To A Diminutive Warrior

brandon banks




The picture tells it all.  It was a crushing moment.  A moment that Brandon Banks will never forget.

Brandon Banks is tiny compared to the rest of the professional football players in the CFL.  He says he weighs 153 pounds. His trainer says he’s 143.  He’s fast with dependable hands and a heart as big as the stadiums where he plays.

The Hamilton Tiger Cats were building what could have been a huge upset in the championship game.  Down to the Calgary Stampeders 20-6, the rally started.  And with just minutes left in the game Brandon Banks returned one for a touchdown.  Or so he thought.  It was a memorable display of athleticism.  As he was zipping down the field he had a purpose, a mission, a dream – get the ball into the end zone, score the winning touchdown and finish a remarkable comeback for his team.  That’s the stuff that heroes and legends are made of.

It wasn’t to be.

As Banks ran, behind him a penalty flag had been thrown.  A clipping call on Hamilton.  And as the camera zoomed in on Banks with the look of determination on his face that led to a victory celebration in the end zone, my heart sank for this diminutive warrior.  He had no idea that a penalty had been called.  He had no idea that this amazing kick return was in vain,  that the score wouldn’t count and that his intense effort to inspire his team would quickly turn to anguish.

Within seconds of feeling the triumph of what could have been the game winning touchdown he realized it was not to be.  Something totally beyond his control had stopped his team from achieving the dream they’d battled for all year.  He crumpled in the end zone.

This is a learning experience for all of us whether we watched the game or not.

Because Brandon Banks proved a point yesterday.

If he had been in tune with the stunned silence that began as the fans recognized a flag had been thrown, would he have stopped?  Had he taken a quick look at his teammates on the sidelines holding their hands to their heads would he have just given up?

He didn’t stop.  He didn’t give up.  And the reason he didn’t stop was very simply that his focus was so intense that he had no idea that something had gone terribly wrong.  It was out of his mind, out of his sight and out of his control.

Brandon Banks was focused on one thing and one thing only.  Achieving the dream.  And in that picture of a crumpled, heart-broken football player is the true essence of motivation.

We should all have this kind of drive, determination and focus.  And despite the fact that he didn’t score the game winning touchdown Brandon Banks caught the ball, turned on the jets and did exactly what he set out to do.

His touchdown didn’t wind up creating CFL history.  It didn’t count.  But he scored it anyway with laser-like focus on completing his mission.

That’s what heroes do.

That’s why this picture of a dejected, devastated athlete has been placed on my computer monitor.

To remind me that Brandon Banks’ touchdown didn’t make it to the scoreboard.  But he completed his mission.

“Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror.” (General Colin Powell)



View From The Office

My friend and business partner Mike sent me a picture this week.  At first glance, it was a nice pic.  It took some time for me to grasp the full impact of what he had provided.

Mike is a chopper pilot.  He flies to and from offshore oil rigs in Asia.  And this particular picture was taken from his seat in the cockpit one warm, sunny but slightly cloudy morning.  He labelled it “today’s view from my office”.

I found myself looOffice Viewking at it again and again trying to unravel the mysterious hold on my attention it had taken.  And I started thinking about everyone that looks out their office windows every day.  What do they see.  Other offices or office buildings or some non-inspirational vista?  Or, as I did for most of my career, sitting in a small radio studio with no visibility to the outside world, surrounded by soundproof baffles.

So I closed my eyes and imagined myself in the studio with a window that provided the view that Mike had the foresight to capture from the helicopter pilot’s seat.

The feeling was bliss.  Calm, focused, productive and happy.  That’s a great way to spend your day at work.

And no, I’m not naive enough to think that a simple picture will cure all the challenges you face at work.  But if one picture can make even a slight, positive change, isn’t it worth a try?

I’m going to suggest that you do something about the view from your office window, even (and perhaps most especially) if you work from home.  Find that picture of a person, place, situation or thing that makes you feel great and stick it to your window.  Someplace where it takes just a glance to catch your eye just for a second now and then throughout the day.  And if you want to share the view from your office window, please feel free to tell us about it (condensed form) in the comments section of the blog.  I’d love to hear what inspires you.

Mike inspired me.  I owe you one, buddy!

And as always, something to think about:  “All men dream, but not equally. “Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”  (T.E.Lawrence)



Turning 60

60 is the newToday is my birthday.  My 60th birthday.

I find the concept very confusing.  I look in the mirror and know that I’m 60.  But I don’t feel it.

Allow me to explain.  First the part that I understand.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life that includes an amazing wife of 34 years, a remarkable family plus a glorious list of long time, trusted friends. I’m in good health and mostly sound of mind.

But I’m wondering today what ‘being 60’ is supposed to be.  I grew up in an era that dictated “you can’t trust anyone over 30” so I knew when I turned 30 that I couldn’t trust myself.  When I turned 40  my waistline taught me  that the Roman Numerals for 40 are XL.   50 was a blur.

But 60?  What is it?

I have so many questions.

Does my favourite tv channel now automatically become the Weather Network?  Why do I see all my favourite childhood toys selling for huge dollars on Ebay?  How has the word ‘spry’ crept into my vocabulary?

Ever so many questions.

Do my pants start to creep upwards daily so that I’ll ultimately look like a pair of pants with a head?  When my phone rings at 9:00 p.m. are people going to start the conversation by asking “did I wake you?”.  When do I begin driving under the speed limit because, well, I don’t have anywhere to be that fast?

Endless questions.

Are my secrets now truly safe with my friends because they can’t remember them either?  Do I need to start an exercise program so that I can remember what heavy breathing sounded like?  Am I now obligated to have supper at 4:00 pm?

There is no manual for this.  There is no Cole’s Notes or cheat sheets or even some heavily funded government document that answers these questions.  There’s nothing that tells you what being 60 is supposed to be.

At 60 the government has started paying me to stay home.   I fooled them.  I’m not staying home.  I’m on the way out the door right now or at least as soon as I can find my glasses and car keys and double-check my phone to see where the heck I’m supposed to be.  Which reminds me.  Why is my phone now my calendar?

And because there is  no information on what it’s like to be 60, it appears that  the duty has fallen to  me to define it.  Somebody totally ditched their obligation to society and this is now in my hands.  Not the best decision whoever you are.  So here’s my plan.  I’m converting to Celsius.  60 is 16 Celsius.

So yes, today is my birthday.  My 16th birthday.





Of Soldiers and Innocence

war memorial

Canada.  What a treasured place we call home.

I grew up in a small town on the prairies.  Saskatchewan to be precise.  It was a tiny place in a what, at that time, was a small province.  I grew up in a cradle of safety, responsibility, courtesy and respect.  I learned to pass those values on to my children.  We played outdoors, on the grass, road hockey, bicycles always at the ready to go anywhere, anytime.  And we learned that living in our community, you couldn’t really get away with anything.  If my mom didn’t see what I was doing, someone else’s mom did and called my mom.

There were so few rules then.  Be home before dark.  Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  Give people the respect they deserve.  Always find something nice to say no matter how bad the meal is.  Such simple, basic rules.  Most importantly we knew we were safe.  Safe to be ourselves.

This week, those values were tested.  Our Canadian values were tested.

One television reporter proclaimed that Canada had lost its innocence.  Tested perhaps.  But lost?

We still know so little about the perpetrators of the tragedies in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.  Information comes in waves, much of it speculation, and much focused on ‘why’ this could happen.  Surely not here.  Not in Canada.  What we do know is that the shooter in Ottawa and the driver in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu have been linked by the media to international terrorism.  At this point, no one can say that with absolute certainty.  Time and calm, clear research will paint a more complete picture in days to come.  Whether we actually ever understand the ‘why’ is debatable.

But I do know this.  We have not lost our innocence.  When an entire country comes together to mourn the loss of a soldier in Ottawa, when the entire collective Canadian psyche mourns the loss of a soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, it says something about who we are.  There are many, many countries around the world where the loss of one single soldier is hardly news at all.  There are so many places in this world where so many soldiers are lost that they have become numb to the horror, the lost personnel barely a footnote in the paper.

Canadians on the other hand are still able to be staggered by the loss of a 24-year-old young man who went to the War Memorial in Ottawa to stand guard over the unknown soldier and lost his life. That in itself sets us apart.  Although our innocence has been tested, it is still there.  As a country we are still able to grieve for one, single, solitary solider that most of us never met.  At the time of this writing, just one day after the horrific scene on Parliament Hill, almost 100,000 people have viewed a memorial Facebook page created in his honour.

I plan to attend a Remembrance Day service at a local school as I do every year.  I plan to shed tears for those that fell in battle as I do every year.  But this year, I will also be  thinking of two men that went to work in an average way, on an average day, wearing their uniforms proudly, losing their lives.

Bob Dylan wrote, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

It is our responsibility to never forget.  And it is our responsibility to remember the innocence that makes Canada unique.




The Green Thing

Green bin 2Last week I posted a personal opinion on the issue of credibility when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk.  It was called “Climate Change, Coffee Cups and Credibility“.

What follows is a very  interesting and honest document on the subject of recycling and the environment.  The problem is that I have absolutely no idea who wrote it.  I’ve scoured the internet for the original source and although it has been reposted and blogged multiple times, nothing I’ve found gives credit to the original author.

If you are the original author, you have my deepest respect and I am posting your thoughts, without changes, just as I received it from a regular reader of this blog.  If you are the original author, please contact me so that I can give you the proper credit for this incredible piece.

This is what arrived in my inbox from a friend after reading my earlier post:

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks.  This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribbling’s. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.  But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.  In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.  When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of
buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

And as always, I end this post with something to think about:  Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” (George Orwell)