As with many things, hesitation is better than hurry.

Patrick Rothfuss
A Simple Life at a Luxurious Cost

A Simple Life at a Luxurious Cost

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently saw a promotion for some cottages for sale, at a nearby resort. So, on Sunday, my wife and I decided to check them out. Our curiosity stemmed, partially, from the fact that some friends of ours are having a property built on the same development. We toured three different show homes, one of which we particularly liked and then looked at the promo package we’d been given. 

I’m sure many people have experienced the following: 

You look first at the basic price for the lot – seems pretty reasonable. Then you look at the cost of having your property built – maybe a little more than you had expected, but still within your range. Next you look at the “add-ons”, which you’d really like because they looked so appealing in the show home. Of course you’d really like a garage and if you have more than one vehicle, that’s going to cost even more. Oh and did I mention the condo fees, the utilities bills and the GST? Suddenly, you’re looking at something that would end up costing far more than you’d originally thought. It’s all the extras that, once seen, seem so necessary – but are they? 

Things that I, personally, would consider pretty essential would be a closet and doors on the washroom, but these were somehow missed, when one show home was built. In fact closet space seemed to be an absolute luxury addition in all the houses we saw, including a couple that were for sale. Many of the properties are now advertised for “year-round” living. They are very attractive, but not necessarily that practical for a permanent residence. 

One idea, for when you look to relocate, is to make a list, beforehand of all the details of your current home that you couldn’t do without and make sure they are included in the home you might consider buying. In fact, it would be an idea to do this when considering making changes in various areas of your life, whether it’s buying a car, taking a holiday or changing internet / cable provider. 

In the area of business it is critical to use this approach. For example, how many employees do you really need, is it essential to locate your office downtown? Maybe it is, but it is key to establish that any changes you make are beneficial. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to find the simple life you’ve been looking for.

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It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

Lena Horne - Jazz singer
In the Bag - 12 Essentials for the Road Warrior

In the Bag - 12 Essentials for the Road Warrior

Posted by martin.parnell |

On a recent flight to Toronto, I was reading an article in the Air Canada in-flight magazine, enRoute. The subject was an interview with a celebrity explaining which items they felt were “essential” to pack, when travelling. Personally, I don’t feel the need to splash out on a spray bottle of Evian water, essential oils for my cuticles or a spare pair of cashmere legwarmers, but it did get me thinking about the items I find I always take in my carry-on and are essential to me to make the experience a little more enjoyable. 

 I got it down to six: 

  1. A pen and paper - very handy for completing the customs card, on those international flights, filling in a crossword and jotting down notes when an idea comes to mind.
  2. A pair of good headphones - for listening to music or providing the audio for an in-flight movie.
  3. A book - not too heavy in either weight or content.
  4. A light jacket –  it can be used to keep the chill off, to roll up and place in the small of your back or a pillow (not provided on domestic flights)
  5. A pack of mixed nuts – a little in flight snack is always welcome.
  6. A small pack of wet wipes - you just never know when turbulence might hit and spills occur. 

 If I’m on a business trip I also ensure I’ve packed other “essentials”: 

  1. Sat. Nav. – with pre-programmed destinations e.g.  Hotel and locations of business meetings.
  2. Charging station – must be on top of this all the time. Computer, cell phone, camera battery and Garmin GPS have to be fully charged.
  3. Lap top – great to catch up on emails and get some work done.
  4. Running gear – if the weather’s good I’ll head out before breakfast for a 10 km run. Gives me a chance to check out the area.
  5. Camera - take it with me wherever I go.
  6. Swimming gear – at the end of a day, there’s nothing better than a swim, hot tub or sauna. Melts the stress right away

 Being on the road can wear you down but some preplanning and a conscious effort to give yourself some “Me” time will at least make it bearable and maybe even a little fun. What is one of your "Must Haves" when you are travelling?

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All that glistens is not gold

William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice
How to deal with the invaders in your own backyard

How to deal with the invaders in your own backyard

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week, I found a card on my front doorstep, which had been left by a Weed Inspector, from Town of Cochrane Parks Department. It informed me that I have three invasive species growing in my garden. Had I been busted by a Baby’s Breath? Or, worse still, had the Bighead Knapweed dared to actually rear its ugly head? 

No, it was that femme fatale of the invasive species, the Yellow Toadflax, along with her partner- in- crime the seductively purple Creeping Bellflower. I had no idea that these plants could cause a problem, for either man or beast. But I know, now. 

To be honest, I had been quite pleased with my little wild patch, especially the Alberta roses, which dominate the area. I had been taken in by the splashes of purple and yellow that peeped through, adding more colour. 

But it just goes to show how one can be swayed by something that looks attractive, but can actually do more harm than good. Of course we see this everywhere. The attractive looking foods are often not the best, nutritionally and high fashion shoes for men and women can look wonderful but cause terrible pain. 

In business, too, we have to be wary of that “sweet deal” that ends up costing more than we bargained for or the very attractive contract that turns out to be a lot of hard work for very little return. This is where we have to learn to use various tools to establish facts and make sure we’re well informed. 

When it came to my patch of garden, those tools might have included: 

1. Researching what plants were in there.

2. Checking to see if they were doing more harm than good.

3. Not relying on first impressions. 

Fortunately, with an intense session of digging and hand-pulling, it didn’t take long to rid myself of the little invaders and I will definitely be on the lookout, to make sure they don’t return. 

So, make sure you check your garden and be aware when negotiating that next business deal. Weed out all the noxious elements. You don’t want the consequences of being ill-informed landing on your, proverbial “door-step”. 

Oh, did I mention Leafy Spurge? Now that’s one sucker you don’t want hanging around!

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I wear a lot of different hats – from writer to producer and artist. We all do.

William Bell
Are you a "Mad Hatter"?

Are you a "Mad Hatter"?

Posted by martin.parnell |

Our youngest grandson, Matthew Connor, who will turn 2 next month, loves to wear hats. He has quite the collection and will choose one and wear it all day. What Matthew Connor doesn’t realise is that most of his hats has serve a purpose. Some will keep him warm, whilst others will provide protection from the sun. He also has hats for other occasions, like the one he wears to go fishing, with his Dad or the swim hat he wears to keep the water out of his ears. Of course, he also has a selection of hats that are just for fun and he looks cute in all of them.

The only hats I wear are a running cap, for protection from the sun or a running toque for the cold days. But, of course there are the numerous “Life” hats I wear, depending on what I’m doing.

These were the ”hats” I wore today:

  1. My Husband hat – I went grocery shopping as my wife, who usually does it, is recovering from surgery.
  2. My Dad hat – I chatted with our son about a course he’s taking.
  3. My Granddad hat –I Skyped with my granddaughter Autumn and grandsons Nathan and Matthew.
  4. My Rotary hat – a business meeting about upcoming projects.
  5. My Runner hat – I managed to get in an 8km before breakfast.
  6. My Fundraiser hat – I spoke to a school about how they can raise funds for Right To Play.

Just this past week, I have also worn my Author hat – I donned this one, just yesterday, when I was speaking to my editor about my next book, due out in November and my Speaker hat – following up on a lead for a Keynote presentation.

Think about your day. How many hats will you wear today? Which ones fit you the best? Are there some that should be recycled? Are there hats in your collection you haven’t worn for a while? Which are your favourites and bring you most pleasure?

Maybe it’s time for a new hat?

Whatever you do, wear those hats with pride and panache and you’ll get noticed!

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I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
From Gerry to Humperdinck. It’s all in the name.

From Gerry to Humperdinck. It’s all in the name.

Posted by martin.parnell |

An item, on MSN UK, reported that a woman, in England had been banned from naming her baby daughter Cyanide. One can only imagine the problems it might have caused until the girl reached an age when she could, if she wished, opt to be called something different. On CBC Radio, recently, a lady phoned in and mentioned that she was listening along with her grandson, Beowulf.  Now, personally, I think that’s a fantastic name and, for me, conjures up an image of someone who is strong and adventurous. 

Gerry Dorsey was an English singer who, in the 1960’s couldn’t get a record deal. He changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck and soon after was signed by Decca records. He had several top-selling hits in both the UK and the US. This got me thinking about names and how we can make judgements based on hearing them. This can apply to people, objects and businesses. 

There is a whole science devoted to choosing the right name and how to market it. Numerous articles have been written about the way the right name can quickly be adopted into our culture. It’s interesting how certain brand names become so familiar that we instinctively know what someone is talking about, when we say them e.g. Kleenex, Hoover, Jacuzzi, Thermos, Trampoline. 

When the first Starbucks opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market, in 1971, it didn't sell coffee drinks, just beans. The founders considered naming it after Captain Ahab’s boat, from the novel Moby Dick, but, according to a Starbucks spokesperson, changed their mind when a friend tried out the tagline "Have a cup of Pequod." and, instead, named itafter Captain Ahab's first mate, Starbuck. 

The most difficult choices I’ve had to make, when naming anything, have been deciding on the titles of my two books and how to brand my business. I decided it would be best to create a tag line that relates to what I’m best known for, which includes completing numerous endurance events, running 250 marathons, in one year and is aligned to my promise statement i.e. “Overcoming obstacles to reach your full potential.” After much deliberation I came up with the tag line ‘”Finish the Race Attitude” and the book titles MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE. 

What names strike you as “perfect” for a particular product or service? Do you use a tagline that reflects something about you or what you can deliver? Remember, it’s all in the name.

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There are angels and heroes all around us. Their super powers are not revealed to all..... Just those whose paths they cross and whose lives they touch every day.

Susan Gale
How to Recognize your Inner Superhero

How to Recognize your Inner Superhero

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Sunday, May 29th, my alter-ego, Captain Clot-Buster, finished the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, in a very respectable 4 hours 24 minutes 40 seconds and raised funds for the humanitarian organization Right To Play.

The Captain first made an appearance in October 2015 at the 10 km “Dash of Doom” and has since run the Glencoe Icebreaker 10 km and the Policemen’s half marathon. However the Captains origins come from a dark period in my life.         

In February 2015, during a business trip to Winnipeg, I was taken ill and, at the Health Sciences Center, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Venus Sinus Thrombosis, a rare form of blood clot, on the brain. The next few months were a blur. I went from not being able to walk, see or feed myself to walking a short distance along the river path, outside our home.

It was a long recovery process but now, after 15 months, the clot is decreased by 95% and, apart from still having to take several meds every day, my life has pretty much returned to normal. Creating Captain Clot-Buster was my way of showing that it is possible to overcome many obstacles in life and being fit and positive can make a huge difference to the outcome. My specialist told me that if my fitness level hadn’t been as good, I may not have survived.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone has to don a costume, give themselves a different name and make public appearances. What I am suggesting is that in each of us there is a inner superhero, we just have to get to recognize them.

There is a lady, who lives near us, who spends all her free time doing volunteer work of various forms. She is a widow, in her late seventies and an unsung hero. There is another women who buys up fabric from the local thrift store and makes crib blankets and quilts for the local food bank. Another superhero.

Maybe you are the go-to person at work. Someone who makes a positive difference in difficult situations. Perhaps you’re the hockey Mum who gives rides to kids other than your own. Think of the priceless help that is, to another family.

Another way you can be a superhero? Keep yourself fit and active. Your family may not notice, they probably won’t think to thank you, but it may mean you’re around longer and they will reap the benefits.

Of course there are other superheroes who are pretty special and need a category all of their own. I’m not talking about Batman, Superman or Captain America. I’m referring to people like another competitor I had the privilege to race with at the Calgary marathon, Chris Koch. Chris was born without arms or legs and competed using a longboard and raised funds for a shelter for the homeless.

Chris is an extreme example, but if you follow Captain Clot-Buster’s motto “Keep Fit and Do Good”, you can be a superhero too. 

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If I were a flower, hummingbird would be my favourite bee And If I were blind, the light of darkness I'd love to see.

Munia Khan
3 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

3 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week, my wife, Sue decided that she would like to attract bees and hummingbirds to our back garden. Her first step was to invest in a hummingbird feeder, in the hope that it would attract some of these colourful little birds.

The sales assistant told her that she should fill it with a mixture of sugar, water and red food dye, as the latter will attract the birds.

However, on reading an article on the subject by Penny Eliston, a licensed hummingbird rehabilitator, Sue learned that one should  “not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red dye (also known as food coloring) in your feeder!" Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds. The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to colour the water to attract birds to your feeder. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumours in hummingbirds; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?’

Why, indeed? Sue read more articles and found that this opinion was supported by other experts. After doing some further research, on the Internet, into which colour plants most attract hummingbirds, Sue discovered that apart from some red-flowering plants, delphiniums, foxgloves, columbines and several other blue, purple and yellow- flowering plants come near the top of the list.

Interestingly, these are the same plants which will attract bees. Also, if you want to attract native bees, you plant native plants and, to attract honeybees, you plant exotic plants. You could go to even further lengths and build a bee house or provide a bee bath, but I think Sue will be sticking to choosing appropriate flowers, for now.

So, how does one decide when information is accurate, valuable and relevant? First, it’s always worth listening to the experts, but do check out their credentials. Look at a variety of sources and ask yourself “What appears to be the general consensus?” When deciding which approach to take, look at the various options. Maybe there’s more than one idea to consider, when choosing a plan of action. Perhaps one idea is more practical, cost effective or quicker to implement.

Is there a plan that will satisfy more than one need? Which approach best suits the conditions, your time allowance and the needs of who you are doing this for. Sue’s really looking forward to sitting at the window, as she writes her journal and observes the comings and goings of her little visitors.

And, if they don’t come? Well, I guess that’s the time to review her approach and formulate a new plan of action!

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You realize what kind of life you lived, and that flashes before you, and then you realize what kind of life that you want to live after.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis
Life is an Obstacle Course - Keep Fit and Have Patience

Life is an Obstacle Course - Keep Fit and Have Patience

Posted by martin.parnell |

Adrianne Haslet-Davis survived the horrific bombings, at the 2013 Boston Marathon, where she lost her left leg below the knee. She quickly rose to meet her daily challenges head on with a unique perspective. Being a ballroom dancer and former Fortune 500 corporate manager, at the peak of her career, she has had to re-learn her craft and an entirely new meaning to the word patience.

At approximately 7:15 p.m., on April 18th of this year, Adrianne crossed the Boston Marathon finish line, after spending nearly 10 hours on the course. She became the second person who lost a limb in the 2013 finish line bombings to complete the race on foot, after Patrick Downes finished earlier in the day. 

Next Sunday, 29th. May, I will be running the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, as my alter-ego Captain Clot-Buster. This super-hero first appeared at the 10 km “Dash of Doom” on October 24th 2015, eight months after being diagnosed with an extensive clot on the brain. It was a long road to recovery, from sitting, to walking, to running, with many obstacles to overcome. Fitness and patience were two key elements that helped me along the way.

According to my neurosurgeon, being in good shape certainly helped my recovery, if not my survival. As with Adrianne, it’s important to keep yourself fit, as it gives you a better chance of overcoming challenges relating to your health. Being healthy in mind and body can certainly be a bonus, when it comes to dealing with certain events in our lives.

I had to learn to deal with partial loss of vision and balance and have the patience to put all my planned engagements on hold until I had made sufficient recovery to re-engage my speaking career. For other people, their working lives can be just as disrupted by traumatic events, other than health issues, beyond their control.

In Alberta, in particular, we have seen the effects of the downturn in the oil and gas industry and now the devastation of the Fort McMurray wild fire. Both will have brought uncertainty to the lives of many. What one should try to remember is that, whether or not you pursue the same lifestyle you had before, or choose to go along a different path, past experience will always provide you with a set of skills on which to draw.

The important thing is to recognise the diversity of those skills, and be open to applying them to new and different opportunities.

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Never give up on your Dream

Terry Fox
7 Questions to Boost your Life and Business

7 Questions to Boost your Life and Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

If I’m home for lunch on a Monday, I enjoy turning on the radio and listening to CBC’S “The Next Chapter”, hosted by Shelagh Rogers. It showcases the lives and works of Canadian authors. It also has a segment where a guest is invited to answer the program’s own version of the Proust Questionnaire.

According to Wikipedia,”The Proust Questionnaire” is a questionnaire about one's personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust.

At the end of the nineteenth century, when Proust was still in his teens, he answered a questionnaire in an English-language confession album belonging to his friend Antoinette, daughter of future French President Felix Faure titled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc." 

I thought it might be fun to answer this version myself, so I jotted down the questions and gave it a go. I also thought about how my answers might relate to business:

 

Q: Your favourite painter?

A: Salvador Dali. His creative interpretation of everyday items and images makes us stop and think. In business, being creative, allows us to rise above the crowd.

Q: Who are your real-life heroes?

A: Terry Fox. Terry had a goal and was totally committed to it. In business, there are no half measures. I once read that “Life is like a plate of eggs and bacon, the chicken participates, the pig is committed”.

Q: What is your favorite journey?

A: Running along a coastal or mountain trail in the fog. In business, it sometimes feels like that but when I know I’m going in the right direction, I just have to stick to the trail.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Buying the best running shoes for the conditions. That means a pair of Salomon Gortex trail shoes for the ice, snow and rain. In business, the same concept applies. Which email marketing and Customer Relations Management package is right for you?

Q: What is your greatest regret?

A: Not always keeping in touch with family and friends. In business, it’s establishing, developing and maintaining relationships. This takes discipline and focus. It’s the glue that keeps things moving forward

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: To see my children and grandchildren grow and blossom. In business, it’s having an idea and, through hard work and perseverance, and seeing it come to fuition.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: Through my six years of fund raising, I improved the lives of thousands of children around the world. In business, it’s working with clients to set and achieve goals in order that they can reach their full potential.

 

These seven questions reveal key insights into your personal and business wellbeing. Answers them today. Not only will they show where you are but are sign posts to where you need to go.

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Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation

Robert H. Schuller
5 Actions to Ensure a Successful Marathon or Keynote

5 Actions to Ensure a Successful Marathon or Keynote

Posted by martin.parnell |

On May 29th. I’ll be running the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. Now, to many people this might appear to be a walk in the park, for someone who, in 2010, ran 250 marathons that year.  Not true. I have had to put in the training and get myself organised for the day, just the same as anyone other racer.

For me, that preparation involves running various distances, at differing paces and getting my body ready for the long 42.2km haul to the finish. As well as the physical training, runners have to consider what to wear, which can vary quite a bit, according to weather conditions and the issue of nutrition and hydration, i.e.  What to consume and how much, before and during the run.

Then there are the seemingly minor details that can affect race day. Where do I go? What time do I have to be there? Have I got my race bib and timing chip?   If I do all of these things, I can approach the start line with confidence. During the run, I have to pace myself, take in enough fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates to keep me going, make sure I follow the assigned route and just run my own race and try not to be affected by what’s going on around me.

I also make a point of remembering to thank all the volunteers who man the aid stations and line the route. After all, without them the race couldn’t go ahead.  I apply the same principals to my speaking career. No matter how many keynotes I give, I know I have to make sure I’m always well-prepared.  Here are some of the things I do to “train” for a presentation: 

  1. Review feedback from my previous talk/ workshop – is there anything I can improve on/ alter according to my audience? 
  1. Check my gear – do I have all my “props”? 
  1. What time do I need to be there – are all my travel arrangements in order? 
  1. Check the venue – is the audio / visual equipment working properly? 
  1. Who will I need to thank? -  This is very important. Don’t just thank the organisers, and attendees, think about the people like the catering staff, volunteers etc, anyone who may be involved in helping to make your engagement a success. 

I have a mental check list for my marathons and a similar one for my speaking engagements. Knowing you are well prepared allows you to approach your event with confidence, enabling you to enjoy the experience and be more likely to have a successful outcome. 

All you need to do then is adopt that “Finish The Race Attitude”!

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If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.

C.G. Jung
5 Rules, made for your kids, that you need to observe.

5 Rules, made for your kids, that you need to observe.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Every day the media is talking about rules we should make for our kids, in order for them to have a productive, healthy, organised lifestyle. But, how many of these do we follow, when it comes to ourselves? Maybe it wouldn’t do us any harm to practice what we preach. 

1. Stop playing that video game:

 My friend, Jim Messner, recently told me that he doesn’t look at any emails, until 8.00 am. I decided to adapt that slightly and made my own rule that I don’t look at any emails until I’ve done an hour’s work. I’m surprised at how much I get done, in that 60 minutes.

2. Tidy your room:

 I consider myself to be fairly organised and have learnt that by just setting aside 5 minutes per day to file paperwork and tiding my work-space at the end of each day does make a difference. I know some people revel in "creative clutter". I know I'm not one of them.

3. Do your homework: 

Give yourself deadlines by which to get things done e.g. writing blogs, updating your website, answering emails, reading articles etc. and stick to them. One method I use is a "Rolling To Do" list. Items get added daily as I think of them and are removed as they are completed. Then I'll review the list at the end of the week, prioritize them and tackle the top priority ones at the beginning of the next week. Upon reflection some are not worth doing and are removed.

4. Go outside and play:

 Even if it’s just a few minutes every hour, get up and walk around, take the stairs instead of the elevator (you can always try just walking up one floor and build on that). Better still, schedule an outdoor activity e.g. walking around the block at lunch time. Even a few minutes a day makes a difference.

5. Time for bed: 

An article published by The Division of sleep medicine, at Harvard medical school states that we all have some sense of the relationship between sleep and our ability to function throughout the day. After all, everyone has experienced the fatigue, bad mood, or lack of focus that so often follow a night of poor sleep. What many people do not realize is that a lack of sleep—especially on a regular basis—is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and that these conditions may lead to a shortened life expectancy.

 As for how much sleep we need, The National Sleep Foundation Recommends:

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours 

 Oh and don’t forget to eat your veggies!

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You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream

C.S.Lewis, Author
Old Dog, New Tricks - There are No Excuses

Old Dog, New Tricks - There are No Excuses

Posted by martin.parnell |

Where I live, locals tend to know me as a marathon runner and someone who advocates living a healthy lifestyle. This means that I often get comments about what races people have run, what they are training for and other general comments about fitness. I also get a lot of people telling me the reasons why they don’t do any physical activities and the excuses can be quite diverse. But, the most common ones I hear are “I’m too old to start now.” or “I don’t have the time.”

What people should do is, instead of finding a reason not to do something is find a better reason to take action. I have met many people who have taken up a physical activity, in later life and reaped the benefits. Last year, a family member bought himself a set of small weights and a treadmill. When the weather is fine, he walks 5km to the local beach and back and, he had never been particularly active, but he does all of this because he wants to stay fit and healthy, in his “golden” years. According to my sister-in-law he has started jogging. He is 86.

Now, I’m not advocating that everyone leave it until that late in life to get started, but saying you’re too old is no real excuse.

It’s the same in business. Some people feel they are past learning new skills, they have been doing the same tasks, in the same way and it works for them, or they feel it’s not worth the time and effort. What those same people should be thinking is, “If I make the time and put in the effort, how can it benefit me?” or, better still, “How can it benefit me and my colleagues?”

They might ask themselves:

  1. How much time, each day can I commit to learning a new skill?
  2. How will it enhance what I do?
  3. Would it save me time, in the long run and make me more efficient?
  4. Will I become more productive by using this skill?
  5. Will it give me more job satisfaction?

If any of these can be answered in the positive, then surely it’s at least worth giving it a go. It doesn’t even have to be anything big. Most people will never run a marathon, but a good 5km walk is better than not exercising at all. Start by looking for small things to take on board and see where it leads. You may find that learning and adopting one new skill will make you want to do more.

Sometimes we need to find an excuse to take action rather than not.

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Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.

Benjamin Disraeli
Plan for the Future - Live in the Moment

Plan for the Future - Live in the Moment

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control, prevent us from achieving our goals.

This can be frustrating and often disheartening. So, it’s important that we look for the lessons we can learn and appreciate the positive aspects of the experience. 

Take my friend Simon Donato. An extreme, elite athlete and star of TV’s Boundless series. According to an article, in the Rocky Mountain Outlook, he and three of Canada’s top adventurers set out to complete one of the Bow Valley’s most daunting challenges, the Rundle Winter Traverse, in a day.

 Their goal was not only to complete the traverse, but to highlight the story of Mount Rundle, for a short film. Before attempting their goal, the team considered previous experience and knowledge, to make an informed view of what lay ahead. 

1. Simon and fellow team member, Ryan Atkins had set the summer speed record on the traverse, last year. So they knew the route. 

2. The crew had made a series of reconnaissance trips to the area. 

3. They had worked out a way that the entire crew could tackle the project. 

However, due to adverse conditions were unable to complete the final four of the eleven peaks. After summiting the seventh peak it became apparent that they could not predict what hazards might lay ahead. 

Despite all of their preparations they had not tackled the route in winter and this proved to be the defining factor that thwarted their attempt. As Simon explained “The weather warmed up quite a bit in the afternoon and we experienced a big slide and we pulled the plug”. 

Previous experience has taught them that, sometimes, it’s best to just admit a challenge is too great, at that particular time, and accept the experience for what it is. Not to be disheartened, the team are considering another attempt, probably next year. 

As Simon put it “We’re not blitzing it. We had a chat with guys like Will Gadd, Jack Firth and Chic Scott. They all told us the same thing – to enjoy the moment, not get caught up in the goal.” Wise words indeed! 

Despite any amount of preparation and previous experience, we all have times, when factors beyond our control affect outcomes. But we should always try to look at these as learning experiences. 

We may or may not choose to tackle the same task, but might apply the lessons to help with other, future projects.

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Things in motion sooner catch the eye than what not stirs

William Shakespeare, Author
3 Books to get you to the Finish Line

3 Books to get you to the Finish Line

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently read three books, all involving running, but with very different focuses. The first was “Fast after 50” by Joe Friel. Joe is 70 years old, a masters multiple champion and has coached athletes of all abilities. The book gave guidelines for high-intensity workouts, focused strength training, recovery, cross training and nutrition for high performance. The book also listed some amazing older athletes such as Diana Nyad, age 64, who swam from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours, Bob Scott, age 75, who set a new Ironman World Champion record in 13:27:50 and Libby James, age 76, who set a new half marathon world record in 1:45:56. Sue gave me this book for Christmas and I’m not sure what she was trying to tell me. I did switch to Coconut milk, cut down on my bread and tried some interval training. The jury is still out.

The second book was “Two Hours” by Ed Caesar. Ed is a journalist and has reported from Iran, the Congo and Kosovo. This book looked into the possibility of a marathon, 42.195 kilometres, being run in under two hours. The current world record of 2:02:57 is held by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya set on September 28th 2014 at the Berlin Marathon. Ed spent months with Geoffrey Mutai, another top Kenyan marathoner and discovered that the world of elite marathon running is a business involving big-money races and drugs. The question is, can the magical two hour target be broken without drugs? I’m on Warfarin for my clot on the brain however I don’t think it could be considered “Performance enhancing”.

 The third book I read was “The Illegal” by Lawrence Hill. Lawrence is a Canadian writer and is best known for “The Book of Negroes”. This novel tells the story of Keita Ali. Keita is on the run and is desperate to flee Zantoroland, a mountainous black island that produces the fastest marathoners in the world. Keita signs on with notorious marathon agent, Anton Hamm, who provides Keita with a chance to run the Boston marathon. But when Keita fails to place among the top finishers, rather than being sent back to his own country, he goes into hiding. This book addresses the fate of undocumented refugees who struggle to survive in nations that do not want them. I really enjoyed this book and was thrilled when Clara Hughes defended it in the CBC Canada Reads competition and it won.

Reading these three books made me realise that running is a metaphor for life. There are struggles, triumphs and disappointments. However, whatever is thrown at you, you have to keep going to the end. Remember, having a “Finish The Race Attitude” will take you further than you ever thought possible.

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“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others have no choice but to believe with you.”

Cynthia Kersey, best selling Author
No You Can't....Yes I Can!

No You Can't....Yes I Can!

Posted by martin.parnell |

During his Presidential campaign, Barrack Obama coined the phrase “Yes we can” and millions of people, across America, believed they could. 

But, what about when people are telling you “No you can’t!" 

In 2010, at the age of 58, my wife Sue, decided she wanted to run a marathon. She chose to do the Queen City Marathon, in Regina.  All was going reasonably well, until she hit the 33km mark, it was at this point her legs seized up, her calves were screaming for her to stop and she could only hobble to a nearby park bench. Along came a ‘sweeper’, a race volunteer who cycled the route looking for runners who weren’t going to make the cut-off time and arrange for them to be picked up. She told my wife that she was “done” and a truck would come and give her a ride as she wouldn’t make the finish in the time allowed.

This was all the motivation Sue needed and, amazingly, she stood up, hobbled for about 200 meters, then began to walk, broke into a gentle jog and ended up running across the finish line, well before that magical cut-off line.

Sometimes you need to ignore the doubts of others, test your mental resolve and try to prove them wrong.

To do this, you should ask yourself: 

1. What are the obstacles? 

2. Do I have the skill set to tackle them? 

3. Are there time constraints? 

4. Do I need support? 

In my wife’s case, she was able to address all of these issues by using knowledge and willpower, to implement the actions necessary to achieve her goal. 

1. Her main obstacle was the pain she was feeling, but she knew that, eventually, it would pass. It wasn’t life-threatening! 

2. She had put in the training and knew that she could cover the marathon distance. 

3. She calculated that, if she just got walking, it was possible to make the cut-off time. 

4. She knew there were friends and family, along the route who would cheer her efforts and aid stations to provide water and nutrition. 

It wasn’t the most positive experience, but it gave Sue the satisfaction of knowing she had achieved her goal, despite the difficulties.  Next time, she would draw on what she had gained from the experience and if a similar situation arose, she would be able to say, with confidence, “Yes, I can!”

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If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon

Emil Zatopek
Life is a Marathon not a Sprint - Finish Strong

Life is a Marathon not a Sprint - Finish Strong

Posted by martin.parnell |

Only eight weeks until the Calgary Marathon and it’s time to get serious about my training. Last Sunday morning, I planned to do a long run, 26 kilometers along Horse Creek Road. But before I could even think of heading out I had to select the proper clothing. The thermometer outside our front door read 15C. This meant shorts, long sleeved shirt, running hat and most importantly +30 sunblock. I also wore my fuel belt which holds my four bottles of diluted Carbropro, electrolytes, and cell phone.

Sue drove me out north of Cochrane to the intersection of Grand Valley Road and RR280. A key piece of technology for these runs is my Garmin Forerunner 201. This tells me my time, speed and distance. On the long runs I maintain a “9 and 1”. That is nine minutes running and one minute walking. This allows me to have a bit of a rest and drink every ten minutes. Two kilometers into the run, I spotted, further up the road, what I thought was a mother bear and her cub. I cautiously approached the pair and noted that they weren’t moving. As I got closer I was relieved to see it was a bag of garbage and a culver opening. 

At the intersection of RR280 and Horse Creek Road, I met a lady collecting cans along the side of the road. She calls herself “The Ditch Witch” because she collects garbage from the ditches along the road. She told me that she’s always shocked by how many cans and other garbage is tossed from vehicles. She takes the cans to the bottle depot and the money she receives is donated to an animal charity. As I ran, I noticed at least 20 tossed cans on the way into Cochrane.

On a sunny Sunday, Horse Creek is a busy section of road. The cyclist were out in their colourful spandex tights and shirts. Several of cars and trucks passed me by and I always give them a wave of appreciation when they give me a wide berth. An hour into the run my buddy Pete slowed down in his truck and offered me a ride. He always does this and I always say no.

This 26 kilometer route has a significant elevation drop and with 5 km to go it was great to see the Town of Cochrane in the valley. I crossed the 1A and started on the final kilometer to home. However, I soon found out I had one final obstacle to overcome. As I approached the train tracks crossing I spotted a police car parked by the gate. I was surprised to see him there and so I asked the officer if there was a problem. He said no but polite informed me that I shouldn’t cross the tracks because if I did there would be a $287 fine.

My house is 200m from the tracks. I had two options. Run the 4 kilometers along the 1A to the 22 junction, over the bridge, then down Quigley Drive to home or phone Sue. No contest. Sue picked me up and 20 minutes later I was home. So here is my plea to the Town Council of Cochrane: If we can’t walk across the tracks then give us a pedestrian bridge. Thank you.

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“Follow the path to your goal, one step at a time. The best time to take the first step: NOW!”

Martin Parnell
Potential Unlimited - Success on Your Terms

Potential Unlimited - Success on Your Terms

Posted by martin.parnell | Overcoming Obstacles Potential Workshop

Last week, I presented a Keynote speech and Workshop at the Recreation Connections Manitoba Conference, in Winnipeg. I was fulfilling a commitment I’d made exactly a year ago, when I was suddenly taken ill and diagnosed with a clot on my brain. This year’s conference was held at Radisson Hotel and my presentation was at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre.

Built in 1919, the neo-classical style building, has a 2,500-seat auditorium with a stage and orchestra pit. The building was closed in 1987 and remained shuttered up for 25 years. In 2010 / 11, Canada Inns had the foresight to invest $20 million and returned the building to its former glory. Standing on the stage, with the largest projection screen I had ever seen, behind me, felt like I was back in the 1930’s.

My talk went over well and, in the afternoon, I delivered my Workshop. The theme was “Unlocking Your Potential – Setting Goals and Achieving Results you never thought Possible”. A group of 40 participants gathered for the session. I asked them to think of a goal, personal or professional, that they might like to achieve in the next 6 months to a year, the reasons why they chose this particular goal and some obstacles they might encounter.

There were a wide range of answers varying from learning to speak French to hiking the Mantario trail, dealing with a difficult employee to completing a marathon. The delegates were also asked to give reasons as to why they had chosen their particular goals. The responses included getting outside my box, helping my son, building my confidence, improving the culture in my workplace, engaging my competitive side and leaving a legacy.

One person told the group that he’d always wanted to travel to Egypt, as he had a passion for archeology. Financing his dream had always been an obstacle.  This was just one reason why goals are often not tackled, others might include competing priorities, time constraints, old patterns and behaviours, self-doubt, unsupportive family or colleagues, or red tape.

I steered the discussion towards ways in which a person might overcome or circumnavigate these type of hindrances. I strongly believe that it is possible to achieve your goals and achieve your full potential, if you tackle things in the right way. It’s all a matter of planning, setting up a support mechanism and having belief. I gave the delegates tools in which to start the process of identifying their goals, in order to attempt things they might not have thought possible and which could, potentially, make them feel more fulfilled.

By the end of the session, the amateur archaeologist in the group had not only devised a plan to at least begin to raise the means to finance his trip, but also to go even further and go back to school, with the intention of, one day, teaching History. Others had lesser goals, but it’s what is important to the individual that really counts. One person’s 5km walk is another person’s marathon.

Over the past few years. I have set myself many goals, If I had listened to some people, I wouldn’t have even attempted most of them, but I’ve proved that, with support, planning and a great deal of stubborn belief, most things are possible.

Next time you’ve got a few minutes to spare, why not ask yourself what it is you’d really like to achieve and how you might go about it? You might surprise yourself.

As the workshop finished I put up my last slide “Follow the path to your goal, one step at a time. The best time to take the first step: NOW!” 

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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that say's "I'll try again tomorrow".

Mary Anne Radmacher
The Circle of Courage-On the Right Track

The Circle of Courage-On the Right Track

Posted by martin.parnell | Courage First Nation

One of the keynote presentations at the recent “Shaping the Future” conference was by Dr. John MacGavock. He talked about “Resilience as a path to wellness” and related it to the challenges children and youth face in First Nation communities. He introduced the “Circle of Courage” and it got me thinking about the possibilities.

The Circle of Courage model portrays four growth needs of all children: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity. This philosophy emerged from collaboration of Martin Brokenleg, a professor of Native American Studies and Larry Brendtro, a professor in children’s behavior disorders. They studied how traditional indigenous cultures were able to rear respectful, responsible children without resorting to coercive discipline. The Circle of Courage is illustrated as a medicine wheel with four directions.

The model was adopted to youth services in South Africa during the administration of Nelson Mandela under leadership of Minister Geraldine Moloketi and Lesley du Toit. This led in 2005 to the Response Ability Pathways (RAP) curriculum which provides training on applying the Circle of Courage to all who work with youth.

The Circle of Courage provides the philosophical foundation for the work of Reclaiming Youth International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping adult’s better serve children and youth who are in emotional pain from conflict in the family, school, community, or with self.

In the book “Reclaiming Youth at Risk”, Brendtro, Brokenleg and Van Bockern summarized the four universal growth needs of all children as:

Belonging

In Native American and First Nations cultures, significance was nurtured in communities of belonging. Lakota anthropologist Ella Deloria described the core value of belonging in these simple words: “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” Treating others as kin forges powerful social bonds that draw all into relationships of respect. Theologian Marty observed that throughout history the tribe, not the nuclear family, always ensured the survival of the culture. Even if parents died or were not responsible, the tribe was always there to nourish the next generation.

Mastery

Competence in traditional cultures is ensured by guaranteed opportunity for mastery. Children were taught to carefully observe and listen to those with more experience. A person with greater ability was seen as a model for learning, not as a rival. Each person strives for mastery for personal growth, but not to be superior to someone else. Humans have an innate drive to become competent and solve problems. With success in surmounting challenges, the desire to achieve is strengthened.

Independence

Power in Western culture was based on dominance, but in tribal traditions it meant respecting the right for independence. In contrast to obedience models of discipline, Native teaching was designed to build respect and teach inner discipline. From earliest childhood, children were encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, and show personal responsibility. Adults modelled, nurtured, taught values, and gave feedback, but children were given abundant opportunities to make choices without coercion.

Generosity

Finally, virtue was reflected in the pre-eminent value of generosity. The central goal in Native American child-rearing is to teach the importance of being generous and unselfish. In the words of a Lakota Elder, “You should be able to give away your most cherished possession without your heart beating faster.” In helping others, youth create their own proof of worthiness: they make a positive contribution to another human life.

It seems to me that this is a pretty good model for all of us.

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"Sport brings us together, it doesn't keep us apart."

Martin Parnell
Shaping the Future - One Active Child at a Time

Shaping the Future - One Active Child at a Time

Posted by martin.parnell |

On January 28th 2016, I was fortunate enough to attend the “Shaping the Future” Conference at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis, Alberta hosted by Ever Active Schools. The objective was to bring together individuals from schools and organizations, across Alberta and beyond, to work to achieve optimal health, wellness and ideal learning environments for all students.

On the second day, a morning run was scheduled and at 6.30am a group of sleepy runners headed out into dark. We were led by Ryan Fahey, School Health Coordinator with Ever Active Schools, who handed out head lights to ensure no one got lost. Ryan explained that the run was sponsored by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) as part of their province wide “Youth Run Club” initiative in Schools.

The footing was pretty tricky, as there had been a thaw freeze during the night. Watching the beams from our head lights bobbing along the road, it reminded me of my night run during the 100 mile Lost Souls Ultra. All I could see was a tunnel of light and several times wondered about the shadows in the bushes. We ran out 2.5 km and on the way back I chatted with Carmichael Day Chief. Carmichael is a Physical Education teacher at Aahsaopi Elementary School in southern Alberta. The school is located 30kms south of Fort MacLeod, on the western part of the Blood Reserve, nestled among the foothills, in the Belly River valley. The school is part of the Kainai Board of Education, whose motto is “Our children are our Future”.

Later, at the AMA sponsored breakfast buffet for the runners and other delegates, Dr. Carl Nohr, President of the AMA, told the audience that the “AMA Youth Run Club” had had its launch at Belgravia school in Edmonton in 2013 and there are now over 200 schools participating province wide. I had been asked to say a few words to the group and I spoke about the importance of being active in developing a child’s physical and mental wellbeing.

After the breakfast Dr. Nohr asked me if I would join founder of the Running Room, John Stanton, and Canadian triathlete, Paula Findlay, to become an Ambassador for the AMA Youth Run Club. I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. Later, I again met up with Carmichael. He mentioned that his school was a member of the AMA Youth Run Club and invited me to come and run with his students. That is a date I plan to keep.

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" The only person you're accountable to is yourself. Finish well and shine."

Martin Parnell
5 Steps to Finishing what you Started

5 Steps to Finishing what you Started

Posted by martin.parnell | Determination Finish Obstacles Potential

We are a society of non-finishers. On January 1st we wake up with a bright idea for a New Year’s resolution. In the UK, a ComRes poll for Bupa, a global health and care company, identified losing weight, getting fitter and eating more healthily as the top three resolutions. So off we go and buy that gym membership, diet program or treadmill. It is estimated that more than 40% of North Americans make New Year’s resolutions. However, as the old saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and a University of Scranton research study found that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.

It isn’t just New Year’s resolutions that we have problems finishing. We face the same challenges in the business world, whether it’s completing a project or making a sales target. So what can you do to give yourself the best chance of finishing what you started? Over the last 10 years I’ve learnt a thing or two about finishing. Challenges have included cycling across Africa, running 250 marathons in one year, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 21hrs, setting 5 Guinness World Records and, most recently, recovering from a clot on the brain.

What follows are 5 steps that will allow you the best chance of crossing that finish line:

What motivates you?

We say we want to lose weight, get fitter or eat healthy. The question is why. The motivation has to be strong enough that in the dark days you will continue to pursue your goal. To say you want to look better doesn’t cut it. To say you want to keep you with your grandchildren on a ski trip you’ve planned just might.

Visualise and commit to your goal

The key is to set a goal that has an identified outcome by a certain date. Then tell everyone about it. Remember life is like a plate of eggs and bacon, the chicken participates, the pigs committed. Fear of not accomplishing what you said you would do is a great motivator. If you want to run a 5km race in 3 months then visualise what this looks like as you cross the finish line, how you feel and the sense of accomplishment.

Have a plan and measure your progress

The key to success is having a road map and sticking to it. One of my favourite quotes is “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m making good time”. Don’t let this be you. Understand what you control and what you don’t. Keep a diary and write down what you’ve done that day. Share your progress with others even if it’s not always good news.

Get help

Whatever your goal is get help. When I started running I joined a running club, when I learnt to play lacrosse I got help from a grade 9 gym class and the Calgary Roughnecks. Never be afraid to ask, once people know what you’re trying to do they will step forward to give you a hand. Everyone wants you to succeed.

Be flexible but focused

You are going to hit obstacles, it’s not if but when. Accept them as part of the journey and do not beat yourself up about them. We all have bad days. However don’t take your eye off the ball. You may have to adjust the schedule and be creative but if at all possible stick to your goal.

Finishing what you started is not easy. It takes leadership, perseverance, discipline, team work, tenacity, creativity, resilience, attitude and courage to name just a few. Don’t let this put you off. The effort is well worth it and it will be a step along the road towards achieving your full potential. 

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