud nine and you are essentially unstoppable? Your world is limitless! Your goals are going to be crushed! You will increase your income, followers and likes by 200% in the next quarter! Your motivation has no limits.
Too many times I have been here.
I remember the feeling of being a newlywed. As a young 20 year old, with a quiver in my lip and an absolute assurance in my heart, I said “I do”. My beautiful fiancé did too and a new life began as husband and wife. Together we were unstoppable and ready to run the race of a lifetime.
until death do us part.
Time has a way of stealing the momentum and the joy of running the race together.
I think there comes a time in every relationship when you begin to lose the ‘spark’ and the motivational drive begins to fade into the background. Kids show up, money is tight and the mortgage needs to be paid, with stresses and changes, choices and challenges, fears and failures… the honeymoon fades into a distant memory and you are left feeling tired and empty. It becomes almost sickening to see other couples hanging off each other, enamoured by one another, as you clean the baby spit-up from your shirt while another child won’t stop screaming because someone took their stuffy, someone thought a sharpie was good for wall art and you can’t remember if you actually put deodorant on this morning?
I’m not saying that the love you have for one another is gone, by no means will I equate the two. The love you have for each other is what keeps the bridge from collapsing under the weight of life. It gets hard. Life changes. We adapt. We cope… However, the weight takes its toll and we become lost and discouraged not having been this way before.
Once lost, we long once again for that spark. Our brains are chemically designed to respond to motivational stimuli releasing the quartet of happiness, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. We crave it and if we are not careful we will look to be stimulated by those things we think will provide those feelings of happiness and joy we once knew only to discover they are leading us to a precipice.
Does it mean it is lost forever?
It takes work, a lot of hard work, but to be able to look into the eyes of the one you committed your life to, see and feel the emotions you felt on the day you said “I do” brings a new passion and fire to the relationship.
Love is work.
It takes consistent, effort to show love and to do the things to show the love. It is a verb, to quote the illustrious 90’s CCM trio DC Talk.
There is a strong parallel we can draw between relationship and business entrepreneurship. After we go to the seminar, watch the webinar, take the course, speak to mentors and colleagues we are absolutely fired up. We can complete the next project with the force of a thousand buffalos on stampede. Its a great feeling, like nothing can stop me. But much like the Buffalo Jumps of North America at the foothills of the Rocky’s, where massive herds were once guided to the edge and forced to stampede over the cliff, our once incredible, fired up motivation will spill over the precipice and die. The love we have for our work is still there, we were made for this, but the daily grind takes its toll and the spark eventually fades.
We can allow that lack of desire for our business to overshadow and consume our thoughts which will eventually cause our bridge to collapse, or we can begin to focus on the small details of every day that can begin to bring the spark back. We need to be able to see those small daily changes by adjusting our perspective, and asking What is Next? This can begin to shift the desire to fulfill our goals personally and in business. It can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes to journal your thoughts and goals for the day. Make the time to engage your mentors, colleagues and counsellors for advice and guidance.
I truly believe this is one of the reasons Millennials are called the “job-hopper generation”. By the age of thirty-five, twenty-five percent of workers have held five jobs or more. The spark dies and instead of finding ways of reigniting the emotions that originally brought them to the job, they move to another, until the motivation fails again.
It takes work to keep motivated, it takes a focused effort and a change in perspective. Start small, focusing on where you began to loose your motivation. Make changes that will redirect and reignite your passion.
Persistence in the face of obstacles always builds resilience and enables growth.Tweet
The joy, the spark and the determination will slowly come back and the emotions and motivation will be as vibrant as the day you said “I do”.
Etched inside the 2017 Canadian Lacrosse Championship ring proudly displayed on my dresser is the inscription, “What is Next”. The very slogan that has propelled a team to a National Championship, has humbled me and taught me about life, love, teamwork, fear, failure and fighting for your dream;
One shift at a time.
What is Next
Muttered under my breath in the midst of turmoil, these three simple words, “What is Next”, had typically struck a negative chord with me over my recent years. They summoned a sense of dread that whatever could happen next may be a further heaping of punishment, potentially worse than whatever negative experience I had already encountered. It felt like a recurring case of cosmic irony that each time once those exasperated words left my lips, more bad news would inevitably follow close behind And despite being so keenly aware of the potential risk associated with uttering this phrasewithout fail, when faced with a new dautingsituation, the words would incredulously flow out uncensored once again, an exasperated,
Like Oliver Twist asking for another bowl of oatmeal, I seemed to be unintentionally asking the universe for another heaping bowl of steaming misery.
Maybe you have experienced a situation like that before in your life, or perhaps you have good luck and haven’t found yourself in the face of scenarios where asking, “What is Next” strikes a deep piercing fear. Regardless, this book is a chance for me to share my own story about a change of perspective, inspired by a Championship Ring, that has brought these dreaded words new meaning.
I am learning that the fear of “what is next” can be the roadblock between you and the start of something great. It could be what stops you from finishing that project you’ve been working so hard on. It could be what gets in the way of starting a new relationship or strengthening an old one. There are so many situations in life where focusing on the fear of what is next becomes crippling and ultimately paralyzes us with doubt from making a move, and later fills us with regret at the thoughts of what could have been. What happens if we look instead at what is next as an opportunity to better focus our present? To engage in a situation that will ultimately lead us a step forward and not back as we previously feared?
The thought of a book urging you to boldly explore “what is next” may feel like a horror genre and to you, perhaps, a graphic novel of nightmare status. Obviously, fear is a natural human emotion, a common response to the vast uncertainties of the future. For some of us, anxiety was further ingrained in us as young people, and became a conditioned response, holding us hostage in our “comfort zone”, never able to explore our full potential. I can understand, as it was how I, myself, lived for years.
When I think of the lessons I learned and continue to learn during this difficult season of my life, I keep getting pulled into the concept of What is Next. Watching the Peterborough Lakers focus on step-by-step development and growth lead to the eventual Mann Cup championship (at the time I am writing this, we have actually won three championships in a row!), I witnessed that although their ultimate goal was the eventual championship, the primary goal was the current game. The coach would then take each game and simplify every aspect into a series of smaller goals to focus on accomplishing first. Their success in each game came from their focus on every period, down to the minute details of each shift. Watching the transformation that took place in the team, and the momentum that built with the accomplishment of the minor tasks leading to the conquering of previously unsurmountable hurdles, I have noticed significant parallels we can draw from the team’s path to the Championship to integrate for success in our everyday lives. Success doesn’t come easy. We didn’t win every game; there were some losses, there were some injuries, and every game was a battle. Everyday brought a different challenge and small changes were necessary to make. Everyday will be a struggle, everyday choices are made that will either push us further towards our goal or they will take us a step back. Life becomes an exercise in adaptability with focus.
As we begin to unpack and tackle the steps in the “What is Next” process I want to be clear that it is not a magic mantra that will make all our worries in life disappear. By no means do I believe that following my process will allow you to live a struggle-free life or a perfectly smooth road in business. I offer no promise that if you follow my process, you will have a seven-figure income in no time. In fact, my own journey is far from over. I am still in the midst of implementing this process myself. I want to be honest, real and authentic, and won’t pretend to be anything that I am not. So, I won’t be flaunting an Instagram post of me beside a new luxury car, or a vacation beach house in the South Pacific. Rather, you may see me post a picture of my Kia Forte parked outside a Starbucks, or on the bed of tow truck as my brakes have seized.
Although the words may not be a magic mantra to instant prosperity, I believe that focusing on What is Next will positively change my perspective, and yours. I have no doubt that a new way of viewing every aspect of life- entrepreneurship, goal setting, mentorship, teamwork, coffee, conversation, even relationships- will give us the necessary tools to negotiate and navigate through difficult situations, all for a less problematic journey.
My hope and prayer for this book is to help encourage and lead young entrepreneurs with realistic tools and an honest portrayal of growth that is unlike most self-help and business-help books on the market. This manuscript was designed with my own kids in mind. They are my “why”, the reason I continue to strive to live a better life. I want to leave them with a piece of me and share my story so that as they get older, they can look at, put the suggestions into practice, and avoid the pain their dad went through. It is a guide for all of us to integrate; suggestions on a way to live that will take a journey from despair to hope.
Why I need this book in my life
My job as Head Athletic Trainer with the Lakers consists of getting the athletes ready for the game, then watching the game intently from the bench to be ready to attend to any injuries that may occur on the floor. It is easy to get drawn into the intensity of the plays from my close vantage point alongside the players; sometimes I take my role a step further and will interject my own encouragement for the guys, or vocalize my displeasure for the biased officiating that seems to take place at most home games (in my opinion anyway!). It’s true, I may have been told on a few occasions to settle a little, but as you can imagine, I am invested in this team and these players have become like my brothers!
Two hours before every game, I am there ready to roll with a coffee and various forms of athletic tape. The usual suspects will stroll in, take a seat on my treatment table, and the process of casting their weak or damaged joints or muscles will begin in preparation for the game. In the sport of lacrosse, the ankletends to be the most common joint in the body that needs a little extra external support. I cannot begin to calculate how many ankles I have taped in my career as an Athletic Trainer. It has become almost second nature, and if challenged, could likely complete a sexy closed Gibney application with my eyes closed!
The application said tape is done in a complex pattern with several ankle locks, stirrups and figure eights, and reverse sixes using varying degrees of rigid tapes, thereby securing the joint in a particular position. This temporary “casting” serves as a short-term solution to limit instability and help protect the previously damaged or weak ankle from rolling if it encounters a compromising position during the action. This ensures each player I tape feels confident and comfortable to perform at 100% for the span of the game without any mental or physical hesitation that their ankles are at risk. This part of the job is incredibly rewarding. When a player who may not be able to play otherwise, is able to contribute to the teams success and knowing I played a role in that, brings a certain amount of silent pride.
On the flip side, the frustration of being a therapist is having the knowledge that with a little bit of rehabilitation and strengthening, the physical act of temporarily taping an ankle, wrist, elbow, etcetera, would not be required. If the athlete were able to take the time to rehabilitate properly with a series of progressive strengthening exercises, in most cases it would be possible for them to play without the external “band-aid” of tape, which doesn’t actually fix the problem, but merely acts as a temporary sense of stability. In my job I seek to work with my athletes to provide both short and long term solutions to enable them to become their strongest whole and strive for peak performance every time they step on the field of play.
I’m a fixer. Insert sarcastic gasp of shock and surprise!
My entire life has been built around my need and desire to help others. In my career, my family, and my day-to-day interactions with others, I am constantly looking for ways to help fix. Whether it is with a coffee and conversation, a simple hug, or a text to a friend, it brings me joy to help. In my career, I work diligently and with a sense of honour that my clients trust me with their health, and I try to do everything I can within my scope to ensure they get the best possible care and attention they deserve. It is my goal to help fix whatever problem or impairment they have brought to me to deal with. This desire to fix everything has brought a great sense of accomplishment, joy and satisfaction in many ways as I helped others and yet, it has also brought so much destructive and negative emotion into the last several years of my life. Trying desperately to fix all things in my life, all at once, even things falling well beyond the scope of my ability or knowledge base- to fix my marriage, to fix my debt, to fix my addiction, my anxiety and my depression, seemed to instead continually bury me deeper and deeper into a grave of further turmoil.
When I consider the last few years, I have tried to fix my problems. I’ve tried to fix my high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, with medications. I’ve tried to fix my addiction with self help books, strategies and counseling. However, the fixes I was trying were merely solving a temporary symptomatic response. It can seem quick and can give a false sense of security, but the fix does not provide a solution that will create change long-term.
I know this too well. I have slid back into my depression, addiction on a few occasions because my attempted fixes weren’t addressing the root cause of the symptoms. It is the same way when a client presents limitations and impairments due to pain and dysfunction. Treating the symptoms might result in temporary relief, but until we unveil and begin to treat the root cause of their dysfunction, the symptoms will continue to return…and that is frustrating for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to mental, emotional and physical health, symptomatic relief is important, but it must correctly address the injury and have a plan in effect to carry over from temporary fix to long-term rehabilitation.
attending counselling in a personal attempt to do just that. As I sat in my counselor’s office, we
talked about setting goals
of small change. He/she suggested taking a step back from trying to come up with a “fix”
to solve the seemingly daunting
and insurmountable issues I was dealing with;
Healing is long and healing is difficult. There is a vulnerability and openness that comes with the healing process that is uncomfortable and often embarrassing. It involves a deep dive into the dark places that we have avoided, in order to unpack and uncover the root of our symptoms. It means facing the broken relationships, acknowledging the past traumas, recognizing the hurt and the pain, and finding ways in which to let the negative experiences and/or mistakes that have been made, rest in the past and no longer affect your present. This is not easy, it takes work.
I continue to work on this concept of true healing, personally. I have the tendency to become easily overwhelmed when there is too much to do, the problems become too complex, and I can’t seem to figure out how to create an effective fix. When this happens, I sink into a negative narrative and allow the helplessness and hopelessness to invade my thoughts and nothing gets done. I had been trying to fix everything instead of facing the demons preventing me from healing. For me, the shift in mindset to make small daily changes as opposed to taking a big picture, all at once approach to dealing with life’s obstacles, is allowing me the opportunity to slowly begin to heal. It has not been easy. During the editing process of this book, I had to take some time away for self care and rest. I again became overwhelmed with the heaviness of my situation and fell into a deep, negative, emotional spiral that could have very easily landed me in a hospital bed. Fortunately, a counselor recognized the demons I was fighting and was able to make suggestions to curve my narrative and change my trajectory.
This decision to alter focus, take a different approach and focus on small changes towards true healing speaks into the concept of living with the attitude of “What is Next”. Travelling a long distance cannot be completed in one step, the road may seem incredibly long and daunting, but the journey can only start with a small step forward in the right direction. I have begun identifying my goals; I know that I want to be debt free. I know I want to break the cycle of my destructive mental health patterns. I know that I want happy, healthy and fulfilling relationship. I no longer want to be a slave to my situations, and want to one day be eventually healed.
Knowing these things, I began writing these goals down in a journal. The first step was to acknowledge that there is a place I need to get to; a destination at the end of this journey where I will hopefully find peace and an absence of this current suffering. From there, I began to unpack those goals, asking how small adjustments in everyday life can lead me to put one foot in front of the other, each step leading me closer to my goals. Some were as simple as waking a little earlier in the morning, finding time in the week to be physically active, creating space to sit, be still, write, read or listen to inspiring content. There were long term goals set out, but the daily changes began to affect the attitude to accomplish the next step. To ask What is Next , without becoming overwhelmed. Taking the past into consideration, learning from what needs to change, writing them down and taking that small step forward. This is where my journey is now. I am in the process of figuring out what is next and where I need to go from here. I will continue to have days where I will have taken a step backwards, but I will consistently ask the question of what is next? What can I learn from the process that will enable my healing to continue to take place.
For now though, I will leave the band-aid on my soul as I find the path towards healing. It is going to take a long time, but I will choose to heal, not just fix.
Lacrosse and Life Lessons
Etched in permanent marker on the tape of several lacrosse sticks, across the back of several helmets, players and fans decorated their multiple social media accounts with one simple word – “WIN”. This was the ultimate goal of the 2017 Peterborough Lakers Lacrosse season. This is the Lacrosse Team I call my family from May to September for the past nine seasons. Every season is a privilege being Head Athletic Trainer for this incredible group of gentlemen I call brothers, yet this particular 2017 season was one that would forever change my outlook on life. It is one I will not soon forget; one that has taught me about myself, and has also shaped a new approach to my life and business.
To give some context, at the beginning of the 2017 season, I had just begun the unfortunate process of a marriage separation, a twenty-year relationship that was potentially ending. This was the most damaging, incredibly heartbreaking and difficult time of my life to date, especially as it also involved the lives of our five beautiful children. As I struggled to understand how to navigate my current severed relationship and searched to find the new ‘normal’ that came with it, I was consistently fumbling through my day to day in a depressive, dark, angry and frustrating time. While coping with emotions of my crippling home-life situation, I also had a business I was struggling to maintain. The distraction and stress of my home relationship was seeping outward into all parts of my life, causing an eventual collapse of everything I had built for the previous fourteen years. It felt like being on the receiving end of a punch from Andrew Suitor, arguably the toughest guy in professional lacrosse (and one of the nicest most genuine guys I’ve ever worked with). Stumbling around, seeing stars, and not even sure which way is up, knowing the importance of continuing forward, but just not finding the proper footing. I would try to bounce back up, but it felt as though the world was spinning, rendering me discombobulated. Even the smallest tasks were becoming daunting, and the personal punches just kept coming.
Exhausted, I could do nothing but wait for the next inevitably devastating blow. On several occasions three familiar words crept into my conscious, and I could hear my dejected voice mutter, “What is Next?”. There was no answer, but the cold echo of my defeated tone. Days became incredibly long; nights were filled with questions and sleeplessness, and being newly separated and alone just complicated my thoughts, creating anxiety and depression I had never experienced before. I found little joy in my job and in the business I created. I was miserable in every sense of the word, and I’m sure those I rubbed shoulders with (literally and figuratively, being a registered massage therapist) found my presence a dark, depressing cloud to be around. I began to turn to alcohol and gambling to distract myself from, thoughts of suicide were very real and frequent. This served only to further complicate and deepen the pain and suffering I was experiencing. Aside from the days I had my children, with a limited custody agreement in place, there was only one other bright spot in my week, a small window of time that I could escape the implosion of my world. This was the time I spent with my brothers on the Peterborough Lakers Lacrosse team. For the most part, the players and coaches were unaware of my personal situation, so for a few hours once or twice a week, being around them was an escape from my reality. It was a place I felt validated, appreciated and wanted for my expertise and the job that I did. I was able to focus strictly on the players and the game. I can honestly say that I owe a great deal of my survival to this team for providing me that reprieve. Most of them will never know, which is why these pages are not only dedicated to my children, who save my life and give me a reason to wake every morning, but it is also dedicated to the men of Lakers Lacrosse, who set an example of what it means to fight when you are down.
How did the 2017 season of lacrosse lead to a change in my entire perspective? How did I pull from it life changing principles and a new approach to life, business and relationships from a game? Being the Son of a Pastor, I have observed, learned and inherited the ability to find the metaphors hidden in the mundane or meaningless. Like a Jedi master can summon the force to lift a spaceship out of a swamp with one of the world’s, nay Galaxy’s, oldest and most motivational little green men on his back, I could probably find some deep life lesson in why anything wrapped with bacon seems to suddenly become appealing to the pickiest of eaters. Now to the Coaching Staff’s credit (Mike, Bobby, Tracey & Paul), the lesson I learned wasn’t hard to latch onto. Again, to the Team, it was about the game of lacrosse, but to me it carried a weight that I could not shake. It also helped that we went on to win the Mann Cup Canadian National Championship! In fact, we have since won our third championship in a row and are pursuing a four-peat this coming season. This simply illuminates the importance of a “What is Next” approach and how dominant this mentality can be!
During the first round of the 2017 Major Series Lacrosse playoffs, our team began to struggle. We entered the playoffs with a 17-1 record as the top ranked Team in the League, and the one most expected to bring home the coveted Canadian Championship. The coaching staff had spent the previous five years unable to win the Mann Cup; we had been to the finals, but fell short. Therefore, the team, staff and executives went through some changes and had rebuilt for this particular season, acquiring some of the top names in the game to join our quest for the Cup. In most sports, you would expect some loss of support from the fans when a dynasty organization like the Peterborough Lakers goes through a five-season drought, but with the most dedicated small town fanbase and a sold out arena every game, this didn’t happen to the Lakers. There is something you need to understand about lacrosse in Canada. Peterborough Ontario has produced (and continues to produce) some of the World’s top lacrosse players; Shawn Evans, John Grant Jr., Tracey Kelusky, Zach and Josh Currier, Cory Vitarelli, Jake Withers, to name a few, all born and raised in Peterborough. Just Google “Peterborough Lacrosse”, and be ready to be amazed at the pedigree produced in such a small town.
Back to the game… We were facing a third-place team that finished the season at 7-9, and continuing to play the way we began the series would have sent us to the golf course much earlier than expected with a disappointing end to a successful regular season. It was clear that players were over-confident and selfish in their own ability, not trusting or respecting each other, those who were not over confident were simply not trusting in their own abilities. They were playing as individuals, and they certainly were not relying on following their Coaches experience and wisdom.
A recurring theme throughout the following pages will be the concept of trust. I have already alluded to the Team’s lack of trust in themselves, each other, and the coaching staff, which lead to a disastrous start to the playoffs. Why is trust so important to business or personal growth? A lack of trust will breed fear. When the ability to trust is damaged, whether due to relational breakdown, physical or mental hurt, or selfish, prideful motivation; so enters fear. Fear reduces our capacity to fully engage in meaningful, true, real relationships. In the context of sport, we begin to play for ourselves, unable to rely on the ability and the strengths of others around us. Trust is also a two-way street. One can not expect to be trustworthy without experiencing the opportunity to trust in others also. In this young(ish), novice authors opinion, this concept is the root of many relational breakdowns and tension between parties. When trust is broken for whatever reason, there is a fear that enters the relationship which causes future hesitation in placing trust. This fuels a breeding ground for misunderstanding, misinterpretation and damaging assumptions that can create a toxic wasteland of hurt and a cycle that is near impossible to break.
Evident during this surprisingly difficult first-round series, the Coaching Staff and Team Captains met behind closed doors and decided that the team could not win if they continued to play with a lack of trust and cohesiveness. Recognizing the downward spiral the team was falling into, the Coaches rallied the Team and organization with a challenge to focus on the word ‘WIN’. The word was significant not only for its eventual champion conquest, but for two acronyms which were devised to focus the Team’s attention to come together to play as a unit.
The word meant more than the Webster’s dictionary definition of “to finish first in a race, contest or the like”. ‘Whatever Is Necessary’ and ‘What Is Next’ became the mantra during each locker room speech, every time-out chat, written on the shaft of most sticks, and echoed by team members throughout each possession. It even travelled to the inevitable social media hashtag, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, MySpace, and Facebook with pictures rallying a team and a city of over eighty thousand strong Lakers fans. Our little hub of Peterborough Ontario, a city with a population just north of eighty thousand1 , was a buzz about the Lakers and their quest for the Mann Cup and lacrosse supremacy. In a world where social media is king and all the kids speak in hashtags; #WIN was everywhere.
What did it mean for the game?
The focus of #WIN for our team was to do what you as a player needed to do, five minutes at a time; one shift at a time. Trusting your teammates, trusting yourself, and trusting the coaches for five minutes or for one shift at a time. Not allowing fear or doubt to enter the picture. After five minutes had past, ‘what is next’ could be heard loud from each offensive and defensive coach. From my little perch on the back corner of the Lakers bench, I watched this mantra unfold and begin to change the determination and focus of the players and team.
It was quite remarkable to be honest. A goosebump activating, chills inducing Movie Moment.
I have never been a part of anything in sport so significantly brilliant and awe inspiring as watching a team completely change its focus. They began to trust; fear was gone and there was no doubt in the ability of those next to them. However, the most surprising of all, and possibly the most meaningful, was that the strategy didn’t change, the ultimate goal didn’t change, set plays the team had used from game one of the season were the same, positions remained the same, the only thing that changed was where and what the team was focused on and the attitude in which they approached each shift. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the team began to win despite not changing their approach to the game itself, but that they began to win when their individual focus changed from long-term to short-term series of goals throughout the journey toward their ultimate goal. This change was so evident to me, that I wondered if it could be implemented in my current life; from my business, my current relationships, my finances, to my life in general?? Could a hashtag really hold such powerful, life altering wisdom? I decided at that point that I would begin to adapt the “What Is Next” mentality into my own situation and my own struggling version of life’s game. I haven’t won anything yet or haven’t come close to the successes I dreamed of when I opened my business, but could this be the way I can find satisfaction or fulfillment in the daily grind pursuing whatever it is I’m chasing?
It is no secret, or shocking revelation when I tell you that distraction is the enemy of our progress. Robin Sharma, Canadian author of ‘The 5am Club’ writes:
“The addiction to Distraction is the death of creative production”.Robin Sharma
I have to laugh a little, as I’m spending a Saturday in Starbucks trying to write a new blog post and chapter in this book and find myself casually perusing Instagram while ironically thinking of analogies and creative ways to help those in business focus and manage the distractions of life while pursuing their goals and visions.
Just a tad!
So, what better way to start than to literally practice what I preach at the same time I compose the words to help others! I’ll put my phone away now and focus!
Recently trying to get words out on paper, I made the mistake of listening to a new band and their new album I heard recommended in a podcast I enjoy biweekly. Music is a necessity in my world. It is like water, without it, I will likely have a cerebral meltdown and will resort to signing out loud and in public. Let’s be honest, I am a drummer for a reason, face for behind a kit and voice farthest away from a mic! Growing up as a musician with music influencing my very core existence, I have developed this issue where I cannot listen to new music without my mind and my attention being drawn to, and completely engaged in the content of the album. Front to back and over again, I need to listen to an album to devour all the nuances that make it a creative work of art. I become immersed in the sonic masterpiece displayed before me. I have learned that this does not work well when trying to write a book! You would think that I would have learned my lesson from many sleepless nights as a teenager growing up listening to music to fall asleep. If it was a record that has previously been unheard by my young, impressionable ears, my mind and subconscious brain had to listen to every part of each song until I could send every song to the deeper regions of my psyche where it was a part of my vast collection of memorized musical content. I’m beginning to find out that distraction is becoming a much more difficult element of my daily struggles to cope with and work through then I realized.
In my journal for daily goals and chapter thoughts for this book, this was the section I dreaded writing the most. This is a tough chapter to write, especially during the season of life I find myself in. Not difficult content wise, but difficult to live out. So many thoughts and reasons to be distracted away from completing this book in the desired time frame I set out for myself. My phone is always on, my computer is dialed in and ripe with content that can turn time into a raging runaway jet. There is some seriously educational and absolutely hilarious content on the vast world of the internet that can speed time up and question where the last few hours of the day have gone. You know I’m not lying, we have ALL been there!! However, I would rather not be an author of a book that encourages the practice of What is Next, managing life’s distractions with a fresh outlook and focus on achieving your life goals, and also be the guy that would rather sit on the couch crushing a bag of Doritos wasting time binge watching Netflix while scrolling though my Instagram feed, watching hilarious fail videos wondering when my book will write itself! Small disclaimer, I do believe that there is a time and a place to allow yourself the chance to veg out and recharge. We need it, and we crave it, and it is okay. As long as it does not become habitual and take away from the goals and dreams you are pursuing. In the linear path towards our goals, “Netflix Binge Session” should not be a title of one of the daily steps in our journey. Balance and an acceptance to realize that we require this down-time is important along the journey.
This is one reason I do my writing at Starbucks (I say one reason, as I am also completely a slave to the addictive chemicals in a good cup of coffee). Even though the establishment can be full of people, the incoherent drone of multiple voices blends together to create a blanket noise that actually seems to create an opaque filter that blocks all but my own thoughts. When I am alone in my apartment, even with music blaring in my ears, the distraction of housework, Netflix, my guitar, are all too overwhelming and little to nothing will actually get done.
There are a several studies conducted to determine the length of time one can focus their full attention on one particular task. Times ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours in length. There doesn’t seem to be a definite time period that all brains can focus on a particular task. It is very individual and subjective with multiple variables at play. Giving full attention and dedication to one task is difficult in nature, especially for the entrepreneurial brain which seems to run a thousand RPM faster than most. There are many time management solutions available that you can simply google and apply to your focused attention and your “What is Next” approach to fulfilling your goals. The one I have found that works the best for my mind and time is the Pomodoro Technique. Created by Francesco Cirillo in 1992, it involves breaking your time for your particular period of focused intent into four 25 minutes blocks with a short 5 – 10minute break in between each and a longer time after the fourth block of 25minutes. In fact, as I write, I currently have my Pomodoro Timer app counting down, ensuring that I spend the next 25 minutes fully dedicated to the task at hand; this chapter. This is one strategy I have implemented in my journey towards writing this book and focusing on What is Next, to get it done! It also means that after 100 minutes of focus, I can reward myself with another infusion of caffeinated goodness!
Location, time management and recognized audio stimulation are primary methods for me that help to steer away from distractions. With these firmly in place, I am able to focus on the What is Next, and begin to carve out chunks of productive creativity, leaving a sense of accomplishment and an increased word count that I can be proud of.
As I previously suggested, this is very individualistic and subject to your particular habits, your interests and your goals. Determining the ways which provide the optimal environment for you is essential in the development of your plan to succeed in your journey.
Distraction is the killer of our goals
and can be a beautifully packaged enemy to our productivity. There will always be distraction if we allow
it, when we are able to starve our distraction and feed our focus, we can
strive for What is Next and take each step as it comes along the journey with clarity
and intention, not allowing the distraction to take away our attention.
In my opinion, one of the worst, day wrecking, gut wrenching, vomit inducing, mental breaking, nightmare of the epic proportions, is spilling my coffee. Just the mere thought of it has my skin crawling and begins to produce a visceral reaction that makes me eerily uncomfortable. knowing sips from the Heaven’s above will never be tasted. Caffeine that will not have the pleasure of being consumed and allowed to provide it’s reason for existence to the one who hath prepared or purchased said mug of pure joy. It is such a heartbreaking reality that in 2012 a paper journal was actually published for the American Physics Society Physical Review E, that has studied the physics around the spillage of coffee and what factors are involved.
You will likely notice in my writing that I tend to reference both personal and business struggles with examples to prove points and to illustrate my thoughts. To me, the two are interchangeable, as a self-employed entrepreneur, my business is me,I might not have a face meant for public consumption but regardless, my business is a part of my identity. Aside from my kids, it is literally the only thing I have left to call my own. I believe we also need to live out our personal lives with the intentionality, dedication, and integrity we show in our business and professional lives.
Full disclaimer, as a self-employed entrepreneur it is difficult to turn off. We are naturally hardwired to be on our little hamster wheel in our brain constantly running, constantly thinking, constantly dreaming of ways to grow our reach. It is not a selfish motivation, but rather a internal drive based around our external environment. My kids are my number one motivator. I know it is hard to switch from business owner to parent, or spouse or partner and leave our work outside the home. I will be the first to admit that this took me a long time to find the switch, and I truly don’t know if I ever really found it. It has to be a focused intention to shift the mindset from business to home. This is something that not many understand. It is a struggle that only entrepreneurs can truly relate. There were stretches of time where my phone and laptop were strategically left in the other room so I could focus that intentionality on my family. Being present with my kids was and still is the most important aspect of my life. Regardless of the activities we engage in, I want to focus my attention on them. As I mentioned, I am the first to admit this was not always an easy task, especially in the early days of business, when gaining clientele and a reputation was key to the eventual success of the practice. If a client happened to text or email at 1am in the morning, I would still reply, as it could be a client I could see tomorrow and could lead to several other clients, since word of mouth in my industry is the best form of advertising! Plenty of excuses and justifications for continuing to focus my attention on the job and not taking a strategic break when necessary. I am certainly fortunate that I am at a place in my business where I am not as concerned about tomorrow.
Juggling the priorities of being the sole provider for a family, a father, boss and leader in the industry has certainly had its challenges. It is equivalent to balancing stacks of plates in each hand while balancing on a tight-rope suspended above a creek littered with savage reptiles that haven’t eaten in weeks and at either end your obligations and priorities are shaking the thin rope under your feet demanding full attention and focus on one or the other. On several occasions I have dropped my plates and have fallen into the waiting jaws of disappointment and failure. I’ve either worked too much, or too little, I’ve struggled to put the phone down or have kept it off and missed out. I have pursued opportunity and been let down in the end. I have challenged and lost, I have a failed marriage and lots of debt, yet I have also been on the receiving end of grace and kindness of others, I have a steady and full clientele, my local Starbucks knows me by name and my usual is ready and waiting when I walk through the door.
As you eventually read the pages of my upcoming book, hopefully discovering a new approach to providing a balanced and productive journey, my hope is that you will become mindful of your surroundings in order to maintain a zen like balance regardless of what is shaking your tight-rope. If we can focus our attention on What is Next, rather than focusing on all your plates stacked in your hands. Much like the natural phenomenon, that was studied regarding the reasons why we spill coffee when walking, when we focus on the cup in front of us, our gait pattern changes and the abnormal biomechanics results in a change in the already complex motion of the cup and therefore will effect the spilling frequency and subsequent amount of overall spillage. Even though the goal is to enjoy the beautiful cup of God’s great nectar that has been meticulously prepared once we reach our seat at our local brewing establishment, we must first focus on each step in the journey in order to ensure that our spill to consumption ratio is not devastatingly skewed against us.
I hope you will join me in the journey of focusing on What is Next, and can save your coffee from spilling…. Because there truly is nothing worse than coffee not consumed!
I’m a fixer. Insert gasp of shock and surprise!
My whole life has been built around the need and desire to help others. In my career, my family and my day to day interactions with others, I am constantly looking for ways to help fix. Whether it is with a coffee and conversation, a simple hug or a text to a friend, it brings me joy to help. In my career, I work diligently and with a sense of honour that my clients trust me with their health, and I try to do everything I can within my scope to ensure they get the best possible care and attention they deserve. Because it is my goal to help fix whatever it is they brought to me to deal with. This desire to fix everything is what has brought me so much destructive and negative emotion into the last several years of my life. Trying desperately to fix my marriage, to fix my debt, to fix my addiction, my anxiety and my depression, seemed to continually bury me deeper and deeper into a grave of constant turmoil.
As I sat this week in my counselors office, we talked about small change. Taking a step back from trying to solve the seemingly daunting and insurmountable issues I’m dealing with, and to try and focus on the small daily tasks that invoke a change, so I can begin to see small steps forward in my healing journey. I couldn’t help but get stuck on the idea of healing versus fixing; that there is a big difference between the two and we often confuse the notion that our deep hurts and scars can be “fixed” when in fact, we need to “heal” to become whole.
When I consider the last few years, I have tried to fix my problems; I’ve tried to fix my high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, with medication. I’ve tried to fix my addiction with self help books, strategies and counseling. However, the fix is merely solving a temporary symptomatic response. It can seem quick and can give a sense of false security. I know this too well, because I have slid back into my depression and addiction on a few occasions because my fix isn’t addressing the root cause of the symptoms. It is the same way when a client presents limitations and impairments due to pain and dysfunction. Treating the symptoms might result in temporary relief, but until we unveil and begin to treat the root cause of their dysfunction, the symptoms will continue to return…and that is frustrating for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to mental, emotional and physical health, symptomatic relief is important and can drastically improve quality of life. I’m not going to stop going to counseling, I’m not going to stop taking my medication, and even though I don’t get there very often, I will continue to go to the gym… I need them all to survive my days. But the realization is – I won’t heal if I’m simply trying to fix.
Healing is long and Healing is difficult. There is a vulnerability and openness that comes with the healing process that is more often embarrassing and uncomfortable. It’s a deep dive into the dark places that we don’t want to go, in order to uncover the root of our symptoms. It’s facing the broken relationships, the past traumas, the hurt and the pain, giving them space to matter, acknowledging their presence and finding the ways in which to let them rest in the past and not effect your present. This is not easy, it takes work. I am not there yet…As I said, I’ve been trying to fix everything instead of facing the demons that won’t allow me to heal the way in which I need to.
For me, being able to make small daily changes will allow me the opportunity to begin to heal. I have the tendency to become easily overwhelmed when there is too much to do and I can’t seem to figure out how to fix the big problems. When this happens, I sink into my negative narrative and allow the helplessness and hopelessness to invade my thoughts and nothing gets done.
This speaks into the concept of living with the attitude of “What is Next”. Knowing that I want to be debt free; knowing I want to free of my destructive mental health; knowing that one day I don’t want to be a slave to my situations and to be eventually healed.
So knowing these things, having written them down in a journal and acknowledging that there is a place I need to get to, a destination at the end of this journey where I will hopefully find peace and an absence of this current suffering, what can I do now and how can I make the small daily changes that will begin to put one foot in front of the other? This is where my journey is now. I am in the process of figuring our what is next and where I need to go from here. I will continue to have days where I will have taken a step backwards, but I will consistently ask the question of what is next? What can I learn from the process that will enable my healing to begin to take place.
For now though, I will leave the band-aid on my soul and find the path towards healing. It is going to take a long time, but I will choose to heal not just fix.
Many moons ago I worked at a summer camp in Cavan Ontario. Maple Creek Ranch was one of Ontario’s premier summer camps for kids ranging from youngsters to teens. I was first a camper each summer, but as I grew older and my dad being the first aid man on staff, I reached staff designation in my early teens. I worked many jobs there, but my favorite was working in the stables with the horses. It involved early mornings, long days mucking stalls, instructing proper methods necessary for the partaking of equestrian enjoyment, feeding and maintaining the delightful mood of a one-and-a-half ton beautiful beast of God’s exquisite creative design. In other words, one of our main priorities was ensuring the safety of the campers during their riding lessons and trail rides.
Aside from the delightful daily routines of keeping campers alive during their stay at the ranch, staff were able to enjoy certain other amenities to keep us from going completely insane speaking to horses, awaiting a reply and being convinced they were communicating back to us… my favorite, outside of crushing campers at ping pong, was the trampoline. This mid 90’s death trap was a bright orange rubberish canvas stretched violently to its absolute tightest possible position, secured by rusty, tetanus covered springs. Now at the risk of revealing my age (I’m 36), this was circa 1995, when lessons were learned by doing; where safety measures were not to the standards they are today, and where lawsuits were at a minimum because, well “Kids will be Kids”! I never quite mastered the art of the acrobatic trampoline skill. I have never been the most athletic, graceful or overly coordinated individual, and as a teenager, was on the slightly portly side of the body type spectrum (my nickname was Pudge, if that gives you any indication). Therefore, my main job when involved in the trampoline activities was to act as the launching pad for the campers and staff that were stupidly brave enough to allow the heavy set staff member to give them a little extra encouragement. If you are not familiar with the art of the trampoline, if there are two individuals occupying the precious launching surface, one may choose to time their bounce just as their partner is close to descending so that said partner receives essentially double the propulsion and are sent skyward with the calculated vector force of both parties. Simple physics really…and man does it make for some quality stories!! If someone is unprepared to receive this valuable extra boost of epic proportion, they may lock their knees thus causing a cascading effect where abouts the knee is forced in a flexed position, driving with fierce velocity into the face of the same individual… in other words, teeth becoming intimate with the knee, makes for a bloody mess, but in hindsight, a great story!
There are many memories that can be shared from my summer camp experiences, but the trampoline served as one where friends and colleagues congregated to enjoy time together.
Recently, I’ve been told by many people that life will get better. Eventually things will shift and situations will turn from depressing to joyful and reasons for my struggles and stress will eventually be revealed. To be honest, I’m getting a little tired of hearing it. I’m not one to say it to others, as it really doesn’t help in the present time. When life is a struggle, when each day is a chore just to get out of bed, hearing that is “going to get better” doesn’t make the “now” feel any different. Maybe it should, maybe I’m not looking at each day with the perspective I should, perhaps I’m too deep in my own sorrow and depression to think into the future and hope for change and better days?!?
So I think of the trampoline at the Ranch, how with each bounce there is a descending and then an opposite reaction of positive upward motion. Which is suppose is what happens in life. Things will go bad, then good and then maybe down again, and back up…
I don’t know about you, but personally, I feel like I am in a constant state of slow motion descending creating an incredible amount of pressure, but the weight keeps pushing down. I can only hope that eventually I will be released and will sore skyward again, but for the time being, I just pray that the springs hold, that the canvas doesn’t tear, like the eventual fate that became of the trampoline at the ranch.
I am at a place currently where I have way more questions than answers. I can’t answer the questions my kids ask about “why things are happening the way they are”, I can’t answer my own questions about the future, I can only pray that eventually things will change. For now however, I will continue to ask for direction, I pray to a God that just doesn’t seem to want to give me any answers right now, but I have no other option. My hope is fading which seems to only lead to more questions. I won’t sugarcoat my feelings and my thoughts… I’m scared, I’m frustrated and it continues to press harder and harder, not allowing for a breath. Will I stop, no… I have 5 reasons to keep going everyday even when I just don’t want to, or have no ambition left in me to hope in better days. Please understand me, I have amazing friends, family and a place to work that I cherish everyday with people who mean the world to me and have been the most supportive and encouraging individuals anyone could ever ask for… it just doesn’t seem to change the inner dialogue that doesn’t have much hope for a brighter future.
Where do I go from here??
I’ll stay on the trampoline and despite the continued pressure, I will keep hoping, keep praying, keep seeking some answers and keep waking up everyday.
My hope for you is the same. I can’t answer if things will get better or if your world will change, I can only offer the sentiment that you are not alone. Finding what makes you wake in the morning, what keeps you going and holding on to that for now, until things change. Answers are hard to come by, but my hope is that you will learn to hang on, to simply be in the moment, to find your why and search for “What is Next” in your journey.
I’ve taken a few days to gather my thoughts on the inevitable New Year’s post. I’ve been asked by several people when I plan on writing something about said topic. To be honest, I really didn’t want to.
Personally, my 2018 was pretty awful and rather terrible. A difficult separation, a tragic loss to a long struggle trying to desperately hold my life together, serious depression, anxiety, daily panic attacks, addiction, debt, counseling and lots of therapy…all the while trying to go to work everyday and put on a happy face! Luckily I love my job and those I work with are some of the most understanding, loving, and supportive friends I could have ever asked for… and my long time clients that are aware of my situation are absolutely amazing. Obviously I know there are positives to every situation and I do have many things to be thankful for, yet those things don’t need to change, so though I am quite aware, I will approach this New Year a little different.
so 2018 came to a close and I woke up on January 1 2019 and all my troubles were gone, it was as though when the clang of six wine glasses filled with only the best orange juice for myself and my five beautiful kids resounded through my tiny two bedroom apartment, there was some magic spell that released me from all the pain of 2018!!
…and then I woke up…
I woke up and still had to take my medication for my anxiety, I still had to battle the weight of depression, financial struggle, addiction, and everything that had taken place over the past twelve months. The burden of loss and the challenges of life were still there. I only wish I could change all of it in an instant, but that is just not possible or realistic.
I would love nothing more than to be one of those individuals who can stick with a New Year’s resolution…but I’ve been working on my organizational skills since 2013! I have found New Year’s resolutions to be as awkward and uncomfortable as showing up to a course dressed in the exact same attire as the person you would least like to talk to…You know the feeling of shock, disappointment and embarrassment, all the while knowing that there will be a conversation had that you really, really just want to avoid! That has been my experience after about two weeks into most of my New Years.
This year I wanted to take enough time to truly come up with something valuable for those that read this blog. Something that might help you through what you are struggling with knowing that life hasn’t stopped and the problems of last year are still present today, of course, at the risk of sounding too depressing and hopeless. so here it goes…
Taking some time for myself to sit and write a little of my book (goal for 2019 is to get that finished…more on that later), I was listening to a husband and wife duo JonnySwim (https://www.johnnyswim.com) and their song “Let it Matter“. Interpretation of songs is a matter of personal subjectivity, however, the concept of the song seems simple yet incredibly profound. What hurts today will be here tomorrow, and we need to let ourselves be willing to accept and let our emotions, feeling and hurts matter. Even though we are not meant to carry our wounds and baggage with us through our entire lives, they all have an effect on our lives and should be allowed space to be experienced so we can learn, grow and progress.
So as 2018 has closed, I think it is more important to reflect on the year that was, before making resolutions for the coming year. For those of us that had a difficult year, taking time to reflect on the experiences, to see where growth can happen, to learn from the year and find ways to avoid the same hurt and struggle. How can we pivot towards change if we don’t stop to examine where change needs to happen first, otherwise we run the risk of running blind into a sea of disappointment again. That will just make us even more jaded and frustrated with the year we thought we would have. Even though I have my own goals for 2019 and there are things I want to accomplish and some aspects of my life I want to change, I first need to visit what was, so I can truly leave it behind and learn for tomorrow. I need to focus on the “Why” before I can figure out the “What is Next”.
So I am going to take some time to lean into the pain of 2018 just enough to reflect and learn and grow. I’m going to plant my seed of 2019 in the dirt of 2018, water it and care for it with the hope of days to come and watch how I can grow, taking all the experience, sadness, mud, dirt, pain and darkness and let it feed my growth from now on.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the New Year and some resolutions or changes you wish for yourselves in 2019. As always, you can leave a comment on this page, on the various social pages it will be posted to, or you can text 7058682616
until next time, be safe, learn, grow and let your experiences matter
Thought I would share another piece from my upcoming book (hopefully due out sometime in 2019)… I learn a lot from my kids, not just in regards to the increasingly complex realm of parenting, but also the life lessons that they can teach me as I try to teach them. I honestly think that there are some days where they teach me more then I could ever teach them…
Let me know your thoughts on the unedited portion on coachability, dependability and being consistent…
Bill Belichick, one of the National Football Leagues most prestigious and decorated coaches has said:
“It is not all about talent. It’s about dependability, consistency, being coachable, and understanding what you need to do to improve”.Bill Belichick – New England Patriots Head Coach
Like him as a coach or not, that’s not the point of his mention in this book. This quote sticks out to me as I think about life and business, and also a recent interaction with my eleven-year-old son.
Keegan is my first-born son and the second oldest of five kids. He has taught me so much recently about the attitude of dependability, consistency and being coachable. Recently Keegan decided he wanted to try out for our local U-12 rep basketball team; Peterborough Power. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the A-team, but has cracked the roster of the B-Team! Super proud dad moment!!
Now, please don’t misunderstand my intention when I write this, as my kids mean the world to me and Keegan holds a special place in my heart. He is a lot like me, in a lot of ways. He wants the best for everyone and can get a little too emotional at times which effects our overall cognitive function and decision making. We wear our emotions like our axe body spray… a little too much and all over the place! Another striking comparison that I’ve come to realize lately is our lack of pure God-given talent in the athletic department. When I was a kid, my dream was to play sports. I played everything from football, soccer, volleyball, baseball (funny enough, no lacrosse), but I wasn’t all that good. I was never the most athletic kid on the field, a little heavier set, a little slow, a little shy and a lot passive. Minus the physical stature, (Keegan is a thin, high metabolite young man), we share many of the other qualities listed. Yet he doesn’t quit, and neither did I, until of course a shoulder injury took me out of athletics and into the world of music.
His basketball coach recently sent an email expressing his delight in Keegan’s effort on the court during practice. I will admit I cried a little (those emotions that leak from my eyes), my boy is not the most talented and coordinated kid on the floor, but his effort completely out-matches that of most of his teammates. His consistency and dedication to the sport and team is incredibly inspiring to me.
In recent weeks, he injured his elbow in a non-basketball related, floor-is-lava, superman stunt involving a couch and some metal springs. Don’t worry, he’s all good, just a deep bruise that limited his range of motion for about a week. In my experiences growing up and being involved in many teams, this would make for a great excuse to not go to practice and take some time off. Not for Keegan, he decided to go to practice regardless of the pain in his elbow, so he would not let his team down, so he wouldn’t miss any coaching moments that could possibly improve his game. It was this attitude and dedication that spoke volumes to me and to his coaches. “It is not all about [your] talent. It’s about dependability, consistency, being coachable, and understanding what you need to do to improve”. My son has no clue who Bill Belichick is, but Keegan exemplifies this quote and proves that we need to be coachable and dedicated to our craft in order to move towards success. I truly believe that this quality is what will make Keegan incredibly successful in whatever he chooses to do when he gets older. If he remains coachable and like a sponge, he will continue to learn, grow and be unstoppable.
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time was quoted saying,
“My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn.”
This is imperative in our journey through life and business.
Our ability to continue to learn and to strive for more knowledge is what will make our journey a little easier. It is in fact humbling to remain coachable. The moment we believe we know it all, have all the talent and do not need to continue to learn, is the moment that we become selfish, self absorbed, and honestly, nobody likes that guy!
Certainly, there will be rough roads throughout, we may be injured by a series of events involving a couch, metal frames, a small trampoline, a cat and a failed attempt at a backflip, and that may or may not relate to our current path, but should that keep us from learning and still being involved in the process of being coached? The power of a good, understanding and experienced mentor is key to our journey as they may be able to continually guide us through a path that may be difficult at times, but it is also equally important to trust and remain coachable, accepting their advice, criticism and foresight.
As we come to the Christmas season, and I understand that this time of year may be difficult for some, and to be honest, it will be different and hard for me too. I hope you can take some time and choose to be dependable and consistent with those you will come in contact with over the holidays. We never truly know the depth of some of the pain that is present around us during this season. Being able to show a sensitivity, generosity and kindness to those who need it most speaks volumes to our lives and also proves that there are still good, caring people in the world. We can certainly learn from others and be there to build up one another through times that may be hard and may carry a weight that is hard to bear on its own.
Merry Christmas friends and I look forward to more in 2019!
My inner reflection took place this past summer after another successful championship Lakers season, giving more proof to the What is Next strategy of the team, sweeping the visitors from the Canadian West coast in four games thanks to our focus on the small details of each shift. I took some time with my dad to stay a couple nights at a remote cottage on beautiful Faraday lake just outside of Bancroft Ontario. For those that don’t know where this is, Bancroft is the “Mineral Capital of Canada”, a small town between Peterborough and nowhere, about an hour and a half North of my little home town. The cottage belongs to long time family friends, Ken and Debbie Fraser. Absolutely beautiful and inspiring people who have run The Main Ingredient, a successful bulk food store in Peterborough tha tjust celebrated their fortieth year in business. Heated by a wood stove and over looking a serene, tranquil lake, the cabin we were staying in sat a top a small hill, so the view of the water was a simple glance out the screened in porch. Although occluded a by a few evergreens, the view was still exactly what my soul needed. It was a chance for me to turnoff for a change. To recharge my empty battery, to fill my empty and dry tank. Spending time with my dad is also time I would never trade. As we get older it becomes harder to find the time to have that father-son connection that I desperately need and only hope to have with my boys.
Ever since I was a young, dapper eight-year-old, my dad and I would go back woods camping, progressing further and further into the brush each year. We started in Long Lake, just outside of Apsley Ontario. The older I got, the further we went, the more challenging the voyage would become. Long Lake turned into Loucks Lake, with a portage to Cox Lake, portage to Triangle and the final portage to Cherry Lake. Our years of woodland excursions had culminated in our preparation for one last epic journey to Cherry Lake when I was eighteen years old. A decade of preparation, a decade of surviving in natures unpredictability, eating a substitute meat product from a can, suffering from wounds inflicted from improper hatchet handling, punching the earth on a throne made of splintering wood, aptly called a Thunder Box, sleeping under the beautiful night sky lit with millions of stars,so incredibly visible without the iridescent glow of city lights. This, to me is the most beautiful of God’s creation. One can spend hours having a euphoric ocular experience finding new designs and countless expressions of stunning and mesmerizing glows from these million burning suns. It is hypnotic and seems to cause time to stop entirely. As long as there is a small breeze in the air to push away the dreadful Canadian vampire insects that pray on any exposed flesh,then it can seem as though the world and its problems become meaningless to the grandeur and splendor of the sight million of miles away. I become insignificant and trouble just goes away. Obviously, I am not as oblivious and am not insinuating that all problems literally vanish from our lives when we gaze upon the stars while camping during the summer months. If that was the case, I would never leave,and the cost of admission to these parks of personal freedom would be astronomical. In the moment however, not much else matters. When searching the sky for answers to life’s quandaries, there is something that seems to magically take my mind from distress to distance; from worry to wonder.
Of all the years we challenged the wilderness, one trip in particular remains seared in my memory. It was our last trip. After a decade of summers, this would mark our finale. I was eighteen, about to enter college and begin the next season of my life as an “adult”. So I suppose it was only fitting that this summer in particular would be the most memorable, and have the most to teach me about the challenges of life. It still amazes me that these experiences we have in our younger lives reveal their depth of meaning later when we most need it.
We had been in the canoe for several hours at the point we reached our third and final portage of the day. Already exhausted from the long paddle and the burning sun that only increased the heat of the late July summer,we made it to the edge of our portage which was the path to our destination only to be met with a serious obstacle. Upon close inspection of our new-found conundrum we quickly realized the difficulty we would be facing. For about the next two hundred yards we had to navigate and traverse several beaver dams, make our way cautiously through a shallow boggy summer stream that smelt rather putrid, like a rancid combination of decay, rot and depression. Due to the shallow nature of the stream we had to pass through, we found ourselves becoming wedged on the bottom and unable to dislodge the canoe simply using a synchronized forward rocking motion. I believe I drew the short straw that day, as I was in the bow of the canoe (the front for the non-nautical readers), so it was my unfortunate duty to carefully exit the craft and pull the canoe until we were at an acceptable depth that I could re-entre and continue the trek. However, due to the murkiness and dark sewage coloured water I lost sight of my feet and with each step simply prayed that I would have a solid footing with the next step. It was the fourth or fifth step that I quickly realized that God has a sense of humour and didn’t answer my previous prayer. In an instant I found myself neck deep in the foulest stench and vomit inducing liquid that to this day I have thankfully not had the privilege of experiencing again.
Somehow managing to bring myself from out of the depth of this predicament, all the while fully certain I will experience the dreaded Canadian “Beaver Fever” in a few short hours, hoping that I did not have any open wounds on my person that would succumb to infection, we struggled forward, continuing to push through the uncomfortable circumstances. Drenched, tired and absolutely foul, we finally made it to our site on Cherry Lake. We arrived, exhausted but alive ready to finally enjoy our hard-earned travels. What this journey will teach me later, I certainly did not know at the time. The treacherous and humorous in hindsight has served a completely different purpose than that of the moment.
I sat with my dad the other day at the Starbucks where I’ve written most of these pages, and remembered together this experience. The moment that makes this journey somewhat laughable, was that as our trip came to a close and our time on our retreat in the summer of 2000 came to its inevitable end, we began our paddle back and upon reaching our first portage, which would have the same treacherous obstacles we had faced several days earlier, we both began to hysterically laugh. With tears of joy and embarrassment, we gazed upon a bright yellow sign pointing to a slightly overgrown path leading around the shores of the creek with which we had taken hours to navigate. When we reached the shore of Triangle Lake, we turned to find the sign we missed. A weathered, cracked and covered in foliage sign was barely visible, but was there. We missed it. As hard as we both thought we had looked when we first arrived, we couldn’t see it through the thick green leaves and branches that covered it.
As a writer, I can pull many learned lessons from this one trip and could likely write another book about these four days almost twenty years ago. We can talk about the stars, and how that beautiful canvas of white lights are the same today as they were twenty years ago. We can talk about how those we count on for direction, if they have not navigated that path, may also miss the obvious. I would rather not discuss the trauma of being near drowning in nature’s septic system, but for the purposes of my current journey and struggles through ‘What is Next’, I will focus on the sign. That even though it was there, we missed it. We had never been this far before, and as much as the previous years had prepared us, we still missed what would have taken us around the creek of odor and sadness and would have saved us time,energy, and possible infection.
When asked why I’m writing this book or what it is about, this is it. Making sure that with every step in our journey we are able to see the signs, we can navigate around what will cause us the most difficulty along our path to our destination. That when we finally reached the goal we set,we can lay on the rocks looking up at the beautiful bright, endless stars and know we made it. There is always work to be done and struggle will find us along the way, but my hope is that these pages provide a sign for you that will save you from diving neck deep in nature’s sewage!!