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:


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.


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.


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.


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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"Every child has the right to play and every child has the right to play in a playground."

Martin Parnell
Playgrounds: Good for the Heart and Soul

Playgrounds: Good for the Heart and Soul

Posted by martin.parnell | Play

On December 31st the Martin Parnell 6th Annual Run / Walk will take place at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane. This year, the event is a fundraiser to raise $10,000 for a playground for the Lindsay Kimmett Kindergarten in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. In Cochrane we have 29 playground but for the Kindergarten kids the closest one is 130 kms away.

The fact that these children have never played in a playground got me thinking about where did this concept of having a safe space for play developed.

The idea of the playground as a method for imbuing children with a sense of fair play and good manners originated in Germany where playgrounds were erected in connection to schools, although the first purpose built public-access playground was opened in a park in Manchester, England in 1859. Over time, organized playing areas have been adopted by other countries of the world and have become commonplace.

The first playground in the USA was built in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1887 and in 1906 the Playground Association of America was founded. In 1907 recognizing the need for playgrounds, former President Theodore Roosevelt stated:

City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children cannot afford to pay carfare.

It’s interesting to note that Roosevelt recognised that “play is a fundamental need” and today we realise that this is true not only for children but also adults. Benefits to adults include:

Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.

Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.

So wherever you are on December 31st why not end the year with a “Play Day”. 

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"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others"

How Employee Volunteerism is Good for Business

How Employee Volunteerism is Good for Business

Posted by martin.parnell | Employee Engagement Volunteerism

One of benefits of belonging to the Human Resources Institute of Alberta is the opportunity to attend their “Networking at Noon” sessions. These are sponsored by The Cooperators Group and focus on education, training and information. A recent session was on “Employee Engagement through Volunteerism”, a topic close to my heart.

There were many times during my 5 year, “Quests for Kids” initiative when I felt like giving up. Whether it was a leg injury when running the 250 marathons in one year, hyperthermia while summiting Kilimanjaro or mental fatigue in battling the coastal path in England, one thing kept me going, my commitment to raise funds for Right To Play and give thousands of children the gift of hope.

It’s been recognised that the act of helping others is very powerful. In a corporate environment this manifests itself in a number of areas including reputation and credibility, recruitment and staff retention, staff morale and work performance, training / development and local and international connections. An interesting fact from the UK is that 70% of the FTSE 100 companies already have a volunteering program but only 20% of medium sized businesses offer volunteering to their employees.

A report issued by Realized Worth stated that, “for companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16%, general productivity was 18% higher than other companies, customer loyalty was 12%, and quality increased by 60%”. The report also noted that “this is even more amazing when contrasted with the estimated $350 billion disengaged employees cost their employers every year just in the United States alone”.

During the session, Mavin Pawlivsky, Business Development Manager with The Cooperators explained the workings of their program. Each employee has two paid volunteer days per year and these can be used on a number of community initiatives. Groups helped include Canadian Blood Services, Meals on Wheels, Children’s Wish Foundation, ALS and Muscular Dystrophy. Marvin also talked about house builds in the Philippines, the international project employees undertook in 2015.

After the meeting I talked with Kate Barclay, Director, Human Resources for The Bodtker Group of Companies. Bodtker provides a comprehensive range of industrial containers and consumer packaging and they have 500 employees Canada wide. Kate explained that her company offers one day volunteerism a year to their employees but she was interested in the international volunteering aspect. I let her know that the Rotary Club of Cochrane are looking at participating in a house build project in El Salvador through Shelter Canada.

Volunteerism offers so many benefits for the employer and employee. Is 2016 the year your business lets it’s employees make a difference in the world?

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In life, it's not about reaching the finish line, it's about getting to the start line.

Martin Parnell
Sports for Life: Never say Never

Sports for Life: Never say Never

Posted by martin.parnell |

Over the years, I’ve played many sports, badly. As a lad in England, I was a huggable child. In today’s politically correct environment I would be known as fat. At school I was usually picked last for the soccer, rugby and cricket teams. This was pretty disappointing. However, it was offset by my parent’s love of racket sports. In the evenings and at weekends we’d play tennis, badminton and table tennis. The key wasn’t how good you were but playing for the love of the game.

I immigrated to Canada at the age of 21 and took a job at the Sullivan mine in Kimberley, B.C. This town is known for two things, Happy Hans, the Bavarian yodeler and skiing. At a ski swap I picked up a set of Lange racing skis, Nordica boots and poles and headed up the mountain. Next on the list was hockey. In England I had only skated once so, in my first season in the Kimberley recreation league, I looked like a week old banana with bruises on my hips, knees and elbows.

At 25 I moved to Yellowknife, the land of ice and snow. New sports included cross country skiing, curling and golf. Yes, golf. The fairways were sand and the greens were oiled sand. I even played snow golf with hockey sticks and an orange tennis ball. Over the intervening years, other sports included squash, snow shoeing, and fencing. At the age of 48 I entered my first 5km race and sprint triathlon, at 56, lacrosse and 58 it was Quidditch.

Now it’s time to try sport number 53, ski mountaineering (skimo). My friend Glenda suggested I check out an event call the Vert180. I didn’t have a clue what skimo was but a quick Google search explained that it’s something like running up hill with skis on then skiing down. Last Saturday, I had a clinic with Kylee Toth Ohler, one of Canada’s top skimo racers. For two hours, Kylee showed me how to attach skins to the skis, adjust the bindings for climbing up hill and skiing down and strapping the skis to the backpack for the “March of Death” section of the race.

The Vert180 is taking place at Canadian Olympic Park (COP) on Saturday December 5th from 6pm to 9pm. The objective of the race is to complete as many loops up and down the mountain as you can, in 3hours (180 mins). I think there’s going to be a few aches and pains the following morning.

So what’s next? Well, plans are under way to tackle sport number 54, pickle ball. Stay tuned.

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The Marathon of Afghanistan

The Marathon of Afghanistan

Posted by martin.parnell | Afghanistan Marathon Overcoming Obstacles Women Leaders

In the past I’ve taken running for granted. It was so easy to lace up a pair of trainers, head out the front door and within two minutes be on the Cochrane pathways. From there the options seemed limitless, along the Bow River and down to the rodeo grounds, up Big Hill Creek past the Cochrane Ranche House to Fosters Ranch or tackling the killer hill on Towers Trail to Wine Glass Ranch.

That all changed in February this year when I was diagnosed with a clot on the brain. No more running. Over the following four months I was allowed to walk but that was it. Then a month ago the specialist gave me the green light to start hitting the pavement again. It was like I had my freedom back. Now I’ve returned to training looking to run a marathon on December 31st at my 6th Annual Run / Walk at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Centre.

So it’s hard to imagine a situation where running is a luxury and a country that has never had a marathon. Well, this was true of Afghanistan until two weeks ago. On October 16th, the “Marathon of Afghanistan” was held in Bamiyan, high in the mountains west of Kabul. On a cold clear morning around 35 runners lined up at the make shift start line 3,000m above sea level. International athletes came from Canada, US, and Belgium, with local Pashtan runners, making up the numbers.

This group included 25 year old Zainab, the lone Afghan women. Zainab only started running a year ago when she applied for a grant from the organization “Free to Run” to complete in an ultramarathon in China’s Gobi desert. Free to Run is a non-profit organization that uses running, physical fitness and outdoor adventure as a means of empowering and educating females in conflict-affected communities to overcome the harmful effects of gender, religious and ethnic discrimination. To Zainab’s surprise she got the grant and her running career started.

She had many challenges during her Marathon training over and above the usual hydration and nutrition issues. “The children were stoning us, the people said bad words like ‘prostitutes, why don’t you stay at home? You are destroying Islam,” Zainab recalled. But, with her parents support, Zainab persevered and in the late afternoon on October 16th completed her first marathon.

Another runner, Baryalai Saidi, summed up the feelings of many who took part in the first Marathon of Afghanistan, “Every run is a victory”. Faced by a host of challenges, that the race even took place was a victory in itself, showing that things can be done and people can come together through things other than war. In fact they have already started planning for the 2016 “Marathon of Afghanistan”.

I’ll never take running for granted again.

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"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them"

Dalai Lama
Hope, Opportunity and Freedom - The Right of all People

Hope, Opportunity and Freedom - The Right of all People

Posted by martin.parnell | Freedom Hope Opportunity

At 9.14am, on Friday, September 4th 2015, my wife Sue became a Canadian Citizen. The ceremony took place in the Harry Hays building in Calgary and 90 new citizens, men and women, boys and girls, from 30 countries, were sworn in. I was one of a number of family and friends who applauded at the end of the singing of “O Canada”. The excitement in the room was palpable and everyone had huge smiles as they headed out the building. As Sue and I drove home, I mentioned to her that, as I was waiting for the ceremony to begin they had showed a video montage about Canada. It included scenes from Niagara Falls, skiing in the Rockies, First Nation peoples participating in a traditional dance and a lone skater traversing a frozen lake.

The other thing it showed was three words: Hope, Opportunity and Freedom and this got me thinking. The plight of the Syrian refugees has been harrowing and the death of Alan aged 3, Ghalib aged 5 and their mother Rehenna has hit a nerve around the world. Their situation was untenable as they tried to move around Syria and get away from the looting, urban warfare and barrel bombs. Their final desperate act was to go to Turkey’s Aegean coast and pay human smugglers to get them over to the Greek Island of Kos. The family joined seven others and boarded a flimsy dingy. They were fitted out with what looked like life jackets but they were all fake, they wouldn’t float. They headed out but only 500m from shore they hit choppy water and the boat capsized.

Hope, Opportunity and Freedom is the right of all people. Tyranny and oppression must be overthrown but until it is the repressed must be helped and that is a global responsibility. I was born in England and moved to Canada in 1977. In both countries there’s Hope, Opportunity and Freedom but I didn’t choose where I was born. It was only through the grace of God that I ended up where I did and it’s the same for all of us. I have a grandson, Nathan, who is 5 years old, the same age as Ghalib when he died. I know what he would want me to do.

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"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that"

Bill Shankly, Liverpool FC Manager (1962-74)
Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

Posted by martin parnell |

As a lad of 13 living in a small town in Devon in the South West of England one of my greatest pleasures was every other Saturday going to see the greatest football team on the planet, Plymouth Argyle. Of course, they weren’t the greatest team on the planet, and some seasons, not even the greatest team in Devon. But my dedication to them was unwavering. My Dad had supported them and so had his Dad and the tradition ran deep.

In soccer, it’s easy to support a top team. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal all have had many highs over the years. Whether it’s Champions League, Premier League or FA cup triumphs these fans never seem to have to wait long to cheer about something. However, in the lower leagues it’s very different. Season after season you live in hope that one day a miracle will happen, that one day your little team will be in the lime light. In the case of Plymouth I’m still waiting for that day but 130 miles up the coast is AFC Bournemouth, a team that my wife Sue supports, and that’s a very different story.

In February 2008, Bournemouth were forced into administration, suffering a 10-point deduction which put them in relegation trouble. The club had debts of around £4 million and almost went out of business completely. They even had a bake sale to raise some money. The off-field uncertainty continued throughout the season, and the club ended up being relegated to League 2. Ahead of the 2008–09 season, the team's future in the Football League was put into doubt when the league threatened to block Bournemouth's participation in League Two, due to problems with the team's continuing administration and change in ownership.

It ordered Bournemouth to demonstrate that they could fulfil all of their fixtures and find a way out of administration, eventually allowing the club to compete with a 17-point penalty for failing to follow the Football League insolvency rules. Former player Eddie Howie took over as manager with the club still 10 points adrift at the bottom of the league and initially on a caretaker basis, becoming the youngest manager in the Football League at the age of 31.

Over the following 8 years things improved and this tiny club achieved promotion through the ranks of the Football League. From League 2 to League 1, then on to the Championship and this year into the Barclays Premiership. Over the next 10 months they will be playing some of the top teams in the world. In early December,  they play Manchester United at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium which seats a cozy 11,700 supporters. However, in the last game of the season, they’ll be traveling to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, which holds over 75,000 spectators.

It was a rough start to the season for the club with two, 1-0 losses to Aston Villa and Liverpool. But then a historic victory took place in their third game, a 4-3 win at West Ham United, their first ever goals and points in the Premier League. It’s not going to be an easy season for the Cherries but Sue and I will be cheering them on each week because that’s what you do when you support an underdog.

Do you have a team or sports person you’ve followed and cheered on from when they were an unknown to making it in the big time?

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"Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples"

George Burns
Retirement - What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!

Retirement - What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!

Posted by martin parnell |

In November 2003, I resigned from my job as the Human Resources Manager for Falconbridge Ltd, a mid-sized Mining Company. I was 47 years old and my wife, Wendy, had died two years earlier of Cancer. I was feeling empty and needed to do something about it. All I seemed to hear at work was how people had 5, 10, or 15 years to retirement. They were counting the days. I had 12 years to go for a full pension and it wasn’t going to happen. I had been with Falconbridge for 18 years and in the industry for 25 years. The company gave me a retirement party and gift, however, I wasn’t ready to retire.

I’m now 59 and over the last 12 years I’ve turned my hand to many different things. Some unpaid such as membership to Rotary and fund raising for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and some paid such as mining consulting, property development and management, substitute resource teacher, extras work in TV and Films, and my current endeavours as a book author and professional speaker.

People ask me have I retired or am I semi-retired? Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell them until now. Apparently I’m a “Pre-tiree” and it’s a trend that is going to have huge ramifications in the future.

According to an article by David Black published in a report by the UK company Zopa (December 2014)

  • ‘Pre-tirement’ begins in 50s and runs well into 70s, as Britons ease themselves into retirement
  • Britons cut working hours earlier in life, but continue in paid employment for longer: 17% of over-65s are still in paid employment and 30% of them are in unpaid employment
  • 89% of 50-54 year-olds say they don't know when they will retire, and 35% expect to retire later
  • Only 24% of those aged 55–64 said they would be financially secure if they had to retire immediately
  • Giles Andrews, Zopa CEO: 'Retirement is no longer about clearing your desk on your 65th birthday'

Pre-tirement is a seismic shift in the way we think about retiring. It is an opportunity for many people to stay healthy, give something back, spend more time with their families and continue working. Pre-tirement is set to become the norm as it provides both flexibility in the work / life balance and in financial planning.

So, what are your “Pre-tirement” plans? Remember, before you cross the finish line you have to leave the start line.

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"Don't worry about reviews. Even the Bible only got 4 1/2 stars on Amazon!"

Craig DiLouie Author
When Words Collide - The Accidental Author

When Words Collide - The Accidental Author

Posted by martin parnell | Non-Fiction Publishing

Over the weekend, I went to my first book festival, When Words Collide in Calgary. I had been asked to make a presentation and I chose the theme “The Accidental Author – Confessions of a Rookie Non-Fiction Writer”.

I love reading. I’ve always got a book on the go and at some point during the day I take 20 minutes and knock off a couple of chapters. It wasn’t always this way. At school, I had a love / hate relationship with the written word. English Literature was one of my favourite subjects and as a class we read books like “Animal Farm”, by George Orwell and dissected them with questions like “Why does it state: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others?” However, the flip side of English literature was English language. I was forever struggling (and still am!) with spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Over the years, I’ve realised that you can’t be shackled by your fears and when you really want to do something, you just have to give it a go. In 1979, I entered a short story contest on CBC Radio. My submission was called “The Ice Key”, a sort of “Games of Thrones” meets the “Minions”. A month later I got a rejection letter. I was very disappointed but as Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

My written efforts over the intervening years were sporadic. I kept a daily journal during a one year trip around the World and blogged on a four month cycle trip across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. I dabbled in the world of self-publishing, releasing a book on the trip entitled “How do you eat an Elephant?” (one piece at a time). I sold 25 copies (all to me) and sent them out as Christmas presents.

In 2010 I ran 250 marathons and every day after completing 42.2 kms I’d blog about my run. “Marathon Quest 250” raised $320,000 for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and my PR person, Lyn Cadence, suggested I spread the word by publishing a book. I told Lyn that I couldn’t see me sitting down and writing a manuscript but Lyn gave me the best advice ever, the book is in the blogs. Lyn had me fill out a Book Proposal and she sent it out to a number of publishers. One stepped forward, Don Gorman from Rocky Mountain Books and after numerous edits and revisions “MARATHON QUEST” was published in the fall of 2012.

One twist of irony was that in 2014 CBC radio selected MARATHON QUEST as one of their top five books by an Alberta author. The wait was worth it.

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