There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.

Alfred Wainwright
Too Cold for Penguins but Not for Cochrane Runners and Walkers

Too Cold for Penguins but Not for Cochrane Runners and Walkers

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sunday, December 31st was scheduled for my 8th Annual Run / Walk. This event had never been cancelled but the weather the week leading up to the event had been brutal and the forecast for that day was -32C. Oh boy. 

The day before, I asked Paddy, Operations Manager at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Centre, if he had any thoughts for a back-up plan. He kindly offered to let people use the indoor track, free of charge, instead of going outside. Great idea. 

So, I sent out postings and emails letting as many people as possible know that it was still a go. I had my fingers crossed that the weather would break and warm up. No such luck. Sunday morning I was up at 5.30am and checked the current temperature. It was -48C with the wind chill. Not good. 

On reaching the Center, my first task was to mark the route by spray-painting orange arrows.  Every 30 seconds the nozzle to the spray can froze and I had to keep going back to the car and unfreezing it. At one point I was driving along the side of the path and spraying the arrows from inside the car.

This year we were attempting to raise $5,000 for Free to Run, an organization that uses sport to empower and educate women and girls from conflict-affected communities. The money would enable them to build an ice skating rink for girls in Afghanistan and also allow a group of girls from other provinces to participate in a week of winter sporting activities, in March. 

Soon, 9.00am came around and a hardy group lined up at the start, outside the main entrance. I blew my whistle and away we went. The route took us around the building, through the Bow River Edge camp ground, along the Bow river pathway and down to the old bridge which was the turnaround spot. One loop is around 2.5 kms and in the first hour I managed to cover 4 loops. By this time, my hat and facemask were caked with ice and snow. After a short break I headed out again and was joined by a few more run / walkers. 

Leanne Brintnell, from Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, had arrived and was organizing the band HYMN, who would entertain everyone with some beautiful traditional music. She would also be selling products made by women in Afghanistan. 

The day wound on with runners coming and going. Everyone doing their part and, by making donations, they were also making a difference. At 2.40pm it was time to do the final 2km, “Cookie Loop”. A bunch of kids lined up and I blew the final whistle and away we went. Twenty minutes later it was done. The kids got their medal, we packed up and everyone headed home. 

In total there were 65 participants, 30 of which were brave enough to run/walk outside. We raised an amazing $2,936.  We still a have way to go to reach the $5,000, so if you would like to donate to this worthy cause and  help us reach our goal then please go to and hit the big “DONATE” button. Thank you. 

I later checked the Globe and Mail website and read a story about how the King Penguins, at the Calgary Zoo, were brought inside due to the extreme cold and the headline in today’s Calgary Herald online reflected this. It read “Cochrane runners go where Penguins fear to tread”.

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Study the past if you would define the future.


Looking at the Past and Reflecting on the Present

Posted by martin.parnell |

As I sat here thinking about the past year, I decided to take a look at events that have happened on this day, January 8th, over previous years. Here are just a few examples of some that I found, as listed by 

  • 1790- President George Washington delivers first State of the Union
  • 1877- Crazy Horse fights final battle
  • 1946- Elvis Presley receives his first guitar
  • 1962- Mona Lisa exhibited in Washington 

It struck me that there are often times that things occur that are so profound, they are remembered as historical events even though they may not affect everyone and some that occur that may not affect us at the time, but may resonate, in the future. 

When Crazy Horse led his starving people to Fort Robinson on the Red Cloud Agency in north-western Nebraska, he had reluctantly led them to life on a reservation where most indigenous peoples still find themselves today. When Elvis Presley was given his first guitar, who knew how this might lead him to becoming one of the best-known entertainers of all time? There aren’t many people who wouldn’t recognise the Mona Lisa and her famous smile. 

I then decided to take a look at some events which occurred on tomorrow’s date, January 9th and found an equally varied selection: 

  • 1431- Judges' investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.
  • 1760- Afghans defeat Marathas in battle of Barari Ghat. 
  • 1909- Ernest Shackleton as part of the British Nimrod Expedition reaches a record farthest South latitude (88°23' south) 
  • 1941- 6,000 Jews exterminated in pogrom in Bucharest, Romania
  • 2007- Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs launched the iPhone

I found it interesting to note how some of the issues mentioned can relate to more recent events, e.g.  there is still fighting and unrest in Afghanistan and Catalonia is fighting for independence from Spain.

On 12 September, we saw updates to the iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV, as well as the 10th anniversary iPhone X, with its brand-new virtually full-screen OLED design  and NASA’s Juno spacecraft is orbiting Jupiter.

And so, as I look to the future, I wonder what events will occur that will have my grandchildren looking back on, in their futures, as news-worthy or life-changing.

With ever-advancing technology, the world is communicating as it never has done before and yet, sadly, some people find it easier to send a text then to sit and have a face-to-face conversation and many of us have to make a concerted effort to live active lifestyles.

In business, we are constantly seeing new innovations which affect the way we work and feel the need to chase increasingly-challenging goals. Changes occur and events happen on a daily basis, both personally, nationally and globally.

We may not all be history-makers, but, in our own ways, we can make a difference. Whether it’s doing something to help ease the life of someone else, by making their working conditions more pleasant, spending some of our spare time volunteering or just being there when someone we know needs a hand or someone to talk to, to others, our actions can prove to be not just memorable, but life-changing.

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Life is a minestrone. Served up with Parmesan cheese.

How to make Minestrone Soup and Build a Successful Business

How to make Minestrone Soup and Build a Successful Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

Today, my wife, Sue, made a huge pot of minestrone soup. It smells delicious and I can’t wait to tuck into a big bowl, when I come back from my trip to Calgary, especially as its minus 15 degrees outside. 

As I watched her chopping the ingredients, it made me think about how life really is like a bowl of minestrone. 

You have to have your basics, the onions and carrots, zucchini and celery, the potato and pasta. These are the building blocks. They give the soup substance.

Then she adds the tomatoes, their colour really adds a rich vibrancy to the soup. Then the garlic and Italian spices give it identity and the stock fills up the pot and gives volume to the whole thing. 

In life and especially in business, we need to look for the right ingredients, which need to be carefully selected, so that they will work together as a whole. 

If you are setting up a business or assessing an existing one and you are looking at the ingredients you need to create or reorganize, in order to have an effective workforce, perhaps you should consider these: 

Leadership – The outcome of every meal depends on the cook. They need to be able to decide what it is they want to cook, find the right recipe, select the ingredients, be adaptable if things aren’t tasting just right and see the process through to the end. 

Are you a good leader? Do you set clear, measurable, achievable goals and do you provide the tools your employees need to work efficiently? 

Goal – This is when you decide what it is you want to cook, look at the recipe and decide what you need to do to succeed. If all members of your workforce have a common goal, it will make life much easier and you will stand a better chance of success. 

Organisation – when Sue makes her soup, she gathers together all the ingredients, but doesn’t just throw them all into the pot straight away. Some things need to be sautéed first, then others are added and left to simmer and there are some that are added at the end. You may have the personnel to form the basis of your company, but always be prepared to add to that group, even if it’s on a short-term contract or in the role of consultant. 

Collaboration – each ingredient is carefully selected. Too much or too little of any one of them could alter the outcome and not be so desirable. Look for people who can work well together, but also look for people with varying talents. Each of your team should be able to offer particular skills which will enhance the group. 

Commitment – A soup can be allowed to simmer but, at some stage you need to know when to turn up the heat. There will be times, in business, when everyone needs to put in that extra effort and go the extra mile. It may be tough, but when everything comes together, you realise that the result can be oh, so satisfying. 

Also, don’t forget, when all the work is done and it’s time to serve up the finished project, presentation is key. 

In Sue’s case, she’ll add a sprinkle of Italian Parsley, grate the parmesan to go on top and have some crusty bread warming in the oven. 

You need to be able to stand by your project, have all the information you need at hand and be able to convince a client that you are the best. 

So, decide what it is you want to cook, allow the time you need to prepare it, have the right ingredients to make it happen and, like Sue’s Minestrone, everything will turn out just fine and you’ll have people coming back for more!

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What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

How to get the Better of those Winter Blues

Posted by martin.parnell |

A recent item on the CBC encouraged listeners to “embrace Winter”. Indeed, it’s great if you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or just being outdoors, generally. In fact, one guest suggested we should try winter camping. We are often reminded about the importance of getting out in the fresh air and enjoying as much sunlight as possible, during these long winter months.

But, what if you’re a person who has to get up and go to a workplace, or have other responsibilities, which keep you indoors? Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are things that you can do to make life more bearable if you are stuck inside for most of the day.

Do you get to work and then home again in the dark? 

Many people do and if you work somewhere with poor lighting and/ or ventilation it can seriously affect your mood and, consequently your performance.

Pull up the blinds and let in as much light as possible. Most experts believe that the lack of sunlight during the winter season throws off the body’s rhythm and leads to hormonal changes as well as a decrease in the production of serotonin, the chemical your brain produces when you have a lot of energy and are in a good mood. 

Open a window on those really sunny days (so long as nobody is sitting in a draft) and make sure thethermostat is turned to a comfortable level.

Amongst other things you can do is to introduce some plant life. In his article “Beating the Workplace Winter Blues and Avoiding Seasonal Slumps” on, David Galic refers to a study performed by Virginia Lohr of Washington State University which claims that “even workers who are on their computers all day see an increase in productivity and lower blood pressure when they are working in a room that is full of plant life. The presence of plants at the workplace boost productivity and it helps workers to feel refreshed and focused”.

 If you’re business doesn’t lend itself to having plants around, you can always include paintings of the natural world, in your décor.

It can be hard to be motivated during the winter months, especially if your company experiences some form of downturn in production. It’s important that employers ensure that the extra time is put to good use. Take it as an opportunity to engage with the workforce, have meetings and discussions that will reinforce and accomplish outstanding goals and set new ones. Getting together as a team can be motivating and refreshing.

This is also a time to take care of your general well-being. Get enough sleep, eat well and do try and do some form of exercise. Colds and flu are prevalent and you need to be proactive in keeping yourself fit and healthy.

If you do get sick, take time off. You will recover more quickly, but, more importantly, you won’t be spreading your germs to other people.

In some people, the winter months can lead to lethargy and even depression. If you find you are affected in this way, do read up on the condition referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). On the CTI Technology website, Chief Executive Officer, Aaron, S, Kane, addresses this issue in his article:  5 Tips to Keep Employees Motivated in Winter. He writes:

“If you find yourself feeling increasingly lethargic and in a very negative mood most of the time during the winter, there’s a good chance that you have SAD to some degree. He points out that “People who suffer from SAD are often overwhelmed when it comes to creating plans and getting things done. If there are any big projects that you need to tackle, try to break them down into small increments and focus on these small projects one by one instead of trying to deal with a giant project and being overwhelmed by it.”

He goes on to explain, “Sometimes it’s all about simply getting by for people with SAD. Get through the winter being as productive as possible and when the winter thaws and you start feeling better as spring approaches, then you can ramp up your work goals and take on the big projects that seemed so insurmountable to you while the weather was cold.”

Kane also gives advice to managers:

“Remember, as a manager, there is probably a solid percentage of people at your workplace who find it tough to work when the weather is cold and the sunlight is missing from their work days. Do everything you can to help them out and take care of their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Helping yourself and your workers get through the winter will undoubtedly result in a stronger, more engaged, happier and more productive workforce once the spring season returns.”

So whether you embrace the winter months or not, try and bear in mind, it won’t be long before Summer is here and we are bemoaning the fact that “It’s just too hot!”

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