Perfect Imperfection, Just the Way it’s Supposed To Be

It seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s something telling you that you need to be better, that you need to be smarter, thinner, wittier. There are endless self-improvement books to make more money, improve relationships and ways to find yourself, to find inner peace or to inject yourself with motivation so that you can-do. There are fitness classes focused around making yourself stronger, ones focused on how to eat, how to think and how to love. We are becoming transfixed on the idea that self-improvement leads to self fulfillment. And sometimes, it’s not the case. In actuality, if you do it for the wrong reasons, it can be just as detrimental as being materialistic and always wanting more, always fueling your ego and never feeling fulfilled, never content or happy for more than just a moment. Like sand, it slips away as soon as you hold onto it.

The will and desire to grow beyond what we have already mastered is one of the great human drives. Without it we wouldn’t have philosophy, spiritual practices, science or technology. – Main Shirp

While my own bookshelves contains many fix books, self improvement guides and coaching bibles, it is important to investigate our motives for having this desire. Too often that desire stems from the belief there is something wrong with us, that we are not complete. You can go see a therapist for years and pour your heart and mind out, and all that you’ll have at the end is a folder the size of your head describing what you’ve said; fears and dreams, thoughts and emotions, but nothing in it really holds true to who you are, nothing you put down on a sheet of paper can ever truly describe You. But we still try to attempt that one-sheet of self-description, so that maybe if we can truly describe who we are on paper, we can root out the problem and fix it.

Self-improvement feeds on our insecurities. If only I were this, if only I could do that, looked like this, then, and only then I would be confident and accept who I truly am. These crippling self judgments we make fuel addictions, loneliness, eating problems and perfectionism. In turn we combat these symptoms with the newest Band-Aid solution, another self-help program. But that never gets us any closer to the root of the problem.

The reasonable man adapts to the world. The Unreasonable man makes the world adapt to him. Therefore, all progress in the world relies on the Unreasonable Man. –George Bernard Shaw

Hating parts of the self is a symptom of a sick society. We all have parts of ourselves that we despise and we as a culture, can’t help but to focus on those parts. There is always something that can be improved on, whether be it physical or mental, spiritual or emotional. But are we focused on improving and bettering ourselves for ourselves? Or are we doing it to be accepted and to blend in with the crowd in our attention-deficit-disordered society where fame is fleeting and there’s always something newer, better, shinier that comes along? There will always be better, and there will always be worse. To constantly and always be looking for either is not a healthy way to live.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened. -Mark Twain

Nothing is ever good enough. And while these self improvement tactics work like temporary barriers that protect our fragile egos, they eventually wear out. You wake up without make-up and you don’t like what you see. And as long as the solution is simply putting make-up back on, you are cutting the weed but not the root. Without true and real self-acceptance, the dissatisfaction will grow back. You don’t see that you are already amazing and that change is optional, not mandatory.

If we would stop being so harsh on ourselves and show some compassion for our own mistakes and imperfections, we would be more at ease and improve in areas that are truly beneficial instead attempting to live up to an illusion. The majority of flaws that you see in yourself is virtually invisible to anyone else. Mostly because they are not focused on your flaws as much as you are, but also because the flaws you think are flaws in your eyes aren’t even issues in theirs. So who are you really improving for?

Once you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence. -Rosalynn Carter

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Three Cups of Tea and a whole lotta Leadership

I’m in the middle of a book called ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson about an American climber in the late 80’s who attempted to scale the K2 in the Himilayas and failed. Near death he stumbled into a desolate village and through their kindness and self sacrifice, the villagers saved his life and nursed him back to health. Asking what he could offer in return, he received a reply of “We do not envy the restlessness of your culture and I think we could teach you a thing or two about peace and happiness, but what we desperately need is for our children to learn.” Thereon, he returned to his home in the States and attempted to raise funds to build a school for the small remote village. Though now, halfway around the world in a completely different setting, beneath the ever shining sun of Southern California with the sand and surf, the little frozen village in the Karakoram mountains seemed like a distant past dream, but he persisted and after a year and half ended up raising enough money to return to Pakistan to buy materials. (That’s as far as I’ve gotten) Based on a true story of Mortenson in the late 80’s early 90’s, his drive and leadership allowed him to help others in a way he never imagined that he was capable of.

Inside each and every single one of us, there is the ability to lead.

Whether we affect only ourselves, a small village or an entire nation, the leader within us yearns to be free and be heard. The idea behind a leader, is one who has an idea or goal and is able to rally people behind their vision and have everyone working towards that common interest. Whether you’re the General of an army or the General Manager of a store, you talk and people listen. I hear from my work colleagues or hockey teammates “Oh I’m not a leader, I couldn’t manage anybody.” But yet I see these same people speaking up in meetings with new ideas, making suggestions and plans, or playing their ass off on the ice while everyone is just cruising. Unbeknownst to them, they are leading by example and I don’t know about you, but I’ve always worked harder for a hard working boss than a lazy one.

There are 3 types of leaders in this world.

Pushers, Pullers and Pointers.

The Pusher sees the end goal and directs people towards it, giving just enough directions to get to the next step. This type of leader gets things done but morale of his subordinates is often low as they’re seen as tools to accomplish a feat. The Puller convinces her people along the way, coaxing them into doing the job although often very nearly does the whole job herself. The Pointer knows what his team needs to accomplish and simply points the way to the finish line, helping those who ask for it along the way. While there can be a never ending debate on which is the best, in my opinion, you need to have parts of all 3 to become a great and effective leader. All of us individuals have different buttons that make us our best and it’s up to our leaders to effectively find out what those buttons are. Unfortunately, life isn’t all like Staples with just one big easy button.

If you look within your own group of friends, you’ll find this trait too. You’ll have pushers, pullers and pointers. Everybody has those traits while few bring them out as true leadership. We are all leaders of something, whether it be small like your family, or large like a country, we all have the ability to lead, even if it’s for only a moment. Look at all the times when your friends say “I need help with this, can you help?” or when your colleagues ask “how do you do that so well?” or when a decision needs to be made and you made it. We all look to others to help us in our times of need, meaning we look for direction and leadership, but many times, our peers approach us in their time of need. You may not have realized it at the time, but you were a leader and you were able to make a difference even though maybe it was just to help a new hire find the bathroom. Like the climber Greg Mortenson, who didn’t set out to become a leader, through our actions and integrity towards other people we all have the ability to lead and influence others to make a difference in our daily lives.

Greg Mortenson surrounded by Pakistani children for whom he built the school for

 

I saw this video a while ago on leadership from a crazy dancing guy. It’s worth the watch. (Click link)

Live Long and Prosper (in happiness)

Why would any of us hurt the one we promised to take care of?

Lack of empathy is at the core of the problem. I was struck with what we are all up against while watching a Star Trek (Yes I’m a Trekkie) episode. Spock had volunteered to be possessed by an alien presence so that it could communicate with Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.

As soon as it entered Spock’s body, its first reaction was, “Oh, how lonely you must all feel.”

You see, in the alien world, they were all connected to each other through telepathy so that each one could feel what everyone else felt. They were all emotionally bonded to each other. But as soon as the alien possessed Spock’s body, it realized that we humans are all cut off from each other emotionally. And it viewed our state as incredibly isolated and lonely.

One of the most important consequences of our emotional isolation is that we cannot feel the way we affect others. And that creates the temptation to hurt others because in doing so we don’t feel the pain we cause. If we were connected emotionally to others as the aliens were, we would be far less tempted to do anything thoughtless, gaining at someone else’s expense. That’s because in so doing, we would be hurting ourselves as well.

Lack of empathy helps makes thoughtlessness possible. Since we don’t feel what other’s feel, we tend to down play the negative effects we have on others, and consider our thoughtlessness to be benign. We forget that even the smallest negative word or tone can amplify itself when directed to someone who has placed their whole trust in us. An angry outburst is regarded by some as a creative expression, that “I’m not holding any emotions back even if it means hurting yours and you should appreciate that.” Disrespect is viewed as helping our partner gain proper perspective on “how things should be, not how you are, because how you are is wrong.” And a demand is nothing more than encouraging someone to do what he or she should have done all along. None of these is seen as one person gaining at the other’s expense, because the one who is inflicting the pain does not feel the pain. But one thing is for sure, that when lack of empathy and understanding of the other persons position or thoughts are missing, resentment starts to build. More times than not, people don’t realize this and if they only did, it would all be avoided but only if they chose to take that path. The key really then, is to seek to understand and be understood. Acceptance will come.

Pay it Forward

The other day I was parked on Thurlow and Alberni on a beautiful Saturday Vancouver afternoon. The sun was shining bright and high and people were all out enjoying the brisk, chilly day. We all know how often these spots of sun come around to Vancouver in the winter so it was nice to get a break from the dreary greyness that envelops our city every day between the months of September to April. I usually walk on such a nice day, but I’d just dropped off a friend and was craving some ramen to cure the massive hangover from Friday night.

I parked on the street, dumped 50 cents in to park for 14 minutes and ran across the street to Benkei and ordered the usual Akoani ramen with an extra egg. (mmm…) As I’m crossing the street with my alcohol drowned brain day dreaming of the warm and wholesome hangover remedy ramen that I would inhale in about 10 minutes, I saw a parking attendant writing a ticket at my machine.

ME: ‘Scuse me, are you writing a ticket for this car? (points to my car)
HIM: Yup. I sure am. (head down, still punching away at his mobile ticketing gadget)
ME: Oh man, I put 15 minutes in there. I didn’t think it was that long I took to get take out. (points to my food)
HIM: Reds flashing, so it’s been longer than 4 minutes that it expired. (points to the machine)
ME: Aw man. I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would take this long. (Gave up already, didn’t have the energy or brain power to argue with a parking dude over $35.)
HIM: (turns to me and looks at me for the first time) Tell ya what. I’m on a coffee kick cuz I just had my first cup and the suns out. I’ll give you a warning if you pay the time you went over.
ME: Really? Yeah I can do that!
HIM: You also have to do something SUPER nice for a total stranger today. I won’t know if you do or not, obviously, but you’ll know!
ME: Oh man, For sure I will!

I thanked the guy and put in a toonie into the machine, giving the next person who parked there some free time. We chatted for a bit more and I got into my car and took off. He handed me a ticket with ‘Warning’ printed on it and I magneted it to my fridge as a reminder.

Eating the ramen at home later tasted amazing. Not only had I gotten out of a parking ticket, but now I have an amazing story to tell, and one that revitalizes my faith in humanity and the niceness of some people out there. If we can all go out there and do one nice thing for a total stranger today, the world would be a nicer place with happier people and one day karma will pay you a visit.

Quick side story: My 2004 Suzuki GSX-r 600 motorcycle was stolen outside my office one day. I worked in Yaletown and when I got off work, I walked out to the parking spot and she was gone. Stolen in broad daylight in a busy area. I touched the space it was supposed to be occupying (maybe it’d turned invisible?), I’d walked around the block a few times (maybe I’d parked it somewhere other than where I parked everyday?) and finally gave in to the fact that I’d been ripped off, and with no ICBC theft insurance either, so it was simply just…gone. It was a sad, sad walk home with my helmet clutched in my hand. FOUR years later, after I’d gone through 2 other bikes, I got a call from the police. They’d found my original bike and it was in great condition. Apparently the thief had gotten arrested for possession of a handgun without a license and when they raided his Chilliwack house, found a barrage of other stolen goods. He’d put 300km’s on my bike and added a new taillight mod to it too. BONUS!! It’s funny how karma works sometimes. He was charged and jailed and I now had 2 bikes.

I’m sure everybody has one of many ‘lucky’ stories to tell. Where somehow, sometimes, things just go your way. I’ve been taught to appreciate everything that happens, that sometimes lucky is just luck, but sometimes its karma’s reward. Think of the times where good things have happened to you, and the next time something happens, do one nice thing for a total stranger and pay it forward. *

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Always do good things and expect nothing in return. If you deserve it, Life will find a way to hit you back, in this life or the next.

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(*disclaimer: when something bad happens to you, the same rules do not apply. Don’t go out there and do one bad thing to a total stranger. hahaha)

Rest In Peace. A sad day for Canadians.

I don’t pay as much attention to Canadian politics as much as I do to our neighbors down the street. Maybe because American politics affect my business as 100% of my income is directly correlated with the American corporate economy (that’s what I tell people). But really, they are just so much more dramatic, with almost a Hollywood movie style scripture to it. There seems to always be a protagonist in fight for the mighty good versus the bad guy who threatens the peace of the innocent. Whether it’s because a minority race and sex were up for vote or because there was always a war to win and people to rally, US politics had an easy, simple story to follow. I guess that’s what captures the minds of the American masses.  

 This past year though, one Canadian politician managed to make me listen to what he had to say with his charm and charisma (that’s what I tell people), but mainly because his goodness and care for Canadians showed through his words and his actions. He genuinely cared for his country and it’s a shame that cancer had to take him at such a pinnacle stage of his life and for all the Canadians that he would have positively affected in the years to come. I guess with this story, there was a good guy and a bad guy too.

While his actions are no longer with us, his words we can still learn from. This was from an excerpt from Layton’s last letter to Canadians:

             ~And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the worlds environment. We can restore our good name in the world….

..Consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done. My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

– Jack Layton 1950-2011

Some Shiny Yellow Rule and Whatnot

Treat others like you would want to be treated. Simple enough no? Every relationship or interaction you’re in involves 2 people. Ordering coffee at Starbucks with your barrista or having lunch with a friend or shopping with Mom. The best and easiest way to get more out of them, or out of anybody really, is to give more to them. Sounds crazy right?

– WTF is he yapping about. I gotta give what?! –

 At a restaurant, you’re nicer to the server, you get better service. You help a friend move, he happily helps you back. You take care of your clients, they keep doing business with you. It’s a GIVE and take, not a take and give. I always find it so interesting how the way people conduct businesses is so correlated to how people treat relationships. So many of the subtle nuances can be transferred interchangeably between the two at all stages. I had a mentor when I was at Business Objects and he always preached that in order to be truly wealthy, you need success in both work life and personal life, a perfect balance of both with neither defining who you are entirely.

– WTF? I have to master both?!?! I’ll NEVER be happy! –

No you chump. The secret is to master one and see the similarities between the two. Follow one set of rules for both work and personal.

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. During the past 10 years, the company has grown from almost no sales to more than $1 billion in annual gross merchandise sales, driven primarily by repeat customers and word of mouth. Below is an excerpt from Tony’s book that describes how Zappos approaches vendor relationships. I’m going to put an * next to the nuances. Make the connections as you see it.

This goes to show that any relationship you carry whether it be professional or personal, can be as successful or as horrible as you wish it to be with the Golden Rule.

The typical industry approach is to treat vendors like the enemy. Don’t show them any respect, don’t return their phone calls, make them wait for scheduled appointments, and make them buy the meals.

It’s a wonder people don’t realize that business doesn’t have to be done this way.

Ultimately, each party is out for the same thing: to take care of the customers, grow the business, and be profitable. In the long run, it doesn’t behoove either party if there’s only one winner.* If vendors can’t make a profit then they don’t have money to invest in research and development, which in turn means that the products they bring to market will be less inspiring to customers, which in turn negatively affects the retailer’s business because customers aren’t inspired to buy. People want to cut costs and negotiate aggressively because there’s a limited amount of profit to be shared by both sides. As a result of this “death spiral,” most retailers fail.*

We wanted Zappos to be different. We decided to create collaborative relationships in which both parties shared the risks, as well as the rewards.*We found it much easier to create alliances when partners aligned themselves to the same vision and committed to accountability, knowing we’d all benefit from achieving our goals. Not only does this approach get both sides pulling in the same direction, it creates an environment and culture where people are inspired and passionate about what they do.*

We implement this partnership mentality in many ways at Zappos, but it all begins with the Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.* When vendors fly to visit our offices in Las Vegas, they are greeted at the airport by one of our Zappos shuttles. If it’s their first time visiting our office, we give them a tour. We offer them drinks and snacks to make them feel comfortable. This is all far from industry standard, but if we were in their position, I’m sure we wouldn’t mind being treated this way.

Cancer

It’ll never happen to me. I see it on the news all the time but they’re just strangers. I hear about it but never really paid much attention to it. Those were all things I’d said before about cancer. It was like watching a movie on war in Iraq, it seems so surreal and fictional because it’s a world away, it’s not our neighborhood that is being bombed. It’s not us that’s doing the shooting, the killing, the dying. Unfortunately the soldiers coming home in body bags is very real and so is cancer. It’s an ugly, messy, dirty disease. My little sister was diagnosed with Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma last week after months of illness.  

 It’s weird how much you notice something when it’s right there in front of your face. It’s not just in front of me now though. It’s screaming at me aggressively, dangerously close. I try to flinch and move away but I can’t, I’m stuck in this spot, this position and I can’t move. It’s like my feet are encased in solid cement and there is a heavy fog around me. I can feel it lurking just beyond my reach, snarling and growling, but I can’t see it and I’m helpless against it. I was scared and angry, emotionally drained. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must feel.

 

She’s the strongest person I know. She’s travelled around the world by herself and with friends and family and been to places I could only wish to visit one day in the far future. She talks about countries and experiences that are so foreign to me as if they were the neighborhood grocery store, with such familiarity and enthusiasm (yes she talks about food with the same excitement). Her career as a teacher drains her on a daily basis. She uses her talents and unending patience to teach special needs children and comes home with stories of her work days that would make my very worst days at the office seem like a tropical vacation on the isles of Hawaii, sipping on MaiTais and watching hula girls in grass skirts. She has 3 degrees and is almost finished her Masters program at UBC and aspires to become a student councilor, selflessly devoting her career to helping kids find their way in life. Even now, in the face of one of the most deadliest diseases in the world, she still smiles and jokes around, her soul full of spirit and the very example of a brave soldier. I admire her so much.

 

She’ll get better, she will. Her first treatment of chemotherapy was yesterday and she’ll have to undergo 5 more over the next several months. She’ll be weak and her immune system will be Hiroshima’d, but she’ll be strong again, well again. She’s too strong of a person to let a little thing like cancer bring her down. It’ll never happen to me, I once thought. I never expected it to happen to my sister, my family, someone so close to me. I’d donated to cancer funds before, ran in the Underwear Affair to help raise money for cancer research, but always was just doing those things for faceless strangers. As much as I don’t want it, I now have a face to run for, a name to put on my “I’m doing this for…” tag. My sister and I were reading a book on cancer last week and it stated 1 in 576000 will be struck by lightning, 1 in 67 people will die from a car accident and 1 in 3 will have cancer. Well, now I guess she doesn’t have to worry about being struck by lightning or dying in a car accident. She’s already paid her dues to the odds and she’ll beat it, all the while with a smile on her face and friends and family by her side.