“My Junk Drawer”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan


  Every now and then I get the urge to go through my cluttered office in an effort to get rid of some of the “junk” that has accumulated over time. There are so many things lying around that I haven’t needed in years and I can always use the space that would be created by throwing out stuff I don’t need. A few weeks ago I got that urge to do some “cleaning”.
   I decided to start with the bottom drawer in my desk. This is what I refer to as my “junk drawer” simply because whenever I don’t have a specific place to put something, I toss it into the “junk drawer” where it tends to remain forever. At first glance, the contents looked exactly like a collection of odds and ends that one would certainly classify as junk. However, as I picked up each item, giving serious consideration to tossing it into the garbage can, I found myself unable to part with it. For you see, each item contained memories of experiences and treasured moments in my life. After a couple of hours looking over the memorabilia and replacing each one back into the drawer, I realized this was an impossible task. I hadn’t thrown a single item out. All I had done was rearrange the items neatly in the drawer.
   As it turned out, later that evening I came across a little story written by Robert Fulghum about his seven year old daughter, Molly.
   It was Molly's job to hand her father his brown paper lunch bag each morning before he headed off to work. One morning, in addition to his usual lunch bag, Molly handed him a second paper bag. This one was worn and held together with duct tape, staples, and paper clips.
   "Why two bags" Fulghum asked.
    Molly answered. "Just some stuff. Take it with you."
   Reluctantly, Fulghum stuffed both sacks into his briefcase, kissed Molly and rushed off. At midday , while hurriedly downing his real lunch, he tore open Molly's bag and shook out the contents: two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny sea shell, two animal crackers, a marble, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses, and 13 pennies.
   Fulghum smiled, finished eating, and swept the desk clean - into the wastebasket - leftover lunch, Molly's junk and all.
   That evening, Molly ran up behind him as he read the paper.
   "Where's my bag?"
   "What bag?"
   "You know the one I gave you this morning."
   "I left it at the office. Why?"
   "I forgot to put this note in it," she said. "And, besides, those are my things in the bag, Daddy, the ones I really like. I thought you might like to play with them, but now I want them back. You didn't lose the bag, did you, Daddy?"
   "Oh, no," he said, lying. "I just forgot to bring it home. I'll bring it tomorrow."
   While Molly hugged her father's neck, he unfolded the note that had not made it into the sack: "I love you, Daddy."
   Molly had given him her treasures - all that a 7-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack, and he missed it - not only missed it, but had thrown it in the wastebasket. So back he went to the office. Just ahead of the night janitor, he picked up the wastebasket and poured the contents on his desk.
   After washing the mustard off the dinosaurs and spraying the whole thing with breath-freshener to kill the smell of onions, he carefully smoothed out the wadded ball of brown paper, put the treasures inside and carried it home gingerly, like an injured kitten. The bag didn't look so good, but the stuff was all there and that's what counted.
   After dinner, he asked Molly to tell him about the stuff in the sack. It took a long time to tell. Everything had a story or a memory or was attached to dreams and imaginary friends. Fairies had brought some of the things. He had given her the chocolate kisses, and she had kept them for when she needed them.
   As I finished reading the story, I realized how important those things in my desk drawer were to me. That drawer was just like Molly’s bag of treasures. There were the two dried up dandelions that my granddaughter had picked for me two summers ago. I kept them because she was so excited about giving Grandpa some flowers. Then there was the old photo of me standing in my backyard holding in my hands the very first pay cheque I ever received when I started my first summer job. There was the old hockey puck that my son gave me in Kingston when he came off the ice after officiating his very first OHL hockey game. For two hours I picked up item after item and each brought back fond memories. I just couldn’t throw them away. I would be throwing away those special moments in my life.
   Molly and I seemed to have a lot in common. My problem is that my treasures have been collected and accumulated over a much longer period of time than seven years. Everywhere I turn I see treasures that have a great deal of significance to me and in many cases, to me alone. They may not seem like much to others, but they mean a lot to me.
   So the next time you get the urge to “clean up and declutter”, forget about what the experts say about throwing out things you no longer use. Most of those things meant something special to you at one time in your life.  We must all remember that it's not the destination that counts in life - it's the journey. The journey with the people we love is all that really matters. And the things in that bottom drawer in my desk remind me about those people. I don’t think that drawer will ever get cleaned out, so I guess I should just buy myself a bigger desk. You should see my garage.
   Have a good week.



“When Are We Ever Going To Need This?”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan


  “When are we ever going to need this?”  If you are a teacher or a parent, you have most certainly already been asked this question on more than one occasion. If your children are still fairly young, believe me; the question will eventually come up and it will put you on the spot.
   Students have been asking this question since the beginning of time. Indeed, I wondered the same thing on many occasions as I sat through boring lecture after boring lecture while my teachers and professors went on and on about what at the time seemed like nonsense.
  The school curriculum contains topics that often seem completely out of touch with reality. Children are expected to learn material that appears meaningless, especially when it comes to some of the more complex mathematical concepts. Whenever I was faced with the question as a professional classroom teacher for 28 years, I found myself struggling to come up with credible explanations that would satisfy my probing pupils. Needless to say my attempts at finding a suitable answer often proved futile and I usually had to fall back on the long-established defense used by most teachers that went something like, “Because I am the teacher and this is on the course outline!”
   Now that I may never again have an opportunity to face that same question from another student, I have discovered the ultimate answer. Admittedly, it may be too late for me, but it isn’t too late for the rest of you who may be teachers and parents.
   The answer to the question comes from a story that I would like to share with you. It is about a high school algebra teacher named Dean Sherman. He tells us that his grade 9 students were having difficulty appreciating the usefulness of the Standard Form of the equation of a line, prompting them to ask, “When are we ever going to need this?”
   The question used to really bother Sherman and he would look for justification for everything he taught. Until one day he simply blurted out, “Never. You will never use this.”
   Sherman then went on to remind his students that people don’t lift weights so that they will be prepared when one day someone knocks them over on the street and lays a barbell across their chest. He stated that you lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or hand out a body check during a hockey game, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. He told his students that you do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison guard or parent. He cleverly explained that math is mental weight training. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, whether you actually use the particular skills you are developing is not important. What is important is that you do your best so that you get the most out of your “mental weight training”.  Similarly, when you are lifting weights, as it becomes easier for you to lift the bar; you add more weight so that your muscles become even stronger. Therefore, your math exercises increase in difficulty as you become more and more skilled so that your become stronger mentally. This mental training allows you to become more effective at solving all of the problems and challenges that come up during the course of your day.
   When I came across this story I wondered, “Where has this answer been all my life? Where was this when I needed it in my own math classes?” I could think of hundreds of times during my career when I could have used that explanation and put an end to the continuous questioning about the usefulness of school assignments.
   I encourage all teachers and parents to practice this response and also come up with further examples to prove the point. Think of all the things we do on a daily basis in the name of fitness and exercise that we will never need to use. Things like walking on a treadmill; using a rowing machine; or doing sit-ups and push-ups. These are all exercises that are preparing our muscles for things we do everyday. These are exercises that will help us carry out daily routines much more efficiently.
   No matter what the subject area may be, you can now easily come up with an explanation when asked “When are we ever going to need this?” A great deal of the skills we learn in school are nothing more than “mental exercise” that will help us in other areas of our life. These mental exercises are needed in order for us to perform other tasks with relative ease. From a student’s point of view, it is helpful to think of school as “mental weight training”. Do this and everything you are asked to learn will make a whole lot more sense. This attitude may even result in higher marks. Go figure!
   Have a good week!



Winter Is Going To Be Here Before You Know It. 

by Robert Kirwan

   I am now going through that transitional stage of life where one moves from being a healthy, robust middle aged person into what is commonly referred to as the “senior” years. Strange as it may sound, I never gave much thought about how I would feel once it was time for me to enter the ranks of “seniors”. When I was younger I thought that a senior was anyone over the age of 50. But with each passing birthday, I began to think of seniors as being much older than that.
   Now, as I approach the age of 60, I am discovering that being a “senior adult” is more of a “state of mind” or a “state of health” than just counting the number of candles on your birthday cake. For example, I see a lot of people in their 40’s who I would define as being more senior than I am right now if you consider their physical and emotional health. And I also see a lot of people in their 70’s who one would never know they are “senior” unless you knew their age.
   I’ll never forget a message that was given to me by an older gentleman I once knew about 30 years ago. I was still a young teacher at the beginning of my career and he definitely was well into his “senior” years. At that time of my life my wife and were raising three young children, playing badminton three times a week and were always on the go with hockey, baseball and soccer. We never gave a moment’s thought to how old we were. We just went on and on with energy to spare. I can’t recall how I came to know this older man, but one day we sat down to have a coffee and he gave me the following message. It was a message that didn’t have a lot of impact on me at the time. It just seemed like an “old man” doing some reflective thinking about life.  But now that I am a grandfather and I am about to enter my “senior stage of life”, his words are beginning to make sense.
  The man started out with a profound statement when he said, “You know, Bob, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.
 It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate.  And yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams, but, here it is. The winter of my life and it caught me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my babies go? And where did my youth go?”

  He continued to reflect, “I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like. But, here it is. My friends are retired and really getting gray. They move slower and I see an older person when I look in the mirror now. Lots of my friends are in better shape than me, but I see the great change.  They are not like the friends that I remember who were young and vibrant, but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be.”

   “Each day now, I find that just taking a shower is a real target for the day!  And taking a nap is not a treat anymore; it's mandatory!  Because if I don't, on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!”
   “And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do the things I wish I had done but never did!! At least I know, that though the winter has come, and I'm not sure how long it will last, when it's over, it’s over.”
   “Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn't done; things I should have done; but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done.  It's all in a lifetime.”
   The older gentleman then proceeded to give me some advice I have never forgotten, “Bob, you're not even close to your winter yet, but let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long! Life goes by quickly.  So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!”
   As we finished off our coffee, he looked at me very seriously and proceeded to pour out his wisdom. I listened carefully to his final words. “Make no mistake. There is no promise that you will ever see all the seasons of your life, so live well for today. Say all the things you want your loved ones to remember. Hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things you have done for them in all the years past! Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who follow after you. Make it a fantastic one."
   He gave me that message 30 years ago. I don’t think my winter has come yet, but I now understand what he meant when he said that “there is no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life.” I have known far too many people who died before their winter had arrived. I also know many people for whom winter came on suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. As for myself, I know that my winter is certainly much closer that it was the day I had coffee with this wise old man. But there are many more things I want to accomplish in my life, so I intend to heed the man’s advice well. No more putting things off. No more regrets. No more fear! Life goes by quickly and I am not sure when my winter will arrive.
   Unfortunately, that older gentleman’s winter ended shortly after he talked to me, but he certainly left an impression on me that has lasted a lifetime.
   Life is a gift and I do not intend to waste it.
   Have a good week!



Taking Advantage of Opportunity May Require Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone And Taking Personal Risks

by Robert Kirwan


    Let me start off this week’s article with a little riddle.
   In one local business there were five employees who were not happy with their particular situation. If two of the employees decided that they would quit their job, go to school to get a diploma and get into a more satisfying career, how many of the original five employees were still working for the company?
   The answer is five.
   Deciding that you are going to do something to improve your life and begin a new career is one thing, but actually doing it is another. Anyone can talk about self-improvement. As a matter of fact, I am sure that we all engage in such conversations from time to time. It takes a lot of courage to actually risk stepping out of your comfort zone to do something about it.
  Many of us might be finding ourselves at a crossroads in our life right now with unemployment rate in the Greater Sudbury Area at the highest level in decades. While the actual number of persons collecting employment insurance is high, there are many more people who have had their hours reduced and must live on less income. There are also thousands of people in our community who are on strike.  

   I’m sure that a large number of people who have had their employment interrupted or wages reduced are thinking seriously about their future. In fact, the whole question of job security is foremost on the minds of many employees as they watch companies downsize, shut down and contract out.
  Nevertheless, instead of looking at the current situation in Greater Sudbury negatively, some people are considering this the opportunity they have been waiting for to “do something about their future”.
   It brings to mind one of my favourite stories about a very devout Christian who lived in an area that was being flooded by heavy rain.  All of the people in the town were told to leave their homes so that they would avoid certain death from the flood. A large truck stopped outside the man’s door and the driver told him to get on board. The Christian yelled out, “Don’t worry. I am staying here.  God will take care of me.” The rain continued and the water rose, flooding the entire first floor of the man’s house. A person in a boat came by and called to the man to get on board. The Christian yelled out, “Don’t worry. I am staying here.  God will take care of me.” The rain continued to fall until the only thing the Christian could do was climb to the top of the roof. Suddenly a helicopter came by and the pilot called down to the Christian to grab onto the rope and climb to safety. The Christian yelled out, “Don’t worry. I am staying here.  God will take care of me.” Sadly, the water continued to rise and the Christian drowned.
   When the Christian arrived at the Gates of Heaven, he looked up at God and asked, “Why did you not save me? I had faith in you and I prayed that you would take care of me. Why did you let me die?” God looked at the Christian and declared, “What more could I do for you? I sent you a truck, a boat and a helicopter and you turned them all away.”
   So if you are like one of those two employees who “decided to do something to improve their current situation”, now that the opportunity may have actually arrived, don’t be like the Christian in the story above. Don’t pass up a perfectly good opportunity to change your life forever. Consider your options and take a personal risk. Step out of your comfort zone!

   Have a good week.



A Very Special Thanksgiving Weekend

by Robert Kirwan

  This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving, a time of the year that has always been special to me. Usually I find myself working out in the yard putting things away for the winter with plenty of time to think about life in general. This is going to be a very special Thanksgiving for many of us because things don’t appear to be going very well for a lot of people right now.

   The global recession has affected just about every aspect of society. The labour dispute between Vale Inco and the USW is making the recession even worse and could lead to serious financial distress for many families in the area. In particular, the strike which directly involves over 3000 unionized employees has resulted in thousands of additional layoffs and workforce reductions among the hundreds of mining service companies and retail outlets in the region. It is not a pretty picture locally this year, so a lot of us may not think there is much to be thankful for.
   Perhaps this weekend is coming at a good time. We all need to stop for a moment and take a good look at our own situation to see if it really is as bad as it looks. Admittedly, we may have to make some serious adjustments in our way of life for a while, but when it is all over maybe our priorities will have shifted and we will emerge from these difficult times with a new perspective on life.

   Let me share a story with you about an old man who showed up at the back door of the house rented by a couple of college students. This will give you a good example of perspective. As the students cracked open the door, they saw his that his eyes were glassy and his face unshaven. He said hello to them and offered to sell them some apples and oranges he was carrying in an old basket. Although they had all the fruit they needed already, the students made a purchase, mostly because they felt pity for the old man and partly because they were afraid of him.

   The visits became more regular. The students began to realize the glaze on his eyes was the result of cataracts, not alcohol. They became accustomed to sound of his shuffling feet every morning. Sometimes he wore mismatched shoes. He would often pull out a harmonica and begin playing sad, gospel tunes in the middle of conversations with the students.

The students realized that the old man didn’t have many friends. Perhaps they were the only people who paid any attention to him. He showed them the old shack where he lived and continued to sell apples and oranges to the students almost every single day.

   On one visit he said to the students, “What a day! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.”

   The students celebrated with him, not letting on that it was they who had purchased the shoes and clothes and placed them on the porch as a gift. They wanted to remain anonymous.

“We’re really glad for you,” they exclaimed.

   Then the old man added, “You know what’s even more wonderful? Just yesterday I met some people who could really use them.”

   The old man taught the students something very important about life that day. No matter how little you have or how little you know, you still have something you can do for both yourself and for others. The old man enjoyed the life he was living and was grateful for the shoes, clothing and friendships he had with others. He was thankful for the opportunity to share his good fortune with someone less fortunate than himself.

   This weekend I am going to spend a few moments in quiet reflection about what is truly important to me. I extend an invitation to all of my readers to do the same. Make a list of all the things in your life that you could live without. Be honest and true to your self. For example, if, for some reason, you were taken off the face of the earth today, what would you miss the most?
   We have all accumulated many possessions over the years, but when all is said and done, I think you will discover that what you would miss the most are not things at all. You will miss the people in your life and the loving relationships you developed most of all. The expensive cars, clothes and houses will mean nothing when you look back on your life. What you will miss the most are your loved ones. The people who truly care about you and the people with whom you look forward to sharing your precious moments on this earth.

   And so as we head into this very special Thanksgiving Weekend, let’s all take a little bit of time to look at the things in our life that others would consider valuable but for which we may have long taken for granted. Let’s also spend some time looking closely at the people around us and see what “makes their life so rich”. Things will get better for everyone before long. The economy will improve. The labour dispute will end. And people will be back at work. I don’t think life will ever return to the same as it was before all of the troubles started, but that too may be a good thing.
   Above all, let’s all show appreciation for the parts of our life that we would miss the most if they were taken away from us. And let’s tell the people who are closest to us just how much we appreciate their love.   

   Have a good week!


You Are Never Too Old To Live Out Your Dreams

by Robert Kirwan

   If I had a dollar for every time someone came up to me and asked, “How are you enjoying retirement?” I might actually be able to retire! Even though I finished my formal career as a classroom teacher after 28 years in 2001, I would never say that I “retired” from teaching. I merely ended one part of my life and entered into a new stage, utilizing all of the skills that I had developed up until that point in time. I’ve moved in a different direction since leaving the classroom and have now established a private practice as an independent education, training and career development consultant. This is something that I can continue to do for the rest of my life and is something that I find very fulfilling and enriching. So for me, the word “retirement” has completely disappeared from my vocabulary. God willing I will remain healthy enough physically and mentally to work well into my 70’s or 80’s.    

   More and more we find ourselves running into someone we know who has begun a new career or a new hobby or opened up a new business at an age when most others would be thinking about retirement. The initial reaction to such news is often one of astonishment that the person would want to ‘waste so much time and energy’ during the final stage of his/her life instead of sitting back and soaking up the sunshine. Often it is easier for an older person to deny him/herself the pleasure of living out a dream rather than face the pressures from loved ones who provide all sorts of advice about ‘how to enjoy retirement’.

   Whenever you find yourself wondering if you are “too old” to begin something new, think about the following story about Rose. As you read it I think you will develop a whole new appreciation for older people who are living out their dream.

   The first day of school the professor introduced himself and challenged the students to get to know someone they didn’t already know.

   Jim stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched his shoulder. He turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at him with a smile that lit up her entire being. She said, “Hi, handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

   Jim laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave him a giant squeeze.

  “Why are you in university at such a young, innocent age?” Jim asked.

    She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel.”

   “No, seriously,” Jim asked. He was curious to find out what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

   “I always dreamed of having a university education and now I’m getting one!” she told him. After class Jim and Rose walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. They became instant friends. Every day for the next three months they would leave class together and talk non-stop.

   Jim was always mesmerized listening to this time machine as she shared her wisdom and experience with him. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she revelled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

   At the end of the semester Jim and his teammates invited Rose to speak at their football banquet. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three-by-five cards on the floor.

   Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up drinking beer and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know”.   

   As we all laughed, she cleared her throat and began.” We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success.

   First, you have to laugh and find humour every day.

   Second, you’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it.”

   Third, there is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change.

   Finally, have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

She finished her speech by challenging each of us to live out these secrets in our daily lives.

   At the year’s end, Rose finished the university degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand university students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.

   The next time you find yourself wondering if you should work at fulfilling a dream of yours, remember what Rose said to the football players. “It’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.” A year from now you will still be a year older. Take advantage of all the opportunities that come knocking during the next twelve months.

   Have a good week.



"Parents, Teachers and Coaches Must Learn How To Deal With The Curse of Knowledge"
by Robert Kirwan

   During my 28 year career as a classroom teacher I was always puzzled with how difficult I found it to teach my students mathematics. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know anything about math. After all, I graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Economics from Laurentian University and I have always loved working on math problems and theories. As a result, I thought it would be relatively easy to be a good math teacher. It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, I often became extremely frustrated when my pupils failed to grasp the “simplest of concepts” no matter how hard I tried to explain.
   On the other hand, I wasn’t much of a reader or writer while I was growing up myself. Nevertheless, I always found it easy to communicate with others. For the past twenty five years I have been writing editorials and publishing magazines and web sites.
Reading and writing are as natural for me today as walking. I am no expert at writing, but I am able to communicate my feelings and people seem to enjoy my articles.
   What amazed me the most as a classroom teacher is that I never had any difficulty or anxiety when it came to teaching my students how to write. Former students comment on how patient and encouraging I was and how I provided them all with a love of writing that has remained with them years after they left my class. I often became frustrated when teaching math, but I do not recall experiencing that feeling while teaching writing.
   The reason for this strange phenomenon became crystal clear to me when I read about the “Curse of Knowledge”. With the beginning of school just around the corner, and with most of the minor sports seasons about to get under way, I just have to share it with you today. If you know a teacher, a coach or a parent, please send them a copy of this article. Believe me, they will appreciate it.
   In order to help you understand what the “Curse of Knowledge” is all about, let me explain how in 1990, a lady by the name of Elizabeth Newton earned a Ph. D. in psychology at Stanford University by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners”. Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and the “Star Spangled Banner”. Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener by knocking on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song, based on the rhythm being tapped.
   The listener’s job in this game is quite difficult. Over the course of
Newton ’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed only 2.5 percent of the songs. That’s right! They could only identify 3 of the songs out of a total of 120.
   But what
Newton discovered next is truly remarkable and made me think of my own involvement in teaching, coaching or parenting young people. Before the listeners guessed the name of the song, Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly. The tappers predicted that the odds would be 50 percent.
   Tappers actually got their message across one time in 40, but they thought they were getting their message across one time in two.
Newton explained that when a tapper taps, she is “hearing the song in her head”. Try it yourself. Think about a familiar song and tap it out with your finger. You will find that it is impossible to avoid hearing the tune in your head. Meanwhile, as Newton discovered during her experiment, the listeners are not hearing the same thing at all. All they can hear is a bunch of disconnected taps very much like a strange Morse Code.
   In the experiment
Newton noticed that the tappers were flabbergasted at how hard the listeners seemed to be working to pick up the tune. The tappers were thinking, “Isn’t the song obvious?” The tappers looked disgusted when a listener guessed “Happy Birthday” for “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Newton pointed out that it is hard to be a tapper. The biggest problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge. When they are tapping, they can’t imagine what it is like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. This is the “Curse of Knowledge”
   This “Curse of Knowledge” has been with me during my entire career when it came to teaching mathematics to students. According to
Newton , “Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listener’s state of mind.”
   So when it came to teaching mathematics, I had so much more knowledge than my students that it was extremely difficult for me to remember what it was like for me when I was first learning the concepts myself. But when it came to teaching writing, my “lack of knowledge” allowed me to better appreciate where my students were coming from. It enabled me to teach them in a way that they could better understand and I showed more appreciation for their struggles. I had an easier time identifying where they were coming from.
   The same thing applies to coaching and helps to explain why so many of the star players in hockey or any other sport for that matter, make such poor coaches. The best coaches are usually people who were skilled players, but were not considered superstars. For example, Tiger Woods might not be a very good golf coach because it would be hard for him to imagine what it would be like not to be a good golfer.
   And so, for all of my readers who from time to time engage in teaching, coaching or parenting, the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated because your “students” are just not picking up what it is that you are presenting, remember that just because you “can hear the song in your head”  your “listener” is not likely hearing the same tune. You will have to transform your ideas into something that your listeners can understand and appreciate in order for them to learn. If you don’t, you will continue to be a victim of the “Curse of Knowledge”.
   Have a good week!



"Now Is A Good Time To Change Your Focus And Make Things Better In Your Life "
by Robert Kirwan

   Many of us are going to remember 2009 as a major turning point in our life. Not only is the global recession forcing everyone to make significant changes, we find ourselves now immersed  in the middle of a work stoppage at Vale Inco which is having huge economic implications across the region. People are losing their jobs, being laid off or having their hours reduced. Moreover, it is forcing us all to take a good hard look at our spending habits. In particular, many of us are thinking twice about making purchases that we don’t absolutely need. The only consolation is that no matter what your own particular challenges may be right now, everyone else is in the same boat as well.
   It is therefore extremely important for all of us to remember that no matter how difficult the situation may be, there is no problem that cannot be solved. It might just mean that you have to take a step back and approach your problem from a different angle. A change in focus may very well enable you to discover a simple solution which was there all along.
   For example, consider the lesson a man named Joe learned one day from a moth he discovered in his garage.  As Joe was preparing to travel to his office, he opened the garage door and startled a large moth which immediately tried to escape by flying to the circle-topped window of the door. It tried frantically to exit through the invisible wall of closed glass. Joe tried raising the garage door higher in hopes of aiding its escape. That caused the moth to fly higher and become entangled in a spider web. Fearful that it would remain entangled in the web, Joe took a long-handled broom to assist him in helping the moth escape the tangled threads. The moth then returned to furiously pumping his wings and banging into the glass, which was, in his perspective, the pathway of escape, but instead the moth remained captive.
   By simply turning its focus to one side, the moth would have easily exited its prison. Rather, due to the moth’s stubborn commitment to this one escape route, it remained confined, captive and perhaps doomed.
   I have often found myself in situations where I felt very much like the moth in the story. For example, there have been times when I have been so sure of myself that I refused to even consider giving consideration to other alternatives in tackling major problems. In many of those situations I experienced failure when a simple change of focus might have resulted in success. 

Another story I would like to share is about a mother who was engaged in a discussion with her daughter who was telling her how everything in her life was going wrong. The daughter was failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend was moving away.
   The mother happened to be baking a cake at the time and instead of consoling the girl, asked her daughter if she would like a snack. The daughter replied, "Absolutely Mom, I love your cakes."
   Here, have some cooking oil," her Mother offered. "Yuck" said her daughter.
   "How about a couple of raw eggs?" "Gross" Mom!"
   "Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?"   

   "Mom, those are all yucky!"
   To which the mother replied: "Yes, those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!
   It’s funny how life is similar to baking a cake. Many times we are faced with impossible challenges in our life. Everything seems to be going wrong and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of our difficulties. But if you change your focus just a bit, and if you “mix” all of the ingredients of your life together in just the right way, things often work out for the best. We just have to be patient, accept our responsibilities and have faith that things will turn out fine in the end. It’s just like baking a cake. You have to trust that when the cake is baked, the bad taste of all the ingredients taken by themselves will not taste so bad when they are baked together.
   It is very much like the old farmer who had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for more years than he could remember. He had broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it and had grown rather morbid about the old rock. After breaking another plowshare one day, and recalling all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he finally decided to do something about it. When he put the crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches thick and that he could break it up easily with a sledgehammer. As he was carting the pieces away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that the rock had caused him over the years and how easy it would have been to get rid of it sooner, if only he had taken the time to try.
   So no matter what problems you are facing today, before you get too discouraged, remember the moth banging into the glass. Remember the farmer who finally decided to put a crowbar under the rock and discovered a simple solution. Don’t give up. Just try changing your focus slightly. By approaching the problem from a different angle and viewpoint, the solution may be easier than you thought.
   Have a good week!



"Life is Like Choosing Food In A Cafeteria "
by Robert Kirwan

  The community of Valley East is experiencing a remarkable turning point in our evolution which has been largely brought about by a global recession that has gripped the world in a stranglehold the likes of which could never have been imagined a few short years ago.  

   As we struggle to emerge from the devastation brought about by a collapsed economy we are going to be left with a large number of casualties. Unfortunately, many of the victims will be young people who are attempting to start out in new careers. Clearly, our entire future as a community will depend on the courage and tenacity of young people who are able to endure the challenges which lay ahead. 
   Many of our youth today have talents and skills that will serve them well in meeting the needs of the local market. However, with so many small, independent businesses struggling themselves to survive in a weakened economy, there are going to be fewer and fewer opportunities for young adults to get that first break they need to launch their careers. As a result, a significant number of young people are discovering that they must find ways to sell their talents as independent entrepreneurs and contractors in order to survive. They are being forced to improvise and be creative in the marketplace in order to earn both income and experience. This is not an easy task.

   It reminds me of a story told by a gentleman named, Neil Eskelin. He once said that the way to understand adversity is to take two identical acorns from the same oak tree and plant them in two different locations. Plant the first one in the middle of a dense forest, and the other one on a hill by itself. The oak standing on a hillside is exposed to every storm and gale. As a result, its roots plunge deep into the earth and spread in every direction, even wrapping themselves around giant boulders. At times it may seem the tree isn’t growing fast enough, but the growth is happening under ground. It’s as if the roots know they must protect the tree from threatening elements. On the other hand, the acorn planted in the forest becomes a weak, frail sapling - having to compete with giant oaks for nutrients and space. And since it is protected by its neighbours, the little oak doesn’t sense the need to spread its roots for support.

   A young person, or even an older adult for that matter, who decides to open a business today is well aware of adversity and challenges. The business will face many “storms”, especially in the early going. Business owners will have to be more aware than ever of opportunities and be willing to change direction often in an attempt to establish strong roots in the form of relationships and associations. The young entrepreneur will have to pay a great deal of attention to their quality of work and accept responsibility for providing only the very best of service to customers. At times, it may seem as if the business is doomed to failure, and the long, hard hours of dedication and work will be difficult manage. Growth will also be very slow as the business spreads its roots throughout the community in order to survive.   

   In the face of adversity, you should always remember the immigrant who came to Sudbury from Europe many years ago. He became a successful businessman after he learned a very important lesson when he first arrived in town.  He sat down in a cafeteria-style restaurant and waited for someone to take his order. Of course, nobody did. Finally a woman with a tray of food sat down opposite him and informed the man how a cafeteria worked. She told him to start at one end and then go along the line picking out what he wanted. At the end of the line a person would tell him how much he had to pay.
   The immigrant explained, “I soon learned that’s how everything works in the world. Life is like a cafeteria. You can get anything you want as long as you are willing to pay the price. You can even have success, but you’ll never get it if you wait for someone to bring it to you. You have to get up and get it yourself.”
   There are two very important lessons here, not only for young entrepreneurs, but for anyone who has the courage to set up a business in
Sudbury , and in particular, Valley East . First of all, don’t be afraid of disappointments, frustration and adversity. It will make you stronger and help you develop a solid root system which will enable you to survive the many storms you will face over the years. Secondly, don’t wait for someone to bring you success. You have to get up and get it yourself.
   Discovering how to meet the needs of consumers while at the same time engaging in a personally satisfying and rewarding career will be a huge challenge for many young people in the years to come.   They must find a way of using their skills and talents to meet the needs of consumers, and not simply look for careers that meet their own personal goals and ambitions.  And they must be willing to pay the price. However, those who are able to persevere will be like the acorn that was planted on the hill.
   Good luck to you all. It is going to be quite a ride, just never forget that in this world you have to get up and make your own success. No one is going to do it for you.
   Have a good week!



"It’s All About Attitude!"
by Robert Kirwan

June 29, 2009

  William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, said "The greatest discovery of this generation is that a human being can alter their life by altering their attitude."

  What James said over a century ago applies just as much today as it did then. Each day we wake up in the morning, we choose our clothes, we choose our breakfast but, most importantly, we choose our attitudes.

   In his book, The Power of Attitude, author Mac Anderson told the story about his experiences while going into a convenience store to get a newspaper and a pack a gum.

   The young women at the check-out counter said, "That 'll be five dollars please." As he reached into his wallet, the thought occurred to Mac that a newspaper and gum didn't quite make it to five dollars.

   When Mac looked up to get a "re-quote", she had a big smile on her face and said, "Gotcha! I got to get my tip in there somehow!"

   Mac Anderson laughed when he knew he'd been had. She then glanced down at the paper he was buying and said, "I'm sick and tired of all this negative stuff on the front pages. I want to read some good news for a change."

   She then said, "In fact, I think someone should just publish a Good News newspaper - a paper with wonderful, inspiring stories about people overcoming adversity and doing good things for others. I'd buy one everyday!"

   She then thanked Mac for coming in and said, "Maybe we'll get lucky tomorrow; maybe we'll get some good news," and she laughed. She made Mac’s day.

   The following day, after his business appointments, Mac dropped by the same store again to pick up a bottle of water, but a different young lady was behind the counter.

   As he checked out he said, "Good afternoon," and handed her the money for the water. She said nothing - not a word, not a smile...nothing.  She just handed Mac his change and in a negative tone ordered...."Next!"

   Two people, same age; one made Mac feel great, and the other, well, made him feel that he had inconvenienced her by showing up.

   That story simply proves that by the choices we make and by the attitudes we exhibit, we are influencing lives every day .in positive or negative ways...our family, our peers, our friends, and even strangers we’ve never met before and may never meet again.

   Last week a friend and I had a breakfast business meeting at a local restaurant where we were served by a young girl who was very much like the second girl in the story. She never once smiled, was very abrupt, and made us feel as if we were bothering her by coming to the restaurant for something to eat.

   For the rest of the week I paid particular attention to young people I met who were working at a variety of jobs serving the public. Some were full of enthusiasm about what they were doing. They exhibited a healthy zest for life that was contagious and you felt good about meeting them. I also came across far too many others, who seemed to truly hate what they were doing and did nothing to hide their feelings from customers.
   As a “Professional Career Coach” I try to impress upon young and old that attitude is everything in the world today. Regardless of how you feel about your job or your career, you must maintain a positive attitude and demonstrate it in all of your dealings with people. It is the little things that count and that get noticed by others. This is a lesson that you must learn if you want to succeed in life.

   I’ll never forget the advice that my youngest son, Marty, received from Dave Newell, the former supervisor of referees for the National Hockey League. Newell told Marty that when he evaluated referees he always looked for little things that demonstrated the official had a positive attitude. He looked at how clean the referee’s uniform was. How the referee stood by the boards, not leaning, but standing with authority. He looked at the facial expressions when the referee talked to the players and how they listened to the players. He looked for signs of how the referee showed respect for the players and also looked for signs of respect ‘from’ the players. But most of all, Newell told Marty that he looked at the referee’s skates. If the laces were white and didn’t show any ‘ring marks’ or signs of damage and if the skates were clean and free of scuff marks, then Newell stayed to watch the rest of the game. He felt that a referee’s skates were a sure sign of the referee’s attitude and if he couldn’t care less about his skates, then he wasn’t worth watching. Marty took Mr. Newell’s advice. Today Marty is a referee in the Ontario Hockey League and has often been told that he “looks” like a referee. That he is a natural. It is all about attitude.

   The message for all young people is simple. And it is a message for older people as well. Pay attention to the little details and show that you care about what you are doing, no matter how menial you may think it is at the time. Your rewards will come. People will take notice of how you made them feel. Make sure you leave them with the right impression.
   Have a good week!



"The True Meaning of Fatherhood"
by Robert Kirwan

June 15, 2009

   This coming Sunday, June 21, 2009 will be the 35th Father’s Day I have celebrated as a father and the 4th as a grandfather. Once again I expect to be spending a good part of the day in quiet reflection about the tremendous responsibility I took on when I became a father for the first time. I will have to once again have to admit to myself that I wasn’t always as good a father as I should have been.
   Unfortunately fathers are not always completely sensitive to the needs of our children. Most of us would never do anything to deliberately hurt our children, but sometimes we just don’t realize how our actions or inactions are being perceived by our sons and daughters.

   For example, I cringe every time I read the story of Howard, a man who thought he was in tune with the times. When his four-year old son David acquired a taste for “The Three Little Pigs” and demanded that his father read it to him night after night, Howard took action. He purchased a child’s easy-to-use tape recorder and read the story onto tape for him.

   The next time David asked for the story to be read, Howard switched on the recorder. David was fascinated at the novelty of his father’s voice reading his favorite book from a ‘machine’. The following night when he asked for “Free Li’l Pigs”, Howard went a step further. He showed David how to work the playback on the recorder for himself.

   This makes me think of the methods I too tried to employ to find ways of keeping my own kids busy so that they wouldn’t bother me. And then I continue reading the story and I find out that the following evening, when David arrived and pushed the storybook at him, Howard said, “Now, David, you know how to turn on the recorder.” He smiled and said sweetly but insistently, “Yes.” Then he added, “But I can’t sit on its lap.”

   Just this past weekend, Hailee, my five year old granddaughter, who I am coming to realize has already given me more insight into life than anyone else I have ever known, interrupted me while I was working in the yard and asked me to take her for a walk down the street. As I spent the next unplanned sixty minutes away from my “urgent” yard work to look at familiar scenery along my street though the eyes of a child, I thought about one afternoon about 25 years ago when I was raking leaves in the back yard.  My three sons were playing soccer on the grass and then decided to jump on the piles of leaves that I had worked so hard to rake up. As I turned to scold them for messing up my leaves my wife stepped forward to take a few pictures of them playing and tossing the leaves into the air. It was a reminder that my wife and I were not put on earth to keep our yard clean. We were put here to raise children. We still have the picture of the boys playing in those leaves. It is hanging up in the house where I can see it every day to remind me about my true purpose in life.

   Finally, I would like to share a little story that has always been one of my favourites. It is about two little boys whose father had promised to take them to the circus that afternoon. They had been ready to go for over an hour and were only minutes away from leaving the house.
   As planned, Dad came home from work early that day, right after lunch and quickly changed into casual clothing. Then, just as the three of them were about to leave the house, the phone rang.
   The boys listened intently as their father talked with the person at the other end of the line. Bit by bit, their faces began to fall. This was obviously a business call, and some urgent matter was requiring their father’s attention back at work.
   Disappointment rolled into the room like a dark cloud. Their mother also overheard what she thought was the inevitable change of plans, and looked consolingly at her sons. She went over and stroked their hair, hugging them closely to her sides. She knew how terribly disappointed they would be when her husband got off the phone.
   And then, to the surprise of everyone, they heard Dad say, “No, I won’t be coming back in today. It will just have to wait until the morning.” Hanging up the phone he called for the boys to meet him at the car as he turned to kiss his wife good-bye. She smiled and with a twinge of fear that he may have made the wrong decision, she said, “The circus keeps coming back, you know.”
   The father replied, “Yes, I know. But childhood doesn’t.”
   I didn’t get a chance to finish my yard work that Saturday afternoon when Hailee dragged me away for a walk. At the time the yard work didn’t seem all that important.  I knew it could wait until the next day to get done.  But the chance to go for a walk down the street hand-in-hand with my five year old granddaughter may never come again. I missed too many of those moments with my own children and I don’t intend to miss them as a grandfather.

   In closing, there are two things that I wish I would have learned earlier in life, and each year I use this column to pass this message along to all of the young fathers out there. First, don’t ever feel that spending time with your children is less important than anything else you have to do in your life. Absolutely nothing is more important than spending time, even if it is just for a few moments with your children. Secondly, never pass up an opportunity to make your children realize that you are extremely proud to be their father.
    Have a good week!


    "Burning Boats

by Robert Kirwan

June 2, 2009

   There are not many things you can be certain about in the world around us today. Just when you think you have things figured out something happens to add to the confusion. However, there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of time and time again.  That one thing is that in order for you to be successful in anything of importance in this life, you must have personal passion and an undying commitment to an ultimate goal or vision. Vince Lombardi, a Hall of Fame NFL football coach best summed it up when he said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
   Walt Disney, one of the most famous dreamers who ever lived said, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”

   Most people fail to achieve their goals, not because they are lazy or lack self-motivation, but because they were never fully committed to succeed in the first place. All of the people who achieve great things begin with a plan of action and then an unshakable commitment to its accomplishment. It is commitment that makes the difference between success and failure.

   I’ll never forget a story I read about ancient Greek warriors. These warriors developed a tremendous reputation for bravery and an unshakable commitment to victory. The Greeks were master motivators and their leaders had discovered a powerful strategy that instantly infused a spirit of commitment in the heart of every warrior.

   Whenever they had to go into battle, the Greek commanders would arrive at the shores of their enemies and lead their warriors on to the land to prepare for battle. Then the commanders would give their first order, “Burn the boats!” 

   The Greek warriors would look back at the sight of the burning boats and any thoughts of surrender were quickly erased from their heads. As they watched their boats burn and sink into the water, they knew there was no turning back. The only way home was through victory. They could not retreat, so defeat was not an option. There was no turning back! This was commitment.

   Whenever I head into a new venture, I too have learned to give myself the command to “Burn the Boats!” I don’t allow negative thoughts, fear, anxiety or self-doubt to enter into the picture. I have always said that whatever I get involved in; there is only one goal – to be the best – second best is not an option. It’s all the way or no way!  I have witnessed the same level of passion and commitment in many people I have come across over the years. So have you. And I am sure that when you meet someone with that kind of commitment, you know it!     

   If you are currently thinking about taking on a new project, starting a new career, going back to school, making a major change in lifestyle, or any thing else that will help you improve your quality of life, don’t put it off any longer. Have the courage, the passion and commitment to step out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith – faith in yourself!
   If you have any doubts or second thoughts, just think about processionary caterpillars that travel in long, twisting lines, one behind the other. A famous social scientist once lead a group of these caterpillars on to the rim of a large flowerpot so that the leader of the procession eventually found itself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.
   Through sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible for all to see, but it was outside the range of the circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path until they all died.
   It is hard to get emotional about a small group of caterpillars, but they can teach us a very important lesson about life. For you see, the key to their survival was simply a matter of breaking out of the line and moving over to the food that was within sight. Unfortunately, human beings often behave in a similar manner. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become so deeply established that it seems easier and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change and uncertainty, even when that change may give you a good chance for freedom, achievement, and success.
   It's extremely difficult for most of us to accept that only a small minority of people ever really develop a true vision about life, about living abundantly and successfully. For some strange reason most people are content to wait passively for success to come to them - like the caterpillars going around in circles, waiting for sustenance, following nose to tail.

   Let me leave you with a quote that you can tape to your computer or to your fridge: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
   If there is something you truly want to do with your life, and if you have the passion to succeed, then stop being a caterpillar. Step out of line and go after that success. And if you really want be motivated, “burn your boats” so that you can’t turn back. If it is too easy to fall back into your old routines the first time you face a challenge, you will never succeed. However, if you “burn your boats” so that there is no retreat possible, then you only have one way to go. That is the level of commitment you are seeking. That is the motivation you need to succeed. As Walt Disney said, “Believe in it all the way.” And by all means, believe in yourself.
   Have a good week!



"A Philosophy of Life That Can Be Adopted By Everyone"

by Robert Kirwan

May 16, 2009

 The other morning I was sitting at my computer in the office, looking out the window at the bright blue sky and watching the birds enjoying a meal at the feeder which hangs from my soffit. I had just arrived back home from helping my granddaughter get on her school bus and found myself reflecting upon the event.
   There was nothing unusual about the occasion. It goes on each and every morning at hundreds of bus stops in the community as parents and caregivers make sure children get a safe start to the day. Nevertheless, as I watched my fragile five year old granddaughter struggle up the stairs of the bus with her school bag strapped to her back, I was overcome with a tremendous sense of peace and fulfillment. At first you might think, “He was only helping a little kid on to a bus. What’s the big deal?” But let me explain.
   Many years ago I decided that I would adopt the "What if this is the last time..." philosophy of life. I discovered that this approach to life enables me to adopt a healthy perspective on all events that take place in my life. Admittedly, it is difficult at times to maintain this philosophy of life, and every so often I find myself regretting some action or comment that I have made. At those times I say to myself, "What if this is the last time I ever see that person? Is that how I want to be remembered, or how I want to remember him/her?"
   That morning, after I saw Hailee step on to the bus and stood there watching as it pulled away down the road, I walked back to the house feeling pretty good. If anything tragic happened to me today, I knew that I had enjoyed my last experience with my oldest granddaughter. I also knew how excited she was to have Grandpa bring her to the bus and saw her smile back at me as she took her seat. I was at peace. She was happy. It was a perfect moment.
   I then walked back to the house and saw that Hannah, my three year old granddaughter had a sad look on her face. She was disappointed that Grandpa hadn’t hugged her before taking Hailee to the bus stop. I was only gone for a few minutes, but for Hannah, if that had been the last time she ever saw her Grandpa it would have left a very sad, lasting memory. As I looked upon her sad, drooping face I felt as if a knife had gone through my heart. How could I hurt this innocent little princess? I held out my arms and gave her a long, warm embrace, apologizing for making her feel sad. Then she smiled and was happy again as she kissed me good bye. I then turned to my grandson, six-month old Baby Cade, and spent a few moments making him laugh and smile at me before leaving.
   When I pulled out of their driveway, I realized that if this was the last time my grandchildren ever saw me, it was exactly the way I would want to be remembered. For me, no matter how much turmoil was going on in the world, my world was perfect – exactly as it should be.
   As I gazed out my window that morning I couldn’t help thinking about what a wonderful world this would be if everyone treated each other as if it might just be the last time they would ever see each other. Imagine how your approach to life would change if you adopt this philosophy of life. Imagine how much more at peace you would be with the world in which you live. You can change your approach to life if you really want. It just requires a few simple choices.

   For example, when you tuck your child in tonight, ask yourself what you would do differently if you knew this might be the last time you ever saw your child fall asleep. Would you give him/her an extra hug? Would you take a few extra minutes to lie quietly beside your child? Would you be in such a hurry to get back to the living room to watch your favourite television show or to clean up the kitchen?

   When you leave for work in the morning, if you knew this might be the last time you ever said good-bye, would you get up a few minutes earlier so that you would have time to say good-bye to everyone and wish them all the best for the day? Would you say, "I love you" one extra time to your spouse? Would you get upset because your favourite shirt wasn’t ironed? Would you smile and wave as you were pulling out of the driveway?

   When you have an argument or disagreement with a friend, a co-worker, or a loved one, if you knew this might be the last time you would see that person, would you make an extra effort to solve the problem before you left and not let the problem linger and fester? Would you apologize for your actions or comments before you left? Would you roll over and go to sleep at night knowing that you have upset your spouse if you knew this was going to be the last time the two of you ever spoke to each other?

   As I get older and wiser I find myself accepting that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Today may be the last day of your life or the last day in the life of a loved one. You may never get a second chance to say "I love you"; to spend time with your children or grandchildren; to spend time with your spouse; or to spend time with your parents.

   So if you are waiting until tomorrow to do something special for a loved one, why not do it today? If you want to say you are sorry for something you did, why not say it today? If you have been trying to find time to make that phone call or write that letter, why not do it today? For if tomorrow never comes, you will surely regret that you didn’t take the extra time.
   Have a good week!



“Your Education is What You Are Left With When You Forget What You Were Taught”

May 4, 2009

   “Your education is what you are left with when you forget what you were taught.”
   When I heard the above quote on a television show recently,   I immediately thought back to the beginning of my career as a teacher and recalled how excited I was to finally have an opportunity to ‘teach’ children. In my new, extended “career” as a tutoring agent, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful young men and women who are currently attending Teacher’s College and I can sense that same level of excitement among them. They have not yet begun their careers, yet they seem so energized from the anticipation of how they imagine it to be. It is most refreshing to see this kind of enthusiasm and passion.

   It reminds me of a story I once heard about a group called “The Fisherman’s Fellowship”. 

   This is a story about a group of men were surrounded by streams and lakes full of hungry fish, but not one of them had ever gone fishing.

   They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, and the thrill of catching fish and eventually they really got excited about fishing! Something like I felt about teaching when I first started out in my career. Something I am sure that students in Teachers’ College today can identify with.

   Someone in the group suggested that they needed a philosophy of fishing, so they carefully defined and redefined fishing, and the purpose of fishing. They developed fishing strategies and tactics. Then they realized that they had been going about it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point of view of the fisherman, and not from the point of view of the fish. How do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do fish eat, and when? These are all good things to know. So they began research studies, and attended conferences on fishing. Some travelled to far away places to study different kinds of fish, with different habits. Some got PhD’s in fishology. 

   But no one had yet gone fishing.

   So a committee was formed to send out fishermen. 

   Since the prospective fishing places outnumbered fishermen, the committee needed to determine priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin boards in all of the fellowship halls. 

   But still, no one was fishing. A survey was launched, to find out why. Most did not answer the survey, but from those that did, it was discovered that some felt called to study fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment, and several to go around encouraging the fisherman. What with meetings, conferences, and seminars, they just simply didn’t have time to actually fish.

   One day, Jake, a newcomer to the Fisherman’s Fellowship was so moved by a stirring meeting that he actually went fishing. He tried a few things, got the hang of it, and caught a nice fish. 

   At the next meeting, Jake told his story, and was honoured for his catch. He was then scheduled to speak at all of the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it. Now, because of all the speaking invitations and his election to the Board of Directors of the Fisherman’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing.

   But soon, Jake began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the tug on the line once again. So he cut the speaking, resigned from the Board of Directors and said to a friend, “Let’s go fishing.” And they did. Just the two of them, and they caught fish.

   The members of the Fisherman’s Fellowship were many, the fish were plentiful, but the fishers were few.

   Every time I read this story I hear the same message. If we want to keep the excitement in teachers, maybe we should just let them teach. Forget about all of the curriculum reviews, certification courses, professional development programs, provincial testing and just let them teach! Let them organize meaningful experiences every day for the children in their class and let us focus more on what they will be left with when they forget what we taught them in their individual lessons.
   Personally, I can’t remember what my primary grade teachers taught me when I was learning to read. I don’t remember the specific lessons. But I love to read! And I love working with numbers! I don’t remember what I was taught, nor do I remember the marks I received on my report cards. I love reading, mathematics and I love learning. I also love helping people become successful.  I am without question, the result of the thousands of lessons during which I was taught content and material that I no longer remember. At the end of the day, however, it doesn’t matter what the curriculum guides said or what I was taught. What does matter how I’ve turned out as a person. This is what education is all about and it is why I find the statement below so fascinating.
   “Your education is what you are left with when you forget what you were taught.”
   And so, during this Education Week 2009, let there be time for all teachers and parents to reflect upon their own “education” and deliver the really important curriculum. Give children lessons in life that will stay with them forever. Use the curriculum and the content of your lessons to reinforce the “education” that they will be left with long after they forget the lesson they were taught.

   My wish to all teachers is simple. Think about Jake and the Fisherman’s Fellowship whenever you feel overwhelmed and overloaded with paper work and reports. Put everything aside for a day and spend it with the children. Rediscover the excitement and passion which first brought you to this profession. Just for a change, go and teach the children with no thought about evaluation, special needs or reports. Be with the children and give them an education.
   Have a good week!



"Stop Longing For Your Childhood Dreams And Enjoy The Life You Were Given"

April 20, 2009

   Unfortunately, many people have had their dreams dashed as a result of the deep recession the world is experiencing today. You may know of family and friends who have been so affected in some way.
   Some have lost their jobs and must now look into a different career route to get back on their feet. They have to start all over again and may even have to go back to school for re-training. Others have seen their life savings devastated as a result of investments that have tanked. Retirement plans may have to be revised because of this. Others still may soon be forced to give up their large homes, sell their vehicles and may even face bankruptcy because of a debt load that is too hard to handle.
  The truth is that even when the economy was in good shape during the past several years, there were still many unhappy people in our society. In fact many people have always been unhappy because of disappointment in the size of their house, their income level, their family relationships, their physical appearance, their jobs, and the list goes on and on.
   Look around you today and you will quickly see for yourself. Perhaps you can even look in the mirror. Everywhere you look you see the strained faces of people rushing through life in a constant struggle to either get ahead or stay afloat. Personal debt levels have risen to an all-time high as people use their credit cards and borrow money to ‘buy their dreams’. Others are just scraping by, hoping to survive the next financial disaster that comes their way.

   It often makes me wonder what happened to our childhood dreams. You know the one where you lay on the cool grass looking at the clouds floating by, dreaming about how your life would be when you grew up.
   Life can hardly be called a dream today, no matter what your situation may be.  Certainly there are moments when we can forget about our problems and enjoy peaceful times with the ones we love, but then there are many other times when we find ourselves wishing for that lottery win; that big gain in the stock market; or that big break which will allow us to buy a bigger house and the car of our dreams.

   Every time I begin to wonder about the dreams I had as a young boy and even as a young man, I think of the story about a boy who said to God, “I’ve been thinking, and I know what I want when I become a man.”

   He proceeded to give God his list: “to live in a big house with two Saint Bernards and a garden; to marry a blue-eyed, tall, beautiful woman; to have three sons, one who will be a doctor, one a scientist, and one a professional hockey player. He also wanted to be an adventurer who climbed tall mountains, and to drive a red Ferrari.

   As it turned out, the boy hurt his knee one day while playing football. He could no longer climb trees, much less mountains. He married a beautiful and kind woman who was short with brown eyes. Because of his business, he lived in a city apartment, took cabs, and rode subways. He had three loving daughters, and they adopted a fluffy cat. One daughter became a nurse, another became an artist, and the third a music teacher.

   One morning the man awoke and remembered his boyhood dream. Even though he was quite happy and satisfied with his life, he suddenly realized how differently his life had turned out and he became extremely depressed, so depressed that he became very ill. Close to death from a broken heart, he called out to God, “Remember when I was a boy and told You all the things I wanted? Why didn’t you give me those things?”

   “I could have,” said God, “but I wanted to make you happy.”

   God’s answer to this man reminds us that true happiness comes from accepting the life with which we have been provided and by living that life to the fullest. Happiness does not come from big homes and fancy cars. True happiness comes from your attitude towards your own unique situation in life and the relationships you develop with the loving people around you.

   I will always remember the birth of our first son. The lady in the bed beside my wife had just given birth to her first child as well... a beautiful, healthy baby girl. However, her husband was absolutely distraught. He wanted a son so badly that he wouldn’t even hold his daughter when he came to visit. I even brought him a gown one evening, hoping that he might hold his marvellous daughter. Yet, he still would have nothing to do with her. The mother was so depressed that she even asked my wife if they could trade her daughter for our son.

   Here was a time in this young couple’s life when they should have been so happy with their first born, and yet, because of their ‘dream’ of having a son, they couldn’t see the happiness.  I suspect that one day she and her husband too will look up to God and ask why He didn’t make their dream come true.

   I wonder how many of us will also look up to God and ask why he didn’t make our dreams come true. Perhaps we will all be surprised when he answers, “Because I wanted to make you happy.”

   Let’s not spend so much time longing for our childhood dreams that we miss out on the happiness that we have been given. When God tells us that he didn’t make the dreams come true because He wanted to make us happy, let’s hope we don’t have to hang our heads in regret because we were too blind to enjoy the happiness we were given in our own life.
   Have a good week.



"You Can Learn A Lot About Life By Squeezing A Sponge"

April 6, 2009

   I am a firm believer that a person’s life is the sum total of his/her experiences – ALL of his/her experiences. For example, there are a lot of things that have happened to me during my lifetime that I wish would have turned out differently. However, when I examine my situation today there are so many positive things that I wouldn’t give up for the world.
   I am sure that there are certain parts of your own life today that you are extremely satisfied with and which you would never want to change. And yet, if we truly believe that a person’s life is the sum total of his/her experiences, then you must also accept that everything positive about your life today is the result of a unique blend of the good, the bad and the ugly that has happened to you as you travelled along your own personal journey. You got over the difficult times and were able to overcome your challenges to enjoy the good things today.
   At the same time, if there are things you don’t like about your life today, then they too are the result of your past experiences. Perhaps you exercised bad judgement in some of your previous choices that are coming back to haunt you today. For example, you may be happy and successful in your career, but you may be overweight and out of shape. If you had followed a disciplined exercise program and ate a healthy diet you may have found yourself not only happy and successful in your career but you would also be in good shape and healthy.
   Therefore, if we accept the fact that our life is the sum total of all of our previous experiences, and if we also accept that we may have been able to eliminate some of the negative aspects of our life by making better choices along the way, then we have to wonder why so many of us are engaging in practices and activities today which we know are negative and will actually hurt us in the future.
    I have also noticed over the years, and I am sure you too may have noticed this about yourself or the people with whom you have contact, that many people appear normal and well adjusted on the surface as long as things are going along well for them. It is only when they face serious challenges in their life that their true character emerges and we begin to see what they were made from all along. I think the best way to explain what I mean is by sharing a story with you called, “The Sponge”.
   One day a family of five decided to each clean a different area of the home. They each took a sponge, did the cleaning, and then placed the sponges back on the kitchen counter top. The sponges all looked the same after the cleaning. 

   Later that day a visitor came along who was curious as to what was cleaned in the home, but couldn’t tell by looking since the sponges all looked the same. So, in order to satisfy his curiosity, he decided to squeeze each sponge to see what came out.

   When the first sponge was squeezed, some milk came out, so the visitor decided that someone cleaned the kitchen with that one.

   Upon squeezing the second sponge, he found tub and tile cleaner and concluded that this sponge was used to clean the bathtub.

   The third sponge produced motor oil when squeezed, so obviously, someone was cleaning the garage.

   In the fourth sponge, baby powder came puffing out when it was squeezed, which meant that the baby’s nursery was done with that one.

   And finally, in the last one was floor wax, which was used on the hall floor.

   As the visitor lay down the last sponge, he again remarked at their similarity. He pointed out that they all look the same until they’re squeezed. It is only when they are squeezed that you can find out where they’ve been and what is inside of them.

   People are the same way.

   As we encounter the wide variety of events in our journey through life, we too are squeezed just like the sponge and different things come out. Some people get angry; some seek revenge; some shed tears; some laugh; some look upon life as wonderful; others have a negative view of everything; some show their love for one another; others think only of themselves.

   The main lesson of this story is that as individuals we must all remember that we are not much different from a sponge. We can only squeeze out what is put in. As babies, we are born into this world empty. We are like a new sponge. As we go through life, our ‘sponge’ is filled with things that we absorb through experience.
   If we look for the good in others and try to carry a positive attitude around with us wherever we go, then as life squeezes us we will have a better chance of coping. If we are constantly finding fault with others and forever look for excuses for our behaviour, when life squeezes us we may not like what comes out.
   When you line people up side by side, they all look similar. Just as it is with the sponges on the kitchen counter, you don’t know where they’ve been or what they’re made of until you squeeze them. Once squeezed, the secret is out. You can rest assured that on the journey of life we will all be squeezed many times. All we can do is make sure that what we put into our life is what we want to come out whenever we are squeezed.
   Have a good week!



"Your Greatest Gift: The Power To Choose Your Own Destiny "
March 23, 2009 

   I don’t get much of a chance to read poetry, but I came across one recently that was written by a wise old person who goes by the name of Hafiz. The poem is called, Gifts, and it speaks about the potential we all have when we first come into this world.
There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday.
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.
The Beloved does not mind repeating,
“Everything I have is also yours.”
There are so many gifts, my dear,
Still unopened from your birthday.

   Hafiz was of course referring to the fact that all children are given magnificent birth-gifts – talents, capacities, intelligences – that would remain unopened were it not for their own decisions and efforts as they make their way through life’s journey. At birth, we have no idea about the potential of a child. The possibilities are endless.
   And yet, even though every parent who has ever held a newborn baby acknowledges the potential of their child, it saddens me to know that there is a lot of truth to what Buckminister Fuller said in one of his books, “All children are born geniuses; 9,999 out of every 10,000 are swiftly, inadvertently degeniusized by grownups.”
   I witnessed my own children grow and develop into adulthood, each one making choices that have shaped their destiny, and I continue to watch as they make more choices in adulthood that will further determine their journey in life. William Jennings Bryan, an American politician and diplomat who lived from 1860 to 1925 said it best when he stated that “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”
   Author Marianne Williamson expressed how we are often fearful of our own capacities. She writes “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
   And so I find myself looking at my grandchildren and wonder how the choices they are about to make in their lives will shape their destiny during the years to come.
   I look at the people I meet in my own travels and wonder what choices they have made to bring them to the place they are at right now.
   And I have come to realize that the most important gift we are given as human beings when we are born into this world is the freedom and power to choose.
   Steven Covey states in his book, “The 8th Habit” that “next to life itself, the power to choose is your greatest gift.” He goes on to explain that “Your power to choose the direction of your life allows you to reinvent yourself, to change your future, and to powerfully influence the rest of creation. It is the one gift that enables all the gifts to be used; it is the one gift that enables us to elevate our life to higher and higher levels.”
   I have often found tremendous motivation and personal courage from the words of Covey as he states, “This power of choice means that we are not merely a product of our past or of our genes; we are not a product of how other people treat us. They unquestionably influence us, but they do not determine us. We are self-determining through our choices. If we have given away our present to the past, do we need to give away our future also?”
   And so I leave you with a thought I have every time I find myself in a situation with which I am not totally satisfied or fulfilled. I remind myself that I am a product of choice. I am where I am because I so choose to be there. In other words, I am responsible for my current situation. I cannot blame anyone else if I am not happy. If I am not satisfied with my current situation, then I can choose otherwise.
   The challenge I make to all of my readers today is to acknowledge and recognize that you are without a doubt a product of every single choice you have made in your life to date. If you have indeed given away your present to the past, then make a decision to take back your future. Do not be afraid of the power you have within you to achieve dreams you thought were out of reach. And by all means, make sure that you pass this message on to each and every child you encounter along the way.
   Always remember that you can achieve anything you want in life if you have the courage to dream it, the intelligence to make a realistic plan, and the will to see that plan through to the end. Make a choice today that will allow you to experience the future like never before.
   Have a good week! 



"It’s Time For Each Of Us To Recreate Our Life"

March 9, 2009

   My wife and I were watching a documentary on TVO recently that was originally intended as a warning about the consequences of rising oil prices. We both watch CNN quite a bit, so the comments being made by the experts didn’t seem that outrageous, considering the global economic crisis we are experiencing in all corners of the world today. After a few minutes I clicked the information button on the converter to see the description of the program and was amazed that the show was produced in 2005.

   We continued to watch in total amazement at the incredible predictions that these people were making. Much of what they said back in 2005 is actually happening today as the global economy comes crashing down around us. They said the world couldn’t maintain for much longer the level of consumerism to which we had all become accustomed. The accelerating consumption levels of energy needed in order to satisfy the insatiable materialistic desires of people around the globe for was taking us down a slippery slope to certain disaster, according to these experts. They predicted that the oil producing countries would continue to increase the cost of oil as demand increased, creating a ripple effect that would result in the escalation of the cost of living to the point where one day people would run out of money and they would no longer be able to access credit to buy the things they wanted. Eventually people would stop buying and the economy would come crumbling down around us. They warned that the “global economy” and our growing dependence on foreign trade would become our Achilles tendon that would bring everything to a screeching halt.

   The experts back in 2005 were trying to warn us about what was to come, but we didn’t take the time to listen. We were too busy travelling down the wonderful road of life in our own little world of greed and consumption until the storm hit us and washed out our road. We are now faced with the daunting task of building a bridge to a better road before we can continue on our life journey. The fact that it took such a drastic event to make us sit up and take notice reminded me of the situation in which the main character of the following story found himself. See if you can see the similarities on a global scale.

   AOne day a successful executive was travelling down a neighbourhood street going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars as he drove along, when all of a sudden, a brick smashed into the Jag=s side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed some kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, AWhat was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?@

   Building up a head of steam, he went on, AThat=s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?@

   APlease, mister, please. I=m sorry, I didn=t know what else to do,@ pleaded the youngster. AI threw the brick because no one else would stop...@ Tears were dripping down the boy=s chin as he pointed around the parked car. AIt=s my brother,@ he said. AHe rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can=t lift him up.@

   Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, AWould you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He=s hurt and he=s too heavy for me.@

   Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief to clean the scrapes and told the boys everything was going to be okay.

   AThank you,@ the grateful child said to him. The man watched the little boy push his brother down the sidewalk toward his home. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

   As I speak to people during my daily travels I am finding that many of us feel just like the driver of that Jaguar. We have been all so busy accumulating and consuming with little regard about how long the “gravy train” was going to continue. We buried our heads in the sand, pretending that we could go on like we had forever, yet knowing that the end would surely arrive one day. We just were not prepared for it to hit us so quickly and so drastically.

   What has happened to the world economy today is very much like the brick hitting the Jaguar. We have all been shocked back to reality. We needed to be reminded to slow down. We needed to be reminded that the most important things in life are not things at all but the relationships we develop and how we treat our friends, neighbours and family members. 

   It is time for each of us to seriously consider the steps that are necessary to recreate our own life. We will have to take on a whole new approach to consumerism. We are entering a world in which discretionary spending will be limited. We will have to learn to use our limited financial resources to purchase the things we really need. The things we “want” may have to wait. Hopefully, we will emerge from this experience as a much more compassionate and caring people, where our priorities in life are not determined by greed and consumerism but rather by our need to be loved and to love the people who are important in our life.

   We will build that bridge and we will be allowed to continue on our journey, but it will be a much different road than the one we were on before.

   Have a good week!



"There Are Five Birds Sitting On A Wire. One Decides To Fly Away. How Many Are Left?"

February 23, 2009

   The Valley East Community Development Initiative was launched on Friday, February 6, 2009 by a group of business persons who attended a special meeting held at the Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre. I had the privilege of organizing and chairing the event and can honestly say that I came away from the meeting full of hope and excitement about the future of Valley East as a growing community.
   The stage was set right from the beginning when the following question was put to the group. “There are five birds sitting on a telephone wire. One decides to fly away. How many are left?”
   While there are several obvious answers you may come up with, the correct answer is
five (5). Read the question again and you will see that it did not say that one bird actually “flew away”. The information you are provided with is that one bird merely “decided to fly away”. In fact, deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two completely different things.

   There is a life lesson for us all within this riddle. It is that you’ll never get where you want to go in your life until you point yourself in the right direction, jump off the wire, and flap your wings. Just deciding what you want to do is not enough. You must take action that is consistent with your desired goals.

  We referred back to this story about the birds several times during the course of our meeting at Grill Marks as we considered a variety of interesting ideas and options that would help improve our community. We all realized that if we are going to meet the goals and objectives of the Community Development Initiative, we must make sure that this was not just going to turn into another  group of people from Valley East getting together to come up with more “ideas”. It was evident that we needed to point ourselves in the right direction and then “jump off the wire” to make it happen. After all, in the end, it’s not our goals that determine our success or quality of life. It’s the results of our actions upon which we will be judged.
   The main purpose of holding the meeting in the first place was to explore the feasibility of developing a strategic plan of action that might create an effective communication network which will enable residents of
Valley East to become much more aware of the tremendous benefits of living in Greater Sudbury’s most progressive community. The Community Development Initiative will not only result in a greater degree of community spirit, it will also stimulate economic growth among goods and service providers operating in Valley East .      

   The ultimate goal is to help connect the schools, churches, groups, organizations and clubs that are currently involved in their own special events and activities during the year. We want to create awareness of the “big” picture to capture the full magnitude and scope of what Valley East has to offer its residents.
   The truth is that
Valley East has an enormous number of activities going on at any given time during the course of the year! When you put it all together there is no other town that could possibly offer such a wide & diverse variety of opportunities for the benefit of people of all ages and backgrounds. It is our belief that once people become fully aware of the whole picture our community pride and community spirit will reach fantastic new heights. This will surely result in Valley East becoming even more attractive to newcomers who are seeking a place to buy or build a new home in the Greater Sudbury Area, thus stimulating our local economy even further.
   I am proud to say that this small group of individuals decided to do more than just come up with ideas. We actually jumped off the wire and are providing another opportunity for people from the community to come together and talk about this extremely important initiative.
   The next meeting will once again be held at the Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre at the top of the hill in Val Caron. It is open to everyone interested in helping make the community the best it can be. This includes all residents, all business owners and professional service providers; teachers and parent council reps from schools; and representatives of churches, organizations, clubs and service groups operating in
Valley East . We want you to share your ideas with us or just be there to listen to what others have to say. Your attendance at the meeting will say a lot.

  On behalf of the rest of the people who were part of the first meeting, I am extending an invitation to all of my readers to make a special effort to join us at the next meeting. You even have your choice of two times. For people who prefer evenings, you may attend on Thursday, March 5, 2009 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A second meeting will be held the following morning, Friday, March 6, 2009 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for those of you who cannot make it in the evening. Advance registration is not necessary. Just drop in and listen or share your thoughts. There is no charge to anyone to take part in this initiative. We just want you to show up and provide your input as we determine the next steps in the Valley East Community Development Initiative. Mark the date and time in your calendar right now so you don’t forget.

Have a good week!



"Have the Courage to Get Up 
And Ride The Wave

February 9, 2009

   The next time you have a chance to watch people surfboarding, either in real life or on television, spend some time observing them and perhaps you will get some insight into what is happening in our world today.
   The surfboarders all go out on their boards and wait for a wave. Some of them sit on their board waiting and waiting for just the right wave. A few of them end up sitting there all day and never get a chance to surf because the wind dies down before they find what they are looking for.  Others take whatever wave comes along and just get up and ride. The ones who get up and ride every wave they can sometimes end up with a weak wave and their run is soon over. Others get on a wave that is too large and they are unable to stay up, crashing to the water after a while. And then there are the ones who get up on a wave and ride it with precision and skill all the way to the shore. For them, that is the moment they were waiting for. Everything comes together just right and they experience the thrill of a perfect ride. Spectators on the shore as well as fellow surfers on the water look with envy at the surfers who can stay up on their wave and ride it out with so much skill.
   The truth of the matter is that the surfer who finds just the right wave and rides it to perfection may not even have been the surfer with the most experience or talent. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time and took advantage of getting up on the wave. He RODE THE WAVE that was provided. He did not create the wave.
   And so it is with most successful people in the world today.

   We often look up to highly successful business people or athletes as if their “surfboards” were making the waves they rode. They know, and we often overlook, that they’re just riding the waves of circumstances and situations that came their way. They have taken advantage of the opportunities that crossed their paths and have made the best of it.
    For example, Bill Gates is recognized as one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Do you think Bill Gates “created his own wave”?
   The personal computer age really took off in the mid-70’s. Bill Gates and his partner, Paul Allen both dropped out of university to write software programs and form their own little company that they called Microsoft. There were many people like Bill Gates who also, around that time, began computer companies. And, like Bill Gates, most of them were born in the mid-50’s.  Bill Gates was born in 1955. Paul Allen as born in 1953. They were born in the right place at the right time.
   Bill Gates and Paul Allen, along with several other famously successful people in the computer industry, were no different from all of the others who started up similar businesses. In much the same way as the surfboarder who rode the wave perfectly and captured the attention and admiration of all on shore for his demonstration of skill wasn’t the only one on a board waiting for the right wave to come along, Bill Gates was the one who ended up on just the right computer wave at just the right time.

   If Bill Gates would have been born in 1951 or 1959, would he still have been as successful? Would he still be one of the richest men in the world? Not likely. Someone else would have seized the opportunity and taken hold of it. That someone else would have been ready to get on the perfect wave when it came and Bill Gates wouldn’t have been there to take advantage of the momentum. Bill Gates didn’t create the computer revolution. He was in the right place at the right time and was able to use his personal skills and talents to maintain his balance and make all the right moves. The rest is history.
   The secret of success is to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Just like the surfer – when a wave comes along, you must be ready and have the courage to get up and ride it. It just might turn out to be the wave you were waiting for all along. If not, then get up on the next one and ride it. One of these times you will end up on the right wave and you will be successful. Don’t be like the surfboarder who simply sits on his board on the water passing up wave after wave waiting for the right one to come along. When a wave comes – get up! When an opportunity comes along – get up!

    We are all sent many opportunities in our life. The secret to success is to take advantage of those opportunities and “go along for the ride”. It may not be the one were waiting for, but unless we get up and try, we’ll never know what might be in store.
   The Prep School that Bill Gates went to was one of the few schools in the nation that had one of the first computers. If he had gone to a school that didn’t have a computer he may never have even become interested in them. And he was born at just the right time. What if he would have turned down the request of his partner and stayed in school to graduate from Harvard instead of dropping out to form a company? We’ll never know because Bill Gates was satisfied in “riding the wave” of opportunity and rode it successfully.

   Be ready! The next wave is coming along soon. Don’t let it pass you by.
   Have a good week.



"An Optimist Sees The Opportunity In Every Difficulty "

February 2, 2009

    Everyone knows that this is not going to be one of the most prosperous years we’ve ever experienced. The truth is that we are trapped in one of the worse recessions in recent memory and just about every segment of the community is being affected in some way by the global meltdown. It may be hard for us to think positive at a time like this, but whenever I find myself drifting off into “negative-thinking mode” I take out my favourite quote by Winston Churchill as he explained the difference between a pessimist and an optimist. He said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
   While it is true that we may be living in a particularly challenging time, consider how the following story demonstrates that there are always two ways of looking at any given situation – even if that situation appears on the surface as if things couldn’t get any worse.
   As the story goes, a shoe company sent two representatives to a remote island in the tropics where people don’t wear shoes. Now imagine yourself working for a company that sells shoes and how you would feel if you were sent to an island where people don’t wear shoes.
   One of the reps called the boss the day he arrived on the island and said, "Boss, I need to come home.
People don't wear shoes here".

   The other rep also called the boss the day he arrived and said, "Boss, send the entire warehouse. I need to stay for one more month. People don't wear shoes here."  

  Both reps arrived on the island at the same time and both witnessed the exact same conditions. However, one of them saw a tremendous opportunity to make sales because none of the potential customers were wearing shoes. He took that the position that since not a single person was wearing shoes, they were all potential customers in that they could all use shoes. That was the optimistic point of view and he was very excited about the prospects.
   The other rep, on the other hand, took the pessimistic point of view and concluded that the situation was futile. He assumed that since none of the people were wearing shoes at the time, there wasn’t any sense in even trying to sell them shoes. Which of the two reps best describes how you view adversity and challenges?
   And so, today, we find ourselves in the middle of what experts are calling a global downturn in the economy. International companies are shedding jobs and closing stores all over the world. Consumers have cut back on spending to try to avoid going further into debt and this change in spending habits is simply making the situation worse for retail companies and manufacturers. It is getting so bad that many people are refusing to watch the news or read daily papers because all they hear is more doom and gloom.

   Despite the problems that we are facing, there are tremendous opportunities at hand as well. If you are forced to cut back on your expenditures, look at it as an excellent opportunity to spend more time walking with your family members or hiking in the woods. It may be an opportunity for you to adopt a healthier lifestyle by improving your diet and exercise habits. If you find yourself out of work look at it as an opportunity to change careers and get into something that will be more satisfying and rewarding in the long run.
   As you get older you realize that no matter how hard we try to protect ourself, life is going to throw us all some pretty serious challenges from time to time. The true test is how we react to these challenges and how we approach each difficulty as an opportunity for growth. We must all remember how important it is to never give up and never despair. Things will get better and we tend to become stronger persons for the experience. Remember the words of Winston Churchill. “An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Life is much easier to take if you adopt the optimistic approach.
   So the next time you feel the world caving in on you, don’t look at things negatively. Just picture the two shoe salespersons on that island looking at all of those people walking around in bare feet. You can either give up and go home or you can look at all of those bare feet and get excited about the prospects of selling them shoes. Just keep your eyes open and be ready to jump on the next opportunity that comes along.
   Have a good week!




January 26, 2009

   I have to admit that over the last few years I have officially become a CNNite. I imagine that there are many others like me who tend to spend many hours each week tuned into the American news channel CNN to get caught up with the latest “Breaking News”. For the past several months the focus has obviously been on how Barack Obama has come to lead us all to the Promised Land. The whole thing has been awe inspiring and of a magnitude that this world has never seen.

  While at first this may seem completely unrelated, but  all of the hype over Obama and his inauguration actually reminds me of the time I saw a mother and her three-year-old daughter walking in the parking at the shopping centre one day. The little girl was holding on to a string that was attached to a helium balloon. It looked like a birthday balloon. It was quite windy so I imagine you can guess what happened next. Yes. A gust of wind pulled the balloon from the little girl’s hand and carried it high into the air. I felt so bad for the little girl. Then I noticed that she wasn’t crying or screaming. Her mother wasn’t admonishing her over having lost a balloon that must have just cost a few dollars. Instead the little girl just stood there watching the balloon go skyward. She tugged on her mom’s arm and said, “Wow Mom. Look at it go!”  The two of them watched the balloon dance higher and higher until it could no longer be seen. Then they walked the rest of the way to their car, absolutely ecstatic at having experienced such a wonderous moment and smiling as they described how amazing it was to see their balloon fly away like that.
   It made me realize that there are so many wonderful things that happen in our lives for which we should feel blessed and for which we should take time to enjoy the moment. Sometimes these things appear at first to be negative, but upon closer examination and upon accepting that nothing much can be done about it, one may as well simply find something to enjoy about the experience. For example, standing in a long line at the grocery store gives you time to talk to the people in line with you. Usually we are too rushed to give each other the time of day. A snow storm may confine people to their homes, but it gives everyone time to be together and perhaps play a few games to pass the time away. When the computer is broken it gives you time to relax with a book.

   Even though we may complain a lot about high gas prices, low wage increases, or high taxes, there is still so much to be thankful for in our life. The truth is that there are a lot of people in the world who would trade places with us in an instant, even with all of the things that are wrong with Canada and Greater Sudbury.
   For example, if you woke up this morning in good health, you are in much better shape than the one million people around the world who will die of sickness and disease before the end of the week.
   If you can attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death... you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
   If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep... you are richer than 75% of this world!
   If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ... you are among the top 8% of the world’s most wealthy people.
   No matter what you thing about the current condition of your home or apartment, 80% of the people in the world who live in substandard housing would love to trade places with you.
   Approximately 50% of the people in the world suffer today from malnutrition. Would they appreciate what you have in your fridge right now?
   And so, I think back to my time in front of the television set tuned in to CNN last week. I think about a section of Barack Obama’s inaugural speech that very few news people have commented about.  Obama said, “
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.”

   I will continue watching CNN to see if we are indeed prepared to change with the world. In the meantime, when you lose your “balloon”, try to react like the little girl and see it not as a tragedy, but rather as a “WOW MOMENT”.
   Have a good week!



" Working Together For The Good of Our Community"

January 19, 2009

  Whenever I have time to reflect on my feelings about living in the community of Valley East and whether or not I might enjoy living elsewhere, I recall a story I once read about a farmer who had lived in the same home all his life. It was a good farm with fertile soil, but with the passing of the years, the farmer began to think that maybe there was something better for him. Every day he found a new reason for criticizing some feature of his old farm. Finally, he decided to sell. He listed the farm with a real estate broker who promptly prepared an advertisement emphasizing all the many advantages of the acreage: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, acres of fertile ground, high yields on crops, well-kept barns and pens, nice two-story house on a hill above the pasture.

   When the real estate agent called to read the ad to the farmer for his approval prior to placing it in the local paper, the farmer listened carefully. When the real estate agent had finished, the farmer cried out, AHold everything. I=ve changed my mind. I=m not going to sell. Why, I=ve been looking for a place just like that all my life!”

   I’m sure there are many people like myself who feel that Valley East is one of the finest places in which to live and raise a family. Indeed, there are over 25,000 people who must feel the same way since they have chosen to live in Valley East as well. And, whereas we happen to be one of the fastest growing sections of the City of Greater Sudbury , there must be something that has drawn so many people to this community.

   The owners of Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre, formerly Clearview Golf Club, are people who saw the potential of Valley East and who have established a business in this community. They have witnessed first hand just how supportive local residents can be and are convinced that this is indeed the place where they want to make their dreams come true. I was very pleased to find out that Grill Marks has joined forces with The Vision Paper to organize the first ever Valley East Today Business Conference on Friday, February 6, 2009.  

   In announcing the decision to support this initiative, Christina Allsop, one of the owners of the club, stated, “There is no way we are going to allow the current state of the economy to prevent the continued growth of this community. We’ve worked too hard to get where we are today to simply roll over and quit. We know that there are hundreds of other businesses in this town that deserve better that what some of the experts are predicting. That is why we decided to put on the Valley East Today Business Conference. We want to provide an opportunity for other business leaders to sit down together for a day and come up with some “outside-the-box” strategies that will help everyone in Valley East deal with these challenging times. We know we can get through this ‘recession’. We just need to work together and come up with a plan that will involve the entire community and maintain the confidence local residents have in our ability to move forward.”

   I was even more thrilled when Grill Marks asked if I would be willing to organize and facilitate the program on their behalf. Living in Valley East for the past 34 years has given me a personal perspective on where we’ve been and where we were heading. I am proud to be part of what I consider to be the most important gathering of local business leaders that has ever taken place in this community.

   The Valley East Today Business Conference is open to anyone who operates a business or professional service in Valley East . This includes everyone from managers of major retail establishments to professionals to home-based entrepreneurs and consultants. Furthermore, because Grill Marks has generously offered to cover all of the costs, there is absolutely no cost to attend the conference.

   The main event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, February 6, 2009 at Grill Marks Bistro, Golf & Conference Centre at the top of the hill in Val Caron. We have a very ambitious agenda that starts off with a continental breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m. in The Bistro. After that the morning will consist of small group sessions to identify and understand some of the major issues and challenges facing Valley East today. The afternoon will be spent in small groups again as participants put their heads together to come up with a strategic plan of action that can be implemented in the community to help everyone cope with the challenges.

   It promises to be a very worthwhile event and should produce some very interesting ideas that will enable Valley East to move forward as one of the most preferred communities of Greater Sudbury. We have a lot going for us. Now all we have to do is find a way to work together to support each other while we move past these troubling economic times into a much brighter future.

   You can find out more about the conference by going to the web sites at www.valleyeasttoday.ca or www.grillmarks.ca You can also find out more about the conference by listening to a special edition of my radio show each Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. on CKLU 96.7 FM. Or, if you wish to register for the conference, call me at 969-7215. Call soon. We expect the spaces to fill up quickly.

    I ask all of the residents of Valley East to wish us luck during this very important day. The shape of our community may well be determined by the outcome of this conference.

    Have a good week!



" Many Among Us Have Been Living In A Recession For Years !"

January 12, 2009

  There has been a lot of talk about how bad the economy is today and many experts are predicting that things are going to get worse before they get better. Government leaders are puzzled at how the bubble could burst so quickly, but it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that things couldn’t continue the way they were.
   Not so long ago gasoline prices were increasing every week despite the fact that oil companies continued to make an outlandish amount of profits for investors. Not so long ago interest rates and bank service charges kept increasing despite the fact that banks and financial institutions continued to make billions of dollars in profit. Not so long ago it was easy to get financing for new cars and trucks, despite the fact that you may not really be able to afford to buy such an expensive vehicle. The desire for bigger and fancier cars created a huge demand which resulted in rapidly rising prices for new vehicles. Not so long ago the cost of housing reached ridiculous levels as people jumped at the chance to get into long term mortgages  that were offered to them with little concern about their ability to pay in the future.
   We soon found ourselves living in a world where the rich got fabulously richer and the poor got critically poorer and then all of a sudden the ordinary working people could no longer afford to buy as much of the high priced gasoline and had to cut back; people were struggling to keep up with payments on their loans and credit cards; people stopped buying new cars; people stopped buying new houses and some were unable to pay their mortgages.
   ALL OF A SUDDEN, people realized that they could no longer continue this reckless spending spree on borrowed money. They realized that they had to be more careful with the little money they had left and soon people were only buying what they NEEDED, and not what they WANTED. We simply ran out of money to spend.
   As a result, the oil companies have had to drastically reduce their prices, resulting in a tremendous loss of profit. The banks don’t have as much money to lend out because people no longer have money to put into their savings accounts. Credit cards are not being used as much since people are only buying what they NEED not what they WANT. Car manufacturers have cut prices and production since people are not buying vehicles. The price of houses is dropping rapidly as the supply begins to outweigh the demand. Many people who once were employed in high paying jobs find themselves unemployed or working part-time as companies cut back or close up all together.
   AND NOW, the experts tell us that we are in a RECESSION.
   Just what exactly is a recession? The experts define a recession as a period of “economic decline”.  Therefore, since the oil companies, the banks, the credit card companies, the automobile industry and the housing industry are all facing economic difficulties, we are told that we are now in a recession.
   If you really want to know about “economic decline”, talk to the estimated 60% of people employed in Sudbury today who make $10 per hour or less about how they have been affected by rising prices during the past few years. Talk to the single parents who have to balance work and home life around two or more part-time jobs just to make ends meet. Talk to the people on fixed incomes who have noticed that they have less money left over at the end of each month as goods and services keep increasing in price, eating away at their savings.
   The truth is that many of the people in our community have been living a “personal economic recession” for years as corporations helped individuals with high paying jobs drive up the cost of everything from bread to homes. The price of all goods and services increased beyond reach for a lot of people because of the cost of gasoline for transportation or the cost of borrowing money for business loans or the rising cost of salaries and bonuses.
   Unfortunately, there will be a lot of new people on the unemployment lines for a while. For the most part these will be the people who once made huge salaries and who will quickly find out what it means to live a life where you may only have enough money to buy what you truly NEED and not what you  WANT. Retail companies and manufacturers will have to accept a much lower profit margin on their goods and services. Banks and credit card companies will have to reduce their borrowing rates and service charges while increasing the rates they pay on savings.
  On the other hand, people on fixed retirement incomes and those working in minimum wage jobs have already developed the habit of buying only what they NEED. Now that prices are going down the money they have available for spending on gas, food, clothing and transportation will go much farther than before. The government leaders, the corporations, and the wealthy are declaring that the country is in a recession, but the ordinary people living in our community may finally have a bit of a break for a while from their “personal recession”.
   It is going to be a much different world from now on. But somehow, I think it is going to be a much more civil society. Smaller independent retailers may soon discover that their customer base is increasing as local residents return to local stores to satisfy their NEEDS; the gap between rich and poor may be reduced; and our priorities in life may finally get straight. This is a CORRECTION that had to happen. Now we just have to make the best of it and support our friends and neighbours who need us more than ever.
   Have a good week!



" You Are Special…
Don’t Ever Forget It!

January 5, 2009

   A long time ago I attended a conference where a well-known motivational speaker started off his seminar by holding up a brand new crisp $20 bill. He looked over the crowd of close to 200 business persons in attendance and asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?"

   As expected, all of the hands went up.
He then said, "I am going to give this $20 to someone in the audience but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up.

He then asked, "Who still wants it?"

   All of the hands went back up into the air
   "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty.

   "Now who still wants it?" Still all of the hands went into the air.

   The speaker gazed around all of the people in the room and then said, "My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20."

   The point the speaker was trying to make through this simple example is that
many times in our own life, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the consequences we face as a result of those choices. At times we may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will yet happen, you will never lose your value as a person. You are special. Don’t ever forget it!
   Let me repeat that! No matter what happens to you; No matter what choices you make; No matter how many times you falter or fail; you will never lose your value as a person. Furthermore, there are many key people in your life who will recognize your value as an individual regardless of what you have gone through. The people at the seminar didn’t care what the speaker did to the $20 bill. They still knew that it was worth $20 regardless of what it had gone through. They knew that it was just as valuable as before.

   My Christmas wish for each of my readers is that you make some time during the holidays for personal reflection. Do you still value yourself as a person as much as you ever have? Are you going through a difficult period of your life or are you facing some serious challenges at this time? Do you sometimes doubt your abilities? Is your self confidence as positive as it should be? As you ponder these and other questions, remember the $20 bill.
   I leave you with another story about a mother eagle that
gently coaxed her offspring toward the edge of the nest. Her heart quivered with conflicting emotions as she felt their resistance to her persistent nudging. “Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling?” she thought.
   As in the tradition of the species, her nest was located high upon the shelf of a sheer rock face. Below there was nothing but air to support the wings of each child. “Is it possible that this time it will not work?” she thought. Despite her fears, the eagle knew it was time. Her parental mission was all but complete. There remained one final task – the push.

The eagle drew courage from an innate wisdom. Until her children discovered their wings, there was no purpose for their lives. Until they learned how to soar, they would fail to understand the privilege of having been born an eagle. The push was the greatest gift she had to offer. It was her supreme act of love. And so, one by one, she pushed them and they flew.

As human beings we are often guilty of taking the path of least resistance. We all want to live life to the fullest and achieve our true potential, but at times we may lack the confidence needed to take that final leap. We may start out like the “crisp” $20 bill in the story at the beginning of this editorial, but after being crumpled and stepped on a few times, we may doubt our ability to succeed.
   Never ever forget that one of your greatest responsibilities to yourself and to those who depend upon you for leadership and support is to be all you can be. This coming year make a commitment to spend more time around the people who truly love you. See for yourself that they still see you as the “crisp $20 bill”. They don’t care if you’ve been crumpled or stamped upon. They still value you as the person you have always been to them. They have confidence in your ability to succeed in anything you put your mind to. Now go ahead and give yourself “the push” that will allow you to soar like the eagles. When the doors of opportunity open up during the next twelve months, go through them with confidence and be the best you can be.  

   Have a good week!




FROM 2006
Two little boys were dressed and ready to go. In fact, they had been ready now for more than an hour. Excitement flooded their faces and all their talk was about only one thing: their father had promised to take them to the circus that afternoon and they were only minutes away from leaving. For More>>>>
One day, many years ago, I was standing in the hallway at a local elementary school watching a teacher bring her class to the gym when I overheard the most philosophical question I have ever encountered in my life. For More>>>>
When my Father-in-law, Ignace Starcevic, passed away in 1982, my wife asked me to come up with something nice to have engraved on his tombstone.  I was only 32 at the time and we were in the process of raising three young sons, aged 3, 5 and 7.  It was a hectic time of our lives and we were typical parents – running ourselves ragged as we encountered all of the normal experiences and challenges faced by all other young parents. For More>>>>

It has often been said that a person’s life is the sum total of his/her experiences. On the surface that seems like a simple enough statement, but if one accepts this premise, then why do so many of us engage in practices and activities which are negative and actually hurt us. Consider the family of five who decided one day to each clean a different area of the home. They each took a sponge, did the cleaning, and then placed the sponges back on the kitchen counter top. The sponges all looked the same. For More>>>>

There are a lot of things I like about my life right now. I could spend the entire editorial discussing my family, my career and how I have enjoyed living in Val Therese for the past 32 years. But other than things to do with my family, the thing I like best about my life is the fact that through all of my work and personal interactions with the various parts of the community, I get to meet so many wonderful people who are devoted to improving the quality of life for others in need. For More>>>>
Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “In her the creative genius of God attains His highest skill. What a charming blend she is of the most lovable and moving qualities of human nature. From the moment in youth when she holds her first baby in her arms until in life’s evening time she looks tenderly upon her grandchild, her life is one of dedicated service and love. Loving us; believing in us; fighting for us; praying for us; to her we are always her dear child – life of her life.” For More>>>>
The other day I overheard two teenage girls in the mall complaining about their parents. One of them was upset because her parents wouldn’t let her go out on a date with a guy named Fred, who was three years older than her. The girls were making plans to trick her parents into thinking they were having a sleep-over. For More>>>>
A number of years ago, while attending a circus with my children, I noticed a group of elephants in an open area. Each of these gigantic beasts was being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. There were no chains and no fences around them. It was pretty obvious that the elephants could break away from their bonds at any time, but for some reason they did not. I went over to one of the trainers and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. For More>>>>
We all casually leave lasting impressions on others who come into our life. The least, little courtesy, the simplest, kind word, perhaps a bit of time spent "just being there," or even, I suppose, the most fleeting, careless kindness, like fixing a wheel for a stranger could be a gesture that someone else remembers for the rest of his or her life. For More>>>>
I’ve met a lot of people over the course of my lifetime. Some I remember with fondness and some I would rather forget. A little over two years ago, when I began working as the Marketing Manager for the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, I met a quiet, unassuming gentleman who has taught me a lot more about life than he can ever imagine. For More>>>>
What would you say if I told you that it was impossible for you to ever make a wrong decision? You may not always be happy with the results of some of your decisions, but it is impossible to make a ‘wrong decision’.  For more>>>>

    “What is wrong with the younger generation today?”   Ask any adult that question and inevitably the answer will boil down to the fact that, in general, kids just seem to have a serious lack of respect today. Not all kids display this character flaw, but a large number of them certainly do. And the ones who demonstrate a lack of respect for people, property and themselves tend to be the most vocal and the most visible. For more>>>>

The latest data we have available shows that the jobless rate in Sudbury is anywhere from 7 to 10%. This is a serious situation which has been getting worse over the years as the rest of the country shows employment and economic growth. For more>>>>
It’s strange how you sometimes get the best advice from the most unusual places. The other day I met a young man who was a former student of mine. He told me a story about the birth of his daughter that touched my heart. The baby was born with a minor problem that caused enough concern for the doctor to order a test the next morning. For more>>>>
I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life. Sure there have been days I would like to forget and I have suffered a lot of set backs and disappointments like anyone else, but, for the most part, my life has been pretty good. One of the reasons I feel this way is that many years ago I learned to accept the principle that where I am today is the sum total of every single thing that has ever happened to me along this journey. For more>>>>
The other day I reviewed the results of an international survey which concluded that Canada has one of the most serious shortages of skilled labour in the industrial world. That didn’t surprise me much. We’ve been hearing for years that our schools must begin to produce more skilled graduates in the trades. What did surprise me, however, is the survey found that employers in Canada are not just having trouble finding employees in the skilled trades field. For more>>>>
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”   That is the million dollar question that has been asked to young people since the beginning of time. More>>>>
One of the most important lessons we learn in life is usually due to problems we’ve encountered because we’ve failed to adhere to the following very simple, basic rule. “If You Want To Accomplish Anything, You Must Pay Attention To The Little Details.” More>>>>
One day two young brothers were in the backyard when their father came home and saw them digging in a hole that was already waist deep. The father came up to them and asked for an explanation. More>>>>
As the story goes, one day a long time ago, a young mother walked into her 5-year old daughter’s bedroom and was extremely upset to see that the little girl had used almost a whole roll of expensive gold wrapping paper to decorate a small package about the size of a shoe box. While severely scolding her daughter, the mother quickly gathered the remaining paper, scotch tape and scissors. The child was told to get her pajamas on and go to bed immediately without watching TV or getting her usual bedtime snack. More>>>
It never ceases to amaze me that people who have been through some of the most horrendous challenges this world can throw at them seem to have the most positive outlook towards life. I met a wonderful lady the other day who taught me a great deal about what it means to live one day at a time and how happy you can be if you focus on what is truly important. More>>>
I want to thank Cindi Cooke for sending me the following email which clearly demonstrates the one thing that we all take for granted, but that is definitely our most valued possession. I don't think the story needs any introduction. The message is clear. More>>>>
However, no matter how happy we are or how much we enjoy the Christmas festivities, most of us will experience a few sad moments at this time of year as well. More>>>>>
Try to hold on to the memories of how good you feel during the next few weeks whenever you are around people who liven things up with happiness. See how quickly a room full of quiet people can break into laughter when one person brightens up the room. Happiness is contagious, and all it takes is one person to lift up everyone’s spirit. More >>>>
This is my favourite time of the year, and I know that most of you likely feel the same way. However, at the risk of putting a damper on your “Christmas Spirit”, it is also the time of year when I get the most discouraged about the future of this great community. More>>>
The other day I came across a short article that clearly explained why it is so difficult to get people to change their habits and beliefs. The article showed me that a simple creature like the "processionary caterpillar" can teach us all a lot about life if we are only willing to listen. More>>>>
Have you ever noticed that it is usually the little things you do for people that are often the most appreciated? More>>>>
We’ve all been there. If you are human, you can’t help but experience times when everything seems to be going wrong and you feel as if your life is completely out of control. More>>>>
The other day I was typing an article on my computer when I was interrupted by the sound of someone speaking a language which I must admit I am beginning to understand. It was my 15-month old granddaughter tugging at my shirt wanting me to play with her. More>>>
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you jumped to a conclusion about someone, only to find out later that you were wrong? Embarrassing, isn’t it? More>>>
Have you ever been involved in an argument or debate with someone and just couldn’t find the right words to back up your position?  More>>>>
Many of my acquaintances often ask me how I come up with ideas for my editorials every week. I tell them that it is easy when you are around people all of the time. You just have to watch and listen. Life happens and stories evolve on their own. More>>>>
As one grows older you would expect that there would be fewer and fewer new things to experience about life. You know the expression, “Been there, done that!”  So imagine how I felt, when, for the first time in my 55 years on this earth, I found myself standing by in a lonely hospital room last week watching my mother-in-law die. More>>>>
Parenting is an art! Ask any mother or father and they will quickly tell you that there is nothing that fully prepares you for the role, but you soon discover that there is no job in the world that is more satisfying or more challenging. More>>>>
There are certain things you stumble across in this life that hit you like a brick. A few weeks ago I saw the quotation above and it almost knocked me over. It was on one of those days when I was questioning whether or not I was making any difference at all in the things I was doing. More>>>>>
I want to share a story with you that makes me feel just a little bit of pain every time I read it. As a father, a teacher, and a husband, I have often found myself in a situation where I “failed to see the cake” and I know I missed out on some pretty special moments. More>>>
I once met a farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life. It was a good farm with fertile soil, but with the passing of the years, the farmer began to think that maybe there was something better for him. More>>>
Some people find that it is a lot easier to simply accept the status quo, and go about their live with a feeling that nothing they do will make a difference.
Every now and then Christians are challenged to justify their faith in God. Some people just do not believe things they can’t understand. Here is a little story that may help you the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a person who is trying to put you on the spot. More>>>>
A long time ago there was a young man who was going through a very difficult period in his life. He worked extremely hard and just couldn’t find any time to spend with his wife and children. He went to confide in his father, who was the wisest man he knew. More>>>
Several centuries ago, the Emperor of Japan asked a Japanese artist to paint a picture of a particular species of bird. Many years later, the Emperor paid a personal visit to the artist’s studio to ask for an explanation as to why his painting had not yet been delivered. More>>>
I feel sorry for the next generation. Admittedly, I am not very old myself, but as I look back over my life I realize that the times during which I really appreciated what I had were the times when I didn=t really have very much. It seems that the more we have, the more we want, and the more we take for granted what we have. Many of us spend our entire life searching for something that we had right in front of us all along. More >>>>
I was recently reminded of a golf tournament I played in way back in August 2000. I was on a team with my son and two of his friends. When we took our place on the tee to begin our quest for the championship, little did I realize that I was taking part in one of those significant life experiences that we all look back upon with fondness over the ever increasing years of our life. More >>>>
Too often we come across individuals who are so sure of them self that they refuse to change their focus. They would rather continue in one direction without changing focus or giving consideration to other alternatives. How often we have witnessed failure, when a simple change of direction would have resulted in success. More >>>>
One of the things you learn as you are going through the various stages of life is that no matter what you are involved in, life has a way of throwing obstacles at you. Our ability to cope with change and disruption determines, to a great degree, our peace, happiness and contentment in life. But how do we develop this ability to cope with change? How do we help children learn this skill? More >>>>
The "Daffodil Garden" was located on the side of a mountain. It was a magnificent scene. One of the most beautiful sights you could imagine. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. The mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. More >>>>
I read an article the other day which was written by a man named Jeff Keller. After I finished the article, I realized that the title, "There’s A Lot More Left In The Tube", is one of those motivational quotations that you would like to hang up in every room to remind you that you should never give up too soon. We have all experienced frustration and despair at various times in our lives when we felt we had done everything we possibly could to achieve a particular goal. It may be something as simple as trying to grow flowers in your garden, or as serious as how to cultivate a better relationship with your child or spouse, or something to do with your job. Whatever the case, there comes a point when you simply feel you can’t go on any further. More>>>>>
Many times we, as flawed human beings, make a personal comment, or react to a situation in anger, only to wish we could take back our words or say what we really wanted to say in a different manner? Human beings are, by nature, confrontational animals. We like to get in the last word! We are quick to strike back with a negative comment when we are angry or when we are insulted! We don’t like to sit back and take criticism! Many times, our verbal attacks make us feel good for the moment, but then we feel a sense of remorse and regret afterwards when we realize that what we actually said may have inflicted great pain on those around us. Consider the valuable lesson about life a father taught his son in this little story and see if there is a lesson for all of us. More>>>>>
One day a little red hen scratched about in the barnyard until she gathered some grains of wheat. She called her neighbours and said, "If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant?" More>>>>>

The other morning I stopped for a hot chocolate at the drive through of Tim Horton’s. It was early, and the line-up was unusually long. By the time I got to the window for my single cup of hot chocolate I was more than a little annoyed at the waiting time. The glass door lifted, and there to greet my frowning face was a young lady with a sincerely friendly smile and a cheery, "Good morning, sir. Here is your hot chocolate. That will be $1.24 please." More>>>>>

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, filled with so much joy and happiness. Everyone is attending parties, shopping for gifts, making plans to visit friends and relatives, and generally just trying to keep up with the hectic pace of the holiday season. However, no matter how happy we are or how much we enjoy the Christmas festivities, most of will experience a few sad moments at this time of year as well. More>>>>



There are certain things you stumble across in this life that hit you like a brick. A few weeks ago I saw the quotation above and it almost knocked me over. It was on one of those days when I was questioning whether or not I was making any difference at all in the things I was doing. More>>>>
The Tipping Point philosophy is based on the belief that changes in behaviour or perception can reach a critical mass and then suddenly create a whole new reality. The most important thing in trying to analyse whether something is at the verge of a tipping point is whether it (an event) causes people to reframe an issue. More>>>>
"A special invitation to all residents of Valley East to join together in celebrating a hundred years of history as we take a giant leap into a bright and exciting future!" More >>>>
By reaching out to help each other - that is with residents who are willing to support local businesses and with businesses who are willing to provide local residents with good value for the goods and services purchases - we will all benefit from the power of this Community Circle of Support and move forward into a brighter future with the confidence that we are all in this together. More >>>>

Have you ever watched geese flying along in the sky in a “V” formation? They fly like that because as each bird in front flaps its wings it creates an updraft for the bird immediately following. By flying together in a “V” formation, it has been estimated that the whole flock adds over 70% to its flying range than if each bird flew on its own. This means that the flock can cover their journey much more quickly and with much less of an effort by working together. More >>>>

As the community of Valley East continues to struggle in the face of a large economic slow-down, it is becoming clear that our entire future will depend on the courage and tenacity of young people who are willing to avoid the lure of greener pastures in the south. The difficulties they overcome will make them stronger.  More >>>>
It takes a lot of hard work to bring you publications like The Vision Paper and valleyeasttoday.ca. This hard work must be supported by local businesses and local organizations. Individuals must contribute stories and let us know about events that are going on so that they can be covered. Take pride in your community and make a sincere effort to "look through the windows"   More >>>>
Whether you own a business; participate in a service group; belong to a sports organization, a church or a school; have a garden you wish to share ; or if you just want to express your opinions on Valley East, take action now!   More >>>>
Thousands of gardeners from Valley East work extremely hard during the short summer months bringing life to their yards. When you have a chance to visit these backyard wonderlands you are truly amazed at the creativity and beautiful landscape designs that have been created by your friends and neighbours. These are not magazine layouts. They are real, live gardens, existing right here in our own community.

Published by
Robert Kirwan, President & C.E.O.
4456 Noel Crescent, Val Therese ON P3P 1S8
Phone: (705) 969-7215    
EMAIL   rkirwan@infocomcanada.com