The Recovering Farmer

Saturday, December 31, 2016

That’s All Folks

That sounds rather final. And it is, at least for this year. Another year has come and gone. It seems like this one went by even quicker than the last which went quicker than the year before that. Perhaps it is an age thing. Although when I think back to the outset of 2016 it feels like that is a lifetime ago. Here we are ensconced by another winter. At the end of November it appeared like the winter might be gentle. But alas, two snowfalls later we have significant snow accumulations and it appears there is more to come.

I have seen numerous mentions lately that 2016 was a horrible year. This seems a little puzzling. Why do people feel that way? Listening to the radio this morning shed some light on that. It appears that there were a significant number of well known, dare I say celebrities, that died. Interesting point. But not one that I had considered nor one that I am about to get hung up on.

What is it about famous people’s death that intrigues some? What about people that don’t have celebrity status? When I look around at family and friends that are struggling with health, passing of a loved one, dealing with loss of job, or numerous other issues I find it difficult to grieve because another celebrity died. Don’t get me wrong. It is said when anyone dies. But not anymore sad or tragic than when someone close is struggling or dying.

Sorry for the little rant. So New Years is upon us. The time when many become obsessed with making resolutions. I have said before and will say it again. I have tried and failed. I have given up. Very simply put when I wake up on January 1 life remains virtually the same. It is still winter. It is cold. We have just been through a snow storm with threats of another one on its way. The days are short. Why in the world would I want to quit anything that is helping me cope?

Here is a novel idea. We should change New Years from January 1 to July 1. Me thinks it would be so much easier to carry through with any resolution if it we did during summer rather than the dead of winter. Think about it. Eating less, drinking less, quitting smoking, quitting nicotine gum, getting in shape, all of these would be so much easier in the summer. In fact should I be prime minister that would be a policy or legislative change I would make. I bet you would all vote for me. Right?

Okay. I can only wish. So as we move into the new year I do need to make some changes. However, I refuse to call these resolutions. Rather I need to make some lifestyle changes. These are lifestyle changes I need to make so I am ready for summer when it gets here. Am I contradicting myself? Perhaps. So be it.

The good news is we get an extra second of sleep tonight. You see, the world clock has to be adjusted. Seems the earth rotation on its axis is slowing down. It has slowed down 26 seconds since 1972. Quite fascinating. What about before 1972. Nobody knows because nobody was keeping track. So there you have it. Enjoy that extra sleep. Happy New Years. Make it a good one.

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” Theodore I. Rubin

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

Here I am a day late. Christmas day was yesterday and here I am posting my annual Christmas thoughts on boxing day. It is rather strange how Christmas snuck up on me this year. I have been quite busy with work and perhaps that is why. Normally I would be relieved because days are now getting longer. Hardly even thought about that this year. I would have a certain dread about all things Christmas. Did not have time to think about that. Year end is fast approaching which just means I need to get some work done so I don’t even find that troublesome.

So before I realized it friends and family had come and gone. It was great to spend time in building relationships. And, as seems to be the norm, Christmas seems to stretch into New Years so the poem I am using again, because I love it, still has significant meaning, even a day late. Make it a good one.

Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your inner critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don't let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!

Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It's a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It's Christmas time again!
Bob Lazzar-Atwood

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What I Am

There are days that I regret having been less than enthused about learning when I had the chance to. Don’t get me wrong. I still am learning and obviously need to keep learning. In fact I have learned so much from my mistakes I am thinking of making a few more. I am referring to school. I have some regrets for not having pursued post-secondary schooling. But what I regret even more is not being engaged in my high school education. I muddled my way through and managed to get my diploma.

I am particularly sorry about my lack of enthusiasm in English class. I think I am managing quite well without having too much math and science know how. After all we have calculators for any type of calculations I need to do in my life. Had I known in grade twelve that someday I would use a cell phone with a built in calculator I could have skipped that subject totally. And science? Who needs it.

English involved Shakespearean literature. Comedies and Tragedies. Some irony that I saw a quote earlier this week that resonated with me and a day later saw the following quote which originates on the Amazon website. "The English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original." Quite fascinating actually if you consider that Shakespeare invented 1700 words. Perhaps his syntax was off, some stories were difficult to grasp, but at the end of the day some of his quotes hold so much truth. Some of the people that critique my writing would probably suggest I have invented a few words myself. Not sure if that would be considered a comedy or a tragedy.

So in the past I have been challenged to use positive self-talk. I have written about the imaginary parrot sitting on our shoulders. You know the one that repeats everything we say. So when we tell ourselves that we are “such an idiot” or “I am so stupid” or a host of other demeaning terms the parrot repeats that which simply confirms for us that we are actually an idiot or dumb or stupid. Not helpful at all. So when the question is asked, in Shakespeare’s King Richard lll, “what am I if I’m not what I tell myself I am” my first thought is that people suffered from negative self-talk way back when. Not something new but something that needs to be dealt with to avoid all kinds of consequences.

I would like to think that if I am not what I tell myself I am I am a good person. Having said that I know that others think much more highly of themselves than what they really are. Like in “do you know who I am?”. Perhaps not arrogant but certainly a certain level of abrasive self-confidence. However, I digress.

The point being that living with a low level of self-worth, low self-esteem, self-loathing, or continuous shame can be and is very detrimental to our well-being. It drives us into the depths of misery. It prevents us from enjoying a fulfilled life. A quote I have used in the past is “if we talked to others the way we talk to ourselves how many friends would we have?”. When these negative thoughts come our way we have to replace them with positive self-talk. We probably don’t talk to anyone else as much as we talk to ourselves. So be kind to yourself. Make it a good one.

Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t. Start loving yourself for everything that you are.” unknown

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Am I Drowning

We are approaching that time of year again when many people that experience mental health issues find themselves in somewhat of a quandary. I know I do. It is a time of celebration, a time to renew relationships with family and friends, and a time to over eat. Unfortunately we get caught up in the commercialization and busyness of the season. No sooner do we have Halloween off the books and we become bombarded with the material side of the season. It always seems a contradiction to hear carols such as Silent Night as you literally fight your way through the masses in various stores trying desperately to buy that perfect gift for someone who already has everything.

It is also the time of year when daylight hours are at a minimum. Normally it can be the beginning of the coldest time of year. Sure. We had the warmest November since 1899. Wonder what that does to the global warming argument. Perhaps I won’t go there. The price we paid for this unusually warm weather is a total lack of sunshine. Not helpful at all for improving mental health. Even the hand full of Vitamin D each morning could not get me to fight my way through the gloom of another cloudy day.

But enough of me. A few weeks ago I presented to the local CMHA chapter in Melville, Saskatchewan. Earlier this year when I first chatted with one of the board members she shared a concern with me. As we talked about various experiences she mentioned that awareness of mental health issues was a good thing. She mentioned a family member that had suffered the debilitating effects of depression. She expressed gratitude about the way that resources had been available to help this particular person. But she also expressed concern that there seemed to be little mention of the people that were trying to be helpful to those that live with mental health challenges. She felt that these care givers were largely ignored in the big picture.

She makes a valid point. Far too often we forget about those that provide support and care, a support without any clear direction. There are no instructions written that cover the various challenges they face. Never knowing what the day may bring. Mental health issues are so unpredictable. It becomes an exhausting effort. It can have the potential to create another whole set of issues with far reaching implications.

That maybe why the following resonated with me. Sometimes you can get so busy trying to be everyone else’s anchor that you don’t even realize you are drowning. Isn’t that the truth. Whether through work, with family, friends, or community, we become so involved in wanting to be there, show leadership, make sure things happen, never miss a moment, that we lose sight of ourselves and the effect all of this can have on our own mental health. And then we wake up one morning and come face to face with the reality that our lives have changed. That we are now experiencing everything we were helping the other to overcome. Make sure you take the time to look after yourself. After all, without relationships, without community, without a healthy mental state, this time of year can be lonely and sad. We don’t want that and don’t need that. Make it a good one.

“Some people and events are difficult to deal with, but they can only stress us if we let them. Breathe in calm, breathe out chaos, and anchor yourself in peace.” Lori Deschene

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Try To Undertand

Conflict can be such a confusing issue to deal with. First we are told that it can be positive. But then again it can be negative. Addressed properly it can be constructive. Improperly it is destructive. Why is that? Maybe, just maybe, it is because we don’t listen well.

The recent election in the USA has shown us some classic examples of what conflict should not be. To a degree this was prevalent in the Canadian election a year ago. Let’s be clear. Obviously as democracies we hold elections because there are many and diverse ideas of what government policy should be about. In simple terms we have ideologies from right wing to left wing. People differ and that is not a bad thing. Political debates and conversations should be a means to discuss policies, share ideas and visions, issues that can improve the lot of citizens and ultimately the world. However, when the dialogue denigrates into personal accusations and insults we accomplish nothing except destructive conflict.

Even after the election, the insults, anger, and gnashing of teeth continues. A short scroll through Facebook proves the point. As someone suggested the other day they miss the day when someone would post instructions on pork chop recipes, or of a dog that was not feeling well, or of. . . . forget it. Might say something I may regret. And don’t even get me going on people that drag religion into the political arena. Never seen such sanctimonious and self-righteous venting as I have in the last year. Perhaps my forefathers were right when they suggested that church and state don’t mix. Their thoughts were that our only duty was to pray for our government. Isn’t that a novel idea.

Sorry. Back to conflict. As has been taught through the ages constructive conflict is important and beneficial. It helps us learn. It helps us develop new thought and ideas. Patrick Lencioni describes the usefulness of conflict in his book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. In essence he suggests that the basis of any team is trust and when trust is present team members can engage in conflict because it provides the safety to express ideas and thoughts even if they are bound to create significant feedback.

What is it that spirals our relationships into destructive conflict? Why is it that I have such a difficult time in admitting to being wrong? Why is it that I keep defending my position even when subconsciously I know I am wrong? I hate being wrong. The thought of being wrong is a blow to my self-esteem. In essence it makes me unacceptable to myself. That is why I tend to become defensive. I need to save face.

However, when I drill down to the cause of this defensiveness, when I take the third person approach, I gain an understanding of what is happening internally. I find that I have not listened to understand but rather to respond. I have not taken the time to check on what the other really is trying to achieve. I have not explored what I really need out of the conversation. So I argue vigorously to make my point. A point that becomes lost because quite frankly when two parties are in attack mode what really is the point.

I hate being wrong. What is even worse is admitting I am wrong. So I need to look inward. And answer a key question. Do I want to defend my beliefs at all costs or do I want to see the world as clearly as possible? I want to see the world as clearly as possible. And when I am intrigued rather than defensive I am well on my way to gaining a much clearer perspective and having what the Eagles sing about. “That peaceful, easy feeling.” Make it a good one.

“Be selective with your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Much Ado About Nothing

It has been awhile. Did manage to put some thoughts together after our road trip this summer. Still love telling the story of 4 GPS’s, a map, and my wife. Not sure why my inspiration to write left me. Perhaps it was writer’s cramp. Quite frankly I don’t even know what that means. Perhaps I lost focus. Thoughts that could be passed on did not come to me. If they did I would forget before I had a chance to jot them down.

Changing the clocks this weekend seems to have reignited something. Twice a year the debate rages. All the dangers society faces when our bodies have to adjust for a one hour change. Statistics show that there are more accidents the Monday after we lose the one hour. Okay. Perhaps. Just not sure why. Its not that we all have a set time when we go to bed or wake up. So these changes happen in our bodies even if the clock doesn’t change. But to flog that debate again when we gain an hour of sleep is beyond me.

Here is the latest. So as mentioned, in Spring there are more accidents on Monday morning. Now the experts say that the fall change affects us more on Saturdays. Does that make sense? Me thinks that is much ado about nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. Sleep is important. I have been reminded of that again as I prepare for a stress management workshop in Saskatchewan. I have been reviewing the materials used in our Sleepless in Manitoba workshops from a few years ago. How well we perform during the day depends on the sleep we have had the night before. Lack of proper sleep increases the risk of accidents and injury. We become more susceptible to heart attacks, strokes, and other medical issues. There is an increased likelihood of depression and other mental health problems. There is an increase in substance abuse. Research has shown that decreased productivity from lack of sleep costs $25 billion in Canada.

So I get it. We need a good night’s sleep. It will provide for a better quality of life. But does a one hour change really impact that much? Quite frankly if I was in charge I would add another change. Hear me out. Should we not change to daylight saving time the sun would rise around 4:00 am during the time of the summer solstice. It would set at 9:00 pm. It would seem to me that we would spend too much time sleeping during daylight hours. What I would suggest is that right round the middle of May we spring ahead an additional hour. That would make for even longer daylight in the evenings. I like that. After all I am an avid golfer.

So if the one hour change twice a year wreaks havoc in our lives think of the chaos four time changes would create. Apocalyptic. Makes me shudder just thinking of it. In fact I think our current leaders should no longer allow travel outside of our time zones. Just imagine the danger we are when we travel east or west. And the further we travel the more dangerous we become. It should not happen. We need to stay put. Perhaps there is a reason I am not in charge.

There is my vent for the week. Aren’t you glad I was inspired to write about this? You too can now be more aware of the detrimental effects of a time change. Be vigilant. Be careful. But most of all just get some sleep. The good news is that in a mere six weeks the days start getting longer. That’s what I am waiting for. Make it a good one.

“At the end of the day I am thankful that my blessings are bigger than my problems.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Much has been said about GPS (Global Positioning System) in the last few years. Where I first began noticing the use of GPS was in agriculture. Farmers talked about it. They used it. It was amazing to see the straight lines made by tillage equipment. I remember when I used to drive tractors the lines were anything but straight. Now that is different. Must be boring me thinks.

For Father’s Day my kids gave me a Garmin watch. For those that have no clue what that is it simply is a watch that I wear when golfing. It, quite frankly, is amazing technology. It provides me with yardages from wherever I might be on the course. I switch it on when I start my round, pick the course I am on, it has the coordinates for 3000 courses, and the rest is automatic. As a matter of fact I can get a yardage distance to every green at Kingswood from in my office. Like I say, incredible technology.

Earlier this year we purchased a convertible. Something that had been on our bucket list for a while. A week ago my wife and I took it on a road trip. We traveled east to Ottawa, down to Niagara Falls and then back home. Over 5000 kilometers of beautiful scenery, busy highways, and interesting destinations. Each morning my wife would punch in the address of our destination for the day on the GPS in our car. Quite interesting to have someone other than my wife telling me where to go and how to get there. As we approached Ottawa my wife decided to overrule the GPS. After all she still had a map in her hands and felt she knew where would be better routes to take. Imagine my consternation when I heeded the directions from my wife and the GPS kept telling me to make a legal Uturn. Who to listen to? Actually a no brainer. I listened to my wife.

Found out in a hurry that GPS can also lead you astray. Good thing we had a backup. After the built in GPS took us to a residential area, we were looking for our Hotel, we switched that one off and pulled out the backup one. It took us to the other side of town to another residential area. At that point I was calling the voice from the GPS very bad names. We then each took out our Iphones and used the GPS on them. Even they showed different routes to our destination. 4 GPS’s and two hours later we found the Hotel. Turns out we were a mere few blocks from it when we first pulled into town. Interesting how often we still went wrong in spite of this wonderful technology.

I mulled over that for the rest of the trip. Except, of course, as we traveled past Toronto, or did we drive through the city. Not sure. With multiple lanes going every direction it was tough to really think about anything except survival. Check the speed limit, add 20 kmh plus 10% and there is a chance you will actually keep up to traffic. With conditions like that it is not surprising we missed a few turns. Except on those roads you don’t make turns. You veer right or left depending on what the wonderful female in GPS land is yelling at you. Sorry. I digress.

It seems that my brain’s built in GPS also, at times, takes me to destinations I don’t care to visit. Why is that? Perhaps I have programed it wrong. Used the wrong coordinates. Wrong street address. The lesson is not to despair. There are various means to finding your way back to a life that makes sense. A life filled with happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. And as our trip showed us it may take a while but eventually you will get there and when you do you will realize and understand that it was worth the trip. Make it a good one.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” Thomas H. Palmer

Sunday, May 15, 2016


My wife sometimes suggests that I have a touch of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD). Not to a serious degree but it seems that I get into a certain routine and stick with it. For starters I need to check and recheck certain things I do. For example. I will lock the door and then go back and check it because I can’t remember whether I locked it. Numerous times I have left home only to go back and make sure I actually closed the garage door. I also seem to get into a rut with eating certain foods. I have had Bran Flakes with raisins for breakfast for a long long time. Before that it was carrot raisin muffins. Now I have to have a protein shake every day at a certain time. I also get that way with certain topics I like to write about. Communication. That is what I am fixated on these days.

Texting seems to be the communication flavor of the day. And with texting comes texting lingo which I still have some difficulty always understanding. This coming from someone involved in agriculture for many years where acronyms were used far too often. I remember AIDA and CFIP and GRIP and CAIS. Government support programs where one evolved into another that evolved into yet another and so on. There were trade deals from NAFTA to GATT to WTO to TIPP. There were insurance programs that were administered by MASC called CI that included your IPI. Lenders such as FCC, RBC, MASC, SCU, and others. I could go on but I digress.

Just recently I was exchanging texts with a golfing buddy who likes this texting lingo. She sent me a text that involved a bunch of letters that I to this day can’t figure out. I responded by asking her what she did with all her extra time she had because she used what I call shorthand. She might have saved a few seconds while I had to spend an extra minute of my life trying to figure out what she was actually saying, a minute I will never get back. LOL, which can mean laughing out loud or lots of love or living on Lipitor, is a common one. LMAO, ROTFLO, TTYL, TMI, STBY, and OMG are but a few. Google it. There are hundreds of them. BTW R U sure that you want to say that because me thinks you should CYA because my POV is like OMG, are you serious? When I see gobble de goop like that I just simply respond WTF. That one works for me. It covers everything. From good news to bad news and everything in between.

I had a reminder this week that I have been overdoing it with emails. I sent an email to a client suggesting which day would work for me to meet with them. The evening of the day I could meet I got a response. They suggested that they did not regularly check emails so it would be better if I called and left a message. Touché. I agree. What is this hang-up, no pun intended, with actually talking to people, even if it is by telephone? Is it actually a time saver? Sometimes I think it’s another way of avoidance. A way of not actually communicating but rather sending a message for which there is little accountability.

Ever sat in a restaurant and when a cell phone rang everyone reached for their pocket? Notice how often people in a social setting keep checking their phones and using their phones? It seems that effective communication has gone the way of the dodo bird. Along with it relationships are not being retained or maintained. I think we can improve on that. Next time you are with a group of friends leave your phone on silent and in your pocket. Bet you can’t do it. By the way. .02, the title I used, in texting lingo means sharing my two cents worth. And that is what this is, my two cents worth. Perhaps you feel short changed. Doesn’t matter. TTYL. Make it a good one.

“Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.” Mark Twain

Thursday, May 5, 2016

You Got This

It took a while but I think it is safe to say “Spring is sprung and the grass is riz”. It is a time for optimism. A time for regrowth. This past weekend brought the warmer temperatures, gale force winds calmed, it was downright nice weather. Particularly for golf.

Over the last few days I have also noticed increased activity in the fields. Farmers are getting at it. After months of waiting, planning, fixing, and generally getting ready, they are putting in the 2016 crop. For the most part they too are filled with optimism. Although, metaphorically speaking, there appear to be some storm clouds in the distance. Some issues, particularly financial, have created some anxiety. Commodity prices have softened from the levels experienced over the last few years. It seems that costs keep going up regardless. Forecasts are calling for a hot, dry summer. However farmers prove time and time again that they have resilience. They have what it takes. They are innovative. They adapt. They can do this.

This busy time of year also provides opportunity for thought. What else do you do as you put in countless hours going up and down the fields on your tractors? You think. You plan. I suspect that there will be those who will wonder whether it is time to call it a day and sell out. Many are wondering if it is time to leave it to the next generation. Perhaps there are those who will wish they had started the conversation sooner.

The thought of transitioning from the farm, whether selling or passing on to the next generation, can be frightening. Questions abound. Will my kids want to farm? Are they capable? What will I retire on? What will I do? Where will I live? How will this work? Who can help me? This is but a sampling of questions many ask. It becomes so overwhelming that many just simply ignore what needs to be done.

The challenge becomes to take the process one step at a time. There are many steps involved in a transition plan. That is why it is best to start with the first step without thinking too far ahead. Normally that first step would be to have a conversation. A conversation with your spouse, your partner and your kids. Through the conversation come to an understanding of what everyone’s expectations are. They may be different than you thought. Others may have assumed what you wanted only to find out they were wrong. The conversation will get everyone on the same page.

Not to scare anyone, but these conversations may be difficult at times. Many interests, fears, concerns, and desires may have been avoided over the years. The reality of the farm and all that goes with it may not have been truly understood. What may be equitable will not feel fair. With increased challenges on the farm there may be some who no longer want to farm. All these challenges bring fear to the retiring generation and the succeeding generation. The solutions may not be easy to come by but with the right intentions and hard work a successful plan can be implemented.

The good news is there are professionals that can help with the various components of a plan. There are those who can assist with the difficult conversations. There are those who can help mapping out the process. It is a matter of retaining that help and getting on with the plan. Make it a good one.

“Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.” Karen Salmansohn

Monday, May 2, 2016

Can I Rely on You

I don’t know about you but I am suffering from election fatigue. I know, I should get over it as the election in Manitoba, which started shortly after the federal election, is finally over. However it feels like a hangover. Perhaps it’s because there is still a constant barrage of election “stuff” coming from south of the border. That in itself is scary enough. I mean the people involved. But I am not going there.

Shortly after I posted my last blog I realized that what I had written did not necessarily apply to all walks of life. I wrote about the fact that everyone makes mistakes, we all experience failures, we all mess up but should not let our failures define our lives, who we are, and who we will be. However, as has again been proven, if you want to be involved in politics past mistakes, errors, or failures will come back to haunt you. Far too often an election boils down to who we can trust the most.

What is it that we, as a society, want? What are we looking for? Trust. Plain and simple. We want to trust others. Our spouses, our partners, our kids, our colleagues, people we do business with, and those that are in power, such as politicians. And equally so others want to trust us.
I like one of the definitions of trust that the Encarta Dictionary has. Trust means to “rely on somebody or something”. It goes further and states that it means “to place confidence in somebody or in somebody's good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor, or ability. . . to allow somebody to do something, having confidence that the person will behave responsibly or properly”. It does not sound complicated but, unfortunately, can be.

Patrick Lencioni, a management consultant specializing in organizational health, talks about trust being at the very foundation of a team. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he outlines a compelling case for trust being that foundation. As he puts it, “members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors”. He goes on to explain why this is essential for teams to be effective and efficient.

That same concept can be applied in most any, if not all, relationships we have. How can any relationship thrive with the absence of trust? Lack of trust leads to break downs, break ups, conflict, and lack of commitment. It destroys relationships. It destroys teams. It destroys individuals. Like the Irish saying goes, “when mistrust comes in, love goes out.”

Being involved with others, being able to trust others, requires us to be authentic. And to be authentic requires us to become vulnerable. Open ourselves up. That in itself is a scary thought. We have a tendency to hide behind walls. We are frightened at the thought of others finding out who we really are. But when we practice this we see ourselves and others in a different light. It opens up a whole new world. Yes, at times uncomfortable, but overtime it builds that trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in others. It works. Trust me. Make it a good one.

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” Mandy Hale

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recovering From Failure

As an avid golfer I tend to draw life lessons from golf, as some of you will have noticed over the years. In fact, some may argue, my life revolves around golf. Perhaps that is why my winters tend to be long, drawn out affairs because of the lack of golf. The Masters seems to be the start to my season of hope and recovery. It is the first “major” of the year. It heralds the beginning of my golf season. And as such my course has opened for the year, although it is still brown and dusty. I have not been out but have been to the driving range to see whether I actually have any muscle memory left.

For the record I did not watch all of the Masters. I do record it and then can watch the bits and pieces at my own pace. However I did switch on the TV on Sunday just to see where play was at. Earlier it had appeared that it would be another run away win by Jordan Spieth and as much as I like the guy I prefer to watch tournaments that are close and make for some excitement. I switched on just in time to watch Spieth have a meltdown. At the start of the back nine he was up by four strokes. The he bogeyed the tenth hole and the eleventh hole. Disaster struck on the par 3 twelfth. He had a quadruple bogey. In a tournament that he had led for seven consecutive rounds, going back to the start of last year’s Masters, he was suddenly four strokes behind. As much as he tried he could not regain the lead and ended up tied for second.

In the post-game festivities, where he had to stick around to put the green jacket on the winner, he looked shell shocked. His voice cracked in an interview viewed by millions around the world, viewers that were shocked by the turn of events. As someone suggested to me he was probably still angry when he deposited his cheque for $880,000, prize money for second place. My thought being that all my problems would go away if I could only get that kind of cash for four days of golf on a pristine golf course. Oh well, I can dream.

For Spieth it is not about the money. Monday morning I listened to a talk show that was focusing on the recovery from failure that Spieth would need to go through. All of us have failures in life. The list could be, and probably is, endless. Financial failures. Relational failures. Personal failures. Employment failures. Family failures. Health failures. And more. These can be quite significant. Other times it is relatively minor failures that seem to destroy our very being. We set goals, sometimes unrealistic, that we find difficult to meet. Some of us have a tendency to become consumed by failure. And when that happens we lose out on the opportunities of the future. We are so intent of looking in the rear view mirror that we run into obstacles that crop up in front of us.

So it needs to be a learning process, to educate and get better. We must be willing to dust ourselves off, stand up, and try again. Use the understanding and knowledge of the failure to build a foundation from which you can grow and flourish and maintain perspective. The key is not to be spooked by failure but rather to have a willingness to fail again, because if we don’t take risks, if we don’t step outside of our comfort zone, we will not become better. And, most important of all, forgive ourselves for the failure. Without forgiveness we will continue to beat ourselves up which inevitably will lead to more failures. Make it a good one.

“Forget past mistakes and forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now and do it.” William J. Durant

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Heebe Geebees

I used the term heebe geebees in my last posting. I had no idea whether this was actually part of the English language till I googled it. The Urban Dictionary (don’t know if it is legitimate) defines it as “something that gives a person a sense of dread and fear, also means it freaks the f@&k out of a person”. It perfectly describes what I was trying to portray.

The Masters is on this week. A golf tournament that many people enjoy watching, myself included, for various reasons. First off the golf course, located in Augusta, Georgia, is one of, if not the premier golf courses ever. From the drive down magnolia lane to the blooming azaleas to the lush green fairways and the undulating greens. The best of the best gather here on an annual basis to try to beat the odds. To win a coveted green jacket and the prestige that accompanies the win. And as golf goes it will show you incredible shots, mediocre attempts, and complete melt downs.

I found it rather ironic that just as I had done whining about my putting woes, particularly as it concerns the elimination of anchored putters, I witnessed a spectacle not often, if ever, seen. Ernie Els, a 46 year old, four time major champion, six putted a green. Not just any green but the first hole. Those six putts came from within five feet of the hole. Talk about the heebe geebees. If not then certainly those putts will linger in his thought patterns for numerous putts to come. I suspect as much as he would have liked to pack it in at that point he carried on. In a post-game interview he suggested that something like that mental lapse could well drive someone to quit the game. But he showed resilience and finished the round.

I can well imagine the shame and embarrassment he felt, playing in front of all the fans that attend the Masters and the millions that watch the tournament on TV. Never mind the fact that his debacle on that first green will be part of the highlight reel for days to come. I can well imagine his inner critic having a heyday with this. Mocking him. Swearing at him. Telling him what an idiot he is. It will take immense effort on his part to quiet the demons, to regain some sense of sanity after those short minutes of insanity.

All of us have those lapses where everything considered to be normal becomes anything but. All of us have inner critics. And all of us, some more than others, beat ourselves up when we screw up and even when we don’t. Often times we are our own worst judge. Always second guessing, wondering what went wrong. I have alluded to moments where I have a memory from the past that makes me literally swear at myself. Happened just this week when I remembered something from 1978. Go figure.

How can we quiet that inner critic, that judgemental self that seems to be perched on our shoulder? Perhaps we need to take a step back and reassess. Re-configure this “judge” that seems to make us think less of ourselves. Me thinks if I had an opportunity to talk to Ernie Els today I would not be telling him the same things he is telling himself. I imagine the conversation would include snippets of the numerous wins he has had on tour. It would include a piece on self-compassion. It would include a challenge to get up, dust himself off, and be proud of all he has accomplished and will accomplish in the days, weeks, and years to come. Is that not the way we should treat ourselves? I think so. Make it a good one.

“If you talked to others the way you talk to yourself, would you have any friends?”
Rick Warren

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Cruel Joke

Perhaps that is overstating it. This weather we are having is not conducive to anything except complaining about. Friday, it being April Fool’s Day, prompted one weather “expert” to suggest that the weather we were having was the “big guy’s” way of playing a joke on us. If that is the case I would suggest that the joke is over. Not funny anymore.

A mere week ago we had balmy temperatures. The guys at the golf course were getting ready to open up. I had visions of swinging the clubs. Looking forward to a brand new year. Visions of parring the course. Even the flags were put in. It looked promising. Now all I can do is look out the window and ruminate about what might have been.

And I was reminded of an old wives tale. I was once told that the weather we have on Good Friday will be the weather we have for the next forty days. I suppose that is happening now. Cold, miserable weather. Not sure I want to believe that. But looking out the window it does not look like Spring. In fact it looks and feels like November.

I did take my golf clubs out of storage last week. After all, as mentioned, the weather looked promising. As I longingly looked at my clubs I realized I had another cruel joke to deal with. I never have won a golf game with my putting abilities. However a few years ago I did invest in a belly putter. One that I can anchor in my belly. My putting did improve. You see, I have what some call the Friesen shakes. Meaning my hands are not steady and you can well imagine what that does to my putting. Anchoring the putter helped. Now they have been outlawed. After all these years. That is simply cruel. So with tears in my eyes I took a hack saw to the putter. Now I have to deal with the hee bee jeebies again. May be a long year.

The weather is also creating another problem. When I went through my mid-life crisis a number of years ago resources did not allow for me to deal with it properly. You hear of guys buying motorcycles, or muscle cars, or any other expensive toys. I bought a guitar. Did not seem to help much. Perhaps that is why I have issues in my life. I need to blame it on something. Best leave that one for another day.

What happened is that my wife and I had talked about buying a convertible for some time now. One of the items on our bucket list. Something we both agreed on. So we had started looking online for what might work. A few weeks ago we started another painting project in our house. That meant we needed to make a trip to Home Depot for painting supplies. Long story short we went for paint and came home with a convertible. Best shopping trip I have ever made. However, because of the weather, it has sat in our garage since we bought it. That is not working out either.

So what’s left? In just over two months the days start getting shorter. I can’t golf. I can’t go cruising in my convertible. I can’t do yard work. You would hardly think that April would be the time to take a winter vacation. Perhaps I should reconsider. Wait a minute. Spent my money on a car. Based on the forecast there are weather warnings out for Southwestern Manitoba. Another snowfall enroute. We are supposed to get a few inches as well. It seems hopeless. I guess I might as well paint. It could be worse. Make it a good one.

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”
Theodore I. Rubin

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Talking So Others Listen

My focus of late seems to have been communication. How to listen. Conflict management. I have mentioned “talking” as well. But perhaps we need to take a closer look at that. Not talking is not an option. Although I sometimes try that when I am upset and find out that as much as I want to punish the other person or at least make my point the lack of talking is not effective. All it does is make matters worse and for all intents and purposes makes me feel miserable and leads to resentment. Carrie Fisher said; “resentment is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will die”.

Have you ever said something to someone with the best of intentions and found out the other person is quite upset with what was said? I suspect that happens far too often. Why is that? It boils down to a few simple, yet complicated, issues. First of all each person views the world through a different lens. These lenses are influenced by cultural differences, personalities, social contexts, and upbringing to name a few. What also plays a pivotal role in interpretation is “how” we are. As the saying goes; “we don’t see things as they are we see them as we are”.

Let me introduce you to a conflict management model called Intent-Action-Effect. We do or say things with a certain intention based on our world view. That action can have varying degrees of effect on the receiving end of the action or spoken words based on the recipient’s world view. And that is where the conflict can begin. As that conflict escalates participants have a tendency to withdraw or fight back rather than to seek understanding.

This is where it becomes important to shift from judgement to curiosity. Becoming curious is not easy when high emotions are involved. It takes discipline. It takes a real effort. It becomes imperative to have an open and forthright conversation. Through naming the action and discovering what the intent was provides the opportunity to understand. To describe the effect provides understanding as well. I know that many of the situations I am involved with might not have been a situation at all had these principles been followed.

That then requires listening, as I mentioned last time, but also requires the ability to speak clearly and effectively. The ability to speak so others listen is also an art. Think before you speak. Then speak clearly and concisely. Be assertive. Express your perspective and thoughts. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. And reveal your interests. Remember. People close up if they feel blamed, dominated, manipulated or dismissed.

Our words can have a profound effect on the listener. All too often it can be a negative effect. That will happen. But if we show curiosity to better understand, something negative can become a positive. With enough practice this can become a natural. Soon you will notice that people open up when they have freedom and choice, feel acceptance and openness, and they are respected and acknowledged. Let’s change our world with one conversation at a time. Make it a good one.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

To Do or Not to Do

Last week, during my stint as a teacher, a question that was asked made me think. The students were curious about how to start the conversation on succession/transition planning. I thought it strange that the younger generation would ask that as I had assumed that, under normal circumstances, it would be the older generation that would start the conversation.

But as I thought about that I realized that the whole concept of succession can be daunting for most anyone. There is so much at stake. The process seems so complicated. Am I ready for this? Will this work out? Is the younger generation ready for this? What about the next generation that is not interested? What is fair? What is equitable? Where do I start? The list of questions can appear endless and overwhelming.

The younger generation has a different approach. They are filled with energy. They are excited about new opportunities. They want to move ahead. To them it often seems rather simple. Something that needs to be done so let’s do it.

There are certain issues within the planning process that will be a challenge. Often times they are what I call “soft” issues. Issues that deal with feelings and emotions. Issues that involve wants, fears, needs and desires. Issues that require honest and forthright communication. These issues are often more difficult to deal with than the “hard” issues. Issues such as taxation or land values or equipment needs.

To be involved in these conversations requires that participants are keenly aware of their communication styles and conflict management abilities. Through assertive communication techniques participants must have the ability to listen and gain understanding. Often these issues have been left untouched, sometimes they have festered, sometimes they have caused hard feelings. They need to be dealt with or they have the potential to derail the best made plans. Speak clearly and listen closely.

Conflict management styles play a significant role. When an eager, energetic younger generation meets the cautious, experienced older generation conflict can and will happen. That invites a number of different responses. Varying degrees of commitment to goals and commitment to relationships can significantly influence the outcome. With low commitments to goals and relationships one party or the other will avoid and walk away. With low commitment to goals but high commitment to relationships suggests that one or the other will accommodate to keep the peace. With some commitment to goals and relationships there is compromise meaning both parties concede and neither one gets what they would like. With a high commitment to goals and low commitment to relationships there is a tendency to compete which leaves one party a potential loser. To discover a healthy balance with a strong commitment to goals and relationships requires a healthy dose of effective communication and collaboration to achieve a win-win scenario.

At times the process can make the participants feel like they are swimming against the current. It has the potential to be exhausting with no perceived progress. However there is too much at stake to procrastinate or do nothing. Fortunately there are professionals out there that can assist. Often times it is beneficial to have a third party involved. Someone who can facilitate the conversation by being neutral and being able to flesh out the wants, needs, fears, and desires of the participants. So the challenge is to arise to the challenge. Make it a good one.

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.” Wayne Dyer

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Art of Listening

Just last month we were again reminded to talk about it through the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaign. As I think back to topics I have touched on over the years the subject of talking has come up frequently. I am a huge proponent of talking about it when we feel “off”. I know the significant help that has been for me.

Recently I received a call from a woman who was carrying a family secret with her that she found quite burdensome. She needed to talk about it and as a result of hearing about my presentation at Agdays she felt she could trust me. She talked, I listened. The secret she had thought would go to the grave with her had caused significant pain for her. So I listened. The stuff she talked about was not something I have any expertise in but I was able to validate and acknowledge the hurt she felt. When I hung up after the call I felt that I had failed her. I felt I should have said more. Perhaps offer some answers. I received an email from her a week later where she thanked me for taking the time. She expressed how much better she felt, how she felt that a huge burden had been lifted.

I went back to school this week. Not as a student but as a teacher. I talked to a group of students in the Ag department at the University of Manitoba. They are learning all about succession planning and wanted information on starting a conversation with their parents on succession, and when that conversation has started how to keep the process moving.

A significant part of my presentation dealt with listening. I know for myself I often think that when I am involved in a conversation I must talk. And that can mess up a conversation real quick. So often I find myself formulating my next thought or response while the other person is talking to me. Well, guess what. That would probably suggest I was not listening.

As I suggested to the students, effective communicators listen more than they talk. And just because I listen closely when someone else talks does not mean I agree. Rather it’s a matter of gaining understanding. We must turn from judgement to curiosity. It is interesting how gaining understanding empowers both parties to express feelings, to share wants, needs, and desires. It helps in achieving a collaborative approach for a win-win outcome.

Dr. Ralph Roughten has written some good thoughts on listening. Let me share a few of them.

“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
you have not done what I have asked.”

“When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on
my feelings.”

“Listen! All I asked was that you listen,
Not talk or do - just hear me.”

Listening more effectively is an art. It can be very difficult because of our sense that we should be responding. We should be providing advice or answers. But as with the woman who called me she did not need answers. She did not need advice. She needed a listening ear with a touch of validation and acknowledgement. So simple, yet so difficult. Listen more, understand more, love more. Make it a good one.

“The biggest communication problem is we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Regular Maintenance

Anyone that owns a car knows that regular maintenance is important. Okay. Let me rephrase that. Most people understand this. For some reason I don’t fall into that category. I will remember to gas up the car when needed. I occasionally get the oil changed. That is about the extent of my maintenance. I have a dreaded fear of garages because I know it will always cost a lot of money. Call it what you may. Denial or avoidance.

As human beings living our lives we also need to be cognizant of regular maintenance. I would suggest that applies to our physical bodies but also to our mental and emotional well-being. That comes easier for some than others, depending on our tolerance to what life throws our way. I have referred to our emotional gas tank in the past. What does it take to keep it full? Sometimes as simple as a few minutes of meditation, a day of relaxation, a week of vacation, or various other ways and means to get rid of stress or negative energy that we ingest on a regular basis. Simply put, we need ways to find a life balance. But for some of us it sometimes requires more. A professional that can guide us back to a path of contentment.

Shortly after the start of 2016 I found myself sliding down a slope I did not want to be on. Things did not feel right. I had memories of the same thing happening last year and it scared me. I did not want to go back there. So the decision was made to seek help.

I had my first appointment last week. Had an interesting conversation with the therapist. She wanted to get to know me, find out about my life, to help her identify where I needed fixing. Although it was a short conversation I identified things in my life that had shaped who I was that I had not really been aware of before. Certainly got me thinking.

After a while she asked me what it was that I really wanted from her. I suspect the question came because she found out what type of work I do and the training I have had. I think she probably felt that I was well aware of what I needed. And I probably was. Perhaps I just needed someone to whom I could verbalize many of my thoughts, my fears, my wants and desires. Someone I could trust and feel safe in sharing with.

I suggested to her that first and foremost I needed to take control of my mind, my stinking thinking as it were. She responded rather quickly that she had an easy trick for that. Her answer almost discouraged me. I had heard of so many things in the past which just never seemed to work for me. I knew I was guilty of giving up to easily. And yet, I was ready to try almost anything.

She asked me to close my eyes and think of something, anything. She then said I should think about that till she clapped her hands and then I was to drop my tongue. Sounds weird, I know, but hear me out. We did that once. She asked me what I noticed. Quite frankly I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to notice. So we did it again. And after I had dropped my tongue and opened my eyes I got it. When I dropped my tongue my mind went clear. No longer was I thinking about what I had been thinking about. It worked.

Next time you are deep in thought about an issue take note of where your tongue is. You will find it is firmly placed against the roof of your mouth. She explained to me that research has shown that when you drop your tongue it is virtually impossible to think clearly about anything. I have tried it countless times since and like I say it works for me. Perhaps this is something that can work for you as well. Try it. Make it a good one.

“When you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.”
David Burns

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Am Strong, Or Am I

I often wonder how strong I really am. And I don’t mean physically. I know I am not strong physically. I am talking mentally and emotionally. Seems over the years I have resorted to various unhealthy forms of coping when life seemed overwhelming. That in itself would suggest that I am not very strong. I have certain weaknesses.

Just recently I saw a poster that said “what does not kill you makes you stronger”. I thought about that. At first blush it made sense. After all we all have challenges in life. We have experiences that we would rather not have. Most of us have experienced some type of trauma. And often times we learn from these experiences, we grow, we do become stronger. But not always.

I know that not all life events that don’t kill us make us stronger. Some events, some experiences, some trauma will test the very core of our strength and will leave us weakened. Granted, all of us have different tolerance levels for handling stress and adversity. And when we get knee-capped by something that weakens us we must find ways to recover and heal. That becomes the true test.

I chatted with an elderly lady this week who has shown amazing strength and resilience through adversity and pain. As we addressed her latest challenge I made a comment about that strength. She looked at me with a weary gaze and said she was getting tired of being strong. Ongoing challenges, pain, and frustration had left her tired.

So whether we experience something that leaves us vulnerable or whether ongoing adversity leaves us weary the challenge is to be aware. Be aware of changes to your body, to your mind and to your emotions. Be aware when life is challenging you. Recognize the symptoms. As I have said before there is hope and there I relief. I read a poem this week which encouraged me. Hopefully it can encourage you as well. Make it a good one.

Never Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit –
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
John Greenleaf Whittier*

*John Greenleaf Whittier was an advocate for the abolition of slavery in the 1800 who had his own journey with mental illness.

Friday, January 29, 2016

We Talked

Here we are again. That time of year. Talk time. How time flies, at least for some of us. Others often watch the clock and wonder, when can I sleep again, when will it be dark again, when will I find some relief from the endless cycle of thoughts running through my mind. In a situation such as that, time does not fly. It seems to stand still. But wait a minute. I wanted the darkness to stay to protect from what is out there. Now the darkness is gone but I want it back. But no, I prefer light. With light there is hope. But with light there is reality. And far too often reality sucks.

So let’s talk about it. I met someone last week and, in the course of our conversation, I heard an interesting story. A story I was familiar with but, at the same time, was not. Many years ago, and based on simple math, 45 years ago, there was a death by suicide in our community. It was shocking, to say the least. And as I reflect on that I am deeply saddened. Always wondering why? What happened? What could the community have done? Perhaps if someone, anyone, would have talked about it, a considerable amount of heartache could have been avoided.

That was 45 years ago. And as I take note of the annual “let’s talk” initiative by Bell Canada I wonder. What has changed? Sure, we do talk about it. Yes, we understand that there is a stigma. But what has changed?

Back to who I met last week. I saw him approach. It had been a few years. The first thing he did was apologize to me. Apologize for not being the support he could have been, might have been, should have been, when I was experiencing dark times in my life. I was rather taken aback by that apology. Totally not warranted and not expected. How could he have known? I hid it well. I had a good conversation with him about what was, what could have been, and what really is. We laughed, we talked, and we were sad.

We talked about his brother. The brother he found dead 45 years ago. A brother who was trying to escape from inexplicable pain. The friend I was chatting with was 9 at the time, I would have been 11 and his brother would have been 13. A picture he will never, ever forget. I told him how I often thought of the events of that day 45 years ago. After all I passed their farm every time I left home. They were on the main route between me and the highways and byways. Perhaps my recollection was off but the story remains the same. We reminisced. It felt good. We caught up. It left a feeling of sadness.

It made me think. Here he was apologizing to me when so many years ago he went through something, god forbid, no one should go through. There is so much pain, for so many when a suicide happens. Most times the only one who escapes the pain is the one that died.

I was young back in the day when this person’s life ended. I was not young last year when I attended two funerals of people who had died by suicide. In those 45 years have things changed? Here is hoping. The world keeps turning. Life keeps happening. I know talking helps. It has helped me and keeps helping me. Has it helped enough? Can I do more? Do I sound frustrated? I think I am. Make it a good one.

“The more you hide your feelings, the more they show. The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Without Remedy

I have alluded to, in the past, about preparing a presentation for Agdays. Those that have not heard of that show it is an annual event held in Brandon. It is huge. Anyone that has ever been at the Keystone Center knows how big it is. And they use every available nook and cranny to host the 500 exhibitors they get. And there are another 80 on a waiting list. And that is what the 40,000 attendees get to see. So needless to say it is a show.

The night prior to my presentation I awoke at the friendly hour of 2 am. Kept thinking about what I was going to say. For some strange reason this presentation was bothering me. Not sure why. Perhaps because I had heard numerous presentations on my morning treadmill routine. Perhaps I had researched how to do effective presentations. Perhaps it was because there is fine line between to many and too few PowerPoint slides. Maybe I had too much information.

Needless to say, I did what I needed to do. And did not feel good about it. I had too much information. And when half way through I came to that realization I began skipping stuff. And then it became a challenge of syncing the PowerPoint with my notes with what I felt was important to say.

Part of the challenges I spoke about was the problem many of us have in getting hung up about the past. To the point of not even recognizing what is in the present and the opportunities for the future. I like the analogy of driving a car. Looking in the rear-view mirror, which is approximately 6 inches square, or through the windshield which is much larger. Obviously we have a much better view looking forward as compared to looking back. (Still working on the little message written on the mirror, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.)

It was Lady Macbeth that said “Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done, is done”. Considering the fact that she was trying to placate her husband for his remorseful feelings for murdering others this may not be applicable. And yet, what is done is done. And for me there is no remedy. What can I do? I cannot undo what I did. What I can do is to reflect and grow from that. I know full well what I will do next time. Forget about second guessing my abilities, which some of you know I was doing, and learn from this experience.

There is a second part to this story. Late that evening, after having had a nap, I happened to go on Facebook. The timing was surreal. Just as I clicked on, my cousin posted a post about having heard me and how good it had been. I appreciated that. Made me think. Remember the Cuddle Hormone? Gave me a good dose of Oxytocin. When she said what she did I felt much better and had a better sleep after that. Thanks to her.

So I suppose that is what we do. We beat up on ourselves. We wish we could undo what we have done. And that is normal. All of us fail at times. We are human. But look at the good things in our lives. See your supports all around you. We can and we will make this journey. Lady Macbeth’s words maybe odd, coming from someone who co-conspired. However they hold a significant truth. There is no changing the past. What is done is done. Make it a good one.

Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done, is done”.
Lady Macbeth

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Greater Expectations

As years go by we find ourselves with an increasing amount of choice. Life used to be simple but over time has become much more complicated. The increase in technology is mind boggling. I know I can’t keep up. Saw a cartoon today where a person is shopping for a cellphone and asks for one that does very little. Those are no longer available. What we get is these little hand held devices that do way more than one can imagine. So we need to choose. That is just the telephone. Just the other day I suggested to my wife that I needed a “smart” TV. What is wrong with the 40 some inch TV we have now? Not big enough and not smart enough? Remember the 12 inch black and white I used to have? And my kids were the remote control? Go figure. How about all the other toys, tools and necessities of life? Endless options.

As I prepare my presentation for Agdays and reflect on farming my head literally spins. The choices for farmers are endless. What technology do I want and/or need? What do I produce this year? Not only a choice of crop but what variety. Where and when do I sell? Do I forward price or go with the open market? Who will finance my needs? What equipment needs to be repaired or replaced? We seem to have this inherent need for choice. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that the more choice we have the more freedom we have. And perhaps we have more freedom. Often times that freedom comes with a price.

There is a proponent to choice that often passes us by. Back in the day when a “bag” phone or the Motorola brick were the only phones available we bought in. It was simple. And when that phone did not work the way we wanted, when a call was dropped because we were driving into a valley, when reception was not available because of the building we were in, we cursed the phone or the service. It was that simple.

Now we wonder if we made the right choice. Perhaps I should have gone with Rogers. Maybe the Samsung would be better than the Iphone. Then again the Blackberry always served me well. With choice comes a reflection on ourselves. If we make the wrong choice we kick ourselves. We get mad. Not at the phone or the service, but at ourselves. This takes a toll on our mental and emotional well-being.

I use the cellphone as a small, dare I say miniscule, example of what can happen. Whether we choose the right phone for the right reason becomes a minor point in life. However if we make choices that impact our bottom line, impact our life, impact our future, we become emotionally attached to the decision we made at any given time.

So we must tread gently. Yes, without a doubt, choice gives us freedom. With freedom comes success. Success that doesn’t come from making all the right decisions. Success that comes from learning from our mistakes. Success that comes from struggles we have as we navigate this thing called life. Everybody wants to have success but not everyone is willing to go through the tough decisions, the conversations, the consequences of making those decisions. So we need to adapt. Live with what we get. Enjoy our successes and learn from our failures. Make it a good one.

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." Saint Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Does It Define You

Another year has come and gone. And as years go it seems like this one went just a little quicker than the one before which went just a little quicker than the one before it, that went a little quicker than the one before, etc, etc. Is this a sign of aging? Must be. How else can one explain the passage of time?

Imagine, if you will, sitting with a complete stranger and that person asking you about you. Who you are. What your year was all about. What would our answer be? In this time of welcoming a new year, I have heard various responses to that question. They range from thoughts of the old year to wishes for the new. I have been struck by how many refer back to a difficult experience. My father died. I went through significant health struggles. My child endured a difficult time. My spouse had this, my partner had that, my job was this, my kid had that. It seemed that most people identified the past with a problem they had experienced.

As I reflect on the year past I recognize certain points. I am saddened by how most, if not all, of those points were low points in my year. Experiences I wish I had never had but experiences nonetheless. As alluded to previously my mental health was not what it should have been. I experienced some work issues I wish I never had. There were certain relational issues that hurt. Experiences that have left scars. Experiences that still make me wonder why.

It is easy to dwell on those events. It comes rather naturally to lament about what might have been. But to what end? Is that what my identity is? Do I allow these experiences to define me? The answer apparently is, yes. That is what consumes me. That is who I seem to think I was.
When I reflect further I recognize many positive moments in 2015. New opportunities. Enhanced relationships. A golf game that ended on a positive note. An increased joy in family. I found myself not dreading winters as per usual. The winter solstice did not have the normal attention that it has had in the past. End of year happened without additional anxiety. There were so many positives that I could focus on.

That made me wonder why our natural response seems to be the negatives that we experienced over the year. Why is it that, in response to the question above, our response seems to be a description of negative events or things that might have been?

Imagine, if you will, responding to the question by talking about how great the year had been. Opportunities that came about. Successes you experienced. I know my response should that happen to me. I would question the person’s sanity. Wonder what they had been smoking. Wondering whether pot had been legalized and I missed it.

It seems that we have been wired to talk about negatives to the point of being defined by experiences we would like to forget and yet keep bringing up. Sounds like a conundrum to me. We talk about negatives as much as we try to be positive but don’t want others to think that we are actually happy with life because then they might get the wrong idea. There is something really wrong with this picture.

So here I go with the new me. Life is great. I think something bad happened last week but I can’t remember because everything else has been going so well since then. Okay. That really is a load of crap. But me thinks if I could think that way would really improve my life. I like the quote below. Don’t know who said it but am going with it. Happy New Years. Make it a good one.

“There are none so blind as those who believe their own nonsense.”