Losing my Grip

There are many things in life that we just take for granted. Things that we just assume we’ll always know how to do. I learned how to water ski at Katepwa Lake while visiting my cousins at their cabin when I was about 13 years old. My first introduction to water skiing was watching one of my cousin’s friends trying to get up on two skis and hearing him swear, repeatedly, as loud as he could while failing to do so. I didn’t understand why he would get so worked up, but was aware getting up can be challenging. Then it was my turn, my cousin gave me a stern warning to make sure I let go of the rope if I was wiping out and began dragging behind the boat. Apparently one of my other cousins submarined for what sounded like a number of miles before he let go and came up with seaweed all over him. After a couple failed attempts my third try was successful and I was up and skiing, but I was quite wobbly and endured a number of interesting spills.

As the years went by I tried other water sports, but water skiing was always my favorite … more specifically slalom skiing. I learned to get up on one ski a number of years after learning how to ski and never looked back. There’s something about skiing on a single ski that feels so free and smooth … I liked getting up on one ski, because you never had to search for the other ski after you were done.

After my injury I wondered if my water skiing days were behind me. Basically three of the fingers on my right hand only have strength up to the first knuckle and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to grip the rope. I worked diligently through my rehab to get my grip back, but it appeared my right hand would now be significantly weaker than my left.

Wanting to test my resolve 8 months after my injury I was determined to try wake boarding. I just learned the previous year how to wake board. In fact 2 years prior I had tried to get up on a wake board 17 times before I finally gave up. Turns out it was all technique … I was trying to wake board the same way I’d learned to ski, but the technique is very different. When water skiing you pull against the boat to bring your ski out of the water. With wake boarding you let the boat pull you forward, then stand up. That day sitting in the water I wasn’t sure if I would have enough grip, but I let the boat pull me and got up without issue on the wake board. I was ecstatic! I wiped out a little while later, but that just provided another opportunity for satisfaction when I successfully got up again!

The following year I decided I wanted to try slalom again. Unfortunately I was not so successful. I did get up after 3 attempts, but it was a lot of work and my hand was very sore so I couldn’t ski very long. I tried it again the next year and couldn’t get up. I tried at least 5 times, but I just couldn’t hold on tight enough. After the third try my wife urged me to try with 2 skis. I refused. After the 4th she urged me again. I hadn’t used two skis since I first learned how to ski and I wasn’t going to give in. After the 5th try I was just going to come into the boat. I felt so defeated, was this the start of not being able to do something I really enjoyed?

Before getting in the boat I decided to swallow my pride and asked for the other ski. I put the ski on and got myself ready and told them to “hit it!” I got up first try & dropped the ski without issue. Enjoyed my 10 minutes around the lake (or less) and was done for another year. Last week I went out with the idea of using two skis, got up first try and enjoyed my trek. It’s amazing what barriers we can place on ourselves if we’re too proud to ask for help or refuse to accept a modified approach to a familiar task. My grip may not be what it once was, but gaining mental strength by accepting what has changed is rejuvenating and rewarding.

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Pickin’ Raspberries

RaspberriesI find it interesting to step back some times and realize how much we are able to adapt. I often share about adaptation because it takes us past feeling sorry for our situation to the realization that some things may be different in our future. Adaptation may not be necessary because of an injury, but possibly just as the result of some action.

I was picking raspberries the other day and noticed that my right and left hand serve a different function than what used to be the case. My right hand is my dominant hand, but since my injury there are a number of tasks that are easier to do as a left-hander. When I used to pick raspberries the job of the left hand was to lift the leaves and hold back the raspberry stem while the right hand picked the actual raspberries. I didn’t knowingly switch functions, but observed these tasks are now being carried out by the other hand.

I do recall picking raspberries the year following my injury and having frequent issues with dropping berries and also having difficulting picking them off the stems. Often my pointer finger was too short and I am unable to move the top of my middle finger so it creates difficulty in pinching the raspberries and placing them in the bucket. We need to embrace how resilient and resourceful we are. If pride doesn’t stand in the way we are able to adapt to many different things. Of course adaptation might also take place when we are aware there are other tools we can use to make a job easier … in this case the carabiner ;)

If you haven’t yet read my blog about the dog and the shrub, check it out, it’s worth a good chuckle.

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The Weight is Over

Well actually the wait is over and the weight is under. The wait is over because I’ve finally published a blog … sorry for the hiatus. The weight is under because my focus on weight loss has been successful.

I never planned on using my blog to help inspire me to change, but I suppose it makes sense to start with the man in the mirror. My blog is also not intended to keep giving you updates on my weight. Since I have started the year with a couple weight related blogs I figured I should give you an update and then let the “weight watch” take a break.

I talked about how I lost 2 fingers and gained 15 pounds, but went on to remove that additional weight once I brushed up against the 190 lb marker. I then told how success along with complacency kicked in and I eventually gained much of that weight back over the past two years. I was determined to keep an eye on my waistline and get into better shape in 2014.

I’m happy to report that over the past 6 months I have dropped 12 pounds. 2 pounds a month is a nice slow weight drop and I’m very pleased with the results. Portion control, eating healthier, more exercise, and constant monitoring have been some of the actions I’ve been controlling better. I still have a lot of work to do in order to get in better shape, but things have progressed quite nicely.

So how does all this relate back to you? It’s essential to make some goals and figure out the actions that are going to help you attain those goals. Be honest with yourself along the way, ignoring setbacks is not a successful way to progress. Don’t be afraid to recalibrate. Be realistic and even consider setting multiple small goals as you continue towards your larger audacious goals. You may just surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

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Looking for Trouble

Have you ever seen someone’s actions and thought “He’s just looking for trouble!” or “What does she think she’s gaining by doing that?” Yesterday I was ready to leave the parking lot, but I needed to wait until a sporty little black Subaru Impreza went past. In an effort to impress, the driver of the powerful little car put the pedal down. He was easily doing 70 kmh in a 40 kmh zone. A pedestrian was crossing the street ahead so the driver pinned his brakes to let the pedestrian through. Then the car sped off once again. I turned on to the road, but was glad I was behind this driver rather than in front of him.

As I approached Kramer Boulevard and Wascana Parkway I was intent on making the light. Then I noticed there seemed to be a situation since the car that could’ve turned left in front of me waited until I approached the intersection. When I looked to my right there was the sporty black Subaru and the driver was walking outside his vehicle shrugging his shoulders. There was a conversation between the driver and another man beside his mountain bike. They seemed to be alternating throwing their hands up in the air. It appeared that the cyclist had just picked the mountain bike off the street.

The cyclist appeared to be alright and it didn’t look like the rims on the bike were bent, but I think this was a close call. It was a close call that easily could have been prevented, but I couldn’t believe how fast this turned around on the driver. When the Subaru drove past me I was thinking “someone’s going to get hurt with this guy driving so fast”. A mere 2 blocks later he almost picked off a cyclist. I would’ve stopped and chimed in as required, but I was driving my mountain bike as well and didn’t feel my presence there would benefit the situation at all.

I suppose I can only hope the driver will regret his action and a lesson will be learned, resulting in a changed behavior. I know I learned a lesson in a similar situation. I guess time will tell.

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Exam Regret

“I completely blanked”

Not really the words I wanted to hear after I picked my son up from his University final exam. With the right amount of empathy and respect I felt this could turn into a teachable moment. My son was experiencing regret. It wasn’t time to pounce and say “If you didn’t study enough, you got what you deserved”. It was a time to hear his frustration and have a conversation about how this could be avoided.

There were no words of condemnation or useless platitudes, I simply acknowledged, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” My son has had some detractors, people that assured him that since High School was easy for him he won’t likely do very well in University. He’s taken that skepticism to heart and become very driven to excel and prove the naysayers wrong. If I were to step in now and push him around because of an apparent slip-up it would certainly have a negative impact. The test accounts for 60% of his final mark, in a class where his lowest mark has been mid-eighties (that’s when I graduated, but not the marks I graduated with). He was discouraged that 3 hours could have such a profound impact on the class he excelled in all semester.

I offered a simple nudge, a comment, “That highlights the need to study hard, those 3 hours have a big impact on an entire semester of effort, you owe it to yourself to be as prepared as possible.” It was a neat moment. I shared some insight that was helpful and even welcomed. His next test was the following day and he vowed not to have the same result and backed that up by studying.

I wasn’t elated that the negative event took place, but seeing a positive response to the regret provides hope for the future. Have you had a disappointment today? Don’t retreat … is there something that disappointment can teach you? I encourage you to be a student of regret, not a slave.

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My Favourite Nurse

Last fall I had the opportunity to speak for Sun Country Health Region in Weyburn at their Patient Safety Conference. Before I spoke I was able to listen to the harrowing story of an electrocution survivor. There were multiple times through his presentation that he talked about his “favourite nurse”. I made a mental note of this repetition since, I too, had a favourite nurse. In fact, I was bold enough to ask the audience during my presentation, “Why did he have a favourite nurse?” Why did I? Why do we have a favourite doctor, teller, or salesperson?

It may be hard to pinpoint exactly how someone becomes a favourite, but most likely there was some part of an interaction with that person that you were able to sense that they genuinely cared for you, your opinion and the need you had.

During my brief stay in the hospital I was determined to treat every one of my healthcare professionals with courtesy and respect. This attitude existed because I had never before been in the hospital and because my mom was a healthcare worker. When my grandfather’s health was failing, I felt he was overly critical of the care he received. Specifically, I didn’t feel he was very nice to his nurses. During my hospital stay, my Mom was one of my visitors and she was concerned because I seemed to be worrying more about the staff than about the state of my pain. Granted that after I provided such a poor pain rating my stay in the hospital was a lot more intense than it needed to be. I’m not saying to ignore your state, but consider what it must be like to work in such a needy environment. As a healthcare professional it is never about you … perhaps we could extend that to say as a professional it isn’t about you. If you have a customer they need to be your focal point.

My guardian angel (favourite nurse) knew how to make me feel like his customer. Like I was the most important part of his day, like he really cared about my mental and physical state. We had some regular chatter and we had some focused customer interaction. He asked if he could wake me up if it was time to receive my medication. He explained that it was best if we kept ahead of the pain by being consistent with my pain meds. I thought that was a great idea because the minimization of pain was far more critical to me than the sleep I knew I was missing out on. I knew I could trust him and he further endeared himself by honouring that trust and waking me up. He came at the end of his shift and said goodbye and that he was glad he got a chance to help me out, but his night shifts were over and I’d likely be gone before he started days.

In contrast here’s the interaction with another one of my nurses … well, let’s say she wasn’t my favourite. I reminded her to wake me up at 2 am if I was sleeping when she came to give me my meds. She agreed. This was at the end of my second full day in the hospital with very little sleep the previous two nights (measured in minutes, not hours). It was 4:30 in the morning and I woke up in horrendous pain. I pushed the button for assistance as quick and as hard as I could. I missed my pain meds by two and a half hours. I said “You never woke me up, I needed my pain meds!” Her response, “When I came in you were sleeping and I didn’t want to bother your sleep.” Clearly she missed out on what was important to me. It took me that entire day to catch up on the pain.

When she came to check me the next day I told her my pain was too intense and I needed my meds increased, her response, “Are you expecting there to be no pain?” I was floored … my sunny disposition became dark and overcast. I wasn’t yelling, but my retort was “I’m not expecting no pain, but something less than a 9 or 10 would be nice!” She seemed to question the significance of my pain, somehow I felt betrayed. Oddly enough many times in life I’ve prided myself on having a high pain threshold, but this experience was a whole new level and I knew I needed help.

I continued to plead until finally my Doctor agreed to increase my dosage. Nearly six days after my injury I finally felt relief from my pain. I remember it well … It was like I just spent the previous 5 days in a room full of people yelling at the top of their lungs, then suddenly they all quit. There was just silence, peace. My guardian angel just came back on the day shift and he was the first one I talked to once I realized I had no pain. I remember asking, is this what it’s supposed to be like? So quiet, no pain? I was overjoyed! After a brief chat with my guardian angel I enjoyed the silence, closed my eyes then fell asleep for 3 hours (until my next dosage) ;). The next day I was discharged from the hospital.

What makes you a favourite? What do you have to offer your customer that makes you stand out from the crowd? What is your differentiator? Your competitive advantage? What is your customer expecting? Are you listening?

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People package perseverance a number of different ways: Never give up, Work your way through it, Don’t give in, Press on, When the going gets tough the tough get going. In my presentations I use a Mixed Martial Arts term and say “Don’t Tap”. In MMA when a fighter taps out he is indicating to the other fighter or the official that he is surrendering, giving up. There are times it is advisable to tap in MMA and maybe even in life, but when there is the smallest margin of hope I would encourage you to persevere, not Tap out.

There were times when I was setting up my speaking business that it seemed like the only believer in the opportunity was me. I get a lot of support from my family, but the support didn’t seem to extend much beyond the walls of my house. I was on the internet, blogging, tweeting and spending countless hours trying to track down illusive speaking opportunities. It seemed the niche I was trying to fill already had enough people providing what I was trying to sell.

In my business, it came to a point where I felt like packing it in, like tapping out.

A trusted adviser of mine encouraged me to set some goals, but also to revisit them to see if they were realistic. I think he sensed I was putting too much pressure on myself and re-evaluating would provide an awareness of how far I had already come and what was realistic. The difficult thing about being an entrepreneur is being aware when you lose your desire the dream will slowly fade away. I have honestly felt that my message of safety and emotional healing is so much bigger than me and that I am privileged to deliver it. I remember being completely at peace that night thinking that if this thing falls flat right here and this is the end of the road, I’m alright with that.

The next morning was a brand new day and one of my routines is a daily leadership devotional by John C Maxwell. Here’s an excerpt taken from his outstanding book “Failing Forward”

“One of the most common obstacles to success is the desire to cut corners. But short cuts never pay off in the long run.If you find that you continually give in to your moods or impulses, then you need to change your approach to doing things. Cutting corners is really a sign of impatience and poor self-discipline. But if you are willing to follow through, you can achieve a breakthrough. The best method is to set up standards for yourself that require accountability. Any time you suffer a consequence for not following through, it helps you stay on track.”

Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. What are the odds that any book I am reading would have the words “Cutting Corners” in it on the exact morning I had resolved to take a break from my speaking business which, at that time, was based solely on my “STOP Cutting Corners” presentation? Further to the actual term was an encouraging word about having patience and developing greater self-discipline.

Later that day I took a deeper look into my presentation and decided it wasn’t nearly time to pick up the stakes. What followed was a renewed resolve to spread my message and a brand new perspective that resulting in developing my second presentation “Injury Aftermath – Navigating the emotional impact of an injury”. I’d like to say that things turned around that day and the speaking requests began pouring in, but that wasn’t the case. I did learn that more self-discipline was required and eventually the breakthrough came.

Have you faced insurmountable odds? Are you feeling defeated? Have you considered ways to keep yourself accountable? Do you have someone you can talk to about your struggle? Have you considered praying for inspiration and revitalization? I did, and the relief from stress and the fresh new perspective was amazing!

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Successful weight gain

At the start of the New Year I stepped on the scale … it blurted out 183 pounds. Ahhh … I’ve been here before, but how and why did I return? A friend of mine told me “I just can’t gain weight”, well it appears I don’t have that problem.

I didn’t get here in a day, it happened one meal and one treat at a time. The last time I tipped the scales this high was in the months following my injury. Was this a coping mechanism again? No. Was the weight gain from inactivity? Yes, but this was also a complacency issue. A by-product of abundance.

2013 was a phenomenal year for me. I saw my vision of a bustling speaking business come to fruition. I was busy speaking in every corner of our wonderful province. More time on the road resulted in more meals out. I failed to increase my exercise with the extra calories and the restaurant meals translated to more pounds.

I saw it coming, in fact I still regularly weigh myself, but I felt it was concealed from everyone else. The first time I was confronted with it outside my house was last fall when I had a chance meeting with a client from the spring.

He inquired, “What are you doing in town?”
“Speaking for another client”, I responded.
He said, “So business has been pretty good for you?”
I replied “Yes, things have been going very well”
With a snicker he said “I can see that.”
I said, “Hey, wait a minute, what are you saying?”
He said, “I can see you’ve packed on a few pounds”
“You know what? You’re absolutely right, I’m going to have to work on it.”

The problem is I didn’t.

I was recently in Vancouver and had an opportunity to view a video of my presentation. When I viewed the video, I guess I saw things from a different perspective and realized the time had come to do something about my weight gain. A couple Christmas meals lead me to where I am now. Joining the large number of people setting dietary, exercise and weight reduction goals in January. Argh!

I’m pretty up front about my emotions and this happened to be another one I’m sure a number of you may struggle with. A while back a friend of mine shared with me that he’s getting snug in his fat suits, so it was time to react. I’ve exceeded my reaction point, but now it’s time to do something about it. I’m on my journey back to a healthier weight.

In “The Noticer“, Andy Andrews tells the story of 5 seagulls sitting on the dock. One decided to fly away, how many were left? “There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things.”

I could sit here and regret that I’d gained this weight back, but when I’m feeling regret the reflection helps to guide me as to what is causing the regret and spurs me to action. I talk about this at length in my Power of Regret presentation. It’s not about being overwhelmed by regret, but stepping back and asking what lesson am I supposed to be learning here? Why not take a look at some of your unhealthy or unsafe choices and decide to make a change.

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2 fingers, 15 pounds

I used to be a Math and Industrial Arts teacher, as it turns out I’ve taught my kids fractions in a very difficult manner … my pointer finger is 2/3 and my ring finger is 1/3 of what it should be. People say, “High Five?” I reply, “How about a high four?” That kind of math is easy to understand, but I’m not sure how this adds up: I lost part of 2 fingers and gained 15 pounds.

Eating became a way of coping with some of my pain. If I was able to take enjoyment from eating it lessened the pain I was feeling in my hand. I’m only 5’8”, well, not quite … but a healthy weight would be around 165 to 170. I was about 175 at the time of my injury. Over time I began to pack on the pounds. I recall the day I stepped on the scale and it blurted out 189! What? Me? That’s crazy! I thought for a second, should I try to hit 190 to say I’ve been there or do I need to take action?

Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America,
and Excercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant – Bill Phillips

I decided to take action. Over the next 3 months I made a very conscious effort to curtail my caloric intake (eating less) and also began exercising more. I also made sure I stepped on the scale each morning to determine if I was winning or losing. I was amazed to see how much impact a big dinner could have on my weight.

It felt odd eating less than my son, but realizing that he’s still growing and that his metabolism and activity level was greater than mine it began to make sense he should eat more than me. That is part of the rut we get into, we do things a certain way because we’ve always done them that way. My activity had taken a dip so my consumption needed to follow suit. I needed to keep better tabs on things, to report on my weight just like the status of a project that I might be working on.

Week after week I focused on a lower, healthier weight. I began to feel the difference physically and emotionally. I was more energetic, more positive, and slimmer. People began to notice and some of them even asked me if I was feeling alright because they noticed the weight loss. Man, that was encouraging!

I remember stepping on the scale one morning and I was 163 pounds … I did it! I was ecstatic! I hadn’t been that weight since the 80’s.

Pay attention to your warning gauges. Are there things that have become habit forming for you that are unhealthy or unsafe? What can you do to change the trend? Recognizing unhealthy habits is half the battle, now do yourself a favor and look for a healthy habit to replace those undesirable coping techniques.

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Minus 49

It was minus 49 degrees with the wind-chill this morning. Brrrr. That’s crazy cold. It’s not quite to the point where you could throw water into the air and it comes down as ice, but that doesn’t feel too far away. It’s one of the days your tires feel like squares as you drive to work. This is the kind of day you need to plug in your car or you can forget about it starting (Most Canadian vehicles are equipped with block heaters which is a little heater you plug in to keep the oil in your car warm). It’s the kind of day you wouldn’t want to get stranded on the road.

I recall a frigid day just like this when I was driving my wife’s car down the gravel road on my way to work, back in 1994 (I was an Industrial Arts teacher at the time). The road was in good shape, but my tires grabbed a little bit of gravel and the car began to fishtail. It swung one way, I corrected, it swung the other, I corrected and I thought I had everything under control. Suddenly the car swung one more time and I over corrected and headed straight for the ditch. One more large over-correction and I ended up flipping the car onto its roof. Everything went into slow motion as I skidded along the edge of the road, thinking is this really happening?

The snowbank was coming at me at an incredibly fast pace, then the roof caved in and I ducked so that it wouldn’t hit me in the head. The windshield smashed! I was panicked and wondered how much worse this was going to get, was I going to get pinned to the seat? Finally I came to a stop! I undid my seatbelt and fell onto the roof, then I turned the window down (actually up) so I could get out of the car. I wasn’t sure how long it would be, but it was frigid and I knew I was going to get cold quick. I wasn’t prepared, I was wearing a light winter jacket and my Doc Martins. I knew my wife was going to work, but thought she was taking the other road, so I began to run for the highway. I ran a mile in that frigid weather and each stride I took my shoes became more and more like bricks hitting the roadway. Thankfully my wife saw someone out for a morning run on this desolate stretch of road and everything turned out alright, except for the fact I’d just totaled her vehicle. This outcome was very favourable, but certainly isn’t guaranteed.

Think of what your vehicle is enduring, at minus 34 at the highway speed of 110 km/hr the wind-chill is almost minus 70. We get so used to our frigid temperatures that we’re often without some basic necessities that we should have in case of an emergency. Are you prepared in the case of a vehicle or driver malfunction? Make sure you have enough fuel and dress warmly: mitts, toque, boots, and a good winter jacket. Other winter driving tips

Do yourself a favour and stay inside if you can … maybe even curl up in front of the fireplace. If you do go out, make sure you’re prepared.

Have a Safe and Merry Christmas Everyone!

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